Without a doubt, the Detroit Lions were viewed as one of the biggest “losers” in Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Though they had two first-round picks—and selected two highly-graded players—many believed Detroit’s mistakes were in passing over players at more high-impactful positions. So even when the Lions saw a ton of praise for what they did on Day 2 of the draft, their overall grades from the entire draft were average, at best.
But as we’ve gotten further away from the three-day event, it seems like the national media is starting to come around on the Lions’ draft haul. And, ironically enough, it seemed to be an analytics viewpoint that started the turning of the tide.
NFL’s NextGenStats put out a tweet shortly after the draft, giving the Lions the best overall draft grade—admittedly based on an unclear draft grades metric:
Which NFL team had the best all-around draft class by the NGS overall draft score?— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) April 29, 2023
Of the six players the @Lions drafted which received draft scores from the NGS Draft Model, only one had an overall score less than 80. pic.twitter.com/FzJbc05AO2
Part of their model incorporates production level in college. That’s where the Lions scored big, per the NextGenStats Twitter account, ranking first among all 32 draft classes in that particular metric.
From there, the proverbial floodgates opened. Football Outsiders’ Mike Tanier gave the Lions an overall A-, second only to the Bears in the division.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked the Lions’ class ninth best in the NFL, noting, “We can debate the ‘value’ of where each player was drafted, but it’s hard to dislike the collection of players the Lions added.”
NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche has fully adopted Detroit’s no-fear attitude:
The Lions ain’t scurred. They drafted who they drafted when they drafted them and now have pieces to potentially be more threatening than last season. pic.twitter.com/O2mRuA0yxT— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) May 1, 2023
That isn’t to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows. The Ringer penned, what I think is a highly-flawed article called, “What, exactly, is the Detroit Lions’ plan?”
Still, it seems like many analysts have come to the Lions’ defense over the past couple of days.
- One of my favorite reads every year: What NFL Films legend Greg Cosell said about each Lions pick.
- If you haven’t seen this chart yet, get ready to be even more excited about tight end Sam LaPorta:
The only recent tight ends who can match Luke Musgrave’s 10-yard split (a predictive metric for TEs) are Mark Andrews and George Kittle.— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) May 1, 2023
And Tucker Kraft has a nearly identical profile to Jonnu Smith who Matt LaFleur coached in TEN.
Chart via @KevinCole___ pic.twitter.com/PbVBqND2AO
- More LaPorta hype: check out this great Twitter thread of the Iowa tight end’s best highlights from our own Alex Reno:
The first thing that stands out when watching LaPorta is his athleticism, specifically his quickness. RAS of 9.01. Iowa abused these stack formations to get LaPorta open underneath quite a bit. This is probably a play where Hockenson would fall down. pic.twitter.com/Z0B3z31mkE— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) May 2, 2023
- Justin Rogers kicked off his excellent film breakdown series of the Lions’ draft class. His analysis of Jahmyr Gibbs is excellent.
- Speaking of Gibbs, our good friend Brett Whitefield gave him one of the highest prospects scores in recent history:
I’ve been scoring prospects since the 2015 class.— Brett Whitefield (@BGWhitefield) May 2, 2023
Jahmyr Gibbs scored as the 5th highest RB ever for me.
Sandwiched between two top 10 picks. Maybe the draft capital investment shouldn’t have been surprising? pic.twitter.com/DSohbTE4oW
- Lions general manager Brad Holmes broke down each of the team’s draft pick with Lions radio play-by-play announcer Dan Miller.