Assessing the value of the Detroit Lions’ 2022 draft class

Assessing the value of the Detroit Lions’ 2022 draft class

Only time will tell if the Detroit Lions made good picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean instant analysis can be overlooked.

After months of lead-up to the NFL Draft, many experts across many websites composed their big boards, ranking hundreds of potential NFL prospects. While each of these rankings can be helpful on their own, combining them into a singular board can give a better understanding of which prospects are ranked where.

Thanks to Arif Hasan of The Athletic, such a feat has been accomplished. The 2022 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board is a list of the top 300 prospects based on a compilation of multiple draft boards. Not only has it been a useful tool, but its accuracy has also made it one of the top sources for draft insight. Hasan also posted a follow-up article regarding the biggest steals and reaches of the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as ranking each team’s draft class based on value. Both articles require a subscription to The Athletic, but they are well worth the price.

Speaking of price, how did the Detroit Lions fare with their draft class? Did they strike a good balance between need and value? Let’s take a look.

Round 1: DE Aidan Hutchinson

Consensus big board ranking: 1
Lions draft selection spot: 2

For weeks, people flamed the Detroit Lions for winning a “meaningless” game in Week 18 versus the Green Bay Packers, a win that cost them the top overall pick. Now Jacksonville would have their choice of Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, leaving Detroit with their scraps.

Come draft day, it proved meaningless. Thanks to the meteoric rise of Travon Walker, the Lions ended up getting their choice of either pass rusher anyway. The Lions chose Hutchinson, the consensus top prospect. Interestingly, Walker was eighth on the consensus board. The Lions emerged as winners of the draft right off the bat.

Round 1: WR Jameson Williams

Consensus big board ranking: 13
Lions draft selection spot: 12

A trade-up surprised many, and it led to instant speculation that a quarterback selection was coming. Instead, the Lions opted for wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams was the third-ranked receiver after Garrett Wilson and Drake London. Wilson and London went ahead of Williams as expected (10th overall and eighth overall, respectively), while Chris Olave snuck in ahead of Williams at 11th overall. The Lions took Williams near his projected ranking, so it’s hard to complain about the value.

Round 2: DL Josh Paschal

Consensus big board ranking: 70
Lions draft selection spot: 46

Josh Paschal is the first large deviation from the consensus ranking, going nearly a round earlier than expected. The rankings on Paschal varied significantly. Pro Football Network ranked Paschal 144th overall, Dane Brugler of the Athletic ranked him 83rd, Mel Kiper ranked him 63rd, and PFF had him all the way at 44th.

Interestingly enough, while Brugler had Paschal 83rd in his rankings, he said on The Athletic’s live NFL Draft show during the Lions’ selection that he expected him to go in the second round.

“Before we got started tonight, we were talking about some of the players, and we were talking about Paschal and said, ‘He’s going in the second round. It’s happening,’” Brugler said. “Too many teams like this guy.”

Round 3: S Kerby Joseph

Consensus big board ranking: 96
Lions draft selection spot: 97

The Lions’ pick of Kerby Joseph is near-identical to his consensus ranking. Some fans might be disappointed that the Indianapolis Colts jumped ahead of the Lions for another safety, Nick Cross, but the Lions still received a valuable safety. The next highest-ranked safety was Verone McKinley III (ranked 122nd), who actually ended up undrafted.

Round 5: TE James Mitchell

Consensus big board ranking: 216
Lions draft selection spot: 177

James Mitchell is another player chosen before his consensus ranking, but a torn ACL likely threw off his draft stock. While ranked just 216th on the consensus board, Mitchell was rated highly by Dane Brugler (162nd overall) and PFF (109th overall). If Mitchell can return to form, the Lions could be getting a worthy investment.

Round 6: LB Malcolm Rodriguez

Consensus big board ranking: 170
Lions draft selection spot: 188

Not only did the Lions get good value with Malcolm Rodriguez at 188, but they also got him after a trade down. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up picks 188 and 237 in order to move up to 181; interestingly, they chose a linebacker themselves in Kyron Johnson, a prospect ranked 266th on the consensus board. The Lions will be happy with Rodriguez, who was ranked 140th by Mel Kiper, 132nd by Dane Brugler, and 153rd by PFF.

Round 6: LB/EDGE James Houston

Consensus big board ranking: N/A
Lions draft selection spot: 217

James Houston is the first pick not to appear on the consensus big board. The consensus board is comprised of over 80 analysts, so it is likely that Houston was not among enough of them to qualify for a ranking. Houston was ranked 225th by Mel Kiper, 272nd by Pro Football Network, and 289th by Dane Brugler. Houston was likely a reach by Detroit, but for a late sixth-round pick, it’s not egregious. Plus, former Pride of Detroit writer and creator of Relative Athletic Scores Kent Lee Platte loves the pick:

Round 7: CB Chase Lucas

Consensus big board ranking: 214
Lions draft selection spot: 237

The Lions closed out their draft with another moderate steal. Lucas’ consensus ranking slotted him near the end of the sixth round, and the Lions got him about a half-round later. If you were concerned about the Lions reaching for Houston, you could simply pretend Lucas and Houston swapped draft positions.

Overall

Based purely on value, the Lions had a middling draft class in 2022. Last year’s class put them in the upper echelon of draft value, but their return on investment this year has them towards the middle of the pack:

Given how successful the Lions were at acquiring contributors last season, there’s no reason to panic about this draft class. The Lions got excellent production from Penei Sewell, Alim McNeil, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, while Levi Onwuzurike, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Derrick Barnes, and Jermar Jefferson showed flashes of promise. Even undrafted rookies Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker performed admirably.

There’s no reason to believe the Lions won’t get significant contributors right away. Hutchinson is already a betting favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. While Williams may miss time as he recovers from his ACL injury, there’s no question he’ll be an incredible weapon once healthy. Mitchell is also on the mend from an ACL injury, but he should quickly contend for the TE2 spot. The additions of Paschal, Joseph, Rodriguez, and Houston give Detroit many valuable chess pieces on defense. Even Lucas has a chance to contribute as a rookie in the secondary.

The Lions draft class was ranked highly by many metrics. They earned many A’s and B’s from analysts around the country, while their draft class is among the most athletic in the league. Even if the consensus board doesn’t reflect it, this was a stellar draft class for the Detroit Lions.


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