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The transparency of the new Detroit Lions regime is night and day from the old regime, where they kept everything close to the chest in hopes of not reviling secrets to other teams. It is a breath of fresh air to see this regime explain their thoughts and feelings towards how they are looking to build this team from essentially what it feels like from the ground up.
With the latest Inside the Den episode, the Lions take you inside their War Room during draft day to experience firsthand the time, preparation, and excitement that came with this regime’s first draft.
General manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell were not as nervous as you would think for two individuals running their first draft. Holmes praised the scouting department and all the parties involved because they felt they were well prepared for any scenario that may rear its head during the draft.
After the Cincinnati Bengals took Ja’Marr Chase, the War Room had a good feeling that Miami would go after one of the Alabama receivers, leaving Penei Sewell ripe for the picking for Detroit. The tension was so strong waiting to see what Miami would do, and even though there were trade offers, Holmes felt comfortable enough to stay put. After it was announced Miami selected Jaylen Waddle, the room exploded with raw emotion and excitement and could not have worked any better for a team looking to build this team back up.
After the Sewell pick, Campbell mentioned to Holmes, “That’s a cornerstone pick right there, Brad!”. Holmes could not agree more.
Offensive line coach Hank Fraley was so excited; he told them, “I’m going to come in there and kiss you guys.” Fraley had a strong previous relationship with Sewell when he tried to recruit him at UCLA and has since kept that relationship and now gets a chance to coach him and build an impressive offensive line.
Opening up Day 2 of the draft, the phone got the better of Campbell, mentioning the Saints probably tried calling, but there are 80 lines to this phone and probably hung up on them or how they heard it was Campbell and hung up themselves. Either way, it was a feel-good moment showing the fun and humor this regime has shown so far in their tenure.
It was mentioned before Holmes was close to trading back into the first to draft Levi Onwuzurike because they felt he would’ve been long gone before the Lions could snag the versatile defensive tackle. Holmes received invaluable advice from John Dorsey, who has had his hand in many drafts and told him to sit tight, trust the process, and let the board come to you.
There was a quiet excitement when the Buccaneers selected Joe Tryon, another Washington defender, instead of Onwurzurike at the end of the first round, leaving the possibility they may have a legit shot on drafting him. Sure enough, the board fell exactly how they wanted, and with a little willing it into existence from Campbell; the Lions selected one of their top players.
With the Lions receiving corps left in disarray, many thought the Lions would’ve walked away from the first two days of the draft with a receiver including Owner Sheila Ford Hamp. With their first third selection and notion Holmes was looking at Alim McNeill, she mentioned to Holmes, “What would we do if we don’t get a receiver out of this draft?” Holmes explained to her, “You know we still have the USC kid. We will still be in a position to get one because of the depth at that position.” So from the looks of it, it wasn’t only the fans and media concerned about the receiver conundrum.
Heading into their second third-round selection, Holmes and Campbell mention one player who was literally waving and jumping up and down and their draft board. That was Ifeatu “Iffy” Melifonwu. The team was shocked he lasted this long in the draft, thinking he would’ve been gone in the second round with his size, athleticism, and hip fluidity that screams starter material.
One interesting nugget with the Iffy selection was a phone call Holmes received during the process. During the call, Holmes said, “Go down to 130,” Then Campbell added his two cents, “For two futures firsts.” Now pick 130 originally belonged to the Jacksonville Jaguars, coming from the Jalen Ramsey trade. The Jaguars eventually moved up from pick 130 to 121 through a trade with the Los Angeles Rams and selected Jordan Smith. Now the terms or teams were not mentioned on the video, but it may seem the Jaguars were trying to move back up in the third, but the Lions stood pat and took their guy.
Entering the final day of the draft, Holmes received a phone call from Mrs. Ford and told him, “You know everyone wants wide receivers and those skill position guys, but you need those big guys.” It was a phone call Holmes said he would never forget and touched his soul. There were two players the Lions had their sights on, and they were going to make sure they get in position to get their guys.
Holmes put everyone at ease when they selected Amon-Ra St. Brown and considering it was a player they saw in the third round, it looks like they thought he would’ve been snagged at this point. Dorsey added a tidbit admiring St. Brown as one of the better run blocking of any of the receivers in this draft.
When Holmes took the seat, it was brought up how much he values GPS data and analytics in assessing players, along with the scouting intuition that led the Lions to Jermar Jefferson. According to Holmes, Jefferson has the third-highest telemetry play speed from all running backs showing up his home run potential in breaking off long runs.
Another fun nugget came from no one other than Campbell, mentioning he will break out his inner gymnast if they could get Sage Surrat as a free agent by doing some backflips. Now the Lions were able to sign Surrat, but unfortunately, there were no backflips.
It was mentioned many times throughout the video from Holmes and Campbell that they could get players they loved by sticking with their draft board and letting the draft fall to them. Holmes handed out many praises for the scouting department and the personnel who had a hand in the process in what was a collaborative effort in making this possible.
Holmes went on to say, “Sometimes in the draft, the decision gets made for you.”
With some of the picks, it sure looks like the Lions stuck to the guns, made the necessary moves when it came to, and walked away with players they feel like they can contribute immediately and set the team’s foundation.