Detroit Lions General Manager Brad Holmes showcases unwavering confidence in his 2023 draft choices, signaling a promising future for the team.
In the high-stakes world of NFL drafting, Detroit Lions General Manager Brad Holmes is fearless. With his mantra, “We don’t draft scared, we don’t play scared,” Holmes has reshaped the team’s roster with unconventional picks that could pay off in the long run. This article delves into Holmes’ unorthodox draft strategy, the key players he acquired, and the promising future that lies ahead for the Detroit Lions.
We don’t draft scared, we don’t play scared.
I. The Art of Drafting: Brad Holmes’ Unconventional Approach
A. Embracing the Unexpected
While many NFL general managers play it safe by sticking to established draft strategies, Holmes has shown that he’s not afraid to take risks. In the 2023 draft, he demonstrated his willingness to embrace the unexpected by selecting Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back, at a spot (No. 12) where no one saw it coming. This bold move is indicative of Holmes’ confidence in his ability to identify and develop talent, allowing him to target a specific player that he believes can take the offense to a new level.
B. Drafting Talent Over Position
Another aspect of Holmes’ unconventional approach is his focus on drafting talent rather than positions. This was evident in his decision to select Jack Campbell, an off-ball linebacker, in the first round. While some critics argue that this move ignores positional value, Holmes counters that he’s drafting players, not positions, and he got two good ones in Gibbs and Campbell.
There is a theme in like, ‘An Iowa player.’ You’ve probably heard of a Wisconsin offensive lineman. You’ve heard those. Credit to those programs. They just do a good job. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz, you kind of know like I was saying about Coach (Nick) Saban. You just kind of know what kind of player you’re getting. But at the end of the day, yeah, they’re good football players, but they’re just the right human beings. Coming from an established program like Iowa, like Alabama, we don’t do that intentionally. They just happened to produce some really good football players, historically they have. They’ve had success in the NFL and usually because of the head coaches and their background in terms of the NFL and pro-style. You kind of know that you’re getting probably a kid that’s got a little bit of a higher floor coming in.
C. Fearless Decision Making
Holmes’ fearless decision-making was also on display throughout the 2023 draft, as he made six trades over three days, showcasing his foresight. These moves allowed the Lions to acquire a handful of the players Holmes valued most, including a quarterback many predicted would go in the first round. Holmes’ willingness to take risks in pursuit of the players he believes in is a testament to his unwavering confidence.
II. Key Acquisitions: The Players Shaping the Lions’ Future
A. Jahmyr Gibbs: An Explosive Offensive Weapon
Holmes’ decision to draft running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round may have been unexpected, but it highlights the GM’s commitment to adding explosive weapons to the Lions’ offense. Described as an “elite weapon,” Gibbs has the potential to make a significant impact on the team’s performance. He was arguable the top pass-catching running back in the draft, providing offensive coordinator, Ben Johnson, with another player to utilize in creative ways. Many analysts even believe that Gibbs has the ability to line up in the slot early and often in the season. While it may not be the primary reason for drafting Gibbs, his versatility helps fill some of the holes that the Lions were expected to have during Jameson Williams’ six-game suspension. Certainly, he will be a player that commands attention from the Chicago Bears’ new $100-million linebacker core.
B. Jack Campbell: A Defensive Anchor
Jack Campbell, the off-ball linebacker selected in the first round, is another key acquisition for the Lions. Holmes envisions Campbell as a “legit anchor” who can elevate the team’s defense. With his impressive athleticism and potential to start alongside Alex Anzalone, Campbell’s presence on the field could be transformative for the Lions. Campbell is an ideal player to have opposite up-and-coming, athletic quarterbacks like Justin Fields and Jordan Love.
C. Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch: Filling Crucial Positions
In addition to Gibbs and Campbell, Holmes also targeted other talented players to fill crucial positions on the team. Tight end Sam LaPorta and defensive back Brian Branch were both acquired early in Round 2, further bolstering the Lions’ roster. These players’ potential to make a significant impact on the field is yet another sign of Holmes’ ability to identify and develop talent.
D. Hendon Hooker: A Promising Backup Quarterback
While drafting injured developmental backup quarterback Hendon Hooker comes with some risk, it could prove to be a wise decision in the long run. Hooker’s presence on the team may be beneficial in the future. He has the potential to become a valuable trade chip down the road or a solid backup for starting quarterback Jared Goff. If Hooker gets healthy and develops into the star that some people predict, the selection of his talent in the third round could be the long-term replacement for Goff and change the trajectory of the entire Lions organization for many years.
With the whole adding (of) Hooker, it wasn’t really to – I never really thought about a possible quarterback controversy or anything like that. Hooker’s a rookie drafted in the third round. We didn’t draft him sixth overall when we were there or anything like that. He’s got to get healthy, he’s got to develop. We like his developmental traits and I’ve been very transparent this whole time in terms of me taking accountability of me not being able to stockpile that quarterback room as much as I would like in the past, and we finally got to a position at our roster where we were able to add a guy that had some good developmental traits. Just like I said the other day, I think he’s in a good situation where he can learn, he can develop, he can get healthy, he can see how Jared (Goff) and Nate (Sudfeld) operate, and there’s really no pressure on him. So, we’re just excited about him and we’ll just see how far it goes.
III. The Long Game: Building a Bright Future for the Detroit Lions
A. Developing Young Talent
Holmes’ bold draft strategy is centered on identifying and developing young talent. His past successes in landing players like Penei Sewell, Aidan Hutchinson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and James Houston demonstrate his skill in evaluating and nurturing promising players. With the 2023 draft class, Holmes has added even more potential stars to the Lions’ roster, setting the stage for a brighter future.
B. Creating a Deep Roster
One of the key aspects of building a successful NFL team is having a deep roster, and Holmes has made significant strides in this area. Through his shrewd draft decisions, Holmes has added depth to the Lions’ roster, ensuring that the team is better equipped to face the challenges of a long and grueling season. He notes:
Those are some reminders that I put down for myself, heading into this offseason in terms of all three phases of the ball. Yeah, we were highly productive on offense last year, and then we ranked where we ranked on defense at the end of the year. I do think that we got a lot better in the second half of the season on defense, but it is what it is. We just needed to get better. You’ve got to be mindful of, ‘Well, OK, let’s just ignore the offense and just kind of just put all the eggs on defense.’ No, you’ve got to keep it balanced. You’ve got to make sure that your offense is staying explosive. You want to have a top-10 defense. Usually, when you have a top-10 defense, you’re going to have a chance. You want to kind of keep your special teams. Special teams is a high emphasis for us on our football team. We want to have special teams as a weapon for us. And so, just all three phases of the ball, you just can’t ignore any of it. You want to keep all of them at a high level. So, hopefully, we made enough improvements on defense to help, but we’ve got to keep the offense going too.
C. Embracing the Upside
Holmes’ willingness to take on risk, whether it be through selecting players with injury concerns or eschewing positional value in favor of raw talent, demonstrates his commitment to embracing the upside. While not every gamble may pay off, the potential rewards of these bold moves could propel the Detroit Lions to new heights.
D. Establishing a Winning Culture
Holmes’ fearlessness in the draft room has the potential to permeate throughout the entire organization. It creates a winning culture built on confidence and determination. By refusing to play it safe, Holmes has shown that he believes in the team’s ability to achieve success soon. Many expected players like Gibbs and Campbell to be available later in the draft, but Brad Holmes didn’t care. The Detroit Lions GM knew those were his guys and made sure not to miss his chance to select them.
IV. Conclusion: Unwavering Confidence Paves the Way for Success
Detroit Lions General Manager Brad Holmes’ confidence is signaling an expectation to win immediately. By embracing unconventional draft strategies, focusing on talent over position, and boldly pursuing the players he believes in, Holmes has set the stage for a brighter future for the Detroit Lions.
With key acquisitions like Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, Brian Branch, and Hendon Hooker, the Lions’ roster is now deeper and more talented than ever. As these players develop and begin to make an impact on the field, the Lions could become the force in the NFC that many folks around the NFL expect them to be.
Ultimately, Holmes’ fearless decision-making and commitment to building a winning culture in Detroit serve as a beacon of hope for the team’s future. As the Lions continue to grow and evolve under Holmes’ leadership, there’s no telling what heights they may reach in the years to come.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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