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Instant reaction to the Lions trading up to select Giovanni Manu and Sione Vaki

For a team that wasn’t scheduled to have any picks in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL draft, it sure turned into an eventful round for the Detroit Lions.

Detroit and GM Brad Holmes made two separate trades to jump into the fourth round. The first saw the Lions send a 2025 third-round pick to the New York Jets for giant Giovanni Manu, an offensive tackle prospect who played college at British Columbia in Canada. The second trade dealt three picks (164, 201 and a 2025 fourth-rounder) to the Philadelphia Eagles for No. 132 and No. 210. With that pick, the Lions drafted Utah running back/safety Sione Vaki.

Manu is about as unknown of a prospect as there can be this early in the draft. A 6-foot-7, 352-pound native of Tonga, he went to Canada as a basketball player before outgrowing the sport. He’s played left tackle for the University of British Columbia. Dripping with athletic promise, Manu’s game is still raw.

Vaki did a little bit of everything at Utah. In 2023 alone, the 5-11, 210-pound athlete played at least 50 snaps at free safety, box safety, slot corner and off-ball LB on defense, as well as at running back. He even took 13 reps as a wildcat quarterback. In his introductory press conference, Vaki indicated the Lions will have him play running back as his primary position.

These are very interesting trades, particularly for Manu. Sending a 2025 third-round pick for a player who is unlikely to play before that season is a gamble on the player developmental prowess of offensive line coach Hank Fraley. On the surface, Manu provides an athletic but terribly inexperienced backup tackle to a team in desperate need of depth across the offensive line.

Befitting that he’s effectively a 2025 pick and cost the Lions no 2024 draft capital, judging the trade up and selection of Manu needs to wait until at least 2025. It’s an investment in the future with a player Holmes and the Lions clearly felt quite strongly about his potential.

Vaki figures to be a core special teams player in Detroit as well as a reserve running back. He’s an explosive but all-or-nothing type of runner, with a physical style and decent hands out of the backfield but not a lot of elusiveness or lateral quickness. The trade up indicates the Lions see him as a potential return specialist as well as a coverage teams demon.

Trading up into the fourth round to land players who almost certainly won’t contribute beyond special teams as rookies carries some risk for Holmes and Detroit. Should Manu prove a quick study and can be the No. 3 offensive tackle in 2024, that will help the perception, but that’s not a given.

This is an exercise in trusting Holmes to trust his board and his coaching staff for the long-term instead of drafting more for immediate need or rookie contribution. The pick traded away for Vaki were unlikely to do much on the field for 2024 either, so that should soften the blow if the new Lions don’t ultimately pan out.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire