2022 NFL DRAFT DEEP DIVE: Detroit Lions
By Tayyib Abu
The NFL Draft is over, and we cannot head into the three-month abyss that is the offseason without looking at what all 262 selections mean for each franchise. Whilst too early to judge just how successful a draft class each team’s was, we can look at how rookies fit within schemes, where they stand on depth charts, and who we can expect to make an impact in 2022. We begin our team by team series with the Detroit Lions:
|5||177||James Mitchell||TE||Virginia Tech|
|6||188||Malcolm Rodriguez||LB||Oklahoma State|
|6||217||James Houston||EDGE||Jackson State|
|7||237||Chase Lucas||CB||Arizona State|
The Detroit Lions had their Christmas and birthday wishes come true as soon as the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker first. Much to the NFL’s annoyance, the Lions immediately turned the card in that bore Aidan Hutchinson’s name. The consensus number one prospect was arguably the best defensive end available. After a stunning 14-sack season for the Michigan Wolverines, Hutchinson roared to the top of draft boards. For a long time, Hutchinson seemed destined for Duval County. And when that situation changed, Brad Holmes pounced. Hutchinson’s outstanding agility, maniacal effort, and polished pass-rushing skill boost the Lions’ defense instantly. The Lions finished 30th in pass-rush win rate, and they were a bottom-five team in sacks.
Moreover, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn loved Hutchinson’s versatility. If you watch his freshman tape, Hutchinson can line up in the wide 9, 5 technique, or even the 3 technique. Pair all that with a fantastic relative athletic score of 9.87, and Hutchinson was the no-brainer. The boy raised in the quiet suburb of Plymouth, Michigan, and who played high school football minutes away from the Lions’ Allen Park training complex was the only choice for a franchise looking to re-connect with its fanbase. Hutchinson himself said after getting drafted that he and Dan Campbell see things eye-to-eye, and he looks forward to the pressure of playing at home. For once in their chaotic history, the Lions just let the board come to them and select the best player available. In doing so, they found the face of the franchise.
The Lions had another pick in round one. They were due to pick 32nd before trading up to 12th to capture Alabama wideout, Jameson Williams. The Lions needed to find a wideout to partner Amon Ra St. Brown long-term, and Williams could be the most talented receiver the Lions have had since Calvin Johnson. Williams is a legitimate deep threat with speed to burn. He led the SEC in receiving yards and touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson called Williams a matchup nightmare, and while the Crimson Tide star is recovering from an ACL tear, the Lions will be eager to unleash Williams. Dan Campbell loved Williams’ toughness as a special-teamer and his game-breaking ability. The fact that the Lions didn’t surrender a 2023 first-rounder in the trade with the Vikings to land a bonafide prospect made this pick even sweeter.
Day two saw the Lions return to the defensive line as they drafted Kentucky’s Josh Paschal. A three-time defensive captain, the versatile defender attacks the run with destruction, and can also rush the passer. Pascal is a fierce run-stopper with intangibles and leadership skills the Lions desire.
Pro Football Focus graded Paschal’s 2021 season a fantastic 90, second to Aidan Hutchinson. Detroit’s second day two pick was safety Kerby Joseph. With the Lions moving towards three safety formations, Joseph plays with savvy instincts and has a nose for the football. Joseph is relatively inexperienced at the position, but the Lions finally got some help on their depth chart.
The Lions finished their draft by adding James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, and Chase Lucas. Rodriguez was a captain at Oklahoma State and showed a penchant for blowing up runners at the line of scrimmage. Mitchell’s 2021 season ended prematurely due to injury, but he provides some depth on a tight end depth chart that features just TJ Hockenson and Garrett Griffin.
Houston is another off-ball linebacker with some edge versatility, and he is another heavy-hitting tackler. Chase Lucas will add competition to a crowded cornerback room that now boasts Mike Hughes, Amani Oruwayire, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jerry Jacobs, AJ Parker, and a returning Jeff Okudah. As he bids for a roster spot, Lucas could be a fun story to track during training camp.
One To Watch: Josh Paschal
Some Lions fans felt it was unnecessary to add another defensive lineman after the team drafted Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, and Aidan Hutchinson. Brad Holmes disagreed. Holmes told Dan Campbell that he would select Paschal if he were on the board, and he did. Paschal’s trump card is his versatility. As the Lions move to even-man fronts, Paschal could line up as a defensive end, kick inside to play the 3 technique in an ‘under’ front, or play inside as part of a NASCAR package. Aaron Glenn lamented the lack of interior pass-rush from the Lions last season, and Paschal’s furious style should translate well to the interior.
However, it is in the running game where Paschal excels. His run-stopping rate of 12.4% was the highest among all Power Five players, and Paschal’s heavy-hitting, knowledge of angles and skill to use leverage to his advantage make him an ideal fit for what the Lions want. The only three-time captain in Kentucky history, Paschal is another with high character and a desire to destroy things on the field. Paschal is a complementary piece to a Lions defensive line that has talent. Working with Hutchinson, McNeill, Okwara, et al. may elevate the Lions’ pass-rush and run-stopping to heights unseen in a long time.
Having focussed heavily on defense, the Lions switched their attention to the offense in their undrafted free agent haul. Six skill position players headline the class, with Central Michigan’s Kalil Pimpleton one to watch as the Lions continue to overhaul their wide receiver room.
|Kalil Pimpleton||WR||Central Michigan|
|Demetrius Taylor||IDL||Appalachian State|
|Greg Bell||RB||San Diego State|
|Corey Sutton||WR||Appalachian State|
|Derrick Deese||TE||San Jose State|
|CJ Boswell||CB||Miami (OH)|
|Kevin Jarvis||IOL||Michigan State|
|Kader Hohou||CB||Texas A&M Commerce|
|Zein Obeid||IOL||Ferris State|
In conclusion, the Lions experienced an excellent draft. They filled various needs on the roster and addressed weak spots while adding high-character players. Nobody won any games in April; however, the Lions took the first tangible step in rebuilding and added blue-chip prospects. Dan Campbell is hell-bent on changing the ‘woe is me’ attitude in Detroit, and the draft class reflects that.
Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1