Post-NFL Combine mock drafts can typically go one of two ways. Either they become some of the accurate mock drafts of the offseason because information is fresh and analysts don’t have time to overthink players between now and the draft. Or, they are reactionary and overcompensate after a single workout performance that was really good or really bad.
The Atheltic’s Dane Brugler is one of the most highly respected draft analysts in the business, and he has connections to basically every NFL organization. After this weekend's Combine events, Brugler surely acquired more insider information, and he is likely using some of it to guide him in his third mock draft of the offseason ($ubscription).
In Brugler’s first mock draft—which he elaborated on during a PODcast—he gave the Lions Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson and Arkansas’ wide receiver Treylon Burks (with the 23rd overall pick at the time. In his second mock draft, Brugler stuck with Hutchinson being the Lions' pick at No. 2 but switched receivers from Burks to Ohio State’s Chris Olave (with the Lions picking No. 38), and in the second round, Detroit grabbed Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary.
In this mock draft (version 3.0), Brugler stayed consistent with the Lions' first pick:
No. 2, Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
“Hutchinson didn’t do anything at the combine to hurt his draft standing as one of the best players in the class,” Brugler said in his write-up—an opinion that most analysts share.
After an impressive Combine, Hutchinson was one of our standouts at edge rusher, as he had some incredibly impressive explosion and agility scores. This is something Brugler also made a point to mention.
“While his 40-yard dash time was average,” Brugler explained, “he led all front-seven defenders with a 6.73 three-cone and 4.15 short shuttle, which are both extraordinary numbers. To put those times in perspective, Von Miller posted a 6.70 three-cone, and Khalil Mack had a 4.18 short shuttle.”
With the Lions’ second first-round pick, Brugler went in a different direction than his precious mock drafts opting for a quarterback rather than a wide receiver.
No. 32 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
“The Lions have been doing their homework on several quarterbacks in this class, including a formal meeting with Ridder at the combine,” Brugler noted. “With Jared Goff the starter in 2022, the Lions would be able to develop Ridder at his own pace instead of forcing him into immediate action.”
While the logic makes sense, this is not a strategy I have got behind this offseason. Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes may only get one shot at landing a franchise quarterback during his tenure in Detroit, and if Ridder isn’t that guy, then Holmes wasted a big piece of the Matthew Stafford trade.
Could Ridder develop into a franchise quarterback? Sure, it’s possible, he was also one of our Combine standouts at quarterback. But even Brugler had Ridder ranked as the 41st best prospect in this class in his most recent top-100 rankings ($ubscription), which is not an inspiring vote of confidence that that will happen.
Bottom line, it’s a gamble taking at quarterback at pick No. 32 and one Holmes can’t miss on.
In the second round, Brugler went back to the Michigan defense to give the Lions secondary help.
No. 34 Daxton Hill, Safety/Nickel corner, Michigan
Going back to Brugler’s top-100, Hill is actually his 23rd best player on the board, which represents great value, and I have to imagine he opted for Ridder at the end of the first round over Hill because of the fifth-year option that comes with pick No. 32.
Brugler didn't have an explanation for this selection in his mock draft, but he did say this about Hill in his top-100 write-up:
“Arguably the top nickel defender in the draft, Hill can cover wide receivers and tight ends while also providing a thump in the run game and as a blitzer,” Brugler wrote. “Although he has the size of a cornerback, he should test off the charts and plays with the toughness of a safety. With his versatile skills, Hill is exactly what several teams are searching for in their secondaries.”
Like Hutchinson and Ridder, Hill was also recognized as one of our Combine standouts.
Other notes on Brugler’s mock draft
There were some other interesting things that occurred in Brugler’s mock draft that were notable.
After Jacksonville took offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) first overall and Hutchinson went second to the Lions, it was Georgia EDGE Travon Walker—who Jeremy Reisman correctly identified as one of the players who drastically improved his stock at the Combine—that went third overall to the Houston Texans.
The other player in Reisman’s assessment was North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson, who went off the board at pick No. 62 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton landed at pick No. 8, while Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux went at No. 9, which is a mild, but notable, drop for both players.
Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson went at pick No. 10, making him the fourth edge rusher off the board in the top-10 picks.
Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett was the first quarterback selected at pick No. 11, Liberty’s Malik Willis went No. 18, and Ridder was next, bringing the first-round quarterback total to just three. North Carolina’s Sam Howell was pick No. 47, Mississippi’s Matt Corral No. 52, and were the only quarterbacks in the second round.
At linebacker, Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean went in the first round, while Georgia’s Quay Walker went at pick No. 33, right in between the Lions taking Ridder and Hill.
The first running back taken was Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker, who came off the board at pick No. 50. Speaking of Michigan-based colleges, Central Michigan OL Bernhard Raimann was projected to go in the first (pick No. 25), while Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore was slotted right before Walker at pick no. 49.