A new candidate to go No. 2 overall in the upcoming NFL draft is starting to emerge for the Detroit Lions

2022 NFL draft

A safety has gone as high as the No. 2 pick overall just once in the history of the draft.

Will Detroit make Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton the second safety to be drafted that high?

As of now, the betting lines say “yes” – but a new candidate to go No. 2 overall is starting to emerge.

Hamilton, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior, is currently the No. 1 prospect in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board and is in the top-five of most big boards. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein also lists Hamilton as the top prospect, just edging out Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson.

Of course, Detroit will have to wait to see what Jacksonville does with the No. 1 overall pick. DraftKings currently lists Hutchinson (minus-300) as the odds-on favorite to go first overall. But if the Jaguars decide to take an offensive tackle like Evan Neal of Alabama or Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State, then Hutchinson would fall right into the Lions’ lap.

And with needs at pass rusher, Hutchinson would seem to be the logical choice for Detroit. Pride of Detroit’s John Whiticar listed pass rusher as one of the Lions’ greatest needs – and that was before the team released Trey Flowers to save more than $10 million in cap space. Whiticar listed safety and linebacker as the team’s biggest needs on defense, followed by pass rusher.

However, a new player is rocketing up draft boards and is now in the conversation to go to Detroit: Georgia’s Travon Walker.

The 6-foot-5, 272-pound junior ran a shockingly fast 4.51-second 40 at the Combine, and his other measurables were impressive too, including his arm length (35 1/2-inches) and hand size (10 3/4-inches).

And, as of Thursday (March 24), Walker is listed as second-favorite to be drafted second-overall at minus-350. Hamilton is just ahead of him at plus-300.

Further muddying the waters: Fanspeak’s updated mock draft database shows Hutchinson as the favorite to go to Jacksonville and to Detroit. The database compiled the latest mock drafts from 14 different sites and/or experts.

Here’s what draft analysts are saying about Hamilton and Walker:

S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Ranking: No. 1 in Rigdon big board

Hamilton doesn’t have many flaws to his game.

A knee injury limited him to only seven games this past season, but Hamilton still managed 34 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and 4 passes defended. That gives him a three-year career line of 138-7.5-8-16.

Zierlein, the draft analyst for NFL.com, said Hamilton’s traits and characteristics “make him a bit of a unicorn at the position.”

From Zierlein: “Hamilton has the traits and football character to transition from standout college moments to a standout pro career as a future Pro Bowler with All-Pro potential.”

Likewise, both ESPN’s top draft analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have Hamilton going to Detroit.

McShay says “Hamilton closes like a heat-seeking missile, and his playmaking would be welcomed in Detroit.”

And Kiper says the No. 2 pick would normally be too high to draft a safety, but “… Hamilton is a unique and special defender.” From Kiper: “Hamilton is a playmaking safety in a 6-foot-4 frame who would immediately raise the ceiling of a defense that has struggled for years. He can play in the box, out of the slot and as a center fielder.”

Edge Travon Walker, Georgia

Ranking: No. 6

Walker finished his junior year at Georgia with 33 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks, giving him a three-year career line of 61-13-9.5.

Those numbers don’t scream “high draft pick” – until you consider the fact that Walker was playing on a stacked Georgia defense that was full of future NFL prospects.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah turned some heads this week when he had Walker going to Detroit in his latest mock draft, saying “Walker has the athleticism and scheme versatility to fit in with any of the teams at the top of the draft.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Risdon of the LionsWire pointed out that Walker has better measurables than Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, also a possibility for the No. 2 overall pick. That includes Walker’s wingspan (84 1/4-inches), which is considerably better than Thibodeaux’s (79 1/2-inches) or Hutchinson’s (78 1/8-inches).

In fact, Risdon went on to compare Walker to one of the top pass rushers in the league.

From Risdon: “He’s a rare athletic specimen with the traits that NFL teams drool over. The length, the speed, the burst, the explosion — Walker has it all. His athletic ability draws a very close comparison to Myles Garrett, who has posted 51 sacks in his last 57 games as a two-time All-Pro.”

Will it be Hamilton, Hutchinson, Walker or the field? Find out what Detroit might do in Fanspeak’s latest mock draft.

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