The Detroit Lions are blasting into the 2022 offseason with some momentum, and with the playoffs now set to dwindle down every weekend until the Super Bowl, it’s almost time to begin thinking about the NFL draft on a permanent basis.
In recent weeks, there’s been plenty of mock drafts released that show different things, and while there is clarity on where the Lions will pick, the same cannot be said for who the team might select when all is said and done.
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Most folks believe the team could look to select a defensive lineman when they pick, either Michigan’s Aiden Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. So far, that theme has been the closest that anyone has gotten to a consensus at this point, and there have even been outliers to that approach.
ESPN’s guru tandem of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have weighed in a few times on what they think could happen, and it seems that they are sticking with the early notion that the defensive line will see the first two selections in the 2022 draft.
Speaking on the First Draft podcast, Kiper and McShay took turns revealing a top five mock in real-time, and while Kiper made the first pick of Hutchinson to Jacksonville, McShay didn’t deviate at all in sending Thibodeaux to the Lions to help support a needy defensive line.
As for the explanation, McShay said that without clear-cut players at other spots of need, the Lions could simply take one of the best players in the draft as he sees it and help a spot which is also a big need on their current roster.
“I’m the Lions. I’ve got a quarterback need. There’s no quarterback to take there at number two. We pick again late in the first-round with our traded pick, our second of our two first-round picks this year. Maybe you get the quarterback there. Sitting here, offensive tackle isn’t a need like it is for Jacksonville or even the Jets. I think you go with the second-best edge rusher or maybe it’s first-best edge rusher on your board depending on the team picking and that’s Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon,” McShay said. “They need a edge rusher, that’s probably the biggest need outside of quarterback, I’d say wideout, cornerback, linebacker are other positions of need. Let’s face it, they have several positions to upgrade on that Detroit roster. I think edge is up there near the top. You’re splitting hairs between Hutchinson and Thibodeaux. Hutchinson is the more complete player now, Thibodeaux has more athletic upside. You’re excited to get 1 or 1A at that number two pick. I think Thibodeaux would be the pick here if Hutchinson is off the board.”
Whether or not Thibodeau is the pick or another player at a different spot climbs up the board remains to be seen, but at this point in time, the Lions could benefit from taking one of the better overall talents in the entire draft from an athletic standpoint.
Lions Have Been Said to Favor Thibodeaux During Draft
According to USA Today NFL insider Josina Anderson last month, if the draft was to happen now and the Lions had the top pick, the “current mindset” would have been for the team to select Thibodeaux from Oregon. That’s news which Anderson tweeted at the time.
The Lions, of course, didn’t end up with the top pick overall, but many have speculated that Thibodeaux could still end up in the second slot much like McShay alluded to in this mock. Should Jacksonville not take Hutchinson, the Lions could have their pick of either defender, putting this theory to the ultimate test.
The pick of Thibodeaux would represent a bit of an upset, because the Lions and others have watched Hutchinson come on strong late in the 2021 season en-route to a runner up finish for the Heisman Trophy. Even such, Thibodeaux figures to be neck and neck with him in terms of the player figured to go near the top of the draft and the Lions will now have to invest time into deciding who fits them best in the event they can select between the two in April.
Thibodeaux’s Stats & Highlights
Thibodeaux is an interesting prospect considering his penchant for getting to the quarterback and making big plays up front. Coming into this season, Thibodeaux had collected 90 career tackles, 14 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss thus far in his college career. In 2021, he followed that up with a decent year given 49 tackles, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Here’s some of his top work on the field:
It’s obvious that Thibodeaux has the physical tools to be great, so it will be interesting to see how he tests and what the offseason process looks like. That will be his next step, even as he continues to see love in mock drafts for the Lions.