Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes held his pre-draft news conference Friday and, since he was speaking with a bunch of reporters, he must have felt it would be helpful to use a word of the day.
And that word was “cluster.”
As in Holmes thinks there’s a cluster of very good players that gives the Lions a great opportunity with the seventh overall pick: “But at seven we do have a cluster of players that we’re comfortable with picking. But at the same we will be very prepared and also willing to move in either direction.”
Also as in Holmes doesn’t feel he needs to emphasize offense or defense but there’s a cluster of good players at several positions.
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“It’s not oh, we need an offensive guy or we’d like to have a defensive guy or this position,” he said. “There’s a cluster of multiple positions that we would be comfortable with. But the No. 1 thing is that is it the right fit for the Detroit Lions? Do they meet the standards of what we’re looking for from an intangible standpoint?”
And when I asked Holmes to define a blue-chip player and how many there are in the draft, you guessed it, there’s a cluster.
“Could be two handfuls, could be three,” he said. “But no, obviously it’s not the whole entire draft. Probably not even the whole first round that you would put that blue chip. … I guess you’re talking about just the very elite players within this draft. But if that’s along the lines of blue chip, I would say that there’s a good cluster of them.”
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Maybe “cluster” is some kind of code. Maybe it’s a drinking game in Allen Park (non-alcoholic Blue Kool-Aid, of course). But it’s actually a good thing for Holmes to repeatedly suggest there’s a group of players he’d be happy drafting seventh overall because he knows if he emphasizes too much that he’s open to drafting a quarterback and the top guys go in the first four picks, he’s in a weakened position to trade down.
If Holmes plays it cagey and says he likes a lot of guys, well, that could mean anything to any team. Maybe Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is there at No. 7 and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 13 decide they want him. Maybe LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase is there at No. 7 and the New England Patriots decide they want to trade up from No. 15. And it shouldn’t be hard to reach the Patriots, since they’re probably still No. 1, 2 and 3 on the speed dial of Bob Quinn’s old phone in Holmes’ office.
Of course there’s a ton of value in picking a quarterback at No. 7 and it might not hurt Holmes to advertise his interest in one a little more. But at this point I would be very surprise if the Lions drafted Trey Lance or Justin Fields or Mac Jones if they fell to No. 7.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love an honest-to-goodness quarterback competition after 12 years of Matthew Stafford being on a Ford Family scholarship? Yes, please.
But from a team-building standpoint, a first-round quarterback doesn’t make sense this year. The Lions have too many holes to fill and they’re years away from being a playoff contender. They also have Jared Goff in place this year, with plenty of draft capital next year to move up and draft a quarterback if Goff doesn’t work out.
Holmes even said flatly he doesn’t feel the need to convince teams of the possibility that he might draft a quarterback. And he’s right, because Holmes is an unknown wild card as a first-time GM. To use baseball parlance, there’s no book on him. No one knows his tendencies. Any move he makes, or doesn’t make, this year will be somewhat of a surprise.
I believe Holmes and I agree there will be a cluster of players available at No. 7 who should suit the Lions. The only thing that worried me about whom Holmes might pick, in any of the rounds, is what he said about picking a player who fits the Lions’ “culture” more than he might fit their scheme.
“Does a guy play hard or he does not?” he said. “Does he have a high motor or does he (not)? Does he take plays off, does he not? Does he love football, does he not? So those are the standards that we look for. But having that grit, passion for football that’s at an elite level, those are pretty much the standards that are the fits, more so of if the guy is just a scheme fit.”
Ugh. I’m so sick of the Lions and every other NFL team talking about culture. Coaches and personnel people basically want to draft themselves. But they have to understand that just because they work 20 hours a day and dream about football four hours every night doesn’t mean a 22-year-old has to do the same in order to be successful.
Ask yourself this: Would you rather have Shaun Rogers or Jarrad Davis as a player? Rogers was famously disengaged and undisciplined with his approach to the NFL, but he was supremely talented, a great player and a steal as a late second-rounder in 2001 who ultimately made three Pro Bowls. Davis was the prototype of a driven, disciplined and passionate football player — and he was a bust as a 2017 first-rounder partly because he didn’t fit what the Lions wanted him to do.
I hope Holmes and the Lions don’t fall in love with intangibles that ultimately don’t mean much and should be viewed as perks instead of required personality traits.
But this is what owner Sheila Ford Hamp and the Lions want. There’s a lot of kumbaya going on in Allen Park these days with talk of culture and knee caps and the process and who’s getting credit for what. Holmes spent so much time thanking so many people in his opening comments Friday that I thought I was watching the Oscars.
It’s all part of the inclusiveness the Lions want. Everyone is valued and everyone has say. Holmes acknowledged the picks will ultimately be his decision, but he admitted it’s intriguing but sometimes hard to reach a consensus when you have “10 people in a dark room looking at the same exact film and you get 10 different people’s opinion.”
So maybe that’s been the answer all along. If you want to a cluster of suitable players, then you need a cluster of people to find them.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.