Former Lion ‘Willing to Bet House’ Team Drafts Key Position Early

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Getty Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux on October 15, 2021.

What the Detroit Lions decide to do in the upcoming NFL draft seems to be anyone’s guess at this point in time, but some of the more astute folks have been lining up to make some educated guesses at what will happen.

The Lions have needs across the roster at this point in time, so figuring out a biggest spot of need can seem like a difficult discussion to have. In spite of that, some needs seem to have remained constant for the Lions through the process, and they’ve shown themselves in the last few months.

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One person who could be a little more tuned in than the average person to the process is former quarterback turned ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky seems to understand and grasp what the Lions could be aiming to do, and that is why he took to Twitter to make an educated guess about what the Lions will do when all is said and done in a few weeks time with their top pick. As Orlovsky said, he thinks defensive

“Brad Holmes the Lions GM was with the Rams when they took, in the matter of a 5 year span: Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers. All DL. All in the first-round. They were foundation of turning LAR around. With the second pick, I’m willing to bet the house DET goes DL,” Orlovsky tweeted.

The point Orlovsky makes is a good one, and one of the last times the Lions grabbed a top defensive lineman with a top five pick it worked out well in the form of Ndamukong Suh. Such a player poised for a similar impact could be had this year, either in the form of Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux or Travon Walker. Any of those players could be in play when the Lions select, and all could be seen as elite options to help in building Detroit’s defense.

Orlovsky was on a team with Suh and seems to understand that Holmes will know the key to sustained success revolves around the team’s ability to get after it in the trenches.

Holmes Prioritized Defensive Line Additions in 2021

It might not be that much of a bold prediction in the end to assume the Lions will draft for defensive line early on. In fact, last year, Holmes himself showed that he understood the importance of the position when he was on the clock with some of his first selections. The Lions made a pair of picks designed to help their defensive line in back-to-back rounds. In the second-round, the team nabbed Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike. One round later, Holmes went with the line again grabbing Alim McNeill from North Carolina State. Here’s what McNeill accomplished as a rookie:

Alim McNeill 2021-2022 HighlightsI don't own the music/pictures/video in this video Song is: Petey Pablo – Rise Up 2021-2022 Alim McNeill Detroit Lions highlights2022-01-29T17:05:09Z

Both players excelled on the field statistically, combining for 74 tackles and 3 sacks as rookie defensive lineman. Onwuzurike battled injured much of the season, but still showed his worth most of the year and came on strong down the stretch. McNeill was good almost from start to finish, showing that Holmes may have a good eye for talent in the trenches. That could bode well if he decides to go in on the position once again for 2022.

Lions Defense Hasn’t Seen Major Offseason Improvements

Doing anything other than selecting for defense with the second-overall selection could be seen as a luxury pick for Detroit. In terms of what the Lions have done to improve a middling defense, the team hasn’t made many dramatic moves, especially up front. The Lions have only re-signed players such as edge rusher Charles Harris, safety Tracy Walker and linebacker Alex Anzalone. All of those players were present on a Detroit defense that suffered miserably in 2021 on the field and was wildly inconsistent. Outside move-wise, the Lions only added cornerback Mike Hughes, linebackers Chris Board and Jarrad Davis and safety DeShon Elliott. While solid decisions, none of those moves would qualify as significant in the end, or perhaps enough to get an average team over the hump for sustained results in 2022.

With this in mind, the Lions are facing a situation where the draft will be vital for their sustained improvement on the field. The biggest needs the team has currently are on the defensive side, and getting after the quarterback is a huge part of that need for the team. To that end, Orlovsky’s prediction feels like it could be spot on for the first move the team will make.

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