Lions draft WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and LB Derrick Barnes in fourth round

While pound-for-pound the Detroit Lions may have won the first three rounds of the NFL draft, they went into Saturday needing a wide receiver and a linebacker.

Boom, boom – GM Brad Holmes handled both with back-to-back picks in the fourth round to open Saturday’s action.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC) was selected with the 112th overall pick. 

Then Campbell traded his fifth-round pick and a fourth-round pick in 2022 to draft linebacker Derrick Barnes (Purdue) with the 113th pick and also pick up the 257th overall pick in today’s seventh round.

St. Brown’s draft profiles read the same – good hands, solid body control and even though he doesn’t have the length (he’s 6-foot) he wins 50-50 balls. In fact he was eighth in the country with that stat.

“It’s a lot of things, its definitely being in stride at the point of the catch is huge, being able to track the ball is another thing, usually contested catches are depper balls,’’ St. Brown said in a media call. “Being able to track the ball and know when to attack is huge and having that mentality that you’re going to work no matter who’s there at getting that.’’

The youngest of three boys, he comes from an athletic background – his dad was Mr. Universe and his brother, Equanimeous, plays for the Green Bay Packers. His dad wanted his sons to have different names – Amon-Ra is the Eqyptian God of sun and light.

He started lifting when he was 6 with PVC pipes to get the form and gradually lifting weights. 

At USC,he played in 31 games with 23 starts.  Overall he had 178 career catches for 2,270 yards (12.8 avg) and 16 TDs in his career to rank 11th on USC’s career receptions list. He had a streak of 4 consecutive 100-yard receiving outings (last 2 games in 2019, first 2 in 2020)

Barnes, who is also 6-foot, has good size, long arms and sideline-to-sideline range. 

He’s a natural for the Lions since he has a lion tattooed across his right pec. He had a feeling the Lions would draft him.

“I knew because my coach at Purdue would text me, the Lions love you. The Lions think highly of you ,it all shows. I’m really blessed to be a Lion that’s my favorite animal,’’ Barnes said in a media call.

He further explained his fascination with lions.

“My favorite animal is the lion, the king of the jungle. The heart of the lion is what i say I have —- loyalty, power, leadership — I think that’s all the strengths I grew up having,’’ Barnes said.

He has the burst to spy quarterbacks, according to his ESPN draft profile. He flashes as a pass-rusher and has some upside in coverage. He has average stopping power as a run defender. He has the potential to quickly develop into a core special teams player.

In the first three rounds the Lions drafted RT Penei Sewell (331 pounds), DT Levi Onwuzurike (290 pounds) and DT Alim McNeil (317 pounds).

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