Brad Holmes will conduct his first NFL Draft as the general manager of the Detroit Lions next week. Holmes held a pre-draft press conference with reporters on Friday.
Here are the key questions from that session:
What was difficult about this year's pre-draft process, and what if anything was advantageous about the process?
Holmes spent the previous nine seasons working under Rams GM Les Snead, and one thing Holmes said he learned from Snead is that often the answers about a player are on his film. With February's NFL Scouting Combine cancelled due to the pandemic, Holmes said it was advantageous for him just being able to trust the film. Holmes said that's probably the scout in him.
One of the difficulties with the process, according to Holmes, was a lesser amount of exposure to players in a live setting. The pro days were restrictive in terms of how many team staff members could attend. Holmes said they had to be pretty strategic with who would attend which pro day, and that was difficult at times.
Does Holmes like his options of players at pick No. 7?
"At seven we do have a cluster of players that we're comfortable with picking," he said.
If the Lions stay at No. 7, Holmes is confident he can get a talented football player who would be a sound investment he'd have no doubts about.
Holmes also didn't rule out the possibility of moving up or back in the draft, and said he has had some preliminary discussions with teams. Holmes is leaving all options on the table.
If the Lions do have a chance to move back from No. 7, is there a limit on how far back they would go?
The quick answer is no.
"I'm leery of anchors," Holmes said.
This goes back to the theme of leaving all options open on the table. To move back into the 20s, for example, would require a team to give up a lot. Holmes made it sound like he'd at least listen to an offer if a team down toward the bottom of the first round came calling.
What's the best piece of advice Holmes got from the previous GMs he's worked under?
"I probably eluded to the main one from (Rams GM) Les (Snead) that you definitely surrender the results to the process," Holmes said. "Just through all the hard work and having a thorough, diligent process and being about as thorough as you can be. It can often feel exhaustive, but the importance of it kind of alleviates that a little bit."
How long in the process does it take for Holmes to feel comfortable about selecting a player?
Holmes can identify pretty quickly from the film if a guy is a good player or not. The cancelation of the Combine in February has actually made him trust his gut and rely on the film even more.
"You really did have to go off what your evaluation was," he said. "You didn't have ... that external information. You thought the guy was fast and he didn't run the time (at the Combine) and now you start questioning his speed. We didn't have to go through that this year. I actually thought that was the beauty of it."
How difficult was it to evaluate the opt-out players in this draft?
There were a number of top prospects in the draft who didn't play the 2020 college season due to COVID-19, including LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau.
Holmes said teams just had to deal with the hand they were dealt in terms of opt-out evaluations. They had to rely on the 2019 tape. He watched 2019 games and games in previous seasons multiple times, and he also said he leaned on sources at those schools to find out all he could about the opt-out players.
How does Holmes define a blue-chip prospect?
"You want to think it's a sound investment in terms of if he's a blue-chip player," Holmes said. "You really don't have any doubts and what I was talking about earlier in terms of the confidence you have in the selection of a player."
Holmes said there are "handfuls" of blue-chip players in this draft. When pressed on how many, Holmes wouldn't give a specific number, but said it probably wasn't the entire first round of players who will be selected Thursday night in Cleveland.