Final 7-round simulation: Lions carry on defense early in the draft 2022-04-28 06:00:00


In the 10 or so years of writing about NFL ProjectI can’t remember a year when there was a lot of uncertainty near the top. Back in late March, Aidan Hutchinson was still the favorite to be picked first overall. Now it has been replaced by Travon Walker (-300 each DraftKings Sportsbook). Instead, Hutchinson is now the favorite to be put into second place by the Lions (-150) with Kayvon Thibodeaux nibbling at his heels (+130).

The funny season doesn’t end until the Jaguars are on the clock, which means we still have time for another mock draft. This year, I am using Pro Football Network Simulator, which is free to use. Let’s get into it.

Round one (2): Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

In this simulation, the Jaguars’ offensive tackle, Evan Neal, took the first overall pick. I think this is the right choice for them, but it seems unlikely that it will actually happen. However, there’s a good chance Hutchinson is here anyway, and ultimately it comes down to who I liked the most between Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Hutchinson has the look of an elite athlete and is a perfect fit for what the Lions are looking for in a rusher. The only real blow to him as a possibility is his own Decreased arm length (7th percentile).

First round (32): George Pickens, Georgia

The way the rest of the first round formed was very unfortunate for us. Men such as Louis Sen, Nakobi Dean, Duxton Hill, Jaquan Presker, and others, advanced over the Lions’ second-choice in the first round. Ideally, Detroit would take the top safe or a fallen quarterback in this spot, but since most of these guys are gone, I feel good about taking the best receiver available here.

If the Lions make that choice, you can bet you’ll hear “knee-bite” a lot. If it wasn’t for his injury history and he lost some time, Pickens would probably have cemented himself as a first-round pick. It’s the most physical receiver in this draft class and fits perfectly in the role of the black-looking “X” receiver.

Round Two (34): Devonty White, Georgia

Everyone wants to take on a Georgia defender in this draft, but White might not be what Lions fans expect. He’s gone a little under the radar due to playing alongside guys like Travon Walker, Nakobe Dean, Lewis Cine… the list goes on. However, if White is still on the board at this point, I think that would be an absolute steal for the Lions, who are still looking to get more production out of their inner line of defence.

The Lions actually drafted a couple of defensive tackles in the first rounds last year, but they’re still waiting to see that turn into some real production in terms of accelerating passers. If they can develop these guys, and get a lover like Wyatt, that’s a big deal.

Round Three (66): Leo Chenal, left-back, Wisconsin

I really wanted to have a safe or a linebacker here because I think waiting until 97 or Day 3 is going to be a very long time to address either situation. In the end I had my options to Chenal, Brian Asamoah, Channing Tindall and Damon Clarke at centre-back, and Kirby Joseph, Brian Cook or Nick Cross being safe.

In the end I went with Chenal for several reasons. Not only did the Lions have someone with high speed, but they could also completely stop a running game at the same time for as long as I could remember. Sure, there are obvious concerns about chenal stiffness and coverage limitations, but I’m willing to take that risk and see if these areas can be improved, knowing that it could be elite in other areas.

Third round (97): Brian Cook, Cincinnati

Luckily for me, I was able to get one of those guys I would consider at 66 in 97. The cook would be great for the Lions at the bottom of the third round because they still needed a lot of help being safe. I really like Cook’s value in this place, and I think you could also go some other ways with pick #97. Cook’s teammate, Coby Bryant (CB) was available here and would be a solid choice. The tight end was also a consideration here with Gilani Woods and Kid Otton still on the board.

Cook fits well with the Lions as a split security who is a very effective operational defender and could develop into a primary role if he can improve his covering skills.

Fifth round (177): Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia

For some reason, PFN rated Salyer pretty low (167 on their board), so the Lions get some offensive line depth by crafting the best available player they can start as early as the second round. Salyer started most of his games on the Bulldogs’ left tackle, but he has some experience on the right side, taking shots on the inside line while big bowl week. Salyer is expected to move full-time as an in-line line agent to the next level.

Sixth round (181): James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

If there was no ACL tear to shorten his season, Mitchell would probably consider choosing a late second/early third day. If he can stay healthy, he has the ability to earn some raw shots and use his speed/track ability to create some mismatches.

If the Lions were unable to tackle the tight final situation earlier, they should still have a few decent options at this point in the draft.

Sixth round (217): Max Borghi, right-back, Washington State

With our last pick, it’s time to swing a late run back. At 5ft 9, Borghi wouldn’t be your backbone, but he has very good instincts as a runner for his size and would be a solid target in a passing game. Think of it as a potential change in speed backwards.