A quick perusing of Friday morning draft grades, or a couple minutes on sports talk radio, will essentially give you the same criticism of the Detroit Lions’ first two selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Lions did not get enough value out of their picks by selecting running back Jahmyr Gibbs at 12 and linebacker Jack Campbell at 18. Some have beef with using such high draft capital on low-value positions, others believed both players could have been had later in the draft.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes had an answer for both of those criticisms on Thursday night after Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
When it comes to positional value, Holmes believed that both Gibbs and Campbell will have big roles in Detroit—and that’s enough value for him.
“If you believe that they can have an impact for you on the field, then you just go ahead and take them,” Holmes said.
He also believes that both players are more than just their position. Gibbs isn’t just a running back, he’s a big weapon in the passing game and big-play threat when the ball is in his hands. Campbell is a unique blend of size and speed—and has future captain written all over him.
“It’s not just about, ‘Don’t pick a running back,’ because that’s not really how we view him,” Holmes said. “Then it’s the same thing about, ‘Don’t pick an off-ball linebacker.’ That’s not really how we view Jack. So, if you put them in boxes on a sheet of paper and you run mock draft analytics, yeah you can come up with the stats. But all the hours and research and all the time that we put in in terms of what we can get from these players, it becomes very visible what kind of impact that they can bring.”
As for whether these players could have been had later in the draft, Holmes quickly dismissed that idea. The Lions general manager said they thought about waiting until Pick 18 to grab Gibbs, but they didn’t feel good about their chances. When they decided to take Gibbs at 12, that’s when the texts from other teams came in, confirming to Holmes that he wouldn’t have made it six picks later.
“When we were able to select him at 12, that’s when all the texts started coming in of, ‘Oh,(he) would’ve been gone by 15,’” Holmes said. “Just a lot of picks, a lot of people saying they wanted to trade up, they wanted to get him.”
As for Campbell, who was 44th on Pro Football Network’s consensus big board, Holmes just laughed at the public perception—which he viewed as way off on the Iowa linebacker.
“It’s no disrespect to the mock drafts. I get it, man. It’s not the guys that everybody had in their mock drafts and stuff,” Holmes said. “And frankly, we don’t care. We feel really confident about the work that we put in and what those guys are going to do on the field.”
In fact, Holmes said that when they were on the clock with the 18th pick, Campbell was, far and away, the best player on their board.
“When we selected Jack, he was our highest-rated player that was left on the board,” Holmes said. “It was actually by a good margin.”
Ultimately, these players will be judged by their play on the field more so than their draft position, and whether you agree with the picks or not, you almost have to admire Holmes’ confidence in the face of conventional wisdom. And to be fair, his draft history speaks for itself.
And while many don’t expect these players to make a big enough impact—whether it be because of positional value or overall talent—Holmes thinks both Campbell and Gibbs are going to make this team better today.
“I think our fans are going to be really, really proud and really excited about what they see. I’m not saying like a year or two year, we believe that these guys are ready to go right now.”