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Assessing the value of the Detroit Lions’ 2022 draft class

Only time will tell if the Detroit Lions made good choices in the 2022 NFL Draft, but that does not mean instant analysis can be overlooked.

After months of preparation for the NFL Draft, many experts across many sites composed their major boards, ranking hundreds of potential NFL prospects. While each of these placements can be useful in itself, a combination of them into a single whiteboard can provide a better understanding of which leads are located where.

Thanks to Arif Hasan of The Athletic, such an achievement has been achieved. The 2022 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board is a list of the 300 best leads based on a collection of multiple draft boards. Not only has it been a useful tool, but its accuracy has also made it one of the best sources of draft insight. Hasan also posted a follow-up article on the biggest steals and range 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 cope with their draft class? Did they find a good balance between need and value? Let’s see.

Round 1: DE Aidan Hutchinson

Consensus major board placement: 1
Lions draft pick: 2

For weeks, people set fire to the Detroit Lions to win a “pointless” game in Week 18 against the Green Bay Packers, a victory that cost them the top overall pick. Now Jacksonville wanted their choice of Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, leaving Detroit with their scraps.

When the draft comes, it turned out to be pointless. Thanks to the sharp rise of Travon Walker, the Lions still ended up getting their choice of both pass-rusher. The Lions chose Hutchinson, the consensus top prospect. Interestingly, Walker was number eight on the consensus board. The Lions came out as winners of the draft straight from the hand.

Round 1: WR Jameson Williams

Consensus major board placement: 13
Lions draft pick: 12

A swap deal surprised many, and it led to immediate speculation that a quarterback takeout was on the way. Instead, the Lions chose wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams was the third-ranked recipient after Garrett Wilson and Drake London. Wilson and London went as expected ahead of Williams (10th overall and eighth overall, respectively), while Chris Olave snuck in front of Williams in an overall 11th place. The Lions took Williams close to his expected position, so it’s hard to complain about the value.

Round 2: DL Josh Paschal

Consensus major board placement: 70
Lions draft pick: 46

Josh Paschal is the first major deviation from the consensus rankings, going almost a round earlier than expected. The locations on Paschal varied considerably. Pro Football Network placed Paschal as 144th overall, Dane Brugler of Athletic placed him in 83rd place, Mel Kiper placed him in 63rd place, and PFF had him all the way in 44th place.

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

“Before we started tonight, we talked about some of the players and we talked about Paschal and said, ‘He goes into the second round. It happens,'” Brugler said. “Too many teams like this guy.”

Round 3: S Kerby Joseph

Consensus major board placement: 96
Lions draft pick: 97

The Lions’ choice of Kerby Joseph is almost identical to his consensus ranking. Some fans may be disappointed that the Indianapolis Colts jumped ahead of the Lions for another safety, Nick Cross, but the Lions still received valuable safety. The second highest ranked safety was Verone McKinley III (placed 122nd), who actually ended up without a draft.

Round 5: TE James Mitchell

Consensus major board placement: 216
Lions draft pick: 177

James Mitchell is another player selected before his consensus ranking, but a torn ACL likely threw off his draft share. While Mitchell was only ranked 216th on the consensus table, Mitchell was rated highly by Dane Brugler (162nd overall) and PFF (109th overall). If Mitchell can return to form, the Lions can get a worthy investment.

Round 6: LB Malcolm Rodriguez

Consensus major board placement: 170
Lions draft pick: 188

Not only did the Lions get good value with Malcolm Rodriguez at 188, but they also got him after a barter. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up selections 188 and 237 to move up to 181; Interestingly, they even chose a linebacker in Kyron Johnson, a lead ranked No. 266 in the consensus panel. Lions will be happy for Rodriguez, who was ranked No. 140 by Mel Kiper, No. 132 by Dane Brugler and No. 153 by PFF.

Round 6: LB / EDGE James Houston

Consensus major board placement: REACH
Lions draft pick: 217

James Houston is the first choice not to appear on the big consensus board. The consensus board is made up of over 80 analysts, so it’s likely 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 probably a reach of Detroit, but for a late election in the sixth round, it is not violent. Plus, former Pride of Detroit writer and creator of Relative Athletic Scores Kent Lee Platte loves the choice:

Round 7: CB Chase Lucas

Consensus major board placement: 214
Lions draft pick: 237

The Lions closed their draft with yet another moderate theft. Lucas’ consensus ranking put him close to the end of the sixth round, and the Lions got him about half a round later. If you were worried the Lions were going to reach Houston, you could just pretend Lucas and Houston swapped draft positions.

Overall

Purely based on value, Lions had a middle class in draft in 2022. Last year’s class placed them at the top level of draft value, but their return on investment this year has them in the middle of the flock:

Given how successful Lions were in recruiting contributors last season, there is no need to panic about this draft class. 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 glimpses of promise. Even outdated rookies Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker played excellently.

There is no reason to believe that Lions do not get significant contributors right away. Hutchinson is already a betting favorite for this year’s defensive rookie. While Williams may miss out on time when he recovers from his ACL injury, there is no doubt he will be an incredible weapon once he is healthy. Mitchell is also recovering from an ACL injury, but he should quickly fight for the TE2 spot. The additions of Paschal, Joseph, Rodriguez and Houston provide Detroit with many valuable chess pieces in defense. Even Lucas has a chance to contribute as a rookie in the secondary.

The Lions draft class was ranked high after many measurements. 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. While the consensus panel does not reflect that, this was a great draft class for the Detroit Lions.

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