A few weeks ago, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes joined Peter Schrager’s podcast and admitted the 2023 NFL Draft class wasn’t as stocked with first round draft picks as previous draft classes.
Holmes reiterated that point on “Inside the Den,” the Lions-produced documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the draft.
“We had 14 players in the first-round bucket, which is less than the past two years,” Holmes said.
Despite the shallow pool of first-round talent, “Inside the Den” revealed that the Lions were able to draft at least three players who they gave first-round grades to across the first two rounds of the draft.
With the 12th overall pick, they selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The video of Detroit’s war room shows them seriously considering taking Gibbs at six, before rolling the dice and trying to maximize the value of that pick by trading back.
“Out of the players that we had there, picking Gibbs was easy,” Holmes said during a talking-head interview of the video. “So, yeah, we would’ve been comfortable at six and did it. But when you get into having an opportunity to maximize that sixth overall pick, we couldn’t have been any more thrilled with how that came out.”
With linebacker Jack Campbell—the team’s selection with the 18th pick—not only did Holmes say he fit into their top-14 bucket, but he was separate from the remaining players by a considerable margin.
“We’re at pick 18, and we only had 14 guys in that first-round bucket, and he was sticking out by a pretty substantial margin. So Jack at 18 was easy,” Holmes said. “He wasn’t the 18th ranked player. He wasn’t 17, he wasn’t 16, he wasn’t 15.”
After eventually opting not to trade back into the first round late on Thursday night for their third pick, the Lions got to quick work on Day 2 of the draft, selecting tight end Sam LaPorta at 34 overall. Video of the war room shows that the Lions were debating between LaPorta and who would end up being their next pick, Alabama defensive back Brian Branch.
Holmes never says specifically that LaPorta was in the top-14 of that group, but he did directly say that about Branch. The video showed the Lions baffled that Branch was still on the board midway through the second round and eventually decided it was time to trade up and go get him.
“We’ve got this guy in one of those 14 players that we have in that first-round bucket, and let’s make sure we don’t lose him,” Holmes said.
The Lions would end up trading up three spots—from 48 to 45—by sending the Packers a fifth-round pick (159). Video of that trade process provides one of the most entertaining scenes of the 90-minute doc. Holmes, desperate to get Branch, is offered a deal that would send their higher fifth-round pick (152) to Green Bay. Holmes admits to the room that it’s a deal he may be willing to do, but he decides to squeeze Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst a little more and bargain for the later pick.
“We got exactly what we wanted for a lot less,” team president Rod Wood said to the rest of the draft war room after the trade was done.
The entire video is enlightening, well done, and well worth its 90-minute runtime. Check it out below. We’ll have more coverage on it later.