We’re less than a week away from the NFL draft and this marks the final mock draft roundup of the 2022 offseason.
It’s been an entertaining few months of examining mock drafts, and unusually, we’ve almost come full circle on what some experts believe the Detroit Lions will do with the No. 2 overall pick.
When we first started tracking mock drafts in mid-December, Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson was the odds on favorite to land with the Lions. When the Lions dropped off the top spot, the focus shifted to Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, and Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. But the big shift happened in early March when Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker entered the mix and sent fans into camps to support “their guy”.
The debates raged on between Thibodeaux and Walker—Willis also had his fair share of support—with analysts alternating which they preferred on a given week. But as tends to happen during draft season, there was a late changing of the winds, and once again, connections between Hutchinson and the Lions started to reemerge, this time with the No. 2 pick.
Everything, of course, hinges on what the Jaguars will do with the first pick, but with trade talks tempered down, it seems likely that the Lions will be picking at No. 2. So that brings us to the million dollar question: What will they do with the pick?
Most analysts believe that if the Jaguars pick any player other than Hutchinson, then the Lions would waste little time making their decision and would go with the local prospect.
Jacksonville picks anyone but Aidan Hutchinson first overall, and the Lions select...
- Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan - Peter Schrager (NFL.com), Charles Davis (NFL.com), Jeff Risdon (Real GM), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Conor Orr (MMQB), Josh Norris (Underdog Network), Rob Rang (Fox Sports), Brad Spielberger (PFF), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Tyler Sullivan (CBS Sports), Steve Serby (NY Post), Matthew Freedman (Fantasy Pros), Hunter Haas (NFL Mocks), Cory Bonini (The Huddle)
But is it really that much of a no-brainer decision? NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah spoke to the media about this possibility on Thursday:
So in terms of the Lions up there at the top of the draft, Aidan Hutchinson to me is the run the card up if he gets there.
If Travon Walker goes one, I wouldn’t think it wouldn’t take long. It’s too easy of a fit there. It’s a need. He brings everything that you want on the field and then you kind of add that other element with the leadership and what he could bring to a team that’s trying to get the corner turned here. I think he’s somebody that has the experience of getting that done. So I think that would be a home run pick.
So, bottom line, most believe that if Hutchinson is there, then he will be the pick. But, what if he is selected by the Jaguars first overall?
Jacksonville takes Aidan Hutchinson first overall and the Lions select...
- Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia - Eric Eager (PFF), Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy), Jonathan Jones (CBS Sports), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), Marcus Mosher (The Game Day), Logan Ulrich (NFL Trade Rumors), Pete Fiutak (College Football News), David Dorey (The Huddle), Harley Dean (The Huddle), Tim Kelly (Audacity Sports)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon - Kyle Crabbs (Draft Network), Jamie Eisner (Draft Network), Sam Monson (PFF), Tej Seth (PFF), Jared Dubin (CBS Sports), Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports), Mike Kaye (Pro Football Network), Ryan McCrystal (Sharp Analysis), Jordan Heck (Sporting News)
- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty - Thor Nystrom (NBC Sports), Emory Hunt (CBS Sports)
- Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh - Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
- Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati and Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame - None
Things remain split between analysts on which direction the Lions may go if Hutchinson is off the board, with most believing the Lions would stick with an edge rusher.
“If Hutchinson goes one, I think Walker would make some sense for them (Lions),” Jeremiah explained. “Again, real rugged, physical player. Be kind of ironic, because if you look for players that have gone in the first round with some of the limited production that he has, maybe kind of one of those upside picks. The Lions with Ziggy Ansah is probably as good an example as any and was a really, really good player. That would be another one.”
But while analysts like Jeremiah prefer Walker for Detroit, Thibodeaux isn’t short on supporters either.
“I think the hype surrounding Walker is real, but any time I go back to the tape, I see a phenomenally good pass-rusher in Thibodeaux, who seems to be the target of a negativity campaign as the draft approaches,” Monson of PFF wrote. “He possesses elite burst and twitchiness at the position and can win in a variety of different ways. Thibodeaux posted a 92.0 pass-rush grade against true pass sets this past season and a pass-rush win rate that doubled Walker’s mark. We’re overthinking things right now, but the Lions won’t when they pick.”
The group supporting non-edge rushers is dwindling, but there remain analysts who can see a path for the Lions that includes other players. The prospect that the Lions may go defensive back has tapered off significantly, but the idea of grabbing a signal-caller remains in the conversation.
Beyond Nystrom and Hunt, Brett Whitefield (formerly of PFF) joined the fellas on the PODcast this week and explained why Willis could make sense for the Lions in their current situation. Willis remains a polarizing player at an all-important position and if the Lions do prefer a quarterback, he almost universally appears to be the preferred option—save Reuter, who is the only analyst to project any quarterback at No. 2 besides Willis in the last several months.
But the quarterback talk doesn’t stop end at No. 2, as we see in our next section.
- Malik Willis, Liberty - Nystrom and Hunt at No. 2 (above), Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy, No. 23)
- Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh - Reuter at No. 2 (above), Charles Davis (NFL.com, No. 32), Rob Rang (Fox Sports, No. 32), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports, No. 32)
- Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati - Jared Dubin (CBS Sports, No. 26), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports, No. 32), Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports, No. 32), Marcus Mosher (The Game Day, No. 32), Pete Fiutak (College Football News, No. 32), Kyle Crabbs (Draft Network, No. 34)
- Matt Corral, Mississippi - Peter Schrager (NFL.com, No. 32), Eric Eager (PFF, No. 32), Mike Kaye (Pro Football Network, No. 32), Tim Kelly (Audacity Sports, No. 32), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News, No. 34)
- Sam Howell, North Carolina - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports, No. 32)
- Carson Strong, Nevada - Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown, No. 66)
If you haven’t been following along with the mock draft roundups this season, the number of projections in this section are shrinking, but there are still several who believe the Lions will take a quarterback at some point in the first 100 picks. Picks No. 32 and 34 remain the popular choices, but a few projections had the Lions trading up for a quarterback (namely Willis and Ridder), while others sat back and waited.
While the Lions likely need to address the quarterback position in the draft sometime in the near future, it’s worth noting that most of the individuals projecting the Lions to take one this year are on the national level, and most local writers don’t appear sold on the idea.
Picks No. 32 and 34, non-QBs
- Drake London, WR, USC - Conor Orr (MMQB, No. 27)
- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas - Sam Monson (PFF)
- Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State - Harley Dean (The Huddle), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports, No. 34)
- Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State - Jamie Eisner (Draft Network)
- Logan Hall, DL, Houston - Jeff Risdon (Real GM, No. 34)
- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue - Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
- David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan - Thor Nystrom (NBC Sports), Emory Hunt (CBS Sports), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota - Marcus Mosher (The Game Day)
- Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah - Logan Ulrich (NFL Trade Rumors)
- Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia - Kyle Crabbs (Draft Network), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), Matthew Freedman (Fantasy Pros), Chad Reuter (NFL.com, No. 40)
- Quay Walker, LB, Georgia - Pete Fiutak (College Football News, No. 34)
- Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington - Hunter Haas (NFL Mocks)
- Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson - David Dorey (The Huddle)
- Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington - Cory Bonini (The Huddle)
- Daxton Hill, S, Michigan - Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Tej Seth (PFF), Jonathan Jones (CBS Sports), Tyler Sullivan (CBS Sports), Jordan Heck (Sporting News), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports, No. 34), Thor Nystrom (NBC Sports, No. 34), Hunter Haas (NFL Mocks, No. 34), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown, No. 34)
- Lewis Cine, S, Georgia - Josh Norris (Underdog Network), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Ryan McCrystal (Sharp Analysis), Mike Kaye (Pro Football Network, No. 34)
- Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State - Jeff Risdon (Real GM)
- Trade out of pick no. 32 - Brad Spielberger (PFF), Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
Again, not much has changed here as the possibilities remain very open and Detroit could go in several directions with the two picks. The most popular picks for these spots remain Michigan safety Daxton Hill, Georgia safety Lewis Cine, and Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. If the Lions were able to walk away from the first 34 picks of this draft with an edge rusher, a safety, and a linebacker, most Lions fans would call that a win.
But the Lions' opportunities to add high-level talent doesn’t stop there, as they still have two more picks remaining in the top-100, both in the third round.
- George Pickens, WR, Georgia - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama - Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
- John Metchie, WR, Alabama - Chad Reuter (NFL.com), Hunter Haas (NFL Mocks)
- Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State - Jeff Risdon (Real GM)
- Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
- Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State - Marcus Mosher (The Game Day)
- Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn - Thor Nystrom (NBC Sports)
- Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
- Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor - Thor Nystrom (NBC Sports)
- Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA - Hunter Haas (NFL Mocks)
- Cade Otton, TE, Washington - Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
- Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia - Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
- Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma - Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
- Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati - Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
- Mykael Wright, CB, Oregon - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Nick Cross, S, Maryland - Marcus Mosher (The Game Day)
- Verone McKinley, S, Oregon - Jeff Risdon (Real GM)
- Nolan Turner, S, Clemson - Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
While the players projected are all over the map, the positions of need remain the same, and depending on how the first three picks play out, there are potentially some value options at this stage.
Most of the players listed above would be role players in 2022 but could be potential starting candidates in 2023 and beyond, which speaks towards the depth of this draft class and the great opportunity the Lions have in front of them with five picks in the top-100 selections.