While baseball is right around the corner and the NCAA Tournament is in full swing, something else is bubbling up under the surface for sports fans in Michigan — hope for the Detroit Lions.
That’s right, it may only be March, but the Lions faithful have to be excited for what 2022 — and beyond — is going to bring.
Of course, it all starts on April 28, when the Lions have a pair of first-round picks — at least for the time being — in this year’s NFL draft.
Starting at the top, then: The Lions currently hold the No. 2 pick in the draft, and it’s an open secret that if he’s there, University of Michigan edge rusher Aiden Hutchinson will be staying home. Only hitch? He may not be there, as he’s currently the heavy favorite to be picked first by the Jacksonville Jaguars, with odds as high as -420 on FanDuel.
So what do the Lions do? Well, whoever knows the answer to that question can make a pretty penny, as the oddsmakers are all over the board.
Safety? Edge? Quarterback?
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton? To go second, he’s +600 at FOX Bet, but +350 at DraftKings. Liberty’s Malik Willis? As high as +500 on DraftKings. University of Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux? He’s +350 on FOX Bet, but +1400 at FanDuel. University of Georgia edge rusher (and fast-riser in mocks) Travon Walker? Hovering in the +400 range everywhere.
So who do the Lions grab here? Plenty of mock drafts have Hamilton as the pick, as the safety is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. In short: He can be a game-changer for defenses and would seem to fit right into coach Dan Campbell’s knee-biting ways.
NFL mock draft roundup: Safety Kyle Hamilton getting more love to Detroit Lions at Pick 2 https://t.co/cOoBKtQRKU
— Muskegon Chronicle (@MuskegonChron) March 21, 2022
As for Willis going No. 2? Seems unlikely the Lions would reach for Willis here, but … perhaps another quarterback-hungry team will. This draft has long been considered subpar all around, and if the Lions can muster up a few extra picks making it worthwhile to trade down — if Hutchinson isn’t available — that would not be a surprise.
How about Walker or Thibodeaux? The former is rising in mock drafts, while the latter was expected to be the No. 1 pick before draft season even started.
Of course, the Lions also have the last pick in the first round, courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams. And while there are no draft markets for that pick right now, it’s certainly a pick to watch, as this is where the Lions might roll the dice on a quarterback. Willis and Kenny Pickett of the University of Pittsburgh will be long gone, but Desmond Ridder of the University of Cincinnati, Matt Corral of the University of Mississippi, and Sam Howell of the University of North Carolina all may be ripe for the picking.
Of course, that assumes the Lions don’t trade for Baker Mayfield, as rumors have the displaced Browns quarterback as a good fit for what Campbell is trying to do with the team.
If Baker Mayfield is out in Cleveland, the Lions should consider bringing him in. He'd fit perfectly with the team's current attitude and mindset. https://t.co/pG5sIUoL7f
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 16, 2022
And while the draft is key, let’s not forget the Lions have been active on the free agent front, most notably signing former Jaguar field-stretcher D.J. Chark to a one-year deal and re-signing fellow wideout Josh Reynolds.
Add in a healthy DeAndre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, along with the phenom in the slot, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and a solid, bordering on dominant offensive line, and the steady if unspectacular hand of Jared Goff behind center and … would ya look at that: The Lions offense might be something to look forward to next year.
And if they land Hutchinson or Hamilton to shore up the defense, all of a sudden the Lions’ +1300 odds at BetRivers to win the NFC Central Division start looking like a value. (For the time being, we’ll hold off on the +7500 odds at DraftKings to win the NFC and the +15000 odds at BetMGM to win the Super Bowl.)
All things considered, the arrow is pointing up for the Lions. Wake us when minicamp starts.
Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY