It’s been less than a week since the 2022 NFL Combine concluded, and mock drafts have flooded the internet. In recent days there have been two distinct waves of reactions from the mock draft community: first, their reaction to the workouts in Indianapolis, and second, reactions to the quarterbacks staying put and/or being traded.
For this week’s mock draft roundup, we pulled some of the most notable mock drafts from the draft community, totaling 35 in all. The clear shifts generated by the Combine appear to be at the top of the draft.
Let’s take a closer look at who is being mocked to the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 pick over this past week.
Pick No. 2
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Currently being mocked by Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Kyle Meinke (MLive), Ben Raven (MLive), Lance Zierlein (NFL.com, at No. 6), Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network), Staff (Bleacher Report), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards, (CBS Sports), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports), Nate Davis (USA Today), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), Scott Bair (AtlantaFalcons.com), Scott Smith (Buccaneers.com), Staff (ClevelandBrowns.com), Eddie Brown (San Diego Union-Tribune), James Dator (SB Nation), Bryan Fischer (Anthon Sports), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report)
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Currently being mocked by Dave Birkett (Free Pre$$), Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network)
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Currently being mocked by Todd McShay (ESPN), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Mark Schofield (Touchdown Wire), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Cody Benjamin (CBS Sports), Nate Davis’ trades (USA Today, at No. 4), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), David Howman (Blogging the Boys), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Currently being mocked by Luke Easterling’s 2nd Mock (Draft Wire), Ryan Mathews (Pride of Detroit at No. 9)
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Currently being mocked by Brad Spielberger (PFF), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
As expected, after a stellar Combine, Hutchinson remains the most popular option projection to the Lions, as he is slowly becoming universally recognized as the best value player and safest pick in the draft.
On the flip side of that Combine coin is Thibodeaux. After opting not to work out, it has added fuel to the flames of rumors surrounding his work ethic. Personally, I think these rumors are overblown and far too reactionary, but it is a growing trend that has taken off.
With Thibodeaux being looked at differently, it’s opened the door for another new EDGE player to enter the conversation at pick No. 2.
Walker is also riding the Combine wave and he found his way to the Lions this week after his performance in Indianapolis. If the trend of mocking Hutchinson to Jacksonville at pick No. 1 continues, and no positive news comes out of the Thibodeaux camp, Walker's name could become a more popular option over the next two months.
The biggest beneficiary of the Combine appears to be Hamilton, who despite running an average 40-yard dash (an event that commonly provokes overreactions) still tested as an elite athlete and was one of my standouts from the event at safety. After typically only being mocked a few times a week to the Lions, he saw his name mocked to Detroit nine times this week (roughly 25 percent of mocks)—by far, the most times this offseason.
Finally, Willis is also getting some love at the top of the draft. He isn’t always being projected as the first quarterback off the board, but one pattern has emerged, most analysts believe if the Lions want him they won’t be able to get him at pick No. 32, because he probably won’t last past pick No. 20.
Let’s take a closer look at Willis and the other signal-callers in our quarterback focus section.
Note: the numbers after the player name/school are the slots the player was selected in the mock drafts where a quarterback was paired with the Lions. When paired with the Lions, the pick number is bolded.
Malik Willis, Liberty (2, 2, 6, 7, 7, 7, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 11, 18, 18, 18, 20)
by Spielberger and Cummings, as mentioned above
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 18, 18, 18, 20, 27, 32, 32)
by Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports), David Howman (Blogging the Boys)
Matt Corral, Mississippi (9, 16, 18, 19, 19, 20, 20, 32, 32, 32, 32, 32)
by Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), Nate Davis’ trades (USA Today), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), Luke Easterling’s 2nd Mock (Draft Wire), Eddie Brown (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (9, 20, 20, 20, 26, 27, 32, 32, 32)
by Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Scott Smith (Buccaneers.com), Cody Benjamin (CBS Sports), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain, trade up to No. 26, giving up picks No. 32 and 97)
Sam Howell, North Carolina (11, 18, 32, 32, 32, 34)
by Nate Davis (USA Today), Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network), Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network, at No. 34)
Carson Strong, Nevada (20, 27, 27)
On the surface, not much seems to have changed. Willis is QB1 in most mocks and when it’s not him it was typically Pickett, with the occasional Corral, Ridder, or Howell mixed in.
That being said, there was a distinct shift in mock draft patterns that emerged following the trades of Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz, as well as the news that the Packers were retaining their quarterback.
One pattern that jumped out was that after Washington and Denver were removed from the quarterback-needy teams group, quarterbacks fell, and they were increasingly being mocked to Detroit. Maybe this is a result of projectors seeing value in a player at pick No. 32, but it almost felt like quarterbacks were being forced, as analysts tried to fit a certain amount of them into the first round.
Additionally, notice Pickett was mocked at pick No. 11 nine times, with most of those occasions coming before Washington traded for Wentz. Once the trade was made, Pickett’s projections dropped considerably, including sliding all the way down to pick No. 32 in two mocks.
Corral and Ridder continue to fight it out for QB3, but there are still a few Howell stans, who like him much more than the rest of the analytic community. All three were mocked to Detroit at least four times each this week. Note: I’m not a fan of the trade-up. At all.
Now, on to the non-quarterbacks connected to the Lions at pick No. 32.
Pick No. 32 (non-QBs)
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama - by Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Bryan Fischer (Anthon Sports)
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State - by Mark Schofield (Touchdown Wire)
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State - by Scott Bair (AtlantaFalcons.com), James Dator (SB Nation)
George Pickens, WR, Georgia - Ben Raven (MLive), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan - by Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson - Staff (Bleacher Report)
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia - Ryan Mathews (Pride of Detroit)
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue - Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota - Todd McShay (ESPN)
Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia - Kyle Meinke (MLive), Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report)
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington - by Brad Spielberger (PFF)
Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington - by Josh Edwards, (CBS Sports)
Daxton Hill, S/CB, Michigan - by Dane Brugler (The Athletic)
Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State - by Dave Birkett (Free Pre$$)
While 14 mock drafts paired the Lions with a quarterback, that left the other 21 giving the Lions a non-quarterback—a surprising 60/40-percent split. Among that 60 percent, the variety continues, ranging from the ever-popular wide receiver option (over half of these projections) to players at all three levels on defense.
Bottom line here is that it’s a nice reminder of the quality of players that will likely be available to the Lions if they opt not to select a quarterback at this spot.
Pick No. 34
George Pickens, WR, Georgia - Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota - by Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
Damone Clark, LB, LSU - by Dave Birkett (Free Pre$$)
Lewis Cine, S, Georgia - by Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
With mock drafts expanding beyond Round 1 more and more frequently following the Combine, I included this section this week. Of note, there are some repeats from the No. 32 list and the player quality remains the same with the picks being so close together.
Again, a nice reminder that the Lions will likely get two players from these groups.
Mock Draft Spotlight
In this section, I typically take a closer look at one mock draft and I’m going back to the Free Press’ Dave Birkett for a closer look at this week’s projections.
Pick No. 2: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Pick No. 32: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
Pick No. 34: Damone Clark, LB, LSU
If Hutchinson goes first overall, I think what Birkett has presented is a very realistic and optimistic projection of what could happen.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe the Thibodeaux rumors are overblown and he remains one of the best players in this draft cycle. Safety and linebacker are clearly high needs ahead of free agency and Brisker and Clark represent perfect schematic fits. If the Lions were able to walk out of the first two rounds with three (!) defensive starters, that’s a massive win for general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell.