Detroit Lions: 3 storylines from the 2021 NFL Draft

Detroit Lions' Penei Sewell (Oregon) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions' Penei Sewell (Oregon) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Lions are coming off their first NFL draft under the stewardship of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. And by all accounts, the results were successful.

While it’s still unknown whether this chapter of the franchise will have a happy ending or not, there were several storylines created based on the outcome of the draft. Here are our top three takeaways.

Investing in the trenches

Through their actions, the Lions’ new brass made it clear they believe in rebuilding this team from the inside out. That’s why we saw an unprecedented investment in both the offensive and defensive line during the 2021 NFL Draft.

Detroit used their first three draft picks on the trenches, adding offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall selection in the first round, Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike in the second round, and N.C. State defensive tackle Alim McNeill with their first of two third-rounders.

Combined with the recent contract extension granted to Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and the trade that welcomed veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers to Motown, this message was sent loud and clear.

Lack of skill position talent

Despite some critical needs on their roster, the Lions didn’t address their skill positions until late into day two of the draft. And that third-round selection (101st overall) was at cornerback, Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu, a position that was just addressed last year with the first-round pick of Jeff Okudah, third overall.

Detroit would go on to select USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round and Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson in the seventh. Still, the early investment along their offensive and defensive line left some of their skill positions bereft of top-tier talent, mainly at receiver. Now the team will hope they hit a home run or two with their free-agent swings.

Looking beyond 2021

The Detroit Lions are surely hoping they can win ball games in 2021. But it seems clear that they are prepared for the possibility that this season is a wash. Extra first-round selections in both 2022 and 2023 plus signing the majority of their free agency class to one-year deals points to a multi-year rebuild in the Motor City.

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Following the decisions of the previous regime in Detroit, it’s easy to see why new management might believe it will take more than this season to untangle the damage that’s been done. And they’re probably right. While everyone wants to win now, it’s realistic to believe it will take more than one offseason to fix the problems in Motown.