The 2022 NFL draft is just over three weeks away and two Georgia defenders are currently being projected to the Detroit Lions at a higher rate than any other players. As illustrated in our latest Mock Draft roundup, 12 of the 28 mock drafts we looked at projected the Lions to select edge defender Travon Walker with pick No. 2, and another eight had the Lions grabbing linebacker Nakobe Dean with the 32nd pick in the draft.
The Lions got an up-close look at both players last month when Lions’ linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard ran the linebacker drills at Georgia’s pro day, an event that was also attended by front office executive and Lions’ legend Chris Spielman and local area scout Scott Sika.
Now the Lions are taking their evaluations of Walker and Dean a step further with reported top-30 pre-draft visits to Allen Park to meet with the Lions’ front office and coaching staff. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Walker will take visits to each of the top-six teams in the draft—Jaguars, Lions, Texans, Jets, Giants, and Panthers—, while Justin Melo of the Draft Network broke the news that Dean would meet with the Lions later this month.
Georgia's defense is expected to have as many as eight defenders drafted in the first 100 picks, including four potential coming off the board in the first round, and Walker is projected to be the first one selected due to his positional versatility and insane measurables (he earned a 9.99 RAS score). He was recently my selection for the Lions in the Pride of Detroit Community mock draft series that began last week.
Dean was highly productive at Georgia and the clear leader of that dominating defense, but questions over his size (5-foot-11 1⁄2 231 pounds) have prompted some to believe he will fall to the Lions at the end of the first round. That may not be an issue for the Lions based on what Lions’ coach Dan Campbell has said about what he values in linebackers.
“We did not want to put an emphasis on size, like, ‘How big can you be?’ That’s not what we want,” Lions’ coach Dan Campbell said last June. “I would rather have somebody that was 220 (pounds) and could freaking fly as an inside linebacker. That just fits what we’re doing.”
This is further supported by the fact that the linebackers the Lions have added/returned this offseason. Here is a look at Dean’s size (from the NFL Combine) compared to the size of the players currently among the Lions’ current linebacker group (per the team’s website)—all of which were signed, re-signed, drafted, or tendered by this coaching staff:
Note: a player's height reads from left to right, with the first number being feet, the next two representing inches, and the fourth number equaling how many eighths of an inch. Ex. 5113 equals 5-foot-11 and 3/8 inches.
The Lions can bring in up to 30 players for this type of visit over the next few weeks as they work towards finalizing their draft board. The NFL draft is set to kick off on Thursday, April 28 and continue through Saturday the 30th.