Quay Walker's potential to play linebacker at a high level was spotted by one of his coaches when he was playing for Crisp County High School in Georgia.
What made that projection more remarkable was the fact that Walker was playing offense at the time. His size was part of what initially prompted the switch to defense, Walker said in an interview earlier this year.
"I think I was more physical playing offense," Walker said. "That pretty much started me playing defense.
"It was just me being real physical on offense."
Walker went on to become a stalwart for four years on the University of Georgia defense. He was a key contributor on the 2022 national championship team.
Where Walker fits in this year's draft depends on schemes and needs for teams such as the Detroit Lions and others.
Following is a look at the 2022 linebacker class draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority, and five linebackers who could fit the Lions.
Linebacker class draft strength: Similar to the 2022 quarterback class, there are players who can fill roles at different levels, but no star linebacker who compares to someone like Micah Parsons of Penn State. He made All Pro last year as a rookie with the Cowboys.
Lions' LB depth chart: Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Tavante Beckett, Chris Board, Curtis Bolton, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Anthony Pittman, Josh Woods.
Lions' LB draft priority: There's a need for an every-down playmaker, and this draft has some intriguing prospects who might fill it. The Lions could start looking to do that late in the first round (pick 32) or early in the second (pick 34).
View photos of the top linebacker prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Five linebackers who could fit the Lions:
(40-yard times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Devin Lloyd, Utah:
6-3, 237. 4.66 40-yard dash.
A 2017 redshirt and four-year player, with three years as a starter. Played 47 games. Highly productive the last three seasons after getting spot duty in 2018.
Ruled the middle as an interior linebacker in 2021, making 22 of his 43 career tackles for loss, eight sacks, four interceptions and 110 tackles -- 66 solo and 44 assists.
A versatile athlete, he had eight interceptions and punted his senior year in high school.
2. Nakobe Dean, Georgia:
A popular player on the 2021 season national champions, and not just for his catchy name and personality. He contributed his share of plays on a team full of playmakers. He was second on the team in tackles in 2021 with 72 – 36 solos and 36 assists.
A three-year player and full-time starter the last two seasons, he played 39 career games. He filled up the stats sheet in 2021: 10.5 tackles for loss, 8 passes defended, 6 sacks, 2 interceptions with one returned for a TD.
3. Quay Walker, Georgia:
6-4, 241. 4.52 40-yard dash.
Walker was one of the better performers at Georgia's March 17 Pro Day. A steady four-year player, he played 52 games and showed an ability to play off the ball because of his size.
He was second on the team in 2021 with 39 solo tackles and tied for third with 67 total tackles. He started all 15 games in 2021, posting personal bests of 5.5 tackles for loss and three passes defended.
4. Christian Harris, Alabama:
6 feet, 226 pounds. 4.44 40-yard dash.
A three-year starter who got playing time early. He started 12 of 13 games he played in as a 2019 freshman. Consistently productive, he had season tackle totals of 63, 79 and 79 from 2019-21.
He had a big 2021 season with 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles.
View photos of NFL prospect Nakobe Dean.
5. Troy Andersen, Montana State (sleeper):
6-3.5, 243 pounds. 4.42 40-yard dash.
There is no question about his versatility. Andersen started games at running back and linebacker as a 2017 freshman and was voted Big Sky freshman in the year.
He was first team Big Sky quarterback in 2018 after switching positions because of an injury, and back to linebacker in 2019, where he was first team Big Sky again.
Montana State did not play football in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Playing linebacker in 2021, Andersen had 147 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also completed one pass for three yards.