We can nitpick about positional value or debate the merits of immediate draft grades, but ultimately, the man in charge is the man in charge. Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes told us before the draft that he was going to do whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care about your mock drafts. That doesn’t make all of his decisions “correct,” necessarily, but he certainly had more information at his disposal than even the most educated of media draft experts.
So while Holmes will certainly have a strong bias toward his own selections, his insight into why he made each pick is valuable. If you’re sick of seeing what Random Draft Expert has to say about the Lions’ selections, let’s just look at what Holmes said about each player, instead.
Note: The Lions also made positional coaches available for each of the team’s first-round picks. I’ve included some of their quotes, as well.
Round 1, Pick 12 overall — RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
“He was definitely a guy that we had identified early on in the process. I really just kind of saw him for the first time really when I went to the Texas-Alabama game and just kind of – he just kind of stuck with me since then.”
“He’s very explosive. He’s a weapon. Obviously, he can do it all as a runner, but what he can do as a receiver and a lot of other things. So his versatility, what he’s going to bring to the offense, we’re really excited about.”
“I tell you, that’s another thing about Jahmyr is that again, I know that people put him at running back, but he does a lot of special things in the passing game. So, that’s another component that we’re really, really excited about.
RB coach Scottie Montgomery:
“The first thing you say is that he’s a fantastic young man that we’re bringing to Detroit. We just really, really liked him from a character standpoint. It stood out not only at the Combine, but it also stood out when we had a chance to sit down and talk and meet with him.”
“The first time I had a real chance to talk to him, I was really, really impressed with his overall football IQ, his understanding of protection, and how to get to it. We’ll work on certain things there of course, but I was really, really impressed with him and how he moved through understanding the rules of protection. He’s been coached really, really well.”
Round 1, Pick 18 — LB Jack Campbell, Iowa
“First time looking at Jack, I kind of thought, ‘OK, I’ve seen these kinds of linebackers before.’ He’s big and he’s a plugger, but actually no he’s not. The more you look at him, the more athletic his traits came out and became very, very visible. Then you start looking at the athlete, the numbers he’s produced in terms of top five athletic categories among all the linebackers in this year’s Draft, and for a 6-foot-4.5, 250-pound inside linebacker, that was pretty impressive.”
We’re not even getting into two-time captain, we’re not even getting into extremely instinctive, extremely smart, extremely physical, very versatile, he can do it in the run game and the pass game. Again, we’re just ecstatic about both of those players. We had a really, really good night.”
LB coach Kelvin Sheppard
“Like when he left out of the (NFL Combine interview) room, me, Dan (Campbell), (Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) AG, looked each other and was like, ‘Damn that’s going to be hard to top right there,’ Because it was just exceptional. His knowledge of the game speaks for itself. It shows on the tape.”
“It’s exceptional what this player can do at his size. But for me, it’s really the thing that jumps him above some other guys in my opinion is his passion for the game. The way it drives him. You see it, he speaks it, he lives it. He’s not one of these guys that when things are good, he’s up. He’s up all the time because he loves it. And I think that’s what makes him special.”
Round 2, Pick 34 — TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa
“Really athletic guy. He can play a lot of different positions, he can align in a lot of different spots. He can do it in-line. I really like his urgency and willingness in the run game. For the most part, he’s active with his hands, and he’s not the biggest guy. He’s not a 6’5’’, 250-pound guy, but he plays a lot bigger in-line than what you think. What really stands out is when he detaches from the core and the work that he can do on the perimeter, and he can beat a DB and he can catch contested and he can win a slant. He’s got very good ball skills.”
“He’s just got a gritty feel about him. Although he’s athletic and he can do all that stuff in the pass game and he can be a mismatch and all that stuff, but he still has a gritty finishing style, especially with the ball in his hands. He’s got run-after-the-catch (ability), so I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be a good addition.”
Round 2, Pick 45 — DB Brian Branch, Alabama
“He’s been more of a nickel than a safety, but his nickel stuff is really good. He’s one of the better tacklers that I saw on film this year from a defensive standpoint, especially for a DB. He just plays the game how we play it and like the style of how we want to play. He’s very instinctive. He’s very physical. He’s one of the better tacklers. He’s very athletic. The guy can bend, change directions. He’s got good size.”
“He was another one that when he came in on his visit, just kind of looking him in his eye and you can just feel him. You can just feel that he wants to be great. That put it over the top for me. I didn’t think that he was going to be there, but we were jacked that he was.”
Round 3, Pick 68th overall — QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
“The way he was running (a high-tempo offense), there were things that I saw in that live game that you can’t see on tape. It was his urgency and his tempo throughout the game. He was actually, he was playing very, very urgent. He was playing violent in the run game. He was playing violent in that passing game. I just kind of like the nature of the way he was playing.”
“Obviously, he has all the physical traits with size, athletic ability, throwing and all that stuff. That’s only a fraction of it in terms of the physical traits. He’s got the intangible qualities for the position.”
“We did a lot of work, and we did a lot of research about what they were asking him to do, and what they were asking him. It’s a different offense and it’s a lot different than what is being run in the NFL when it comes to splits and all that. That was a real, big deep dive that we did for a long time starting way back when from during the season. We felt comfortable with it, and we spoke with all his coaches and all that.”
Round 3, Pick 96 overall — DT Brodric Martin, Western Kentucky
“He just has a lot of physical traits that gets you really excited about his upside. I’m not sure like his testing numbers and all that stuff. This guy’s a big man, but he moves a lot better on film. He had a really good Pro Day. His workout was good. It’s hard to find big, athletic, big guys like that. He just has, like we said, a lot of meat on the bones. He’s got a lot of upside. He’s a big man, he’s athletic, he plays hard, he chases to the ball. I don’t think I’ve seen many 330, 340-pound guys run to the ball like he does. So, when you get that – he’s got some rawness, but we’re really excited about his upside.”
Round 5, Pick 152 — OL Colby Sorsdal, William & Mary
“He dominated his level of competition. Well what is he like playing another position at the East-West game? Those things bode well, a guy that played right tackle and played it well, but let’s see how he plays at guard at some better competition. He did a good job.”
Round 7, Pick 219 overall — WR Antoine Green, North Carolina
“I don’t think that Green can replace Jameson (Williams) or any of that, but we are happy to get Green in the fold, and he does add a vertical, stretching element.”
“We’ll see how much he can impact. Again, he’s a rookie. He’s still got upside. He’s got development. We’ll just see how far it goes, but in the meantime, with all these rookies, they’re going to have to prove themselves on special teams.”