It’s far too early to make any sweeping generalizations about the Detroit Lions’ 2021 rookies. Though we’re all eager to make quick assessments of Lions general manager Brad Holmes, the truth is the value of his first draft class will not be known for at least another couple years.
That being said, a certain baseline was set in 2021. The Lions got some expected production out of first-round pick Penei Sewell. They were likely a bit underwhelmed by how second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike played. And they were undeniably thrilled with the production they got out of fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Recently, ESPN analyzed the rookie classes (not just draft picks) of all 32 teams with the help of PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic, and ranked every team. Here were their methods, in their own words.
“With the help of Pro Football Focus’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric, we ranked all 32 teams on the value of their rookie class over expectation given where each player was selected in the 2021 NFL draft.”
It’s important to note here that their rankings represent value over expectation, so this isn’t just a situation where the Lions had high draft picks, so of course, they got good players. This list, according to ESPN, is weighted to factor in draft position.
Put it all together and the Lions came out sixth on ESPN’s list.
“Detroit owned two of the 12 most valuable non-quarterback rookies in the 2021 draft class with first-round offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Day 3 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown,” the article read. “Undrafted free agent cornerback Jerry Jacobs also ranked inside the top 25 among that group. Sewell’s success was to be expected, but St. Brown and Jacobs surpassed expectations with flying colors.”
PFF made a list of their own, and the Lions landed fifth on that list, as well.
It’s worth noting that Detroit’s lack of supporting talent likely factored into these rankings. Jacobs may not have gotten a chance to play on any other team, but due to the Lions’ lack of depth—and poor injury luck at cornerback—the Lions were able to get some rare value out of a couple of undrafted rookies. That being said, it’s hard to deny that several Lions rookies played above expectation, and that’s one source of optimism going forward.
- Happy birthday to the best play-by-play NFL announcer in the business.
The— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) January 26, 2022
Happy birthday @DanMillerFox2 https://t.co/mbqxg0COTQ
Have a day, @DanMillerFox2, have a day pic.twitter.com/bbR5RhJ2a4— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 26, 2022
- Several publications are running positional roster reviews for the Lions. Both MLive and DetroitLions.com are currently evaluating the tight ends.
- Interesting chart here showing fourth-quarter comebacks as a percentage for modern quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford just barely sneaks into the top 10, while Jared Goff barely sneaks into the top 20:
Mahomes' throw to Hill vs. Garoppolo's throw to Sanders in SB 54 is a massive turning point in the legacies for these QBs.— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) January 26, 2022
Playoff Jimmy is a problem for the 49ers, but overall, he deserves more respect than he gets.https://t.co/kX65KWHDrT pic.twitter.com/mRUP2h7YE5
- I know y’all have been dying for some Kelly Stafford content. Well, the Detroit Free Press transcribed part of Kelly’s weekly podcast when she started talking about the beef between Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.
- Want to get hyped about the Lions' defense? Watch all 19 of their forced turnovers here:
11 INT— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 25, 2022
Take a look back at all 19 of our takeaways from the 2021 season! pic.twitter.com/NXXnSSsp1p
- Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes that seven of the Lions’ top offensive linemen could be back next year, and they think they could be great.