Last week, we saw the national media start to slide in the Detroit Lions’ favor when it came to their polarizing draft class. A class that drew some heavy criticism early—mostly due to their perceived “reaches” and disregard for positional value—was starting to get some praise from national analysts late last week.
Interestingly enough, though, the Lions draft class doesn’t appear to have been drawing much, if any, criticism from inside league circles.
In an article for ESPN, reporter Jeremy Fowler dropped “key intel” for all 32 teams regarding their draft, and it appears the Lions’ haul got some rave reviews from both league executives and NFL scouts.
Here’s one interesting quote Fowler offered from an anonymous NFC executive:
“They said the hell with (positional) value and just took good football players. That guy [Jahmyr Gibbs] is a player. When they tee it up on Sunday, I don’t think anyone will care where he was taken. And those players very much fit Dan Campbell’s toughness approach.”
Obviously, the Gibbs selection was one of the more surprising picks on Day 1 of the NFL Draft among fans and media. There were long conversations as to whether Bijan Robinson was worthy of a top-15 pick, and for Gibbs—the second running back off the board—to go 12th overall was not expected by most.
However, as more information comes out, it’s clear that the league was higher on Gibbs than the media. Take note from the Detroit Free Press regarding Tashard Choice, Gibbs’ positional coach back at Georgia Tech:
Choice, who coached both Robinson and Gibbs, said he knows of six NFL running backs coaches who were ticked the Lions took Gibbs at 12 because they thought their teams had a chance to land him later in Round 1.
Fowler offered one more quote from a league insider. This one is regarding the Lions’ second-round pick Sam LaPorta. While the Lions drafting a tight end wasn’t a complete surprise, many didn’t expect LaPorta to go before other available players at that position. Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, and Georgia’s Darnell Washington were all available at the Lions’ pick, but Detroit picked LaPorta over all of them.
One anonymous scout defended the choice.
“He can play multiple spots, he’s smart and he’s faster than [Michael Mayer],” they said.
Overall, Fowler heard from “several NFL execs who loved Detroit’s draft, which felt like a ‘2001 throwback.’”
Obviously, the only thing that matters is results, but it is interesting to hear that the internal conversation about the Lions draft may be drastically different than the public perception.