In the leadup to the 2022 NFL draft, Detroit Lions fans attached themselves to quite a few different prospects. As happens in every draft in pretty much every NFL city, fans (and media) drew their battle lines along the hopes of different draft prospects.
This year’s battle flags took on stronger ground than most years, thanks to the Lions holding the No. 2 overall pick. Owning an extra first-round pick thanks to the trade with the Rams and also an early second-round pick created a lot of buzz around different layers of the draft beyond that top pick, too.
Ultimately, the Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2 and packaged the next two picks to move up and select WR Jameson Williams, also tabbing DL Josh Paschal in that deal with Minnesota.
After seven weeks, here’s where some of the other more popular prospects with Lions fans in the draft process are at in their rookie campaigns.
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Thibodeaux was a very popular choice in fan mock drafts for the No. 2 pick. A stand-up pass rusher from Oregon, Thibodeaux ultimately wound up going No. 5 overall to the New York Giants.
Thibodeaux missed New York’s first two games with an ankle injury. In the five games since, he’s recorded one sack and nine total tackles while playing a little over 75 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps in those games. Thibodeaux has recorded 14 total QB pressures per Pro Football Focus and has two QB hits in those five games.
By way of comparison, Hutchinson has 4.5 sacks and nine QB hits in seven games while playing 86 percent of available defensive snaps.
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Dean was a very popular prospect with fans for the Lions selections at No. 32 or 34 overall. The Georgia linebacker wound up sliding a bit due to some injury and size concerns. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Dean in the third round, No. 83 overall.
So far, Dean has barely played. The Eagles run a base 4-2-5 defense and Dean is not in the rotation with Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards. He’s played six total snaps in two games on defense. Dean has been a fixture on the Eagles special teams, playing 70 percent of Philly’s special teams reps over their six games. He has two tackles, both on kickoff coverage.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
When the Lions made the trade with the Vikings to move up to the No. 12 overall pick, many believed it was to land the talented Notre Dame safety. But Hamilton remained on the board for a couple more draft slots, going to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 14.
Hamilton hasn’t started yet for the Ravens but has seen consistent reps each week, playing just under 40 percent of their defensive snaps. In eight games (the Ravens played on Thursday night in Week 8), Hamilton has registered 19 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two pass breakups.
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The Liberty quarterback was a divisive prospect, and not just in Detroit. Willis was projected as high as the No. 2 overall pick for several weeks by major media outlets, and Lions fans either embraced it or vociferously rejected the notion.
In the end, Willis wound up being the No. 86 overall pick by the Tennessee Titans. As Ryan Tannehill’s primary backup, Willis has seen action in two games and 20 total snaps. Willis completed one of his four pass attempts, gaining six yards. He’s also run four times for 16 total yards, not counting kneel-downs.
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Johnson emerged as a potential candidate for the No. 2 pick after dominating the Senior Bowl week. Johnson wound up being selected later than expected at No. 26 overall by the New York Jets.
The EDGE from Florida State quickly emerged as a key reserve for the Jets. He played just under 20 snaps per game as a pass-rush specialist in New York’s first five games. Johnson bagged 1.5 sacks and nine total tackles in those games, including a 4-tackle performance against the Bengals in just 20 snaps.
Johnson is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, missing the last two games and he is not expected to return until Week 9 at the earliest.
Shortly after the scouting combine in early March, Watson was the fan’s top choice to be the No. 32 overall pick by Detroit. The North Dakota State wide receiver built upon a decent Senior Bowl week with an outstanding athletic display.
Watson wound up being drafted with the No. 34 pick, but not by Detroit. The Vikings flipped the pick acquired from Detroit to another NFC North rival, and Watson is a Green Bay Packer.
Watson has played in four games for Green Bay. He’s caught seven passes on 11 targets, netting a total of 52 yards and picking up one first down. Watson has added 19 yards on three carries and scored his only TD on the ground in Week 4 against New England. He’s also had two dropped passes. After playing 34 snaps in Week 1, Watson has played just 18 in the Packers’ next six games.
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More than a few mock drafts projected Georgia safety Lewis Cine to the Lions at No. 32. The Vikings made the draft slot prediction accurate, selecting Cine after the trade with Detroit.
After a rocky preseason, Cine was active for Minnesota’s first four games but played just two snaps on defense in those weeks. He worked his way into a special teams role in Weeks 2-4. Unfortunately, Cine suffered a career-threatening compound fracture of his leg in the Vikings’ Week 4 game in London against the Saints. It was bad enough he was forced to remain in England for over a week before being cleared to return to Minnesota. He is out for the year and his playing future is up in the air.