Detroit Lions feel options at No. 2 in 2022 NFL draft are ‘evenly rated’

Detroit Free Press

The Jacksonville Jaguars are open for business when it comes to dealing the No. 1 pick in next week’s NFL draft, but don’t expect the Detroit Lions to make a move up.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes said Thursday he is open to all trade possibilities, but comfortable with the cluster of “very, very evenly-rated” players he has at the top of his draft board.

“If we have that conviction on that player and it’s like, ‘Look, it just makes sense,’ we feel like we need to go get that player, we’ll go get that player,” Holmes said. “That’s not always the case. Sometimes you don’t feel like you need (to). It’s not shunning down on that actual player. Sometimes it’s just like, ‘Hey, look, we feel pretty good where we’re at. We feel good about this cluster of players.'”

The Lions have a variety of directions they can go with the No. 2 pick in a draft that does not have a clear-cut No. 1 prospect.

Holmes declined to say how many players are in his top cluster, but the Lions are believed to be considering a collection of defensive players including pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan, Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon, Travon Walker of Georgia and Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State.

Offensive linemen Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State and Evan Neal of Alabama are commonly rated among the top players in this year’s draft, though the Lions do not have a pressing need up front.

Defensive backs Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr. and Kyle Hamilton also project as top-10 picks, and Holmes said the Lions would not hesitate to take a quarterback if that player was rated best on their board.

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Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, Walker, Johnson, Gardner, Stingley and Hamilton all made pre-draft visits to Detroit.

Holmes compared the Lions’ standing this year to what he encountered in his first draft as GM last spring, when he stayed at No. 7 and took his top-rated offensive tackle — Penei Sewell — in a star-studded class.

“We’ve got them graded pretty evenly, so we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “It was very similar to the Penei situation last year.”

With similar grades among top prospects, the Lions are among a slew of teams looking to trade down in the top 10.

Holmes, however, said he has not had any serious trade talks since declaring he was open to a move down at the NFL’s annual meeting last month.

“Had a few dialogues before then, but not a whole lot,” he said. “I do say that I think heading into this weekend and the early portion of next week, I do think the possibility of some chatter and some more dialogue could increase but right now it hasn’t been a whole lot.”

The more likely trade scenario for the Lions might be up to move up or down from their No. 32 pick at the end of Round 1.

[ NFL draft preview: Lions risk stagnating in rebuild without long-term answer at QB ]

Typically, late first-round picks are valuable for teams looking to move up and draft a quarterback because they come with the benefit of having a fifth-year option on the pick’s rookie contract.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay said Wednesday he projects five quarterbacks to go in the draft’s first 50 or so picks, with no consensus on how many will go in Round 1.

Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett are potential top-10 picks, though neither is considered an elite prospect. Matt Corral of Ole Miss, Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati and Sam Howell of North Carolina project to come off the board later in Round 1 or early on Day 2.

“Obviously, we spent a lot of time on those quarterbacks,” Holmes said. “We brought a few in (for pre-draft visits) this week, actually. And just making sure that we’re doing our due diligence, got our ducks in a row. We spent a lot of time with them, but like I told you guys even last year, I think it’s good business to know the quarterback market every single year, but this one’s a little bit of a unique one.”

Along with the Lions, the Houston Texans at picks No. 3 and 13, Carolina Panthers at No. 6, Atlanta Falcons at No. 8, Seattle Seahawks at No. 9 and Washington Commanders at No. 11 have long-term needs at the quarterback position, though McShay said he can see a scenario where both Willis and Pickett last into the teens.

If that happens, the Lions could have enough firepower to move up and take the quarterback of their choosing.

According to the popular draft trade value chart, the Lions’ picks at 32 and 34 have the same value of Houston’s pick at 13, and their 32nd pick, a third-round pick (No. 66) and any other pick should be enough to get them in front of another quarterback-needy team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at No. 20.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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