NFL draft video shows Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp wondering about team’s WR plan

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions dropped a lengthy behind-the-scenes look at their 2021 NFL draft on Sunday when they debuted Episode 3 of their YouTube series “Inside the Den.”

The episode lasts more than 37 minutes, and while it does not contain any huge revelations, there were several interesting moments.

Here are five that caught my eye. You can watch the full video below:

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Staying put

The Lions declined what appeared to be a trade offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars to move down late in Round 3, when they drafted Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu at Pick No. 101.

When the Lions went on the clock with the pick, general manager Brad Holmes was caught on video saying, “Go down to 130? Yeah, no, I think we’re just going to stay pat,” while head coach Dan Campbell joked in the background, “Tell him two future ones.”

The Jaguars owned Pick No. 130, which they later traded to the Los Angeles Rams to move up to Pick 121. The video does not make clear whether the Jaguars would have given up future draft compensation or another pick in this year’s draft — they also had the first pick of the fourth round, No. 106 — in a trade.

Holmes said during the draft Melifonwu was far and away the best prospect on their board at the time they picked, and Campbell was shown in the video trying to will Melifonwu to “stay” on the board for the Lions. He even got owner Sheila Ford Hamp to try her persuasive powers to get Melifonwu to “stay put” as well.

“He was actually standing out pretty, I wouldn’t say like a sore thumb, but he was standing out significantly,” Holmes said in April.

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Ford wants a WR

The Lions took USC receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown early in Round 4, and when Holmes met with reporters later that night he joked, “From the sounds of it, after we drafted St. Brown, I felt like people finally will get off my ass about not getting a receiver.

Turns out, Ford was one of those people on Holmes’ behind about the Lions’ lack of receiver depth. At one point, before the Lions’ third-round pick of Alim McNeil, she said to Holmes, “What would we do if we don’t get a receiver out of the draft?”

Holmes, sitting to Ford’s left at a table at the front of the draft room, motioned at the draft board and said, “Well, we’ll still look at all of those receivers. You know we still got the USC kid and all of those kids, so we’ll still be in the position to get one because of the depth at the position. Because here, really McNeill is the only real nose tackle.”

The Lions took McNeill at Pick No. 72, foiling the Philadelphia Eagles’ plans, and still landed “the USC kid” – who appeared to be in a grouping apart from other receivers left on the Lions board – at Pick No. 112. Holmes said he got the “coolest phone call ever” from Ford at the start of Day 3, reassuring him that she was all-in on his plan to take bigs early in the draft.

Magic man

St. Brown got an interesting congratulatory phone call after the Lions made him the seventh pick of the fourth round — from NBA legend Magic Johnson.

“Congratulations, bro,” Johnson told St. Brown. “And you’re going to my hometown, too, Detroit. … All that hard work that you put in, brother, it paid off.”

When Johnson, who grew up in Lansing and attended Michigan State, told St. Brown, “you’ve got a lot more to do,” St. Brown responded by saying, “And it starts right now.”

Scouting stories

Though sanitized to only include the positive comments, it was interesting to hear the scouting reports on some of the Lions’ draft picks from the scouts who wrote them up.

“The mental learning, they say this kid’s one of the smartest players on the team,” national scout Mark Olson said of St. Brown in one of the Lions’ virtual scouting meetings.

“This guy in the run game is as good a blocker as any wide receiver in the draft,” said senior personnel executive John Dorsey, while sitting in the draft room.

“He’s another ass kicker, as a wide receiver,” add Holmes.

Four of the Lions’ seven draft picks came from Pac-12 schools Oregon (Penei Sewell), Washington (Levi Onwuzurike), USC (St. Brown) and Oregon State (Jermar Jefferson), which gave west coast scout Cary Conklin some prominent face time in the video.

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Conklin, in one draft meeting, projected Sewell as a future starter at left or right tackle and described him as, “A really solid player, really consistent execution both run and pass. Not many holes in this guy. Does things the right way. Real high-integrity, prideful. The guy’s got some juice, high energy, passion on the field.”

Holmes said previously the Lions thought about trading up for Onwuzurike, and Campbell, in the video, credited Dorsey for encouraging the Lions to stay put — though the draft room did get a scare when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the other Washington pass rusher, Joe Tryon, with the 32nd pick.

Conklin described Onwuzurike in a draft meeting as a guy with “good initial quickness to penetrate. I like his hand use. I think he’s got quick hands to jolt and stack o-lineman.”

Asked by Holmes if Onwuzurike had positional versatility, Conklin said, “Yeah, I think he does. He played there, he played nose, 4i, three tech. He played all over. I think he’s got some versatility no doubt.”

On Jefferson, the Lions’ seventh-round pick, Conklin and Olson both encouraged Holmes to “trust the tape” in their draft meetings. “Really good vision, instincts and run production,” Conklin said.

UDFA process

Because the undrafted free agent process is so hectic, the Lions involve a bevy of front office executives and coaches in the recruitment of players they hope to bring to town.

The Lions’ in-house video shows Dorsey closing a deal for Kentucky offensive lineman Drake Jackson, assistant GM Ray Agnew signing Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett and Campbell saying he would “literally do a backflip” if the Lions signed Wake Forest receiver Sage Surratt.

Asked by linebackers coach Mark DeLeon to pick three words that describe him as a player, Beckett said, “Brave is a good word because I’m a little undersized out there but I’m the biggest one. I’m brave cause I’m going to go at whoever.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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