NFC North: Lions add DE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams in draft haul
After getting a highly regarded edge rusher in Hutchinson at No. 2, the Lions traded with the Vikings to move up from No. 32 to No. 12 to get Williams, an explosive receiver coming off a torn ACL. The Packers took Georgia linebacker Quay Walker with the 22nd overall pick.
The Packers have created opening-night tremors in the NFL Draft the last two seasons — in 2020 when they drafted Jordan Love and in 2021 when it was reported that Aaron Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay.
This time, just a mild surprise.
In need of a wide receiver after Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders, the Packers instead used both of their first-round picks on defensive players from Georgia — linebacker Quay Walker at No. 22 and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt at No. 28.
The Packers have not taken a wide receiver in the first round of the draft since Florida State’s Javon Walker in 2002. The surprise is that this was considered a receiver-heavy draft — there were six wide receivers taken in the first 18 picks for the first time in modern draft history.
That said, the Packers have had good luck developing second-round receivers with Rodgers at quarterback — Adams (2014), Randall Cobb (2011) and Jordy Nelson (2009). You can’t blame them for not feeling the need to trade up to get one of the top six receivers or reach for one at No. 22 or No. 28.
After losing a home playoff game 13-10 to the 49ers — and losing their second-best offensive weapon, the Packers still chose to fortify their good-but-not-great defense with their first-round picks. Walker and Wyatt were key players in an exceptional Georgia defense that ranks with the best in college football history.
Walker blossomed in his first season as a starter in 2021, with 65 tackles, 1½ sacks and three pass breakups as an inside linebacker. The 6-3, 304-pound Wyatt had seven sacks last season and was considered by some scouts as the best three-technique prospect in the draft.
Pound-for-pound, the Lions made the biggest splash Thursday night, adding two of the best prospects in the draft in Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick and Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams with the 12th overall pick.
Lions second-year general manager Brad Holmes made a bold move with the Vikings to move up 20 spots in the first round to get Williams, an explosive player who might have been the first receiver taken had he not torn his ACL in the national championship game against Georgia.
The Lions traded the No. 32 pick in the first round, the No. 34 pick in the second round and the No. 66 pick in the third round to the Vikings in exchange for the No. 12 overall pick and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Williams, who had 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, could optimistically still be ready to play at the start of training camp in late July.
That trade raised a few eyebrows among Vikings fans, who feel rookie GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might have gotten taken. When the Giants gave up the 11th pick in last year’s draft, they not only got the 20th overall pick from the Bears, but a first-round pick in 2022 that turned out to be No. 7 overall, plus a fourth-round pick this year.
With the No. 32 pick, the Vikings took Georgia safety Lewis Cine.
[Cine] was one of our targets, starting in the teens, and you’re kind of sweating it out there as it goes on and this is a great outcome for us,” Adofo-Mensah told Vikings reporters. “We looked at our situation at 12. We looked at our different scenarios if we picked a certain player vs. what we could get with the trade back and we liked our options. We’re excited this came to fruition.”