Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes breaks down Gibbs pick, Swift trade, and rest of 2023 NFL Draft

Despite last season's disappointment with how it ended, many considered if there was any momentum in the NFC North it was with the Detroit Lions. Their general manager agreed, but didn't stop there.

"In my mind, it's never good enough. This league is too hard," said Brad Holmes.

It could have been an opportunity to grow complacent. Success last season may have generated good feelings about the team's direction, but good feelings don't make a playoff-worthy team. 

And so when the 2023 NFL Draft rolled around last week, it was the Lions making some of this year's most surprising moves - and some of its boldest.

"It's my job to stay laser focused, not only on present but on the future as well. Me and Dan are always aligned in that vision and he understands that's my job," Holmes said in an interview after the draft had completed. 

It wasn't on anyone's minds at the start, but a running back was the first player drafted by the Lions. Jahmyr Gibbs of Alabama. It wasn't soon after that the Lions traded their starting back D'Andre Swift.

"We had made the decision to go with Gibbs, but we went with Gibbs because that's just the guy we liked and that was our guy, but we wanted to do the best thing for D'Andre, so we worked out a deal to send him to Philadelphia, his hometown," Holmes said.

MORE: Lions add to offense with RB Gibbs, and defense with LB Campbell in 1st Round of NFL Draft

Swift was traded to the Eagles in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in2025 and a swap of a seventh-round draft pick this year. He likened trading away Swift to the team trading away Jamaal Williams during the off-season. 

The move came with risks. It didn't follow the conventional thinking of filling a hole on the offense, he said.

"Always comes down to Dan and I get the players we love. I totally get the narrative of position value, but you talk about Jahmyr Gibbs, we didn't draft a running back in the first round, we drafted an elite weapon to keep our offensive explosive in the first round."

Also taken in the first round was Jack Campbell, who was the team's second first round draft pick at No. 18. Holmes called him a "legit anchor" that cold "propel and elevate" the defense.

"I get the narratives of the outsider well ‘you can’t do that you can do this.' These are guys that fit us," he said. "I've always said that. We're going to get the guys that fit us, the guys we love, and the guys that fit our culture and can help our football team because ultimately, we are acquiring these players to win football games. That's the bottom line and so we feel these guys can help us and that's why we took them."

The first two draft picks set the tone for the Lions - but was hardly the only impression the team left on the league after all the picks had been made. 

Here's who else the Lions selected:

  • Sam LaPorta, Tight End, in Round 2
  • Brian Branch, Defensive Back, in Round 2
  • Hendon Hooker, Quarterback, in Round 3
  • Brodric Martin, Defensive Tackle, in Round 3
  • Colby Sorsdal, Offensive Lineman, in Round 5
  • Antoine Green, Wide Receiver, Round 7