Let’s start today’s roundup by reminding everyone that it’s lying season in the NFL.
Good. Now that we have that out of the way...
Lately, there have been several 2022 NFL Draft rumors stemming from quotes from NFL executives, coaches, and scouts that have been circulating through the media. Some of these sources are likely answering questions honestly, but there are definitely others that are using the media to push their own agenda.
The most notable of the rumors surrounds the Jacksonville Jaguars and their preferred choice for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
“Everyone knows he (Jaguars GM Trent Baalke) wants to trade it, and that tells me he’s not in love with any of them (prospects),” an AFC college scouting director told MMQB’s Albert Breer.
Breer would go on to explain that the way the situation is being sold to him from multiple sources is that the Jaguars are worried about how the organization is being perceived—no surprise after back-to-back No. 1 overall picks and the Urban Meyer fiasco—and that they if they don’t take Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or “get a king’s ransom for the pick,” then it could be problematic for their image.
Additionally, Breer noted others referenced the Jaguars doing a lot of work on the top offensive linemen in this class, which when coupled with Jaguars’ coach Doug Pederson’s comments at the owners meetings (below), points to them wanting to grab an offensive tackle at the top of the draft—with NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu being the most likely.
“We’re not done, obviously,” Pederson said via the Free Press. “The draft is coming up, and I’m sure we’re going to add some more depth at that position. You can never have enough offensive linemen in the NFL.”
There have been other similar rumors reported from other sites, like Matt Lombardo of Fansided, who polled several NFL sources and came away with a variety of opinions ranging from Hutchinson, an offensive tackle, and even Georgia’s Travon Walker being the front runner for the No. 1 overall pick.
The Walker connection has been making headlines lately, stemming from reports from NFL Network’s Peter Schrager on Good Morning Football:
"Everyone's inking Aidan Hutchinson to the @Jaguars. Around the NFL, there's talk about GM Trent Baalke, and his draft history with SF. Year after year, the 49ers took players with incredible physical traits over the top collegiate performers. That's Travon Walker." -- @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/WbxFkH6W9B— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) April 11, 2022
But Schrager isn’t alone in this stance, as Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network took a similar stance, writing on the topic in late March, and doubling down via video earlier this week:
Who will go first overall when the #NFLDraft rolls around?— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) April 11, 2022
Could Travon Walker be the pick when the #Jaguars are on the clock?
Trey @wingoz and @TonyPauline discussed the possibility on Draft Insiders.
➡️: https://t.co/1pagW1F7Iv pic.twitter.com/ZX8CjGCsvN
With less than two weeks before the NFL draft is set to kick off, things are maybe not as settled as previously believed.
With the table now set, let’s take a closer look at who is being projected to the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 overall pick this week.
Jacksonville picks anyone but Aidan Hutchinson first overall, and the Lions select...
- Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan - Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Evan Silva (Establish the run), Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network), Omar Kelly (Sun Sentinel), Harris Oates (DraftID), Tankathon (staff), Mike Fanelli (Fantasy Pros), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon - The 33rd team (staff)
With the rumors smoking, several draft analysts are buying into the idea that there is some fire behind the Jaguars possibly not being settled on Hutchinson. As has been the case for some time now, if the Jaguars pass on the Michigan edge rusher, there is almost universal acceptance that he won’t get past the Detroit Lions.
Now, not everyone is altering their projections based on rumors—including Breer, who projected the Jaguars to stick with Hutchinson—which leads us to our next section, where once again, there has been a dramatic shift in projections.
Jacksonville takes Aidan Hutchinson first overall and the Lions select...
- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty - Keith Sanchez (Draft Network), Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron)
- Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia - Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Albert Breer (MMQB), Bruce Feldman (The Athletic), Brad Spielberger (PFF), Nate Davis (USA Today), Will Brinson (CBS Sports), Mark Maske (Washington Post), Sawyer Hicks (DraftID), Andrew Erickson (Fantasy Pros), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report), Bryan Fischer (Anthon Sports), Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports), Jacob Camenker and Joe Rivera (Sporting News)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon - Adam Rank (NFL.com), Anthony Treash (PFF), Ben Linsey (PFF), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
- Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati - Mel Kiper (ESPN), Tori McElhaney (AtlantaFalcons.com)
- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame - Rhett Lewis (NFL.com)
Thibodeaux was the belle of the ball last week, but this week, things have shifted back in favor of Walker. Maybe it has to do with the rumors Jacksonville is interested in Walker, thus leading others to believe the Lions should be interested too. Or maybe the shine of the Lions attending Thibodeaux’s pro day has worn off.
Whatever the reason, Walker to Detroit—if Hutchinson is off the board—is re-gaining some momentum.
As always, there are a few other players getting projected to Detroit, including defensive backs Sauce Gardner and Kyle Hamilton, and of course, the quarterback talk will never go away—though the number of projections is shifting away from the Lions taking a quarterback at No. 2 to them landing on a signal-caller at No. 32.
Quarterback focus at No. 32
- Malik Willis, Liberty - Two analysts projecting him at No. 2 above, Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown) at No. 32
- Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh - Adam Rank (NFL.com), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
- Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati - Bruce Feldman (The Athletic), Evan Silva (Establish the run), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network), Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports)
- Matt Corral, Mississippi - Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Tankathon (staff), Jacob Camenker and Joe Rivera (Sporting News), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
- Sam Howell, North Carolina - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports, No. 34), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network, No. 34)
- Carson Strong, Nevada - The 33rd team (staff, No. 97)
Ridder’s stock has been on the rise of late and that is reflected here as he has the highest amount of projections to Detroit at the position. The Lions have been connected to Ridder since the NFL Combine, when he reportedly met with the organization, but don’t read too much into meetings, because they also reportedly walked away from the Senior Bowl very high on Willis and also will be bringing in Pickett for a top-30 visit.
Of note, while Howell and Strong were connected to the Lions this week, neither landed in Detroit as a first-round pick.
- Trade pick No. 2 to Giants for No. 5, then trade pick No. 5 to Saints for No. 16, Lions pick Jermaine Johnson (EDGE, Florida State) - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Trade pick No. 32 to Atlanta, and receive picks No. 43, 114, 190 - Brad Spielberger (PFF)
- Trade pick No. 32 to Seattle and receive pick No. 40, 2023 3rd round - Ben Linsey (PFF)
- Trade pick No. 32 to Seattle and receive pick No. 40 and “probably” a fourth-rounder - Nate Davis (USA Today)
- Trade pick No. 32 to Jets and receive picks No. 35 and 111 - Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
A new dynamic to mock drafts this week—as analysts try and keep things fresh—is a lot of trade scenarios. Projecting trades is nearly impossible, but I included it as a reminder of the value of the 32nd pick and the fifth-year option it carries.
I also figured it’d make for a healthy debate about which one was best in the comment section below. Personally, I’d take Linsey’s suggestion.
Picks No. 32 and 34
- Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama - Sawyer Hicks (DraftID)
- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
- Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State - Dane Brugler (The Athletic), The 33rd team (staff), Tori McElhaney (AtlantaFalcons.com), Mike Fanelli (Fantasy Pros), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire, No. 34)
- George Pickens, WR, Georgia - Bryan Fischer (Anthon Sports)
- Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan - Rhett Lewis (NFL.com)
- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue - Will Brinson (CBS Sports)
- David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan - Mel Kiper (ESPN, No. 34)
- Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State - Keith Sanchez (Draft Network, No. 34)
- Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah - Keith Sanchez (Draft Network)
- Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia - Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain, No. 34)
- Leo Chanel, LB, Wisconsin - Anthony Treash (PFF, No. 34)
- Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State - Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
- Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson - Andrew Erickson (Fantasy Pros)
- Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports, No. 34)
- Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn - Omar Kelly (Sun Sentinel)
- Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida - Mark Maske (Washington Post)
- Daxton Hill, S, Michigan - Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network), Harris Oates (DraftID), The 33rd team (staff, No. 34)
- Lewis Cine, S, Georgia - Mel Kiper (ESPN), Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron), Dane Brugler (The Athletic, No. 34), Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown, No. 34)
- Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor - Anthony Treash (PFF)
So, that’s 19 players over five different positions—not including quarterbacks—that analysts think the Lions could be interested in at picks No. 32 and 34. I think this speaks to how unsettled this draft class is at every level.
Top projections this week include Dotson, Hill, Cine, and Dean—who was my selection with the 32nd pick in the Pride of Detroit community mock draft.
- Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
- Calvin Austin, WR, Memphis - Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
- Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky - Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
- Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson - Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
- Quay Walker, LB, Georgia - Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown)
- Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State - Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
- Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
- Leo Chanel, LB, Wisconsin - Dane Brugler (The Athletic), The 33rd team (staff)
- Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M - Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
- Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee - Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown)
- Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson - Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
- Cole Strange, IOL, Chattanooga - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
- Josh Pascal, EDGE, Kentucky - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
- Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri - Dane Brugler (The Athletic)
- Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama - Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
- Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois - Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
Another new wrinkle in mock drafts this time of year is analysts expanding beyond the first two rounds, with some even taking on all seven. Interestingly, the same strategy for pairing the Lions up with an offensive skill player or any level of defender stays true in the third round as well.
I’m not in love with most of the offensive pairings—I like the players, just not always the fit or when they were projected—but the defensive projections are holding my attention. Nabbing a linebacker at No. 66 makes sense if the Lions pass at No. 32/34, and the players projected work for me, especially Walker who I think could be in play at 34 depending on how things fall. Additionally, if the Lions pass on a safety early, give me Joseph at pick No. 97 all day.