Lions, Brad Holmes not sweating critics of first-round picks: ‘These players fit us’

Detroit News

Allen Park — Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes leaned into his ‘villain’ mantra on Day One of the NFL Draft Thursday night.

With a pair of first-round picks ready to breathe life into the rebuild, Holmes bucked conventional wisdom by selecting two lower-valued positions — running back and linebacker — and in the process, seemingly managed to turn the football world against him.

Of note from his press conference in Allen Park: He does not care.

“Just like I told you guys in the past, they’re football players,” Holmes said. “If you believe that they can have an impact for you on the football field, then you just go ahead and take them.”

The calamity started after Holmes was praised for making a shrewd move by trading back from the No. 6 pick after Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon went to the Seattle Seahawks a pick prior. Congratulations turned to criticism just a few picks later, as the Lions took Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs off the board at No. 12. Things really took a turn at pick No. 18, where the Lions selected an off-ball linebacker in Iowa’s Jack Campbell.

“It’s not about just, ‘Don’t pick a running back,’ because that’s not really how we view him. And then it’s the same thing about, ‘Don’t pick an off-ball linebacker.’ That’s not really how we view Jack,” Holmes said.

“If you put them in boxes, you put them on a sheet of paper, you run mock draft analytics, you can come up with those stats, but all the hours and research, and all the time that we put in, in terms of looking at these players, it becomes very, very visible, the kind of impact we think they can bring.”

With both positions, there’s no denying Gibbs and Campbell are a cut above their peers. But there is general consensus in the world of modern football that running back and linebacker are positions where finding replacement-level production is easiest. It’s not so much that Gibbs and Campbell were poor selections, as it is the idea that production for both positions are capped, regardless of individual skill.

While Gibbs was the second running back taken Thursday, he was also just the second running back taken in the first round since 2021 (Najee Harris). Prior to Thursday, you’d have to go back to 2018 (Saquon Barkley) to find a running back who went before pick No. 24.

“If you look at (the running back position) very static and in numbers and black and white, I can see where someone would come up with that,” Holmes said of the suggestion that he made a low-value pick.

“When you come across a special player like that and you’re just convicted, you just get him.”

Consensus mock drafts have left some believing that the Lions could have gotten Gibbs in the second round. Holmes said he received texts from people around the league that seemed to confirm Gibbs would not have even been available for the Lions’ next pick at 18.

“I respect (mock drafts). I look at them. They do bring value, but that doesn’t really move me. I didn’t really look at, ‘Man, Jahmyr Gibbs, he’s been mocking in the fifties’ — now that one, I did laugh at, just if you look at the talent of the overall player, when you look at the totality of the draft, I didn’t think that was even remotely close,” Holmes said.

Holmes said similar things about the prospect of trying to trade back for Campbell. According to the Lions general manager, he was the last remaining player from a tier of guys who clearly separated themselves from the rest.

“When we selected Jack, he was our highest-graded player that was left on the board, and it was actually by a good margin,” Holmes said. “You can look at positions and all that kind of stuff, but especially in this draft, if you try to get cute and you’re saying…’Oh, you better get a pass rusher. Or you better get a tackle. You better —’ No, that’s not what the case was.

“We had him as the highest-rated player, and the same with Jahmyr. … We’ll just take the best players for us. I’ve always said that’s what we’re going to do. We find players that fit us and what we’re about — what we’re about as a culture, from a character standpoint, from an intangibles standpoint, from an intelligence standpoint.

“The talent is one thing. But these players fit us.”

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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