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2022 NFL mock draft roundup: Kyle Hamilton to Detroit hype gaining momentum

Identifying the players that have been mocked to the Lions over the past week.

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NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah met with the media ahead of the 2022 NFL Combine and he discussed the value of the safety position in the draft, specifically citing Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton as a unique prospect.

“To me, there’s a real debate going on around the league about just how high you take safeties,” Jeremiah said. “I’m a little more biased in favor of them. You know, calling the Chargers games for the last four years and seeing every game that Derwin James has played there and the impact that position can make, and think back to my time with the Baltimore Ravens (as a scout) and seeing what Ed Reed could do. So I don’t necessarily agree with the conventional wisdom on that, of how high you take a safety.”

The “conventional wisdom” Jeremiah refers to, is that a player who lines up off the ball isn’t as valuable as players on the line of scrimmage and therefore they tend to not be drafted highly. The last safety to be drafted in the top five was Eric Berry (Chiefs) in 2010 and the last to be selected in the top two was Eric Turner (Browns) in the 1991 draft.

I tackled this debate a few weeks back, exploring the historical “hit rate” and “financial impact” of drafting a safety versus an edge rusher high in the draft. Long story short, 99 times out of 100 it’s smart business to take the edge rushers, with the only exception being if a unicorn is available.

So, is Hamilton that unicorn?

“I think this kid (Hamilton) is pretty unique,” Jeremiah continued. “He’s so tall and long and rangy. The ability to make plays from the deep middle as well as to drop down and play down low and be a physical player, he can erase tight ends. The interception against Florida State is as good as it gets, and I think from a makeup standpoint, I haven’t got all of the background information on him, but when you watch him cover punts as a gunner and see how hard he plays, I think this guy checks all those boxes.”

There’s no doubting Hamilton’s talent and Jeremiah believes he would be a great fit for the Lions at pick No. 2, but there is one player he would select ahead of Hamilton if available.

“In a draft like this one (Michigan’s Aidan) Hutchinson is my top player,” Jeremiah continued, “but after Hutchinson, if Hutchinson is off the board and he goes 1, I would have no issues whatsoever with them (Lions) taking Kyle Hamilton.”

Jeremiah would go on to say he believes Hamilton is a “plug-and-play guy” who would give the Lions “something they desperately need,” concluding that “Hamilton stacks up really well with everybody in this draft.”

For the most part, the majority of mock drafts matched Jeremiah’s line of thinking. Seventy percent of the drafts we looked at this past week connected the Lions to Hutchinson, with 25 percent siding with Kayvon Thibodeaux (who many still rank as their top player), and Hamilton grabbing the final 5 percent.

Pick No. 2

Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Currently being mocked by Dave Birkett (Detroit Free Press), Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com), Luke Easterling (The Draft Network), Jon Ledyard (Pewter Report), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Kyle Stackpole (CBS Sports), Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports), James Fragoza (Pro Football Network), Shane Hallem (Draft Countdown), Davis Howman (Blogging the Boys), Andrew Erickson (Fantasy Pros), Scott Smith (Buccaneers.com), C.J. Doon (Baltimore Sun)

Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Currently being mocked by Damian Parson (The Draft Network), Austin Gayle (PFF), Zach Buckley (Bleacher Report), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Currently being mocked by Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s thoughts

For the last month or so, Hutchinson has been the dominant top player connected to the Lions, while Thibodeaux’s stock has continued to decline following negative rumors that came out during the Senior Bowl. Hamilton has always hung around, but after not being linked to the Lions for several weeks, we're starting to see more pairings recently. It’ll be interesting to see if his Lions’ hype continues to grow after the Jeremiah conference call on Friday.

Now, on to the players connected to the Lions at pick No. 32.

Quarterback focus

Malik Willis, Liberty (6, 11, 11, 18, 20, 20, 32, 32)
by Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (6, 8, 9, 9, 18, 18, 32)
by Jon Ledyard (Pewter Report)

Matt Corral, Mississippi (11, 11, 18, 20, 32, 32, 32)
by Austin Gayle (PFF), Andrew Erickson (Fantasy Pros), Scott Smith (Buccaneers.com)

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (18, 20, 32)
by James Fragoza (Pro Football Network)

Sam Howell, North Carolina (11, 11, 18, 20, 32)
by Shane Hallem (Draft Countdown)

Carson Strong, Nevada (32)
by Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports)

Erik’s thoughts

Of the eight mock drafts this week that had the Lions taking a quarterback with the final pick in the first round, the only signal-caller to be mocked in all of them was Willis. Pickett was in seven mocks and only dropped below No. 18 in one. Corral was also in seven but failed to crack the top-10.

When Jeremiah was asked about the Lions potentially taking a quarterback at pick No. 32, he said there was only one quarterback in this class that he thought had a potentially higher ceiling than current Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff, and unless that quarterback was available, Jeremiah would spend the pick elsewhere.

“Yeah, if your comp or your ultimate upside for the player is Jared Goff, you’ve already got him, so don’t waste a pick. That’s why I think Malik Willis could potentially give you a little something different, and if it all works together and comes together, he could give you a little bit more. That to me is the one that I would keep an eye on.”

Basically, when it comes to the Lions picking a quarterback, Jeremiah thinks it should be Willis or no one.

“I think you could look at some of the other guys and say, ‘Okay, they’ve got a chance to be starters, but I don’t know that anybody is saying they’ve got a chance to be high-end starters,”Jeremiah summarized. “I think Malik Willis, while there’s obviously plenty of risk—and that’s why he could be there at the end of the first round—there’s also the potential of a big payoff.”

Pick No. 32 (non-QBs)

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama - by Dave Birkett (Detroit Free Press)
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State - by Luke Easterling (The Draft Network), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State - by Damian Parson (The Draft Network), Zach Buckley (Bleacher Report)
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia - by Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com)
Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State - by Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia - by Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network)
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan - by Davis Howman (Blogging the Boys)
Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State - by C.J. Doon (Baltimore Sun)
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor - by Kyle Stackpole (CBS Sports)

Erik’s thoughts

The variety of players slotted here continues with a couple of new names showing up this week. Ebiketie makes the list for the first time, giving the Lions an edge player after taking Hamilton early. Pitre also makes the list for the first time, as his stock continues to rise after a strong Senior Bowl.

Mock Draft Spotlight

Let’s wrap up with a new segment to the roundup: Mock Draft Spotlight. For this section, I’ll take a closer look at one mock draft from the week—this week it’s Dave Birkett of Detroit Free Press ($ubscription) who gets a deeper look.

Pick No. 2 Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Pick No. 32 Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Pick No. 34 Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Erik’s thoughts

At this point in the offseason, I think most understand the Hutchinson pick, so I won’t waste time justifying that selection and just say I agree with Birkett’s pick. I also very much agree with grabbing Williams, who I view as one of the top-two wide receivers in this class. As Birkett notes, “taking a receiver coming off a torn ACL is risky” but when you have a chance to land a top guy for value, you take it.

Where Birkett and I disagree is on Elam. Here is his reasoning for pairing the Lions with the Florida corner:

The Lions could use a linebacker or safety here and there are still good interior linemen available on both sides of the ball. But they’re far from set at the cornerback position behind Amani Oruwariye with Jeff Okudah and Jerry Jacobs coming off season-ending injuries and Ifeatu Melifonwu still an unknown. Elam has the physical traits the Lions like in their cornerbacks.

Elam has flashed talent in the past but 2021 saw him take a step back. Yes, he’s tall/long and fluid, but he got complacent this season, coasting on his talent and his play suffered. Add in that he lacks production supporting the run and I’m not sure he’s a fit beyond some physical attributes.

Based on how Birkett’s mock draft played out, I would have preferred Devonte Wyatt (DT, Georgia), Jahan Dotson (WR, Penn State)—yes, even though it’s a double-dip at receiver—, or Lewis Cine (safety, Georgia).