Detroit Lions: Is Jermaine Johnson a real possibility at no. 2?

Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

With all eyes seemingly on Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Malik Willis, Kyle Hamilton, Sauce Gardner, and Travon Walker, perhaps Jermaine Johnson is the prospect that fits the current mold the Detroit Lions desperately seek.

The Florida State product blossomed this past season, totaling 12 sacks and 70 tackles and forcing a pair of fumbles this past season, leading the Seminole defense.

Johnson wouldn’t exactly be a reach if Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes elected to draft him with the no. 2 overall choice in the 2022 NFL Draft. Still, he hasn’t been linked much to Detroit throughout the offseason to this point, that is, until now.

Recently, Detroit Lions beat writer for the Detroit Free Press (subscription), Dave Birkett, placed Johnson as the pick at no. 2 for the Lions in his most recent mock draft.  My initial reaction upon reading the article was being a bit surprised and wanting to further educate myself on the idea of selecting Johnson over, say, Thibodeaux or Walker.  Spoiler alert, Birkett has swayed me a bit towards Johnson.

Jermaine Johnson to the Detroit Lions?

In an ideal situation, the Detroit Lions find a way to trade back a couple of spots, add additional draft capital, and select Johnson.  I prefer this route rather than choosing the FSU product straight-up at no. 2.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hoping the Detroit Lions come away with two Georgia Bulldogs with their first three picks.  I hope that Hutchinson remains available when Detroit is on the board at two, but as each hour passes, he seems destined to be selected by the Jaguars first overall.  That leaves Thibodeaux, who is a tremendous athlete with the makings of becoming an elite pass-rusher at the next level.

There is one concerning question surrounding the Oregon product; how much does he love football?

The Detroit Lions are not in a position to draft a player second overall and worry about whether or not said player wants to be a part of the organization or if he fits the culture Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are trying to build.

Again, Thibodeaux is a phenomenal prospect, and his off-field issues are nothing more than wondering if he’s more concerned about building his brand rather than sacking NFL quarterbacks.  With all that in mind, drafting Thibodeaux comes with risk; he seems like he’d be more inclined to land in New York rather than Detroit.

Then we’ve got the emergence of Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

The Detroit Lions are in dire need of adding their next franchise quarterback, and while Willis has all the tools to be a star in the modern NFL with his ability to elude the rush and the arm strength to strike deep down the field, he’s still considered to be a project quarterback.  I’ve found myself flipping back and forth with Willis, and although (at this point) I wouldn’t pick him second overall pick, I’d be open to taking him at no. 32 if he happened to be available (unlikely).

That is a different opinion from the ones I’ve published in the past.  I have been entirely against ‘wasting’ a draft pick on a project quarterback late in the first round or beyond, but I’ve recently shifted gears on that opinion.

The only signal-caller in the entire draft I’d entertain drafting at this point is Willis, just not at no. 2.  I like Willis; it seems like he has a wonderful attitude, appears to be coachable, and has displayed remarkable leadership qualities.

Then we’ve got the whole Kyle Hamilton idea.  I believe Hamilton is a terrific NFL prospect and the best safety in the draft.  That being said, I have a hard time taking a safety with the no. 2 overall pick.  We’ve been down this road recently when the Detroit Lions selected corner Jeff Okudah no. 3 overall leaving the likes of Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, and Derrick Brown on the board, albeit this was a different regime.

It’s tough to justify drafting a corner, safety, or linebacker this high.  These top-of-the-draft picks are historically used on offensive tackles, edge-rushers, and quarterbacks.  Plus, I believe the Detroit Lions will have an opportunity to draft a starting safety late in the first round or early in the second.  I don’t see much of a drop-off from Hamilton to Lewis Cine, Daxton Hill, or Jaquon Brisker.

I know people will take my comments out of context. I’m simply stating what I’d do right now, roughly five weeks ahead of the draft. I don’t dislike any of these prospects I’ve mentioned, and if the Lions elect to take any of them with the no. 2 overall pick, I will support it, as long as they can justify it and continue to build the roster.

Johnson transferred from Georgia to play his final collegiate season with Florida State and sure missed out on a National Championship but padded his pockets instead.  The Bulldogs deployed a historic defense, but Johnson was overlooked in Georgia playing primarily as a stand-up end/outside linebacker to an elite edge-rusher with FSU.

Next. 3 WRs the Detroit Lions need to target in round 3. dark

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There is another obvious connection between the Detroit Lions and Johnson.  The Detroit Lions served as a coaching staff at this year’s Senior Bowl, where Johnson put on a show.  Johnson also shined at the NFL Combine, running a 4.58 40-time.  Keep your eye on Johnson over the coming weeks.