Detroit Lions draft: Five things to know

With the Lions in full rebuild, re-stocking mode, the NFL draft could not possibly be more important.

Is it a bigger deal than in recent history? Quite possibly.

It will be the first major test GM Brad Holmes and his staff including Chris Spielman. Don’t forget Holmes was the director of college scouting for the Rams before Detroit hired him, so this is not all foreign territory.

Unlike a year ago, when GM Bob Quinn and his staff each worked from their houses due to the pandemic, Holmes will have company with up to 10 people in the war room with him. 

With the No. 7 pick, Holmes could have plenty of options. The key to a trade is it takes two teams. This sounds basic, but if he doesn’t move up or down and gets criticized it doesn’t mean he didn’t try.

The Lions have six draft picks overall. 

Round 1: No. 7

Round 2: No. 41

Round 3: No. 72

Round 3: No. 101 (from Rams)

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153

The draft opens on Thursday at 8 p.m. Rounds 2 and 3 will take place starting Friday at 7 p.m. The draft for the remaining rounds will start at noon on Saturday.

Five things to know:

1. The Lions desperately need a No. 1 wide receiver but will they take one in the first round? Options include Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) and Ja’Marr Chase (LSU). Detroit has quite a history of making this move. From 2003 to 2007 they used their first-round picks on wide receivers four times. Charles Rogers (2003) was an absolute bust. Calvin Johnson (2007) is a Hall of Famer. Since Johnson, they’ve drafted three tight ends in the first round but no wide receiver. Holmes said he’s well aware of the franchise’s draft history but it should not affect who he picks.

2. Needs abound on both sides of the ball. In a pre-draft press conference Holmes would not say whether he’ll focus on offense or defense in the first round. It doesn’t make sense to limit himself. So don’t be disappointed one way or the other. This team needs work.

3. A quarterback could be a more likely pick in the first round. With Matthew Stafford gone and Jared Goff in his place, the Lions could be looking for a long-term replacement at quarterback. Trey Lance (North Dakota State) is one option. Would Ohio State’s Justin Fields be a reach at No. 7? There’s some debate on that. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU) and Mac Jones (Ohio State) could go 1-2-3. If Holmes loves one of them it could be costly to try to move up.

4. Taylor Decker said this week he’d welcome help on the offensive line. Several mock drafts have Oregon’s Penei Sewell getting drafted by the Lions. From 2012 to 2018 the Lions drafted four starting offensive linemen: Riley Reiff (2012), Laken Tomlinson (2015), Decker (2016) and Frank Ragnow (2018). Only Decker and Ragnow are still with the Lions. Reiff signed with the Bengals and Tomlinson with the 49ers. There is a need. Is Sewell the guy?

5. Holmes could pull a surprise, but don’t expect him to go too far off the charts. He said he’s learned from others that when that pick is called, he must be comfortable with the decision. It’s OK if no one has mocked that person to Detroit, but he sounds like he won’t take a flyer, he’ll be totally at ease that he’s made the right pick. 

PREDICTION: WR Jaylen Waddle, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes has a draft plan, but he isn’t sharing

The countdown is on to the start of Brad Holmes’ first NFL draft as GM of the Detroit Lions.

As a rookie GM, he’s already acting like a veteran when it comes to not tipping his hand to the media.

At his virtual pre-draft press conference on Friday, basically Holmes said there are a cluster of players the Lions would draft with the seventh overall pick.

Offense? Maybe

Defense? Could be.

He’s not sharing and, of course, we didn’t expect otherwise really. He didn’t slip up either. 

“I still think that depth on both sides of the ball is of the utmost importance. I know you can probably take that as a fence answer, but I just can’t be more authentic with that,’’ Holmes said. “I look at both sides of the ball, and I just don’t think there’s ever enough depth in certain spots that you can field. I know you’d probably like for me to say we need more defense or more offense, but just looking at our depth chart every day, I do see that there are some areas to address on both sides, for sure.”

With a shiny No. 7 draft pick, he could trade it and get more value for the long term for the Lions.

“I will say the value, it’s of extreme value, I would say. Even whenever you’re picking in the top-10, obviously it’s an extremely valued pick,’’ Holmes said. “It’s very exciting to be looking at this crop of players that would be worthy of selecting.”

Will he trade up? Maybe.

Will he trade down? Could be.

He did admit there have been discussions, he didn’t way with whom.

Are you sensing a trend?

Holmes seems confident and ready to get the draft going instead of waiting until Thursday night.

He’s learned from some of the best and is heeding their advice.

Don’t look for him to take a huge risk on that first pick.

“You always want to hit a home run, but I will say when you talk about risk on the first pick, I always kind of go back to when you’re turning that pick in, you don’t want to feel nervous. I know you asked me about previous GMs, so I’ll even give the credit to Billy Devaney on that one, one that he used to always bring up, is that you want to be confident and you want to feel really, really good when you make that selection. Not a nervousness of, ‘I hope this works,’’’ Holmes said. “I’m not saying that all selections don’t have any warts, because everybody’s got a hole or something that they can improve on, but at the end of the day, do we have buy-in and do we all feel good about the pick?”

The countdown is on.

Lions coach Dan Campbell blasts into town

Cover enough press conferences for new Detroit Lions coaches and the words all blend together. Blue collar, culture, high character, lunch pail, blah, blah, blah.

Meet Dan Campbell.

Campbell, a former Lions tight end (2006-08), was introduced as the Lions head coach on Thursday after signing a six-year deal.

“I wanted this job – bad – because I felt like I knew this community. … All right, here’s what I do know, is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city has been down, and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity.

“So this team is going to be built on – we’re going to kick you in the teeth, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re going to get up. On the way up, we’re going to bite a knee cap off, all right, and we’re going to stand up, and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other knee cap, and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to take us down. When we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.

“That’s going to be the mentality, darn it. We’re going to learn that any loss that we take, we’re going to make sure that we feel the full pain of it and not grow numb to it and learn from it and not to want to taste it again. We’re going to be competitive in every game. I can’t sit up here and guarantee wins and losses. I just can’t do it,’’ Campbell, 44, said.

The former tight end just seems so unlike the others. Get this, the nameplate on his office door reads: Head coach/The Dude.

His only experience as a head coach was an interim role for the Dolphins for a dozen games. It was brief and it was tough, but he learned from it and showed enough promise that Saints coach Sean Payton took him on and promised to help him develop as a coach.

Thursday’s 90-minute virtual press conference was intense and fun. Cynical reporters typically don’t laugh and smile much when meeting a new coach. Well Campbell has a certain charm.

He had no history with new GM Brad Holmes. But both did their homework, connected with mutual friends and it looks like they are a good fit. Holmes interviewed Campbell before the final decision was made.

“There’s no secret, you have to get good people around you, who are all pulling in the same direction. It’s team. It’s all about team. There’s no ego. Brad and I are going to have – we both have say on the 53-man roster. We have to agree. So, we’re going to go into a room, and we’re just going to fight until one of us comes up. We’ll see what happens – no,’’ Campbell said.

He was kidding. (It’s hard to tell with his deadpan delivery, but he was.)

“We are going to collaborate. We are going to come up with the best answer, the best solution. What can we do with this guy – is it for the future, is it for now? That’s not even a problem – I want it that way. I want people to challenge me on an idea. I don’t want to have a bunch of people that agree with everything that I say – that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t want a bunch of people who drink a gallon of coffee like I do in a day. You find the right mix and the right balance of people. I know this, when it starts at the top and it’s right, then it’ll go down, it’ll trickle down to where it’s supposed to. Those guys are going to have pride in where there are, who they play for, how they’re going to play. You’d say more times than not, that leads to success, and there’s only one way to do it, and it’s to do it the right way. That’s the other thing that intrigued me about Sheila, she wants to win bad, but she’s not going to sell her soul to the devil to do it, neither am I.’’

He wouldn’t comment on Matthew Stafford’s future but called him “a stud.” 

Team owner Shelia Ford Hamp was a vital part of the decision process. The team — Hamp, Rod Wood, Chris Spielman and Mike Disner — set goals and worked the process. Along the way, they interviewed two Saints for the GM job. They asked each who they would want as head coach. Both said Dan Campbell who most recently served as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the Saints.

“All I can say is I’m confident we have two terrific men. They’re both incredibly smart, articulate in what they’re looking for and our team. They’re both winners. I think they speak the same language, and I think it’s going to be an awesome relationship. It already is, and they hadn’t really known each other,’’ Hamp said. “I think this is going to be just great. Really great.”

Time will tell.

Until then, watch your knee caps.