Executive producer and analyst for NFL Matchup and senior producer at NFL Films Greg Cosell has been kind enough to break down the Lions' draft picks for detroitlions.com in each of the past eight seasons, and has agreed to do so for a ninth year.
Cosell's opinions are based on countless hours watching the All-22 film and evaluating these prospects. He is one of the most honest evaluators in the business, and is well respected among NFL circles.
You can follow him on Twitter at @gregcosell.
Here's what he had to say about the Lions' 2021 draft class:
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon, Rd 1 (No. 7 overall)
Cosell: "Sewell is a high-level athlete for the OT position and will likely transition to the NFL fairly seamlessly as a rookie starter. He has a desirable combination of elite athletic movement and natural power and velocity to his movement that you do not find in many OT prospects.
"Sewell consistently exploded out of his stance as a run blocker executing first level blocks with force and velocity and there was no better second level run blocker with Sewell showing powerful movement and striking with violence and strong finishing traits. Overall Sewell showed excellent foot quickness and athleticism and outstanding balance and body control, especially on the move, and strong heavy hands and those are all traits that will transition well to the NFL.
"I believe Sewell is scheme transcendent in the run game with the athletic skill set to execute effectively in both zone and gap scheme concepts. There were some concerns that showed up on the 2019 tape, particularly lunging and balance issues, although there were many snaps in which he showed excellent balance and body control, and that he did not always play to his power and strength and those concerns will need to be addressed with coaching at the next level. But there's no question Sewell possesses terrific athletic traits that should result in quality tackle play, but it could be a process."
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington, Rd 2 (41)
Cosell: "Onwuzurike is a very intriguing defensive tackle prospect as you project and transition him to the next level with his desirable traits profile of natural power with heavy hands and plus quickness and athleticism. The foundation of his game is power and force with strong active heavy hands, but he showed enticing flashes of first step and explosive quickness as both a run defender and inside pass rusher that you hope are a sign of things to come in the NFL with coaching and further development.
"What was clearly evident on tape was Onwuzurike was a disruptive inside presence who had dominant snaps both physically with his natural power and heavy hands and athletically with his quickness and burst and balance. Onwuzurike has the overall physical traits of power and athleticism to line up in multiple positions across the defensive front and be a factor both in run defense and as a pass rusher.
"He possesses the physical skill set to be both a one-gap and two-gap player, but my sense is he will be viewed as a one-gap player who could develop into a quality three-technique. The more tape I watched of Onwuzurike the more I liked him. He played stronger than his weight as a zero-technique and he showed the off the ball quickness demanded of three-techniques in addition to lining up at four or five different positions along the different front."
Alim McNeill, DT, NC State, Rd 3 (72)
Cosell: "McNeill will be an interesting projection to the NFL given that an argument could be made that he was playing out of position as a zero-technique, two-gap defensive tackle in North Carolina State's defense. Although he is a powerful man, McNeill has the athletic and physical traits to be a one-gap defensive tackle as you think about his transition to the next level, but his 2020 college tape showed a splash player who needs to play with proper technique and leverage more consistently.
"My sense despite his lack of consistent execution is McNeill will be seen as scheme transcendent with his experience as a two-gap player with strong heavy hands and control and displace ability plugging him into 3-4/5-2 base front alignments, but his light feet and overall quickness with the traits to develop into a quality pass rusher making him attractive to 4-3 base fronts as a one-technique and possibly even a three-technique with coaching and experience.
"I believe McNeill can be an ascending player once he gets to the NFL with the strong likelihood he will become a one-gap defensive tackle. I don't think he has quite the initial explosive burst off the ball that Grady Jarrett has, but I could see McNeill developing into that kind of player with coaching and experience."
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse, Rd 3 (101)
Cosell: "Melifonwu will be one of the more fascinating corner projections and transitions to the NFL given his size, speed, plus athleticism and competitiveness profile mitigated by his limitations – fluidity and core stiffness and transition. Big corners who can run and play press man coverage are always in demand in the NFL and Melifonwu's baseline athletic parameters and style of play fit that profile.
"At this point Melifonwu is much stronger in press man than he is in off coverage where his core tightness and hip fluidity limitations show up much more. My sense is Melifonwu will be team and scheme specific with teams that feature a good percentage of outside press and emphasize physicality and competitiveness in their corners looking at him as a strong prospect.
"You will hear about a move to safety given his size and competitive toughness, but I believe there will be plenty of teams that will see him as a corner especially in a league where outside corner play is always at a premium."
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC, Rd 4 (112)
Cosell: "There is a lot to like as you project and transition St. Brown to the NFL with his desirable length and smooth fluid athleticism. St. Brown was a detailed nuanced route runner who consistently showed both route quickness – especially with free access – and separation quickness at the top of his route stem.
"St. Brown was featured in USC's offense both outside and in the slot and was used as a motion receiver, so he presents outstanding formation versatility at the next level. St. Brown reminded me in many ways of another former USC receiver Robert Woods with my sense being that St. Brown could line up both outside and the slot with multiple splits and be effective with his natural route and separation quickness.
"Another receiver who came to mind watching St. Brown's 2019 and 2020 tape was Keenan Allen when he came out of California. The more I watched St. Brown the more I liked him as a complete receiver lacking only true vertical speed. He has the look and feel of a volume receiver in the NFL."
Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue, Rd 4 (113)
Cosell: "Barnes was a fun player to watch and evaluate as a projection to the NFL given that he essentially played two positions at Purdue – stacked linebacker and edge pass rusher. As a stacked linebacker, which was his base position in 2020, Barnes was an aggressive and physical box defender in the run game who used his hands effectively to control and displace offensive linemen and make tackles. There was a velocity and power to his game in the box and he showed short area quickness and burst to finish with some force as a tackler.
"Barnes' lack of length and sudden movement will be a negative factor for many teams as they project and transition him as a stacked linebacker in base defensive fronts, but my sense is he could be one of those exceptions with his relentless competitive playing personality and strong stacked linebacker traits.
"The question with Barnes is whether NFL teams will see him as a third-down down edge pass rusher and it's that evaluation that will determine his value at the next level. There were times Barnes reminded me of Brandon Graham as a pass rusher. Graham is both a little taller and a little heavier, but stylistically they were similar. Barnes has a lot of power in his body.
"The more I watched Barnes the more I liked him as a player. He will be seen as having some limitations, but his overall game and playing personality is strong and he will find a place in the NFL as a starting stacked linebacker who fits both base 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. I could make the argument that based on tape Barnes and Nick Bolton of Missouri are similar prospects."
Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State, Rd 7 (257)
Cosell: "Jefferson will be an interesting projection to the NFL given that he has good size and was a volume runner at Oregon State with significant experience as an I-back in a predominant zone run game. With running backs somewhat devalued in the league and not necessarily seen as foundations of an offense – though there are some exceptions – Jefferson will likely be viewed as a complementary/committee back and not as a primary back and that will limit his touches and his volume.
"Jefferson has light active feet with excellent short area burst and acceleration and outstanding lateral quickness in confined space with deceptive power and finishing toughness. He also showed long accelerating speed to hit the home run, so Jefferson's overall running traits are strong.
"The question will be what Jefferson can give an offense in the pass game and the tape showed that he ran angle routes and wheel routes in addition to conventional screen, so there's growth potential with much room for development."