With the draft reaching its conclusion a week ago this afternoon, the dust has settled on one of the more wild and unpredictable drafts in recent memory. Teams were wheelin’ and dealin’ on Day 1, players widely considered first-round picks slipped all the way until the end of Day 2, and the New England Patriots drafted an interior offensive lineman at No. 29 that the Los Angeles Rams thought they’d have a shot at with their compensatory pick in the third round.
Okay, that last part isn’t so wild and unpredictable, but let’s talk about how the Detroit Lions got in on all the crazy action that took place on Day 1. After all, when Brad Holmes decided to package picks and move up from No. 32 to 12th overall and select Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, it became pretty clear the Lions were in the market for difference-makers.
This leads us to today’s Question of the Day...
Which Lions draft pick will have the biggest impact in Year 1?
Because of the way Holmes approached free agency, the Lions had contingency plans in place for just about every position on the roster. At the very least, Holmes had either acquired or re-acquired a player the team could count on to handle starter snaps—for better or worse.
So when it came to the draft, the Lions obviously had positions they could upgrade, and in order for the team to take the next step in becoming competitive week in and week out, they needed to add top-tier talent. The Lions figured it easy to make that happen at No. 2, and they arguably got the draft’s best talent in Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. Depending on how Romeo Okwara is rehabbing from the Achilles injury he suffered last season, Hutchinson could be in line for even more work and responsibility from the jump. Regardless, the Lions will be counting on Hutchinson to be an impact player starting Week 1 of next season.
But I think the player that could have the biggest impact in their rookie season is the player they traded up to get at No. 12: Jameson Williams.
For years, the cautionary tale about wide receivers in their rookie season was the learning curve they’d face early on. It was best to temper expectations and keep that learning curve in mind when figuring how a wideout would factor into an offense in year one. Recently, however, we’ve seen the kind of impact a rookie wide receiver can have on an offense from the get-go. Ja’Marr Chase was an absolute game-changer for the Cincinnati Bengals last season, helping them take their entire offense to the next level—even Joe Mixon had a career year out of the backfield in 2021, and that’s not a coincidence. The year before that, Justin Jefferson had the kind of season that put to bed those notions of a wide receiver’s rookie season being a developmental trial.
Williams is that kind of player. He averaged 20.0 yards per reception on 78 catches last year, and he was responsible for 10 of Alabama’s 11 longest plays from scrimmage. He’s a football player who also just happens to have track star traits, and to think of what that can do for the rest of the Lions' offense next year should not only provide fans a lot of excitement, but hope for Detroit’s offense to take that next step.
Of course, all of this is contingent on Williams’ rehab from the ACL injury he suffered in last year’s National Championship Game, but if he truly has expectations to be ready to go for training camp, Williams could be the draft pick who has the biggest impact on next year’s team.