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Brad Holmes made navigating the 2023 NFL Draft look easy

For the third-year Detroit Lions general manager, Brad Holmes looked to have been his most comfortable self, handling the 2023 NFL Draft with ease.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Holmes, the general manager of the Detroit Lions, provided the writing on the wall for how the team—locked, stocked, and loaded with five picks in the top 81 selections—would take on the 2023 NFL Draft all the way back in 2021.

“Get the best football player,” Holmes said in regards to his goals for Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Entering his third season as general manager of the Lions, Holmes has been true to who he is through the draft process, unrelenting in a strategy he outlined after Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“We’re not going to anchor ourselves or pigeonhole ourselves into, ‘We’ve got to get this position or that position.’” Holmes said. “If it’s another offensive lineman that’s a high-impact player, then it’s another offensive lineman. If it’s a defensive back, then it’s a defensive back. Whoever’s the best football player for us to make sure that we can get the most competitive team as we can through our efforts, then that’s where we’re going to go.”

As the self-described “villain” in the lead up to the draft, Holmes certainly didn’t garner a hero’s welcome from your favorite armchair mock draft artist after the picks he made in the first round. Detroit earned some of the lowest grades for their effort on Day 1 of this year’s draft.

“Should I just bash mock drafts?” Holmes asked with a chuckle and a shaking of his head at the beginning of the latest episode of “Inside the Den.” But it’s easy when you stick to your plan, and Holmes’ plan in this draft was to get the players he and head coach Dan Campbell wanted to get—and to get the hell out of there.

The first part of that plan included Holmes feeling “comfortable” enough to take running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the No. 6 pick. After all, this regime is about acquiring football players, not positions, and Gibbs’ ability as a receiver makes him much more than just a cog in Detroit’s backfield. Instead, Holmes was able to maximize the value of the sixth pick and get the player they wanted.

“[Jahmyr] Gibbs at 12 was easy,” Holmes said about the Lions first selection of the 2023 NFL Draft.


So with Gibbs, the easy selection at 12, Holmes and Dan Campbell reflected on how they had entertained the idea of potentially using draft capital to move up into the 10-12 range to draft Gibbs had they presumably gone another route with the sixth overall pick, but they were able to have their cake, eat it, and save a piece for later.

“There’s gonna be someone there at 34. Trust me,” Holmes said to Campbell. “And there’s gonna be someone there at 48.”

Through a measure of patience, the Lions would end up selecting both Iowa tight end Sam Laporta and Alabama defensive back Brian Branch. LaPorta at 34, yes, but Holmes and Co. couldn’t wait any longer to select Branch, so they used some of the capital and flexibility to move up three spots with the Green Bay Packers to get a player they deemed one of their 14 prospects with a first-round grade. However, it’s the way Holmes showed restraint after their selection of Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at 18th overall that shows just how much easier the draft has gotten for the third-year GM.

“This is where I’m at,” Holmes said to Dan Campbell during the 22nd pick. “If there are any three of these [players left], I’m saying just stand pat. If it starts to clear out, if it’s like one left, then I think that’s where you start to talk about moving up.”

One of those players was Branch, a player who attended the 2023 NFL Draft in person expecting to be a first-round pick. Another one of those players was LaPorta. But even after Bryan Bresee was the pick for the New Orleans Saints at No. 29, Holmes excitement wouldn’t get the best of him. Despite the Lions next selection still being five picks away, he wasn’t going to force a move back into the first round with both LaPorta and Branch on the board, but he still ended up walking away with both of those players.

A round later in the third, Holmes was patient again, trading back twice to add more picks, but still getting another player that caught his eye on at the top of the second round—Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. And with those extra picks he accumulated along the way, he moved up into the end of the third round to get Western Kentucky nose tackle Brodric Martin.

In walking away with those players on the first two days of the draft, Holmes showed an ease in tactfully choosing his spots to roll the dice. Patience afforded him the opportunity of making a more calculated, low-risk move by packaging fourth and fifth-round picks to get another player they wanted in Martin. In doing so, the Lions walked away with a haul of players Dan Campbell described as a “bunch of starters, kick-ass players.”

With conviction in his process and trust in his evaluations, Holmes made it seem like it was all too easy.

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