Detroit Lions NFL draft Round 1 grades: Analysts like — don’t love — Jameson Williams pick

Detroit Free Press

By now, you know how the NFL draft machine works.

Months of predictions, prognostications and projections, followed by a first night of surprises, followed by more predictions, prognostications and projections.

And a near-endless supply of first round mock drafts, we know now what the Detroit Lions did on Thursday night: drafting Michigan football edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick, then trading up to No. 12 to take Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams.

And, before either Hutchinson and Williams play a snap or even suit up for rookie minicamp (or in Williams’ case, gets a clean bill of health after his ACL tear in January), there is plenty of opinion on how the Lions made out.

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A quick look at NFL draft grades shows people mostly approved. Here’s a look:

The king draftnik was a fan of the Hutchinson pick, but not completely sold on trading up to get Williams. As for the ex-Wolverine, Kiper believes the Lions got the top prospect in the draft.

“I don’t get the talk about Hutchinson already being close to his ceiling. He had 14 sacks last season, but he can keep improving. He had a better 3-cone drill time, short shuttle time and vertical jump than Travon Walker at the combine. He’s going to be an instant contributor and should challenge for Defensive Rookie of the Year,” Kiper wrote.

But Kiper put the Williams move in his “head-scratching” category. He said he’s a fan of the wide receiver, but perhaps not sacrifice so much draft capital when the Lions need so much help.

“Detroit sent Minnesota pick Nos. 32, 34 and 66 to move to No. 12 (and added No. 46). Those are two early Round 2 picks that often become starters. Do Dan Campbell & Co. think they’re close enough to an NFC North title that they can take one chance on Day 1 instead of two at 32 and 34? The pick at 46 will help, but this is a roster that needs a lot of help,” Kiper wrote.

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The Lions got a pair of grades to be happy with here: A “B” for Hutchinson and a “B-plus” for Williams. Kapadia wrote that the No. 2 pick was “a great outcome for the Lions. They just need blue-chip players. Hutchinson plays a premium position and fills a big need area for them.”

Also: “Williams’ ceiling is as high as any pass-catcher in the draft. He was my favorite wide receiver in this class. The Lions couldn’t resist. Not sure I would have been able to either,” Kapadia wrote.

The lead of Sullivan’s grades piece was Williams, which is arguably the biggest splash move of the night. And again, it gets a good grade, a B.

“With second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson already in place, the addition of Williams creates a promising stable of offensive weapons for Jared Goff in 2022 and whoever the organization may tap as the long-term franchise quarterback going forward,” Sullivan wrote.

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Perhaps the most detailed grades out there (kudos for the three levels of analysis), Kelly gave the Hutchinson pick an A-plus, calling it a near perfect team-player fit.

“Hutchinson is not only a highly athletic and ultra-productive edge rusher with a plug-and-play skill set, he’s also the exact type of intensity-raising, knee-cap-biting player that head coach Dan Campbell has been trying to fill his roster with,” Kelly wrote.

But he wasn’t as impressed with the Williams selection, graded that one with a C-plus because of the trade up for a non-quarterback.

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“Williams is exciting, but considering there will likely be some very talented receivers still available in the early second round, I don’t love the trade for this team,” he wrote.

Another “good job” from a draft analyst. Sobleski gives the Hutchinson pick a B-plus, leaving it short of the A grade because the writer isn’t sold on the defensive end becoming a top-tier talent.

“Hutchinson brings the type of attitude that fits beautifully within Campbell’s “biting kneecaps” mentality. The defensive lineman helped elevate a Michigan program that had been stuck in a lull. His production, tenacity and leadership set the tone for everyone else,” he wrote.

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Sobleski gave the same grade for the Williams pick, in part because of how thin the Lions’ receiving corps was last season.

“Williams tilts the field unlike any other wide receiver prospect in the class. His aforementioned speed affects everything offensively and how opposing defenses must account for him at all times,” he wrote.

“The Lions may have to wait a little while before their new WR1 gets onto the field. Totally worth it.”

Hutchinson’s “energy, leadership and intangibles” make this an A-plus pick for the SI writer, who had the U-M product listed as his top draft prospect.

“Hutchinson’s football character, relentless motor combined with his physical traits, polish and production make him one of the safest picks in the draft,” Hanson wrote.

There was similar praise for the Williams pick, which Hanson graded as a B, even if the Alabama WR doesn’t start the season on time because of his knee.

“The Lions signed D.J. Chark to a one-year deal, but the speedy Williams provides the Lions with an ideal long-term complement to Amon-Ra St. Brown,” Hanson said.

This writer graded each team and gave the Lions an A-minus for their Day 1 haul. He deemed the Hutchinson pick as “the safest pick possible” and said this about the Williams situation:

“It’s too early to make a complete evaluation of the Matthew Stafford trade, which netted the Lions an extra first-round pick this year. Of course, seeing Stafford win a ring in his first year in Los Angeles while the Lions floundered to a 3-13-1 record was not a great start. Detroit packaged that pick in a deal with the Vikings to land the draft’s top receiver in Williams at the 12th overall selection. If he didn’t get hurt in the national title game, Williams would have been a top-10 pick because of his speed, reliable hands, stop-start ability and toughness. I love the pick in terms of talent, and the injury shouldn’t be a long-term issue, but he’ll need to become an elite playmaker to justify the price.”

In a rare twist, this writer liked the Williams move more than the Hutchinson selection. Edholm gave the Lions an A-minus for the once-perceived top wideout in the draft at No. 12, calling it a “big, bold move for GM Brad Holmes.”

As for Hutchinson, it was a lot of the same plaudits: “He’s a good rusher, great run defender and becomes one of Dan Campbell’s key young guys.”

Contact Kirkland Crawford: kcrawford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

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