The time after the NFL Draft is a flurry of transactions unlike any other time on the calendar. At seemingly breakneck speed, prospects who didn’t have their name called during the three-day draft spectacular are signing with teams left and right. Within a few hours, a team’s draft class can easily double in size with their undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions had 66 players on their roster. With 24 roster spots heading into the long weekend, Brad Holmes still had 17 spots to fill after the Lions made their final selection at No. 257.
Since then, the Lions have filled 13 of those spots, signing a myriad of players at different positions and varying skill sets, but to what end? How have the Lions fared backfilling their 90-man roster? Did they sign any players who had draftable grades? Lucky for you, there’s someone out there dedicated enough to not only break down these UDFA classes but psychotic enough to assign them grades—may the football gods look forever in his favor.
Thor Nystrom, NBC Sports Edge’s lead College Football and NFL Draft analyst, is that man, and he pegged the Lions with the fourth-best undrafted free agent class in the NFC.
“By any metric, the Lions had one of the best draft processes in the entire NFL, from the draft itself on through to the UDFA extravaganza,” noted Nystrom. “It’s a new era of Detroit Football.”
Nystrom had nothing but glowing remarks for Detroit’s UDFA class, noting that four of the players—Jonathan Adams, Tommy Kraemer, Drake Jackson, and Sage Surratt—had draftable grades according to his big board.
“Extremely slick thrift shopping,” mentioned Nystrom in regards to Detroit’s approach at wideout. Instead of reaching to fill what definitely is a long-term need at wide receiver, Holmes was patient, selecting Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round and choosing to throw some darts at figuring out the position by adding Adams and Surratt to the fold.
“Another sign of intelligent design from an organization that’s been devoid of it for far too long,” added Nystrom. “As Detroit’s new administration rebuilds the shoddy roster it inherited, this deep class will give it the option of swapping out the previous regime’s failed developmental projects for fresh hand-picked alternatives.”
There were signs of Holmes making these kinds of moves leading up to the draft like the release of Danny Shelton and the subsequent drafting of Alim McNeill. Late last week, after drafting Jermar Jefferson in the seventh round, Detroit released Kerryon Johnson. Those “hand-picked alternatives” are certainly abundant on a roster clearly getting re-imagined at every level.