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Defense figures heavily for Detroit Lions with 6 of their 8 draft picks

First-round picks Jameson Williams, left, and Aidan Hutchinson pose with jerseys at the Detroit Lions’ training facility on Friday in Allen Park. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News via AP)

By BOB TRIPI

Associated Press

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions continued to make big investments on defense in the NFL draft and are hoping that they result in immediate rewards to a franchise that has struggled in recent seasons.

“We definitely felt like we got better as an organization this week,” said Brad Holmes, who completed his second draft as the Lions general manager. “We’ve got eight guys that we’re really, really excited about that can help us going forward.

“The really good thing is about all these guys that we got is they all have different flavors. They’re not all cut out of the same box.”

After finishing among the worst defenses in the NFL for the second consecutive season, the Lions this year used six of their eight picks to rebuild that area. Detroit has selected 10 defensive players in two years.

“We knew we had more questions you could say especially in terms of depth on the defensive side of the ball, maybe even some questions above that,” Holmes said. “We don’t go into it anchored and say ‘Hey, look man, we have to just draft defense.’ If that’s the best player, that’s the best player.”

Detroit continued its defensive rebuilding project Thursday by taking defensive end Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick overall. Just over 24 hours later, the Lions added two more pieces in Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal and Illinois safety Kerby Joseph.

The Lions are hoping Hutchinson, who many had considered to be the top player in the draft, and Paschal, who was selected in the second round, will lead to a relentless pass rush that the team has lacked.

Despite signing free agent safety DeShon Elliott, Detroit used its third-round pick on Joseph, who is expected to compete to be a starter. In 2021, Joseph tied for an NCAA-best five interceptions and added three fumble recoveries.

The Lions also made a investment on perhaps the team’s biggest need on offense, a big-play receiver, when they made a trade with Minnesota to move up and take Alabama’s Jameson Williams at No. 12.

With a compensatory pick in the fifth round Saturday, Detroit selected its second offensive player coming off an ACL injury when it picked 6-foot-4, 250-pound Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell at No. 177.

The Lions later swapped pick No. 181 with Philadelphia to move back seven spots in the sixth round and add No. 237 in the seventh round. They used No. 188 to select 5-foot-11, 232-pound Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez who was recognized with All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons and 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback Chase Lucas at No. 237 who played five seasons at Arizona State.

With its second compensatory pick at No. 217, Detroit chose 6-foot-1, 241-pound Jackson State edge rusher James Houston.