Allen Park — After taking Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick Thursday night, the Detroit Lions grabbed a second defensive lineman in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting Kentucky’s Joshua Paschal with the No. 46 pick.
A three-year starter for the Wildcats, the 6-foot-3, 268-pounder played a variety of alignments along the team’s defensive front. As a fifth-year senior in 2021, he tallied 52 tackles, including 15½ for a loss, to go with 5½ sacks and a forced fumble.
“Versatility, it’s one of the biggest keys to my game,” Paschal said. “I move all across the front. I’m not sure right now what (defensive line) coach (Todd) Wash and Coach (and defensive coordinator Aaron) Glenn will have me playing. But whatever it is, I’m gonna give it my all and I’m very versatile, so I’ll be able to pick it up.”
At the scouting combine in March, Paschal tested exceptionally well, posting elite explosion numbers via his vertical and broad jumps as well as his 10-yard and 20-yard splits on the 40-yard dash.
“Yeah, he’s got pop in his hands,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. “He’s got incredible instincts. He can shed, he can find the football in the run game. He’s beat some really good tackles down in the SEC. He’s a skillful pass rusher. He’s got crafty hands and he’s explosive. He’s high-motor explosive.
“He’s a football player, and that’s what we talk about all the time,” Holmes continued. “Not one of these guys that we’ve acquired aren’t gritty. That’s what all these guys are. These guys are gritty football players. Josh is one, but he’s more than that. He’s outstanding, intangibles and character. He should be able to contribute, hopefully soon.”
Beyond football, ahead of Kentucky’s 2018 fall camp, Paschal was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer, after having a painful lesion on his foot evaluated. It was addressed with two surgeries to remove the affected area, followed by a year of immunotherapy treatments and medication.
“I learned not to take not only this game, but life for granted, to take every day and every moment as a blessing,” Paschal said. “No matter if it’s going out there on that practice field or if it’s just waking up in the morning, I’m beyond blessed to be in this position I’m in now and I feel like everything came full circle and I’m beyond blessed to be a Lion.”
An established leader in the locker room, Paschal was selected captain three times during the five years he was with the Kentucky program.
“I’m a guy that can change locker rooms, and that’s my goal is to come in, learn from the veterans there, but also step into a leadership role as well,” he said. “I just think that I’m a relatable guy. At the end of the day, I love to be able to lead different guys in different ways. I believe that every person that you lead, you have to have that bond with, but some guys respond best to calling somebody out and some guys respond best to pulling somebody to the side.”
With the selection, he joins a suddenly deep pass-rushing group in Detroit, headed by Hutchinson, brothers Romeo and Julian Okwara, and the team’s sack and quarterback pressure leader from a year ago, Charles Harris.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes has shown a willingness to address a position multiple times with early draft picks each of his first two seasons at the helm. Last year, he selected defensive tackles with the team’s second- and third-round choices, taking Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike and North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill.
Meet Josh Paschal
Position: Defensive end
Height/weight: 6-foot-3/268 pounds
Notable stats: He recorded 53 tackles and 5½ sacks in 12 games this past season and led the Wildcats with 15½ tackles for loss and eight QB hurries. His 37 tackles for loss in his career is tied for the third-most in program history.
Analysis: The Lions added another piece to their defensive line in Paschal, a power rusher who could play opposite of No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson and was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded edge defender in the SEC in 2021. He played all over up front for Kentucky, and that versatility could bump him inside in certain situations, which adds to his value.
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