Detroit Lions take Oregon OL Penei Sewell with No. 7 pick in 2021 NFL draft

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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For years, they tried unsuccessfully to build a competent offensive line. Now, the Detroit Lions have the makings of something even better.

Brad Holmes made his first ever first-round draft pick Thursday, taking Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 7 overall.

Sewell, considered the best lineman in this year’s draft, joins an offensive line that returns five players who started at least 10 games last season, including Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker.

Ragnow, in 2018, and Decker, in 2016, also were first-round picks.

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Sewell started at left tackle as a 17-year-old true freshman at Oregon and won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman as a sophomore in 2019, when he did not allow a sack according to Pro Football Focus.

Sewell, who turns 21 in October, did not play last season, opting out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I like to play real physical," Sewell said at his pro day in March. "I like to use my body type to my advantage and to really get up under people’s chin and to really showcase my mentality (that) I’m coming off the ball every play with violent intentions and that nothing less is coming from that."

While Decker is entrenched at left tackle, Sewell should provide immediate help on the right side of the line, starting next to Tyrell Crosby or Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Jonah Jackson also returns after a strong rookie season at left guard.

The Lions’ offense, which ranked 20th in points scored and total yards last season and has not had a running game that ranked in the top half of the NFL since Barry Sanders' last season in 1998, has undergone a complete metamorphosis this spring.[ Lions pick Penei Sewell; ESPN's Booger McFarland: 'We shouldn't be surprised' ]

They traded longtime starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks in January and overhauled their entire receiving corps, letting Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola walk in free agency.

Holmes, running his first draft as Lions general manager, said last week he was considering a "cluster" of players with the No. 7 pick. He entertained trade offers, both serious and fact-finding, in recent days, but after a run on offensive players took Sewell over quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones and top cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn.

Thursday’s first round started with quarterbacks going 1-2-3 for the first time since 1999. The Jacksonville Jaguars took Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick and the New York Jets followed by taking BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2.

SEWELL HIGHLIGHTS:Check out the Lions' first-round pick in 2021 NFL draft

The San Francisco 49ers, who traded up from No. 12 last month, bucked conventional wisdom and took North Dakota State’s Trey Lance of Jones at No. 3, then three offensive weapons followed: Florida tight end Kyle Pitts to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5 and Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle to the Miami Dolphins at No. 6.

Fields, the Ohio State star, went 11th overall to the Chicago Bears after the Bears traded up with the New York Gia

The Lions have five more picks in Rounds 2-5, including two third-rounders, and no choices in Round 6-7.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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