NFL Draft season is filled with a lot of nonsense. We make mocks and big boards that only operate with a small fraction of the knowledge needed to properly scout players. We obsess over draft guides and test speeds and arm lengths.
One of the more interesting aspects of the pre-draft process is when NFL scouts talk to the media, almost always anonymously. While there are some scouts who likely use this opportunity to change the public perception of a prospect they like or dislike to their own benefit, a lot of times, it allows scouts to give their true thoughts about a player without a filter.
For years—39, to be exact—former Packers beat writer Bob McGinn has been getting these scouts’ thoughts on draft classes through anonymity. Now with Go Long, McGinn has continued that tradition, and it offers a fantastic bank of information for those looking at how scouts view their team’s new draft picks.
So let’s take a look at what some of those scouts are saying about the Detroit Lions’ draft class.
Note: Because this content is behind a paywall, I will only be providing some of the information given. If you want to see the fuller thoughts, consider subscribing to Go Long’s substack.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs
While most scouts had Texas running back Bijan Robinson as the top in this year’s class, Gibbs was far and away the second-best ranked back in this class by McGinn’s sources. But there was one scout who actually had Gibbs over Robinson.
“Very, very similar to Kamara,” that scout said. “That slick sort of movement and balance. Multi-talented, catches, runs. He’s got all that, man. His skill-set will play well in the league. You could make that comparison (with Aaron Jones), but Aaron is a little straightlinish. This guy has a little bit more movement.”
He also checks the character box, according to another scout.
“Runs hard. Got vision. Can get the corner. He’s been through a lot in his life. Kind of had a rough upbringing … really overcome a lot. Really, really a good kid.”
LB Jack Campbell
Contrary to some big boards, McGinn’s sources had Campbell as the best linebacker prospect in this year’s class. His article has a ton of really good tidbits on Campbell. Here’s a few snippets from varying anonymous sources;
In meetings guys will say, ‘Well, I don’t know if he’s athletic enough?’ When you look at Jack Campbell we all have a tendency to say, ‘Well, he’s going to be a two-down guy.’ This guy was a very good athlete. Hell of a football player.”
“What separates him is his feel for the game. He’s got great instincts and he makes plays. He is a (green dot) in a second.”
“He’s going to play for a long time. The speed surprised me; I thought he’d run like a 4.8 something. But he is a football player. In the 1970s, he would have been (great). I don’t think he’s more than a two-down player because he does not run well enough in space.
“Concerns I guess would be matchup situations in the pass game, but I think you can kind of cover him up so he’s not exposed that long. He is athletic. He tested well. He ran fast enough. I wish he’d just attack the line of scrimmage and was in the backfield more for a guy that big.”
TE Sam LaPorta
LaPorta only ranked fifth among tight ends by McGinn’s sources, while he was the second tight end off the board on draft week. But at least one scout had LaPorta as his favorite tight end in a deep class.
“He has very good hands. He’s got to get better as a blocker but he’s more than willing as a blocker. He had a shitty quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being one of the better tight ends if not the best in this class.’
There are concerns about his size and his blocking mechanics, but his upside in the receiving game overshadow those worries.
“Runs excellent routes and has excellent hands. Great feel. Will be a play-making tight end. That offense was terrible, but you can tell he is a good athlete. He’s a starter based on what’s playing in the league, for sure.”
DB Brian Branch
Branch was considered the top safety in this class by a large margin, but according to McGinn’s sources, he was a long-shot to get drafted in the first round, unlike the public perception of him.
“Is he too slow for nickel, and can he communicate to be a safety?” one scout said. “That’s got to be the key. He’s a great football player but he has a few warts on him. He can’t cover for very long (from the slot).”
Many brought up Branch’s average athletic numbers, but another scout said that doesn’t show up on the field.
“He doesn’t fit the profile of an elite athlete because his numbers are pretty pedestrian. But the thing that sets him apart is just the instincts. His movements are much more decisive when he’s on the field. He sees things quicker.”
QB Hendon Hooker
The fifth-best quarterback, per McGinn’s sources, Hooker was widely praised for his smarts, and at least one source believed him to be a first-round talent.
“Should be drafted in the first round. The reason you’d draft him in the first is to get the fifth-year option, which is smart because he’s injured. Throws a precise pass. He can throw the deep ball. Really good decision-maker. Great kid.”
Another thinks he’s a solid starter in this league on the level of Teddy Bridgewater.
“Just poised, got command. He’s accurate, got touch. His arm is good. He’s a good enough athlete. Little awkward the way he runs. He can get out of trouble. He’s better than them (Richardson, Levis). He’s a better football mind than Stroud. By no means is this dude a franchise-maker. He’s going to be a solid starter.”
The biggest concern, as many have said, is projecting how he’ll develop coming out of an overly-simple offense at Tennessee.
“That offense is hard to project players out of. There will be a big learning curve as far as reading progressions.”
DT Brodric Martin
Martin didn’t make McGinn’s list of top-15 defensive tackles.. However, he did get an honorable mention in the “unsung hero” section. One scout saying, “He’s a sleeper. He’s tough and he’s athletic.”
Note: Lions fifth-round pick OL Colby Sorsdal and seventh-round pick WR Antoine Green did not make McGinn’s lists.