Lions Make Statement in the Draft

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Matthew Merrifield, Sports Writer

Last weekend, was the NFL draft and the start of the Brad Holmes rebuild in Detroit. Although, the Lions have been making moves since February, like trading quarterback Matt Stafford to the Rams, this was new GM Brad Holmes’ first opportunity to bring in new talent for the Lions. There were great expectations coming into this draft as Holmes helped select some great classes during his time in L.A., and many expect that to carry over to Detroit. Although none of this years picks have taken a snap on the field, it seems that Brad Holmes may have delivered in his first year.

The Lions started this year’s draft with the number 7 overall pick, and many expected them to trade down with a team that needed a quarterback. However, top OL prospect Penei Sewell was still available and the Lions decided to take him. This was a best-case scenario for the Lions as Sewell, who was once considered the second best player in the draft behind Trevor Lawrence, is expected to be top tackle in the NFL for 10+ years. His draft stock began to fall this past season after he opted out of playing due to the pandemic, even though he was one of the best O-linemen in college football as a sophomore at Oregon in 2019. The Lions have had O-line struggles for as long as I can remember, but the combination of this pick and the extension to center Frank Ragnow shows that Brad Holmes is making it a top priority to have a great O-line. This was a great pick for the Lions and a start to a draft weekend that did not disappoint.

On Day two (rounds 2 & 3) the Lions made an emphasis to help their defense, which was one of the worst in the NFL last season. They started by drafting DL Levi Onwuzurike from the University of Washington with their 2nd round pick. Onwuzurike while undersized, makes up for it with his elite speed and versatility. This was a great pick for the Lions who will most likely be switching defensive schemes, and Onwuzurike will fit well. The Lions had two 3rd round picks and started by taking another DL in Alim McNeill from NC State. McNeill is similar to Onwuzurike in play style, and is very fast as well (he played center field in baseball at his high school while being 280 lbs!). The Lions then used their second 3rd round pick on CB Ifeatu Melifonwu from Syracuse. The Lions secondary was horrid last year even with first round pick Jeff Okudah, but Melifonwu standing at 6’3″ should bring some help on the outside.

The Lions started day 3 of the draft taking WR Amon-Ra St. Brown from USC. In a draft class full of receiver talent, this was a great find for the Lions. St. Brown has good size and is a great route runner, also it should be noted that St. Brown was the #2 WR recruit in 2018 ahead of first round picks: Jaylen Waddle and Ja’Marr Chase. The Lions then traded up to take Purdue LB Derrick Barnes immediately after taking St. Brown. Barnes was impressive at Purdue and helps a week LB core for the Lions. The Lions finished their 2021 draft class by selecting Jermar Jefferson from Oregon State. Jefferson was impressive during his time with the Beavers, running for 13oo-yards as a freshman in 2018 and was on pace to for over 1700 yards, but the PAC-12 only played 6-games.

The Lions definitely had one of the best drafts, but only time will tell. The future does appear to be bright as the Lions have plenty of draft capital in the upcoming years especially since they will have two first rounders in 2022.