2023 NFL Draft: Detroit Lions will take one of these 5 players at No. 34

The opening round of the 2023 NFL Draft is in the books and our Detroit Lions made a couple of picks that left quite a few people wondering what GM Brad Holmes was thinking. Heading into the draft, most believed the Lions would address either the defensive line or the secondary (or both) in Round 1, but instead, they took RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LB Jack Campbell. Round 2 kicks off on Friday night and the Lions won't have to wait long to grab another player as they currently hold the No. 34 pick. Here are a handful of players the Lions should strongly consider at pick No. 34 in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Detroit Lions Jalen Ramsey Tyree Wilson 2023 NFL Draft

Key Points

  • Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft is a wrap
  • The Detroit Lions selected RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LB Jack Campbell in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft
  • The Detroit Lions have the No. 34 pick near the top of Round 2

Detroit Lions will take one of these 5 players at No. 34

There are three top tight ends still on the board and two solid DBs, and I believe the Detroit Lions will take one of them at No. 34. Those players are Michael Mayer, Darnell Washington, Luke Musgrave, Joey Porter Jr., and Brian Branch. Here is what Dane Brugler of The Athletic has to say about each of them.

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TE Michael Mayer

A three-year starter at Notre Dame, Mayer was the primary target in offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ scheme, splitting his snaps inline (61.9 percent) and detached (38.1 percent). At a program known for producing NFL tight ends (14 Irish players have been drafted at the position since 2001), he is the most prolific tight end in school history, setting Notre Dame positional records (both single-season and career) for catches, receiving yards and receiving. With his body control and ball skills, Mayer is productive underneath and as a big seam target, using his frame and fluidity to be a pass-catching weapon. Although he lacks suddenness in his footwork, he doesn’t strain as a route runner and there are no wasted movements. Overall, Mayer needs to become more consistent with his blocking technique
and execution, but his controlled athleticism, play strength through contact and stellar intangibles raise his floor as a prospect. He projects as a traditional Y tight end with immediate NFL starting talent.

GRADE: 1st Round (No. 19 overall)

TE Darnell Washingtonon

A three-year starter at Georgia, Washington was a traditional Y tight end in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense, lining up primarily inline (66.2 percent) over his career. His college receiving stats (45 catches in 36 games) look more like single-season production as he was underutilized as a pass catcher,
primarily because of Bowers’ impact and Washington’s value as a sixth offensive lineman. The leanest 270ish pounds I have ever seen on a football field, Washington executes different kinds of blocks with his athletic range and the physical hands to control, drive and steer defenders. As a receiver, he gives his quarterback a massive catching target and swallows the football, although his long legs can get tied up on redirection routes or when making sharp cuts out of breaks. Overall, Washington will need time to mature in areas, but he offers a unique set of skills to be a weapon as an NFL blocker as he continues to ascend as a pass catcher, especially in the red zone. He is a one-of-one talent with fascinating pro potential because of his rare length, play strength and body flexibility at his size.

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GRADE: 1st-2nd Round (No. 30 overall)

TE Luke Musgrave

A two-year starter at Oregon State, Musgrave was a Y tight end in offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren’s run-heavy scheme, lining up both inline and in the slot. After two seasons as a backup behind two future NFL players Noah Togiai (Philadelphia Eagles) and Teagan Quitoriano (Houston Texans), he became a starter as a junior, but his targets were limited in the Beavers’ run-first offense and he missed almost all his senior year because of injury. An impressive size/speed athlete, Musgrave runs like a gazelle (elite high school track numbers for his size), and his lacrosse and skiing backgrounds translate to football with his core strength and hip fluidity as both a pass catcher and blocker. He blocks with outstanding body control and leverage to be a physical edge setter and engage defenders at the second and third levels, although he still needs to improve his sustain skills and steadiness as a pass blocker (only 5.9 percent of his career snaps on offense came in pass protection). Overall, Musgrave must continue to build up his football resume and overall consistency, but he is a high-level athlete with the route running and
blocking talent to be a productive starting combo tight end in the NFL. He should be the first-ever Oregon State tight end drafted in the top 100 picks.

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GRADE: 1st-2nd Round (No. 29 overall)

CB Joey Porter Jr.

A three-year starter at Penn State, Porter was exclusively an outside cornerback in defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s man-heavy scheme. Although hiscollege production is underwhelming, he didn’t give up a touchdown in 2022 and allowed only nine catches (on 26 targets) for 70 yards in man coverage. With
impressive NFL bloodlines, Porter parks himself in front of receivers and smothers them in press to reroute and disrupt receiver timing up and down the field. However, he plays on his heels, loses momentum in his hip-flip and hangs on receivers to slow their routes, collecting 11 coverage penalties (nine pass interference, two defensive holding) in the past two seasons with several others that should have been called. Overall, Porter has clear bust potential with his undisciplined play style and unbalanced change of direction, but he has intriguing matchup potential in the NFL because of his aggressive length and body quickness. He projects as a classic bump-and-run cornerback and won’t be a slam-dunk fit for every scheme.

GRADE: 1st Round (No. 16 overall)

S Brian Branch

A three-year starter at Alabama, Branch played the “star” nickel position in head coach Nick Saban’s multiple scheme, lining up against the slot and playing in the box (the same role Minkah Fitzpatrick popularized). An extension of Saban on the field, the coaches gradually added to his plate, and he was always up to the task, finishing the 2022 season as the only FBS player with 90-plus tackles, 14.0-plus tackles for loss and at least two interceptions (only Alabama defender with multiple interceptions in 2022). Equally athletic and physical, Branch has terrific short area quickness with the pattern recognition and run/pass anticipation to match up in a variety of ways. Though you wish he was bigger, his lack of size wasn’t a deterrent on tape, and he posted a high batting average as a tackler in college (an
elite 2.3 percent missed tackle rate at Alabama). Overall, Branch might not have elite size/speed measurables, but he is above average in almost every other category NFL teams covet with his well-rounded game to run, cover and tackle. He projects as a starting nickel in the NFL and offers hybrid versatility across the secondary, similar in ways to Miami’s Jevon Holland.

GRADE: 1st Round (No. 17 overall)

Bottom Line: Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes will take the best available on his board

If you did not already realize it before Thursday night, Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes does not care about anybody's rankings other than his own. He is not concerned about filling needs, but instead about taking the best available player on his board. Time will tell if one of the five players listed above is one of the best available. At least for the Detroit Lions.

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