'A solid foundation': Lions' NFL draft class brings in A's, B's from analysts

The Detroit News
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The first NFL Draft for the Lions' tandem of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell is in the books, and the early returns are promising.

That's according to NFL analysts, at least, who generally handed out A's and B's to the Lions' 2021 class.

The Lions selected USC receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.

That includes an A-plus from Danny Kelly of The Ringer — one of four Kelly handed out in the 32-team league — thanks to Campbell and Holmes apparently sticking to their gameplan of building through the trenches. The Lions' first three picks were offensive tackle Penei Sewell and defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill.

"The Lions put together the most on-brand, build-through-the-trenches type of draft imaginable," Kelly wrote. "This group has big bite-your-kneecaps energy: Sewell is a dominant tackle who plays with a glass-eater mentality; Onwuzurike and McNeill are both brawling interior defensive linemen; (cornerback Ifeatu) Melifonwu has elite size; and (linebacker Derrick) Barnes is an athletic and rangy hitter at linebacker. Oh, and (receiver Amon-Ra) St. Brown is a tough, physical slot receiver who bullies defensive backs in the red zone. New head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes laid a solid foundation with their first draft."

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News gave the Lions an A-minus for their efforts, ranking the draft haul ninth.

"New GM Brad Holmes made an early splash trading Matthew Stafford to boost future draft considerations and he delivered while on the clock this year," Iyer wrote. "Detroit made it a point to get better in both trenches early and got some good secondary and linebacker depth later. Sewell was an unbeatable way to come out swinging. St. Brown is the ideal tough slot receiver for them to playoff (sic) tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Lions didn’t address wide receiver multiple times, but that’s only real knock for an important class for their latest rebuild."

Similarly, Pro Football Focus also gave the Lions' class an A-minus.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper also liked the Lions' draft, giving it a B, and calling it "a decent start for the new Detroit regime, which has a long ways to go to put its imprint on the roster. We could be looking at quarterback for the Lions at this time next year."

Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated gave the Lions a B-minus.

"Give a former NFL tight end with a penchant for inflicting pain the keys to the draft room and this is exactly what you’d expect," Orr writes. "The Lions went offensive line, defensive line, defensive line with their first three picks and while we’re all left staring at the empty, dust-ridden shelf that is their receiver room, it represented a solid foundational maneuver going forward."

Luke Easterling, the editor for Draft Wire, also approved of the foundation Holmes and Campbell appear to have set with their first draft, giving it a B-plus.

"When you're a new regime trying to establish your identity," Easterling writes, "this is how you do it."

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