Lions GM Brad Holmes can’t hide emotions – he’s thrilled with draft

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)


Lions trade RB D’Andre Swift to Eagles

ALLEN PARK — In a move that was expected, the Detroit Lions traded running back D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday.

The move was in the cards once the Lions drafted running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round on Thursday night. Lions GM Brad Holmes chose his words carefully after that pick, pointing out that Swift was still on the roster. 

Like Swift, Gibbs is a threat out of the backfield. Last season at Alabama he rushed for 926 yards with seven touchdowns and had 44 receptions for 444 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

The Lions acquired 25-year-old veteran running back David Montgomery in free agency and lost Jamaal Williams who signed with the Saints.

In return for the trade to the Eagles, the Lions will swap seventh-round picks today (Saturday), moving up to 219th from 249th and receive a fourth-round pick in 2025.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman told ESPN: “(Swift’s) got big-play ability as a runner and a receiver. We saw it first-hand when we were in Detroit the first game of the season.”

The 24-year-old Swift, who was drafted by Detroit with the third pick in the second round in 2020, finished his three seasons (39 games) with 364 carries for 1,680 yards (4.6 yards per carry), 18 rushing touchdowns and 156 receptions for 1,198 yards and seven receiving TDs. 

He returns to his hometown of Philadelphia where he attended St. Joseph’s Prep before playing college ball at Georgia.

Lions draft TE Sam LaPorta of Iowa to open second round

ALLEN PARK — With the first of three second-round picks, the Lions selected tight end Sam LaPorta who played at Iowa, on Friday night with the 34th overall pick.

LaPorta will help fill the gap left when Detroit traded away tight end T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline last season. LaPorta joins Lions tight ends Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Shane Zylstra and Derrick Deese Jr. 

“I’m going to try to add as much value as I can as quickly as I can,” LaPorta said during a media interview on Friday night where he was speaking from a draft party in his hometown of Highland, Ill.

Of Detroit’s first three picks, two are from Iowa including linebacker Jack Campbell.

LaPorta said he was repeatedly asked during the interview process which teammate he would like to take with him to the NFL and his answer was always the same: Jack Campbell. He said he shot Campbell a congratulatory note on Thursday night.

LaPorta met coach Dan Campbell, a former NFL tight end, at the NFL Combine. “I can’t wait to work for him … I can certainly learn from his journey,” LaPorta said.

LaPorta, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 245,  led Iowa in receiving in 2022 (58-657-11.3, one TD, 12 games) and won the Big Ten Tight End of the Year Award. He set the school record for tight ends with 153 career receptions.

Per his NFL draft prospect report: “LaPorta has the ability to threaten zone coverage and will make the basic catches. However, he lacks the desired elusiveness and ball skills to come away with the more challenging catches. LaPorta takes on run-blocking chores with inconsistent positioning, but has the potential to improve with more work in that phase of the game. His catch production is splashy, but he appears to have average-starter potential at the next level.”

LaPorta played in 12 games as a true freshman at Iowa in 2019 (15-188-12.5). He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference selection in 2020 after leading the Hawkeyes with 27 receptions (271 yards, 10.0 per, one TD) in eight games. League coaches voted him to the third team in 2021 as the team’s top receiver (53-670-12.6, team-high three TDs in 14 games). 

LaPorta excelled at high school in Highland, Ill., catching the second-most touchdown passes in state history with 50 in his career.