Matthew Silka, Staff Writer
Lions’ General Manager Brad Holmes in 2021. Photo//Kirthmon F. Dozier /USA TODAY NETWORK
The NFL draft is perhaps one of the biggest offseason spectacles in all of sports. Countless analysts and experts attempt to dive into the minds of football executives, with most falling short of accurately predicting each teams’ intentions. This year is massive for the Detroit Lions as Dan Campbell and Co. need to prove to the fans and the organization that the team can improve and eventually make a deep playoff run in the years to come.
With the 2022 NFL Draft set to take place on April 28th in Las Vegas, let’s take a look at what I think the Lions should do with their first five draft picks to achieve their goals.
Round 1, Pick 2: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux celebrates one of his seven sacks during the 2021 college football season. Photo//Andrew Golden/Getty Images
The consensus number one pick before the 2021-2022 college football season, Kayvon Thibodeaux is an athletic freak that can get to the quarterback in a hurry. Although not the most polished edge defender in the draft, Thibodeaux plays with heavy hands, above average speed, and has an athletic profile that could help him translate into one of the best quarterback disruptors in the NFL.
Although there are concerns around the league about Thibodeaux’s work ethic and attitude, the Lions should not pass up a chance to turn him into a high level prolific pass rusher. Kayvon should have no problem adapting to the NFL and should help improve a Lions defense that ranked 31st in the league in pass rush win rate percentage in 2021.
Ideally, the Lions should seek to trade down from number two overall as there is no surefire prospect that will blossom into a superstar. Any package including a high first round pick and an additional first rounder should definitely catch the eye of Brad Holmes. He should pull the trigger on a deal to acquire more opportunities to draft potentially elite players. However, if the Lions cannot trade down, Thibodeaux is the best player available in my opinion.
Round 1, Pick 32: Lewis Cine, Safety, Georgia
Lewis Cine tackles Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. Photo//Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports
Lewis Cine’s draft stock is rising after posting a blistering 4.37 forty-yard dash at the NFL combine last month. Decent size for the position, Cine stands in at 6’2’’ and about 200 pounds. Playing with an NFL caliber demeanor, Cine is best known for his hitting power and can certainly strike fear into opposing receivers and running backs.
Cine would fill an obvious need at safety for the Lions in 2022. Some Detroit fans want Holmes to select Notre Dame standout safety Kyle Hamilton with the second overall pick, but I cannot consider taking a safety that high due to the high positional value that edge rushers bring. Cine is still an elite prospect at a more affordable cost and would play a pivotal role in the Lions’ secondary.
Round 2, Pick 34: Matt Corral, Quarterback, Ole’ Miss
Ole’ Miss QB Matt Corral gets ready to throw a pass in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Photo//Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports
There is a massive debate on whether or not the Lions should select a quarterback with one of their top picks and I am not sure if this is the best way to go. Defense is obviously the priority in this draft, and the Lions have QB Jared Goff under center for at least one more season. However, with a likely improved Lions team this upcoming year, they may not have the ability to draft one of the top-tier quarterbacks at the beginning of the first round in 2023.
Detroit could sit Corral for the entirety of the 2022 season behind Goff and allow him to learn from the veteran quarterback before taking over in 2023. Corral has a great blend of composure in the pocket, good accuracy, and ability to scramble that makes him a worthy pick at 34.
Assuming Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett do not make it to this pick, Corral is the next best quarterback over the likes of Sam Howell and Desmond Ridder.
Although only 6’2’’, Corral is plenty big enough to be a successful NFL QB, and many forget that he was the projected first QB off the board before suffering a high ankle sprain in his team’s bowl game. Overall, Corral’s dual threat game is intriguing here, and I would not be surprised if he becomes a top-15 quarterback in the NFL within the next three to five years.
Round 3, Pick 66: Chad Muma, Linebacker, Wyoming
Wyoming LB Chad Muma against Montana State. Photo//Troy Babbitt/UW Athletics
To address the team’s subpar linebacking core, the Lions should draft Chad Muma with their first third round selection. Drafting players in the third round is not the easiest since it is extremely difficult to predict who will be there, but Muma is a likely candidate to fall into the third round.
I would prefer to draft other linebackers with this pick such as Alabama’s Christian Harris or Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, but Detroit would probably need to trade up into the late second round to draft either of them.
Depending on how the board falls, Nakobe Dean would be an ideal candidate for either the 32nd or 34th overall pick, but, in this mock draft, the Lions were not so lucky. Instead, Muma gets selected 66th overall.
Muma is a developed linebacker with good size that can contribute up the middle or on the outside of the field. Muma is not very technically sound, but he is an explosive linebacker that can cover. He possesses above average hands as well and posted three interceptions (including two pick-sixes) in his senior season. Ultimately, Muma would be a quick fix to help address the Lions’ lack of linebacker depth.
Round 3, Pick 97: Khalil Shakir, Wide Receiver, Boise State
Boise State WR Khalil Shakir gets through a would-be tackler during the last college football season. Photo//Tom Hauck/Getty Images
The Lions did well to address their below-average receiving core in free agency with the signing of DJ Chark. In addition to Chark, the current receiving core consists of breakout second-year standout Amon-Ra St. Brown as well as resignee Josh Reynolds, who proved to be a key contributor after signing with the Lions in the middle of last season. Many would like to see Detroit select a receiver with either their second or third pick, but I do not see the need to reach on a receiver with so many defensive holes to fill.
Khalil Shakir is a mid-round option that projects as a shifty slot receiver. Shakir is a smaller receiver standing in at 6’0’’ and roughly 200 pounds, but he can fly. Shakir ran a 4.43 forty yard dash in this year’s combine and was Boise State’s kick and punt returner in his college years.
He is known for his high character on and off the field and would mesh well with Dan Campbell and the Lions organization. Shakir can be a Golden Tate type of receiver that can get underneath the defense to allow guys like Chark and St. Brown to run down the field. Shakir is a value to me at this spot, and I would love to see Detroit invest in him with this pick.
The NFL Draft is only nine days away, so fans will finally get the long-awaited answers that every mock draft cannot answer.