Lions GM Brad Holmes on the hunt for 'grit, passion' in his first draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Of course talent is important when it comes to the NFL Draft, as is a prospect's potential and schematic fit. But Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes is placing a premium on something else entering his first draft in the role. 

"There's a cluster at multiple positions we would be comfortable with, but the No. 1 thing is are they the right fit for the Detroit Lions?" Holmes said during his pre-draft press conference on Friday. "Do they meet the standards we're looking for from an intangibles standpoint? So, make sure that they meet those standards. I feel comfortable that they bring value."

Intangibles is synonymous with football character. More than schematic fit, Holmes made it clear he wants to build around high-effort players.  

Lions general manager Brad Holmes

"At the end of the day, if the player has a certain standard of toughness, passion, if a player has grit, that doesn't have anything to do with if a guy is 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 does he not? Does he have a high motor or (not)? Does he take plays off or does he not? Does he love football or does he not?

"So those are the standards that we look for. Having that grit and 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 is just a scheme fit."

More: Lions comfortable at No. 7 but exploring trade options, both up and down

Holmes' comments echo those made by coach Dan Campbell during a radio interview last month.

"We're no different than anybody else," Campbell told KTCK-AM in Dallas. "Even if you're a great player, we don't want turds here, man. We don't want lazy guys. We don't want guys that are up and down. And we don't want flash players. If you're a flash guy and you're like, 'My God, did you see that play?' then the next play he's in the tank and we don't know where he's at, we don't know what he's going to do, I've got nothing for those guys. It's the ones that are consistent and you see it all the time."

Developing an eye for passion and work ethic is a challenge all NFL decision-makers face. It starts early in the process, when team scouts interview coaches, weight room staff and academic sources at the players' schools. The better the scouts have cultivated those relationships, the more trustworthy the information. 

The rest is left up to film study, looking for situations a player's effort might be lacking, as well as through the interview process at the college all-star games, the combine and one-on-one visits. Some of that has been more difficult the past couple years, with the combine being canceled and in-person visits being moved to a virtual setting, in response to coronavirus. 

This year, teams also have to sort through dozens of prospects who opted out of the 2020 college season due to the pandemic. 

Holmes expressed confidence in his staff through all the changes. 

"It wasn’t that challenging, you just had to deal with the hand that you were dealt and just go back to the tape of the last time that they had played," Holmes said. "It also kind of makes you actually have to lean on your sources at those schools that you really really trust and rely on that information.

"I always talk about the scouts are the experts on all these players. All of our area scouts and national scouts and directors, they know these players better than anybody else. They’ve watched more film than anybody else within in the building. So relying on them and relying on the experts, and then just really relying on the film that’s available to you."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers