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Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes gained significant value with 6 draft day trades

Breaking down each of Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes trades during the 2023 draft in order to determine value gained and lost.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Lions Brad Holmes has always been an aggressive general manager, but a newfound confidence emerged during the 2023 NFL draft and he turned things up a notch.

“I felt a lot more comfortable doing that this year,” Holmes said at his post-draft press conference. “Obviously, we made a couple of trades last year, but this year kind of – especially when you’re getting into Day 2 and being able to maneuver around, you just learn as you go and as you get more experience. You get more comfortable at it in terms of just kind of reading it and feeling it and making calls.”

In all, Holmes made six trades. He traded down in the first round, moving from pick No. 6 to No. 12, then up in the second, down two more times on Day 2 before trading back into the backend of the third round. He would wrap up Day 3 by trading running back D’Andre Swift, upgrading a seventh-round pick, and acquiring a future fourth-round pick in 2025.

Let’s take a closer look at each of Holmes’ trades and ascertain the value gained or lost with each transaction. For this exercise, we will be using two popular NFL draft trade charts for balance: the highly referenced Rich Hill (RH) trade chart developed for Pats Pulpit in 2017, and the Fitzgerald-Spielberger (FS) NFL Draft Trade Value Chart, which was designed by the folks at

Trade 1: Lions deal pick No. 6 to the Cardinals

In the charts below, you will get see an overview of the picks given up, the picks acquired, the value of each of those picks on both trade charts, and the total value gained or lost in the trade.

This was the Lions' biggest move to gain assets during the draft. By trading back six spots, the Lions gained 29 points on the Hill trade chart and 492 points on the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart.

While the total return may seem a bit low for a top-10 trade, it’s important to keep in mind the obstacles that Holmes was facing. If the rumors are correct, once the Seahawks took Devon Witherspoon at pick No. 5, the Lions were forced into a situation where they wanted to make a move while on an expiring clock. The Cardinals did not enter the draft with pick No. 12 (they acquired it in a trade with the Texans), so this was not a pre-planned deal, but something that needed to be adjusted on the fly.

The end result of this trade saw the Lions get a player they said they were comfortable taking at pick No. 6 while picking up assets along the way. Landing pick No. 34 was a nice upgrade in the second round while adding pick No. 168 would play an important role later on in the draft.

Trade 2: Lions acquire pick No. 45 from the Packers

A savvy break-even deal for the Lions, according to the Hill chart, while the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart suggests the Lions gave up almost 400 points. This is where we start to see the big differences in value between the charts, and based on the results from the Lions' other trades, it suggests Detroit may be using a system closer to the trade chart designed by Hill.

Trade 3: Lions trade pick No. 55 to the Chiefs

At this stage, the Lions already have selected Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, and Brian Branch. It appears that they did not value Hendon Hooker with pick No. 55, and were determined to gain assets (specifically pick No, 122) while trading back into the range they felt comfortable taking the Tennessee quarterback.

Trade 4: Lions trade pick No. 63 to the Broncos

Sitting at pick No. 63, the Lions were really close to the range they felt comfortable selecting Hooker (they selected him at pick No. 68) but the opportunity to gain an early fifth-rounder (pick No. 139) was too tempting. And as it turns out, the final piece they needed to make their next trade.

Trade 5: Lions acquire pick No. 96 from Cardinals

This is the Lions' biggest loss of assets among all their trades, but in hindsight, all of their trade backs prior to this were likely made with this move in mind.

By trading back twice in the second round, the Lions not only put themselves in a spot to grab Hooker where they deemed most valuable, but they also acquired picks No. 122 and 139. That alone could have been enough to make the deal, according to the trade charts, but to push the deal over the top, the Lions added in pick No. 168—a pick they acquired from the Cardinals in Trade 1.

Adding pick No. 168 is what makes this deal seem out of balance, but when you consider the Lions sweetened the pot with an asset they got from the Cardinals, they were essentially playing with house money.

Trade 6: Lions trade D’Andre Swift to the Eagles

It’s impossible to factor in a player's value in this exercise, so I am assigning Swift the equivalent value of the future fourth-round pick, and adding the minimal upgrade of the Lions' seventh-round pick to the overall total.

Summary of gains and losses

In the end, the Lions managed to come out winners on both trade charts, acquiring more assets gained than lost. On the Hill chart, 23 points are the equivalent of a fourth-round pick gained, while the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart suggests the Lions gained the equivalent of a seventh-round pick.

Redistribution of value

After the totality of the trades, an interesting result to consider is the fact that the Lions started the draft with nine draft picks, gained assets, yet only selected eight players. This occurred because while the Lions were gaining assets, they were also upgrading the majority of the draft pick spots.

Of their nine sections, they only picked in their original spot twice: at pick No. 18 and 152. Trading back from pick No. 6 to 12 was a notable move backward, while each of their other top-100 selections was upgraded.

After picks No. 12 and 18, the Lions' next original pick was No. 48 but via the original trade back, the Lions upgraded that pick to No. 34. Pick No. 55 was upgraded to pick No. 45, then No. 81 turned into pick No. 68. After that, they only had Day 3 selections, but Holmes managed to package a couple of those and turn them into pick No. 96, while only dropping back from pick No. 194 to No. 219 late in the draft.

Here’s a TLDR version of the Lions’ original picks vs. where they drafted:

  • No. 6 —> 12
  • No. 18 stayed the same
  • No. 48 —> 34
  • No. 55 —> 45
  • No. 81 —> 68
  • No. 159 and 183 —> 96
  • No. 152 stayed the same
  • No. 194 —> 219

There will be plenty of debate over the positional value and players picked at each of the spots, but what is clear is that Holmes’ confidence and comfortability with how to manipulate his position in the draft is remarkable.

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