Allen Park — The Detroit Lions entered the 2022 NFL Draft with three picks in the second and third rounds, but that dipped to two after they orchestrated a trade the opening night, moving up 20 spots to grab wide receiver Jameson Williams with the No. 12 overall selection.
Now holding the No. 46 and No. 97 choices on Friday, here are a dozen players Detroit could consider:
► Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Up until draft night, there was a segment of the fan base who would have been happy to see the Lions draft Willis with the No. 2 overall pick. Clearly the league’s opinion didn’t match that sentiment as the Liberty standout slid out of the first round.
The conversation about Willis’ upside remains. He’s is a highly elusive runner, who also possesses one of the strongest arms in this class. But the steep learning curve, and potential need to tailor an offense specifically to his skill set were enough to scare suitors away in Round 1. With QB-needy teams like the Colts, Falcons and Seahawks drafting just ahead of Detroit in the second round, the Lions likely would need to move up if they have any interest in landing Willis as the franchise’s potential future at the position.
► Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Less surprising was Dean remaining on the board after the draft’s first night. The undersized Georgia linebacker lost much of the momentum from his impressive 2021 season after an injury sidelined him throughout the pre-draft process, preventing teams from getting a full read on his measurables.
The question is how much do the measurables matter with a player who has such impressive tape? The all-round playmaker thrived regardless of the assignment and proved to be particularly adept in coverage and as a blitzer.
► Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
By selecting Williams after trading back up in the first round, the Lions missed a chance to address their need for a long-term safety solution opposite Tracy Walker. Two potential solutions, Dax Hill and Lewis Cine (who we had mocked to the Lions at pick No. 32) were the final two players selected on Thursday.
Admittedly, Brisker isn’t an ideal schematic fit for Detroit. While he has some experience playing deep, he’s more known for his downhill work operating from the box. But his fiery playing style and eagerness to contribute in run support carries universal appeal, and he demonstrated enough playmaking ability to come up with five interceptions during his three years at Penn State.
► Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State / Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
OK, we’re cheating by lumping two guys together because the perception is split on whether Walker or Hall or the best back in this draft. Still, it feels unreasonable to not acknowledge the possibility the Lions consider one if either is on the board when they’re scheduled to be on the clock at No. 46.
Detroit made significant strides running the ball last season, but there’s still room for improvement in the running back room. D’Andre Swift is dynamic, but has struggled with durability issues, while Jamaal Williams only has one year left on his contract. If Walker/Hall are the best player on Detroit’s board, offering three-down talent and production, why shouldn’t they consider it?
► Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
The Lions invested in their linebacking corps this offseason, re-signing Alex Anzalone, adding Chris Board and re-signing Jarrad Davis, but all three are on one-year contracts. Muma offers outstanding size at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, well above-average athleticism and impressive production after recording 142 tackles and three interceptions as a senior. But what makes him even more of an ideal fit for Detroit is his competitiveness, extending to impressive special teams production early in his career.
► Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
Speaking of strong football character, Bryant embodied that for the Bearcats as a four-year starter and two-time captain. The complement to Sauce Gardner, the No. 4 pick in this draft, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Bryant is sound in man coverage with solid ball production (six interceptions and 18 pass breakups the past two seasons).
► Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
The Lions could stand to upgrade their depth at offensive tackle behind starters Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. The perception is Petit-Frere is raw and in need of continued development, even after being named a first-team All-American last season. That’s something the Lions can afford with Matt Nelson still on the roster. The long-term view is the 6-foot-5, 316-pound Petit-Frere can be a starting-caliber talent, or in Detroit’s case, an outstanding swing tackle.
► Nick Cross, S, Maryland
If Detroit doesn’t like Brisker’s fit in Round 2, they can look into filling the safety void later Friday night. Cross is an top-tier athlete who tallied three interceptions last season. He has elite range, but has developed a reputation for taking unnecessary risks that take him out of position. The Lions won’t look down on that aggressiveness, but would instead seek to channel it.
► Travis Jones, DT, UConn
We pitched Jones as a possibility at the end of the first round, had the Lions stuck with the No. 32 pick. The 325-pounder is impressively athletic and extremely strong, able to dominate at the point of attack. He would immediately improve Detroit’s interior run defense and isn’t completely devoid of pass-rush ability, recording four sacks in 2021.
► Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Following the addition of Williams and DJ Chark, Detroit’s offense is nearly complete. One lingering hole is a second tight end, preferably one with above-average blocking ability. Ruckert is a willing blocker with adequate size, but like many collegiate tight ends, he’ll need to refine his technique and add strength to be effective at the next level. He also offers more in the pass game than he showed at Ohio State. Where he thrived for the Buckeyes was in the red zone, with 12 of his 54 receptions going for touchdowns.
► Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Hey, another linebacker. Like Muma, Andersen put up huge tackle totals playing for a smaller school, racking up 147 stops, including 14 behind the line of scrimmage. There’s likely going to be an adjustment with the level of competition, but Andersen posted one of the best combine performances for a linebacker in the history of the event, plus possesses excellent size at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds. If you draft him with the expectation of easing him in as a rookie, while getting special teams contributions, he could end up a key contributor starting in 2023.
► Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati
Cook started his collegiate career at Howard before transferring to Cincinnati. He didn’t participate in the pre-draft process due to a shoulder injury, but he’s a versatile player who lined up all over the Bearcats’ defensive backfield. He shows good speed/range on film and has been praised for his motor and toughness, two traits the Lions covet.