A large segment of Detroit Lions fans might be awaiting the early hours of the 2022 NFL Draft, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will potentially take the stage in Las Vegas and announce the team used the second overall pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
Unfortunately for those tortured Lions supporters, NBC Sports’ Peter King has a different idea in mind.
Peter King projected the Detroit Lions will use the second overall pick on Travon Walker, not Malik Willis
Externally, it feels as if the momentum continues to build for the Lions potentially using the second overall pick on Willis. As of publication, Detroit had nine draft picks, including three within the first 34 selections. General manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have enough ammunition, in theory, to begin accelerating the rebuild in hopes of finally bringing a winning team back to the Motor City.
You can stop laughing now.
In his recent 10-team mock draft, King suggested the Lions would draft Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker over both Willis and Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Interestingly, King only focused on Walker vs. Thibodeaux when making his case.
“At 275, Walker will be a lightish 3-technique defensive tackle on occasion, but more likely a strong two-way defensive end with good run-stuffing ability. If it is Thibodeaux, then potential and pass-rush wins. If it’s Walker, it’s best all-around player/worker bee in the Dan Campbell mold.”Peter King
Although King seemingly doesn’t believe in the Walker-to-Detroit hype, he does see the Liberty quarterback going early in the upcoming draft. The veteran scribe predicted the Atlanta Falcons would select Willis, a Georgia native who began his college career at Auburn, with the eighth overall pick.
“He’s a local kid from Roswell High (23 minutes from downtown Atlanta), teammates love him, very positive, and he has a big arm,” King wrote. “[Falcons owner] Arthur Blank could view him as a perfect long-term pilot of his franchise. I’m fascinated with the prospect of this.”
The Lions should still hone in on Willis, even if Walker has a better chance of starting in Week 1
Although he sees Willis as a top-10 prospect (at least, in terms of when he’ll be selected), King isn’t fully on board the Willis train just yet.
“Lots to be concerned about here, because Willis needs a redshirt year under a smart QB coach like Arthur Smith, and he needs to be schooled in working his progressions most importantly,” King wrote of the Liberty quarterback. “But Smith is a patient teacher, and he won’t need to play this year with Marcus Mariota in the saddle for at least 2022.”
If that’s the case, why wouldn’t the Lions select Willis second overall?
Detroit already has a stopgap quarterback in Jared Goff, and the Lions know they’re not likely to contend for the NFC North next season. A best-case scenario season would feature six or seven wins. The Lions can afford to bring Willis along slowly and move on from Goff after the season.
Although the explosive dual-threat quarterback will play his entire rookie season at 23, neither he nor the team that drafts him should be in any rush to get him onto the field in Week 1. There is no harm in allowing him to open the year on the bench behind a proven veteran.
With respect to King, we prefer the idea of Detroit selecting Willis second overall. There will be other opportunities to add pass-rushers or skill players who fit Campbell’s desire for worker bees. Michigan pass-rusher David Ojabo’s recent injury could push him out of the top-20 and into the Lions’ hands. Similarly, the Lions have eight other draft picks, which could prove fruitful if they use the second pick on Willis and want to trade up later.
Who knows? Maybe the Lions will find a way to land Walker and Willis. However, if it’s one or the other, we’re sticking with Willis.