It's hard not to look at Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes' first two NFL Drafts in 2021 and 2022 and come away impressed with the haul. Tackle Penei Sewell and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, Holmes' first-round pick and fourth-round pick from his first draft in 2021 are already Pro Bowlers in just their second season. Defensive lineman Alim McNeill (third round) and linebacker Derrick Barnes (fourth round) are also valuable contributors from that first draft in 2021.
The only real question marks from Holmes' first draft are with second-round pick defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike and third-round pick defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu, but injuries have been the big headline to their NFL careers through their first two seasons in the league. Maybe they get past that in Year 3?
Go behind the scenes with the Detroit Lions during 2023 free agency.
Holmes knocked last year's draft out of the park with the additions of defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson (first round), safety Kerby Joseph (third), linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth) and linebacker James Houston (sixth). Second-round pick defensive lineman James Paschal came on late after dealing with injury early in his first season. All are looking to be young, core players on what the Lions hope is an improved defense going into their second seasons.
First-round pick wide receiver Jameson Williams will get a chance to make Holmes' 2022 class an absolute home-run if he's just a fraction of how good the Lions think he can be after missing most of his rookie year rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in college.
"I'd give him an A," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a conference call Wednesday when asked about the job Holmes and the Lions have done in the draft the last two years. "A solid A. You could go A-plus.
"I think when you look what he did even in free agency to augment this roster already. Obviously, Aidan is a flash pick and you know what he was able to do. Look at Houston and what he was able to do getting after the quarterback and the production that he provided. Jameson is going to pay off this coming year. He basically red-shirted (in 2022) coming off the injury.
"Then to add Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (in free agency), that allows them to now go away from defensive back, particularly corner, and look at another pass rusher, they could certainly look at that particular point go defensive tackle. They had tight end by committee after they traded (T.J.) Hockenson. They could get a tight end at No. 18 like Michael Mayer or Dalton Kincaid or Darnell Washington."
Because of the success Holmes has had drafting impact players who either already are or are becoming core pieces on the roster, plus the type of players they've been able to recruit to Detroit in free agency, it allows Holmes and Detroit a lot of flexibility in next month's draft.
"Jalen Carter, do they take him at No. 6? Put him inside and have Aidan outside. What a combination that would be," said Kiper, who did mock Carter to the Lions at No. 6 in his most recent mock draft. "This (Detroit) defense has to be better, it's certainly got to be, and these defensive backs they added will help dramatically. With Aidan's development and Houston and Paschal and all the young guys that they have, if they develop and continue to develop that bodes well for this defense being drastically improved next year."