We know that most analysts heavily criticized the Detroit Lions for their picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. We also know that they were determined to be a Day 2 “winners” by many media members. So now that the Lions’ entire draft class has come into focus, how do writers feel about the team’s eight-pick haul?
Let’s take a look around the draft media, and see how they think Lions general manager Brad Holmes did over the past three nights. I’ve sorted the grades from best to worst, and added part—but not the entire—analysis from each media outlet.
There’s a tendency to knock the Lions for Brad Holmes, their GM, getting a little aggressive and perhaps over-drafting Gibbs and Campbell a little in the first round. But Detroit is in “win big” now mode and those players will have massive immediate impact, much like Aidan Hutchinson. LaPorta and Branch also were great values to fill two more voids. Getting Hooker to stash behind Jared Goff was gravy. Detroit is a lot more than strong NFC North favorite in 2023.
At the time that it happened, Detroit’s selecting of Gibbs at No. 12 was a head-scratching move. Since then, they have traded away D’Andre Swift, so Gibbs and David Montgomery will hold down the backfield this year. For as bad as the first round looked for the Lions, they made much better picks in the middle rounds. Getting LaPorta, Branch and Hooker should help out the team this year and in the future. Overall, it turned into a good draft for Detroit.
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).
They traded down from No. 6 to No. 12, but they reached for running back Jahmyr Gibbs there. While I like Gibbs’ game, this is too high. Even Gibbs was shocked at being taken so early. At No. 18, the Lions did what great teams don’t do, and that’s reach for a need. Off-ball linebacker Jack Campbell is No. 58 overall on my Big Board and is ranked third at the position. There were better players available at both spots. I thought an edge rusher made more sense.
It was a real journey following Detroit’s draft, but if the team had shuffled the order in which they took these guys (going Branch→ Gibbs → LaPorta → Campbell with their four picks in the first two rounds) we probably wouldn’t have thought twice about their class.
This draft class is an excellent collection of talent and promise, although it’s worth debating whether the Lions got the most out of their early picks. Taking first-round RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12, LB Jack Campbell at No. 18 and TE Sam LaPorta so early in the second round represented questionable moves from a value perspective. But getting CB/S Brian Branch deep in the second round and QB Hendon Hooker in Round 3 offsets those choices, value-wise.
- Day 1 grade: C-
- Day 2 grade: B+
- Day 3 grade: B
Analysis: The Lions made two surprising picks in the first round, though Gibbs can be explosive and Campbell will be an immediate contributor on defense. Picking LaPorta to replace the traded T.J. Hockenson over Michael Mayer and Luke Musgrave was interesting. Trading up for Branch and Hooker were both wise moves, while trading multiple picks to get a nice athlete in Martin seemed a bit impatient.
Coach Dan Campbell wants a physical team, but the Lions passed on tight end Michael Mayer, who’s probably a better blocker than LaPorta. Jack Campbell might have been available in the second round, but he’ll help the Lions’ defense because of his size and speed. Detroit, however, was smart to pounce on Hooker on Day 2 to possibly become the quarterback of the future.
Detroit stuck to the value board, for better or worse. Luckily, they were able to get capital back for D’Andre Swift, and Gibbs could end up being a better player. But now that the picks have been made, the Lions are in prove-it mode, because their strategy was more “out there” than most.
Give them a weighted D in the first round for two big reaches, and an A on Day 2, especially for stealing Branch and Hooker. Still, they used four of the first 68 picks on non-premium positions and a fifth on a backup quarterback.
LB Jack Campbell (18), TE Sam LaPorta, S Brian Branch and QB Hendon Hooker help make up for reaching way too high for RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12.
Really mixed bag. Hard not to view LB Jack Campbell as anything but a reach, even if GM Brad Holmes might have been right to scoop up fellow first-round RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 given the general lack of depth in this draft. At No. 34, worth wondering if Sam LaPorta was the optimal tight end to take, though DB Brian Branch was a slam dunk 11 spots later.