The draft will be the lifeblood of the rebuilding Detroit Lions, and making the right choices will be the difference between success and failure.
The Detroit Lions have just finished a very promising campaign. Sure they finished with a 3-13-1 record which won’t impress anyone, but they also found their groove in the second half of the season.
The Lion went 3-4 over their final seven games, and two of those losses were with Jared Goff sidelined. Dan Campbell’s team was not a juggernaut, but they competed hard.
The expectation is with more talent this will be a more competitive team. As long as Campbell is at the helm, that seems to be a good assumption. General manager Brad Holmes now has to hold up his half of the bargain.
Last offseason Holmes did little in free agency, as he and Campbell were trying to get a feel for the pulse of the team entering into a rebuild. Today, there’s a better idea of what’s needed.
Holmes’ solid first draft from last April is something to build on. Every draft pick made the team, as did a few undrafted free agents. All contributed at least a little. Now, it’s becoming time to see if Holmes can duplicate that in his second draft as Lions’ GM.
Detroit Lions have many options in 2022 draft
Leading up to the draft, many mock drafts will opine many different scenarios. Early mock drafts have the Lions taking either Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 2 overall pick. Leaving aside the local angle with Hutchinson, a former Wolverine and a Michigan native, the Lions can’t go wrong with either one.
Where it gets interesting is with the Lions’ second first-round pick, courtesy of the Matthew Stafford trade with the Rams last offseason. Depending on the mock, you’ll see a quarterback (Sam Howell, Malik Willis), a wide receiver (Treylon Burks, Chris Olave) or even another edge rusher (Travon Walker, David Ojabo) going to Detroit late in the first round.
In the mock I recently saw, Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean was still available with that second first-rounder. I don’t for a moment believe that Dean will still be available at pick No. 27, No. 28, etc. But if he is, then Holmes and Campbell should think very hard about taking him.
The Lions’ offense seems closer to reaching the next level than the defense. Add a top receiver in the draft and perhaps one in free agency, at the right price, and the offense will have everything except the quarterback of the future. That can be remedied in the 2023 draft.
Meanwhile the defense still needs several pieces, but how often does a team get a chance to acquire a piece like Dean? Last April the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Micah Parsons with their first pick, and he elevated the defense virtually on his own.
I wouldn’t say that Dean is more talented than Parsons, but I’m not sure Parsons can match Dean’s intangibles.
Dean is a sideline-to-sideline player, and his instincts, leadership and drive are off the charts. Imagine a Lions defense with two young leaders like Hutchinson and Dean in the lineup. Dean’s intangibles remind me of Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Lewis made the Ravens’ defense better by raising the “compete” level of his defensive teammates.
Dean has a chance to do that for whatever team takes him in April. If he’s available when the Lions are on the clock with the pick they acquired from the Rams, should the Lions ignore him and snag the receiver they need or roll the dice on a possible game-changer for the defense? It’s very unlikely Dean will be available late in the first round, but if he happens to be it’ll be another choice on Holmes’ plate as he continues to try to build the Lions into a contender.