Detroit Lions 'comfortable' picking at No. 7, not surprised by early NFL draft trades

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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As the Miami Dolphins were bouncing around the top 12 of the NFL draft order last week, first moving below then jumping back ahead of the Detroit Lions, Brad Holmes’ phone stayed relatively quiet.

Holmes, the Lions general manager, said he did not receive any phone calls about the team’s first-round pick, No. 7 overall, last Friday, though he indicated he has had exploratory discussions about the pick this spring.

Those talks, Holmes said, were more about knowledge — of the draft class and other teams’ draft desires — than any real intent to strike a deal a month before the draft.

Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes speaks with reporters Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

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“I can’t really say any intent at all in terms of making sure that we have value to trade our pick,” Holmes said Monday. “Again, there’s players that we feel really, really good about staying where we currently are that we feel comfortable with selecting, so that’s not the sole focus in terms of that. But you’ve got to just be prepared for everything, so we kind of do our work in making sure that we’re best prepared as possible in terms of what may happen for the teams behind us or in front.”

To that end, Holmes said he was not caught off guard by last week’s maneuvering, two trades of high first-round picks — rare for their timing in March — as teams jockey for position to land one of the draft’s handful of elite talents.

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The San Francisco 49ers traded the No. 12 pick and a slew of future choices to the Dolphins for the No. 3 pick and the right take a quarterback to eventually replace Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Dolphins then vaulted back up to No. 6, sending No. 12 and a future first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles so they could, presumably, get offensive help for young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Quarterbacks now appear poised to go 1-2-3 in the draft and could comprise the first four picks for the first time in the Super Bowl era.

And while the trades altered the presumed order of prospects — the Dolphins were not going to take a quarterback at 3, but have similar needs to the Eagles on offense — Holmes said neither of last week’s deals changes his vision for what the Lions can get done at No. 7.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson looks down field against Texas State, Oct. 24, 2020, in Provo, Utah.

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“It’s the same set of guys that are still in that,” he said. “Like what I’ve talked about before, when you’re picking in the top 10, you have to know all those players that are deserving of that high of selection. So it doesn’t change that approach in terms of the players that we’ve been discussing and may be there, may not be there.”

Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell attended pro day workouts this month for quarterbacks Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Zach Wilson of BYU. 

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, and many league observers expect Wilson to go No. 2, which would leave one of Lance, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or Alabama’s Mac Jones for the 49ers at three.

Both Jones and Fields were are scheduled to have pro day workouts Tuesday.

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The Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 could take a quarterback or trade their pick to a quarterback-needy team like the Carolina Panthers, and the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5 and Dolphins at No. 6 are both looking to upgrade the supporting casts around their young quarterbacks. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and receivers Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith of Alabama are considered five of the best non-quarterbacks in the draft.

At No. 7, the Lions, if they retain the pick, could be picking from one or two of the remaining quarterbacks or whichever top offensive players don’t go to Cincinnati and Miami. 

“(The trades did not) really change what our focus is and what our approach is and what our plan is,” Holmes said. “It’s very, very important to know the, I guess you’d say the quarterback class, especially when it comes to the draft process. So to have a very clear understanding of that position. Things won’t really surprise you, really, so much so when you start seeing that movement kind of go around in front of you, or whatever the case is. You’re really not caught off guard. Not saying that I knew things were going to happen, but when it happened and when they unfold, you’re really not caught off guard. But it doesn’t change really our approach in terms of what our plans are.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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