The Detroit Lions need talent in every position. They enter the 2022 NFL Draft with eight selections, including the second overall pick and three picks in the top 35. This draft is important for the trajectory of this rebuild. General manager Brad Holmes will look to build on a successful draft in 2021, and continue the Lions’ trend towards a level of respectability they haven’t seen in a long time. However, it isn’t exactly clear how the Lions will approach the second overall pick, even with the draft being so close. We’ll never truly know until draft night, but it’s fun to predict how the draft could go. With no further ado, here is your Detroit Lions mock draft.
Note: This mock was done using the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator. Trades were not allowed. If a player was available, they were considered.
Detroit Lions Mock Draft 1.0
Round 1 (2nd overall): Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
There are a few directions Detroit could go here, but this may come down to two players. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Walker. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Hutchinson first overall, so the Lions take Walker here. Walker won a national championship with the Bulldogs in 2021, recording six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. His draft stock skyrocketed at the NFL Combine where he ran an impressive 4.51 40-yard dash. He isn’t the most perfect prospect. There is work to be done in order for Walker to find his own as an elite pass rusher. The production on the stat sheet may not be all that eye-catching, but the sheer athletic upside Walker provides is too good to pass on.
Another name mentioned for the Lions at this spot is Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, but recent reports suggest that head coach Dan Campbell may not be his biggest fan. This could be because of concerns over Thibodeaux’s attitude and commitment to football. However, it doesn’t seem as if the All-American pass rusher can be taken off the board for Detroit. As it pertains to this mock, Walker is the selection.
Round 1, 32nd overall: Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
The expectation is that Pickett will be gone by the time Detroit ends the first day of the draft. However, he was on the board, and after weighing all options, this was the pick. The Lions are clearly interested in Pickett, having had him in on a pre-draft visit. Whether the Lions need to draft a quarterback this year is up for debate, but Pickett would make for a great selection, especially at the tail end of the first round.
A Heisman Trophy candidate last year, Pickett led Pittsburgh to an ACC Championship, throwing a school-record 4319 yards and a conference record 42 touchdowns. Despite being considered the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, he will benefit from sitting behind Jared Goff for a year. He is a bit inconsistent in timing his throws, and may unnecessarily try to scramble out of the pocket, which can lead to sacks and broken plays.
Round 2, 34th overall: George Pickens, Wide Receiver, Georgia
The Lions double-dip with Georgia prospects by taking Pickens with their second-round selection. Pickens tore his ACL in spring practices before the 2021 season but made his way back to the field late in the year. He played the final four games and caught a 52-yard pass in the national title game. Pickens ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the Combine. He has a nose for the end-zone, catching eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in Athens.
In the NFL, he’ll need to learn to fight back against pressing corners working to disrupt his routes. Physical corners can bully him at the line of scrimmage. There is a lot of potential here, and Pickens can provide depth as an X receiver.
Round 3, 66th overall: Chad Muma, Linebacker, Wyoming
Detroit lost Jalen Reeves-Maybin to the Houston Texans in the offseason. Reeves-Maybin provided the third-most tackles of anyone on the defense (82) and started 11 games at linebacker. While the team has brought in linebackers Jarrad Davis and Chris Board, the position could still use some work.
Enter Muma, a senior linebacker and third-team Associated Press All-American from Wyoming. The aggression and grit Muma plays with will make Campbell extremely happy. He has good build-up speed when he goes after the ball carrier, but will need to work on his patience and leverage.
Muma likely won’t be an immediate starter at linebacker, but he could come in and contribute on special teams. This would also give the Lions a duo of promising linebackers, with the team having selected linebacker Derrick Barnes in the fourth round last year.
Round 3, 97th overall: Coby Bryant, Cornerback, Cincinnati
Injuries to Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melinfonwu forced undrafted signees AJ Parker and Jerry Jacobs into action, stretching Detroit thin at corner. Despite the addition of Mike Hughes, Detroit could stand to make another addition in the secondary.
Bryant, a four-year starter with the Bearcats, has good size for the position and can read routes as they happen. His football IQ and leadership are also points of praise. He was a part of a Cincinnati team that became the first Group of Five team to make it to the College Football Playoff, though Alabama would end their run before the national championship game. This would mark the second time in a row the Lions selected a corner with their second pick in the third round, taking Melinfonwu last year.
Round 5, 177th overall: Chris Paul, Offensive Lineman, Tulsa
The Lions double up on drafting players named after NBA legends here. Paul, another four-year starter, has played guard and tackle in college. He profiles better as a guard, but his versatility provides the Lions with options on how to use him. Scouts have raved about his character on and off the field, making him seem like a natural fit into the culture Holmes and Campbell are building. Paul can finish his blocks but needs to improve both his run and pass blocking in order to become a starter in the NFL one day. He tends to overset in pass protection and has a bit of a weird hitch when blocking for his ball carrier. He does the athleticism and size to be successful in the NFL, though.
Round 6, 181st overall: Leon O’Neal Jr, Safety, Texas A&M
Holmes has found success drafting safeties in the mid to late rounds. In his last draft with the Los Angeles Rams, he scouted and selected Jordan Fuller in the sixth round. The Lions lost Dean Marlowe to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, so they grab a safety here to pair with Will Harris, Tracy Walker, and the recently signed DeShon Elliott. He has a high motor and can play at multiple levels. O’Neal Jr. is an incredibly hard worker and has the size, frame, and passion to succeed in the NFL. However, there are limitations. Faster receivers can be a mismatch for him. His change-of-direction speed is slower than desired. He can allow receivers to gain more separation in man coverage. O’Neal Jr. has starting upside, but needs to refine his game.
Round 6, 217th overall: Noah Elliss, Defensive Tackle, Idaho
There is a Lions connection here, as Elliss is the adopted son of former Lion Luther Elliss. A four-star recruit out of high school, Elliss committed to Mississippi State but transferred to Idaho because of academic issues. Coached by his father, Elliss showed flashes of being a physically dominant space eater. He’s able to plug his gaps in the run game, and can push the pocket while rushing the passer. He suffered a season ending injury in 2019. In 2021, Elliss enjoyed a nice breakout season during a full season. He earned an honorable mention All Big Sky Conference selection. Elliss could be a bit of a steal for the Lions this late in the draft.
Embed from Getty Images