The following is an excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2024 Football Preview book. In addition to Warren’s deep, detailed write-up on all 32 NFL teams, each chapter features page after page of full-color charts, stats, and heatmaps as well as draft class analysis from Ryan McCrystal. Click here for a full FREE chapter from the 2024 Football Preview.

With 2024 NFL training camps on the horizon, we’re starting to understand how 2024 NFL draft classes will impact each roster this season.

Let’s look at the Detroit Lions, breaking down the most likely instant-impact rookies from each class, while also providing some insight into why certain early picks may not see the field.

Who are the Detroit Lions rookies?

  • Terrion Arnold — CB — Round 1
  • Ennis Rakestraw Jr. — CB — Round 2
  • Giovanni Manu — OT — Round 4
  • Sione Vaki — S — Round 4
  • Mekhi Wingo — DT — Round 6
  • Christian Mahogany — OG — Round 6

Detroit Lions Draft Class Grade:

The Detroit Lions received a B draft grade from Sharp Football.

Which Lions Rookies Will Make An Impact?

The Lions dramatically upgraded their secondary talent with the additions of Terrion Arnold (first round) and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (second round). Neither is guaranteed a starting job, but one of them likely starts opposite Carlton Davis on the outside with the other potentially starting in the slot. The one trait both Arnold and Rakestraw share at a high level is an ability to locate and play the ball in coverage. Based on route-adjusted data over the last two seasons, Arnold generated a ball-hawk rate 44% above expected, while Rakestraw’s was 51%. 

Arnold has the clearest path to a starting job due to his draft position, don’t count out Rakestraw if he can stay healthy. Rakestraw was slowed by injuries in 2021 and 2023 but was among the SEC’s most dominant corners in his one fully healthy season as a redshirt sophomore in 2022.  

The good vibes of the Lions draft class dried up a bit on Day 3 as they traded next year’s third-round pick to acquire Giovanni Manu (fourth round), a 23-year-old developmental offensive lineman from Canada. Manu has no path to seeing the field in 2024 and probably isn’t ready, but if Taylor Decker is not re-signed this offseason he could potentially compete for a job in 2025. 

Detroit then included its 2025 fourth-round selection to move up for Sione Vaki (fourth round), a college safety who is being converted to running back. Vaki will be a 23-year-old rookie with 42 rushing attempts over the last five seasons. 

The Lions got back on track with the selection of Mekhi Wingo (sixth round), a 21-year-old who lacks ideal measurables but has the production worth gambling on. Wingo generated an impressive 10.1% pressure rate when lined up in the three-tech spot. Levi Onwuzurike is in the final year of his contract and has struggled to stay healthy, so Wingo could push him for playing time or take over his spot in the rotation in 2025. 

Christian Mahogany (sixth round) was likely only on the board late on Day 3 due to a history of injuries (ACL tear in 2022), but his physical blocking style fits perfectly in Detroit. Boston College averaged 2.3 yards before contact per attempt when running through Mahogany’s gap in 2023. If healthy, Mahogany could compete for a starting job in 2025, assuming Kevin Zeitler is not re-signed. 

This was a small class primarily due to the Lions repeatedly trading up. The strategy mostly made sense, as Detroit filled almost every noticeable hole through free agency and trades, leaving limited room for rookies on the roster. The Lions overhauled the secondary and landed some high-upside selections late on Day 3. However, the decision to part with 2025 draft picks for Vaki and Manu was puzzling. 

Detroit spent a lot of money to retain Jared GoffAmon-Ra St. Brown, and Penei Sewell this offseason and may need to hand out even more to Taylor Decker before next offseason. With so much money tied up in veterans, those future draft picks will be valuable for filling out the roster with cheap rookie contracts. 

This analysis continues in the 2024 Football Preview

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Draft Class Analysis for All 32 Teams
Arizona Cardinals
Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills
Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Houston Texans
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New England Patriots
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