Detroit Lions eyeing cluster of players at 7 in NFL draft. Here's what GM is looking for

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Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read
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Brad Holmes made a blockbuster trade in his first two weeks on the job, and the Detroit Lions first-year general manager is open to another one on 2021 NFL draft day.

Holmes said in his pre-draft news conference Friday he is open to moving up or down from the No. 7 spot in the first round, and has no floor to how low he's willing to go if the price is right.

"I think that, that probably would be pigeon-holing yourself," Holmes said. "I’m very, very leery of anchors, I would say, so I try to avoid as many anchors as possible. So you always want to kind of go into it through having a sound process of doing all the work and kind of knowing, 'OK, well, if you did slide back here then you’re looking at this subset of players potentially, and so how do we feel about these players? If you moved up, (you) might be looking at this player.'

"I think that just goes back to the preparation period and not having to anchor yourself with a certain floor there."

BIRKETT'S NEW MOCK: Lions land one of top non-QB prospects at No. 7

SEIDEL: Lions must a OL or WR in draft, grab playmaker on defense instead

Lions general manager Brad Holmes speaks to the media on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Allen Park
Lions general manager Brad Holmes speaks to the media on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Allen Park

Holmes already has overhauled the Lions roster, trading Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks in January, adding Michael Brockers via trade in March, and plugging holes with low-cost free agents, most of whom signed one-year deals.

But with the Lions in the early stages of a rebuild, Holmes has a chance to put his stamp on the organization by adding an elite player near the top of the draft or making a move down for additional capital he can use to hasten the process.

Holmes shed little meaningful light on what prospects or positions the Lions are considering, though he did say multiple times there are several players he'd be comfortable adding to his roster in Round 1.

Like most teams, the Lions already have had preliminary discussions about a trade down.

"At 7 we do have cluster of players that we’re comfortable with picking," Holmes said. "But at the same time we will be very prepared and also willing to move in either direction."

WINDSOR: Lions must pick Kyle Pitts, a potential revolutionary, if he's there at No. 7

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons celebrates after a sack against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, Nov. 9, 2019 in Minneapolis in Minn.
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons celebrates after a sack against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, Nov. 9, 2019 in Minneapolis in Minn.

Quarterbacks are expected to go with the first three picks in the draft, making the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 the pivot point.

The Falcons could take their quarterback of the future, an offensive talent like Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase or Penei Sewell, or trade down with another quarterback-hungry team.

The Lions could be faced with the same set of choices, though Pitts, the talented tight end from Florida, and Chase, LSU's record-setting receiver, should be off the board by seven, and the Lions also are in need of major help defensively.

[ Kirk Herbstreit: Lions can't go wrong taking Trey Lance, Justin Fields at No. 7 ]

Holmes said his ability to trade down does not hinge on convincing other teams the Lions are in the quarterback market. And he said there are "a handful" of blue-chip players that would not give him pause to pick in any way.

"It could be two handfuls. It could be three," he said. "Obviously, it’s not the whole entire draft, probably not even the whole first round that you would kind of put that blue-chip (label on). I guess you’re talking about just the very elite players within this draft. If that’s along the lines of blue chip, I would say that there’s a good cluster of them."

To settle on that cluster, Holmes said the Lions had a very collaborative draft process. Lions head coach Dan Campbell has been a strong voice in meetings. Ex- Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is one of Holmes' trusted lieutenants in the front office. And executive Chris Spielman has remained involved this spring, even attending Ohio State's pro day.

Holmes said finding the right culture fit is more important than scheme fit for the Lions, and he said his choice Thursday will come down to what's in his gut — a feeling that will be the cumulative of all the input he has received.

"Obviously scheme does play a part, but at the end of the day, if the player has certain standards of toughness, passion, if a player has grit, that doesn’t have to do anything with if a guy’s a press corner or an off-zone quarters corner, or if a guy is a 3-4 rush 'backer," Holmes said. "Does a guy play hard or he does not? Does he have a high motor or does he not? Does he take plays off, does he not? Does he love football, does he not?

"Those are the standards that we look for. Having that grit, passion for football that’s at an elite level, those are pretty much the standards that are the fits more so (than) if a guy’s just a scheme fit."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Brad Holmes eyeing cluster of players at 7 in NFL draft