Matthew Silka, Staff Writer
New Lions draftees Jameson Williams and Aidan Hutchinson pictured with head coach Dan Campbell (left) and general manager Brad Holmes (right). Photo//Kirthmon F. Dozier/ USA TODAY NETWORK
After months of suspense and speculation for Detroit Lions fans, the wait is finally over. A few weeks ago, we watched as eight of the newest members of OnePride were welcomed into the organization with a vision of a brighter future for Detroit.
Now, contrary to many football analysts, I do not think it is fair to give a letter grade for these new draftees based on where they were selected, their football skills on the field, or their off the field contributions or antics. Instead, I seek to offer some insight into the overall draft of the Detroit Lions and take into consideration team needs and how these new Lions may fit into the organization.
Without further ado, let’s meet the newest members of the Detroit Lions.
Round 1, Pick 2: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after hearing his name called second overall on draft night. Photo//Kirby Lee/ USA TODAY Sports
During the week leading up to the draft, rumors stirred that the Jacksonville Jaguars would take Travon Walker with the first overall pick, but I did not think it would come to fruition.
The Jags let Hutchinson fall, which allowed the Lions to pick up a franchise cornerstone on the defensive line in Hutchinson, who possesses a high motor, great toughness, and work ethic, as well as the power and finesse to give nightmares to offensive linemen. Hutchinson will fit in nicely next to fellow draftee Josh Paschal and will allow the Lions to rest Romeo Okwara even further as he recovers from an Achilles injury he picked up a season ago.
Hutchinson has lived in Michigan his entire life, attending high school at Divine Child in Dearborn. He has been a leader on and off the field, winning numerous awards and finishing third in the Heisman voting while at the University of Michigan.
I personally think that Hutchinson’s ceiling may be a bit limited, but I am confident in his ability and work ethic enough to like this pick a great deal.
Round 1, Pick 12: Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Jameson Williams smiling for members of the press on draft night. Photo//Mindy Small/Getty Images
Well, this was a shocker.
I do not think that many can say they thought the Lions would move up from picks 32 and 34 to grab a wide receiver in the middle of the first round. Defense? Maybe, but a wide receiver?
Nevertheless, the Lions traded picks 32, 34, and 66 overall to the Minnesota Vikings to acquire picks 12 and 46, all in this year’s draft. The Lions used their newly acquired 12th pick to select who many believe to be the best wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, Jameson Williams.
Williams was a standout receiver at Alabama and possesses blistering speed and elusiveness, making him a matchup problem for opposing defenses. He is also 6’2”, which for his speed, is another huge plus.
Despite these great attributes, Williams tore his ACL in the college football playoffs in January, so questions about when he will be healthy are certainly being asked. Williams himself believes he will be ready to go by late July, but more realistic projections have him returning around midway through the season.
No matter when he returns, Williams will give Jared Goff an electrifying deep threat to help the receiving core of Amon Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, and Josh Reynolds, and will hopefully be a massive contributor to the offense if he can stay healthy.
Round 2, Pick 46: Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky
Photo//Gary Cosby Jr./Imagn Content Services
With the second of the two picks acquired from Minnesota, the Lions decided to take another edge defender in Josh Paschal.
Paschal is another high character player that will no doubt fit well in the culture that Dan Campbell and company are trying to build in Detroit, as he is a three-time team captain in addition to being a cancer survivor.
On the field, Paschal may have a difficult time digging out a role for himself, as the Lions now have three potential starters in Hutchinson, Okwara, and Charles Harris at the edge position.
Paschal does possess some versatility and can drop back to play linebacker, but I doubt he will spend much time there.
On film, Paschal is an explosive rusher that has the potential to wreak havoc, and I think he will do just fine in the NFL. However, I am not sure he will have the role right away that will allow him to reach his potential in Detroit, but time will tell.
Round 3, Pick 97: Kerby Joseph, Safety, Illinois
New Lion Kerby Joseph returning an interception while playing for the University of Illinois. Photo//Michael Hickey/Getty Images
The Lions finally chose to address their secondary with their compensatory pick late in the third round by drafting Kerby Joseph out of Illinois. Many thought a safety would be picked a bit earlier, but the Lions decided to wait until later in the draft to address this need.
Joseph was previously a wide receiver in his career but was converted to play safety during his time at Illinois.
Unsurprisingly, Joseph has great pass catching skills and was able to catch five interceptions in his first season as a safety last year.
On film, Joseph has good instincts and can cover in a variety of defensive setups, but he will need to further learn the safety position to be able to be a legitimate starter in the NFL.
To me, this is a high upside pick that has the potential to be a steal, but I would have liked to see the Lions pick a safer option earlier in the draft.
Round 5, Pick 177: James Mitchell, Tight End, Virginia Tech
James Mitchell leaps over a North Carolina defender for the touchdown grab. Photo//Michael Shroyer/Getty Images
With their fifth-round pick, Detroit decided to secure tight end depth and grab James Mitchell out of Virginia Tech.
Mitchell is another extremely athletic player with above average physical traits and a decent frame at 6’3” and 255 pounds to be a potentially good blocking tight end. Many of his snaps in college were played in a blocking role, so he has some valuable experience.
Like Jameson Williams, Mitchell is also coming off an ACL tear, but should be ready for the start of the season. This pick continues the theme that Brad Holmes does not have a problem drafting incredibly athletic injured players in hopes they will return to their previous form.
With starting tight end T.J. Hockenson experiencing his own injury problems, Mitchell should be a reliable backup option if Hockenson goes down again.
Round 6, Pick 188: Malcolm Rodriguez, Linebacker, Oklahoma State
Rodriguez celebrates a sack while at OK St. Photo//Norm Hall/Getty Images
One of the most pressing needs for the Detroit Lions coming into the draft was at the linebacker position. Apparently, Brad Holmes was not very concerned, as he waited until the sixth round to grab Malcolm Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is another guy that is extremely athletic for his position, posting a 4.52 forty-yard dash at the NFL combine. He was all over the field at Oklahoma State, making 130 tackles and forcing four fumbles in his final season.
At 5’11”, Rodriguez is pretty small for his position, and he originally started on special teams before earning his role as a linebacker - he may have to do the same in Detroit.
This pick will add depth to the linebacker core of Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, and Jarrad Davis.
As the linebacker core is still a weakness in my opinion for the Lions, Rodriguez has a legitimate chance to earn playing time at linebacker as a rookie.
Round 6, Pick 217: James Houston, EDGE, Jackson State
Houston waiting for the ball to be snapped. Photo//Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
With their second sixth round pick, the Lions drafted James Houston out of Deion Sanders-led Jackson State.
A former member of the University of Florida football team, Houston made a name for himself at Jackson State by posting a whopping 16.5 sacks as an edge rusher last season.
Houston is another guy that is extremely athletic and is versatile enough to play multiple positions. Likely, he would slide in at linebacker for the Lions as the edge position is quickly filling up with depth.
Houston may also be able to make his way onto the field for the special team’s unit, as he is a quick player who has proved he can shed the opposition to make a tackle in the open field.
Regardless, I think the Jackson State standout projects as a high upside player who at the very least will make an impact on the special team’s unit. I like this pick.
Round 7, Pick 237: Chase Lucas, Corner, Arizona State
Lucas getting in some reps before a game during the 2021 college football season. Photo//Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
The final pick of the draft saw the Detroit Lions taking Arizona State’s Chase Lucas.
Lucas is a smaller corner at 5’11” and 180 pounds, and he spent most of his time in college playing at the nickel position. At 25 years old, Lucas has lots of experience for a rookie, giving him a chance to use his football knowledge to grab a roster spot.
A lot of seventh round picks fizzle out on the big stage after only a couple of seasons, and I think that Lucas has the potential to be one of those guys. He projects to play his best football as a nickel cornerback, and he will have steep competition from guys like A.J. Parker, Will Harris, and new free agent signing Mike Hughes.
Like James Houston, Lucas’s best way to stay on the roster is to thrive on special teams, which gives him a real opportunity to prove himself at the NFL level.
Lucas’s experience may be enough to keep him around, but I am not sure he will ever make a huge impact for the Detroit lions.
This was a very good draft for the Detroit Lions.
Defense was made a priority, as 6 out of the 8 picks were on the defensive side of the ball.
Both offensive picks were at a position of need; the Lions did not waste a late round pick on a running back or quarterback.
The Lions avoided the disastrous quarterback class with their early picks, as teams did not seem to value the position as much this year as in previous years based on the talent available.
Over Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell’s short time in Detroit, they have provided a clear direction of how they want to build a team, and I think that this year’s draft class will help the Lions make a substantial leap as a team in the 2022-2023 season.