Last week, before the NFL draft started, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said he wanted a game-changer with the No. 2 overall pick — and for every other pick as well.
“I said from Day 1, give me a game-changer at any position,” Holmes told reporters last week, “and there are multiple positions where we do see that potential game-changers could be there in the future.”
On Friday, after the third round of the draft was over, Holmes changed his tune. After he passed on drafting a quarterback, even when there was a run on them in the third round, and opted instead for a likely rotational defensive lineman in Josh Paschal and Kerby Joseph, a one-year starter at safety, Holmes painted his strategy as a patient one and then tempered expectations.
“So, if you just stay patient and you have your board stacked right,” he said, “there were some good football players that we were able to acquire that we think can be foundational pieces.”
Ding! There it is! The buzz word Holmes loves best: foundational. That’s a nicer way of saying “not a game-changer.”
You never know how players will pan out in the NFL, of course. But other than the first two picks the Lions made — defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and receiver Jameson Williams — it’s hard to get excited about what the Lions did. That’s because the Lions mostly built their foundation. And who gets excited about a foundation?
“Look at this house, honey! Sure it has a theater room and an infinity pool. But look at that foundation!”
I get it. The overall message from Holmes and the Lions in this draft was that this team isn’t ready to make a big jump and take big chances and really kick-start this rebuild in a big way. The fact is the Lions’ rebuild won’t really start until they draft a quarterback.
I gave the Lions two Bs for drafting Hutchinson and Williams in the first round. They got two Cs for drafting Paschal and Joseph on Day 2. Then they earned two Bs and two Cs on Day 3: Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell, Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, Jackson State edge rusher James Houston and Arizona State cornerback Chase Lucas.
If you were to break out a slide rule, some pie charts and a protractor, the grade-point average might work out to a lower overall grade. But I’m giving the Lions a B for their overall draft haul for two main reasons: Holmes lived up to his promise to be aggressive when he moved up 20 spots to draft Williams, and I think there’s truth behind reports that he at least inquired about trading for San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel.
That tells me Holmes is working to find elite receivers, playmakers and, yes, game-changers wherever he can with whatever capital he has. Remember that he reportedly tried to trade up for Atlanta’s No. 4 pick in order to draft receiver Ja’Marr Chase last year.
Sorry, but I love the aggressiveness. I’ve said all along that the Lions are a franchise that needs bold thinking and even bolder moves to move out of the muck they’ve been stuck in for 60 years.
The Lions clearly wanted to improve the defense, devoting six picks to that side of the ball. But they also showed they wanted to improve the passing game, with Williams and a blocking tight end like Mitchell.
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It’s a step in the right direction. With any luck, if the Lions keep taking enough of these steps they might make progress one of these days.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.