Now that the 2021 regular season has concluded, ESPN is bringing back their First Draft podcast. The podcast features draft analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, along with host Field Yates, and the trio kicked off their first return episode by doing a mini-mock draft focusing on projecting and discussing the first five picks of the 2022 NFL Draft.
While there has been some smoke surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars possibly skipping over an EDGE rusher with the first pick in favor of an offensive tackle, in this scenario, they kept things simple and gave them Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson.
That put the Detroit Lions on the clock with the second pick and McShay geared up for his selection by breaking down what he perceived were the Lions’ needs: quarterback and EDGE rusher.
“Alright, so I’m the Lions,” McShay said. “I’ve got a quarterback need, there’s no quarterback to take there at No. 2. We pick again late in the first round with our traded pick, our second of two first-round picks this year. Maybe we get the quarterback there. But sitting here, offensive tackle isn’t a need like it is for Jacksonville or even for the Jets, I think you go with the second-best edge rusher or maybe it's the first-best edge rusher on your board depending on the team picking, and that’s Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon.”
If you’ve been following along with our weekly Mock Draft Roundup series, this selection should come as no surprise as the majority of mock drafts have the Lions selecting either Thibodeaux or Hutchinson. It makes sense, too. While the Lions were able to get some much-needed production out of pending unrestricted free agent Charles Harris, there is still a question mark surrounding every EDGE on the Lions roster.
Will Trey Flowers return on his expensive contract? Will Romeo Okwara’s Achilles injury limit his production in 2022, if he is even ready to play? Will the Lions re-sign Harris? Is Julian Okwara ready to take the next step? Has Austin Bryant hit his developmental ceiling? Will they bring back exclusive rights free agents Jesse Lemonier and Rashod Berry, and can they develop them enough to be contributors?
“They need an edge rusher,” McShay explained his selection. “That’s probably their biggest need after quarterback. I would say receiver, cornerback, linebacker are three other areas of need. Let’s face it, they have several positions to upgrade on that Detroit roster, but I think EDGE is up there near the top, and if you’re splitting hairs between Hutchinson and Thibodeaux, Hutchinson’s the most complete player now, Thibodeaux has more athletic upside. You’re excited to get 1 or 1A at the No. 2 pick, and I think Thibodeaux would be the pick here if Hutchinson is off the board at No. 1.”
By adding Thibodeaux, Yates acknowledges what a terrific young defensive front it would give the Lions to build around.
“It would be quite the interesting addition to that Detroit pass rush that last year lacked a dynamic, dynamic player of the ilk of Kayvon Thibodeaux,” Yates said. “They drafted a couple of defensive linemen–Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill–in Rounds 2 and 3 last year. That defensive front could shape up pretty quickly.”
If you’re interested, you can listen to the entire podcast here.