We’re just over a month away from the 2022 NFL Draft, yet the plans for the Detroit Lions—who hold the No. 2 overall pick—seem to get cloudier and cloudier as the days go by.
Early on in the process, it seemed like Aidan Hutchinson was the odds-on favorite to be taken with the Lions. However, after the Jacksonville Jaguars made a few moves this offseason to bolster their offensive line, Hutchinson is now the heavy favorite to go first overall, and his odds are only increasing. Just a couple weeks ago, Hutchinson’s odds were at -165 per DraftKings Sportsbook (meaning a $165 bet would net a $100 profit), with Evan Neal being the closest at +380 (meaning a $100 bet would net a $380 profit). Now those odds are -400 for Hutchinson and +850 for both Neal and Ikem Ekwonu. It’s not even close.
So that begs the question we’ve been asking all month: If Hutchinson is gone, what should the Detroit Lions do at No. 2? We held a poll a couple weeks ago, and the vote was pretty split. Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux received 41 percent of the vote, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton was next with 20 percent. Georgia edge defender Travon Walker picked up 15 percent of the vote, while Liberty quarterback Malik Willis rounded out the top four with 10 percent.
But what do the Vegas odds say?
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Hamilton is actually the slight favorite to be the number two pick. Here’s a look at the current odds:
- Kyle Hamilton: +300
- Aidan Hutchinson: +400
- Malik Willis: +400
- Travon Walker +400
- Kayvon Thibodeaux +1000
As you can see, the odds are incredibly close between four players, with Thibodeaux continuing to slide.
Of course, there are a few caveats to keep in mind here. First, this is not a prediction from Vegas. Odds setting is done in order to create as even of a split between every betting option as possible, maximizing the opportunity for profit for each sportsbook. Additionally, these odds are for the No. 2 overall pick, not necessarily who the Lions pick. If Detroit trades out of the spot, these odds will still reflect who is chosen with the second overall pick.
But seeing Hamilton take over the top spot is quite interesting. Early in the draft process, many believed the second overall pick was too pricey for a position like safety. The last time a safety went in the top 10 of the draft was 2017 (Jamal Adams, Pick 6), and only once in the past 60 years has a safety ever been taken second overall: Eric Turner, a two-time Pro Bowler, and one-time All-Pro.
Some call Hamilton a unicorn, though. With athletic traits for days—despite an average 40-yard dash that some are blaming on a crooked run—Hamilton could be a versatile weapon in the NFL. He’s capable of coming down into the box to help the run game, and he can cover a heck of a lot of field in deep coverage.
And while history hasn’t valued safety as a top-tier position, the game has changed considerably in the past 10 years alone, and some are wondering if safeties are currently being undervalued in this league. The Lions could certainly use one, and the team has often pointed out how important the position is in this defense. Here’s defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn from December:
“That’s a very important position in this defense for many reason. One, because it’s the playmaker’s position. And two, it’s the quarterback of the defense, to be honest with you when you look at the back end. And really, just the back seven, including linebackers, because of the communication that’s involved in being that position. There are a lot of times when they’re freed up, they can read the quarterback and go make plays. There are times when they have to get down to the box to be able to make tackles. It’s an important position for us. We know the value that position brings to this defense.”
A couple of months ago, grabbing Hamilton was a highly-unpopular choice for Lions fans. We’ve seen them throw perceived position value into the wind by taking two tight ends in the top 10 and a cornerback at third overall, and for the most part, that strategy has not worked particularly well.
But this is a new regime and a new prospect. Maybe Hamilton is the mold-breaker the Lions have been looking for.