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Detroit Lions: Making the case for Malik Willis

Andrew Buller-Russ

If Aidan Hutchinson is the pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars now that they’ve franchise-tagged their left tackle for the second consecutive season, where does that leave the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft? What about taking a chance on a quarterback with sky-high potential like Malik Willis?

Related: Where will Liberty’s Malik Willis land in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Jared Goff isn’t the impact player needed to carry Detroit Lions

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Is Jared Goff really the solution for the Lions at QB? Has he proven to be a top-15 player who can help bring them to the promised land in the next three-to-five years? Sure, he’s been there before with Sean McVay, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald with the Rams, but the Lions are far away from having a similar roster to the defending Super Bowl champs.

  • Jared Goff contract (2022): $31.5M cap number, cap savings of $16.1M if cut, $650K if traded
  • Goff’s 2023 salary: $30.6M cap number, cap savings of $25.6M if cut, $20.6M if traded

Most teams picking in the top 10 for back-to-back seasons don’t have a franchise QB, and they’re also not paying one upwards of $30 million per season. This isn’t a sustainable long-term method to building a team that’s already at the bottom of the barrel. At some point, they may be better ripping the band-aid off and starting from scratch at QB.

This offseason might present their best chance to do just that, or at least begin the process.

By selecting Malik Willis either at No. 2 or trading down a bit to add draft capital that allows them to still address other needs such as pass-rusher and wide receiver, they can move forward by giving Goff one more season to prove his worth. Whether it’s improving his trade value or by staking his claim to be Detroit’s QB of the future, it makes sense to give him one final ride before seeing what Willis can do.

Related: Detroit Lions mock draft: 2022 NFL Draft projections and analysis

Malik Willis gives the Detroit Lions a potential top-10 QB in the future

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl
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Most Lions fans are likely roaring for Kayvon Thibodeaux here, but the potential upside that Malik Willis offers may prove too much to ignore for general manager Brad Holmes.

A strong case can equally be made for the Lions to continue building the roster around Goff until they’re ready to make their move for a top quarterback, or at least be a desired landing spot thanks to a more complete team. As of now, the Lions, even though they landed D.J. Chark, are nowhere close to being a desirable place to play. Willis has a chance to change that for good.

Look at the Baltimore Ravens since they took a chance on Lamar Jackson in the first round. He won an MVP award the very next year and has been to the playoffs in three of his four seasons in the league. Of course, the Ravens started off in a better position, with a more talented core than the Lions have now, but that’s the type of player Willis can be.

He offers game-breaking athleticism to make defenders pay in the open field and if his passing ability continues to develop, he could quickly be seen as a top-10 or even top-five quarterback in the NFL. For the Lions, they’d be almost foolish to ignore the thought of adding an MVP-level talent to their roster. They’re not headed anywhere with Goff, so why not take a swing for the fences?

Related: 2022 NFL Draft quarterback prospect rankings: Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder and more