As always, the mock draft roundup is an overview of the most popular mock drafting publications from the previous week. The focus, of course, is centered on who the analyst pairs with the Lions, and selected reasonings why.
This week there were a couple curveballs, but let’s start at the top with the standard modes of operation.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Treash: “Thibodeaux has started to show genuine refinement within his rushes and no longer relies on tools alone. As a result, he earned a 91.5 pass-rush grade in 2021 despite missing a couple of games early in the season due to injury. Opposing teams even started to scheme away from Thibodeaux to take him out of the game entirely — just as teams did with Chase Young a couple of years ago.”
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Wilson: “Hutchinson is a great example of a player who got better each and every season, and instead of coming out early he stayed in school, balled out as a senior, and made himself into arguably the best player — on either side of the ball — in the country during the ‘21 college football season. Yes, he struggled against Georgia on Saturday, and yes, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to his performance (see the No. 1 pick above!) but the reality is that great players have off days and he’s still the favorite to be the first pick in the ‘22 draft.”
Like last week, we are starting to see more mocks where the Jaguars pick an offensive tackle first overall (currently Alabama’s Evan Neal is the most popular), but which EDGE the Lions would take with the second overall pick is still being split. The CBS Sports trio all had the Lions grab Hutchinson, while Bosage goes with Thibodeaux.
There was one mock that had the Lions going in a different direction at No. 2 though…
No. 2 Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
by Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
Easterling: “Start getting comfortable with the idea of Pickett going higher than you might expect. He’s got many of the same traits that sent Joe Burrow flying up the board not too long ago, and a strong predraft process could easily convince a QB-needy team like the Lions that he can have the same kind of impact Burrow is having right now in Cincinnati.”
No. 28 Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina – by Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)
QBs taken ahead: Matt Corral (9), Kenny Pickett (15)
No. 30 Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – Anthony Treash (PFF)
QBs taken ahead: Sam Howell (9), Matt Corral (11), Desmond Ridder (17)
No. 30 Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – Joe Tansey (Bleacher Report)
QBs taken ahead: Kenny Pickett (9), Matt Corral (11), Sam Howell (17)
No. 30 Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network)
QBs taken ahead: Matt Corral (8)
No. 30 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati – Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
QBs taken ahead: Kenny Pickett (5), Malik Willis (6), Matt Corral (17)
Ok, let’s start with the Pickett pairing, but first, let me set the table: Easterling had Jacksonville take Hutchinson at No. 1, then had the Lions passing on Thibodeaux for Pickett.
Now, if the Lions believe Pickett is the next Joe Burrow (as suggested) then I understand the move to prioritize him over an EDGE rusher. But the real question is, would they think that?
Look, I get the stylistic and rise-to-glory similarities, but there was little doubt Burrow was the best quarterback in his class. Just looking at the five other mocks above, we see there is no consensus at quarterback, and Pickett DOESN’T EVEN GO IN THE FIRST ROUND in two of them. I’d speculate there wasn’t a mock draft at this time in 2020 that didn’t have Burrow being selected in the first round.
I like Pickett. He may end up being QB1 on my board, he may become a unanimous mock draft first-rounder, and he may eventually be the first quarterback taken. But when there is this much ambiguity surrounding a player (a universal statement for this quarterback class) and the team picking in the top-2 is also staring at an elite player (Thibodeaux) with minimal risk, it’s hard to justify that they would gamble.
That being said, general managers get weird about quarterbacks, but Brad Holmes doesn’t strike me as a GM who will overlook landing an elite, foundational defensive player—but hey, it’s early in the process, maybe things will change.
No. 30: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Currently being mocked by Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
Edwards: “Burks has lined up in the slot quite a bit, but he has the size and athletic profile to transition to the boundary. It is not an ideal fit, but Detroit needs help at the position and Burks has the best chance of being that No. 1 wide receiver among available options.”
No. 30: Drake London, WR, USC
Wilson: “By the time we get to the actual draft, we’ll much more clarity on what the Lions’ QB plans might look like, though it feels like Jared Goff’s job in ‘22. With its second first-rounder, we have Detroit adding London, who was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing USC season. He won’t run a 4.3 but London is a high-point-catch machine who can take over games, and we love the idea of him playing alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has been a bright spot in the Lions’ passing game.”
No. 30 David Bell, WR, Purdue
Currently being mocked by Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
Easterling: “Free agency decimated this unit last offseason, and while the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown has been a pleasant surprise, the Lions would do well to pair him with a big, athletic target like Bell.”
No. 30: Henry To’o To’o, LB, Alabama
Currently being mocked by Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network)
Sanchez: “The Lions have been competitive in most of their games this season, but their lack of overall talent consistently shows up late in games. The Lions need bonafide football players no matter the position. With this pick, they draft Henry To’o To’o. To’o To’o is a smart football player that possesses leadership skills that will help turn the defense around in Detroit. This is the type of player Dan Campbell needs to get onto his roster if he wants any chance of having a successful season in 2022.”
I’m really starting to like the value of the players who will be there with the Rams’ pick, wherever it eventually lands. I do think most mock drafters are on the right track thinking wide receiver right now because it’s a clear value-meets-need situation. But after free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more positional groups show up as the Lions’ needs become more focused.
Also, this is probably too high for To’o To’o, but I do like him as a linebacker.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Currently being mocked by Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)
David Bell, WR, Purdue
Currently being mocked by Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)
Getting Hill here would be a steal for me. I really think defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn could take Hill’s game to another level, while Hill would give the Lions’ secondary some scary versatility. This is also another good spot to find a starting wide receiver.
Both Easterling and Miller’s mocks actually went three rounds deep and the rest of the projections were all Alabama players. Easterling gave the Lions Bama CB Josh Jobe at pick No. 66, while Miller gave the Lions linebacker Henry To’o To’o at pick No. 66 (yes, the same player projected to the Lions at No. 30 above), and wide receiver John Metchie III at pick No. 98 (the expected compensatory pick from losing Kenny Golladay last offseason).