A year ago, the Lions traded up in the second round of the NFL Draft to take running back Kerryon Johnson.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay can see the Lions taking a similar route in next year's draft.
McShay projects the Lions taking Clemson running back Travis Etienne with the No. 23 pick in a 2020 mock draft posted Thursday.
"By the time you finish reading this sentence, Etienne will have scored three touchdowns," McShay writes. "He popped off 24 of them last season while rushing for 1,658 yards. Pairing him with Kerryon Johnson, the Lions' run game could do some damage."
Johnson rewarded Detroit with a solid rookie season — though it was cut short by a knee injury. He rushed for 641 yards in 10 games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, while also catching 32 passes for 213 yards.
McShay offers the usual caveats with an early mock draft — first and foremost, that it's really, really early. Etienne also is only a junior, and it likely won't be known until after Clemson's season if he'll enter the draft.
Lastly, the order wasn't determined by McShay, but by win projections from Football Outsiders. That might be the most interesting thing to take from this mock draft — that the Lions are projected to be strong enough to be a playoff team.
That's not the case everywhere. Earlier this week, CBS Sports slotted LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton to the Lion at No. 11 in its early 2020 mock draft.