For the first time in recent history, there’s a sense of optimism around the Detroit Lions. Even national analysts have good things to say about a team that’s typically been the punchline of jokes.
Rene Bugner compiled draft grades from 18 well-known outlets to get a consensus rating on each team’s draft. According to the data, the Lions were tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the seventh-best draft in the league.
🚨 2021 NFL Draft Team Grades— René Bugner (@RNBWCV) May 2, 2021
I combined 18 evaluations for GPA incl:
Doug Farrar & Mark Schofield
Mel Kiper Jr
Thanks guys 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/vM6OnVl4aK
Here’s a rundown of Detroit’s selections.
Still, even with the positive reviews on the draft, the Lions still sit as a longshot in the NFL futures market. Their over/under for wins remains at a low total of five, while the Lions have the second-longest sports betting odds to win the Super Bowl at +15000. Only the Houston Texans have worse odds (+17500).
New general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Quinn dedicated the team’s first pick to improving an offensive line that allowed the 10th-most sacks last season (42).
Sewell allowed only one sack in 1,376 snaps over his two-year career at Oregon. He opted out of the 2020 season after being named a unanimous First Team All-American as a sophomore in 2019. Once the Lions announced Sewell as their pick, it didn’t take long for the praise to come in.
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“During the process, when I was talking to different scouts and head coaches, they said simply, if you could count on one guy being a Hall of Famer, who would it be? It’s Penei Sewell,” said Booger McFarland, ESPN analyst. “So, for the Lions to get what some people think is a potential Hall of Famer at this pick and can bolster their offensive line, now they can be the physical football team that their head coach wants to be.”
Entering the draft, the Lions were seen as likely taking a wide receiver according betting odds, but then Sewell fell to them.
Detroit continued to bolster its interior presence by selecting defensive tackles in the second and third rounds. At No. 41 in the second round, the team selected Levi Onwuzurike out of Washington before picking North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill in the third round at No. 72.
Campbell gained attention during his introductory press conference when he said his team would “bite a kneecap off.” And based on Onwuzurike’s first press conference after being drafted, he seems to align with the type of culture Campbell is building.
"I like (expletive) people up,” he said. “I like to get off the line and just put my helmet or my hands on an offensive lineman and (expletive) up an offensive scheme, pretty much. I like pushing 'em back 2, 3 yards and just making 'em feel like (expletive)."
Onwuzurike had seven sacks during three seasons at Washington. He was named All-PAC 12 First Team in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. Some analysts projected him as a first-round pick. He was the second defensive tackle taken after New England chose Alabama’s Christian Barmore at No. 38.
At 6-2, 317 pounds, McNeil is a bigger lineman who can stuff the run while still being an efficient pass rusher. In his first two seasons at N.C. State, McNeil had nine sacks. He earned All-ACC honors in 2020 with 26 tackles, one sack and one interception in 11 games. Ryan Fowler of the Draft Network sees Detroit’s first three picks as players that will bring an inherent toughness to the team.
“Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, and Alim McNeill are maulers who will insert a nasty, physical culture for a Lions roster ushering in a new era of football,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, none of Detroit’s early draft picks are on betting boards for a rookie of the year award. An offensive lineman has never won rookie of the year, while only six defensive tackles have ever earned the distinction. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald last won the award in 2014. The Lions had one of the six winners, with Ndamukong Suh taking the honor in 2010.
No. 1 overall pick and new Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the favorite for the offensive rookie of the year at +300.
Micah Parsons, a linebacker out of Penn State, was taken at No. 12 by the Dallas Cowboys and opened as the favorite for defensive rookie of the year at +400.