The Detroit Lions are set to cut down their roster to just 53 players in the coming days. And the new regime in Motown has some tough decisions to make.
Yet, the team’s newest class of rookies is one that should not only be sprinkled throughout the team’s final roster to kick off the regular season but be a big part of any resurgence that takes place in 2021.
The new regime made the play in the trenches the focus of their draft this year, using the number seven overall selection on Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. They followed that up with back-to-back defensive tackle selections going with Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike in the second and North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill in the third.
Defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse was the Lions’ other third-rounder.
USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes were the team’s fourth-round selections. And finally, Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson was the final pick in the seventh.
On the edge of final cuts, it appears every single one of the team’s 2021 draft picks will make the Lions’ final roster. In fact, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com believes two rookies could be named co-defensive players of the preseason for Motown. One is Barnes. The other? An undrafted rookie in cornerback A.J. Parker.
” … Parker continues to be an excellent surprise for the Lions’ defense this summer. The guy lives around the football and always seems to be in the right place to make a play. At this point, it will be a surprise if he isn’t the starting nickel cornerback Week 1 … He might be the co-defensive player of the preseason for the Lions, along with rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes.”
At this point, the Lions could have several rookies start for the team when they take on the San Francisco 49ers in their regular-season home opener in Ford Field Week One.
Sewell should be the Lions’ starter at right tackle, although he’s still finding his sea legs after playing left tackle in college. Onwuzurike and McNeill should both see significant snaps as rookies along the defensive line.
It would not be a surprise if St. Brown leads all Lions’ receivers in receptions in his first season simply based on the lack of talent at the position. And there is a strong argument to be made that Barnes has played himself into a starting role this summer.
While the idea of starting several rookies isn’t ideal, it serves as hope for the future after a single offseason of work in the midst of an active rebuild. If these first-year players can perform beyond the low expectations currently set for this team, the Detroit Lions should be all the better for it in the long run.