The Rams didn't draft a high number of stars during Brad Holmes' tenure as director of college scouting, at least by the standard of All-Pros and Pro-Bowlers. Three All-Pros in Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and return man Pharoh Cooper and a fourth Pro-Bowler in Jared Goff.
But damn if Holmes didn't help the Rams draft a whole bunch of good players. Their acquisitions in the last four drafts especially, during which time they never picked higher than No. 44 overall, comprise the backbone of a team that just completed its fourth straight winning season.
And that's exactly how Holmes wants to shape the Lions.
"We will be aggressive in all areas of player acquisition, but let’s just be honest: I come from the college draft background and I look forward to building this team through the draft," Holmes said Tuesday during his introductory press conference.
Every NFL team wants to build through the draft. Bob Quinn, Holmes' predecessor, wanted to build through the draft. The teams that succeed have a proven system for identifying talent, and a commitment to that system even when it errs. The Rams' system, said Holmes, placed "an emphasis on investing in high-intangible football players."
With a premium on one intangible in particular.
"Passion for football is extremely important, probably the utmost importance when it comes to intangibles," he said. "I actually explained to Rod (Wood) and Sheila (Ford Hamp) during the interview process, that’s something I just won’t budge on. Something that we had a lot of success with and something that will be an important piece here for the Lions."
In his five drafts as Detroit's GM, Bob Quinn chose eight players who were primary starters on last year's team -- a team that finished last in the division for the third year in a row. The past five drafts for the Rams yielded 13 players who were primary starters on last year's team -- a team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
The Lions' average highest pick during that span was about No. 14. The Rams' average highest pick was about No. 50.
"We used to always talk about, let’s invest in reliability and reliable players," Holmes said. "Obviously we’re not overlooking talent. A baseline of talent is very necessary -- it is the NFL. But I truly believe that the separator of success is those players that have those high-intangible traits. That’s the model that was used with the Rams that obviously boded for a lot of draft success, and that same approach will definitely be carried over here to the Lions."
Holmes is a draft junkie. An unapologetic scouting nerd. He snuck home from school as an eighth grader to watch the 1993 draft on TV while his parents were at work. It was at that moment, as he was watching a detailed breakdown of Jerome Bettis, that Holmes said he "fell in love with the process of scouting." He decided a few years later that, one day, he'd make that process his passion.
Now here he is in Detroit, ready to put that passion to work.