GM Brad Holmes expects Penei Sewell to have major impact on Lions
When it came to the No. 7 pick, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes had his eye on three prospects.
And even though he declined to name the other two — although it's a safe bet LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase was in the group based on reports the Lions explored trading up to land him — Holmes was thrilled Penei Sewell, one of those three talents, slipped to the Lions.
"We just couldn’t be any more excited than we are about Penei, just really stoked," Holmes said. "To be able to land him, he’s gonna be an integral and impactful piece to our franchise going forward for years to come. He’s gonna be a great addition to our offensive line. He’s just a transcendent talent. I can’t quite remember a guy that had feet like him in a long time. But it’s not just the athletic ability, he’s got the toughness, he’s got the grit, he’s got the strength, he’s got the intangibles that we’re looking for."
The Lions' excitement was apparent with how quickly they turned in the pick, with plenty of their 10-minute allotment remaining. Holmes said the team got a few calls about a trade, but, at the end of the day, they liked the idea of adding Sewell more than picking up additional picks.
"I will say the phone rang from a couple teams, but we just felt so good about Penei, it wasn't intriguing enough for us," Holmes said.
For subscribers: Wojo: Lions wisely go the big-guy route and grab a gem in Sewell
Had Sewell been off the board, Holmes said he would have strongly considered drafting a different offensive lineman. Northwestern's Rashawn Slater was the next off the board, going to the Chargers at pick No. 13. The Lions GM mentioned another position group intriguing him at that spot, but, for competitive reasons, declined to be specific.
The most notable player the Lions passed on in favor of Sewell was Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Holmes acknowledged he liked the player, but Sewell was higher on their draft board and that dictated the decision.
Nothing off the board
Just because the Lions addressed their offensive line in the first round, Holmes didn't want to rule out going back to that well on Friday, when the Lions are scheduled to have three picks in Rounds 2 and 3.
"We're going to stick with the same plan that we had at seven, or if we would have possibly moved in any direction up or back, that's just to get the best football player," Holmes said. "We're not going to anchor ourselves or pigeonhole ourselves and say, 'We got to get this position or that position.'
"I mean, hey, look, if it's another offensive lineman that's a high-impact player, then it's another offensive lineman. If it's a defensive back, then it's a defensive back. Whoever is the best football player for us to make sure that we can get the most competitive team as we can through our efforts, then that's where we're going to go."
Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have a vision for the Lions, but how that will be executed is a work in progress. But the emphasis the team has placed on the offensive line, adding Sewell to an already solid unit, mirrors what the Saints did while Campbell was with the franchise.
All five of the Saints starters last year were selected in the first two rounds of the draft, including three during Campbell's five years with the franchise.
"Dan has shared with myself, in terms of how their offensive line was set up, and when we sat down, Dan and I just started really looking at the roster as a whole," Holmes said. "We actually identified the offensive line as a strength on our team. To be able to, let's just say 'feed the beast' and add to that strength, and just make it even more of a powerful unit, that's really what it came down to."
Rodgers rumors on peripheral
Yes, the rumblings that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay reached the Lions' war room. How could they not? But there wasn't much time to consider the ramifications of the reports that could not only shake up the NFC North division, but the entire NFL.
"Well, obviously, because it's news within the division, we're aware of it," Holmes said. "We talk about it, but, you know, obviously, it's speculation. We can't really bank on anything or think that things are going to happen. We just kind of had a brief discussion about it and we gotta get focused and take care of our business."
The Lions have been tormented by Rodgers during the quarterback's career. In his 13 years as a starter, the Packers have won the division seven times, while he's posted a 17-5 record in the head-to-head series.