Five keys from Lions GM Brad Holmes one week before the draft

Of course Brad Holmes is not giving away his draft strategy. Still the Lions general manager, who is entering his second draft with the team, shared a few insights one week before the NFL draft.

The Lions have two first-round picks (No. 2 and 32) when the draft kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. Overall they have eight picks over the three-day event.

“Right now, we’re in a good place. There are still things that are fluid here and there, there is still some new information coming in as we speak. But we’re confident in our process up to this point,’ Holmes said at a pre-draft press conference on Thursday.

Even though Holmes had a decent draft a year ago, the Lions are coming off a three-win season. That point can’t be overlooked. The team was young and due to injuries many younger players got thrown into the fire. Some found success, others got a little singed but could be better for the experience.

He would not rule out taking a quarterback with the No. 2 pick, insisting he is looking for a game-changer at that pick and every pick. “So, if that position is a quarterback, then it’s a quarterback. Just because often, it’s been slated that, well, picking up there, it’s either going to be a quarterback or a pass rusher or a tackle and all that type of stuff. But look, I said from Day One, give me a game-changer at any position, and there are multiple positions where we do see that potential game-changers could be there in the future,” Holmes said. “Time will tell of course however they develop.”

Five of the key highlights from Holmes on Thursday:

1. With the second overall pick, it’s not just a matter of nailing down his top two prospects. “Anything can happen (on) any day, I will say that. But it’s not just narrowing it down to your top two. You better have your top five. You better have your top 10 in place because you just don’t know what’s going to happen each day,’’ Holmes said. “We do have it narrowed down, and we feel confident where we’re at with how we have it pared down. We’ll just let the process unfold.”

2. He is confident that Dan Campbell and the coaching staff can once again prepare rookies for Sundays in the NFL.  “Like I said, we’re very fortunate and we’re very blessed, and to get into position to have a coaching staff that has a passion of developing, and the proof’s in the pudding. It’s proven; they’ve actually done it. So, it gives you a lot of optimism,’’ Holmes said. Last year’s top pick, right tackle Penei Sewell, was a starter from the get-go. But the staff also got several rookies to contribute including linebacker Derrick Barnes (fourth round) who started six games and played in 17  and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth round) who also started six games and played in all 17.

3. Holmes and his scouting staff aim to find the right balance for a prospect between his college production and potential. “You can’t ignore production, but you’ve also got to look at those critical factors of the actual player. Is he doing everything in his power, does he have the skillset, does he have the traits to do certain things? Does he have the football character? There’s a lot of different factors that can come in that can project to more production when they get into the NFL. How were they used in their scheme in college versus what our scheme is going to be? There’s a lot of different factors that go into that, but you definitely can’t ignore the actual production because that’s real (and) factual,’’ Holmes said.

4. While no one will downplay the importance of the draft, last year Holmes was able to work undrafted prospects like cornerbacks Jerry Jacobs and A.J. Parker into the lineup. That fact could play into draft-weekend decisions. “It just gives you confidence that we were able to identify some of those guys. Being that those guys have a year under their belt, they carry that invaluable experience that they have and that play time into this year. So, yeah, absolutely. It kind of affects a little bit how you look at it, like you can’t forget about those guys. It gets you excited about what those guys are going to be this year coming up,’’ Holmes said.

5. Holmes and coach Dan Campbell proved last season that they don’t look at pedigree or draft credentials when it comes time to getting the best players on the field. “Dan and I have always said you can call us the land of opportunity, but we don’t care where you come from. … If you step in this building, you’ve got an opportunity to compete and it doesn’t matter where you come from. You can talk about meritocracy, in the sense of whoever’s the best is the best. Well, that’s kind of how we approach it because of undrafted free agents.”

Lions newest safety DeShon Elliott appreciates team’s gritty style

Although he was celebrating just his 25th birthday on Thursday, DeShon Elliott is looking forward to a fresh start as a safety for the Lions.

After spending four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he thinks the Lions are a good fit.

“On my visit last week being around the coaches I really feel they love and care about each one of their players and they want to be great,’’ Elliott said on Thursday.

His first inkling about coach Dan Campbell and his staff came when the Ravens beat the Lions 19-17 at Ford Field last season in Week 3.

“It was a slobber-knocker, but they played so hard and I could just tell from that game how much they loved their coach by the way they played. You can always tell that,’’ Elliott said. “They really bought in and loved the experience they have in the building. That was one thing on the outside looking in.’’

His 2021 season ended with biceps and pectoral injuries sustained in a Nov. 8 game. His rookie season in 2018 was spent on injured reserve with a broken arm. He played just six games in 2029 due to a knee injury. But started all 16 in the 2020 season.

Obviously staying healthy is key for Elliott, a sixth-round pick in 2018, who signed a one-year deal with the Lions on April 14.

Before he signed he talked with Quandre Diggs, a former Lion who was shipped out of town by Matt Patricia. Elliott said Diggs is like a big brother to him and told him the Lions’ style of football – gritty and hard-nosed – matches the character of the city.

“That reminds me a lot of Baltimore so that’s another reason I came here, I wanted to go somewhere that matched my game,’’ Elliott said.

He also knows Tracy Walker – they were in the same draft class – and admires his game.

Elliott said in his talks with Lions coaches, he felt what mattered the most is  the kind of person he is.

“They wanted to build a certain type of character into the locker room. I think I bring all the right traits,’’ Elliott said. “I’ll be myself at the end of the day. No matter what, I’m not going to be somebody I’m not.’’

He describes himself as aggressive, one who puts it all on the line.

“I’m here to win, that’s it, that’s all I care about,’’ Elliott said.

Five things to know about Lions win over Packers and the season’s finish

In a season opened with eight straight losses, new coach Dan Campbell made his share of mistakes. He’ll be happy to share that with you.

The most remarkable achievement may have been keeping the players in every game, keeping them focused and not allowing their shoulder to sink.

It’s not a little thing for a coach to be able to inject such an attitude. 

Perhaps Sunday’s 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field was a perfect example of this never-say-die attitude. 

The Lions really didn’t have anything to play for other than pride, but you wouldn’t know that And, yes, the Packers who are the NFC North champs, played some of their backups in the second half, but still it was a good solid win for the Lions who finished 3-3 in their final six and 3-13-1 overall.

“When you’re where we’re at, when you get late in the season and you don’t have wins, it’s not easy for guys to continue to put their best foot forward, continue to come to work, continue to grind,’’ Campbell said. “Our guys did that. They knew what we are trying to build.

“For us it was what we said on Day One. We’re looking for a gritty team, guys that are resilient, guys willing to lay it on the line, you’re not going to feel 100% those guys that are 80-90% they can still produce and give it their all,’’ Campbell added.

“I do feel like all the way through this season, those guys never lost hope and I think that’s important, that there is hope,’’ the coach said.

They also seem to feed off his aggressiveness. Fourth down? In many cases, he went for it. On Sunday, he used two trick plays to score touchdowns. Whatever it takes. 

Five things to know:

1. Quarterback Jared Goff took plenty of flack in the first half of the season. Some of it was deserved, some not. But he never threw up his hands, he never quit. “What I respect about him is he hung in there and he was resilient, but yet accountable to his own performance,’’ Campbell said. “Collectively we knew we all had to get better. He never wavered, he was there everyday, he was ready to go, he was upbeat, he wanted to be better and in turn has made us all better.’’ Goff admitted there were rocky times and he’s proud of the way he and his teammates handled it. “To finish the season the way we did is a testament to not giving up in those situations,’’ Goff said.

2. Despite an incredible number of injuries the defense was fairly consistent. They had a few bad games and awful quarters but they improved under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn as the season wore on. In Sunday’s win Tracy Walker and C.J. Moore intercepted quarterback Jordan Love at key points in the second half. Moore’s interception with a few seconds remaining sealed the win. Campbell mentioned the way the team played complementary football in Sunday’s win. It was key.

3. A star emerged in rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, a fourth-round pick. He set a Lions record for yardage for rookie wide receivers with his first catch on Sunday. He admitted he knew exactly how many yards he needed, Nothing wrong with that.  He set an NFL record a week ago for a rookie wide receiver catching at least eight passes in eight straight games. He extended that to nine games on Sunday. Campbell said, “He’s better than gold.” Goff reminded that St. Brown’s name translates to Sun God. He finished with 8 catches for 109 yards on Sunday and for the season the rookie had 90 catches for 911 yards and five touchdowns

4. The offensive line was battered all season. On Sunday, guard Jonah Jackson had to move over to center after Evan Brown went out. Jackson and Goff took about five snaps on the sideline and went for it. That’s just how the season went and still for the most part, the line did its job. Guard Penei Sewell spent training camp learning the right guard position then had to move to the left side when Taylor Decker was injured. This line should be one of the Lions’ strengths in the future.

5. Goff said Sunday’s win and the way the Lions finished the season 3-3 should be a good springboard for next season. The players who are on the roster now, know what to expect from Campbell and he knows how to push the right buttons. While a 3-13-1 record could draw many an eye roll, dig a little deeper and the future for this bunch looks a little brighter.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)