The NFL Draft is almost upon us, and as usual, I can’t tell you what the Detroit Lions are actually going to do in it. There are a ton of viable options with the second overall pick, and the Lions haven’t tipped their hand yet. Do they go with Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton or Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux? What if it’s none of those guys and someone else? What if the Lions don’t pick at two at all?
A month ago, a trade down seemed unlikely. But after a month of absolute madness in the NFL that hasn’t shown signs of slowing, the possibilities for the Lions to trade down from two seem plentiful. Here are seven options for the Lions top trade down to and why.
Houston Texans (Pick 3)
The Texans are in an interesting spot. They’re only one spot below the Lions, but their highest hopes and dreams could be dashed in the two picks before them. For starters, they appear to love Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. The Texans brought a large group to his pro day last week, and they’re likely hoping he can fall to them. The Jaguars will most likely take him first overall, but if they decide not to, the Texans may in love with him enough to offer the Lions nice trade package to move up one spot.
The other part of this is the Texans need a quarterback. Malik Willis could very well be the second pick for the Lions in April. If the Texans don’t want to roll with Davis Mills and they’re in love with Willis more than the Lions, Lions GM Brad Holmes has Texans GM Nick Caserio where he wants him. The Lions wouldn’t get a huge return, but a trade one spot down obviously has the smallest risk of losing out on a talented player.
The New York teams (Jets: Picks 4 and 10; Giants: Picks 5 and 7)
The Giants have the fifth and seventh picks and the Jets have the fourth and 10th picks. The dream is obviously that either team trades both their top-10 picks to move up to two. While stupid things tend to happen every week in the NFL, it just doesn’t make sense for either of these teams to move up—and certainly not for that price, which is lopsided in Detroit’s favor using whichever draft trade chart you prefer.
The Giants are looking for offensive line help, and there’s a very good chance at least one of Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu should be there for their fifth pick. The Jets need safety help and Kyle Hamilton could very easily fall to them at four. I suppose if the Jets get scared enough about the Texans jumping them there, they may want to move up. I doubt they’d give up both picks though.
Atlanta Falcons (Pick 8)
This might be the most likely team to at least make a phone call to the Lions. Per NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, there’s some real interest in Malik Willis from the Falcons. If the Falcons want Willis, moving up to the second pick to get him may be their best option. The Lions have a quarterback in Jared Goff, and while Willis would be nice for them, they don’t need to make this move right now. The Texans, Panthers and maybe even the Giants do need to make that move—the Texans and Panthers, especially.
The Falcons’ issue is that they don’t have much to offer in terms of draft capital outside of the eighth pick. Do have a couple second-round picks, and a couple third-round picks, but they may need to dip into 2023 draft picks to make the trade even. Or they could offer a starting-caliber player in the draft. Is there anyone on the Falcons that could immediately help the Lions? Would the Falcons trade that player?
Carolina Panthers (Pick 6)
Speaking of the Panthers, they are also interested in Malik Willis. Problem is, they have far less draft capital than even the Falcons. Their next pick after sixth overall is Pick 137, all the way in the fourth round.
They would have to offer the Lions the sixth pick, some future assets and a player or two. The Panthers don’t really have anyone on the roster that the Lions would feel like they need to have. At least not anyone that the Panthers would trade. There’s the possibility of Christian McCaffrey, but the Lions probably feel they are good to go in the running back room, and the value of a running back—especially one with an injury history as lengthy as McCaffrey—isn’t going to do much to tip the scales.
Seattle Seahawks (Pick 9)
The Seahawks seem like the team that nobody is talking about here. They just traded Russell Wilson, and they have the choice to either be the team that trades for Baker Mayfield, stick with Drew Lock, or draft a quarterback. They could do any one of those options or they could get their new Russell Wilson in Malik Willis. The similarities are there: Two undersized guys with big arms and crazy mobility.
The Seahawks could also afford to put together a great package for the Lions. They could offer the ninth pick, one their two picks in the second round and DK Metcalf. I think it’s the perfect mutually-beneficial trade that I broke down further here.
By almost every account, the Steelers love Malik Willis. Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert both went to Willis’ pro day this week. Tomlin and Willis reportedly went to dinner that night as well. It’s the NFL worst-kept secret that the Steelers want Willis really bad, but I just don’t see it happening for them. Dropping out of the top 10 into the 20s is a move that just rarely happens in the NFL. The Steelers would have to offer a premier player like Minkah Fitzpatrick or T.J. Watt, but that seems unlikely. The only other way Pittsburgh moves that far if they offer at least two first-round picks and more, like the Falcons did to jump 21 spots for Julio Jones. Or maybe it was just not meant to be, and the Steelers will have to settle for a lesser quarterback in 2022.