Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes: ‘I hope there’s a difference maker’ at No. 2 NFL draft pick

Detroit Free Press

They have 3½ months to figure out who they want with the No. 2 pick, but one way or another Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said he hopes to land an impact player at the top of this year’s NFL draft.

“I hope it’s a difference maker at two,” Holmes said Tuesday in his end-of-season news conference. “But, no, we’re still going through that process now. We’ll kind of talk about that later on down in the process and hopefully we get some more clarity, starting as early as after we do the Senior Bowl. But I do think it is a good draft, though. It is a good draft, from pretty much all positions, really. I think that we’ll be in a good spot.”

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While there is no consensus top talent available, the Lions should be in position to land an impact player for their 29th-ranked defense.

Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal are among the top prospects available, and there are no quarterbacks expected to go in the first two picks.

The Lions need help rushing the passer — they finished 27th in sack percentage — and in the back end, and they return all five starters on their offensive line, including last year’s No. 7 overall pick, Penei Sewell.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars own this year’s No. 1 pick and could consider the same group of players.

Holmes said “there’s a lot of gold to be found” at the Senior Bowl all-star game, which the Lions will coach next month.

At the Senior Bowl, Lions coaches will spend a week running one team through practice and meetings set up to mimic an NFL schedule.

None of Thibodeaux, Hutchinson, Hamilton or Neal is expected to play in that game, though several of the draft’s top quarterback prospects — Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Liberty’s Malik Willis and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder — are committed to play.

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The Lions held their first set of draft meetings last month, and Holmes said he feels “really good where we’re at right now heading into the all-star circuit.”

Asked if he believes there will be a difference maker there for the taking at No. 2, Holmes said, “We’ll see when the smoke clears.”

“I hope so,” he said. “I think every draft is different. It truly is. There’s some drafts that are really, really top heavy, some drafts are not. Some drafts are better, they’re better, more heavy on Day 2. It’s kind of a little bit better there, it’s more heavy on the back end. But I think all that’s being sorted out. Our personnel department is doing a heck of a job. I think they’ve pretty much seen everybody. We have a good vibe at it, but obviously what we’re about to embark on is going to provide a lot of clarity for those guys.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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