A change of guard in Detroit’s general manager position left fans with a reason for optimism when looking toward the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Moving from his Director of College Scouting position with the Los Angeles Rams, Brad Holmes showed a proven knack for finding hidden talent in the draft. Now leading operations in Detroit, fans can only hope he replicates the results that led LA to select under-the-radar talents such as Cooper Kupp and future Hall of Fame player Aaron Donald. While it is far too early to evaluate the ultimate consensus on Holmes’ debut draft class, Detroit’s rookies have logged a large enough sample size to get a good look at their progress at the halfway point in the season.
DL Aiden Hutchinson – Michigan (Round 1, Pick 2)
Since Week 1 Hutchinson has steadily improved his play with every game. The former Michigan stud simply makes plays. Halfway through the season, he leads all rookies with 5.5 sacks and 24 total pressures. In more recent weeks Hutchinson has made impact plays all over the field while putting himself on pace to record a double-digit sack season. The Lions’ young defense is starting to turn a corner, and the second-overall pick has a lot to do with it.
WR Jameson Williams – Alabama (Round 1, Pick 12)
Detroit took a chance on the receiver out of Alabama in a move that showed Brad Holmes wasn’t like Lions GMs of years past. While risky, this pick has the potential to completely redefine how this offense operates. Williams hasn’t played a down of football since suffering an ACL tear in the College National Championship game, but reports suggest he hasn’t lost a step. Only time will tell if Detroit was able to land what is presumably one of the most potent offensive talents in the 2022 class.
EDGE Josh Paschal – Kentucky (Round 2, Pick 46)
After missing the first five weeks of the season, Paschal made his much-anticipated debut in a Week 7 matchup against Dallas. The athletic pass rusher showed elite pop off the line in college which allowed him to be a force in stopping the run. While this explosiveness hasn’t translated perfectly to the next level as of yet, the former Wildcat has continued to show flashes. Much of Pascal’s contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. As a force up the middle Paschal can collapse the pocket, making it easier for the rest of the defensive line to clean up an outside run or pass play. A larger sample size will go a long way in determining a more accurate grade for the second-round selection.
S Kerby Joseph – Illinois (Round 3, Pick 97)
After an injury to Detroit’s star safety, Tracey Walker, an open competition for his replacement was issued at practice. Joseph took full advantage of this opportunity, seizing the starting job and not looking back. While still adapting to the more complicated coverage looks being thrown his way, Joseph’s ball skills have translated better than anyone could have predicted. The leaps Joseph took with each game culminated in a Week 9 win over the Packers, in which he logged 2 interceptions and 10 total tackles. There is still much to clean up in terms of Joseph’s coverage, but at the halfway point in the season, he is far ahead of where many expected him to be in year one.
TE James Mitchell – Virginia Tech (Round 5, Pick 177)
In the fifth round, Brad Holmes decided that they couldn’t pass on a player with as much upside as Mitchell despite the injury history. The 6-4 target was considered to have huge upside as a big-play threat coming out of Virginia Tech but slipped on draft boards due to a torn ACL. For much of the season, Mitchell has been buried in the depth chart, but the recent trade of T.J. Hockenson is raising his snap count. Since his true offensive debut in Week 8 against Miami, Mitchell has posted modest numbers, snagging four passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. In the second half of the season still to go, expect to see more of the former Hokie.
LB Malcolm Rodriguez – Oklahoma State (Round 6, Pick 188)
Halfway through the season, Rodriguez is giving Detroit fans a taste of what Holmes is capable of in these later rounds. The OSU product has made his presence known in Motown from day one, outplaying league veterans to earn himself a spot on the starting lineup. Digging up any sort of productive player past round five is a victory in itself, let alone drafting a day-one starter. Rodriquez plays with the poise and patience of an experienced linebacker, leading all Detroit defenders in tackles for a loss with five. Some teams have been able to expose his lack of man-to-man coverage polish, but other than his passing game errors there isn’t much to take away from Rodriquez’s hot start.