It’s looking like a new world for the Detroit Lions at Pick 2, with most changing it up and penciling edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the top of the order.
That’s a shift from the past couple of months of mock drafts. The Michigan star had emerged as the favorite for the Lions through Jacksonville’s ties to the top offensive tackle prospects. Hutchinson is the far-and-away odds-on favorite (-400 per DraftKings) to go first. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (+350), Hutchinson (+400), Georgia edge defender Travon Walker (+500), Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (+550) and Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux (+800) are the favorites at Pick 2.
Those wondering what’s up with this shift should look to Hutchinson’s recent showings at the combine and his pro day, not to mention the Jaguars opening their checkbook. Cam Robinson got the franchise tag, paying the tackle upwards of $16 million next season. They then signed guard Brandon Scherff for $49.5 million over three years. Jacksonville still has Walker Little, Ben Bartch and Jawaan Taylor under contract. Little was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. Bartch was a 2020 fourth-rounder. Taylor has started 49 straight games since going in Round 2 in 2019. John Shipley of Jaguar Report joined MLive’s Dungeon of Doom podcast to explain why this group and the recent spending is why he sees Hutchinson-Jacksonville at Pick 1.
It’s been two weeks since we checked, so let’s get into what mocks are saying post-free agency for the Lions:
Pick 2 tier:
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Mocked by: ESPN’s Todd McShay, Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus, Danny Kelly of The Ringer, Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, Doug Farrar of TouchdownWire
It’s been the Notre Dame safety to rise, not Kayvon Thibodeaux through Hutchinson’s emergence at the top. Kyle Hamilton is a true unicorn at his position. He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and looks ready to eat opposing tight ends on Day 1. It’s easy to see the fit around these parts too. Tracy Walker is back in the fold. He’s a rock-solid run defender but doesn’t make too many field-flipping plays. Walker’s interception in the season finale was his first since Week 1 in 2019. Hamilton covers a ton of ground with an eye-popping ability to get up and steal the ball. He had eight interceptions and 138 tackles in 31 games at Notre Dame. There hasn’t been a top-five safety since Eric Berry in 2010. Before that, it was Sean Taylor at Pick 5 in 2004. Eric Turner was the last top-three safety when he went Pick 2 to Cleveland in 1991.
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Mocked by: Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports, Kyle Stackpole of CBS Sports
Both Kyle Meinke and I mocked Hutchinson to the Lions too. That came before free agency and our conversation with a Jaguars beat reporter, and we’ll see where we go in our next TBD mock attempts. But, for now, it’s worth looking at how the Jaguars spent in free agency. They committed more than $250 million, with $150 million-plus guaranteed to free agents. On the defensive side of the ball, they signed linebacker Foye Oluokun ($45 million, three years), interior defender Foley Fatukasi ($30 million, three years) and cornerback Darious Williams ($30 million, three years). Throw another edge rusher on the other side of Josh Allen like Hutchinson, and it’s easy to see the blueprint in what Doug Pederson is trying to build.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Mocked by: DraftWire, Pro Football Network
Kayvon Thibodeaux continues to fall down the board while maintaining a presence near the top. Some think the media is higher on him than those in the NFL. It’s making for a fascinating topic to watch on draft night. Thibodeaux still might have the highest ceiling in this group. The former five-star recruit delivered every step of the way at Oregon. Brad Holmes caught Thibodeaux against UCLA in 2021, when the star pass rusher posted nine tackles, two sacks while forcing and recovering a fumble.
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Mocked by: The Draft Network
The Malik Willis to Detroit contingent isn’t going anywhere ahead of April’s draft, no matter what we say. It’s easy to see the long-term need at quarterback. It’s the game’s most premium position, and Jared Goff doesn’t appear to be that cornerstone option to build around. Willis is getting some love from the oddsmakers to go at Pick 2 as well.
“Yeah, if your comp or your ultimate upside for the player is Jared Goff, you’ve already got him, so don’t waste a pick,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah previously said. “That’s why I think Malik Willis could potentially give you a little something different, and if it all works together and comes together, he could give you a little bit more. That to me is the one that I would keep an eye on.”
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Mocked by: Josh Edwards of CBS Sports
As tradition, there were more than a couple of combine darlings this year. But, whew, it’s hard to ignore the rise of Travon Walker in recent weeks. Walker measured at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, then ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. His Relative Athletic Score is a sight to behold. Those athletic traits, paired with his production and growth, have some thinking big things.
Drake London, WR, USC
Mocked by: WalterFootball
Drake London, a common name seen around these parts at the back of Day 1, has entered top-10 territory. After re-signing Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, the Lions signed DJ Chark to a one-year deal. What’s that mean? It means they’re probably still heavily invested in this year’s wide receiver offerings. London makes a ton of sense. The 6-foot-5 wideout had 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in only seven games. Neither he nor USC teammate and Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown have been shy about desiring a reunion at the next level.
Pick 32 tier:
Nakobe Dean LB, Georgia
Mocked by: Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports
Nakobe Dean was the heart of Georgia’s national championship defense. He’s not the biggest linebacker prospect, and those concerns are valid. Still, Dean is the type of player that makes you forget about his measurements the second he starts flying around the field. The Lions were well represented at Georgia’s pro day last week. A cornerstone linebacker has alluded this franchise for nearly a decade. Dean looks to have that potential, and then some.
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Mocked by: Doug Farrar of TouchdownWire
George Karlaftis seems to be falling with the rise of Travon Walker, not to mention Kayvon Thibodeaux’s slide. This would likely be considered a dream scenario, especially if it’s Kyle Hamilton at Pick 2. Karlaftis had 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss at Purdue in 2021. The edge defender lauded for his power notched 29 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in three seasons.
Edge rushers not named Aidan or Kayvon the Detroit Lions could be eyeing
Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
Mocked by: WalterFootball
Daxton Hill was a five-star recruit and the top safety in his class. Hill then delivered three multi-faceted seasons in nearby Ann Arbor. He played most of his snaps from the slot this past year after moving around between slot and safety. He had 69 tackles, 4.5 for loss with two interceptions and eight pass deflections to close his collegiate career. The three-year starter is an impressive athlete that looks to have more than enough speed to keep pace in the NFL.
George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Mocked by: Danny Kelly of The Ringer
George Pickens was also my pick for the Detroit Lions at Pick 32. Pickens comes with toughness and a flavor that screams fit for these Lions. He’s 6-foot-3, ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and is a more than willing blocker. Pickens missed most of 2021 after tearing his ACL. He returned for the national championship, catching a 52-yard ball. Pickens had 49 receptions for 727 yards and eight touchdowns as a breakout freshman in 2019.
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Mocked by: The Draft Network
In terms of top fits with the DJ Chark-centric receiver room in Detroit? Look no further than Christian Watson. The wideout might not be Day 1 ready at the next level while switching from the FCS to the NFL. Watson checks a ton of boxes, though. The 6-foot-4 wideout ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and hit 38.5 inches on his vertical jump.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Mocked by: Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports
Kenny Pickett had some steam as QB1 for a minute. The fifth-year senior hit new levels last season. He tossed for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Pickett continues to get love as the readiest of the first-round quarterbacks.
Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Mocked by: Josh Edwards of CBS Sports
Lewis Cine has lived in this territory since we started tracking mock drafts. He was the steady hand at the back of Georgia’s star-studded defense. Cine had 73 tackles, two tackles or loss and one interception with nine pass deflections.
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Mocked by: Kyle Stackpole of CBS Sports
QB Sam Howell, a popular mock pick to Lions, blames 2021 struggles on trying to do too much
“I would probably say that I just wish that maybe I would have said a little bit more at times, at hard times in a game,” Howell said of his 2021 at the combine. “Sometimes, I try not to say too much just because I don’t want to put anybody any farther down than they already are. But definitely could have been a little bit more positive throughout the year. Obviously, I got a little frustrated at times throughout the game. I think I tried to do a little bit too much just because we were struggling a little bit, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do too much. So, for me, it’s just staying comfortable, staying calm and being true to who I am at all times, just knowing that people are always looking at me.”
Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
Mocked by: ESPN’s Todd McShay
Mafe is a raw prospect. He’s 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds and looks to have room to grow as a pass rusher. He delivered an impressive combine showing, with an elite vertical (38 inches) and 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds). The Minnesota big man had seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 12 games.
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Mocked by: Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, DraftWire
In his pre-combine mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Matt Corral to the Lions. Corral was strong with deep to intermediate attempts in 2021 and showed some growth as a passer while adding another flavor under center. Corral is a dual-threat option. He completed 67.9% of his passes, adding 11 rushing touchdowns and 614 yards last season.