The Detroit Lions made one of their critical offseason decision on Thursday, hiring Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes as their next general manager.
Typically, there’s not a ton of information out there on someone in his position. They aren’t required to do any media hits. They often work in the shadows and go overlooked and underappreciated.
However, if you dig deep enough, there are some interesting tidbits scattered across the media about Holmes and the job he’s done for nearly two decades with the Los Angeles Rams. Here are the four most important things to know about the Lions’ new general manager.
Before we get into it, here are some valuable resources you should really read on Holmes:
- Freep: Holmes is “very much a young Ozzie Newsome”
- The Athletic: Inside the Rams’ draft process
- Yahoo! Sports: Why Brad Holmes got into scouting
- The Athletic: Data, film and luck: How the Rams hit the jackpot on Jordan Fuller
- CBS Sports: Why the Rams have traded away so many first-round picks
Holmes worked his way up from the bottom
Holmes actually took his first NFL job with the Rams as public relations intern in 2003. But due to his people skills, he quickly took up a friendship with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, who almost immediately got him a job in the team’s scouting department.
Then, as a scouting assistant, he vowed to get deeper and deeper within the organization.
“I tried to be the best scouting assistant,” Holmes told Yahoo’s Eric Edholm in 2019. “I want to get the coffee the fastest, I want to make the best profile tape possible, and all of that. When I was an area scout, I wanted to be the best at that. You know what I mean? So I never really looked ahead. Opportunities — all of them blessings — have landed on me, and I’ve just kind of earned my way to where I am now.”
Lo and behold, he eventually worked his way all the way up to director of college scouting just 10 years after starting at the bottom of the Rams organization. Now he’s managing an entire NFL franchise.
He was key in the Rams’ decision to draft Aaron Donald, Jared Goff
After a scout could not stop gushing about Donald, Holmes trusted his department enough to go out and take a look at the stud defensive tackle himself. Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic described what happened when Holmes dropped in during for a University of Pittsburgh practice. He got a tip from then Panthers defensive coordinator Matt House to show up extra early.
When Holmes arrived at the practice field at 2:45, all he saw were the Pitt specialists going through their normal pre-practice routine. Nothing unusual about that. Then he glanced over to the Pitt bench, and what he saw blew him away.
Sitting all by himself, completely taped up and in full uniform and practically champing at the bit to get to work, was none other than Aaron Donald.
“And he had this body language that was screaming, ‘I’ve been waiting on this all day. I’ve been looking forward to this all day,’” Holmes said. “And I mean … it’s a Tuesday practice.”
In 2016, Rams general manager Les Snead went directly to Holmes and asked if it would be worthwhile to trade up and draft Jared Goff. Per Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“I’m running through my mind and it seemed like we went down every avenue except doing what other teams do and just truly getting a top-notch quarterback that you have to spend on,” Holmes says. “That’s the one avenue that we haven’t gone down. …We’ve identified Goff as a clear franchise quarterback, so let’s expend the resources to get up and just get the guy.”
Snead trusted his guy and sent a first, two seconds and a third-round selection to move up 14 spots and take Goff with a fourth and sixth round pick in return.
The Rams trusted him enough to give away early-round picks... and it’s worked
The Rams gave up multiple draft picks for Goff. They sent a first-round pick away for Brandin Cooks in 2018. They traded a two first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey in 2019.
The national narrative on those moves were that they were mortgaging the future to win now. But that’s not what the Rams were thinking at the time.
Here’s Bonsignore on our podcast a couple weeks ago:
“We’re doing that because we believe that we can go find talent beyond just that first round,” Bonsignore said of the Rams’ approach. “We have confidence that our staff is going to be able to still do the job even without those big first round picks. That was the inner-confidence in the building and obviously that’s come to fruition.”
The Rams have a ton of starters from their last few drafts
Despite not having any first round picks since that 2016 selection of Goff, the Rams have built a roster full of depth and starters from deeper in the draft. Here’s a look at some the players who have started at least eight games in the 2020 season (or would’ve, if not for injury)
- WR Cooper Kupp (third round)
- S John Johnson (third round)
- LB Samson Ebukam (fourth round)
- OT Joseph Noteboom (third round)
- C Brian Allen (fourth round)
- LB Micah Kiser (fifth round)
- DT Sebastian Joseph (sixth round)
- S Taylor Rapp (second round)
- RB Darrell Henderson (third round)
- OT David Edwards (fifth round)
- RB Cam Akers (second round)
- S Jordan Fuller (sixth round)
And that’s not including UDFAs or role players that don’t earn starting jobs. Note how many of those picks (six) are on defense. The Rams finished the 2020 season fourth in defensive DVOA and best in points allowed.