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How athletic is the Detroit Lions’ 2023 draft class?

Using RAS to evaluate how athletic the Detroit Lions’ 2023 draft class is.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2023 NFL Draft in the books, it’s easy to get excited about the roster being built by the Detroit Lions. The Lions already have a promising young core, yet they were still able to add multiple starting-caliber players in the draft. Having multiple early-round picks certainly helps, but that shouldn’t discount the job done by general manager Brad Holmes and his staff.

Athleticism is an important part of football, from high-end speed to size and strength in the trenches. Using Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Scores (RAS), we can evaluate the newly drafted Lions and see how their fare against their positional peers.

Here’s how the Lions’ 2023 class shapes up:

First round (12): RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Speed is the name of Jahmyr Gibbs’ game. Undersized in terms of height and weight, Gibbs is a speed demon on the football field. He will never be a bruising back, but that’s fine. His agility scores are sadly missing, but his elusiveness pops on tape. Look for him to slot comfortably into D’Andre Swift’s role, a perfect complement to David Montgomery. With his speed, expect him to be a receiving mismatch for opposing linebackers and safeties.

First round (18): LB Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell blowing up the NFL Combine was a surprise to some. The size was always a plus from his tape, but his explosion and agility scores were phenomenal, especially at 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds. Add in a great 40-yard time and outstanding splits, and Campbell is the full athletic package—he comes in as one of the most athletic linebackers of all time.

Second round (34): TE Sam LaPorta

Though LaPorta is smaller by tight end standards, his athletic scores are otherwise impressive. His 4.59 40-yard time and subsequent splits are up there with the best of all time. Couple that with his elite explosiveness and agility and it’s easy to be excited about LaPorta’s game. He should be an asset after the catch, especially with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s brilliant tight end schemes.

Second round (45): S Brian Branch

Brian Branch posted a modest athletic score. His size is below average, while his composite speed and explosion scores are just fair. However, the score itself deserves a closer inspection. While his 40-yard time is relatively unimpressive, his 10-yard split is elite, which is an telltale trait for defensive back success—those first few yards after the snap are crucial. Similarly, his broad jump, considered an important test for defensive backs, comes in as elite. It’s also worth noting that for safeties, athleticism has a lesser correlation to NFL success than other positions like running back or tight end. There should be no worrying about Branch’s scores.

Third Round (68): QB Hendon Hooker

Hendon Hooker is the lone Lions pick without an RAS card. Recovering from an ACL injury, Hooker was unable to perform at the NFL Combine or his pro day. Regardless, his tape reveals an enticing athletic profile. Hooker demonstrated solid speed and agility in college, likely putting up an elite score had he been healthy. Hooker gives the Lions a true dual-threat quarterback, something we haven’t seen for a long time.

Third round (96): DT Brodric Martin

Not only did Brodric Martin come in as the lowest-scoring athlete of the Lions draft picks, but he had the lowest score of anyone drafted in 2023. On the surface, this selection looks problematic, but let me try to quell some panic. Although categorized as a defensive tackle, Martin is a pure nose tackle. Nose tackles are different beasts from typical defensive tackles. Whereas most tackles are expected to have some pop to their game like Alim McNeill, nose tackles are expected to be gap fillers, pure and simple. As a comparison, Damon “Snacks” Harrison came in with an RAS score a tick above 1. Martin has the prerequisite size, and that’s mostly what counts. Don’t worry about the low bench press score either: players with long arms like Martin typically have lower bench scores due to reduced leverage and increased distance.

Fifth round (152): OL Colby Sorsdal

Colby Sorsdal has an interesting athletic profile, and questions arise about his fit in the NFL. As a tackle, Sorsdal’s athleticism is fair, with his broad and 20-yard split standing out. His score improves to near-elite levels if at guard, however. His speed and agility scores see an uptick when shifted inside, which bodes well for Sorsdal in Detroit. The Lions like to pull their linemen, so expect to see Sorsdal in motion a few times per game—though I can’t speak for his receiving ability quite yet.

Seventh Round (219): WR Antoine Green

Wrapping up the 2023 Lions draft class is receiver Antoine Green, who put together an elite RAS scorecard. The standout aspect of his card—and his tape—is his speed, giving the Lions another deep threat in their receiving arsenal. His other scores are fair across the board. He has the requisite size and explosiveness to function as an outside receiver, so expect him to fall under the tutelage of Marvin Jones Jr. and Josh Reynolds.

2023 Lions Draft class RAS scores

Compared to last year’s highly athletic draft class, the 2023 class regresses slightly in terms of athleticism. Whereas the team averaged an outstanding 9.18 RAS in 2022, that value fell to 7.09 in 2023. That’s still a decent team score—higher than some of the Bob Quinn era drafts—so there’s no need for concern. Better yet, the two lowest scores—Branch and Martin—are completely reasonable for their positions. The Lions are choosing athletes at positions where athleticism dominates

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