The road to the 2022 Detroit Lions season is a long one with many stops. The first stop is the Senior Bowl. The Lions are coaching this year and they already have a good deal of talented players on their roster. The Lions have drafted many players they’ve fallen in love with at the Senior Bowl in the past, and even though we’re talking about a different regime here, don't be shocked if they find love this year, too. Here are four players I think the Lions will fall head over heels for in Mobile next week.
Jermaine Johnson II - EDGE - Florida State
Even if the Lions do take Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson, Jermaine Johnson is a very interesting option to double up on the position. He is a jack of all trades. He’s played with his hand on the dirt and he’s played standing up at outside linebacker. He’s 6-foot-5, 255 pounds with a frame that catches the eye immediately. His 11.5 sacks in 2021 show that he’s not just a physical specimen. The dude can play.
Right now, Johnson is projected to go late in the first round, and depending on what the Lions do early, he could be a good addition. If the Lions could grab him at the top of the second, that’s even better.
Isaiah Likely - Tight end - Coastal Carolina
Welcome to draft crush season. I have one already. His name is Isaiah Likely and his work on the football field is dreamy.
I know the Lions already have a really good Pro Bowl tight end in T.J. Hockenson, but the Lions could really use some help on the other side of the line. Likely could likely be that guy if the Lions draft him. Yeah, I would get to make that joke a lot, too.
The small school thing may scare Lions fans away, but when you see Likely on film, it’s like watching diet Kyle Pitts out there. Likely looks like what the Lions hoped Eric Ebron could be. He’s a 6-foot-4, 240-pound vertical threat who can fly down the field. He’s a mismatch problem and a team can never have too many of those. The real knock on Likely seems to be his blocking ability though, as Coastal Carolina’s offense was designed to have him be a pass catcher more than a blocker.
Lecitus Smith - Guard - Virginia Tech
The Lions' offensive line came on strong near the end of the season. Getting Taylor Decker back and Penei Sewell’s rise really helped that. Frank Ragnow coming back next season will help, too, but the Lions still need some long-term help on the interior with Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s future uncertain. Enter Virginia Tech’s Lecitus Smith.
The All-ACC guard was one of the best guards in college football last season. Smith’s athleticism and stamina for a guard had Pro Football Network raving about him, but his lack of length could limit his NFL potential. A real plus for Smith though is his cooking channel on YouTube.
Calvin Austin III - Wide Receiver -Memphis
If there’s one guy the Lions will probably walk away with from this draft, I think it’s Calvin Austin III. You want to talk about speed? Austin III has it. He also has the playmaking ability that’s similar to the style Tyreek Hill plays with. The NFL is moving in this direction. The best teams have speedy playmaking specialists who can fly around and pick up that sweet, sweet YAC. Austin III could be that for the Lions.
The biggest issue for Austin III is that he’s pretty small. At 5-foot-9, 162 pounds, Austin III isn’t going to be the big answer at receiver, and he’s not going to be the big contested catches guy. With the rise of Amon-Ra St. Brown and the Lions having plenty of options at receiver in free agency, they may not need to shoot for their next big thing in the draft.
That could work out perfectly for the Lions' draft plans. They can gab Austin III on Day 3 of the draft and complete what could be a really fun receiving group.