Brad Holmes and the Lions spent their first pick of the draft on an offensive lineman. They spent their next two on defensive linemen. Only one other team this year dedicated its first three picks to the trenches: the Bills.
But where the Bills drafted two defensive ends, the Lions drafted two defensive tackles. They drafted Levi Onwuzurike, who likes "f*cking people up, and they drafted Alim McNeill, who likes to "destroy blocks."
And so an easy theme emerged about Detroit's draft haul: old-school. Under Holmes and Dan Campbell, this team is going to play smash-mouth football.
It's a little more complex.
"It seems like that is often the narrative and the theme," Holmes said Tuesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "I don’t know if you call it 'old-school' because I do think the players we’re acquiring fit the modern game. They just so happen to be tough."
The modern game is defined by one thing more than any other: speed. And Holmes believes the Lions added plenty of speed in the draft, even if their first three picks collectively weigh about half a ton.
"You look at Alim McNeill, it looks like he’s just a tough, space-eating, two-down nose tackle. No, he’s quick and he’s explosive," Holmes said. "He’s a natural athlete that didn’t play D-line until he got to college. He was a running back and a linebacker and a star baseball payer.
"All these guys that we’ve added, all the way to the top with Penei (Sewell) who has just rare feet and explosiveness for his position, it just so happens that we’re finding those guys who have those talented traits that fit the modern game, but they are tough, they do have grit, they do have passion. They fit what Dan is looking for."
Like linebacker Derrick Barnes, Detroit's fourth-round pick at No. 113. The Lions traded up to get him because Holmes said they "just didn't want to lose out."
"Yeah, he’s tough, he brings passion, he’s physical and all that. He's very smart, he has elite intangible character traits. But Barnes is fast, man," said Holmes. "It goes back to what we were just talking about. He’s fast, he’s explosive, he plays with his hair on fire, he’s got long arms, he comes from a pass-rushing background so he can play off the ball in the stack and he can do some stuff as a rusher. He’s got versatility in that regard.
"Again, he’s another one that on the surface it seems like, 'Is this throwback, old-school, smash-mouth?' Well, from an intangible standpoint you never look past tough football players, but these guys can play the game today."
Like wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit's selection one pick before Barnes.
"Let’s go to the most coveted position that people wanted us to add, wide receiver," said Holmes. "When we drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown, you say, OK, tough? Yes, he is tough, he’s arguably one of the best blocking WR’s in the NFL. But this dude's explosive. He’s quick, he makes big plays, he’s got run after the catch."
The Lions also picked CB Ifeatu Melifonwu in the fourth round; he has the size and speed to be a 'superstar' in the NFL. And they picked RB Jermar Jefferson in the seventh round; he just won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Call Holmes' first draft class old-school if you want. But from top to bottom, he says it has plenty of modern flair.