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O'HARA: Lions are looking for players they love, as shown by 2021 draft class

From the first round of the 2021 draft where the Detroit Lions took tackle Penei Sewell to the fourth where they took wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, there was a common thread that made both prospects attractive to the Lions.

The Lions are looking for players they love and have shown that they fit their culture. Sewell and St. Brown both had those traits, even though there was a wide separation in their draft status.

Sewell was taken seventh overall on the first day of the draft, when the TV lights burn the brightest. St. Brown was taken on the third day, and 112th overall.

None of that had any influence on the Lions' interest level in the two players.

As General Manager Brad Holmes explained at his season-ending press conference Tuesday afternoon, the Lions look for similar traits no matter how they acquire players.

"We talk about we're going to get guys we love," Holmes said. "You talk about first round, Penei. Yes, he is what we thought he was going to be. And Penei's only going to get better."

As Holmes recounted, Sewell shifted from playing left tackle at Oregon – and opting out of the 2020 season because of the pandemic – to working at right tackle throughout the offseason and training camp.

Having done that, Sewell switched back to left tackle to take Taylor Decker's spot when Decker sustained a severe finger injury that forced him to miss the first half of the season. Sewell moved back to right tackle when Decker returned.

Sewell was only 21 in his rookie season, and he played both positions at a high level.

"Then you go down to the fourth round, with St. Brown," Holmes said. "He was who we thought he was going to be. It's the same thing.

"You can cay, 'Well, he's a fourth-round pick.' I said it to you guys earlier after we drafted him -- he reminded me of some of the guys that we had when I was back in LA (with the Rams). And I believe he showed that in his own way."

St. Brown got some playing time early in the season, but it wasn't until midseason that he became a focal point of the offense. He had 51 receptions in the last six games to finish with 91 catches for 912 yards and five TDs. He also ran for one TD.

Injuries depleted depth at receiver, which increased St. Brown's playing time. It's a credit to him that he was prepared to take on a bigger load, and he took advantage of it.

"Everything just kind of clicked for him," Holmes said. "We always knew he had the intangibles in work ethic. He's just a pro's pro. In the way he is wired, that equated to a lot of his success."

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