Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes’ 2 shrewd moves have this rebuild pointed in right direction

Detroit Free Press

Four hundred and 56 days ago, the Detroit Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Rams.

Now, Stafford has a Super Bowl ring; the Lions have Aidan Hutchinson.

So was it a fair trade?

Wait a second. That’s an unfair question. Because they aren’t directly linked.

It’s not straight line, one action causing the other. The Stafford trade was more like a boulder that hit an entire organization, causing a series of ripples. So today, let’s look those ripples. Because they washed all over this draft.

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First, let’s not revise history: the Lions had to trade Stafford. I believed it then and continue to believe it. They were getting nowhere with him because this organization was stuck in mediocrity, winning just enough to prevent it from drafting elite talent. The fact that he won a Super Bowl doesn’t change that. Good for Matthew. So be it.

You can win for losing

What did the Lions get in return?

We can now see some of the pieces more clearly.

To begin with, the Lions got the Rams’ third-round pick in 2021 and took cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. After suffering an injured quadriceps, he played just seven games in 2021, starting four of them. Pro Football Focus ranked him 133rd among all corners but his grades improved as the season progressed. In the season finale against Green Bay, he earned his highest overall PFF grade.

Let’s give him an incomplete, considering he hasn’t even played half a season yet.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Why Lions feel they have discovered the secret sauce in NFL draft

There is another side to the Stafford trade: the losing.

The Lions would have won more games in 2021 with Stafford, considering they lost five games by four points or less and tied Pittsburgh.

And that would have bumped them down in this draft. That means, with Stafford, the Lions would have lost out on getting Hutchinson.

So when you watch Hutchinson over the next few years, realize the Stafford trade played an indirect role in bringing him to the Lions.

The butterfly effect

But that’s just the start of the ripples.

The Lions came into this draft holding the Rams’ first-round pick (No. 32) from the Stafford deal, as well as their own second-round pick (No. 34). The Lions weren’t going to get a game-changing player with those picks. So they traded them to move up into the land of elite prospects.

They got Jameson Williams perhaps the best wide receiver in this draft.

You know who will benefit the most from that move? Jared Goff, who also came to the Lions in the Stafford trade. Or as I like to say, that’s one ripple helping another.

“The more weapons and the better resources that you surround your quarterback with is just better and it helps them out more,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said on Saturday. “You could say that for any quarterback. He will obviously have more coming into this year. I really admire and appreciate what he did with what he worked with last year. I wouldn’t say it’s no excuses, but we just expect him to be set up for success, which (head coach) Dan (Campbell) and I said we were going to do for Jared.”

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There is another ripple to consider with these moves.

In the trade with the Vikings, the Lions also moved up 20 spots, from No. 66 to No. 46, to grab Kentucky edge rusher Josh Paschal.

“We definitely felt like we got better as an organization this week,” Holmes said. “We got eight guys that we’re really, really excited about that we believe can help us going forward.”

Think about it this way. By trading Stafford and a second-round pick — and riding all the ripples created — the Lions got two of the top 15 players in this draft. They wound up with:

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• Arguably the top edge rusher in the draft;

• A lightning-fast wide receiver with the potential to be elite — and best of all, he’s on a rookie deal (do you see what talented receivers can cost?);

• An experienced quarterback who has played in a Super Bowl;

• A cornerback with potential to contribute;

• And another first-rounder from the Rams next year. In an absolute ideal world, they will pair their two first rounders next year to get a quarterback. Hallelujah! Hey, we can all dream, right?

Taken together, Holmes has made a couple of shrewd moves, the kind that create strong ripples and can help break you out of mediocrity — not bad for 456 days of work.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Lions getting two game changers in NFL draft Round 1 is a breath of fresh air

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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