Detroit Lions considered three players with No. 7 pick in NFL draft
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes admitted he identified two other players worthy of the No. 7 overall pick that ultimately went to selecting Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft.
So who were the other two mystery men?
Holmes wouldn’t say, though he suggested one was another offensive lineman when he said he played “a similar position.”
DAY 2 PREVIEW:15 players for Lions to consider; plenty of LBs and WRs
'FEED THE BEAST':Why Lions and Oregon OT Penei Sewell are a perfect fit
But to hear Holmes speak effusively about Sewell — the Lions’ highest-drafted offensive lineman since Lomas Brown was taken sixth overall in 1985 — it was clear Holmes was thoroughly smitten.
“Going through the process we truly we got to the point where we pretty much identified three players, and he was one of those three that we would just be extremely — let’s just say, through the roof about,” Holmes said. “To be able to land him, he’s going to be an integral and impactful piece for our franchise for years to come. He’s going to be a great addition to our offensive line. He’s just a transcendent talent.”
SEWELL SPEAKS:I'm 'ready to run through anybody'
EXPERT REACTIONS:ESPN's Booger McFarland: 'We shouldn't be surprised'
Holmes said he sees Sewell playing right tackle for now. Sewell checks in at 6-foot-6 and about 330 pounds, but it was more than the build and talent that bewitched the GM.
“I can’t quite remember a guy that had feet like him … (but) it’s not just the athletic ability,” he said. “He’s got the toughness, he’s go the grit, he’s got the strength, he’s got the intangibles that we’re looking for.
“He’s a great kid, he comes from a great family, he comes from a football family. … We just really loved the makeup and we just couldn’t be any more jacked about landing Penei and how it all unfolded.”
Part of that unfolding included phone calls from teams interested in moving up with quarterbacks Justin Fields of Ohio State and Mac Jones of Alabama still on the board, as well as cornerbacks Jaycee Horn of South Carolina and Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith.
“The phone rang from a couple of teams,” Holmes said, “but we just felt so good about Penei, it wasn’t intriguing enough calls for us to risk not landing him.”
Holmes also wouldn't say which prospective trade partners were interested in which players, but he admitted the Lions liked Sewell more than Fields, whom the Chicago Bears traded up to draft 11th.
“I will say that we did have Penei ranked higher,” he said. “So even with (Fields) being there in the hopper, we felt better about the pick.”
Sewell opted out of the 2020 season after winning the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top offensive lineman, in 2019. He was widely considered a low-risk pick, though hardly a flashy one — a notion Holmes rebutted.
CHECK HIM OUT:Penei Sewell's Oregon highlights
“It’s termed often 'not as sexy' when you go with a big lineman and sometimes they say it’s safe and it’s sound,” he said. “But I think it will be a very, very, I guess, sexy, attractive pick when he’s rolling with our offensive line during the season and making an impact on both phases, of the run and pass.”
But part of the reason behind the pick came down to fortifying a strength that Holmes and coach Dan Campbell identified.
“When we sat down, Dan and I really started looking at the roster as a whole we actually identified the offensive line as a strength on our team,” Holmes said. “So to be able to, let’s just say, ‘Feed the beast,’ and add to that strength and just make it even more of powerful unit, that’s really what it came down to.”
The Lions have five more picks — including three on Friday — in the final two days of the draft. Holmes said his plan is to keep finding the best player with each pick, regardless of position.
“Let’s just get the best football player,” he said. “I think you guys probably say that’s GM speak. But no, it’s really … we’re not going to anchor ourselves or pigeonhole ourselves into, 'we’ve got to get this position or that position.'
“And look, if it’s another offensive lineman and it’s a high-impact player, then it’s an offensive lineman. If it’s a defensive back, it’s a defensive back. So whoever’s the best football player for us to make sure we can get the most competitive team as we can through our efforts, then that’s where we’re going to go.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.