ALLEN PARK — Once a year Lions GM Brad Holmes stands in front of the media to take pre-draft questions that he can’t answer. He’s good with it, understands it and while he’s not revealing the team’s draft board, he is able to give some insight into the draft preparation.
The Lions have nine picks including two in the first round (sixth and 18th) in the three-day NFL draft, which opens Thursday, April 27.
Holmes and the Lions have put themselves in a position where there is flexibility in the process.
“There’s always something you’re going to have to address. We did a lot of things on defense in free agency and there are a lot of good defensive players in this draft. So we feel pretty comfortable,’’ Holmes said on Thursday. “Again, I just can’t pinpoint one position where we’re like ‘Oh my gosh if we don’t do that’ … I just think it’s a lot of different directions we can go.
“We’re not perfect, we still have a lot of work to do, we understand that, we know that, we embrace it. I always tell people I embrace darkness, I embrace reality. We’re used to taking the hard road through the narrow gate. You’re always going to have to deal with stuff but we just deal with it and try to build the best we can,’’ he added.
Holmes explained that while looking at the depth chart is key in signing free agents who can be plugged in immediately, that is not how they look at it during the draft where the players are big long-term investments.
The Lions finished last season winning 8 of their last 10 games so expectations are high. Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have changed the culture and put their own stamp on the team. Holmes credited Campbell with jumping right from the end of the season to helping with the draft preparation.
They typically see eye to eye in player evaluations.
“Me and Dan say all the time these players have to fit here. It’s not like we have to chase this player with the red flags or whatever, it’s always case by case. I know you’re tired of me saying this but it’s just true,’’ Holmes said.
When it comes to making the draft decisions Holmes said he trusts his gut.
“You can look at all the data and research. We scrub it, we dive deep, but at the end of the day if it does not feel right. … It’s a little difficult whichever round, it can be in the seventh round. If you have to make that phone call that he’s going to be a Detroit Lion, you want to feel confident about it and you don’t want to have any nervousness about it,’’ Holmes said. “That’s where the gut piece comes in. I’ve always trusted it and I still trust it.’’
Having the two of the top 18 picks — sixth and 18th — makes the process more unpredictable to start. (The sixth pick came in the trade of Matthew Stafford to the Rams.)
“Having those two picks they’re kind of in unique spots depending on what’s going to happen in front of you and behind you,’’ Holmes said. “Where we are right now, I say we have a lot of flexibility, we can go in a lot of directions. We feel good about that, but it’s just a little different.’’
Last year, Holmes selected defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson and wide receiver Jameson Williams in the first round.
Four of the 2022 draft picks started on defense in the final game, the win at Green Bay. They included Hutchinson, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth round), linebacker James Houston (sixth round) and safety Kerby Joseph (third round).
After the first round next Thursday, the Lions have two second-round picks (48th and 55th), one in the third round (81st), two in the fifth round (152nd and 159th) and two in the sixth round (183rd and 194th).