Lions Take Malik Willis in Post-Free Agency Mock Draft

Liberty Flames QB Malik Willis
Liberty Flames QB Malik Willis
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - With the bulk of free agency and the quarterback carousel now out of the way, the clouds surrounding the NFL draft are beginning to clear. It is becoming more apparent now what each team needs (or wants) out of the draft. That, of course, means it is time for another good ol' fashioned mock draft to see if we can't satiate those needs with young talent as free agency winds itself down.

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy!

Underdog Fantasy

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

The closer the draft gets, the more it feels like Aidan Hutchinson is back to being the No. 1 pick. Between franchising left tackle Cam Robinson, signing free agent guard Brandon Scherff, and showing some degree of faith in Jawaan Taylor as the right tackle, the Jaguars are taking on the offseason as if they have a pass-rusher penciled in at first overall. Hutchinson is not as electric as the typical first-overall pass-rusher, but his blend of quickness, strength, and savvy hand usage should make for a good running mate for Josh Allen out of the gate.

2. Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

This should not happen. Malik Willis is too incomplete of a prospect to go second overall, even in a wonky draft class like this. However, if we assume the quarterback "meta" has been boiled down to finding the prospect with the most elite tools and hoping for the best, regardless of anything else, Willis is the most exciting option. Willis would also get to sit behind Jared Goff and take some time to get comfortable, which is something he is going to need wherever he ends up.

3. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

With an extra serving of first-round picks on the table for the next few years, including this season, the Texans are in a position to draft whatever they want and swing for the fences. Kayvon Thibodeaux, for my money, is still the best player in the class and provides the most upside among this year's pass-rushers. Thibodeaux can win with speed, bend, and power, and even has a little bit of flexibility to drop into shallow coverage assignments. While his hand usage and run defense awareness could use work, Thibodeaux has all the tools to be a menace at the next level.

4. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Kyle Hamilton's middling 40-yard dash time should not worry anyone. On film, Hamilton has a case as the best player in the class. Not only is his range from the middle of the field mesmerizing, but he has the size, speed, and willingness to be a nasty downhill safety, whether that be from depth or in the box. He can also match up favorably against tight ends and any of the league's non-tiny slot receivers. With the top two pass-rushers off the board, the Jets have to just take the best player available in Hamilton and be happy with it.

5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Even on the way out of the Dave Gettleman era, the Giants still need offensive line help. The blindside spot is held down by Andrew Thomas, who quietly came on strong last season, but the rest of the unit could use some help. That is where Evan Neal comes in. Neal last played left tackle at Alabama, but he also played at both guard and right tackle during his career, so moving back to either spot should not be much of a hassle for him.

6. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Carolina is desperate to find a quarterback. They have been for three years. At some point, the Panthers have to pull the trigger on their own guy in the draft. They feel like the perfect team to overdraft Kenny Pickett. A one-year wonder despite starting for four seasons, Pickett has all the moxie and "backyard style of play" and whatever other nonsense that teams love to cling to. Funny enough, Pickett's mobility, decent processing, and underwhelming arm strength make him similar to Teddy Bridgewater, who was the first installment in Carolina's quarterback carousel.

7. New York Giants (via CHI): George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

For whatever reason, George Karlaftis has fallen out of favor over the past couple months, but he should not have. Karlaftis is a heavy yet springy edge prospect with plenty of juice and flexibility to be a terror in the pros. Furthermore, Karlaftis' heavier build and play style is a good complement for the lighter, quicker Azeez Ojulari, whom the Giants drafted in the second round last year.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

The Falcons needed wide receiver help even before Calvin Ridley got popped for gambling violations; now it is mandatory at eighth overall. Whether or not Garrett Wilson should be the first receiver off the board is its own debate, but it would not be shocking at all to see it happen. Wilson brings enticing explosiveness and a knack for finding yards after the catch. He could stand to tighten up his routes and work on his ability to fight press, but Atlanta will be happy with any kind of upgrade Wilson brings to the position group for now.

9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

There is no better way to transition out of the Russell Wilson era than to pick a quarterback who is his antithesis. Desmond Ridder is a smart, calculated passer who wants to win from the pocket. He constantly pushes the limits in terms of finding difficult throws within structure without putting the ball in harm's way very much. Granted, he can be a little too patient hunting for those deep throws, and his accuracy is nothing to write home about, but as far as finding a quarterback who does the right thing and keeps the train on the tracks, there is nobody better than Ridder in this class. Not to mention, Ridder is a legit 4.52 athlete who can really rip off chunk yardage when he decides to.

10. New York Jets (via SEA): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Two Cincy players back-to-back! What a draft class! Doubling down on the secondary could be oversaturation, but the Jets' secondary may have been the worst in the league last year, particularly at cornerback. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner instantly gives the Jets a long, fiery press-man cornerback who can hold up on the outside. Pair that with Kyle Hamilton, as well as free-agent signing D.J. Reed, and the Jets' back end looks brand new for Robert Saleh.

11. Washington Commanders: Drake London, WR, USC

Wide receiver has not been a major talking point for the Commanders, but they need to prepare the offense for the quarterback of the future awaiting them on the other side of the Carson Wentz bridge. Drake London is a "quarterback's best friend" type of receiver. He is a tall, loose player who brings the contested-catch ability expected of someone with his frame, while being far more springy and athletic than he should be. London's combination of size, athleticism, and surprising technical refinement for a player his size gives him all the makings of a legit No. 1 wideout in the league.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

It's a cruel joke to draft a cornerback immediately after firing Mike Zimmer, but that's what the Vikings' roster and draft board dictate. Derek Stingley Jr., once assumed to be a top-five pick, keeps sliding little by little this offseason, largely due to his Lisfranc injury and the idea that he peaked as a freshman. His arms measured shorter than expected at the NFL combine, too. On film, though, Stingley is one of the smartest and smoothest cornerback prospects in recent memory, not to mention that he has rare ball skills. If Stingley gets healthy, he will remind us why he was supposed to be a top-five pick.

13. Houston Texans (via CLE): Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Ikem Ekwonu probably won't fall this far. The board shook out this way for this mock draft, but someone would probably trade up before Ekwonu fell out of the top 10. In any event, Ekwonu is too good for the Texans to pass up at this spot. Laremy Tunsil currently handles left tackle duties, but there are only two years left on his deal and Ekwonu has college experience playing guard. Ekwonu can sit at guard or flip over to right tackle while the team works through exactly how it wants to build its offensive line long term.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

Few team-player fits in this class make as much sense as the Ravens selecting Travon Walker. A 6-foot-5, 272-pound defensive end with 35½-inch arms, Walker sports a rare build and is oozing athletic talent. He can run, he can anchor, and he can even bend a little. While Walker's pass-rushing approach will need work, he will be a brilliant and physical force in the run game right away, making him a great long-term counterpart for Odafe Oweh.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

Two Georgia Bulldogs back-to-back! Well, I suppose that is less surprising than two Bearcats. Jordan Davis, after blowing up the NFL combine in rare fashion, has finally solidified his status as a top-20 pick. At 6-foot-4 and 341 pounds, Davis is a mountain of a man who can command gaps with ease, yet he comes with the movement skills of an explosive 3-technique. If that's not enough, Davis showed great awareness and technique against the run, allowing him to dismantle run schemes in any number of ways. Davis needs to do more as a pass-rusher to become a complete player, but his run defense alone changes the math for what a defense can do with him on the field.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Investing in linebacker is not typically Howie Roseman's M.O., but after a certain point, something has to be done. Devin Lloyd is a rangy, explosive linebacker with a knack for making plays in space and being a nuisance in coverage. Lloyd also comes with a bit of flexibility to play on the edge thanks to his length. He needs to get stronger and play downhill with more violence, but his athletic tools and coverage potential are as exciting as anyone's. The Eagles could use someone with Lloyd's playmaking sense at the second level.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Signing Sebastian Joseph-Day in free agency likely killed the "Chargers draft a Georgia defensive tackle" dream. That's fine. The "Chargers draft real deal speed to open up the offense" dream is just as game-changing. Jameson Williams did not get to test at the NFL combine thanks to a late-season ACL injury, but on film, he is arguably the fastest receiver in the class. Williams is a crafty route-runner to boot, giving him the tools to get open whenever, wherever, however. The Chargers offense is desperately in need of speed, and Williams could completely unlock what the unit is capable of.

18. New Orleans Saints: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Terron Armstead is almost certainly leaving town via free agency. The Saints did not have a developmental plan sitting behind Armstead to prepare for this moment. In turn, the most sensible option for a rebuilding New Orleans roster is to take a swing at locking down that left tackle spot again. Charles Cross is a bit lighter than the other two tackles at the top of the class, but he is a quick, smooth athlete with squeaky clean pass-pro technique.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

There is some skill set overlap between Chris Olave and DeVonta Smith, but not enough to push the Eagles away from taking a legit first-round receiver. Olave is a clean and efficient route-runner who thrives in the 10- to 20-yard range, whether that be on deep crossers, digs, out routes, etc. He also clocked a 4.39s 40-yard dash at the combine to match all the tape of him winning as an elite deep threat at Ohio State. While his blocking and play strength can underwhelm, Olave checks every other box to be a reliable receiver in the NFL.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

This is on the early side for Jalen Pitre, but do not put it past Pittsburgh to take a unique, scrappy player. Pitre is a safety, nickel, and SAM linebacker wrapped up into an explosive 5-foot-11, 198-pound frame. In the NFL, Pitre would likely play more of a strong safety role, but Mike Tomlin and company can surely come up with creative ways to deploy him alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick.

21. New England Patriots: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

It is tough to tell what the Patriots are doing this offseason, but regardless, they should use the draft as a means to surround Mac Jones with more help. Treylon Burks, despite an underwhelming combine, showed high-end explosiveness and breakaway speed on film at Arkansas. He has unique run-after-catch ability with his blend of speed and power, which is part of why his usage at Arkansas was limited to immediate run-after-catch opportunities. Burks may need a year or two to open up his route tree, but the athletic traits he showed on film were completely missing from Patriots offensive film last year.

22. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

Green Bay's defensive line situation outside of Kenny Clark was bad last season and has only gotten worse this offseason. Devonte Wyatt brings an explosive, versatile presence to the Packers front. Though Wyatt may be best fit for nose, he can play anywhere from tackle to tackle and provide quality production. Wyatt will be an instant boon for the Packers' run defense while he works to sharpen his pass-rushing skills.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Arizona needs cornerback help (again). Marco Wilson was a nice fourth-round surprise last season and Byron Murphy is a good fit in the nickel, but the team still needs someone else on the outside. Andrew Booth Jr. brings decent size for the position and plays with a hair trigger that allows him to keep passing windows closed. He also excels working downhill, be that as a zone defender or against the run, which makes him a good fit for Arizona's defense.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Out goes La'el Collins, in comes Trevor Penning. The Cowboys have shown time and again that they are willing to build their offensive line with premium picks, and Penning is the best chance for them to do that here. A left tackle in college, Penning enters the league with good size and the meanest of mean streaks. It would take some time for him to work out his technique and get used to the right side, but the eventual payoff of having two top-end tackles would be enormous.

25. Buffalo Bills: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College

Zion Johnson is the best plug-and-play guard option on the board here. Johnson is a thick guard with all the strength and nastiness to get it done in the run game, as well as the ease of movement to be a nifty pass-protector for Josh Allen. While the Bills did just sign Rodger Saffold, the other guard spot still needs to be filled considering the team is likely trying to find a more complete player than Ryan Bates, who didn't even start at the beginning of last season.

26. Tennessee Titans: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

There is a Rodger Saffold-sized hole the Titans have at guard right now. Kenyon Green is Tennessee's best shot at filling that vacancy this offseason. A 6-foot-4, 323-pounder, Green plays with excellent strength and a nasty demeanor in the run game. He also moves fairly well in space, allowing him to track and hit players at the second level or way down the line of scrimmage. Green's wild play style may need some reigning in, but it also fits Tennessee's ethos with Mike Vrabel at the helm, so maybe they will just live with it.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Logan Hall, DL, Houston

Tampa Bay hemorrhaged defensive line talent this offseason. Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett remain, but a handful of other starters and major contributors are looking at free agency. Logan Hall is the perfect guy to slot in and help fill a few of the new vacancies up front. At 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds, Hall has the size to flip-flop between being a base end and an interior player, similar to what William Gholston did previously. Hall plays with great length, explosiveness, and a nonstop motor.

28. Green Bay Packers: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

The early run of wide receivers in this mock leaves the Packers dipping into the second tier, but beggars can't be choosers in this case. However, George Pickens is in the second tier because of injury, not talent. Pickens showcases great physicality and contested-catch prowess, as well as enough juice to be a consistent route-runner. He excels out wide, both because of how effectively he can snap off routes as well as his nimble footwork when bringing in passes on the boundary. There is no replacing Davante Adams, but if Pickens is healthy, he may have enough to take on WR1 volume right away for Green Bay.

29. Miami Dolphins (via SF): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The Dolphins have made it clear they want to build the offense in head coach Mike McDaniel's image right away. McDaniel's mentor Kyle Shanahan has Alex Mack in the middle of the San Francisco line. Tyler Linderbaum is Miami's best chance at securing that kind of security along the interior early on. Short arms and average play strength are minor reasons to be concerned, but Linderbaum is a sharp player with some of the best movement skills among this year's offensive line class.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State

The Chiefs need an injection of talent at defensive end and Jermaine Johnson is the best player left on the board at that spot. Melvin Ingram was a great rental last season, but he has a sort of limited skill set and may be out the door again. Additionally, backup Alex Okafor is a free agent. Couple that with the fact that Frank Clark has been playing in top form for a while now and it's not hard to see why the Chiefs need another guy off the edge. Johnson would bring A+ run defense skills straight out of the gate as well as enough length, quickness, and motor to be an effective pass-rusher.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

With the Bengals offensive line theoretically fixed via free agency, they now have more flexibility to pick for luxury come draft weekend. In this scenario, Nakobe Dean is comfortably the best player left on the board and the Bengals would be mistaken to let him fall any further. Though linebacker may not be seen as the most important issue on the Bengals roster, Dean's speed, violence, and rare ability to navigate traffic would make him an instant upgrade over Germaine Pratt.

32. Detroit Lions (via LAR): David Ojabo, DE, Michigan

David Ojabo looked to be a top-20 pick until he tore his Achilles at Michigan's pro day. Now, the uber-talented pass-rusher is likely to take a tumble towards the back of the first round or even into the second round. Ojabo, a one-year player for Michigan, is a force around the edge, showcasing arguably the best speed and bend in the class. His run defense will be a work in progress for a couple of years, but Ojabo's pass-rushing tools are too exciting not to swing on. (Plus, why not keep a Michigan kid around?)


26 comments, Last at 23 Mar 2022, 7:53pm

#1 by Joey-Harringto… // Mar 22, 2022 - 3:39pm

Yikes,  I'd be pretty surprised if Willis gets drafted at 2.  You underestimate how much Brad Holmes believes in Goff (ugh) and wants to give him a chance to succeed.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think he'll take a swing at QB until he's forced to (i.e. Goff falls on his face even with a decent/healthy supporting cast). 

Points: 0

#5 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 22, 2022 - 4:00pm

The Lions' roster is just so, so bad. They are more than even a borderline-HOF QB away from contending.

In 2019, despite Stafford on a 1500 DYAR pace, the Lions went 3-4-1 in his games, because the rest of the roster was a burning gas station.

\burning gas stations not only burn their own dumpster, they threaten to spread fire to neighboring dumpsters
\\I'm curious what the worst season record is for QBs with 1500+ DYAR seasons.

Points: 0

#2 by Mike B. In Va // Mar 22, 2022 - 3:53pm

Yeah, that Bills pick is totally wrong. Unless they've completely changed their draft philosophy, that pick will be a CB. Bates will most likely be back, and while he didn't start at the beginning of the season he was a part of by far the best line they put out there last season.

I also think Willis at 2 is very, very unlikely. I would also drink a shot if the Eagles draft a LB in the first round.

Points: 0

#4 by IlluminatusUIUC // Mar 22, 2022 - 3:59pm

Bates will most likely be back but currently he is on a right-to-match tender and we have used up most of our cap space. So another team could probably snatch him up rn and we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

Points: 0

#6 by Mike B. In Va // Mar 22, 2022 - 4:01pm

Beane was talking about still having options in that area, so I think he has a plan for that happening.

Edit: Regardless, I don't think they take a first round Oline guard, although this is really more like a second round pick.

Points: 0

#7 by Tutenkharnage // Mar 22, 2022 - 4:07pm

If the board falls like that, the Bills will take Trent McDuffie. 

Points: 0

#3 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 22, 2022 - 3:56pm

This should not happen.

But it will, because the Lions are idiots.

Points: 0

#8 by Joey-Harringto… // Mar 22, 2022 - 4:23pm

Well, yes, the Lions are idiots, but I don’t think they will make this particular idiotic decision.

Points: 0

#17 by LionInAZ // Mar 23, 2022 - 12:00am

Concur. With two or three much more highly rated defense prospects on the board, I stick with the greater need. Picking a developmental QB at #2 doesn't seem in line with Campbell's thinking.

Points: 0

#9 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 22, 2022 - 8:10pm

accept it as a Packers fan. DT1 as DT2 is cool if the top 5 WRs are gone. But still get a WR in the 1st.

Points: 0

#10 by anthonytwotimes // Mar 22, 2022 - 8:21pm

The guy can't hit the broadside of a barn. They already have a Ridder on the roster....his name is Geno Smith

Points: 0

#11 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 22, 2022 - 8:25pm

But that's what happens when all you have is Drew Lock and Jacob Eason. Can't blame em (well...what's done is done)

Points: 0

#12 by anthonytwotimes // Mar 22, 2022 - 8:59pm

.... better off tanking for a year than to draft a QB to just draft a QB(in the 1st).

Points: 0

#13 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 22, 2022 - 9:26pm

delaying the inevitable? Always risky.

Also year 3 Eason, Y4 Lock (or even Y10 Geno) is gonna be a worse watch than Felipe Franks in terms of tanking. 

Worth a shot imo

Points: 0

#18 by anthonytwotimes // Mar 23, 2022 - 1:05am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

2nd round. 

Ridder won't sniff the top 10. This is how you end up with QB's like Manuel, Ponder, Grossman, etc in the 1st round. Teams took a shot on a guy that was drastically overrated because he was simply a QB. 

Points: 0

#19 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 23, 2022 - 8:23am

You can get Allen, Mahomes, Herbert, etc. 

Think people only like to remember the misses but forget the payout when they hit. And QBs hitting is a LOT different than any other position. 

I dont think it's that big of a deal since there's no move up and their rostered QBs inspire zilch confidence. And Ridder is an athlete and their next pick isn't til 40, in which he (and others) very well could be gone. Or they can just pick another Jordyn Brooks 🤷 

Points: 0

#20 by Mike B. In Va // Mar 23, 2022 - 8:47am

The only one of those guys people thought might make it to the 2nd round was Allen. Come draft day, it was pretty apparent after the first few picks he wasn't getting out of the first.

The surprise to me (still!) was Jackson lasting that long.

Points: 0

#22 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 23, 2022 - 9:04am

And likewise same could happen. Not even draft month yet!

Now if they traded up for Carson Strong, then we've got a problem.

Points: 0

#14 by mehllageman56 // Mar 22, 2022 - 9:56pm

Ridder is not going in the first round.  That is an insane pick, and I was slightly annoyed with the sensible Jets picks (they just spent a bunch on their secondary, and they're going to draft a safety and a cornerback in the top ten, and not trade down when idiots are taking round 4 quarterbacks early?).  I love Sauce more than Hamilton, but I am resigned to both of them going elsewhere now.  But yeah, this mock draft is pushing the quarterbacks up way too high.

Points: 0

#15 by mehllageman56 // Mar 22, 2022 - 10:01pm

Also, Karlaftis is falling because 1) people have looked at his stat line of 7.5 sacks, 2.0 sacks and then 4.5 sacks, and 2) he did not have a great combine.

Points: 0

#16 by KnotMe // Mar 22, 2022 - 10:20pm

NE taking a WR in the first probably isn't happening. And considering their record with them, it shouldn't.  

Points: 0

#23 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 23, 2022 - 11:49am

The irony is, two of Millen's WR picks actually did work out pretty well. Charles Rogers and (the other) Mike Williams busted hard.

(The other) Roy Williams was worth roughly his draft slot, and if you factor in the two trades that involved him, the Lions won both of them.

Megatron was absolutely worth it.

The Lions' real problem was from 1999 to about 2012, they got pretty much zero from picks outside the first round. It's basically Cliff Avril, DeAndre Levy, or bust.

Points: 0

#24 by Harris // Mar 23, 2022 - 12:02pm

Knowing Roseman's proclivities, there is no way he takes an LB at #16 when he's already talked about improving the pass rush. Maybe that's too early for Johnson and they trade back a bit, but they're not leaving the first round without an EDGE.

Points: 0

#25 by Harris // Mar 23, 2022 - 12:13pm

That said, I'd be quite happy if the Good Guys come home with Davis and Olave.

Points: 0

#26 by Bobman // Mar 23, 2022 - 7:53pm

Hey, you forgot the Colts' first rounder. Where is he?!?!

(checks 2021 stats, news articles, weeps silently to self for a few moments, then dries his tears and looks in vain for the Time Stone. Not finding it, he returns to his keyboard.)

Okay, never mind, nothing to see here....

Points: 0

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