As we’ve now looked at both a 53-man roster projection and an estimated depth chart for the Detroit Lions, it’s clear that some of the roster has been positively impacted from the 2021 NFL Draft class, while others have been impacted negatively.
Today, let’s focus on the positive and take a look at the “winners” from the Lions’ draft class, or the players who stand to benefit most from the team’s additions (or lack of additions).
Some may consider Goff a loser from last week’s draft, considering the Lions passed on a wide receiver with their first four picks in the draft. However, they still ended up grabbing USC receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round—later than many projected him to go.
Plus, the Lions heavily invested in protecting Goff by taking Penei Sewell in the first round. If you remember from my breakdown on Goff’s downslide in Los Angeles, some of that can be attributed to inconsistencies along the offensive line.
Also, despite the opportunity, the Lions opted to pass on Goff’s potential replacement in Justin Fields. That’s a big win for him.
Swift stands to benefit largely from the addition of Sewell, as well. With the speed the Lions now have at right tackle, expect the Lions to run plays to get Swift in open space with Sewell out in front of him. We’re talking swing passes, pitches, or screens. Heck, even the addition of St. Brown should help in that category, as he’s one of the most aggressive and reliable blockers in this year’s receiver class.
The Lions’ edge defenders
Finally, finally, the Lions have invested in some interior pass rushers by drafting both Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. With some push up the middle, opposing quarterbacks may now fall into the waiting arms of the Lions’ edge defenders.
For far too long, the Lions’ pass rush has solely relied on guys like Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers, but with no middle push, quarterbacks could often evade up the middle. With that option theoretically gone, we could see sack numbers increase for Detroit’s edge players.
When the Lions signed Elder in free agency, it appeared to be a move to simply build depth at the corner position. However, with Justin Coleman cut and no other nickel cornerbacks added through the draft or free agency, Elder may have just found himself a starting job.
Elder is a guy who coaches have always seemed to suggest he’s on the brink of breaking out, and he had his first year of significant action last year. Perhaps that was enough for the Lions to trust him with a starting job this year... or they’ll add a free agent nickel cornerback before camp.
Safety was arguably this team’s biggest need going into the draft, and it went completely unaddressed. Harris has struggled in his first two years in the NFL, leading many to believe he has fully busted.
However, Detroit’s decision to pass on safety may be a vote of confidence in Harris, seeing as his only legit competition for a starting job right now is Dean Marlowe. Earlier this offseason, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn displayed his eagerness to mold his young secondary.
“When you have a group of athletes, you coach them, exactly tell them what they have to do and you get a chance to see a secondary that’s going to make plays for you,” Glenn said back in February. “It kind of reminds me of my year in New Orleans when I had a young secondary with Marshon Lattimore, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams. All those young guys. You get to grow these guys as pups. I’m excited about that.”
Whether he was talking about Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker, Harris, or all of the above, the team’s actions suggest they’re going to at least give Harris a chance to win the job.