Lions draft TE James Mitchell in fifth round

The Lions drafted tight end James Mitchell (Virginia Tech) in the fifth round (177th overall) on Saturday.

He is the second Lions draft pick who is recovering from ACL surgery after injuring his knee in the second game of the 2021 season

“I’m pretty much back. I’m doing everything – I’m running, cutting, running routes, I’m expecting to be fully cleared by June at the latest,’’ Mitchell said. “I’ll be ready to go at training camp. I’m excited.’’

He said he talked with the Lions at the Combine and besides that they had talked with my agent about maybe getting something done after the draft if he wasn’t selected. 

“So when they called me right there towards the end of round five and said they were going to take me I was pretty shocked but very grateful and excited to go there and get started,’’ said Mitchell who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.

He said at Virginia Tech he was used all over the field.

“I became a better blocker as the years went on. I pride myself on playing all over the field, I’m happy to continue to go and learn behind a guy like T.J. Hockenson and soak it all in,’’ Mitchell said in a conference call with reporters.

Mitchell played in just the first two games of the 2021 season. In 2019 (21-361-17.2, two TDs in 13 games, eight starts) and then led the team with four receiving touchdowns in 2020 (26-435-16.7 in 10 games, nine starts)

The NFL.com draft preview said: Mitchell has the foot agility and athleticism to separate on a regular basis if he can tighten up his route running and play closer to his top speed. He’s capable of attacking the seams and is talented with the ball in his hands when he has run-after-catch opportunities. As a run blocker, Mitchell puts in adequate effort but his man ends up near the action or making a play on too many snaps. He has the size to play in-line but might be best suited in a role as a pass-catching H-back.’’

Lions draft Illinois safety Kerby Joseph in third round

The Lions wrapped up the second day of the NFL draft by selecting safety Kerby Joseph out of Illinois in the third round (97th overall).

“When I got the phone call it’s like my eyes blew up in my head. It was just like this is finally happening, this is what I’ve been dreaming about, this is what I’ve been seeing on TV since I was kid,’’ Joseph said on a media call on Friday night. 

He said he met the Lions at the Senior Bowl and then again at the NFL Combine where he had a formal interview. He met with them again on a visit.

He had more of a reserve role in his first three years at Illinois when he worked as a receiver and safety. He also played on special teams all four seasons.

“I started off on special teams which is why I fell in love with it,’’ said Joseph who is 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds.

He was speaking in the garage to get some quiet with about 60 people at a draft party in his honor outside of Orlando. 

He had a breakout year in 2021 garnering second-team All-Big Ten honors by tying for fourth in the FBS with five interceptions and posting three fumble recoveries (along with 57 tackles, one sack in 12 games, 10 starts).

Three of Detroit’s first four draft picks have been on the defensive side of the ball.

His NFL.com draft profile calls him a free safety with average size and speed, good athleticism and only one season as a full-time starter for the Illini. He worked for all five of his interceptions last season, using both his length and range over the top. He lacks prototypical instincts as a single-high safety but that might be due to a lack of experience. He’s fluid in space but needs to play with better anticipation.

Earlier on Friday in the second round the Lions drafted defensive end Josh Paschal (Kentucky). In the first round on Thursday they selected defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (2nd overall) and wide receiver Jameson Williams (12th overall) in the first round.

The Lions have three picks on Saturday – one in the fifth round (177 overall) and two in the sixth round (181st and 217th). The draft starts at noon.

Lions draft DE Josh Paschal in second round

Josh Paschal, a defensive end, was the Lions’ second-round pick (46th overall) in the NFL draft on Friday night.

Paschal, who is 6-foot-3 and 268 pounds, played four seasons at Kentucky, playing in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2017. He was a captain for three seasons.

“It just means that I was blessed enough to be around a lot of great leaders and they helped me become the leader I am. I’m a guy who can change locker rooms,’’ Paschal said in a virtual media briefing on Friday night. “That’s my goal is to come in and learn from the veterans and also step into a leadership role as well.’’

He red-shirted his junior year while undergoing treatment for malignant melanoma which included multiple surgeries and a year of immunotherapy on the bottom of his right foot. He said the experience made him cherish his blessings.

Paschal has the ability to play in odd or even fronts.

“Versatility is one of the basics of my game. I move all across the front, I am not sure what coach (Todd) Wash and coach (Aaron) Glenn have planned, whatever it is I’ll give my all and I’m very versatile so whatever it is I’ll be able to pick it up,” Paschal said. 

His formal interview with the Lions took place at the NFL Combine.

“I met Dan Campbell, coach Wash, coach Glenn, I met them all there. We hit it off, we watched some film, we talked about ball and life. Instantly I knew it’d be a great fit,’’ Paschal said.

He’s the second defensive end drafted by the Lions in their top four picks. Detroit drafted Aidan Hutchinson, a Michigan defensive end, with the second overall pick.

Paschal said the two met at the Combine.

An NFL.com draft profile of Paschal said: “He’s like a block of granite at the point of attack with low pads and a heavy anchor. He has the twitch to see-and-shed against single blocks and the range to make a tackle a gap away. His face-up rush style lacks elusiveness and will see limited success off the edge, but his snap quickness fits perfectly as an interior rusher in sub-packages. Paschal might never be a star, but he’s a good future starter with winning character that coaches and fans will grow to love.’’

He started all 13 games in 2019 (34 tackles, 9.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) and 10 of 11 games played in 2020 (32 tackles, 6.5 for loss). He finished his career on a high note, earning second-team All-SEC and Academic All-American honors while leading the Wildcats with 15.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks among his 53 total tackles, in 12 starts. Paschal opted out of the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, per NFL.com.