Ok, let me start this thing off by saying that I can’t believe I’ve come to this point. A few weeks ago I was all about the Lions sticking with quarterback Jared Goff and seeing what they have in him. Today, I’d like to announce that I’m team “draft a quarterback now.”
And that quarterback should be Liberty’s Malik Willis.
What I’ve seen from Willis, especially this past week against top draft-eligible talent, has really sold me on his ability. Willis has a Matthew Stafford-like cannon for an arm. I’m talking about throwing the ball so hard that his receiver's fingers are going to hurt. Willis is also super elusive and a terror on his feet. You really saw it during Saturday’s Senior Bowl it’s going to be really hard to sack this guy.
He’s not without issue of course. Not many rookie quarterbacks are. Willis is going to have to work on his decision-making and shed some of the hero ball tendencies he displays. With that said, he really fits the Lions well.
The Lions' offensive line could really help Willis maximize his talents. By giving him a clean pocket, it will allow him to take deep shots or use those feet to move the chains. Jared Goff liked to spin out of the pocket a lot in 2021. Now, imagine having a quarterback that can do that without getting immediately sacked. Speaking of Goff, the Lions can still keep Goff in as the starter in 2022 and give Willis the time to progress along before throwing him into the deep end.
The big question to answer is: how do the Lions acquire Willis?
Well, that’s where it gets sticky. Some of the early belief was that this was a bad quarterback draft and that someone like Willis could fall to the end of Round 1 or out of the first day completely. Some mock drafts that had Willis going as deep as the third round. But after this past week at the Senior Bowl, it’s quite clear that Willis is not going to last long in the upcoming NFL Draft. There are many quarterback-needy teams in the first round and Willis is quickly becoming a hot option. Luckily for the Lions, they are in a pretty sweet spot. A spot where they can use it to their advantage.
It’s time to start thinking about trading down from the second spot in the draft.
The Lions do need edge rushers this year. As it stands, the Lions could have shot at either of the top two prospects when it’s their turn to make their first pick. While Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux are great players and will likely be great players in the NFL, there are other options for the Lions at this position that they could still have a shot at. Guys like Michigan's David Ojabo, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, and Georgia’s Travon Walker are all guys the Lions could potentially have a shot at in the first round if they decide to do some moving around.
The Lions could stay at two and pick Willis there. No problem. But the better idea would be to call the New York Giants or the New York Jets and try to obtain their two draft first-round picks. The Giants currently have the fifth and seventh picks in the draft and they made it clear that they’re bringing back Daniel Jones. So a quarterback is not in the books for them. The Giants might be interested in moving up for Evan Neal if the Jaguars decided to go with one of the two top defensive ends. The Jets have the fourth and 10th picks. They’re also a team that isn’t looking for a quarterback, but as always, all it takes is for them to fall in love with one player and an itchy trigger finger.
The Lions could also look to the Philadelphia Eagles and their three first-round draft picks (No. 15, 16, and 20) and try and see how much capital they could pull from them. Or maybe they look to the future and trade down to a spot in the top-10, but ask that team to add a 2023 first-round pick—which would give the Lions three first-round picks in the following draft.
With a trade down, the Lions could decide to take Willis with their first pick and then grab one of the draft’s top receivers with their second. If that second pick is still in the top-10, maybe they decide to grab one of the top corners or safety Kyle Hamilton or one of the aforementioned edge guys that should still be on the board. The possibilities really open up in this scenario, because Detroit still has picks 31/32 and the 34th overall pick shortly thereafter. With two needs addressed at the top instead of just one, suddenly Detroit could pick just about any position there.
If the Lions want to hit a home run in this draft, maximizing opportunities could be the best way to do it. Walking away with Malik Willis while getting another top-level talent is the kind of huge haul a team with the second overall pick should score. The good news on this front is that Lions GM Brad Holmes has already declared that the Lions are open for business on trading down from two. Should be exciting to see where this goes.