Brad Holmes has made what appears to be multiple picks in each of his first two drafts as GM of the Detroit Lions, including potentially two Day 3 draft picks.
But the Lions have been without second-rounder Levi Onwuzurike due to injury last season, and this year’s second-rounder Josh Paschal has his own health concerns.
Holmes said the Lions were aware of the injury issues with Onwuzurike and Paschal before the draft, but thought highly of both players to want them in the organization.
“We’re not kicking ourselves,” Holmes said Thursday at his annual end-of-practice news conference. “We don’t say, ‘Oh, we overlooked this or that.’ They were just things we were prepared for.”
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Onwuzurike played in 16 of a possible 17 games last season, but dealt with a back injury in training camp that limited his production early in the year. He finished with 35 tackles and a sack.
Expected to play a rotational role on the Lions defensive line this fall, Onwuzurike has not practiced since Aug. 1 due to the same back problem and could miss next week’s opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Paschal will miss at least the first four games of the season after undergoing spring surgery to repair a sports hernia carried over from college.
In their absence, the Lions have turned to new pieces of depth on the defensive line. John Cominsky, Demetrius Taylor and Isaiah Buggs made the team as backups, and the Lions claimed Benito Jones off waivers from the Miami Dolphins.
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“I think everything is, especially when it comes to medical, it’s always case by case,” Holmes said. “Levi is dealing with something that we knew and that we knew. He was actually able to do more than we thought he could do last year. And so, unfortunately, he’s still had to deal with that, but you don’t have that crystal ball yet. And then with Josh, it was something we knew we knew he had to deal with and we have a schedule and we have no problem with that.”
While the Lions have yet to cash in on their second-round picks, the early returns on Holmes’ two draft picks are overall positives. First-round picks Penei Sewell (2021) and Aidan Hutchinson (2022) have met or exceeded expectations — though Hutchinson has yet to play an NFL regular-season game — and a third first-round pick, Jameson Williams, will return from ACL surgery later. This year.
Alim McNeill (third round) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth) was a starter for the Lions last season and projects to be a major contributor this season, and Malcolm Rodriguez, a sixth-round pick in April, is tipped to win a starting linebacker job — if he wins last year’s other fourth round pick, Derrick Barnes.
Holmes and assistant GM Ray Agnew were mixed in their praise for Hutchinson on Thursday.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Agnew said. “I love the kid. The kid’s relentless effort and a much better athlete than you thought he was going into the draft process. Man, the things he can do rushing the passer, inside, off the edge, using his hands, he’s very creative as a rusher. I’d just say that, we got it right.”
Both tried to dampen expectations for Rodriguez as a rookie.
“His processing skills, being a quarterback in high school, he just has a level of keying and diagnosis that has translated,” Holmes said. “You just don’t know he’s going to come fast, but he’s coming fast. But I can’t say enough that he’s a rookie. He hadn’t played an NFL game yet, so let’s see where he goes.”
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Brad Holmes: Detroit Lions knew medical risks with 2nd round picks