Any time a team gets a player who many viewed as the top prospect in this year’s class plus another top-10 talent in the draft, you’re going to garner a lot of positive attention. That was the case after the Detroit Lions’ electric first round. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson was long presumed to be the top pick in this year’s class until the Jacksonville Jaguars fell in love with Georgia’s Travon Walker.
But the Lions weren’t going to sit and wait to see how the rest of the draft played out before their next pick at 32. Intead, Lions general manager Brad Holmes made an aggressive move to get Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, who was widely viewed as a top receiver in this class before suffering a torn ACL in the National Championship game.
So the Lions nabbed arguably the top talent in this year’s draft and potentially the top wide receiver. Naturally, the critics were raving about Detroit’s haul after Thursday night’s opening round. Here’s a look at some of the more notable comments.
The positive takes
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. called the Lions Day 1 winners due to making Aidan Hutchinson—his top prospect in this year’s draft—the pick at second overall.
“I don’t get the talk about Hutchinson already being close to his ceiling,” Kiper wrote. “He had 14 sacks last season, but he can keep improving. He had a better 3-cone drill time, short shuttle time and vertical jump than Travon Walker at the combine. He’s going to be an instant contributor and should challenge for Defensive Rookie of the Year.”
The Lions received an A grade from The Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer, who also called Hutchinson the “best player in this class.”
Iyer also gave the Lions a B+ for the Jameson Williams pick and trade up. He dinged them for trading a lot of picks to a divisional rival, but called Williams “a terrific skill complement to Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson.
Sheil Kapadia gave the Hutchinson pick a relatively solid B+ grade for Hutchinson but called it a “great outcome for the Lions.”
Kapadia was a little less enthusiastic about the Lions’ second selection of Williams, giving it a B. That said, the commentary sure seemed highly in favor of the pick:
Williams’ ceiling is as high as any pass-catcher in the draft. He was my favorite wide receiver in this class. The Lions couldn’t resist. Not sure I would have been able to either.
Friend of the podcast Danny Kelly provided draft grades for every first-round pick, and Aidan Hutchinson earned an A+ (one of six A+ grades from Kelly).
“This is about as perfect a team-player fit as we’re going to get in this draft,” Kelly wrote.
You’d think the analytics site would have some kind of sophisticated measure of draft pick analysis, but in their instant grades article, they simply used adjectives that varied from “elite” to “poor.” The Lions got a “very good” grade for Hutchinson and a “good” grade for Williams. The only knock on the Williams pick seems to be the “massive move” it took to get him. Overall, though, it appears the analytics site approves of Detroit’s Day 1 moves.
Eric Edholm was clearly a big fan of Detroit’s draft. Hutchinson garnered a B+ grade while Williams got an A-. Here’s his take on the bold trade up:
Well, the Lions are rolling the dice in Vegas. Trading up into this spot is a big, bold move for GM Brad Holmes, and we’ve been saying for some time that they were going to add a receiver. This wasn’t the way we — or anyone else — imagined. Williams would have been our WR1 had it not been for the torn ACL, and Detroit is in no hurry to get him on the field. What a pivot here.
The negative takes
While the reviews were mostly positive for Detroit, there was one that leaned negative.
After naming the Lions “winners” for the Hutchinson pick, Kiper turned around and called their move up for Williams “head scratching.” The beef is simply making an aggressive move when Detroit is not in a place to compete for anything significant.
“Detroit sent Minnesota pick Nos. 32, 34 and 66 to move to No. 12 (and added No. 46). Those are two early Round 2 picks that often become starters,” Kiper wrote. “Do Dan Campbell & Co. think they’re close enough to an NFC North title that they can take one chance on Day 1 instead of two at 32 and 34? The pick at 46 will help, but this is a roster that needs a lot of help.”