Many 2022 mock drafts have the Lions going a certain way with their two first-round picks, but one has now gone against the grain.
With two first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions can take two premium players and address two needs. However, it’s not a good year to need a quarterback with no more than two or three even garnering first-round picks in many mock drafts.
With their own first-round pick, projected top-five overall, mock drafts largely have the Lions taking a defensive player (Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingley, Kyle Hamilton). Then with their second first-rounder, on track to be late in the first round via the trade with the Rams that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles, quarterbacks start to land in consideration. Some analysts think the Lions’ “desperation” for a franchise quarterback should compel them to take a quarterback in the first round.
Lions Mock Draft Watch: The opposite approach
In his most recent mock draft, Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News had the Lions selecting No. 1 and No. 24 overall.
1. Detroit Lions
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
There are many defensive studs battling for the title of top overall prospect in the class, but the Lions cannot afford going in that direction with Jared Goff looking terrible as a bridge quarterback. Willis has a cannon for an arm and great speed. He should have the potential to make scouting jaws drop at the position and make them less concerned about his small-school status given his awesome play so far.
Willis is making a case to be the first quarterback drafted in April, which points to how the 2022 class lacks an elite, proverbial “can’t miss” prospect at the position. He may need a full year to sit out and develop in the NFL, which actually lines up with how long the Lions are probably going to have to keep Goff. Still, using the No. 1 overall pick on Willis (or any quarterback) is a reach and the Lions shouldn’t feel desperate to do it.
24. Detroit Lions (from Rams)
Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (6-5, 255 pounds)
The Lions, after addressing quarterback with the top picks, need to turn their attention to shoring up the pass defense up front for Aaron Glenn. Sanders has freakish pass-rush qualities and can line up in many places to get to the quarterback.
The Lions’ defense needs help across the board, and NFL teams can never have enough capable pass rushers. Sanders is widely listed as a top-five edge rusher prospect in the 2022 draft class, and he’s a first-round pick in some recent mock drafts. He has zero sacks in seven games this season, but he’s certainly drawing attention/garnering avoidance from opposing offenses and deeper metrics show he is making an impact.
Props to Iyer for going against the grain in his first-round projection for the Lions. But it’s hard to get behind the idea of going quarterback-defensive end here, even if the Lions wind up picking third overall or something. The second first-rounder could wind up being an edge rusher if the draft board breaks that way. But it won’t be because the Lions reached for a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.