Make your voice heard for who you think the Lions should pick.
The Detroit Lions are on the clock in our 2022 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft, and Erik Schlitt, the acting general manager of the Lions in this exercise, has a tough decision ahead of him. At this point, there really is no true consensus as to what the Lions should do if the Jacksonville Jaguars select Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson, as is expected. And that’s exactly what happened with the first pick in our mock draft.
The Vegas odds have shifted from option to option, and the Lions have not tipped their hand as to what they plan on doing. Fans have been debating for the past few months whether Detroit should take a quarterback, a safety, or another edge defender in this scenario, and each of them have their merits.
So before we announce Schlitt’s choice (on Tuesday morning), let’s break down the realistic options Erik is facing with his selection.
Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux
For most of the college football season, Thibodeaux was hailed as the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But as he struggled through an ankle injury and produced just a modest amount of sacks—7.0 in 10 games—Hutchinson began to gain ground. After the season, questions started to emerge about Thibodeaux’s work ethic—first sparked by unfair criticisms about his interests outside of football, then shifting to some of his on-field work.
But Thibodeaux has an elite athletic profile, solid three years of production at Oregon, and plays a high-value position in the NFL.
George edge defender Tavon Walker
Only a handful of analysts had Walker in the top-10 discussion after the college season ended, but after balling out at the NFL Combine, some have started to talk about Walker’s ceiling being as high as the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Travon Walker is a DE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.99 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 2 out of 1413 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/CzmPz94xEF #RAS pic.twitter.com/lN9NGIS0CM
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 18, 2022
Walker’s statistical output is not one of a top pick in the draft, but some argue that was due to limited opportunities. Georgia frequently used Walker as an interior defender and as a player capable of dropping back into coverage. That speaks to Walker’s versatility, but his pass rushing arsenal still remains undeveloped.
Florida State edge Jermaine Johnson
Johnson was initially a player some hope the Lions could target with the 32nd overall pick in the draft, but ever since an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl—again, coached by the Lions—and an explosive NFL Combine, Johnson is starting to creep into top-five discussion. In fact, the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett took Johnson second overall for the Lions in his mock last week.
After transferring from Georgia due to lack of playing time, Johnson exploded in his one year as a Seminole. In total, Johnson tallied 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in just 12 games.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton
A fair amount of draft analysts have consistently called Hamilton the best player in this year’s draft class, but the primary debate around the Notre Dame prospect is the value of picking a safety this high in the draft. Positional value is certainly an integral part of this discussion, as people argue whether safety is becoming a more high-impact position than in previous eras of football, or if a safety can truly change the game in a way worthy of such high draft investment.
Hamilton is a rangy, fearless defender capable of laying the boom in the box or covering the entire half of the field with above-average speed and elite explosion. His average 40-yard dash time (4.59) has some wondering, though, if he truly is the “unicorn” some claim him to be.
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis
Willis is likely the most polarizing option for the Lions here, and it’s easy to see why. With all the physical tools he has—both as a runner and a big-armed thrower—his potential is higher than any other player in this year’s class. Willis’ leadership has also been on display all offseason—as the Lions surely noted in their week with him at the Senior Bowl.
But Willis’ game remains unrefined. He made plenty of mental errors in college, resulting in 18 interceptions in the past two seasons. And by running a thinned-down playbook at Liberty, many believe it could take at least a year for Willis to be ready to handle an NFL offense. Others wonder if he’ll ever be ready.
The Lions have the liberty (no pun intended) of time, though, with Jared Goff running the show now, and Detroit committed to a long-term rebuild.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral
Somewhere along the way, Corral got lost in the QB1 conversation this offseason. Not eligible for the Senior Bowl, many were excited to see Corral re-enter the conversation at the NFL Combine. But after suffering a high ankle sprain in his bowl game, Corral decided to defer to his pro day, which happened last week. Reports from his pro day were that he looked “healthy” and “accurate.”
Overall Corral has the mobility that seems to be necessary for today’s NFL and is more refined than many other quarterbacks in this class, though he doesn’t exactly have some of the top physical traits.
Alright, time for y’all to pick.