With the Senior Bowl coming up later this week and the NFL Combine a month out, the slow shift towards the offseason is setting in for 30 of the 32 teams in the NFL. The Detroit Lions have a coveted No. 2-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and there are two obvious directions they could go with it. An outlier scenario exists as well, and it has Detroit sitting nice and cozy where they are in the draft.
The Lions will have two first-round picks, their own (No. 2) and the Los Angeles Rams’ first-rounder as a result of the Matthew Stafford trade. The trade worked wonders for LA. They have landed in the Super Bowl and thus their pick will wind up being very late.
Entering this postseason, one thing is ringing true throughout the league: There are a ton of quarterback-needy teams during this cycle. Joe Burrow has emerged as a superstar, getting the Cincinnati Bengals to the final game of the year. Patrick Mahomes won’t be going anywhere, and Josh Allen figures to have the Buffalo Bills in contention for the next decade. Justin Herbert is the answer for the Los Angeles Chargers. All these budding superstar quarterbacks are putting pressure on other teams to get it right at the most crucial position. The result will be a busy phone line for the Lions when they are up selecting at No. 2 in April, despite this quarterback class taking a far different shape.
There is no automatic, no-brainer, No. 1 quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class. The Lions are one of many teams looking for the future of the franchise. But on the surface, there isn’t a prospect at the position who will warrant selection that early in the draft. Detroit may recognize this, and many believe they’ll go the route of Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. But it won’t stop others from panicking and potentially reaching to nab a quarterback that early. Detroit isn’t in the same spot as some of the other teams looking for a quarterback.
Matt Rhule is on the hot seat in Charlotte, and he’s put many eggs in the basket of hiring Ben McAdoo as the new offensive coordinator. The Carolina Panthers will be in the hunt for a quarterback, and drafting one early could buy Rhule another year if things don’t go well in 2022. It’s impossible to imagine Rhule will want to go down swinging with Sam Darnold or Cam Newton running the show. Thus, the Panthers could get desperate and try to move up to No. 2 to take their guy, and the return for the Lions could be too good to pass up.
Carolina isn’t alone in needing a quarterback, although other situations are different from theirs and the Detroit’s. Dan Campbell will be entering Year 2 as the head coach. While the wins didn’t pile up, the organization and the roster bought into Campbell. It was evident in how they played each and every week. In the bayou, Sean Payton left after a long and successful run with the New Orleans Saints, and quarterback is a huge question mark entering 2022. It’s a franchise and a fanbase that has become accustomed to consistently being a playoff contender. Rolling with Taysom Hill in 2022 won’t have many feeling optimistic about the long-term future.
New Orleans sits pretty far back in the draft to scoot all the way up to No. 2, but crazier things have happened. It’s another franchise going through a lot of change that needs a quarterback to keep fan interest and optimism at a high level. It’s a similar feeling in Houston and Denver.
The Denver Broncos brought in Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach, and if the Aaron Rodgers plan doesn’t become reality, they can’t run it back with Drew Lock or by re-signing of Teddy Bridgewater. The Broncos have a really solid roster and need a quarterback. It’s plausible that they see Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, or Desmond Ridder as the solution. Hackett will want an immediate answer as to who his quarterback will be, and they could end up leaning towards the draft and a trade-up to do so. Meanwhile, Detroit will calmly sit back and field calls amid all the chaos.
You can’t rule out the possibility of the Lions themselves taking a quarterback at the No. 2 spot. But there is far more patience with their situation than what exists in Carolina, Denver, and New Orleans. More likely, the Lions stand firm at No. 2 and take Hutchinson or Thibodeaux, and then draft a quarterback with their other first-round pick from the Rams later on. Either way, they will have plenty of options at No. 2. If they do trade out, it will almost certainly be with a team feeling the pressure that panics and trades over a boatload of draft capital. The Lions need their own answer at quarterback, but they’re more confident in their overall position and recognize there are other needs on the roster.