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Notes: Penei Sewell, Alim McNeill named to PFF’s 2021 All-Rookie Team

The Lions got better in the trenches in 2021, and they’re starting to receive some national praise for it.

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Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

During his end-of-season press conference Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said he felt pretty good about his draft class.

“I think all seven draftees played critical roles, played valuable roles,” Holmes said on Tuesday. “Six of the seven were starters at some point in this season, even down to a seventh-round pick in Jermar Jefferson, he was able to contribute.”

Though part of his praise was more a result of circumstance—the Lions had to start a lot of rookie due to injuries in 2021—Holmes and company deserve some praise for actually making the most out of those picks. And now that the regular season is over, Holmes is starting to get some of that credit.

This week, PFF announced their 2021 All-Rookie team, and the Lions had two players make the list. Offensive tackle and seventh overall pick Penei Sewell made the offensive team, while Alim McNeill made the defensive team.

“Sewell started to settle in once he switched back over to that right side in Week 10 with Taylor Decker returning from injury,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Sewell ended the 2021 regular season as PFF’s sixth-highest graded right tackle. The arrow should only be pointing up for the 21-year-old as he continues to get more comfortable on the right side.”

The write up for McNeill is a bit more backhanded, as there simply weren’t many rookie interior defenders who graded out well in PFF’s system. Still, Linsey had some positive things to say.

“There is no obvious candidate for the second interior defender spot, but McNeill earns the nod as PFF’s second-highest graded rookie at the position with a 60.3 overall grade,” Linsey wrote. “McNeill earned the second-highest PFF run-defense grade of any rookie interior defender to play at least 100 run-defense snaps, and he flashed some of the quickness that gave him intriguing pass-rush potential coming out of North Carolina State.”

You’re probably wondering, “Where the heck is Amon-Ra St. Brown?” He was beaten out by first-round picks Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith at the wide receiver position. That said, he still got an honorable mention from Linsey.

“St. Brown’s 2.4 receiving yards per route run from Week 10 through the end of the season ranked eighth among receivers who ran at least 100 routes over that stretch.”

  • Speaking of St. Brown, guess who’s up for Rookie of the Week for the fifth time in the past six weeks? And this time, he may actually win!

  • Jerry Jacobs is reaching out to fans who supported him throughout his rookie season:

  • Lions running back D’Andre Swift was at Monday night’s National Championship game to support his Georgia Bulldogs. Looks like he had a pretty good time: