Brad Holmes says Lions' draft critics will like what they see on the field


Brad Holmes and the Lions had their pick of two of the top defensive linemen in the draft, and chose neither. With both Jalen Carter and Tyree Wilson on the board at No. 6, at so-called value positions, the Lions traded down to No. 12 and took running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

Wilson, the edge rusher from Texas Tech, wound up going No. 7 to the Raiders. Carter, the defensive tackle from Georgia, wound up going No. 9 to the Eagles. Both players would have been praised as high-impact picks for the Lions, whose defense ranked last in the NFL last season. Instead, Gibbs -- and later, linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18 -- were panned as reaches.

Holmes was asked Tuesday about passing on Wilson and Carter, the latter of whom carries all sorts of character concerns, and said, "It’s a little tough, I guess you could say, for critics." That is, what are they supposed to know?

“You gotta battle the whole thing of people having minimal information versus people having all the information, which is us," Holmes told 97.1 The Ticket. "It’s tough for the fans because all they can go off of is the information that they see, the people putting together these mock drafts the last two to three months. Well, we’ve been grinding it for the past nine months. Whenever you put a cognitive strain in a project, i.e. mock drafts or forecasts of where a player is going to be picked, when the desired result isn’t what you wanted, your brain’s not going to like it. If it matches up and you get a dopamine rush, it’s great. But if not, now you’re kind of mad and then what compounds it is, you gotta get a grade while your brain still doesn’t like it.

"The person who doesn’t have much information and put in less time of work is disappointed because of the person who has all the information and put in the most time of work."

Carter was arguably the most talented player on the board, but reports on his time at Georgia raised legitimate questions about his work ethic and passion for football. He also showed up out of shape to his pro day and failed to finish his position drills, to say nothing of his criminal connection to a car crash in January that killed one of his teammates and a staff member.

Asked about Carter in the lead-up to the draft, Dan Campbell said the Lions "talked to a teammate of his the other day and, man, he told us some things we didn’t know, that nobody probably would’ve known. It was like, oh, that’s interesting." (Campbell declined to say if the info was good or bad, reiterating, "Interesting.")

Wilson seemed like a much safer pick, though some teams were reportedly scared off by his foot injury that required season-ending surgery last November and a follow-up procedure in March. Holmes said Tuesday that one of the blind spots in mock drafts is "trying to forecast with very minimal medical information."

“It’s no disrespect," said Holmes. "They’re not supposed to have that information. They’re not supposed to grind it for hundreds of hours over a week for nine straight months. Also, I always say, just because a player plays another position doesn’t automatically make him a really good player. Just because a player plays defensive end or offensive tackle or whatever those quote-unquote ‘premium positions’ are, doesn’t automatically make them instinctive, productive, smart, top intangibles, those things we look for as the Detroit Lions."

The Lions believe they found "those things" in Gibbs and Carter, positional value be damned. They were the highest-ranked players on Detroit's board at both of their draft slots, so Holmes didn't hesitate to pick them. He prefers talent to value. Sometimes you find both -- like defensive back Brian Branch at No. 45. But you can wind up with neither if, as Holmes put it, "you try to get cute."

Campbell should be a Day 1 starter at a position where the Lions haven't had an elite player since DeAndre Levy in 2014, the last time they had an elite defense. He's not the same player as Levy, but he can make the same outsize impact based on what the Lions have lacked. Campbell instantly increases their athleticism in the middle of the field. Gibbs, meanwhile, takes Detroit's already explosive offense to another level.

"We could be the best offense in the league," he said. Confine him to 'running back' at your own risk.

With their first four picks, including tight end Sam LaPorta at No. 34, Holmes and the Lions may well have added four plug-and-play contributors to a team that's favored to win its division. The Lions, who a year ago were coming off their fourth straight last-place finish, have the look of a legitimate contender in the NFC. And if Gibbs and Campbell are helping them win games in January, what could be more valuable than that?

"Soon we’ll have players back on the field and draft season will be over. And then ultimately the season will kick off, and that’s why we acquire the players that we acquire, because we’re trying to win games," said Holmes. "When that time comes around, the critics or whoever it is, I think they’ll be happy with what they see on the field this year."

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