How Lions GM Brad Holmes is approaching the NFL draft based off his track record – Detroit Lions Blog

DETROIT — There’s a time and a place for everything. And as the NFL Draft approaches (April 28 on ESPN, ESPN App and the NFL Network), now isn’t the time to bother Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes.

Even his best friend from high school knows the deal.

“I try to leave Brad alone right about now and just wait for him to kind of reach out to me, unless it’s something very important,” said Gabe Galdos, who has known Holmes since 1994. “And then after the draft, then I ‘ll talk to him and catch up with him. Brad knows.”

As Holmes enters his second draft with the Lions, those who have spent time with him personally and professionally know Holmes as a thoughtful and diligent executive with a genuine passion for the draft process and a gift for talent evaluation.

With the Lions having three of the first 34 picks — including No. 2 overall – Holmes’ scouting talents will be key as Detroit continues its roster rebuild in Year 2 under Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell.

“I’m very confident in my evaluations of all positions,” Holmes said.

Holmes started as a public relations intern for the Los Angeles Rams in 2003 before transitioning into scouting and ultimately becoming their director of college scouting. In that role, he was pivotal in drafting the likes of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff, wide receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson III among others.

“In hindsight, Aaron Donald’s a no-brainer. Everyone should’ve drafted him, but at the time coming out, some people were claiming that he was undersized and was too undersized,” Rams general manager Les Snead told ESPN. Ironically, Holmes’ current team could have drafted Donald, but instead picked Eric Ebron at No. 10. “So, in those moments what do you do?

“I know Brad went to the University of Pittsburgh. Brad observed him go about his daily routine, from walking to class to entering the Pitt football complex to being the first on the field, last to leave and also be able to go and do that deep dive,” he added. “… Same thing when you’re going through a Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, Brad was a big part of that decision [to draft Goff over Wentz] and I call that from A to Z.”

With the Rams, Holmes began studying prospects the year before they were draft eligible, visited their pro days, and even circled back to their time in high school — researching stats, character traits and doing background checks — in an attempt to get as much information as possible.

Snead says Holmes’ greatest skill is evaluating talent. He also credits Holmes for helping with the construction of the current Super Bowl-winning Rams team.

“There’s a side of you that goes, golly, I wish Brad could [have] stayed a year longer and been a part of that because his DNA, his blood, his ideas, his thoughts, his decisions, those fingerprints are all over our championship,” Snead said.

Last spring, in his first draft with the Lions, Holmes selected offensive tackle Penei Sewell seventh overall, then took wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round. Sewell was an immediate starter on the offensive line, starting 16 or 17 games last season. And St. Brown emerged as a diamond in the rough, going on to break numerous Lions rookie receiving records.

Other picks such as defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill (third round), as well as linebacker Derrick Barnes (fourth round), saw plenty of playing time and are set to have key roles next fall.

That draft success will need to continue in 2022. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Liberty’s Malik Willis have all been rumored targets for the Lions at No. 2.

“It’s critical because you’ve got a chance to pick difference-makers up there [at No. 2], and hopefully you’re not there very long,” said Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl. “You’ve got to hit on those guys. If you bust up in that range, those types of picks are hard to recover from, so it’s essential they come out of this draft with the No. 2 pick with a really good player.”

In his latest mock draft, ESPN senior draft analyst Todd McShay has Detroit taking Walker.

“Because of Brad’s experience and just his natural acumen to evaluate, he was that one guy that I could say, ‘OK, Brad, I need you to go watch these three players.’ And we’ve been watching these three players for two years probably, but it was one of those that you can give that project to Brad and say, ‘hey, for the next two weeks, focus on this,’” Snead said. “We need to get these three right, and he’d be able to come back and give those assessments. He’s just one of those guys that you trusted to do that.”

Snead added: “For the hard-core football fans, they’ll be jacked to know that Brad was developed right at National [Football] Scouting, who runs the combine. They really, really train young scouts well, so through it all Brad was developed well, and he has football experience from a player, so he has this acumen to evaluate talent. So, for your core football fans, you’re getting someone who knows how to evaluate.”

Holmes’ success as a talent evaluator is no surprise to Galdos. Dating back to their days at Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Fla., he says Holmes has always been laser focused on the draft.

“From the beginning, there’s only a couple guys who were following the draft back in the day. We graduated in 1997, and the draft wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now,” Galdos said. “Back then it was only two days of the draft, it was Saturday and Sunday, and it would be an all-day event, but Brad would call me when selections were being made to speak about players we were following in college, and he would criticize some picks and wonder when other guys were gonna get picked. He was just all over it from the very beginning.”

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