Even though the 2023 NFL Draft is now a full week in the past, we’re still trying to piece together everything that happened over the three-day event. The Detroit Lions’ draft was certainly one of the most interesting of the bunch, and while it left many scratching their heads, the public seems to be seeing the fuller picture in more recent days.
To provide even more clarity, Lions general manager Brad Holmes has been doing the media rounds. On Tuesday, he went on two local radio stations to discuss the decisions over the weekend. We already covered his spot on 97.1 The Ticket, when he announced that he had begun conversations with Jared Goff’s agent about a possible extension.
Later in the day, he joined the “Mitch Albom Show” on WJR 760 AM. There, he dropped a few interesting tidbits from draft week. Here’s a quick recap.
Devon Witherspoon would have been ‘in heavy consideration’ for sixth overall pick
There have been reports and rumors that the Detroit Lions were enamored with Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. Many believe he would have been Detroit’s pick with the sixth overall pick had the Seattle Seahawks not taken him at five. Holmes was asked directly if Witherspoon would have been the pick, and while he didn’t give a straight answer, he confirmed the Lions really liked him.
“I would say he would’ve been in heavy consideration,” Holmes said. “Because he was one of a cluster of players that we were interested in, but it’s no guarantee there.”
The Lions didn’t receive any trade calls for their No. 6 pick until Cardinals came along
Unlike last year’s trade up for Jameson Williams, the Lions’ first-round trade down from Pick 6 to Pick 12 wasn’t a few weeks in the making. The team they traded with—the Arizona Cardinals—didn’t even have the 12th pick at the beginning of the night.
Holmes said prior to draft night, their phones were not ringing for that sixth overall pick, but when the Cardinals decided they wanted their pick of the litter at offensive tackle, things came along very quickly.
“I didn’t get, virtually, any calls to move up to six before the draft,” Holmes said. “So that’s why I was thinking, ‘Ah, okay.’ But when I got the call from Arizona and then when the compensation looked like it made a lot of sense—especially getting the high second-round pick—then that’s when it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Will Levis was not in consideration for their second-round pick
The Lions ended up drafting Hendon Hooker with a third-round pick, but they almost had a shot at a different quarterback much earlier. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis—a first-round talent in some people’s mind—ended up being drafted one pick before the Lions in the second round—after the Tennessee Titans jumped Detroit with a trade.
The Lions drafted Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta, but Holmes said Levis was not going to be in consideration had he fallen to them.
“He wasn’t in the (plans),” Holmes said. “We pretty much had our sights on Sam, in getting him. So I can’t say that he was in the plans.”
The Lions will add another quarterback
While the addition of Hooker gives the Lions a future backup quarterback, because of his torn ACL and long developmental path, he doesn’t provide anything in the immediate. Holmes admitted that the team needs another option at quarterback while Hooker continues his rehab.
“We still have Nate Sudfeld behind Jared. We like what Nate did last year,” Holmes said. “Obviously, he didn’t get any meaningful game snaps, but we’ve seen enough of him throughout the regular season in practice, in the meeting room, that we felt comfortable bringing him back. I’ve always said from Day 1 that I wanted to add a lot more competition and a lot more resources in that room. I felt like we were able to do that, not only bringing back Nate, but getting Hendon. We’ll also have another quarterback in, because you still (have) two healthy quarterbacks, so you still need a third healthy quarterback.”
It’s unclear what the Lions are looking for in that third quarterback. The Lions are reportedly signing undrafted rookie quarterback Adrian Martinez out of Kansas State, but they also reportedly gave Teddy Bridgewater a “strong” contract offer prior to the draft. Given Holmes’ endorsement of Sudfeld (again), it’s entirely possible they’re comfortable moving forward with him as the current healthy backup and Martinez as the third string. That said, Bridgewater would add even more healthy competition to the room.