3 players Detroit Lions could select to bolster defense in first round of NFL draft

Lions have four of the top 55 picks

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 08: A detailed view of a Detroit Lions helmet prior to a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on January 08, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Lions defeated the Packers 20-16. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) (Stacy Revere, 2023 Getty Images)

DETROIT – It’s the most wonderful time of the year for football fans, as the 2023 NFL Draft is finally upon us.

Every team and every fanbase think they are only a few players away from reaching the Super Bowl or at least the playoffs, but no team is coming into the draft with more hype and expectations than the Detroit Lions, who many believe are on the doorstep of relevancy which is something that hasn’t been said around the football program since the 1990s.

The Lions were just one defensive stop away in most of their shootouts from making the playoffs in 2022. They are coming off a 9-8 season, but one pride expects more out of this team ahead of the 2023 season as their prolific offense lit up scoreboards.

The Lions have four of the top 55 picks in this year’s draft, with many wanting them to select a high-profile player on the defensive side of the ball. As the old saying goes, offense puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships.

Their first pick at No. 6 in the first round should be catered toward that side of the ball, preferably a pass rusher or a defensive tackle that can bolster the middle of the defense.

There are expectations of draft day shenanigans to occur Thursday (April 27). Depending on how the dominos fall, all signs point to two candidates, either linebacker Tyree Wilson out of Texas Tech or Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Jalen Carter #88 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates with a newspaper reading "Perfect!" after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. Georgia defeated TCU 65-7. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (2023 Getty Images)

Jalen Carter

Before all of the chips were laid out in the draft order, Carter was heralded as the best player in the lottery.

The 6′3″, 300-pound national champion is a dominant defensive tackle that wreaked havoc for the Bulldogs running and passing game during his final season at the collegiate level.

Carter had seven tackles for loss and three tackles in 13 games last season. He achieved 32 quarterback pressures, 32 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 16 solo tackles, 16 assisted tackles, three sacks, three pass deflections, and two forced fumbles on his way to back-to-back titles.

Although those stats don’t seem too impressive, we must remember that he faced double teams for most of the season. But his stock has dwindled as his character off the field took a significant hit.

Officials say that he was involved in a fatal crash with one of his teammates and a staff member as they were racing after celebrating their championship victory.

He ultimately fled the scene only to be found involved in the matter after a police investigation where he received 12 months probation for reckless driving and racing.

His pro day was putrid, as well, as he could not finish his drills, and according to reports, he showed up nine pounds heavier.

FILE - Former Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter runs football drills during Georgia's Pro Day, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Athens, Ga. Considered the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, Carter has the talent to be selected among the top five. If he drops, it'll be because of character concerns. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Lions have built a culture change under general manager Brad Holmes. But, after last week’s suspension of four players, including last year’s 12th overall pick in wide receiver Jameson Williams, Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore, and Stanley Berryhill, due to the league’s gambling policy, he should fit right in.

Read: Detroit Lions cut 2 players for gambling on NFL games; Jameson Williams suspended 6 games

Tyree Wilson

If Carter is unavailable at the No. 6 spot, look for the Lions to select Wilson to help upgrade their defense expeditiously.

According to reports, Wilson has been graded as one of the strongest pass rushers in the entire draft.

Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson celebrates a sack with teammate Bryce Ramirez (54) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As a freak of nature, the Lions would get an athlete with an 84.5-inch wingspan. He has something you can’t teach, which is his body size and length. Add that to the fact that he has a raw ability to get to the quarterback.

For Texas Tech, Wilson garnered 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in just 10 games. Multiply those numbers by two as the NFL now plays 17 games, and you might have a young duo resembling the Las Angeles Chargers in Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack coming off the edge.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 28: Aidan Hutchinson poses onstage after being selected second by the Detroit Lions during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Pairing him with Michigan Wolverines legend and former No. 2 draft pick Aidan Hutchinson could bring nightmares for opposing offenses. Believe it or not, Hutchinson faced the most double teams as an edge rusher last season, so adding Wilson would alleviate pressure.

The Lions have addressed the defensive backfield this offseason by trading lottery pick Jeff Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons and adding Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Mosley, and C.J. Gardner Johnson, bolstering their defensive line will appropriately impact the team.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 30: Payton Thorne #10 of the Michigan State Spartans fumbles the ball after being hit by Calijah Kancey #8 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third quarter during the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

Calijah Kancey

At No. 18, the Lions could go with what some consider the next Aaron Donald in Pittsburgh Panthers defensive tackle Calijah Kancey.

The Lions ranked 32nd on defense, sowing up that side of the ball with a Donald-like player with whom Holmes is familiar as he was the college scouting director for the Los Angeles Rams when they selected Donald in 2014.

EARTH CITY, MO - MAY 13: (L-R) St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fischer, first-round draft pick Aaron Donald and general manager Les Snead pose for a photograph during a press conference at Rams Park on May 13, 2014 in Earth City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) (2014 Getty Images)

Kancey is a gigantic defensive tackle that penetrates offensive linemen with an attack unknown to humanity. The 6′1″, 280-pound lineman who finished last season with 16.5 tackles for loss and seven and a half sacks in 11 games has identical measurables as Donald.

Aaron DonaldCalijah Kancey
Height: 6′1″Height: 6′1″
Weight: 285lbsWeight: 281lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.6840-Yard Dash: 4.67
10-Yard Split: 1.5910-Yard Split: 1.64
Junior Year Sacks: 5.5Junior Year Sacks: 7.5
Junior Year Tackles For Loss: 18.5Junior Year Tackles For Loss: 14.5

Who do you think the Lions should select with their first two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft?

About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.