The Detroit Lions are 0-6 and in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft after the Jacksonville Jaguars upended the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s game across the pond. Armed with a second first-round pick in their arsenal—currently No. 28 overall from the Los Angeles Rams—general manager Brad Holmes will have an opportunity to take the Lions one step closer to respectability this offseason.
Here’s the tricky thing with the NFL draft: it’s great to have multiple picks, and it’s even better to have the first-overall pick, but those picks have to align with a quality draft class to really pay off. And for a Lions team that would love to spend the top selection on a quarterback, they may be out of luck in 2022.
The scouting team here at The Draft Network published the updated TDN100—October’s ranking of the top 100 prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft—and the first quarterback on the list doesn’t appear until No. 19, Liberty’s Malik Willis. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder is next (No. 26) followed by Ole Miss’ Matt Corral (No. 27), which suggests next April’s draft won’t be devoid of quarterback prospects, but it doesn’t appear like there’s a blue-chipper in its mix either.
In fact, if that tiering holds true on draft weekend, Detroit might be better off waiting until their second first-round pick to select a quarterback. The Rams are a quality team and will likely make a deep playoff run, but if they fall short of the Super Bowl, their draft slot could fall right in the strike zone for this year’s quarterback class.
There’s another option for the Lions, even if it’s an unpopular one with the fan base: roll with Jared Goff in 2022 and add talent around him in this year’s draft. He’s under contract through the 2024 season and has established himself as, at least, an average starting quarterback. If the Lions decide to commit to him for the next couple of seasons, it opens the door for Holmes to make impact picks at other positions.
At No. 1 overall, Detroit could take either of the top two players on the updated TDN100—Kyle Hamilton (SAF, Notre Dame) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Edge, Oregon). The odds would favor Thibodeaux being the pick because of positional value, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Hamilton will be viewed as a defensive eraser and rare prospect who shifts the thought process surrounding the value of drafting safeties in the top five, including at No. 1 overall.
Shifting our attention to the No. 28 overall—or that general range for Detroit’s second first-rounder—there are some intriguing options, especially at wide receiver where USC’s Drake London has shot up the rankings to the Lions’ exact slot: No. 28.
London would make a ton of sense for Detroit. There’s no doubt the Lions will be one of the more aggressive teams in the wide receiver market this offseason. London offers a physical profile that’s lacking from Detroit’s roster and would instantly be the most talented pass-catcher on the team. He’d combine with Amon-Ra St. Brown to flip Detroit from the squad with the least talent in the wide receiver room to a club that suddenly has two promising players to build a passing game around.
Sure, a draft haul of Hamilton and London wouldn’t be the kind of sexy return that teams hope for when they end a year with the top overall pick, but they would represent two building blocks for a roster that’s rebuilding from the ground up. A heat-seeking missile in the secondary and a wide receiver with a my-ball mentality? It could be a lot worse.
One final thought on the 2022 quarterback class. It’s true the scouts at The Draft Network don’t have a quarterback in the top 10 and only one among the top-20 prospects. But they do have three that rank in the top 32. Said another way, there are three quarterbacks who could conceivably go in the first round based on these rankings. And whenever there’s a quarterback who might have a mid-first-round grade like Willis? That usually means he’ll be in the discussion for the first-overall pick. The door can’t be entirely closed on the Lions (or any team that ends up with the top pick, sans the Jaguars) valuing one of these passers that high.
Still, overdrafting a quarterback is a risky proposition and one that I don’t think the Lions will mess with this year. They had a chance to pick a quarterback in the 2021 draft when both Justin Fields and Mac Jones were still on the board when they were on the clock. Holmes went with a blue-chip offensive tackle (Penei Sewell) instead. That decision is a sneak peek inside his mind and should give fans confidence that he won’t draft a quarterback just to draft a quarterback.
With a weaker quarterback class this year, and some real game-changing talents who will be available on defense, the Lions’ draft board is likely to look similar to the TDN100—and that’s a good thing for their fans.