If you read any national NFL Draft coverage summarizing needs and possible picks for the Detroit Lions, you’re almost guaranteed to read about how the defense stunk in 2022. Those pundits aren’t wrong.
Detroit’s defense allowed 6.2 yards per play last season, the worst mark of any team in the league. While the team made positive strides in the second half of the season, a December loss to Carolina doomed its postseason chances. Detroit’s defense was embarrassed, allowing 320 rushing yards and 250 passing yards in the 37-23 defeat.
Entering Thursday’s NFL Draft, it’s no surprise to see betting markets expecting the Lions to add to their defense with the No. 6 overall pick.
Is Devon Witherspoon the guy?
DraftKings is among the mobile sportsbooks with NFL Draft props, and it lists “position of first player drafted” markets for every NFL team. Cornerback is a -130 favorite for the Lions. Defensive lineman/EDGE has the second-shortest odds at +100. No other position has odds shorter than +1000.
Detroit isn’t in dire need of a cornerback in 2023 thanks to free-agent signings, but the team did trade Jeff Okudah to Atlanta this offseason. Adding a young cornerback to the mix at some point in the 2023 NFL Draft makes sense.
So could Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon be Detroit’s pick? Witherspoon is -270 to be the first cornerback selected in the draft, and the Big Ten product plays with a physical edge likely loved by Detroit’s coaching staff and front office. ESPN’s Matt Miller described Witherspoon as “a perfect Dan Campbell pick.”
DraftKings lists the over/under for when Witherspoon will be taken at 6.5, with -130 odds on the under. Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, meanwhile, is +180 to be the first cornerback drafted, and he possesses all the tools and athletic traits needed to excel as an NFL defensive back should the Lions prefer him over Witherspoon.
If Detroit doesn’t take a cornerback, the Lions are expected to look closely at defensive linemen like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, Alabama’s Will Anderson, and Georgia’s Jalen Carter. It’s unlikely all three of those players are available at No. 6, though. BetRivers lists Wilson at -400 to go in the top five, and Anderson has -278 odds for the same prop.
If you think the Lions might shock the world and take a wide receiver with their first pick, Caesars Sportsbook is boosting the prop to +1800. For comparison, DraftKings has the Lions at +1200 to draft a receiver with their first pick. Wideout Jameson Williams, expected to be a key piece in 2023, will miss the first six games of the season due to a gambling-related suspension.
Detroit also holds pick No. 18 in Thursday’s first round, giving the Lions a chance to add a second immediate contributor through the draft.
2023 outlook is bright
The Lions haven’t won a division title since 1993 and have some defensive shortcomings, but they’re the betting favorite to win the NFC North in 2023. FanDuel gives the Lions +130 odds to win the division, while Minnesota has the second-shortest odds at +310. The Bears are listed at +320, and the Packers have +410 odds.
Green Bay recently traded away four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers, giving other teams in the division a jolt of hope. Rodgers joins the New York Jets, who are -162 to make the playoffs on FanDuel. Detroit’s playoff odds are listed at -158 on the mobile sportsbook.
Dan Campbell is BetMGM’s favorite to win AP Coach of the Year honors. The fiery head coach’s odds are listed at +800.
Despite being favored to win the NFC North, Detroit isn’t quite viewed as a Super Bowl contender. The Lions have +2200 odds on FanDuel to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history, which are the ninth-shortest odds. Campbell and Detroit fans hope a strong NFL Draft could turn the team into a Super Bowl threat.
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