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

Detroit Lions draft: Five things to know

With the Lions in full rebuild, re-stocking mode, the NFL draft could not possibly be more important.

Is it a bigger deal than in recent history? Quite possibly.

It will be the first major test GM Brad Holmes and his staff including Chris Spielman. Don’t forget Holmes was the director of college scouting for the Rams before Detroit hired him, so this is not all foreign territory.

Unlike a year ago, when GM Bob Quinn and his staff each worked from their houses due to the pandemic, Holmes will have company with up to 10 people in the war room with him. 

With the No. 7 pick, Holmes could have plenty of options. The key to a trade is it takes two teams. This sounds basic, but if he doesn’t move up or down and gets criticized it doesn’t mean he didn’t try.

The Lions have six draft picks overall. 

Round 1: No. 7

Round 2: No. 41

Round 3: No. 72

Round 3: No. 101 (from Rams)

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153

The draft opens on Thursday at 8 p.m. Rounds 2 and 3 will take place starting Friday at 7 p.m. The draft for the remaining rounds will start at noon on Saturday.

Five things to know:

1. The Lions desperately need a No. 1 wide receiver but will they take one in the first round? Options include Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) and Ja’Marr Chase (LSU). Detroit has quite a history of making this move. From 2003 to 2007 they used their first-round picks on wide receivers four times. Charles Rogers (2003) was an absolute bust. Calvin Johnson (2007) is a Hall of Famer. Since Johnson, they’ve drafted three tight ends in the first round but no wide receiver. Holmes said he’s well aware of the franchise’s draft history but it should not affect who he picks.

2. Needs abound on both sides of the ball. In a pre-draft press conference Holmes would not say whether he’ll focus on offense or defense in the first round. It doesn’t make sense to limit himself. So don’t be disappointed one way or the other. This team needs work.

3. A quarterback could be a more likely pick in the first round. With Matthew Stafford gone and Jared Goff in his place, the Lions could be looking for a long-term replacement at quarterback. Trey Lance (North Dakota State) is one option. Would Ohio State’s Justin Fields be a reach at No. 7? There’s some debate on that. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU) and Mac Jones (Ohio State) could go 1-2-3. If Holmes loves one of them it could be costly to try to move up.

4. Taylor Decker said this week he’d welcome help on the offensive line. Several mock drafts have Oregon’s Penei Sewell getting drafted by the Lions. From 2012 to 2018 the Lions drafted four starting offensive linemen: Riley Reiff (2012), Laken Tomlinson (2015), Decker (2016) and Frank Ragnow (2018). Only Decker and Ragnow are still with the Lions. Reiff signed with the Bengals and Tomlinson with the 49ers. There is a need. Is Sewell the guy?

5. Holmes could pull a surprise, but don’t expect him to go too far off the charts. He said he’s learned from others that when that pick is called, he must be comfortable with the decision. It’s OK if no one has mocked that person to Detroit, but he sounds like he won’t take a flyer, he’ll be totally at ease that he’s made the right pick. 

PREDICTION: WR Jaylen Waddle, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes has a draft plan, but he isn’t sharing

The countdown is on to the start of Brad Holmes’ first NFL draft as GM of the Detroit Lions.

As a rookie GM, he’s already acting like a veteran when it comes to not tipping his hand to the media.

At his virtual pre-draft press conference on Friday, basically Holmes said there are a cluster of players the Lions would draft with the seventh overall pick.

Offense? Maybe

Defense? Could be.

He’s not sharing and, of course, we didn’t expect otherwise really. He didn’t slip up either. 

“I still think that depth on both sides of the ball is of the utmost importance. I know you can probably take that as a fence answer, but I just can’t be more authentic with that,’’ Holmes said. “I look at both sides of the ball, and I just don’t think there’s ever enough depth in certain spots that you can field. I know you’d probably like for me to say we need more defense or more offense, but just looking at our depth chart every day, I do see that there are some areas to address on both sides, for sure.”

With a shiny No. 7 draft pick, he could trade it and get more value for the long term for the Lions.

“I will say the value, it’s of extreme value, I would say. Even whenever you’re picking in the top-10, obviously it’s an extremely valued pick,’’ Holmes said. “It’s very exciting to be looking at this crop of players that would be worthy of selecting.”

Will he trade up? Maybe.

Will he trade down? Could be.

He did admit there have been discussions, he didn’t way with whom.

Are you sensing a trend?

Holmes seems confident and ready to get the draft going instead of waiting until Thursday night.

He’s learned from some of the best and is heeding their advice.

Don’t look for him to take a huge risk on that first pick.

“You always want to hit a home run, but I will say when you talk about risk on the first pick, I always kind of go back to when you’re turning that pick in, you don’t want to feel nervous. I know you asked me about previous GMs, so I’ll even give the credit to Billy Devaney on that one, one that he used to always bring up, is that you want to be confident and you want to feel really, really good when you make that selection. Not a nervousness of, ‘I hope this works,’’’ Holmes said. “I’m not saying that all selections don’t have any warts, because everybody’s got a hole or something that they can improve on, but at the end of the day, do we have buy-in and do we all feel good about the pick?”

The countdown is on.