One of the nicer developments since the Detroit Lions’ regime change last year is a dramatic shift in transparency within the organization. From a business standpoint, it provides me with the opportunity to present more content. But from a fan point of view, it helps build trust by letting the public know that the people in charge are not afraid of revealing what’s happening behind the curtain.
Both Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell revealed a little extra about the team’s process on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, in which the Lions scored play-makers on both sides of the ball: edge defender Aidan Hutchinson and wide receiver Jameson Williams.
First, Holmes talked to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press to give more of a background on how the trade up from 32 to 12 with the Minnesota Vikings happened. Holmes was already pretty transparent about the move in his post-Day 1 press conference, but he provided Birkett with more important context (subscription required). First, he talked about a remote-dropping moment while watching Williams late in his assessment of the Alabama receiver.
“When I start dropping remotes, that’s when I know,” Holmes said. “You knew about the deep stuff, but when he would start doing the stuff underneath and you watch his kickoff returns and when you start watching him as a gunner, taking gunner reps, and just the fearlessness that he has just as a football player, that’s when it came alive like, ‘Man, this dude’s a dog.’”
Then he started making calls with teams in the range they believed Williams could go. Eventually, he found a willing partner in new Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, as long as the board fell in a way that pleased both teams. On draft night, it almost all came crashing down when the New Orleans Saints—a team Holmes knew wanted a wide receiver—traded up to 11. Luckily for him, Ohio State receiver Chris Olave was the pick.
“Every team’s situation is different and so I said, ‘Maybe (the Saints) won’t (take Williams) because he’s coming off the (knee) injury,’” Holmes said. “I’m like trying to talk myself into it. I’m just like, I’m waiting, waiting, so then when I see Olave, I’m just like, ‘God.’ And it just kind of erupted and then that’s when I went and called Kwesi and said, ‘Man, we’re good.’”
Campbell hasn’t talked to the local media about the draft yet, but he did take some time to speak with SI.com’s Albert Breer Saturday morning. Like Holmes, Campbell saw something special when he flipped on Williams’ tape that separated him from the rest of the wide receiver class.
“I’m like, Whoa, this is a little bit different now,” he told Beer. “This player here, he puts the fear of God in a defense. And that’s what we want.”
One of those plays was Williams just completely destroying a punt returner as a gunner. While Campbell admitted they aren’t likely to play him in that role at the next level, it said a lot about Williams’ character on the field.
“Just crushing the returner—running and just crushing the returner. This guy is a high-level gunner on punt team,” Campbell said. “This guy is aggressive. He’s more than just a receiver. He’s a highly competitive football player, like he just wants to be out there and do something.”
Of course, Campbell had much to say about Hutchinson, who just about everyone pointed out would be a match made in heaven when paired with Campbell’s intensity. Safe to say, Campbell agrees.
“I’ll tell you what stuck out. I was like, My gosh, this guy’s relentless,” Campbell said. “I wrote down relentless, wrecking ball, explosive, good hand use. There’s a number of words I can use to describe him. But if you’re asking for one that just really stood out, it was he was relentless. And it was in both areas, run and pass game.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing Campbell told Breer was just how optimistic he feels about how Holmes has been running the draft over the past two offseasons.
“This is two years in a row, I feel like Brad is knocking it out of the park,” Campbell said. “He’s got a great vision, and he and I share the same vision. But just, man, how he sees this thing playing out, and the moves that he needed to make, and to be able to do what he did with Minnesota and come away with this player, and yet for us to still have 46 and to be able to get [Josh] Paschal out of it. Oh my gosh, yeah.”
It’s hard not to feel optimistic this time of year.