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John Niyo: Lions have their draft needs, but they want something more

John Niyo, The Detroit News on

Published in Football

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — You’ve been warned, Lions fans.

The opening night of the 2024 NFL draft, which will be held in downtown Detroit in late April, might not be as dramatic or entertaining as the past few were for your team.

“I just know that we’re picking later, so they’re going to be waiting to see our pick,” Holmes said last month. “And if we trade out of the first round, I’ll just send a memo: ‘Don’t be as upset.’”

But upsets do happen. And if we’ve learned anything about Holmes in his first three years as the Lions’ general manager, it’s that he’s not afraid to make a deal or two. Or six, as was the case in last year’s draft, when he came away with another talented haul that helped earn him NFL Executive of the Year honors this winter.

So, maybe the hometown crowd won’t have to wait as long as it appears they might, what with the Lions not scheduled to make their first selection until the 29th overall pick. That hasn’t happened with this franchise in nearly a decade, by the way. Not since 2015, or two GMs ago, when Detroit held the 28th pick, after an 11-5 finish the season prior.

Yet, if you ask Holmes, who’ll head to Indianapolis with his staff next week for the NFL scouting combine, that wait will only amplify his own enthusiasm.

 

“Actually, that’s exciting for me,” he said, comparing it to his first draft as GM, in 2021, when there was limited in-person evaluation — and no combine — due to the pandemic. “And you either had to know the film and pick the right players — or not — and actually know the player and (find) the right intangibles.”

And as we spend the next two months obsessing over what the Lions will do to build off last season’s exhilarating run to a division title and the NFC championship game, that’s worth remembering: It’s the intangibles, stupid.

“We’ll still continue to pick football players and the guys that are for us,” Holmes said. “So, really, it doesn’t change. Will it be different? Yes, it will be different. … But we’ll just keep sticking to our plan. I think it has proven that it has worked so far for us.”

Indeed, it has, as Holmes has drafted at least a dozen starters in his first three years at the helm. And while has nailed his first pick each time — Penei Sewell, Aidan Hutchinson and Jahmyr Gibbs have all made at least one Pro Bowl already — he also has found All-Pro talent on Days 2 and 3 of the draft with the likes of Sam LaPorta and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Mostly because the Lions are making a concerted effort to “get past just looking for the most talented player,” as Holmes puts it

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