Detroit Lions mailbag: Best bets in Round 1, trade scenarios and is QB in play at 2?

Detroit Free Press

The NFL draft is less than two weeks away and the rumor mill is starting to heat up.

Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker has been the No. 1 pick in several prominent mock drafts of late as he seems to be catching steam from an impressive NFL combine performance.

Walker was one of the standouts of a dominant Georgia defense last season. He has the testing numbers (a 4.51-second 40-yard dash and 1.54-second 10-yard split), traits (including 35½-inch arms) and position versatility that make him a fan of the analytics community, but he did not have a ton of sack production while playing largely inside at Georgia.

I don’t discount the Walker-to-the-Jacksonville Jaguars rumors. I had one Lions source mention that possibility to me in March.

But I still believe Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is going No. 1.

It’s tough to sift through the smoke this time of year, and certainly there are late risers as teams settle their draft boards. But I tend to value the feedback I glean early in the offseason, when I find NFL evaluators most forthcoming. If teams truly trust the tape, as they all tell you they do, then not much should have changed between now and then.

I’m sticking with Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson as my best bets for the Lions at No. 2.

Thibodeaux seems to have the highest upside of those prospects, and if the Lions can get comfortable with him as a culture fit, he could be the pick. The Lions need interior pass rush in a bad way, and Walker’s traits are impossible to ignore. But I paired Johnson with the Lions in my latest mock draft and I’m sticking with that for now. He’s a better edge rusher than Walker — NFL Films’ Greg Cosell called him the best edge in the draft — and a solid run defender who gets high marks in the character department.

Things could change between now and the draft. I debated heavily between Walker and Johnson in my last mock. But that’s how I see things for now.

Mel Kiper breaks down edge options for Lions at No. 2: ‘They’re all different’ ]

Onto your questions, and you had plenty of them this week:

Since the lions say that they are looking for a day 1 starter and pick 2… does that eliminate a QB? – @PassTheRock88

I’ve warmed up to the idea of the Lions taking a quarterback — specifically, Liberty’s Malik Willis — at No. 2, but coach Dan Campbell’s comments last week sure seem to indicate the Lions won’t be drafting a QB that high.

Campbell said he wants an immediate starter out of the No. 2 pick, which a quarterback would not be with Jared Goff still in place, and he does not believe teams need a superstar at that position to have sustainable long-term success in the NFL.

I took Campbell’s comments about not needing an elite quarterback as an admission the Lions don’t have one now and further evidence they won’t be drafting one at No. 2. I do think teams need an elite quarterback to win in the NFL and if they don’t have one, they probably should have a good signal caller on a cheap rookie deal.

The Lions know that, which is why I won’t rule a quarterback at No. 2. If it’s Willis, for instance, he could spend 2022 in a pressure-free environment on the bench while Goff plays, and the Lions still will have two first-round picks next year to build their roster.

I think that’s an unlikely scenario given Campbell’s comments, and I’m less inclined to believe they draft Kenny Pickett that high, even if Pickett is visiting the Lions in the coming days. But in terms of draft day stunners, a QB would rank fairly low on the list.

Any indications other teams are falling in love with one of the QBs and willing to trade up to the lions #2 pick? – @paul_montagne

I don’t know if “falling in love” is the right way to put it, but teams are always desperate to acquire quarterbacks, which is why they get pushed up in the draft. The NFL people I talk to believe there is a very good chance a quarterback goes in the top 10, even if there’s no consensus who or where.

The Carolina Panthers at No. 6 seem like an obvious spot for a quarterback, but Carolina doesn’t pick again until late in Round 4 so taking a quarterback that high wouldn’t seem to help much in 2022. By all accounts, general manager Scott Fitterer is on more stable ground than coach Matt Rhule, so it’s fair to wonder why Fitterer would anchor himself to a quarterback knowing a coaching change could be coming. The wildcard, of course, is Carolina’s owner has been on the QB prowl and could influence the pick.

The Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 are another possible landing spot for a quarterback, as are the Seattle Seahawks at No. 9. The New Orleans Saints are trade-up candidates with Picks 16 and 19 in Round 1. That’s enough firepower to climb to Pick No. 4, according to the popular trade value chart.

I’m not sure a team needs to go as high as No. 2 considering none of the Houston Texans (No. 3), New York Jets (No. 4) or New York Giants (No. 5) are seen as likely to take quarterbacks. But in a draft where there’s no must-have player up top, I suspect Lions GM Brad Holmes will do his best to cut a deal.

How important is this number 2 pick for future of the Holmes/Campbell regime? I don’t think they could afford another dud year. – @BigDaddyApple

This year’s draft is extremely important for Holmes and Campbell, but maybe not quite in the sense you’re intimating. I doubt anyone’s job would be in jeopardy with another down season, though antennas would be raised if the Lions did not take a meaningful step forward this year.

It’s imperative, for that reason, the Lions hit on the No. 2 pick and land someone who can reliably be part of their long-term rebuild. It’s less important what that player does in Year 1 than it is that player is around and contributing in Year 4, though the No. 2 pick in any draft should be able to make an immediate impact.

This the fourth straight year the Lions have had a top-eight pick, and it’s about time they stopped putting themselves in this predicament. When you have the chance to acquire a premium talent, you can’t let it slip through your fingers.

Did Shelia green light a winless season? She obviously recognizes the only chance this team has of elevating from the hell hole they’ve spent 6 decades in, is Goodell walking to the podium, reading a card with a Lions logo & saying either Bryce or Stroud’s name, right? – @ClarenceOver

I’m sorry, what did you say, Stephen Ross?

In all seriousness, this is a fair question and it goes back to what I asked Campbell last week — whether teams need elite quarterbacks to win sustainably in the NFL. I think they do, and I think most NFL people would tell you the same. But I don’t think imploding a season before it begins, after doing the same the previous year, is the way to go.

Quarterbacks Bryce Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State are on track to be top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft, but neither is on the Trevor Lawrence/Andrew Luck level as a franchise savior. Beyond that, to Big Daddy’s point from the previous question, at some point you have to start showing progress in a rebuild.

DAVE BIRKETT: How Lions figure into competitive QB market in 2023 NFL draft

It’s typical Lions luck that they tore things down to the studs in a year where there’s no elite quarterback available to draft. Yet there are plenty of teams that have found star QBs somewhere other than the first or second pick.

The Lions have the kind of roster that can win six or seven games this fall, and I think it’s important for them to take that kind of step forward on the field.

If Lions went DL, LB, WR with their first three picks, who would you slot in for each position? – @TeachingZeus

Hutchinson is the ideal pick for the Lions at No. 2, but if he’s not there, one of Johnson or Walker would do the trick. Nakobe Dean would be my choice for the best linebacker fit/most likely to be available at No. 32, though he’s good enough to go earlier in the first round. If Dean isn’t there, I would not force a linebacker at 32. I thought LSU’s Damone Clark would be an option before his injury. Now, the value is a little later in the draft, though to play along with this question, I’d take Alabama’s Christian Harris.

At receiver, the Lions should have no shortage of options if they want to take one early in the second round. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson has the tools to go in that area and would fit what the Lions seem to be looking for at that position. Watson probably goes in the 25-50 range of the draft.

Do you think they take a WR at 32 or 34? Or wait until later in the draft based on the depth at WR this year? – @MotownKid325

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said Thursday receiver was “by far” the strongest position in the draft and teams will be able to find contributors “into the later rounds.” That’s pretty non-specific, and I do think a number of receivers will come off the board right around those Lions picks, players like Watson, Georgia’s George Pickens, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore.

Knowing Holmes’ history, however, I’m inclined to believe the Lions will be comfortable waiting to draft a receiver. Last year, the Lions had a more significant need at the position than they do now and waited until Round 4 to take Amon-Ra St. Brown, a choice that worked out nicely. In his previous stop as college scouting director of the Rams, Holmes was part of a staff that drafted receivers Van Jefferson (No. 57), Cooper Kupp (No. 69), Josh Reynolds (No. 117) and Pharoh Cooper (No. 117) in Rounds 2-4.

If the Lions wait that long, they still could land someone like Memphis’ Calvin Austin, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce or Tennessee’s Velus Jones. Both Austin and Jones played for Lions coaches in the Senior Bowl.

Does BH get itchy and give up a 5 or 6th to flip with JAX to assure Hutch is coming home?? – @sigurmoz

If the Jaguars moved down one spot for a sixth-round pick, they’d get absolutely torched for their lack of sense in making a deal. According to the trade value chart, moving up to No. 1 from No. 2 should cost the Lions about their second-round choice. Even with a questionable top of the draft, moving down one spot for a fifth- or sixth-round pick is way too cheap.

The closest I can remember any team cutting that big a discount near the top of the draft was in 2013, when the Raiders acquired a second-round pick to move down from No. 3 to No. 12, knowing they were going to take cornerback D.J. Hayden, a team no other team valued that high. The Raiders got 1,680 points worth of value in the deal, while the No. 3 pick is worth 2,200 points.

This draft strikes me as similar to 2013 in many ways, as I think teams will have wildly different grades on players who go early. In that Raiders-Dolphins deal, however, at least the Raiders got a usable pick in Round 2 (though they blew it on Menelik Watson). Fifth- and sixth-round picks are dart throws.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

Articles You May Like

Open thread: Which free agent signing will have the biggest on-field impact?
C.J. Moore and Michael Badgley meet with the media on March 20
2023 NFL Draft rankings: The top-15 CBs in this year’s class
Detroit Lions reportedly signing C.J. Gardner-Johnson to 1-year deal
2023 FULL First Round Mock Draft: Daniel Jeremiah 3.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *