Phoenix, Ariz. — For Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes, identifying talent is easy. Intangibles, and ultimately fit, that’s a little more complicated.
Holmes only talks publicly a handful of times each year, but there are some unmistakable themes that come up in those interviews. One of the most common, when discussing player acquisition, is an emphasis on finding the players who are the right fit for the Lions.
“I’m a firm believer still that intangibles are the separators of success,” Holmes said Monday at the league meetings. “You know, you look at an Amon-Ra St. Brown, he’s a talented player, but his intangibles are as good as it gets, and that’s why he has the success that he has.”
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The Lions targeted players in free agency who had those separating intangibles, guys like cornerback Cam Sutton and running back David Montgomery. Both earned lucrative, three-year deals from the team. Now, with the heavily lifting of that phase of the offseason complete, the attention shifts to the draft, where the organization’s foundation is laid.
Come April, Holmes is potentially looking at one of the biggest talent vs. intangible decisions of his tenure as Detroit’s GM: What to do if Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is available at No. 6?
Carter is an undeniable talent, at one of Detroit’s clearest positions of needs, but faces off-field questions any organization that is considering drafting him must weigh. He recently pleaded no contest to charges of reckless driving and racing stemming from an auto accident that resulted in the deaths of both a former college teammate and Georgia staff member. And later, Carter showed up overweight and out of shape to his pro day, laboring through the position drills.
Asked specifically about the player, Holmes punted, noting he and his staff have yet to conduct a pre-draft meeting on this year’s defensive tackle prospects. And speaking generally on weighing talent against character, Holmes avoided any declarations, noting each conversation is unique.
“These kids are young college kids, and I’ve read a lot of things about just from a brain standpoint, where your frontal lobes are developed at that point,” Holmes said. “Some of the things I did in college, I probably wouldn’t want anyone knowing about. Again, you just got to take it case-by-case, but you kind of asked what is the one thing, and I’d say football character is probably the biggest thing, just in terms of your passion for the game, your mental toughness, leadership, accountability, work ethic, all that stuff. That always reigns No. 1.”
Holmes’ answer about football character, particularly work ethic, further muddies the conversation with Carter after the pro day showing. But with the potential of having to make a decision on the ultra-talented and productive player looming, Holmes will weigh all the information his staff unearths during the ongoing scouting process to determine if Carter is capable of being a fit for the Lions.
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“If a player is really, really talented, and if there’s something else that you have to figure out, we kind of make sure we’re thorough, he do our due diligence,” Holmes said. “Again, they’re all case-by-case, but we just make sure we’re thorough — thorough in our work, thorough in our process.
“Talent is easy to find,” Holmes continued. “It is. I always say from an evaluation standpoint, talent — and I’m very confident in myself as an evaluator — I have a great staff and we have great coaches who are good evaluators. We have so many people looking at the coherent stuff you see on tape, but you have to do your just due on the intangible piece. The modern-day athletes, they’re all different, you know? You just got to do your work and take it case-by-case.”