It is that time when mock drafts are written and laughed at in short order. There is so much information to be learned, and the Combine has just gotten underway. Free agency is yet to play out, and many positional needs will be filled that alter when the Detroit Lions approach to the draft.
A mock draft conducted without all the information we will have after free agency is an exercise to identify positions of need and blend that with where value is in the draft. Things will change as more information becomes available, but in the meantime, let’s make some picks for the Detroit Lions.
We are operating under the premise the Jacksonville Jaguars select an offensive tackle with the first overall pick in 2022 to help protect franchise quarterback and 2021 first-overall selection Trevor Lawrence.
In this scenario, the Lions choose between Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. For more on comparing these two players, check out this piece. We can add Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton in the mix at No. 2 overall.
The Lions make a very safe selection with Hutchinson. A player with a high floor and a potentially lower ceiling than most second-overall selections. That speaks to the lack of star power in the top 10 in the 2022 class, which brings up another discussion about taking a swing on a quarterback at two overall. If there is a class to make that kind of swing, it is this one as multiple NFL-affiliated people I am talking to describe this draft as one of the worst (at the top) in recent memory.
1.32 Devonte Wyatt DT Georgia
I do not think Wyatt will be available at 32 as he is a very disruptive interior defender capable of winning in various ways. However, he is here in this one, and I’m taking him because dudes weighing 310 pounds do generally not have the lateral quickness of Wyatt, and I see him being a tough player to block. He can win with power, quickness and one of the reasons the Georgia linebackers looked so good last year is because of Wyatt and the other players on the Georgia defensive line.
The Lions announced a move to more four-man fronts, and that means they need help on the interior to partner with the two payers they took last year in Alim McNeil and Levi Onzwurike. Adding Wyatt to what they already have bolsters the position long-term, and the Rams won a Super Bowl this year by wreaking havoc on the interior of the offensive line, pressuring quarterbacks to leave the pocket and roll into their edge players screaming off the edge.
We should note that the Lions coached him in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and they got to see him up close and personal for a week, and that interaction cannot be overlooked.
NFL Draft SECOND ROUND
2.34 Jalen Pitre S Baylor
Pitre was also a Senior Bowl participant, but the Lions did not coach him. Jalen is a culture fit for what the Lions are building and might be one of the most critical pieces they add in the draft. Pitre is a do-it-all safety and would allow the Lions to fit other players to the roles they would thrive. Pitre makes plays others don’t because he processes things very quickly. He is an efficient player capable of making plays all over the field. He is excellent in run support, does a highly effective job blitzing the passer, and while he needs to improve in coverage, it is not a liability.
Detroit Lions – THIRD ROUND
3.66 David Bell WR Purdue
Bell is a very underrated receiver. He is a very polished route runner and a player bringing excellent versatility to the NFL. He is big enough to play outside but is adept out of the slot. That outside-in versatility makes him intriguing for a Lions team looking to move second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown around a bit. Bell feels like one of the players we will look back in a few years and wonder why he fell in the draft.
3.97 Leo Chenal LB Wisconsin
A very physical, tenacious run defender capable of dominating between the tackles. He runs through gaps and plays with solid hand usage to show up very quickly in the backfield. Chenal also offers blitz value and can be a threat to get after the quarterback. He has excellent size and fits the culture being developed for the Detroit Lions. There is a trend here.
Detroit Lions – FIFTH-ROUND
5.177 Dylan Parham OG Memphis
Parham is a developmental interior offensive lineman. He has plenty of experience and does a good job of moving bodies off the ball in the Memphis offensive scheme. Parham needs to add functional power and bulk, but the Lions situation on their offensive line gives Parham the time required to do so. Interestingly, Parham played for the Lions in this year’s Senior Bowl.
6.180 Ja’Quan McMillian CB East Carolina
McMillian is a smaller cornerback, and he is going to play slot corner at the NFL level. He is a developmental prospect, but he is sticky in coverage. He looks the part and has graded out quite well over the past few seasons.
6.218 Decobie Durant CB South Carolina State
If Durant were a little bigger, there would be much more buzz around his game. He is incredibly athletic and capable of staying tight in man coverage while also having excellent short-area quickness. And the click-and-close ability to get out of his pedal and attack coming forward in zone-coverage concepts. Durant is a playmaker and a player worth developing.
Detroit Lions – SEVENTH-ROUND
7.232 Reggie Roberson WR SMU
Roberson is a raw prospect, but he moves incredibly well and can get open at all levels. He needs to grow as a player. It will take time, but he does things at a reasonably high level already. However, he runs a limited route tree and will need to show he can keep his athleticism while learning to run NFL-level routes. Roberson did receive a Senior Bowl invite but suffered an injury and missed the event.
7.240 Connor Heyward FB/TE Michigan State
Heyward played for the Detroit Lions at the 2022 Senior Bowl. He is another on this list that fits the culture they are building. The Lions will likely use him as a fullback, but he can make plays as a receiver and as a blocker.