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.

Five things to know about Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson

Aidan Hutchinson is no stranger to the Detroit Lions after growing up in metro Detroit and playing at the University of Michigan

So on Thursday night at the NFL Draft when the Lions were on the board with the second overall pick, he was thrilled to see the Detroit area code when his phone lit up.

“I knew that was definitely a deep sigh of relief from me and my whole family for sure,’’ Hutchinson said on Friday at a media briefing at the Lions facility in Allen Park. 

An edge rusher, Hutchinson fills a need on Detroit’s defense and he couldn’t be happier to be playing near home.

Five things to know about Hutchinson:

1. He should be a good fit in the Lions’ defensive scheme. “I think the play style is just relentless, it’s nasty and  it’s what the whole coaching staff was brought here under coach Campbell, that’s the mentality,’’ Hutchinson said. “I come in and bring that same mentality that’s why I’m a perfect fit for this scheme and the Detroit grit. I think I fit that mold.’’

2. He loved his pre-draft visit with the Lions. “Out of all the visits, the Lions was one of my most seamless ones because of how smooth it was and it was so easy to talk football and to communicate with all these coaches.’’ Hutchinson said. “I think that’s going to lead to some future success, for sure.’’

3. On Friday, after a flight in from Las Vegas and not much sleep, Hutchinson said it had not hit him yet that he was a Lion. “Just walking around the building today with my family, it’s just weird. Growing up I was a Michigan guy, I’m around Detroit sports so much,’’ Hutchinson said. “To think I’m a Lion seems like a wild dream to me, but now it’s kind of come true. It’s wild but I’m soaking it all in, I’m sure one of these days it’s going to hit me.’’

4. After following in his father’s footsteps at Michigan, Aidan is in uncharted waters now. His dad, Chris, was a Michigan captain who won Team MVP in his final season in 1992. Instead of playing in the NFL, Chris attended medical school and now works as an emergency room physician at Royal Oak Beaumont. “I’m starting to get into territory that my dad hasn’t even been in, it’s starting to get a little foreign for him, I’ll have to navigate this on my own,’’ Aidan Hutchinson said with a smile.

5. He grew up a Detroit sports fan but admitted he doesn’t have a ton of great memories from the Lions, mentioning the 0-16 season. He wasn’t born when the Lions won their last playoff game on Jan. 5, 1992. “I’ve been to a couple LIons games and the atmosphere is great. When the Lions are winning ball games it’s like happy wife, happy life,’’ Hutchinson said. “The fans are just so into it, so I just hope that we’ve got the right pieces coming in, the coaches are right, we have to get this ball rolling.’’