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 glossed over.

In the months leading up to the NFL Draft, many pundits on many websites created their big boards, ranking hundreds of potential NFL prospects. While each of these rankings can be useful on their own, combining them into a single dashboard can give you a better understanding of which prospects are ranking where.

Thanks to Arif Hasan of The Athletic, such a feat has been achieved. The 2022 NFL Draft Big Consensus 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 main sources of preliminary information. Hasan also posted a follow-up article on the biggest steals and ranges from 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 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? We’ll see.

Round 1: DE Aidan Hutchinson

Consensus Big Board Ranking: one
Lions draft pick spot: two

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

Come the day of the draft, it turned out meaningless. Thanks to the meteoric rise of Travon Walker, the Lions ended up picking either pass-rusher anyway. The Lions chose Hutchinson, the consensus top prospect. Interestingly, Walker was eighth at the consensus meeting. The Lions emerged as draft winners early on.

Round 1: WR Jameson Williams

Consensus Big Board Ranking: 13
Lions draft pick spot: 12

One trade surprised many and sparked instant speculation that a quarterback pick was on the way. Instead, the Lions went with wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams was the third-ranked receiver after Garrett Wilson and Drake London. Wilson and London edged out Williams as expected (10th and 8th overall, respectively), while Chris Olave snuck past Williams in 11th overall. The Lions carried Williams close to his projected rating, so it’s hard to complain about value.

Round 2: DL Josh Pascual

Consensus Big Board Ranking: 70
Lions draft pick spot: 46

Josh Paschal is the first big departure from the consensus standings, going nearly a round earlier than expected. The rankings in Pascual varied significantly. Pro Football Network ranked Paschal 144th overall, the Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked him 83rd, Mel Kiper ranked him 63rd, and PFF had him 44th.

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

“Before we started tonight, we were talking about some of the players, and we were talking about Paschal and we said, ‘He’s going to 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 pick spot: 97

Kerby Joseph’s Lions pick 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 a valuable safety. The next-highest-ranked safety was Verone McKinley III (ranked 122nd), who actually went undrafted.

Round 5: TE James Mitchell

Consensus Big Board Ranking: 216
Lions draft pick spot: 177

James Mitchell is another player picked earlier than his consensus ranking, but a torn ACL likely destroyed his draft stock. While ranked 216th on the consensus board, Mitchell was highly rated by Dane Brugler (162 overall) and PFF (109 overall). If Mitchell can get back into shape, the Lions could be getting a bang for their buck.

Round 6: LB Malcolm Rodriguez

Consensus Big Board Ranking: 170
Lions draft pick spot: 188

The Lions not only got good value on Malcolm Rodriguez at 188, they also got him after a trade. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up picks 188 and 237 to move to 181; Interestingly, they themselves picked a linebacker 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 pick spot: 217

James Houston is the first pick not to appear on the big consensus board. The consensus board is made up of more than 80 analysts, so Houston likely wasn’t among enough 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 catch for Detroit, but for a late sixth-round pick, he’s not atrocious. Also, former Pride of Detroit writer and Relative Athletic Scores creator Kent Lee Platte loves the choice:

Round 7: CB Chase Lucas

Consensus Big Board Ranking: 214
Lions draft pick spot: 237

The Lions closed out their draft with another moderate steal. Lucas’ consensus rating put him near the bottom of the sixth round, and the Lions got him about a half-round later. If he was worried about the Lions catching up with Houston, he could just pretend that Lucas and Houston traded draft positions.

General

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

Given how successful the Lions were in acquiring contributors last season, there’s no reason to panic about this kind of draft. The Lions got excellent production from Penei Sewell, Alim McNeil and Amon-Ra St. Brown, while Levi Onwuzurike, Ifatu 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 lose time as he recovers from his ACL injury, there’s no question he’ll be an incredible weapon once he’s healthy. Mitchell is also recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but should compete quickly for the TE2 spot. The additions of Paschal, Joseph, Rodriguez and Houston give Detroit a lot of valuable chess pieces on defense. Even Lucas gets a chance to contribute as a freshman in high school.

The Lions draft class ranked high by many metrics. They’ve gotten plenty of A’s and B’s from analysts across 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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