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Detroit Lions fare well as ESPN ranks rookie classes from 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 season is in the books for the Detroit Lions and if you only look at their 3-13-1 record, you may assume that the season was a trainwreck.

But if you truly paid attention to the Lions in 2021, you are well aware of some of the young talent they have on the team, including 2021 NFL Draft picks Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

ESPN recently put out an article ranking the top rookie classes from the 2021 NFL Draft and the Lions came in at No. 6.

Now, you may think, “No. 6 is nothing to call home about since the Lions has the No. 7 pick in most rounds,” but ESPN used Pro Football Focus’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric to help come up with the rankings.

Example: You have Player A (drafted in the first round) and Player B (drafted in the 4th round) who had equal production. In that case, Player B is the more valuable player based on his production and where he was drafted.

Here is what ESPN had to say about the Lions 2021 NFL Draft class.

Why they’re ranked here: Detroit owned two of the 12 most valuable non-quarterback rookies in the 2021 draft class with first-round offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Day 3 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Undrafted free agent cornerback Jerry Jacobs also ranked inside the top 25 among that group. Sewell’s success was to be expected, but St. Brown and Jacobs surpassed expectations with flying colors.

How their top pick fared: Sewell had a rough first five weeks in the NFL ranks, but he quickly rallied and became one of the top players at the position in the NFL. His grade from Week 6 on was the ninth-best among all tackles. Overall, Sewell finished as one of the 10 most valuable tackles in the NFL. And the seventh overall pick did that while flipping from left tackle to right tackle midway through the season. Sewell was the best tackle prospect PFF has ever evaluated, and he is living up to the hype.

Best value pick: St. Brown went from fourth-round pick to top-20-graded wide receiver in one year. He even ranked third in PFF grade behind only Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams over the last six weeks of the regular season. While he might not be beating press-man on the outside, St. Brown did an excellent job finding soft spots in zone from the slot. He also didn’t drop a pass after Week 3 and caught half of his contested opportunities.

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