ALLEN PARK — When the cameras focus in on the NFL war rooms on draft weekend, many of the reactions include big smiles, a little hand-shaking, not much else. Ho-hum.
Not so for the Lions with GM Brad Holmes. At all. He’s punching tables, high-fiving and bear-hugging colleagues after making his picks.
He’s also thrown some inadvertent elbows to whoever might be too close. It’s still legend how Rod Wood, team president, was on the wrong end of Holmes’ celebration when Penei Sewell was drafted.
So this year Holmes told himself and others in the room he was going to try to be more disciplined.
It didn’t work.
“I guess I just can’t state it or emphasize it enough that we draft players that we love,’’ Holmes said when the three-day draft was complete on Saturday.
“When you’re able to get them sometimes you can’t control the emotion. It’s genuine. It’s authentic. You find that guy you love and that’s a fit for what we’re about and what our culture is and what we want our football team to look like, you just really can’t control your emotions.
Most of the time the object in front of me is a table, that’s what gets the beating all the time,’’ he added.
It’s all an indication that Holmes was “thrilled” with the eight players he drafted.
In the first round he nabbed running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell. He sees both as immediate impact players.
He was criticized for maybe taking Gibbs too early with the 12th pick, but he made no apologies. He was the player they wanted at that spot.
Ultimately what he’s trying to accomplish is to win more games. The end of last season was good but not good enough because they didn’t get to the playoffs.
“I know a lot will be said that ‘you acquired a running back in the first round.’ We didn’t acquire a running back in the first round. We acquired an elite weapon to keep our offense explosive in the first round,’’ Holmes said.
“We didn’t acquire an inside linebacker in the first round, we acquired a legit anchor to elevate our defense in the first round. That’s what the ultimate goal is, that’s what our vision is. We couldn’t be more excited about how the weekend went,’’ said Holmes who was wearing a black sweatshirt featuring a large photo of coach Dan Campbell on the front.
“I told you all this is my brother, this is my guy,’’ Holmes said. “I love this sweatshirt.”
Holmes, who just finished his third draft with the Lions, also made a big move on Saturday, trading running back D’Andre Swift who he called a “dynamic, electric football player.” Swift was sent to the Eagles — Philadelphia is his hometown — for an earlier seventh-round pick on Saturday and a fourth-round pick in 2025.
“It’s my job to keep laser-focused on the present, but probably even more to keep laser-focused on the future. That’s what went into a lot of decisions with having to make the trade of D’Andre Swift to Philly,’’ Holmes said. “He was in the last year of his contract. Going back to last year I felt good about bringing back Jamaal Williams, it didn’t happen. You have to be prepared for those things.
“We don’t draft scared, we don’t kind of play scared. The thing with Jahmyr Gibbs, that’s the guy we loved. Again, having to keep that laser focus for the future and we wanted to do the right thing for the player,’’ Holmes said.
2023 Lions draft
RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, first round (12th overall)
LB Jack Campbell, Iowa, first round (18th overall)
TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa, second round (34th overall)
DB Brian Branch, Alabama, second round (45th overall)
QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee, third round (68th overall)
DL Brodric Martin, Western Kentucky, third round (96th overall)
OL Colby Sorsdal, William & Mary, fifth round (152nd overall)