Holmes said he evaluates pre-existing injuries “case-by-case” but he’s not shied from taking on those cases
Through two draft seasons as the general manager of the Detroit Lions, Brad Holmes has not shied away from taking chances on players carrying injury baggage. That’s especially true in the second round.
In 2021, Holmes and the Lions selected DL Levi Onwuzurike from Washington. This year it was Kentucky DE Josh Paschal. Both brought unclean bills of health from college through the draft process. Onwuzurike had an ongoing back problem while Paschal, who also missed most of a season conquering cancer on his foot, missed the end of his senior season and the Senior Bowl with a groin injury.
The injuries have lingered. Onwuzurike was ineffective as a rookie and has been able to practice exactly one day in pads in 2022 before reaggravating the injury. He’s on the 53-man roster but unlikely to play Week 1 with what head coach Dan Campbell termed a “snail’s pace” recovery.
Paschal is on the reserve/PUP list, missing his entire rookie training camp and preseason. His injury required core muscle surgery and his return to the field is unknown.
In his press conference on Thursday, Holmes was asked if the Lions held a flawed injury evaluation process with the second-rounders.
“I think everything is – especially when it comes to medical, it’s always case-by-case. And you’re going back with Levi (Onwuzurike), he was dealing with something that we were aware of and that we knew about,” Holmes said. “And so, he actually was able to do more than what he was going to able last year. And so, unfortunately, he’s had to still deal with it, but you just don’t have that crystal ball quite yet.”
Holmes then continued on Paschal,
“And then, with Josh (Paschal) it was something that we were aware of, that we knew that he had to deal with, while we have a timeline in place, and we don’t have any problem with it. So, it’s not – we’re not kicking ourselves, we’re not saying, ‘Oh, we overlooked this or that,’ it’s just things that we were prepared for.”
Of course, the second-rounders aren’t the only players with existing injuries that Holmes has drafted. He traded up in the first round to snag Alabama WR Jameson Williams, who will miss at least four weeks as he recovers from January knee surgery. Fifth-round TE James Mitchell still isn’t full speed from a knee injury that cost him most of his final college season at Virginia Tech, though he’s on track to play a role in Week 1.
It’s a question that Holmes will need to evaluate more conscientiously in the next draft cycle if Onwuzurike and Paschal are both washed out in 2022. Even though the Lions are still climbing up in the rebuild and generally not expected to contend for the postseason this year, getting nothing out of two top-45 picks because of preexisting injuries would be a very bad look for Holmes.
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