The scouting combine and pro days are done, now all we have are the projections.
ESPN’s Jordan Reid, a former Division I football coach and quarterback, dropped his seven-round prediction for the 2022 NFL draft, listing out fits for all 262 picks.
Reid goes “chalk” by having Michigan football’s Aidan Hutchinson No.1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he has an interesting pick for the Detroit Lions at No. 2. Two quarterbacks go in Round 1 and three go in Round 2; do the Lions get their passer of the future?
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Also, take a look at where he had Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Michigan State football stars landing:
Lions get two ‘backs’ in Round 1
A quarterback is a “back” right? no? Linebacker isn’t either?
Either way, Reid has the Lions picking Liberty QB Malik Willis and Georgia LB Nakobe Dean at Nos. 2 and 32, respectively.
Willis is thought to have the highest ceiling of this year’s quarterbacks, however, he — along with the other top passers in the class — doesn’t have the polish of previous prospects at the position.
But Willis has all the physical tools and is said to be a great leader committed to getting better. Reid admits this is a divisive pick but if the Lions think Willis is star material, is it really a reach?
“Jared Goff is under contract for two more seasons, which would allow the Lions to bring Willis along slowly,” Reid writes. “There’s no guarantee that the franchise can position itself next year to be in contention for a top 2023 signal-caller. This is an ideal situation for Willis, as the team is set to have plenty of draft capital to continue to build the roster in the future.”
Sounds like someone projects the Lions to collect a few more wins this season.
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As for why Reid had Dean, who is soon visiting the Lions, to Detroit to end the first round:
“At the controls of one of the best defenses in college football history, Dean is a magnetic Energizer bunny who doesn’t stop. The Lions could stick to their board of taking the best prospect available here.
“Dean would provide an instant vocal leader on a defense that lacks that quality right now. His physicality and infectious energy make him the exact type of player general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell want to continue to build this roster.”
At 6-foot, 225 pounds, there are concerns about Dean’s size. But the same was said about fellow former Bulldog Roquan Smith (6-1, 230) who has twice been an All-Pro in four seasons with the Bears. Not saying Dean — 36 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions in 2021 — is quite the prospect Smith was, but he’s the same smart, explosive type of a linebacker.
Lions get pass-rusher — in third round
Dreams of getting Hutchinson the consensus top prospect and Heisman finalist, have been quelled by free agency and franchise-tag designations. The Jags seem prime to pick the edge rusher instead of a top offensive lineman.
If the Lions pass up on fellow defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 2 pick, that wouldn’t be a huge shock — but the team does need pass-rush help. Enter Cameron Thomas.
Thomas, 6-5, 270 pounds, combined for 9.5 sacks between 2019 and 2020 then exploded for 11.5 last season. He starred for an elite Aztecs defense that allowed 19.5 points per game and just 77.6 rushing yards per game (second in the country).
“Thomas was one of the most disruptive defensive players in the country last season (27 tackles for loss),” Reid writes, complimenting Thomas’ fit with the Lions’ front office.
But before Thomas, Reid has Football Subdivision Championship wideout Christian Watson to the Lions at No. 34. He amassed 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season for the North Dakota State Bison.
Reid envisions Watson pairing nicely with new free agent addition DJ Chark.
“Watson is a 6-foot-4 receiver who could be the X receiver while Brown occupies the slot and Chark plays the Z,” Reid writes. “Perimeter pass catchers are near the top of the Lions’ list of holes.
[ Lions WR DJ Chark ‘feels good to be wanted’ after signing free agency deal ]
Purdue’s 6-2 receiver David Bell, who caught 93 passes for 1,286 yards, will be the Lions’ second pick of the third round (No. 97), according to Reid.
Other projected Lions draftees include Nebraska safety JoJo Domann at No. 177, Texas cornerback Josh Thompson four picks later and Appalachian State linebacker D’Marco Jackson (No. 217)
Arizona State cornerback Chase Lucas is Reid’s “Mr. Irrelevant” for the Lions, Round 7, pick 234.
Where others with Michigan ties landed
Two Michigan players go on Day 2, Reid says: Dax Hill at 33 and David Ojabo at No. 50. He called Hill a versatile chess piece who will quickly compete for playing time with Jags and indicated the Chiefs would be wise to use multiple picks the first few days on pass-rushers. Ojabo could be a high-upside option in the middle of the second round after a recent Achillies injury likely knocked him out of Round 1.
Reid has a thing for matching college teammates — not only do Hill and Hutchinson land together in Jacksonville but so do Kenneth Walker III (No. 68) and Connor Heyward (No. 245) in Houston. (From centurylong Big Ten rivals to millennial-aged AFC South rivals!)
Here’s what Reid had to say about Walker, who finished sixth in Heisman voting and won the Walter Camp Player of the Year award:
“With 11 picks in the draft, the Texans should stockpile talent, and this is a pick for the best prospect left on the board. Walker is a stocky rusher and natural tackle-breaker — he forced 85 missed tackles last season — who would add some playmaking in the backfield behind quarterback Davis Mills.”
Western Michigan receiver Skyy Moore is projected to the Chicago Bears at No. 48 overall, giving Justin Fields a speedy, athletic target. Central Michigan’s ultra-athletic tackle Bernhard Raimann is the last pick of the second round to the Denver Broncos and could also be in line for quick playing time protecting Russell Wilson.
Another Chippewa lineman, Luke Goedeke is predicted at No 178 to Dallas.
Reid makes it three Michigan players to Jacksonville with Hassan Haskins to the Jags at No. 157. Chris Hinton is the final Wolverine off Reid’s board at No. 237 to Philadelphia.
The Seattle Seahawks pick their second WMU Bronco in two seasons (D’Wayne Eskridge in 2021) with Ali Fayad, a Dearborn native who had 13 sacks last season, 229th overall.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions land Malik Willis in ESPN mock draft