Lions draft two in 3rd round: DT Alim McNeil, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu

With the first of their two picks in the third round, the Lions drafted a second defensive tackle – Alim McNeil out of North Carolina State at 72nd overall.

Then with the 101st overall pick (from the Rams), the Lions selected cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse) on Friday night in the NFL draft.

In the second round the Lions had drafted defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike (Washington). 

All three picks on Day Two are on the defensive side after selecting right tackle Penei Sewell in the first round on Thursday.

“We get players we love, we get players we’re excited about,” GM Brad Holmes said afterward.

Holmes seemed pleased with all three additions. He liked Onwuzurike so much he thought about trying to trade up to make sure they could get him. No trade was made, but the football gods were with Holmes.

“He’s a scheme fit, very explosive, very talented. He’s one I identified early in the process back in 2019,” Holmes said.

McNeil said he feels the Lions are trending in the right direction.

“I really think something special is brewing here and I can’t wait to get it going,” McNeil said in a Zoom call with the media.

McNeil talked with several teams, but recalls his discussions with the Lions.

“I remember it was a great meeting I loved every minute of it. I remember they were really impressed on how I interviewed with them as well, overall it was just a great meeting,” McNeil said.

McNeill, who is 6-2 and 317 pounds, made an impact as a true freshman in 2018 (24 tackles, 5.5 for loss, with 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups in 13 games, one start). 

As a sophomore, he started the final eight games of the year (28 tackles, 7.5 for loss, with 5.5 sacks in 12 total appearances). 

McNeil’s progress continued in 2020, when he became a second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-ACC selection (26 tackles, 4.5 for loss, one sack, one interception) while starting in 10 of 11 appearances. 

Melifonwu, a big, athletic and versatile corner at 6-foot-2 with a 42-inch vertical, doesn’t know specifically what role he will play in Detroit.

“I feel like my size and athleticism definitely helps a lot just because I feel like I might be able to make up for things other corners can’t. Honestly it’s just a plus — having a technique and having athletic ability go along with. I think it helps me in a lot of areas,’’ Melionwu said on a Zoom call with the media.

His brother, Obi, was selected by the Raiders in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of UConn. With a five-year age difference Ifeatu’s older brother has helped push him along the way. 

He said he wouldn’t describe his relationship with his brother as a rivalry but more motivational. After his brother was drafted Ifeatu counted down until it was his time for the NFL. 

“It really pushes me to go harder in every aspect not just in the athleticism and drills like that, film room, getting my body right – everything, it’s an overall motivator,’’ Melifonwu said. “My goal is to be better than him, beat his numbers and that’s exactly what he wanted me to do.”

After a redshirt season at Syracuse, he showed promise despite missing four games due to injury (15 tackles, six pass breakups in nine games as a reserve). Melifonwu missed two games with a lower-body injury in 2019, as well, but led the Orange with eight pass breakups in nine games (eight starts) while also recording 18 tackles and intercepting two passes.

He started all 11 games in a shortened 2020 season, garnering third-team All-ACC honors (55 tackles, three for loss, one interception, nine pass breakups). 

The Lions two remaining draft picks for Saturday when the action starts at noon.

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153

Lions draft DT Levi Onwuzurike in second round

From what we know of Lions head coach Dan Campbell, it seems pretty obvious from a short Zoom conversation, that second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike is his kind of player.

If he hasn’t chewed on kneecaps, he may have come close.

The Lions selected Onwuzurike, a 6-3, 290-pound defensive tackle from Washington, with the 41st overall pick on Friday night.

Meet the Lions’ newest defensive tackle.

“I like f’ing people up. I like to get off the line and just put my helmet or my hands on an offensive lineman and f’ up an offensive scheme, pretty much. I like pushing ’em back 2, 3 yards and just making ’em feel like shit,’’ Onwuzurike said on a Zoom call describing his style of play. (Note, he did not say f’ing he used the full word and did not apologize.)

Got that?

He is ready to go with the Lions. “I’ll hop on the field right now if I have to,’’ Onwuzurike said.

The defensive tackle said he and Campbell talked a lot during the pre-draft process including at the Senior Bowl.

Because he played in the Pac-12, he has played against right tackle Penei Sewell from Oregon, the Lions first-round draft pick.

“He’s an elite player, he’s a dog for sure. He was the first tackle out, first O-lineman out. He deserves all that — one of the quickest players I’ve ever played against, very balanced, very big, but he also has an athletic build, he’s almost like a tight end at the tackle position. He’s elite, we’re going to make shit happen up in Detroit,’’ Onwuzurike said of Sewell.

Onwuzurike only had 7 career sacks in college so he’s been working on his pass-rush skills.

“Everything I practiced on in the offseason from bend to pad level to everything. At the end of the day it’s about production, it’s about putting pressure on that quarterback and making that happen so your other players can succeed as well,’’ Onwuzurike said. “I’ll work to take that next step.”

The scouting report on Onwuzurike from Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline said: “Onwuzurike showed the ability to be a game changer at Washington, occupying blocks, penetrating the line of scrimmage, and even getting out in space to make plays. He comes with a large upside, but must finish his game to grab hold of the starting job in the NFL.”

The Lions remaining draft picks:

Round 3: No. 72

Round 3: No. 101 (from Rams)

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153

Lions draft OL Penei Sewell with 7th-overall pick

Prior to the NFL draft, new Lions GM Brad Holmes said he wanted players who loved the game of football.

Well he’s one-of-one so far after drafting offensive lineman Penei Sewell (Oregon) with the seventh overall pick on Thursday night.

“It’s a way of life for me, not  just a game,’’ Sewell said on a Zoom call shortly after his name was called.

The 20-year-old said the Lions didn’t show too much interest in him until later in the process and then they wanted to get to know him as a person.

He was visibly excited and ready to get to work.

“The fit is awesome, the way coach (Dan) Campbell  kind of approaches the game is the way I like to come – real physical each and every day, get better that way,’’ said Sewell who started 20 of the 21 games he played for the Ducks. He opted out of the 2020 season.

He’s familiar with some of the offensive lineme including Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby who was at Oregon during his time there.

“To be a part of that room and to be able to join them is a blessing,’’ Sewell said. That’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of years in that room, coming in I’m going to soak it all up and be a sponge.’’

When the Lions made the pick, a TV camera picked up the celebration in the Lions war room at Allen Park. You saw plenty of hugging and jumping around in the Lions war room with Holmes, Campbell, owner Sheila Ford Hamp and others.

Sewell, who grew up in American Samoa, started his first game at Oregon when he was just 17 years old. His young age could be a factor moving forward when he’ll be negotiating his second contract when he’s just 23.

“To be honest I haven’t even started yet, that’s how I feel there’s a lot to  do, there’s a lot to be done and the sky’s the limit,’’ Sewell said. “I’m ready to tap into the potential and ready to go to work to fulfill the dream.’’

At 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, he also made a little history. According to this NFL draft profile, the last time a 20-year old offensive lineman was drafted in the top 10 was Tyron Smith in 2011. Needless to say, that worked out for the Dallas Cowboys. Sewell is not Smith. He’s much thicker, yet somehow is able to move just as quickly.

Plenty of speculation had him going to Cincinnati with the fifth overall pick, but the Bengals chose WR Ja’Marr Chase.

The Lions have five more picks in the next two days, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Round 2: No. 41

Round 3: No. 72

Round 3: No. 101 (from Rams)

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153