The Detroit Lions enter the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday with their pick at second overall and 32nd overall, which they received as part of the return for Matthew Stafford. The front office has made it clear they plan to build the team’s core through the draft as, through two years, the Lions have elected not to sign any players to big long-term deals.
With the rookie wage scale, this strategy can be incredibly effective at building long-term contenders like the Ravens and Chiefs. Still, for it to work, the Detroit Lions front office must hit on a majority of their picks, especially the early ones.
The returns from Brad Holmes’s first draft class have been promising with young studs such as Peneii Sewell, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Alim McNeil.
Check out this Detroit Lions draft big board.
Here is how the Lions’ first-round big board could shake out as he looks to follow with another solid class. Take a look at each tier and see where players you want the Lions to select slot in.
Tier One: Elite Edge Rushers
1. Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Through the draft process, it appears that Aidan Hutchinson has separated himself from the group as the favorite for the first overall pick, but if he is there at second overall, the Lions should be ready to pounce. Hutchinson is an incredibly well-rounded prospect who should enter the league immediately as a good starter. He is a great athlete, has advanced pass-rushing moves, is an effective run defender, and is a fabulous locker room presence.
His bend isn’t at Von Miller/Myles Garrett level, which could limit his upside, but with his motor and skills, he should be able to overcome this and be a disruptive force on the line. Hutchinson looks like a sure-fire high-end starter on the defensive line that the Lions should be happy to scoop up with the second overall pick.
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
After Hutchinson, the debate for Lions fans is between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Travon Walker to, very different prospects despite playing the same position. Thibodeaux is a true edge rusher who will lineup outside the tackle and get to the passer, and getting to the passer is what Thibodeaux excels at.
Thibodeaux is a long, lean athlete with great bend off the edge to pair with good pass rush moves and the ability to convert speed to power. He has the looks and skill of a great pass rusher right off the bat. The run game is where Thibodeaux will have to improve in the NFL. He will need to put on weight to hold the edge against an NFL lineman consistently, but that is doable in a pro weight room. Overall, Thibodeaux has a slight edge over Walker due to the demand for elite pass rushers.
3. Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
While Thibodeaux is a pure edge rusher, Travon Walker is a more versatile piece that can be moved all around the defensive front. The first thing teams will discuss with Walker is his freaky athleticism. Quite frankly, 272-pound people should not be able to run a 4.51 40-yard dash and produce a 6.89 three-cone drill. For context, that places him in the 99.9th percentile for defensive ends, according to RAS.
Walker’s athleticism is apparent on the field as he flies around the field and is a chore for offensive linemen to move. Walker could improve on getting to the passer. He will need to work on developing a better pass rush plan and counters to his moves which is very doable with the help of an NFL coaching staff. Walker deserves heavy consideration at pick two because if he can develop his pass-rushing moves, he will be an inside-out force on the defensive line for years to come.