For weeks and months, a defensive end has been an obvious position to mock to the Detroit Lions. With Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Travon Walker entrenched as top-tier prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, it seems likely that Detroit addresses their need with the second-overall selection.
But what if they don’t?
Should the Lions opt for another prospect at two—Kyle Hamilton, Malik Willis, among others—they will likely be the market for an EDGE sooner than later. Following the release of Trey Flowers, the Lions just have Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris as their go-to pass rushers. With both players facing questions (Will Okwara be recovered from his Achilles injury? Can Harris follow up a solid first season in Detroit?), the Lions would be wise to add another potential starter.
The Lions’ next picks are at 32 and 34, so both are essentially Day 2 selections. As a result, the likes of Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, and Walker will surely be gone, as could Jermaine Johnson and George Karlaftis. Nonetheless, there will be ample talent for the Lions to pick.
David Ojabo was projected to be a first rounder right up until the Michigan Pro Day. Unfortunately for the defensive end, he tore his Achilles while running drills, an injury that could send his stock plummeting. He will likely redshirt his rookie season as he recovers, so that could limit interest from a team in a win-now mentality. For Detroit, however, they have time to let him heal. The question, of course, is whether he can fully recover. There’s no guarantee he does, and the Lions may not want to take a shot on another EDGE with a torn Achilles.
The Lions may have a preference based on scheme, but thankfully there are a multitude of fits. Boye Mafe and Nik Bonitto are ideal 3-4 pass rushers, with Bonitto even having value in coverage. If the Lions are looking for jumbo defensive ends for a 3-4, Cameron Thomas and DeMarvin Leal could be options. Kingsley Enagbare and Josh Paschal project best as 4-3 defensive ends. Meanwhile, Sam Williams and Drake Jackson have plenty of room to grow into either scheme.
The top-16 pass rushing prospects seem set as the draft approaches, but once Round 2 approaches, any number of pass rushers could be targets for the Lions.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who is your favorite Day 2 pass rusher?
My answer: Boye Mafe.
Athleticism is king for pass rushers, and Mafe is up there with the best. Sitting between Travon Walker’s RAS of 9.99 and Aidan Hutchinson’s 9.88 is Mafe and his score of 9.91. Boasting an elite athletic profile, including a 4.53 40-yard dash, Mafe ticks all the boxes you look for in a pass rusher.
While Mafe’s best fit right now is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, he has the frame to develop into a 4-3 end as well. Mafe came in at 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds at the NFL Combine, a size that isn’t too different from Romeo Okwara (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) or Charles Harris (6-foot-3, 252 pounds). His transition to a 4-3 defensive end will likely hinge on technique. Mafe needs to improve at shedding blocks and maintaining contain.
Thankfully, the Lions have time to ease Mafe into a starting role. Mafe could be an option for the Lions at 32 and 34. Given how close those two picks are, the Lions will likely weigh the value of a fifth-year option that comes with a first-round pick. If the Lions pass on an EDGE with the second-overall pick, keep an eye on Mafe—assuming he makes it to 32.