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The Detroit Lions’ franchise quarterback is still available

Brad Holmes showed just how aggressive he can be on Thursday. He has a chance to do it again on Friday, but this time, he can get the Lions their next franchise quarterback.

NFL: NFL Draft-Red Carpet Arrivals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Detroit made their first pick of the night at No. 2 overall, Brad Holmes and Co. wasted little time before they made their selection. As soon as Travon Walker was chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions made Aidan Hutchinson the pick—if you blinked, you would have missed the time put on the clock for Detroit’s pick.

After months of debate, largely fueled by the uncertainty of just who the Jaguars were going to take at the top, Detroit ended up with the prospect many had wanted all along. With Hutchinson in tow, the Lions had bolstered their defensive line with not only a talented player, but by all accounts, a fit for the culture head coach Dan Campbell is building here in Detroit.

The Lions had a lengthy wait until their next pick at No. 32, but Holmes had other plans.

In what would end up being the second of nine trades involving first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Lions jumped up 20 spots to make their next selection, just ten picks after taking Hutchinson. Detroit would end up sending picks No. 32, No. 34, and No. 66 to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for No. 12 and No. 46—and by most trade value charts, the Lions made out like bandits.

Here, I thought, was the moment I’d been waiting for since January 31, 2021. The Detroit Lions were making their move. They had their eyes set on the team’s next franchise quarterback and this trade was all it was going to take for Detroit to add Liberty’s Malik Willis. He had slipped past the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks, and the New Orleans Saints, who had just traded up to No. 11 and grabbed Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave.

Instead, this is how I learned about who the Detroit Lions were selecting with the pick they just acquired.

Disappointment was the first feeling that washed over me. Not because of who the Lions picked, so don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here: this has nothing to do with Jameson Williams. Williams was definitely the top wide receiver in this class, and if it wasn’t for the ACL injury in the National Championship Game, he would’ve come off the board sooner than pick No. 12. Holmes was aggressive in his pursuit of Ja’Marr Chase a year ago, but this year, he was able to make the deal—again, one helluva deal—to get perhaps the best skill position player in this draft.

But that moment last night, when NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweet pinged my phone and notified me Detroit was moving up, it felt like that moment was reserved for some kind of wish fulfillment. Trading up that far had to be reserved for a quarterback, right? It had to be a quarterback, it had to be the name Malik Willis announced as the pick through a chorus of boos drowning out Roger Goodell.

Of course, it wasn’t, but when the 2022 NFL Draft resumes this evening, Willis is still on the board, and Detroit still has a chance to select the draft’s most dynamic—and divisive—player.

I’ve spent months articulating and defending my reasoning for why I think Willis is worth the risk, and specifically why taking a quarterback in this draft makes sense for the Detroit Lions as they continue to embark on this rebuild. He has every uncoachable tool in the toolbox when it comes to athleticism and arm strength. His ability to ad lib and create out of structure is remarkable, and while many have raised an eyebrow at his sack numbers, only Sam Howell faced a higher pressure rate in college last season.

Holmes' aggressiveness may have netted him the best wide receiver in this draft class, but sitting at pick No. 46, he has a decision to make: sit, wait, and be patient, allow the board to come to him and take the best player available. He could do that and he wouldn’t be at fault for many Lions fans who wish for Holmes to wait until next season to make any changes at the quarterback position.

Or he could make another move. Instead of kicking the can down the road, he could get a jump start on having the right player in house, both learning and developing in Allen Park for a season before handing him the reins. For many detractors of Willis as a prospect, it was the idea of over-drafting a prospect that left a bad taste in their mouths. Taking him at 2 was too tough a pill to swallow and would seal Holmes’ fate if Willis didn’t pan out. But taking Willis at this point in the draft is much more palatable, and doesn’t put Holmes on the clock.

Batter up, Brad Holmes. Your performance on Day 1 was impressive, but now, it’s time to swing for the fences.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.