That might not be the case in 2022.
Just as the dust has settled on this year’s draft, a number of 2022 mock drafts are making the rounds. Because, it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
The good news for Lions fans: Analysts have the Lions owning one of the top picks in next year’s draft, perhaps giving them the pick of the litter of any number of positions of need. Of course, that’s also the bad news as you brace for what could be a tough 2021 NFL season.
With that early pick, analysts seem to have settled into two camps regarding the Lions: They’ll draft Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, or they’ll grab what they hope to be their franchise quarterback.
“The 6’5″, 250-pound edge-defender has the size, length, athleticism, burst and flexibility to be considered a similar talent to previous top picks Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett,” Sobleski writes.
Thibodeaux has 12 sacks over 21 games in his first two seasons at Oregon. Coincidentally, he would be the second straight Duck to go to the Lions with their top pick, following offensive tackle Penei Sewell, the No. 7 overall pick on Thursday.
Analysts also have the Lions targeting a number of quarterbacks, including Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings slotting Liberty’s Malik Willis to Detroit at No. 1 overall.
“Malik Willis is a massive sleeper in next year’s QB class, and he has the natural talent to pace his position,” Cumming writes. “A former Auburn commit, he emerged with the Liberty Flames in 2020, throwing for 2,260 yards, 20 scores, and six interceptions. He also ran for 944 yards and 14 scores.
“Willis is an elite athlete at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, and he also has tantalizing arm talent and off-script ability. On top of that, he’s a humble, hard-working player, and he’s sure to pass character evaluations if he works his way into the QB1 conversation.”
Jason McIntyre, a betting analyst for Fox Sports, also has the Lions picking No. 1 overall, but taking Georgia quarterback JT Daniels.
Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News and Seth Trachtman of Yardbarker have the Lions selecting USC quarterback Kedon Slovis at No. 2, potentially reuniting him with receiver and former USC teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown, a fourth-round pick on Saturday.
“The Lions will be looking for their future at the position beyond Jared Goff in 2022,” Iyer writes. “Slovis should have a breakout season as an efficient and accurate passer ahead.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Slovis completed 67% of his passes for 1,921 yards in six games last season. He threw 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. As a freshman in 2019, he completed nearly 72% of his passes for 3,509 yards and 30 touchdowns, throwing nine interceptions.
North Carolina’s Sam Howell also is a popular pick for the Lions. Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports has Howell slotted to the Lions at No. 2, and Reuben Frank of NBC Sports has Howell headed to Detroit at No. 4.
We’ll find out if Jared Goff is the answer in Detroit, and if he’s not the Lions will be in the market for a franchise QB,” Wilson writes. “Howell has some of the same gunslingin’ traits as the last face of the franchise, Matthew Stafford.”
In two seasons with the Tar Heels, the 6-1, 225-pound Howell has thrown for more than 7,200 yards and completed 64.4% of his passes. He’s thrown 68 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.