General manager (GM) Brad Holmes had a clear focus entering his first draft with the Detroit Lions. The memo clearly read, build in the trenches. If you’ve followed my work over the past couple of months, you can certainly imagine how excited I am to add Penei Sewell and Alim McNeill in the same draft.
Holmes used the seventh overall pick on the best offensive lineman in the draft landing, Penei Sewell, who is expected to start his NFL career at right tackle. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Lions deployed the 13th ranked offensive line as a whole in 2020. This pick should skyrocket the unit into the league’s top five in 2021 and for years to come.
The Detroit Lions followed that choice up by selecting Levi Onwuzurike, a defensive tackle out of Washington. The 6-foot-3 interior lineman plays far bigger than he appears; he’s powerful and plays around 290-pounds.
It’s no secret the Lions have struggled mightily over the past couple of years on defense. Well, that was putting it lightly. Under Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions defense was completely atrocious and utterly embarrassing.
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Things start up front, and adding a player like Onwuzurike who can generate pressure working on the inside will really help the second and third level of the defense. He will start in a rotation with second-year tackle John Penisini along with Nick Williams. The trio will share time inside with veteran tackle Michael Brockers. If all goes well, the combination should take some pressure off of Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara.
With the 72nd overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Alim McNeill.
Before the latest selection, I felt Holmes would continue to focus on the defensive side of the football unless there was a receiver he felt was far too good to pass up. Instead of Nico Collins, or Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions continue to build in the trenches. They’re clearly trying to dominate the line of scrimmage.
The Lions have plenty of needs that need to be addressed at the second and third levels of their defense. Entering the third round, the Lions could have gone in a variety of ways. Detroit is in the market for receiver, linebacker, cornerback, and safety moving forward.
Instead, the Detroit Lions drafted Alim McNeill, who I absolutely love. This kid is a beast inside; unlike Onwuzurike, McNeill is a legit nose tackle and, mark my words, will become a stout three-down tackle.
McNeill recorded a whopping 17.5 tackles for a loss while totaling 77 tackles and 10 sacks plus a pick-six in three seasons at N.C. State.