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 draft WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and LB Derrick Barnes in fourth round

While pound-for-pound the Detroit Lions may have won the first three rounds of the NFL draft, they went into Saturday needing a wide receiver and a linebacker.

Boom, boom – GM Brad Holmes handled both with back-to-back picks in the fourth round to open Saturday’s action.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC) was selected with the 112th overall pick. 

Then Campbell traded his fifth-round pick and a fourth-round pick in 2022 to draft linebacker Derrick Barnes (Purdue) with the 113th pick and also pick up the 257th overall pick in today’s seventh round.

St. Brown’s draft profiles read the same – good hands, solid body control and even though he doesn’t have the length (he’s 6-foot) he wins 50-50 balls. In fact he was eighth in the country with that stat.

“It’s a lot of things, its definitely being in stride at the point of the catch is huge, being able to track the ball is another thing, usually contested catches are depper balls,’’ St. Brown said in a media call. “Being able to track the ball and know when to attack is huge and having that mentality that you’re going to work no matter who’s there at getting that.’’

The youngest of three boys, he comes from an athletic background – his dad was Mr. Universe and his brother, Equanimeous, plays for the Green Bay Packers. His dad wanted his sons to have different names – Amon-Ra is the Eqyptian God of sun and light.

He started lifting when he was 6 with PVC pipes to get the form and gradually lifting weights. 

At USC,he played in 31 games with 23 starts.  Overall he had 178 career catches for 2,270 yards (12.8 avg) and 16 TDs in his career to rank 11th on USC’s career receptions list. He had a streak of 4 consecutive 100-yard receiving outings (last 2 games in 2019, first 2 in 2020)

Barnes, who is also 6-foot, has good size, long arms and sideline-to-sideline range. 

He’s a natural for the Lions since he has a lion tattooed across his right pec. He had a feeling the Lions would draft him.

“I knew because my coach at Purdue would text me, the Lions love you. The Lions think highly of you ,it all shows. I’m really blessed to be a Lion that’s my favorite animal,’’ Barnes said in a media call.

He further explained his fascination with lions.

“My favorite animal is the lion, the king of the jungle. The heart of the lion is what i say I have —- loyalty, power, leadership — I think that’s all the strengths I grew up having,’’ Barnes said.

He has the burst to spy quarterbacks, according to his ESPN draft profile. He flashes as a pass-rusher and has some upside in coverage. He has average stopping power as a run defender. He has the potential to quickly develop into a core special teams player.

In the first three rounds the Lions drafted RT Penei Sewell (331 pounds), DT Levi Onwuzurike (290 pounds) and DT Alim McNeil (317 pounds).