Detroit Lions’ winners and losers from 2021 NFL draft include Holmes, Spielman

Detroit Free Press

It was a weird start and a furious finish to the 2021 NFL draft for the Detroit Lions.

We got three straight linemen the first two days the draft, then some wheeling and dealing to fill needs on Day 3.

Now that the draft is in the books, here’s a look at the winners and the losers for the Lions.

Offensive line: Winners

Talk about an embarrassment of riches. With the selection of Penei Sewell seventh overall, the O-line boasts three first-round picks and a third-rounder. This unit should be heads and shoulders the best on the team.

Offensive line: Losers

If an opposing defender so much as breathes on Jared Goff, we’re gonna have a talk, boys. General manager Brad Holmes talked about using such a high pick to “feed the beast,” but to whom much is given, much is expected. No pressure, guys.

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Penei Sewell: Winner

You’ve got to love his rags-to-riches story coming from the tiny, impoverished island of American Samoa. Even after opting out last year he should have enough talent and support from a bunch of good guys at a strong position group to flourish.

Penei Sewell: Loser

The fact is he’s going to be compared head-to-head twice a year to quarterback Justin Fields, whom Holmes passed on and landed with the Chicago Bears at No. 11. Just imagine the kind of Eric Ebron-levels of hate that will come Sewell’s way — and Holmes’ way — in his first game against Chicago if he allows multiple sacks to Khalil Mack and Fields throws for three touchdowns.

Hank Fraley: Winner

The highly regarded offensive line coach who once tried to recruit Sewell to UCLA has a wealth of talent in his room. If Fraley could get undrafted converted defensive end Matt Nelson to hold off Mack last year in emergency spot duty at right tackle, imagine what he can do with Sewell. Maybe Fraley’s the real beast the Lions are feeding.

Jared Goff: Winner

With so much prime beef protecting him, the Lions quarterback has no excuse not to play some of the best football of his career. It’s clear the Lions are supporting Goff fully and want to give him every chance to be the quarterback this year and into the future. He also got some help in the fourth round with USC receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who could be his Golden Tate-type safety valve.

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Chris Spielman: Loser

Um … Chris? You OK, my man? In February, the Lions’ special assistant explained his philosophy and said in “today’s league, I think you build from the outside in.” What happened? Was this a smokescreen? Is there’s some kind of disconnect between Spielman’s philosophy and the philosophy of Holmes and Campbell? Everyone’s supposed to be on the same page in Allen Park, so what gives?

Defensive line: Winners

Like the O-line, these guys got bunch of help with two straight picks going to defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike of Washington and Alim McNeill of North Carolina State. The Lions struggled mightily to put pressure on the quarterback next year, so if this doesn’t do it they’re going to have to go find another Ndamukong Suh next year.

Nick Williams: Loser

After a disappointing first season with the Lions, the veteran defensive tackle already took a pay cut to save his job this spring and now he’s facing major competition from two high draft picks. A friendly contract may save his job this year, but this draft signals his final season in Detroit.

Mark DeLeone: Loser

The Lions’ inside linebackers coach got a little bit of help with the addition of Purdue’s Derrick Barnes in the fifth round. But otherwise there hasn’t been much of an upgrade to the team’s worst position group last year. Maybe the Lions will go for a major linebacker upgrade next year, but it’s going to be tough sledding for DeLeone this season.

Brad Holmes: Winner

The first-year GM is definitely enjoying a honeymoon with those fans who thought it was totally OK to ignore major areas of concern, step into a 1960s time machine and fortify those trenches with the first three picks. We’ll see if their tune changes when the Lions struggle to score, stop the run and get turnovers. Enjoy it while it lasts, Brad.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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