2021 NFL Offseason: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions (Last Year: 5-11)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Jared Goff, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Breshad Perriman, WR Kalif Raymond, TE Josh Hill, TE Darren Fells, DE Charles Harris, DT Michael Brockers, LB Alex Anzalone, CB Corn Elder, K Randy Bullock.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Penei Sewell, DT Levi Onwuzurike, DT Alim McNeill, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, LB Derrick Barnes. Lions Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Matthew Stafford, RB Adrian Peterson, RB Kerryon Johnson, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones, WR Danny Amendola, TE Jesse James, G Joe Dahl, G Oday Aboushi, C Russell Bodine, DE Everson Griffen, DT Danny Shelton, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Christian Jones, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Justin Coleman, CB Darryl Roberts, S Duron Harmon, K Matt Prater, KR Jamal Agnew.

2021 Detroit Lions Offense:
Jared Goff has posted pretty stats and quarterbacked the Rams in the Super Bowl a few years ago, but he was always an overrated player. He was fortunate to be shielded by a great offensive line for most of his years in Los Angeles, and he’s also been able to benefit from Sean McVay’s great scheming. Despite the plentiful playoff appearances, the Rams realized that they needed to move on from Goff to take the next step, so they traded him and draft choices to the Lions for Matthew Stafford.

It’s not a good sign for the Lions that they took on a quarterback the Rams were so eager to unload. Then again, expectations aren’t very high for Goff, as the Lions will give him one chance to prove himself before selecting a replacement in the 2022 NFL Draft. Goff certainly has his work cut out for him when considering the receiving corps he’ll have at his disposal. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are both gone, so the Lions replaced them with inconsistent deep threat Tyrell Williams and first-round bust Breshad Perriman. Fourth-round rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown could challenge for snaps early in the season. T.J. Hockenson is at least a great intermediate target, but the opposing defenses won’t be very challenged downfield.

Goff will at least be able to lean on his running backs. Despite a crucial dropped game-winning touchdown early in 2020, D’Andre Swift enjoyed a strong rookie campaign. Swift is a special talent, so he should perform well again in 2021. The Lions signed Jamaal Williams to handle the touches when Swift needs a breather. Williams will be a better option than Adrian Peterson was last year.

Swift and Goff will also get some strong blocking on the edge. Taylor Decker was one of the better left tackles in the NFL last year, yet the Lions spent their first-round choice on Penei Sewell, a blue-chip prospect at the position. He and Decker could end up being one of the best tackle duos in the league.

The Lions also have a stellar blocker in the interior, and that would be center Frank Ragnow. He’ll be flanked by a couple of pedestrian guards, Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg. Jackson struggled last year, while Stenberg didn’t play after being chosen in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

2021 Detroit Lions Defense:
The Lions have some major problems on both sides of the ball. They at least have some positive aspects to their offense. Their defense, on the other hand, is a complete mess and will struggle in every regard.

Containing opposing ground attacks was a huge problem this past season. The Lions signed Michael Brockers, a move that would have been beneficial a couple of years ago. Brockers, however, is now in his 30s and is coming off a down year. He’ll start next to either Da’Shawn Hand or John Penisini, neither of whom is a promising option. However, Detroit spent a couple of second-day picks on the defensive line, selecting Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. Odds are that one of them will end up being a viable player of some sort.

Detroit also spent an early pick on another front-seven player, selecting Derrick Barnes to help a woeful linebacking corps. He and newly signed Alex Anzalone should provide a boost to a group comprised of Jamie Collins and not much else. Collins is a talented player, but he could be in for regression because he’ll be turning 32 soon. Fellow linebacker Jahlani Tavai, chosen in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, was a huge liability last year.

The Lions will be better against the pass if Jeff Okudah lives up to his billing as the third-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Okudah did not play well last year, but was hurt. He’s expected to make a major leap in his second year, and if so, he and former Seahawk Quinton Dunbar could form a nice duo. That said, Dunbar has an extensive injury history, so the Lions can’t count on him remaining healthy. Third-round rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu could step in if Dunbar gets hurt again.

The cornerbacks will have to carry the secondary because the safety play figures to be miserable again. Tracy Walker and Will Harris, a pair of former third-round selections, were both below average this past season. This was a position the Lions were expected to address, but they neglected to do so.

Detroit didn’t touch its edge rush either, but the team didn’t really need to do so. Trey Flowers is exceptional at getting to the quarterback, while Romeo Okwara is coming off a 10-sack campaign. The Lions have a couple of young edge players – Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant – who could contribute in the future.

2021 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
Matt Prater has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past several years. He no longer kicks for the Lions, however. Randy Bullock will take his place, which is far from ideal because he went 21-of-26 in Cincinnati last year.

Punter Jack Fox was second in net punting average this past season.

Detroit had one of the better special-teams units last year based on returns, but that may change now that Jamal Agnew is no longer on the roster.

The Lions won’t be able to beat many teams this year, but they’ll at least be navigating a last-place schedule while taking on some of the weak teams in the division.

2021 Detroit Lions Rookies:
Go here for the Lions Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2021 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Detroit Lions Analysis: The Lions are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their passing attack is broken, while their defense is one of the worst units in the NFL. This is all part of the plan, however, as the rebuilding Detroit franchise will stand to benefit from owning one of the top selections in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Projection: 1-16 (4th in NFC North)

2020 Projection: 5-11. 2020 Actual Result: 5-11.
2019 Projection: 5-11. 2019 Actual Result: 3-12-1.
2018 Projection: 8-8. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Lions could select a quarterback in the first round, but they’re most likely to wait because they’re willing to give Jared Goff a shot. Besides, no quarterback would be put in a position to win with this dreadful roster. The Lions have holes at almost every position, so it would be in their best interest to just obtain the best players available at each selection (save for running back and center.)

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Lions’ front office vigorously celebrated the Penei Sewell selection. Can you blame them? The Falcons, Bengals and Dolphins easily could have chosen Sewell without any complaints, yet a franchise left tackle fell into the Lions’ lap.

Detroit needed to carry over that celebration to its other selections because none of their other picks scored above a “B” grade. Some choices were quite bad. Alim McNeill was a reach in the third round. Meanwhile, some like Derrick Barnes, but the Lions traded way up for him, expending way too many resources for a mediocre linebacker.

Sewell will certainly help the Lions improve, but I don’t think many of their other picks will have much of an impact in that regard. Detroit will continue to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, which, I suppose, is for the best for 2022 NFL Draft tanking purposes.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

7. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon – A+ Grade
I imagine the Lions are shocked that Penei Sewell made it past both the Bengals and Dolphins. This is a no-brainer selection. It could be argued that Sewell was the best player not named Trevor Lawrence in this class. Detroit has a huge hole at tackle, which Sewell will fill very nicely. Detroit’s next quarterback – probably someone from next year’s draft – go here for my 2022 NFL Mock Draft – will be thrilled to have Sewell blocking for him.

41. Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington – B Grade
The Lions maintained one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year, so it’s not a surprise to see them address that with this pick. I was never really a fan of putting Levi Onwuzurike in the first round because of his pass-rushing limitations, but he makes sense near the middle of the second round. This is a solid pick.

72. Alim McNeill, DT, N.C. State – C- Grade
I get one defensive tackle to help stop the run, but two? That makes less sense. I never had Alim McNeill in the second day of my mock draft. In my final update, he was chosen at the end of the fourth round, so this is a slight reach.

101. Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse – B Grade
This is a much better pick than Dallas’ selection of Nahshon Wright. Like Wright, Ifeatu Melifonwu is a tall cornerback, but he’s actually a good player. He’ll be a liability in run support, but he could end up being a solid starter across from Jeff Okudah.

112. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC – B Grade
Amon-Ra St. Brown was productive at USC, and he obviously helps fill a huge need for the Lions, who have nothing at receiver. However, I had St. Brown a bit later on Day 3, so I’m not wild about this value. Still, this is a fine selection.

113. Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue – F Grade
The Lions traded up a whole round for a linebacker I had in the seventh round of my final mock draft. Yeah, not good. There were higher-rated linebackers available like Jabril Cox and Dylan Moses, so I don’t understand why the Lions were so impatient.

257. Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State – B Grade
It’s going to be difficult for Jermar Jefferson to make the roster, given that the Lions have D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Kerryon Johnson. I imagine this is just injury insurance, which is fine, given that Jefferson was pegged as a seventh-round prospect.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Matthew Stafford era has come to an end. Stafford and the Lions have announced that they’ve agreed to part ways. Detroit will have to completely rebuild.

Offseason Moves:
  • Lions sign TE Darren Fells
  • Lions sign CB Quinton Dunbar
  • Lions sign CB Corn Elder
  • Lions sign LB Alex Anzalone
  • Lions sign WR Kalif Raymond
  • Lions sign K Randy Bullock
  • Lions sign WR Breshad Perriman
  • Lions sign DE Charles Harris
  • Lions acquire DT Michael Brockers from Rams
  • Lions sign RB Jamaal Williams
  • Lions cut NT Danny Shelton
  • Lions sign TE Josh Hill
  • Lions sign WR Tyrell Williams
  • Rams acquire QB Matthew Stafford from Lions for QB Jared Goff

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: The Lions traded Matthew Stafford, so they’ll need to find a new quarterback. Traded Jared Goff

    2. Edge Rusher: Trey Flowers is Detroit’s only consistent edge rusher. Another player is needed to harass opposing quarterbacks. Signed Charles Harris

    3. Defensive Lineman: Detroit was atrocious against the run last year. The front office needs to beef up the front. Traded for Michael Brockers

    4. Two Wide Receivers: Both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are impending free agents, so upgrades will obviously be needed if one or more leaves. Signed Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman

    5. Two Cornerbacks: Jeff Okudah struggled as a rookie, but even if he improves, Detroit still have a huge hole to fill across from him. A replacement is needed for Justin Coleman as well. Signed Quinton Dunbar

    6. Linebacker: Some help is needed in the linebacking corps as well. Pretty much every position needs to be bolstered defensively. Signed Alex Anzalone

    7. Guard: The Lions could stand to find an upgrade for the interior of their offensive line.

    8. Safety: Duron Harmon is an impending free agent who needs to be retained.

    9. Kicker: Matt Prater’s contract is set to expire. Signed Randy Bullock

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Quinton Dunbar, CB, Seahawks. Age: 29.
      Signed with Lions

      Quinton Dunbar was the Redskins’ top cornerback in 2019. He didn’t do as well last year, to put it nicely. He dealt with a lingering knee injury and missed the second half of the year.

    2. Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Lions (2 years, $7.5 million)

      Jamaal Williams has done well when starting in place of Aaron Jones, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He deserves a chance to win a starting job for himself.

    3. Alex Anzalone, LB, Saints. Age: 26.
      Signed with Lions

      Alex Anzalone has durability issues, but he’s a versatile linebacker who tends to cover well.

    4. Breshad Perriman, WR, Jets. Age: 27.
      Signed with Lions (1 year, $3 million)

      Breshad Perriman disappointed with the Jets last year, but it’s not like he was in an environment in which he could produce. He still has some upside as a former first-round pick.

    5. Randy Bullock, K, Bengals. Age: 31.
      Signed with Lions

      Randy Bullock has done a good job as Cincinnati’s kicker, drilling at least 80 percent of his attempts in the past four years. He’s been just 7-of-14 from 50-plus in that span, however.

    6. Charles Harris, DE, Falcons. Age: 26. — Signed with Lions
    7. Tyrell Williams, WR, Raiders. Age: 30. — Signed with Lions
    8. Corn Elder (RFA), CB, Panthers. Age: 26. — Signed with Lions
    9. Kalif Raymond, WR, Titans. Age: 27. — Signed with Titans (1 year)
    10. Josh Hill, TE, Saints. Age: 31. — Signed with Lions
    11. Darren Fells, TE, Texans. Age: 35. — Signed with Lions

    Detroit Lions Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions. Age: 27.
      Signed with Giants (4 years, $72 million)

      Kenny Golladay has emerged as one of the better receivers in the NFL. He was expected to have a huge 2020, but his season was derailed by injuries.

    2. Jamal Agnew, KR, Lions. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars (3 years, $21 million)

      Jamal Agnew is one of the top kick returners in the NFL, scoring five special teams touchdowns in as many years.

    3. Marvin Jones, WR, Lions. Age: 31.
      Signed with Jaguars (2 years, $14.5 million)

      Marvin Jones is coming off a nice season in which he caught 76 passes for 978 yards and nine touchdowns, doing most of his damage when Kenny Golladay was sidelined. Jones, however, turns 31 this offseason.

    4. Matt Prater, K, Lions. Age: 37.
      Signed with Cardinals (2 years)

      Matt Prater is coming off his worst season since his second year in the NFL. He was 21-of-28, but should be able to rebound.

    5. Duron Harmon, S, Lions. Age: 30.
      Signed with Falcons

      Patriot players going elsewhere don’t always succeed. Duron Harmon did, performing well in all regards for the Lions.

    6. Romeo Okwara, DE, Lions. Age: 26.
      Romeo Okwara is a one-trick pony, but he does that trick extremely well. He logged 10 sacks in 2020, a number that would’ve been higher had the Lions maintained more leads. His pass-rushing skills are great, but he struggled as a run defender and as a player in coverage.

    7. Desmond Trufant, CB, Lions. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (1 year)

      Desmond Trufant was once a talented cornerback, but he was atrocious for the Lions in 2020. He had nagging injuries and played just six games, however, so he was never 100 percent, even when he was on the field. Then again, he turns 31 in September, so things could get worse moving forward.

    8. Justin Coleman, CB, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year, $2.75 million)

      Justin Coleman is ordinarily a solid slot cornerback, but he was hurt last year. He missed five games with a hamstring injury, and he wasn’t 100 percent upon his return. He turns 28 in late March, so he’ll be able to rebound in 2021.

    9. Everson Griffen, DE, Lions. Age: 33.
      Everson Griffen can still get some pressure on the quarterback; he logged six sacks in 2020. He’s no longer the player he once was, and age (33) is becoming a concern.

    10. Danny Shelton, NT, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Giants (1 year)

      Danny Shelton is usually a monstrous run stuffer, but he’s coming off his worst year as a pro because of knee injuries. He’s young enough to bounce back, but the knee problems could linger.

    11. Adrian Peterson, RB, Lions. Age: 36.
      The Lions got lots of flak last year for using Adrian Peterson over D’Andre Swift early in the year, but only because Swift is so talented. Peterson isn’t the same player he once was, but he can still move some piles and pick up chunks of yardage.

    12. Jarrad Davis, LB, Lions. Age: 26. — Signed with Jets (1 year)
    13. Joe Dahl, G, Lions. Age: 28.
    14. Christian Jones, LB, Lions. Age: 30. — Signed with Bears
    15. Russell Bodine, C, Lions. Age: 29.
    16. Danny Amendola, WR, Lions. Age: 35.
    17. Oday Aboushi, G, Lions. Age: 30. — Signed with Chargers (1 year, $1.75 million)
    18. Darryl Roberts, CB, Lions. Age: 30. — Signed with Redskins
    19. Jesse James, TE, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    20. Reggie Ragland, LB, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Giants
    21. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Lions. Age: 32. — Signed with 49ers (1 year)
    22. Mike Ford (RFA), CB, Lions. Age: 26.
    23. Chase Daniel, QB, Lions. Age: 34. — Signed with Chargers (1 year)
    24. Miles Killebrew, S, Lions. Age: 28. — Signed with Steelers
    25. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Lions. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Lions
    26. Tony McRae, CB, Lions. Age: 28.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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