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2023 NFL Draft grades: Detroit Lions declared massive Day 2 winners

After receiving a ton of criticism on Day 1, the Detroit Lions blew NFL Draft analysts out of the water for their Day 2 picks.

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2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 2-3 Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

After raising a lot of questions and concerns with their Day 1 selections, the Detroit Lions bounced back in an extremely aggressive way on Day 2. While the national media was not a fan of the first-round selections of running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell, Detroit was showered with wide-ranging praise for their four selections in Round 2 and 3.

Let’s take a look at the 2023 NFL Draft Day 2 grades for the Lions.

Overall praise

What makes the Lions draft so weird is that all of their players are solid. Heck, they were after round one as well. There wasn’t a truly bad, head-scratching pick among them — but the lack of positional awareness in the first round by taking RB Jahmyr Gibbs, followed by ILB Jack Campbell was absolutely worthy of lampooning. This really could have gone all the way off the rails, and for a while on Friday it looked like it was heading that way again, but two home run picks back-to-back pulled it all together.

In Round 2, Holmes narrowed in on more needs. Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta should make up for the departure of T.J. Hockenson in a midseason trade with Minnesota last year. Alabama safety Brian Branch is smart and versatile and one more asset in a secondary that was in need of a major overhaul. And in Round 3, Holmes nabbed Tennessee signal-caller Hendon Hooker, who could be prepped as Jared Goff’s eventual replacement, then cashed in a trio of Day 3 picks in a trade that allowed him to take Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin at No. 96.

Detroit had a stronger Day 2. Iowa’s Sam LaPorta (No. 34) had 153 receptions the last four seasons and will be a reliable possession-type player for the Lions. Alabama safety Brian Branch (No. 45) had a first-round grade after the NFL Combine and is one of the best run-support safeties in this year’s class.

The splash pick came in the third round at the No. 68 pick with Hooker, who also was a borderline Day 1 pick.

Individual pick grades

SB Nation (JP Acosta)

  • TE Sam Laporta: C+

Fascinating pick here, as LaPorta goes over Mayer and Washington. However, LaPorta has the athletic traits to be more of a field stretcher with his ability after the catch. Again, I understand why, but I wonder if there were better players at the position on the board.

  • DB Brian Branch: A+

This is a STEAL by the Lions. Branch is a versatile, smart and disciplined player who can wear multiple hats for the Lions defense. He and CJ Gardner-Johnson will make for a safety duo that’s extremely versatile and smart.

  • QB Hendon Hooker: B+
  • DT Brodric Martin: B-

Yahoo Sports (Charles McDonald)

  • TE Sam Laporta: C+

LaPorta is a good player, but the Lions passed on a couple of better tight end prospects on the Yahoo board to make this pick. Still, TE was a huge need for the Lions since they traded away T.J. Hockenson.

  • DB Brian Branch: A+

This is the best pick the Lions have made by far in this draft. This pick would have been fine at No. 12 where they took Jahmyr Gibbs. Branch can do just about anything for the Lions’ secondary outside of playing outside corner. Great pick.

  • QB Hendon Hooker: C-

Lions got a quarterback prospect, but Hooker faces a massive adjustment coming from Tennessee’s wide-open passing game to an NFL passing game. He’s an older prospect at 25 and is still recovering from an ACL injury. This pick feels like a long shot to work out, but the Lions needed to add a QB prospect in this draft, which helps the grade a little bit.

  • DT Brodric Martin: C-

Martin is raw, but he’s a big, strong dude on the interior of the defensive line. It’s a gamble for the Lions at this spot.

Pro Football Network (Ryan Gosling)

  • TE Sam Laporta: C-

This is a safe pick, but a reach nonetheless when you consider the other TE talent left on the board. Michael Mayer is the obviously superior prospect with his route nuance, toughness, and reliability as a catcher, and Tucker Kraft also has a superior profile to LaPorta with his size, athleticism, and contact balance.

  • DB Brian Branch: A+

The Lions have fielded early criticism for their lack of value in the first few rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, but they make up for any reaches ten-fold with this pick. Midway through the second round, the Lions aggressively traded up and landed Alabama DB Brian Branch.

  • QB Hendon Hooker: B

Hooker is Round 3 is a lot easier to stomach in Round 3 than in Round 1, and the Lions have addressed enough needs to this point to make room for the selection. With Jared Goff due for an extension soon, it makes sense to get Hooker in the QB room as a quality backup with some physical upside.

  • DT Brodric Martin: D+

The size and strength present appeal with Martin, but this is a considerable reach – perhaps larger than any of the gambles Detroit made in Round 1. Martin graded as a late-Day 3 prospect at best for me.

The Athletic (Scott Dochterman)

  • TE Sam Laporta: B+

It’s coincidental that LaPorta essentially replaces Hockenson, who was traded to Minnesota last midseason. There’s some question about why LaPorta over Michael Mayer, who also was available. But both were Mackey Award finalists, and it came down to preference.

  • DB Brian Branch: A+

Branch (5-11 5/8, 190) possesses average speed (4.58 in the 40) and put up 14 reps of 225 pounds on the bench. He’s a physical tackler and fought through injuries last year, which impacted Alabama’s defense. Branch does have positional flexibility and can play corner, safety or nickel from day one. He’s a perfect fit for Aaron Glenn’s defense, and the value is off the charts as Brugler’s No. 17-ranked player.

  • QB Hendon Hooker: A+

Perhaps the Lions’ first-round picks were considered reaches. But in the third round, the Lions picked their potential quarterback of the future and afforded him the opportunity to redshirt while rehabbing from a torn ACL. Can you say win-win-win?

  • DT Brodric Martin: D

The Lions needed a big, physical defensive tackle to rotate, but they gave up a ton to select a player graded as a seventh-rounder by Brugler. The Lions dealt a fourth-rounder and two fifths to move up late in the third round.


  • TE Sam Laporta: “Average”

Detroit shocks the football world once again by taking tight end Sam LaPorta over Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer at Pick 34. The Iowa product plays an incredibly physical game, something head coach Dan Campbell covets at every position. LaPorta is a high-quality athlete and an after-the-catch weapon.

  • DB Brian Branch: “Elite”

The Lions have made several big “reaches” already in this draft based on PFF and consensus big boards, but they get one of the better values here with Branch. He’s the best nickel prospect in this draft class and one of the best tackling defensive backs since PFF began tracking college football in 2014 (2% missed tackle rate).

  • QB Hendon Hooker: “Good”

Hooker fell in the draft after an unfortunate ACL tear at the end of the 2022 season that took him out of a Heisman race, but he earned a 93.4 passing grade on deep throws and is great in a clean pocket. If he can improve under pressure once healthy, he could prove to be a great pick.

  • DT Brodric Martin: “Below average”

The 163rd overall player on the PFF big board, this is a bit of a reach for the Lions, but Martin is a big player who can fill a role in the middle of their defensive line at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds. Despite his size, he graded out better as a pass-rusher than a run defender in college and won 9.4% of his pass-rushing snaps in 2022.

CBS Sports (Chris Trapasso)

  • TE Sam Laporta: A

YAC monster, big-time athlete, strong hands. Gave me George Kittle vibes. Easy fit into the vacancy created by T.J. Hockenson trade.

  • DB Brian Branch: A

Best tackling defensive back I’ve ever scouted. Instinctive playmaker in coverage at intermediate level. Extensive slot defender experience. Just a lesser athlete. Will be fun with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

  • QB Hendon Hooker: B-

This is closer to where I had him graded. Pocket passer with some athleticism but won’t run away from NFL defenders. Accuracy and arm strength are good, not great. Threw to many wide open receivers in college. Somewhat of a strange long-term option at QB given his age. Exudes leadership. Teddy Bridgewater type

  • DT Brodric Martin: D+

Huge, overwhelming NT with crazy length he knows how to use well. Very limited athleticism and juice up the field but he will overwhelm with power at times. Gets off blocks well against the run. Very old prospect too. High pad level saps some of his power. The trade up lowers this grade more.

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