NFL draft experts differ on predictions for Detroit Lions 2 first-round picks

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Two NFL draft gurus dropped their latest 2022 projections Wednesday and one had quite the twist at No. 1.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and the Athletic's Dane Brugler each mocked the first round of the 2022 draft, with Brugler predicting the second-round picks, too.

Both expect the Detroit Lions to get a pass rusher (Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux) at No. 2, but how they differ on how that defender falls to Detroit. Kiper and Brugler disagree on how the Lions spend their second pick of the first round, with one taking a star Big Ten wideout and the other going with an ACC quarterback.

Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson (left) and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux has each been projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson (left) and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux has each been projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

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There's also some hype for Michigan football's other star linebacker, David Ojabo.

Here are some takeaways from each projection:

Lions go Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2 ... if they can

Kiper is in line with many others, predicting talented pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux going Nos. 1 and 2. The Jacksonville Jaguars, according to Kiper, will take Hutchinson No. 1 after his 14-sack season, which ended with him as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

That means Thibodeaux lands with the Lions.

"His get-off at the snap is lightning-quick, and though he's still developing secondary pass-rush moves, he doesn't need them when he can blow by offensive tackles before they're out of their stance," Kiper writes. "Thibodeaux had half as many sacks (seven) as Hutchinson this season, but he had the second-best pressure rate in the country (17.8%)."

Brugler leads his piece off commenting what others have said: There are no superstar locks at the top of this draft, but plenty of very good players who can have difference-making roles as rookies. His sources indicate draft evaluators would rather take a chance on the tackles than the pass-rushing options, meaning NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu could be the No. 1 overall pick as the Jaguars look to fortify the offensive line around Trevor Lawrence. (Kiper had Ekwonu No. 5 to the New York Giants but notes that he wouldn't be surprised if he were the first tackle taken.)

That pick drops Hutchinson to the Lions at No. 2, in Brugler's projection.

"A Week 18 victory against the Packers meant the Lions lost the No. 1 overall pick, but there is a decent chance that the top-ranked player on Detroit’s draft board will still be available at No. 2," he writes. "Hutchinson isn’t on the same level as the Bosa brothers — he doesn’t have the same bend or arc skills. However, there are similarities when you talk about their quickness, power and skilled hand play to defeat blockers and disrupt the pocket. Hutchinson can win in multiple ways and is wired in a way that will appeal to head coach Dan Campbell."

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Sam Howell to Detroit?

Thanks to the Matthew Stafford trade, the Lions have two picks in the first round. While late-round pick's exact location won't be determined until the playoffs, Kiper and Brugler projected it as the No. 28 selection.

Kiper predicted North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell to Detroit.

"By taking Howell in Round 1, the Lions would get his fifth-year option, which means they could hand over the reins in 2023. Yes, they have a lot of needs, but if they think they can get their future starting signal-caller, they should pounce," Kiper writes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, picking No. 20, swipe Howell before the Lions can get him in Brugler's article. Quarterbacks Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Matt Corral (Ole Miss) were already off the board in both exercises.

Howell had 24 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, adding 11 rushing scores in 2021.

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell picks up yards on the run as South Carolina defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, left, gives chase Thursday in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell picks up yards on the run as South Carolina defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, left, gives chase Thursday in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

He "throws a beautiful deep ball and has tremendous touch on passes," Kiper wrote.

"Howell is a tricky evaluation, and he could definitely drop to Round 2. He looked like a potential top-10 pick after his sophomore season in 2020. At the beginning of the 2021 season, though, he really struggled, and he put a lot of bad tape out there while throwing to a completely new set of pass-catchers. He settled back in and improved down the stretch."

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The second Lions pick gets them Chris Olave, Brugler writes. Olave, at 6 feet 1, 180 pounds, is rated one of the best wideouts in the class after catching 65 balls for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns last season with Ohio State.

Brugler then has the Lions picking Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary at No. 34. The 6-foot defensive back is billed as sticky in man coverage and a good tackler.

David Ojabo goes top 10 in each

In the shadow of Hutchinson's impressive run, Ojabo has been rising up draft boards for a stellar junior season. He had 11 sacks and five forced fumbles after notching just one tackle as a sophomore.

Brugler has Ojabo, who turns 22 in May, going No. 8 the Atlanta Falcons.

Michigan linebacker David Ojabo, center, during warmups before the Big Ten championship game against Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Michigan linebacker David Ojabo, center, during warmups before the Big Ten championship game against Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

"Still young in football years, Ojabo is still a work in progress, but he has the talent level right now to stress blockers," Brugler writes. "Polling several NFL personnel people for this mock, the feedback on Ojabo was he won’t be a top-10 pick because of his struggles vs. the run and his relative inexperience. But I’m betting on his ceiling at a premium position to bump him up in this draft class."

The Giants pick up Ojabo with their second pick of the first round, Kiper writes. New York's 34 sacks ranked in the bottom half of the league, but Ojabo could pair nicely with Azeez Ojulari, who had eight sacks as a rookie in 2021.

"Ojabo can help the pass rush immediately," Kiper writes. He doesn't have Hutchinson's all-around game — he has to get better against the run — but as a pure pass rusher, he has a very high ceiling."

Follow the Free Press on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at tjdavis@freepress.com or on Twitter @TDavisFreep.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Who Detroit Lions take in early NFL draft 2022 projections