2022 NFL Offseason: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions (Last Year: 3-13-1)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR D.J. Chark, LB Chris Board, LB Jarrad Davis, CB Mike Hughes.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams, DE Josh Paschal, S Kerby Joseph, TE James Mitchell. Lions Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Josh Reynolds, OT Tyrell Crosby, DE Trey Flowers, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

2022 Detroit Lions Offense:
Jared Goff has gotten lots of flak, something that will increase now that Matthew Stafford won a Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams. However, Goff quarterbacked the Rams to deep playoff appearances in multiple years. Granted, he was far from the reason why the Rams were great each year, but he also wasn’t a liability while the Rams were earning countless victories throughout each regular season. Goff has proven that he can pilot the ship steadily versus bad and mediocre competition if there is an abundance of talent around him.

That must be acknowledged because for the first time since the Calvin Johnson era, the Lions have an abundance of talent around their quarterback. Their receiving corps was quite horrid to begin the 2021 season, but things changed late in the year when Amon-Ra St. Brown exploded. St. Brown caught at least eight passes in each of his final six games, giving him 90 receptions during his rookie campaign. Drawing comparisons to Hines Ward, St. Brown should continue to improve now that he has experience. What St. Brown didn’t have last year was capable receiving threats around him, save for talented tight end T.J. Hockenson. Now, D.J. Chark is on the roster as a dynamic second wideout. That is, until rookie receiver Jameson Williams is ready to play. Williams, chosen with the No. 12 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, would have likely been a top-five pick had he not been coming off a torn ACL. The Lions may have to wait until the second half of the year for Williams, but his presence will give Goff a third dynamic receiving threat.

Goff will also be able to lean on his talented running backs. D’Andre Swift’s rushing numbers weren’t very impressive last year – 617 yards, five touchdowns – but that’s because he shared the workload with Jamaal Williams. Swift shined as a receiving threat of the backfield, catching 62 passes.

A bad offensive line would ruin the whole thing for the Lions, but they actually have a stellar blocking unit. Their tackle tandem is excellent. If Penei Sewell makes a jump in his second season after thriving at the end of his rookie campaign, and Taylor Decker can remain healthy after missing the first nine weeks of the 2021 season, Detroit will be able to make the case that it has the best tackle duo in the NFL.

The Lions also have some great interior blockers. Frank Ragnow is one of the top centers in the NFL. He played in only three full games last year because of a toe injury, but he’s reportedly at 100-percent health. He’ll be flanked by Jonah Jackson, who was vastly improved in his second season last year, and Halapouli Vaitai, who is a fine starter.

2022 Detroit Lions Defense:
Many of Detroit’s improvements have already been discussed, and yet the No. 2 overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft hasn’t even been mentioned. The Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson with that pick to help improve a pass rush that was ranked in the middle of the pack last year. He’ll start across from Charles Harris, who had been a huge disappointment as a former first-round pick until last year. Harris emerged as a late bloomer with 7.5 sacks in Detroit.

The rest of the defensive line should stand to benefit from Hutchinson’s presence. It’ll need to because the projected starters, Michael Brockers and Levi Onwuzurike, struggled mightily there last year. However, Brockers usually plays well otherwise, so he could rebound to pre-2021 form. Onwuzurike was a second-round rookie, so he figures to be better with experience.

The improved, Hutchinson-led pass rush will boost the secondary, which was in desperate need of help. Jeff Okudah’s return will provide great assistance as well. Okudah had a miserable rookie campaign, but enjoyed a great 2021 training camp before tearing his Achilles in Week 1. He figures to be 100 percent by the 2022 opener, so he could have a strong season. This, in turn, will help Amani Oruwariye, who can go back to covering No. 2 receivers. Newly signed Mike Hughes, who has also disappointed as a former first-round pick, had some nice moments in Kansas City last year. He’s dealt with injuries throughout his career, but if he’s finally over them, he can contribute nicely in the slot.

Another newcomer to the secondary, Deshon Elliott, was brought in from Baltimore. He played well for the Ravens at times, though he missed a chunk of 2021 with torn pectoral and biceps. Assuming he’s healthy, he’ll be an upgrade next to talented safety Tracy Walker.

While the secondary is improved, the same can’t be said of the linebacking corps, which has been largely ignored for years. Alex Anzalone is the top option at the position, but he misses too many tackles. Derrick Barnes, a fourth-round pick last year, was miserable during his rookie campaign. Things are so bad here that the Lions re-signed Jarrad Davis, who is yet another former first-round disappointment.

2022 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
Matt Prater has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past several years. He no longer kicks for the Lions, however. Instead, it’s Austin Seibert, who was 10-of-12 last year in six games.

Punter Jack Fox was second in net punting average in 2020 and fifth last year.

Thanks to the departure of Jamal Agnew, the Lions didn’t score any touchdowns on special teams in 2021. They didn’t surrender a touchdown either.

The Lions have a last-place schedule, and they also get to navigate through the NFC East, so they have many potential victories.

2022 Detroit Lions Rookies:
Go here for the Lions Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2022 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Detroit Lions Analysis: The Lions are the dark-horse playoff team this year. Their offense, with so much receiving talent and a potential top-five offensive line, figures to be explosive. The defense, meanwhile, will be much better with Aidan Hutchinson’s presence and Jeff Okudah’s return from injury. Even without these factors, the Lions were playing very well down the stretch last year. They nearly defeated the Browns and Steelers; they destroyed the Cardinals; they led the Rams for the majority of their game in Los Angeles; and they were beating the Packers in the finale before Green Bay pulled its starters. The Lions are going to catch everyone by surprise in 2022, save for those who read this Web site.

Projection: 11-6 (2nd in NFC North)

2021 Projection: 1-16. 2020 Actual Result: 3-13-1.
2020 Projection: 5-11. 2020 Actual Result: 5-11.
2019 Projection: 5-11. 2019 Actual Result: 3-12-1.
2018 Projection: 8-8. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Lions either believe in Jared Goff, or they don’t like the quarterbacks in this class. Given that Detroit has so many holes on its roster, it almost has to take the best player available with every selection.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Lions’ front office enjoyed a great start to the 2022 NFL Draft. Everyone knew they would land one of Travon Walker or Aidan Hutchinson, but what they did 10 picks later really set the tone for their weekend. Once it was announced that they traded up 20 spots for a receiver, I was set to criticize them for surrendering a future first-round selection for a non-quarterback. Instead, they barely gave up anything – a 12-spot move in the second frame and a third-round pick – which was a small price to pay for a dynamic talent like Jameson Williams.

The Lions obtained two cornerstones of their franchise within the first 12 picks. I wasn’t as crazy about their two second-day choices (Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph), but it’s not like I hated them. I wanted to see better players fill greater positions of need, but those selections didn’t warrant poor grades.

There’s no doubt the Lions have improved under this new regime. They’ll still struggle next year because they have Jared Goff, and Williams won’t be 100 percent for a while, but things are really looking up in Detroit. We haven’t been able to say that for quite a while.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

2. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan – B+ Grade
The Lions did not expect to land Aidan Hutchinson a couple of weeks ago. Hutchinson was chalk to go to the Jaguars back then, but things changed since then. Jacksonville selected Travon Walker, allowing Hutchinson to fall to Detroit. Hutchinson is not an elite pass-rushing prospect like Chase Young or the Bosa brothers, but he’s just a notch below. He’s the best player available for the Lions, so this is the right choice. It would’ve been better had Detroit been able to trade down, but that wasn’t really a possibility.

12. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama – B Grade
The Lions traded up from No. 32 to 12 for a quarterb- no, wait, that’s not right. These are the Lions we’re talking about. They’ve moved up for a receiver. The Lions using mulitple resources on a receiver… where have we seen that before? Look, I love Jameson Williams as a prospect, minus the torn ACL, but surrendering resources to a divisional opponent for a non-quarterback is irresponsible. That said, the Lions aren’t giving up as much as initially expected, so I don’t hate this move at all! I don’t know what the Vikings are thinking here.

46. Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky – C Grade
I don’t hate this pick, but I think it could’ve been better. The Lions already addressed their edge rush with Aidan Hutchinson, and I thought Josh Paschal would go toward the end of the second round, so I don’t love this value. There were better players available who filled bigger needs.

97. Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois – C+ Grade
I wonder if the Nick Cross pick influenced this because I think Kerby Joseph was a slight reach, though not really an egregious one. Joseph is talented, but is a one-year wonder, so there’s some concern in that regard. Still, the Lions needed help in the secondary, and Joseph could help.

177. James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech – A- Grade
The Lions are concerned about not being able to retain T.J. Hockenson past the 2022 season, so this pick makes sense from that regard. It’s also a solid value choice, as James Mitchell could’ve gone in the fourth round with no complaints.

188. Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State – B+ Grade
The Lions had tons of neds entering the 2022 NFL Draft, and linebacker was one of them. Malcolm Rodriguez was someone I had in the fifth- or sixth-round range, so this seems like another solid choice for Detroit.

217. James Houston, DE/OLB, Jackson State – A- Grade
The Lions know they need as many pass rushers as possible to consistently beat Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. James Houston is a quality edge rusher I mocked in the fifth round, so I like this value Detroit is getting toward the end of the sixth frame.

237. Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State – A Grade
Chase Lucas was in the second round of my 2022 NFL Mock Draft once upon a time. He doesn’t have big upside, but he was a productive player at Arizona State, and I thought he would be chosen in the fifth frame. This seems like a good value at a position of need.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Lions tried hard every week for Dan Campbell, but didn’t have much to show for it. They sorely lack talent everywhere, so the Lions have their work cut out for them.

Offseason Moves:
  • Lions sign LB Jarrad Davis
  • Lions sign LB Chris Board
  • Lions sign CB Mike Hughes
  • Lions sign WR D.J. Chark

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: It wasn’t Jared Goff’s fault that the Lions had the second-worst record in the NFL, but he’s not the answer either. The Lions will consider Kenny Pickett at No. 2 in the 2022 NFL Draft.

    2. Three Linebackers: Detroit’s defense was anemic in 2021. Its linebacking corps was so bad that three new players are needed at the position. Signed Chris Board and Jarrad Davis

    3. Two Defensive Linemen: The Lions had the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL this past season. Talent must be added to the defensive line.

    4. Two Wide Receivers: Amon-Ra St. Brown had a phenomenal second half of his rookie year, but the Lions have nothing else at the position. Signed D.J. Chark

    5. Cornerback: The Lions will give Jeff Okudah one more chance next year. Even if he succeeds, Detroit will need to add a talented cornerback. Signed Mike Hughes

    6. Two Safeties: Safety must be upgraded as well; help is needed next to Tracy Walker. Of course, Walker will need to be retained. Re-signed Tracy Walker

    7. Kicker: Detroit has missed Matt Prater since he departed.

    8. Fullback: Jason Cabinda is an impending free agent.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. D.J. Chark, WR, Jaguars. Age: 25.
      Signed with Lions (1 year, $10 million)

      D.J. Chark is an explosive receiver, but played just three full games in 2021 because he broke his ankle in Week 4. Just 25, Chark should continue to improve in the coming years.

    2. Mike Hughes, CB, Chiefs. Age: 25.
      Signed with Lions (1 year, $3.5 million)

      Mike Hughes, a former first-round pick, played well for the Chiefs when given the chance last year. He’s only 25, so he could fully develop into a consistent, quality corner.

    3. Chris Board, LB, Ravens. Age: 27. — Signed with Lions
    4. Jarrad Davis, LB, Jets. Age: 27. — Signed with Lions (1 year)

    Detroit Lions Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Tracy Walker, S, Lions. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Lions (3 years, $25 million)

      Tracy Walker was Detroit’s best defensive back in 2021, though that’s not really saying much. Still, he’s a solid safety who has several years remaining in his prime.

    2. Trey Flowers, DE, Lions. Age: 29.
      Trey Flowers was signed to a $90 million contract three years ago, but did very little in Detroit. He recorded 10.5 total sacks in those three seasons. Part of the reason for this has been poor durability, as Flowers has missed 17 games in the past two years. He could potentially rebound in 2022.

    3. Charles Harris, DE, Lions. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Lions (2 years, $14 million)

      Dolphins fans know Charles Harris as a former first-round bust. However, Lions fans recognize him as a quality pass rusher who logged 7.5 sacks in 2021. Harris appears to be a late bloomer.

    4. Josh Reynolds, WR, Lions. Age: 27.
      Josh Reynolds joined the Lions in the middle of the season and instantly showed a nice connection with Jared Goff.

    5. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans (2 years, $7.5 million)
    6. Tyrell Crosby, OT, Lions. Age: 26.
    7. Nick Williams, DT, Lions. Age: 32. — Signed with Giants
    8. Kalif Raymond, WR, Lions. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Lions
    9. Kha’Darel Hodge, WR, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Falcons
    10. Shaun-Dion Hamilton, LB, Lions. Age: 26.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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