The Detroit Lions finally restored the roar in 2023. The perennial laughing stocks shook that label last season with a 12-5 finish in the regular season to win the NFC North. They parlayed that success with their first playoff birth since 2016 as well as an NFC Championship Game appearance. Detroit won two playoff games last season. They had not won any such games in the previous 32 years.

The Lions have a stacked 2023 draft class to help thank for that run. Players like Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, and Brian Branch all stepped up in big ways to fortify their roster.

Detroit is positioned to bring in another haul of young players this year. The Lions have four picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 draft. They could use those picks on sleepers like UCF's Javon Baker, Rutgers' Max Melton, and Washington's Bralen Trice to keep the good times rolling.

Javon Baker, Wide Receiver, UCF

Central Florida wide receiver Javon Baker (WO01) during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This year's wide receiver class is chock-full of great prospects. There could be at least ten gone through the first two rounds. The Lions could afford to get one of those prospects. Josh Reynolds signed a two-year $14 million deal with the Denver Broncos a couple of weeks ago. Jameson Williams has some legitimate excuses for not making the impact that was expected of him when the Lions drafted him in 2022. However, 395 yards in two seasons from the 12th overall pick is simply not acceptable.

That's where someone like UCF's Javon Baker could come into play. Baker began his career at the University of Alabama during the COVID year of 2020. With him playing behind future pros like DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, John Metchie III, and the aforementioned Williams, it's understandable why he didn't play much in Tuscaloosa. Baker had just nine receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown at Alabama. So he transferred to UCF in 2022.

Baker was able to show off his skills with the Golden Knights, especially during the 2023 season. Last year, he brought in 52 balls for 1,139 yards and caught seven touchdowns. He showcased a little bit of everything in Orlando. Baker plays up to his big 6-foot-2 208-pound frame and can move and get open for a guy that size.

He fits the bill of an outside ‘X' receiver that Detroit needs. Amon-Ra St. Brown is money in the slot. Jameson Williams can take the top off of defense on one side of the field. But the Lions could use a big-body receiver on the outside to win jump balls, be a target in the red zone, and open up the field for St. Brown, Gibbs, LaPorta, and Williams to feast. Baker can do that. Detroit should keep an eye on him.

Max Melton, Cornerback, Rutgers

Bo Melton emerged as a legitimate weapon for Detroit's NFC North foe in Green Bay. His brother could be an option for the Lions to stop him and other potent wide receivers. Melton has the ideal build for a corner in today's NFL at 6 feet and 190 pounds. He was also very productive at Rutgers during his four-year career in Jersey. He deflected 20 passes and picked off another eight of them. His freakish athleticism helped him accomplish those feats.

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A Lions mock draft one week before the 2024 NFL Draft.

Tristin McKinstry ·

Detroit was very bad defending the pass last season. They were 25th in the NFL in EPA allowed per dropback in 2023. The Lions have addressed their secondary this offseason by trading for Carlton Davis from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signing Amik Robertson away from the Las Vegas Raiders. They will help. But it can't hurt to add more help. Melton can help their secondary too.

Bralen Trice, Edge Rusher, Washington

An area the Lions also really need to improve is their pass rush. Detroit was just 26th in pass rush win rate in 2023 and ended the year with just 41 sacks. That was tied for 24th in the league with the Los Angeles Rams. Aidan Hutchinson was the only Lions' primary pass rusher who finished with more than two sacks last season. He needs a running mate.

Detroit signed Marcus Davenport to a one-year deal, but Bralen Trice can be Hutchinson's sidekick for years down the road. He had 17 sacks for Washington in the last two seasons and registered a forced fumble to boot. He'd be great use of a second or third-round pick in this year's draft.