The Detroit Lions have finished off another NFL Draft, and the 2021 edition was one of the best the team has had in a long time start to finish.
From Thursday to Saturday, the Lions managed to do the heavy lifting to fill out their roster with players who can come in and compete at direct spots of need, and as a result, have cashed in some quality grades for their work this weekend.
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What do the final grades for the team look like? Here’s a look.
Penei Sewell, T, Oregon (Pick Seven)
The Lions got some incredible value when they had a potential Pro Bowl, All-Pro and perhaps even Hall of Fame tackle slide right into their laps with their first pick. In a deep draft for wideouts, the team could afford to be choosy and they elected not to fill the need early on and simply scoop up the best lineman. Tough to fault them for that when Sewell is arguably the best tackle prospect since Joe Thomas. This is a home-run type of foundational pick for the franchise to build around now and later.
Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington (Pick 41)
On the surface, defensive tackle wasn’t a need, but then you remember how miserable Detroit’s front was at generating pressure the last handful of seasons or more. Onwuzurike is a deft mover up front and can press the pocket in plenty of unique ways. He also fits Detroit’s new culture and mindset in a great if not explicit way. It wasn’t a deep class up front, but Onwuzurike was arguably the best interior prospect in the class. To score him on day two is a win for the Lions, who will be able to get a lot tougher up front with his presence.
Alim McNeill, DL, N.C. State (Pick 72)
Doubling up on defensive line wasn’t a move that was expected, but McNeill can move like few people his size can up front. McNeill is also crazy athletic and the type of guy who could give the team more nastiness and punch in the trenches. Making life easier for edge rushers is a huge goal, and McNeill’s addition will help the Lions do that in a major way even if some folks hadn’t heard of him coming into the draft. Suddenly, there’s some serious depth up front for Detroit.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse (Pick 101)
Simply stunning to see Melifonwu on the board at this juncture, but the Lions scooped up a super-athletic player who figures to come in and compete in what is a young Lions cornerback room. Melifonwu has a very impressive ceiling and could end up being one of the top cornerbacks in the entire draft when all is said and done. With NFL bloodlines from his brother, Melifonwu will go about trying to make it in the league himself. This was a savvy pick for a needy Lions secondary that got picked on last year.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC (Pick 112)
Detroit didn’t draft a wideout for the first few days which was a moderate surprise, but they made up for it by nabbing St. Brown early on day three. Many had a much higher grade on St. Brown, and he is a good, mature kid from a good and athletic family who will be ready to come in the league and accept responsibility. He is tough, a good route runner and a savvy wideout who knows how to get open. It’s a sneaky good weapon for Jared Goff and the Detroit offense to find right off the bat after defensive fixes.
Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue (Pick 113)
The Lions needed a linebacker in the worst way as well for the depth on their roster. With a trade up, the Lions snagged Barnes, who is a speedy and hard-hitting prospect from Purdue. If there’s a question about him, it’s his ability to stand out size-wise, but he is a tackling machine, a steady producer and the kind of player who could help fill a huge hole at linebacker, a spot the Lions have not had much luck lately developing talent. Barnes generates some comparisons that are hard to ignore. At this point on the board, the Lions did about as good as they could be expected to do at the position.
Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State (Pick 257)
Perhaps the real Mr. Irrelevant given where he was selected, Jefferson now sets out to try and make waves and make the team and prove his doubters wrong, whomever they may be. If there is a problem with this pick, it’s the fact that the Lions have so much depth at running back. Finding snaps will be tough, but Jefferson is the type of quick, tough and durable runner that will not care about who is ahead of him. He could have gone in round four or five, but somehow slipped through the cracks. The Lions will hope that this will be to their benefit, and it could be quickly if Jefferson gets some special team snaps and finds a way to stick.
Lions 2021 NFL Draft Overall Grade
On paper, this is one of the better drafts of the 2021 year in the league. The Lions checked off need after need with players that are athletes, solid players and solid people. This was a foundational draft for the Lions, and if that was the case, the house is looking like it is going to be built to last. Trenches, defense, a few flash players on offense and all-around good football players is the theme of this draft. It was solid top to bottom for the Lions, who scored in a big way to start and carried that theme throughout.