Holmes says qualities in Hutchinson, Williams have been overlooked

Lions GM Brad Holmes was all smiles after he was able to nab two players in the first round of the NFL draft that he considers game-changers.

With the second overall pick on Thursday night, the Lions drafted defensive end Aidan Hutchinson who played at Michigan. Then Holmes traded up to the 12th pick to select wide receiver Jameson Williams from Alabama.

Hutchinson was a no-brainer. He and DE Travon Walker were likely to go 1-2 in some order on Thursday night. Indeed, Walker was drafted by Jacksonville with the top pick.

Hutchinson had 14 sacks for the Wolverines last season. He’s a leader, a high-energy player. He seems like a perfect fit for a Dan Campbell coached team.

But, there’s more.

“I think what gets lost is how effective he is in the run game. It’s a three-down league and I think what he does in the run game is overlooked in a good way because of the sacks,’’ Holmes said.

Hutchinson, who played at Dearborn Divine Child, is a hometown favorite.

“I know he’ll make his mark in this community, he already has so it’s going to continue to trend up from here. We’re thrilled with what he’s going to bring to our organization,’’ Holmes said.

Holmes had looked before the start of the draft about trading up for Williams.

“This guy is tough, he’s gritty, he’s a dog, he loves football. He just fits what we’re about,’’ Holmes said.

He also thinks Williams has the ability to be a game-changer, but the Lions have to do their part to set him up for success.

Holmes would not share a timetable for Holmes’ return from injury — he tore his ACL in the national championship game. 

“We feel very good with where we expect him to return,’’ Holmes said.

On Friday, the Lions have one second-round pick at 46th overall and one in the third round at 97th overall.

Hutchinson and Williams are expected at the Lions facility on Friday.

Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson a good possibility for Lions with No. 2 pick

Nothing is for certain in the NFL draft which starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday. Typically there’s a consensus top pick or even top 10. Not this year. It’s actually more interesting than most. 

With the Lions’ second overall pick, they will likely draft an edge rusher, their biggest need. Of course, that pick will depend on who the Jacksonville Jaguars take at No 1. The top two picks could both be edge rushers. 

Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson for weeks had been considered the top overall pick, but Travon Walker (Georgia) has been moving up in many mock drafts and may be more attractive to the Jaguars. Still some draft gurus still have Hutchinson going to Jacksonville. Four of the five mocks at CBSsports.com have Hutchinson drafted by Detroit. The fifth has the Lions taking Kayvon Thibodeaux.

If Walker or even Kayvon Thibodeaux, an edge rusher from Oregon, goes to Jacksonville, the Lions will likely pounce on Hutchinson, the hometown kid. It won’t be a sentimental pick – he finished with 14 sacks last year (the Lions had 30 total) and is considered technically efficient. He’s a leader and everything a team could want with the No. 1 pick — unless they see more upside in Walker.

So there you go. No one knows for sure who will be wearing Honolulu blue, not even Lions GM Brad Holmes who is looking for a game-changer. Any one of the top three defensive ends could fit that bill.

The Lions also have another first-round pick (32nd overall) received in the trade deal to the Rams for Matthew Stafford.

That is even more questionable.

If quarterback Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) is available he could be a good fit at 32nd. 

“I think he could be their starter soon. Ridder is a veteran with poise, arm strength and the ability to throw on the move,’’ ESPN’s Mel Kiper said about selecting Ridder as the Lions pick at 32 overall in a mock draft.

Ridder might not drop to the Lions. Same with quarterback Sam Hamilton (North Carolina). Quarterback Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) could also be a possibility with that pick.

No guarantee the Lions go with a quarterback there.

Is that spot too early to think about wide receiver? Penn State’s Jahan Dotson could get the nod.

Defensive possibilities include linebacker Nakobe Dean (Georgia), linebacker Devin Lloyd (Utah) and safety Lewis Cine (Georgia). 

As Holmes mentioned in his pre-draft talk, the Lions will be prepared for the 32nd overall pick on the first night. And then on Friday they will be back on the clock with the 34th overall pick (second round).

All in all the Lions have eight picks — two in first round (2 and 32), one in second (34), two in third (66, 97), one in fifth (177) and two in sixth (181, 217).

While much of the focus is on the first round, perhaps Holmes can find a few more game-changers in the later rounds.

The draft starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, 7 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday. It will be televised on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network.

Lions O-line potential sky-high, just ask D’Andre Swift

No doubt, months away from opening day the Lions offensive line has the potential to be one of the league’s best. 

Of course, there’s a big if. Unlike last season, can they stay healthy?

Lions running back D’Andre Swift said it crosses his mind at least once a day about what could happen next season if the offensive line remains healthy.

The line is set up so that GM Brad Holmes doesn’t need to draft an offensive lineman to make it work.

While all five “starters” O-line starters never played in one game last season, they are healthy and, of course, optimism radiates. It’s that time of year.

“I said it last year, I’m going to stand on it. I think we can be the best in the league, I know we can be the best in the league. We just have to come out to work everyday,’’ left guard Jonah Jackson said.

Projected starters from last year will all return with left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Jonah Jackson, center Frank Ragnow, right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai and right tackle Penei Sewell (last year’s first-round draft pick).

Due to a slew of injuries they never played in one game together. Decker missed the first six games, Ragnow played in the first four and then hurt his foot and missed the rest of the season.

The good news is that Ragnow is back and participating in offseason workouts which started this week.

“I think being hurt, that was horrible. You just gain a lot of respect for dudes who have had to deal with injuries. It’s a gut-wrenching, man you really don’t realize. Obviously you’re still part of the team but you don’t really feel part of the team,’’ Ragnow said on Thursday.

“When you’re out on the field on Sundays and you’re in your gear, you’re like a gladiator. I’m walking out there in a T-shirt and shorts walking around, it’s a humbling feeling,’’ he added.

Sewell was one of last season’s highlights.He spent training camp at right tackle but when Decker went down before the first game he shifted to the left and did a respectable job.

“He looks the same. He’s a freak show. He’s still a freak show,’’ Ragnow said of Sewell. “Big, strong kid, great energy.”

Having the same guys return is huge.

“Obviously, we would love to all stay healthy, just off-the-field wise and mentally chemistry wise people don’t understand how big that is for offensive lines in particular,’’ Ragnow said. “You have to really know how these guys think, trust these guys and the relationships we’ve developed over five years with me and Taylor and the other guys trickling in here.’’