The Detroit Lions had a taste of what life is like without quarterback Jared Goff in Week 16’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and while backup Tim Boyle wasn’t a total abomination, his performance certainly increased the appreciation for what Goff has been able to do in what’s been a very challenging first year for Lions coach Dan Campbell.
I recently wrote about Goff potentially playing his way into another year as Detroit’s starter following his quality performance in the Lions’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, and a quick glance at the latest mock draft from The Draft Network’s Brentley Weissman paints a picture in which Detroit doesn’t pick a quarterback with either of their two first-rounders. As a result, the Lions could actually be Goff’s team in 2022.
The first of the Lions’ two selections in Weissman’s mock is essentially chalk. Whether it’s Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Detroit should land a premier pass-rusher with their first selection, as they do at No. 2 overall in the Oregon Ducks star.
The No. 1 player on my personal board, Kayvon Thibodeaux drops to No. 2 in this mock draft. A prodigy out of high school who more than lived up to the hype, Thibodeaux has the makings to be an electric pass rusher off the edge. He is blessed with outstanding quickness, power, and flexibility to bend the arc and has proven to come up big when it matters most. His football character is outstanding and will fit in perfectly with what head coach Dan Campbell is trying to build in Detroit.
Thibodeaux has the potential to be a culture-changing pick for a Lions defense that lacks real star power. Detroit currently ranks near the bottom five in total defense but can quickly flip to a much stronger unit with a pass-rusher like Thibodeaux. Meanwhile, the offense has proven it can at least function on a competent level with Goff, making a strategy centered around defense with the Lions’ first pick a wise one.
Sure, there’s no quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft who’s worthy of being picked second overall, but Weissman’s no-quarterback strategy extends to Detroit’s second first-rounder at No. 30 overall as well, where he has the Lions selecting USC standout wide receiver, Drake London.
Before going down with an injury in the middle of the college football season, USC wide receiver Drake London was on pace for a historic season. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver is more than just your typical jump-ball receiver. He runs outstanding routes, is smooth and fluid, and is a monster after the catch. The Lions desperately need more pass-catchers and London can step in and immediately be this team’s No. 1 receiver.
London would make it back-to-back drafts that Detroit taps into USC’s wide receiver room, and why not? Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown is having a fantastic rookie season highlighted by the last four games in which he’s had no fewer than eight catches, at least 73 or more yards, and three total touchdowns. He’s quickly emerged as one of the best value picks of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Making the London pick even better is that the role he’d play for the Lions is completely different from what St. Brown does well. He’d be more of a downfield threat, a true alpha; a No.1 guy. St. Brown, meanwhile, is a fantastic intermediate target with run-after-the-catch ability. If you believe in the theory that the best wide receiver corps are built like a basketball team—a specific guy with specific traits for each role—then a combination of London and St. Brown would be a really good blend of size, power, and quicks.
Adding a player like London helps Detroit’s quarterback situation, too. Even a player with an average skill set like Goff can thrive with that kind of duo of pass-catchers. Simply put, it’s a great pick.
Get ready for this narrative—a quarterback-less first round for Detroit—to become the prevailing theme as the 2022 NFL Draft inches closer. This year’s cluster of passers, while solid, won’t offer an obvious upgrade over Goff, giving a mock draft like Weissman’s a very good chance of becoming reality.