The Detroit Lions are still one of the bottom-dwellers in the NFL after finishing with the league’s second-worst record (3-13-1). However, the team seemed to turn a corner under first-year head coach Dan Campbell. The culture change led to Detroit being a more competitive team than in years past.
The Lions enter the 2022 NFL Draft with countless needs to address. They were abysmal defensively, finishing near the bottom of the league in almost every category. Expect general manager Brad Holmes to address that side of the ball early and often. He’ll also need to decide if he wants to take a quarterback to eventually replace Jared Goff.
Here’s a look at how the Lions should approach the first three rounds of April’s draft.
Round 1, No. 2 overall: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
There’s no consensus regarding what the Detroit Lions should do with the No. 2 overall pick. If Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson doesn’t go No. 1, the edge rusher would be a no-brainer here. However, assuming he goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions could pivot to another defensive position.
Kyle Hamilton is a name that’s building steam, and he makes a lot of sense for Detroit. The Lions struggled against the pass in 2021, giving up 244.7 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns to opposing offenses on the year. Outside of Tracy Walker, this defense severely lacks talent at the safety position.
Hamilton is an absolute stud, and he proved that at Notre Dame. He recorded 138 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 16 passes defended, and eight interceptions in three seasons. The Fighting Irish star was easily one of the best defenders in college football. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Hamilton has the elite size to match his skill set. He’s the real deal and would be a huge step toward turning the Lions defense around.
Round 1, No. 32 overall: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
The 2022 NFL Draft doesn’t feature a deep quarterback class, so if the Lions plan on taking one, they must likely do so within the first two rounds. It’s unclear what the front office’s plan for Jared Goff is, but it would be wise to take an early shot if it likes any of the top guys.
Matt Corral could be a good fit for the Lions. Depending on who you ask, he has the potential to be the best quarterback from this class. The Ole Miss product took college football by storm in 2020, when he threw for 3,337 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions while completing 70.9% of his passes. He was having another strong year before an ankle injury in the Sugar Bowl ended his season.
Corral is a dynamic playmaker at quarterback. He rushed for 1,338 yards and 18 scores during his career. The Rebels signal-caller has the arm tools as well, making him tough to stop. He has a quick release and can make all the throws. Above all, he’s a gamer. His grit, toughness, and competitive nature make him the perfect fit to lead Dan Campbell’s crew.
Round 2, No. 34 overall: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Lions landed two of the biggest names in the NFL draft with their first two picks. Now, they go after another big-time player who everyone should know by now. Nakobe Dean makes a strong case to be the first linebacker taken, but there’s also a chance he could slide just outside of the first round.
Dean enjoyed a massive breakout junior campaign in 2021. The Georgia Bulldogs emotional leader registered 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 15 games. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 91.7, the highest of all FBS linebackers.
Similar to the safety position, the linebacking corps is talent deficient. Dean would step right in a be a Day 1 starter. He’s an explosive athlete who plays a physical brand of football. While he might not have the ideal size for a linebacker, he makes up for it with his skill set and want to. Dean doesn’t take plays off, and he resembles the culture the Lions are trying to build.
Round 3, No. 66 overall: Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky
Considering how bad Detroit was defensively in 2021, general manager Brad Holmes should be looking to add talent at all three levels. The Lions already attacked safety and linebacker. It would be wise to consider getting some pass rush help here.
Detroit recorded just 30 sacks as a team in 2021. Only the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons had less. The upcoming NFL draft class features some underrated edge rushers, including Kentucky’s Josh Paschal. The 6-foot-3, 268-pounder was a dominant force for the Wildcats. He recorded 52 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 2021.
Paschal’s 90.0 PFF grade ranked 14th in the country at his position. He doesn’t have prototypical size or length, but he certainly packs a punch. He’s explosive at the point of attack and will likely best fit as an interior rusher at the next level. Regardless, he has a high motor, and the people around him say he’s a high character guy. He’d be another great culture fit for the Lions.
Round 3, No. 97 overall: WR Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky
Last but certainly not least, the Lions add talent to the receiving corps. The front office made a solid move by signing former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout D.J. Chark in free agency. He joins Josh Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown, who came on strong toward the end of his rookie season.
While Detroit now has a couple of promising pieces at the position, the offense is still missing some juice. That’s where Wan’Dale Robinson comes in. He may seem like a gadget guy, but that would be doing him a disservice. Robinson caught 104 passes for 1,334 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.
The Wildcats star possesses excellent speed, running a 4.44 at the Scouting Combine. His shiftiness and athletic ability make him a dangerous threat running after the catch. Robinson has the potential to add a level of excitement to the Lions offense that hasn’t existed since Megatron. Not to mention, he gets to reunite with his college teammates after back-to-back Kentucky picks.