Lions head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes are in Year 2 of their rebuild in Detroit, and both men have been very clear over the last year on their philosophy for building a sustainable winner.
The NFL Draft is their preferred method of roster building. That's been pretty evident through their first two offseasons, prioritizing the draft for finding their core pieces, filling gaps where they see fit in free agency, and letting young guys play early and often.
Detroit did a nice job in last year's draft finding some of those foundational pieces in tackle Penei Sewell, nose tackle Alim McNeill and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. They also like the progression players like defensive end Levi Onwuzurike, cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, linebacker Derrick Barnes and others are making heading into Year 2.
This is a huge second draft for Campbell and Holmes later this month. They have the No. 2 overall pick and five picks in the Top 100. If the draft is the preferred roster building method, it's imperative to get it right.
View photos of the top edge rusher prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
"It's important," Campbell said Thursday in a session with reporters. "We said all along ... what we were trying to build here is from the draft. We wanted our core to be from the draft. That's where our pool of guys are coming from. You want to build your core that way and you want to develop those players and then you want to sign those players back and then you want to draft some more.
"I just think that's how you sustain in this league. I think that's how you have success, long-term success. That's how you do sustain and become competitive. I think that's the way to go."
Campbell also talked about the No. 2 overall pick, which will be an important building block in their long-term plan.
"You want a guy who can come in and he's a Day 1 starter," Campbell said. "That's really what you're trying to acquire. A guy that you feel like can come in, he's going to be able to have solid production for you. You'd like to believe by the time you hit your first game that this player is starting for you and he's going to be able to produce."
Campbell also said the position doesn't matter to him at No. 2. He values the player and the expected contribution over the position value.
"All that matters is, 'Do we believe this guy can come in and help us right now?'" Campbell said. "He fills a need and he can help us right now. He can help us play, no matter what it is.
"There's some guys ultimately that some may say, 'Well, is the value worth it at two?' We don't care. All that matters is this dude is going to come in and play and help us. He's going to be a productive player for a long time in this league for us. That's what matters to us."
View photos of the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Campbell said coaches, scouts and front-office staff are going through the receivers and linebackers in the draft in Allen Park on Thursday, and he appreciates how Holmes incorporates the coaching staff into the pre-draft process. While scouts know these players really well, coaches can help predict how they might fit into their schemes. It's an important part of the overall evaluation.
Soon Campbell, Holmes and the rest of the scouts, coaches and front office staff will have gone through every position group and will start to finalize their draft board. They'll trust it and look to add impact players they hope become immediate contributors and core pieces that continue to lay the foundation for what Campbell and Holmes are trying to build.