With over two months between us and the 2023 NFL Draft, we’re getting more insight into the draft process for Detroit Lions general manager
Alonzo Harris Brad Holmes. In the latest installment of “The Season with Peter Schrager,” NFL Network and FOX Sports reporter Peter Schrager sat down with Holmes to discuss a wide range of topics, including a fair share of perspective on the Lions' approach and execution in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Their first topic of discussion centered on the lack of high-end, first-round prospects in this past year’s draft, and how the Lions' approach took that realization into account.
“You know, everybody was saying like, ‘This is a different draft, this is a different draft,’ Holmes pantomimed. “Well, let’s just call it what it is: it just wasn’t as strong of a draft as it normally has been in the past.”
For a Lions football team equipped with two first-round picks, the Los Angeles Rams’ selection at sixth overall and their own pick at 18, getting those picks right is of the utmost importance in order for Detroit to take the next step towards being a playoff contender. But according to Holmes, there just wasn’t the number of blue-chip players available in this year’s draft in comparison to years past.
“In a normal year, you’ll have like true first-round talent players, you might have about 17 or 18 guys. I really haven’t seen any higher than 20 in all the years that I’ve been doing it,” Holmes recalled.
“We ended up with 14 guys, and that was at the very end,” Holmes said. “It was less than that at one point, like at one point we had nine or 10 ... So I just looked at it as like, ‘Dan, look, let’s just get who the hell we want and let’s get the hell out of there.’”
Holmes did just that, surprising nearly everyone when the team selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell respectively with Detroit’s two picks in the first round. For the latter, it was about finding an anchor for the Lions defense even though the team didn’t feel like they necessarily needed someone to play the inside linebacker position after re-signing Alex Anzalone earlier in the offseason to a three-year, $18.3 million contract.
“We don’t draft positions,” Holmes clarified. “We draft players.”
And as a player, Campbell fit the shared defensive philosophy of both Holmes and the team’s defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn: “You better have guys that thump, and you better have guys that can cover.”
“When you have a guy like Jack Campbell that’s 6-foot-5, 250—that’s extremely instinctive, he’s heavy in the run game, he’s extremely smart—I just love how the kid is wired,” Holmes shared. “I mean, he’s wired to fit what we’re all about. We’re all about grit, doing it the right way, like truly earning it, and this guy just loves football. He’s all business.”
Since Jack Campbell met the prerequisites of being a Detroit Lion under this regime, it made things even easier for Holmes to make him the pick at 18 overall considering he was one of the true first-round talents identified by the team.
“I thought Jack Campbell, you know, had all the traits that we look for in a football player, and so that’s how we felt really good about it, and again, going back to what I was saying about there wasn’t but a certain amount of players that we had in that first round bucket, and he was one of them,” Holmes admitted. “When I say there was only 14 guys, Jack Campbell wasn’t 14th. You know what I mean, so, that’s why it was easy.
“Jack Campbell is just a hell of a football player and I just think that like, we’re looking at it as he’s going to be an anchor in our defense. Not, ‘We’re drafting an inside linebacker.’ Like, no, we’re just taking an anchor that’s going to be our defense.”