The NFL offseason hasn’t yet begun, and already Detroit Lions fans are excited as it relates to what the next wave will bring the team for 2022.
So far, the time hasn’t come yet for the team to start on free agency, and the Lions haven’t even had the benefit of looking at the NFL Combine yet, either. In spite of that, there is no better time to reveal the first Heavy on Lions mock draft of the offseason.
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With help of The Draft Network’s simulator, our second mock of the 2021 offseason was put together, and it features the team filling plenty of needs for a very needy roster.
Here’s a look at the debut mock of the offseason.
Round One, Pick Number Two – Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
The Lions need big time help rushing the quarterback, and who better than a local prospect to help them in delivering it? In this mock, the Lions had their choice of either Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. Either is solid and Thibodeaux has upside. Hutchinson, however, offers immediate production.
This year, his work has been even better than it was in the past. Hutchinson has put together a stellar regular season with 14 sacks, 58 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. He looked like one of the best defenders in college football throughout the second half of the season and has been a problem for whatever teams have lined up against him thus far.
Hutchinson hit the podium in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, and with the Lions, he could be expected to become the face of a new-look defense. He would perfectly embody
Round One, Pick 32 – Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia
If the board fell like this for the Lions, they’d likely do cartwheels up to the podium to grab Dean, one of the top linebackers in the draft. Many expect Dean to be gone in the teens or perhaps earlier, but in this simulation, he plummeted.
Dean had a solid career with the Bulldogs putting up 168 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes defended to go with 3 forced fumbles. The tape shows what an explosive athlete he is:
By drafting Dean, the Lions would have effectively shored up one of their biggest holes from the 2021 season at linebacker. Pairing him with Derrick Barnes could make for a very formidable duo in a few years as the pair learns the league together.
Round Two, Pick 34 – Jahan Dotson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
The Lions have a need for a young big-time playmaking down field wideout regardless of what they do in free agency, and Dotson fits the bill. Penn State has put more than its fair share of elite wideouts into the league lately such as Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson, and Dotson looks like the next player poised to walk in their footsteps. With Penn State, Dotson put up solid numbers en-route to being first-team All-Big Ten in 2021 as well as a third-team All-American. He collected 2,757 yards and 25 touchdowns in a very solid four-year career with the Nittany Lions.
Here’s a look at some of his top highlights from a sterling 2021 season:
Adding Dotson to the offense would be a big win for Detroit, and would allow Jared Goff to get his hands on yet another weapon he could grow with in the offense.
Round Three, Pick 66 – Sam Howell, Quarterback, North Carolina
Obviously, Howell isn’t everyone’s cup of tea early on in the draft, but if he were to slip into the third-round, the Lions would have to consider him if not pull the trigger on drafting him. In this scenario, that is what happens. Detroit has a developmental quarterback that they can begin to push for a possible future role as a starter.
Howell had thrown for 7,227 yards in his career and 68 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions entering this season. In 2021, Howell threw for 3,056 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a result, he is trending toward being one of the better pro prospects that can be picked, even if some folks have nitpicked him thus far in the process.
Here’s a look at some of Howell’s highlights from 2020:
Adding Howell would represent the first quarterback the Lions have drafted since Brad Kaaya in 2017, and it would be a smart move to have someone in the mix.
Round Three, Pick 97 – Coby Bryant, Cornerback, Cincinnati
Perhaps the best name in the class, Bryant would come to Detroit with a little “Mamba Mentality” of his own off a solid career with the Bearcats. During the Senior Bowl, the Lions got an up-close look at Bryant, and had to come away impressed with what the gritty corner was able to do. In his career with Cincinnati, Bryant put up 170 tackles and 9 interceptions. Here’s a look at his tape:
Detroit needs some cornerback help and Bryant will add to the depth of a young group that could be on the verge of breaking out in the years ahead.
Round Five, Pick 176 – Leon O’Neill Jr,, Safety, Texas A&M
The Lions have lacked some nasty for quite a while on defense, and O’Neill is perhaps the one player best suited to help in that revival in this draft class at safety. Detroit needs some thump and a player who is capable of covering ground, which is just what O’Neill did in his time with the Aggies, to go with some big hits. Statistically, he put up 161 tackles and 6 interceptions in his career along with 12 passes defended. More important than that was the edge and mentality he plays with.
O’Neill probably goes higher than the fifth-round, but the Lions could nab him with a middle-round pick and shore up plenty of their issues over the middle of the field. He’d be a great developmental prospect for Aaron Glenn and Aubrey Pleasant.
Round Six, Pick 179 – Velus Jones, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Detroit is suddenly much deeper at wideout after this late selection out of the SEC. Jones has put up 1,434 yards and 11 touchdowns during his career, which spanned from USC to Tennessee. For a team that could crave a hidden gem, he might be on a few more radars now after a solid day of 53 yards receiving in Mobile, Alabama. The pass-catcher starved Lions should have been all-eyes to that performance, as well as some of his college tape.
Double dipping at wideout late in a deep class is a good plan for the Lions, and Jones should be on Detroit’s radar now given what he was able to do at the Senior Bowl.
Round Seven, Pick 217 – Kobie Whiteside, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
A few rounds later and the Lions snatch up yet another Kobie, this one with a different last name but an equally strong game. Detroit’s defensive renovation continues with Whiteside, a player who is a force in the middle of a line that can provide some pass rush punch. To that end, he’s a lot like Levi Onwuzurike, who he could partner well with up front.
Whiteside put up 81 tackles and 10.5 sacks in his career with the Tigers, and that is good production for a player who is being snapped up with a seventh-round selection.
An active player who could help the culture of change in the trenches, Whiteside is the kind of presence the Lions could use for their line development.
Round Seven, Pick 231 – Connor Heyward, Tight End, Michigan State
Detroit needs tight end depth badly and another local prospect provides it late. The son of former Pittsburgh legend Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and current Steelers star Cameron Heyward has good NFL bloodlines and would fit the mold of what the Lions are trying to build from a toughness standpoint. He also has great stats, with 825 rushig yards and 5 touchdowns to go with 711 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Here’s a look at one of his best plays of the 2021 season:
Heyward could be a sneaky good addition to the Lions, and could help improve the team’s depth at tight end as well as offer a potential dual role for the offense. He seems to fit what Dan Campbell and the staff is about already, which could put him firmly on the team’s radar for the draft.
Round Seven, Pick 239 – Marquis Hayes, Guard, Oklahoma
The Lions don’t have much of a need along the offensive front right now, which would make a gamble on a player like Hayes all the better if he develops as hoped. At 6-5 and 324 pounds, Hayes has NFL size already and could be developed into a tough player. He’s been a solid run blocker and pass blocker in his time in college football for Oklahoma, picking up elite run blocking and pass blocking grades in 2020. He was also an Academic All-Big 12 player in that timeframe.
The Lions have no pressure to draft a lineman, but someone like Hayes could help provide them some depth up front for the future that could become a solid player in time.
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