The positional value truthers have subsided in the month's since April's draft. But there's no denying the Detroit Lions went against the grain to take a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and an off-ball linebacker (Jack Campbell) with their two top-20 overall picks.
Afterward, Albert Breer of Sports Ilustrated reported the Lions had first-round grades on just 14 players in this year's draft and they got four of them. General manager Brad Holmes confirmed the 14 first-round grades on "The Season with Peter Schrager" this week.
"We ended up with 14 guys, and that was at the very end,” Holmes said. “It was less than that at one point, like at one point we had nine or 10 ... So I just looked at it as like, ‘Dan, look, let’s just get who the hell we want and let’s get the hell out of there.’”"- Brad Holmes
The Lions did not have an obvious need at inside linebacker. And certainly not enough of a need to draft one in the first round, right? But Campbell combined great college production with high-end athletic testing numbers at the NFL Combine. Holmes and the Lions could not ignore him.
Brad Holmes makes it absolutely clear how he views Jack Campbell
With Schrager, Holmes went back to what he has consistently said since the draft.
"We don’t draft positions,” Holmes clarified. “We draft players.”- Brad Holmes
“You better have guys that thump, and you better have guys that can cover.”
“When you have a guy like Jack Campbell that’s 6-foot-5, 250—that’s extremely instinctive, he’s heavy in the run game, he’s extremely smart—I just love how the kid is wired,” Holmes shared. “I mean, he’s wired to fit what we’re all about. We’re all about grit, doing it the right way, like truly earning it, and this guy just loves football. He’s all business.”
“Jack Campbell is just a hell of a football player and I just think that like, we’re looking at it as he’s going to be an anchor in our defense. Not, ‘We’re drafting an inside linebacker.’ Like, no, we’re just taking an anchor that’s going to be our defense.”"
Holmes made it clear that Campbell checks every box for what the Lions want in a linebacker. But he'll have to earn an immediate starting job in training camp, with stiff competition from Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes.
Drafting for need is a slippery slope, and it's one Holmes is not going to walk down with anything less than full conviction about a player. That conviction in process pushes him toward taking talent over need, and Campbell does seem to fit Holmes' draft philosphy rather nicely.