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NFL Draft

Detroit Lions 2021 NFL Draft Class Breakdown

  • The Draft Network
  • May 6, 2021
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With a brand new regime in place and a fresh face under center for the first time in a decade, it’s clear that the Lions' rebuild is a long-term overhaul. Early on, the theme for their draft class was building up the trenches, as their first three picks all involved players along the offensive and defensive line. Stacking talent after that and gaining value rounded out the draft class, as Brad Holmes pieced together a promising first class during his first-ever draft as a general manager.

Let’s take a look back at their 2021 NFL Draft class:

Round 1: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Pre-draft arguments were made as to whether or not Sewell would be the first offensive lineman off the board. In the end, the same thought process most had prior to him opting out of the 2020 season remained true as he became the first blocker to hear his name called. With many different directions that they could possibly go, Holmes elected to select another bookend tackle opposite of Taylor Decker. With Sewell believed to be penciled in as the team's starting right tackle from Day 1, the franchise now has two potential cornerstone blockers paired with Frank Ragnow who has quickly turned into one of the best centers in the league.

Round 2: Levi Onwuzurike, IDL, Washington

Clearly showing that they weren’t negatively swayed by players who opted out of the 2020 season, the franchise selected another player who we haven't seen since 2019. Onwuzurike had a strong argument as the best interior defender in a down class overall. The last time evaluators saw him in action came during the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl where he was dominant. Suffering an injury sidelined him following that point, but the flashes shown were enough to make the Lions comfortable with selecting him in the second round. A hulkingly strong and explosive 3-technique, Aaron Glenn’s versatile defense needed depth up front in what’s going to be an interesting transition for the team considering the introduction of a brand new scheme.

Round 3: Alim McNeill, IDL, NC State

An impressive all-around athlete, McNeil was a standout baseball player in high school. That nimbleness and awareness showed up frequently on tape as he was a light-footed but aggressive interior defender with an impressive anchor to stand his ground against the run. Continuing to throw darts at players within the trenches, McNeill’s leadership, toughness, and technique are exactly what the team needed along the interior in order to improve upon the team's lackluster run defense from a season ago. 

Round 3: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

Rounding out the third round, Holmes added another player at a premium position in Melifonwu. An early-round talent, he has abnormal length, technique, and ball skills on the perimeter. Pairing him alongside last year's first-round pick in Jeffrey Okudah gives the team a young duo of corners that they are hopeful for moving forward. Melifonwu still needs to clean up some technical aspects of playing the position, but a player of his savvy and athleticism has the traits that transfer well to the next level. 

Round 4: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC

A draft wait that was a little longer than expected, St. Brown steps into a spot where he’s going to be expected to be an immediate contributor. With his domination in the short to intermediate areas, St. Brown has the skill set that’s an ideal pairing with quarterback Jared Goff. A strong and explosive player at the catch point, he’s likely to receive a heavy amount of snaps considering the Lions lost their top two pass catchers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. A game that’s reminiscent of Golden Tate, he possesses strong hands, run after the catch ability, and polish as a route-runner.

Round 4: Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue

Directly after the selection of St. Brown, Barnes was the next addition to an overhaul of the defense. A bit of a late bloomer during the process, Barnes had a pro day that helped him significantly during the pre-draft process. Holmes was adamant about simply selecting the best player available. With a linebacker room that is scarce with three-down options, Barnes is one of the few that actually can be counted upon to hold up while in pass coverage. A needed upgrade, he has a path to see playing time early on.

Round 7: Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State

An extremely productive rusher during his time with the Beavers, Jefferson was thought to be a target for many teams in the middle rounds. Having to wait much longer than anticipated, he now firmly steps into a spot behind last year's second-round selection in D’Andre Swift and free agent addition Jamaal Williams. The recent release of Kerryon Johnson created some wiggle room for him to compete for the second spot on the depth chart. 

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