Since arriving, general manager Brad Holmes has done a phenomenal job laying the groundwork and adding talent through the draft. Last year’s Detroit Lions rookie class was filled with talent and players who immediately contributed as rookies.
This year is a little different, as the Lions are in a position where they’re coming off a winning season and ready to make some noise. To take the next step, they’re going to need another big year from their rookies, so let’s see how Holmes and company did with their third full draft class:
First round (12): RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama)
In 2020, I was pretty hard on choosing D’Andre Swift, giving it a ‘D’ grade at the time. I have similar feelings about this pick, but the good news is…Brad Holmes isn’t Bob Quinn and Jahmyr Gibbs is a much better prospect out of college than Swift.
Speaking of Swift, the writing was on the wall for him after that pick, as the Lions found their new passing game weapon. On Day 3 of the draft, the Lions decided to trade Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a seventh-round pick trade and a fourth-round pick in 2025.
With Gibbs selected, David Montgomery is likely to continue to carry the load as the Lions’ ‘workhorse’, and the Lions could limit Gibbs’ ranges as he is smaller, but I can still see him transforming potentially into a Bell Cow in the future, if that’s what the Lions want.
Gibbs can also potentially add more value by lining up as a wide receiver for the Lions, which hopefully is the case since the Lions spent such a pick on him. This pick will get a low rating from me, as I really don’t like drafting such a high back, but don’t confuse that with me disliking the player. If the Lions actually plan to use Gibbs as a receiver, that would up the rating, but we’ve seen teams say so and not deliver it before.
Role: Starter (will act as an offensive weapon and get starter level hits split between running and passing play)
First round (18): LB Jack Campbell (Iowa)
This pick was probably even more shocking to me than Gibbs’ pick, not because Campbell rose about 20 pitches higher than most were projecting, but because the Lions wanted to even improve the linebacker position with a first round. choose first.
All year, many (myself included) had speculated that the Lions were fine with what they had at linebacker and didn’t like the position all that much. On Thursday, Brad Holmes basically said “live what you think and live your positional value” and found an opportunity to nab his best linebacker in the draft with a premium pick. His villain arc is in full swing.
Like the Gibbs pick, I don’t like the value here, but I still think it’s an underrated pick for several reasons. First, he improves both linebacker positions in one move. With Campbell likely to take over MIKE’s position, this would move Anzalone into the role of WILL, which I think he is better suited for anyway. And two, Campbell fits the identity of this team perfectly. He’s a smart player and a two-time captain, and we’ll likely see him become a leader in this defense sooner rather than later.
I think Campbell is a very good player. His zone coverage instincts really stand out for me, and I’m amazed at how he consistently hits his landmarks, always seemingly in perfect position in zone coverage. I wonder if he is able to cover the men, because he hasn’t had many chances to show this ability. And while he tested as an elite athlete at the combine, that the elite overall athletics don’t really stand out on film. He doesn’t look as explosive or as fluid as someone who put the numbers he did.
Role: Starter (MIKE’s linebacker and eventual leader of the defense)
Second round (34): TE Sam LaPorta (Iowa)
To start Day 2, the Lions took another low value position, but it was actually a good place to do it and it was in a position of need. Immediately after the pick, there was a run on tight ends, so the Lions did a good job of getting their guy, knowing he wouldn’t be there on their next pick. A clever piece by Brad Holmes.
LaPorta is a bit undersized as a tight end, but it’s becoming more and more common for teams to acquire guys like LaPorta to create mismatches. He will be able to win with his speed against linebackers while being too big for your average CB/safety slot to handle. Where LaPorta could still use some work is his blocking, especially in the running game. According to PFF, his run blocking rating in 2022 was 53.1.
Here is an excerpt from “The Beast” by Dane Brugler on LaPorta:
Despite being faster than quick as a road runner, LaPorta makes himself available mid-race due to his lower-body quickness and athletic fluidity. As a blocker, his functional strength and consistency need to improve, but Iowa asks his tight ends to do it all (LaPorta even took three snaps of the wildcat) and scouts rave about his competitive demeanor. Overall, LaPorta is an average offensive point blocker and his lack of length hurts his success rate in contested situations, but he plays with exceptional speed and body rhythm with soft hands as a pass catcher . He’s in the Austin Hooper mold and projects as a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2 on an NFL depth chart.
Role: Starter (immediately becomes the Lions’ primary TE target and can create lags in the passing game)
Second round (45): S Brian Branch (Alabama)
It’s a pick I would have been happy with at 12th or 18th overall, so you can imagine my excitement when the Lions took him at 45. Branch was mostly used as a lunging corner with the Tide and I think that will be his best position moving forward in the NFL, but he’s a very versatile player who can line up all the way through high school and even closer to the line of scrimmage.
The Lions are currently safe and on the corner of the slots, but they could use Branch as extra safety in the ten-cent packages and he will be good insurance in case they get hurt or decide not to bring CJ Gardner-Johnson back. after this season. It’s a home run.
Role: Role Player (As a rookie, I don’t expect Branch to play a ton unless injuries occur. Eventual starter at CB slot/safety)
Third round (68): QB Hendon Hooker (Tennessee)
The Lions finally got their developmental QB behind Jared Goff. I like Hooker and I’m very happy that they put him in the lead for the third round, instead of the first round where some expected. Once Hooker is fully healthy after recovering from his torn ACL injury, he will have a lot of work to do after an unprofessional friendly attack with the Vols. The pick could mean the Lions opting out of bringing in Teddy Bridgewater as their replacement, which seemed likely if they didn’t add to the position via the draft.
Hooker is already 25, which, along with injuries and the college system, played a part in his downfall, but he has great tools to work with, like his impressive deep ball accuracy and running ability.
Hooker is yet another high character guy to be selected by this scheme. Take a look at what Brad Holmes had to say about him:
“…And there were little things that kind of stuck with me, you know, he was scoring a touchdown, and instead of him being on the bench with the helmet or talking to the coach in the box, he’s standing on the sideline waiting to congratulate his team on extra points. So it’s little things like that, that show what kind of person he (is). Regardless of his background and everything that, he’s just a good football player and if he wasn’t, we wouldn’t have acquired him. He’s a good person. He’s smart. He’s very talented. He’s had a career unique. He’s defeated. He just needs to get healthy. I believe we have the right situation for him, where he can just sit back, grow, get healthy. But we’re thrilled with his advantage. .
Role: Development (Backup QB once he learned the system. Possible starter?)
Third round (96): DT Brodric Martin (Western Kentucky)
The grouped Lions pick 122, 139 and 168 to come back in the third round for Martin, a mammoth nose tackle. According to the man himself, Holmes was even looking to trade as early as the 70s to get Martin. I have to hand it to him, Holmes’ determination to have “his man” is something else. When I first saw this quote, I just laughed. This man is psychotic. I love it.
Martin will give the Lions some much-needed height and length on the defensive line. After the Panthers’ loss last year that basically kept them out of the playoffs, you just knew the Lions would be spending resources trying to beef up their run defense, and that’s what they did. made with this choice.
Role: Role player (reserve nose tackle)
Fifth round (152): OL Colby Sorsdal (William & Mary)
It was the only pick where I had honestly never heard of the selected player. Couldn’t find him on PFF or The Beast, but I was quickly put at ease by OL guru Duke Manyweather on Twitter, whom I trust when it comes to offensive line play.
After the pick I went to watch some full W&M matches on YouTube and Sorsdal definitely stood out and dominated the competition. The Lions needed depth on OL and even if it took a little longer than expected, they got their guy.
Role: Development (probably better guard than tackle, gives Lions some confidence inside)
Seventh round (219): WR Antoine Green (North Carolina)
The Lions finally found additional competition for the X receiver role. Once you get to the later rounds, it’s really hard to separate those picks because it’s hard for those players to make a big impact in the first place. If the choice doesn’t work out, that’s okay, if it does, it’s a pleasant surprise. I like Green’s chances more than your typical seventh-rounder because the Lions have a long-term need for a receiver and he could potentially make the team their sixth receiver.
Role: Development (has a good chance of making the roster as the No. 6 Lions WR and can play X and Z receiver for the Lions)
Overall rating: B
Although the Lions didn’t use their premium picks to sign players to premium positions, when you look at the draft as a whole, it turned out to be a very nice class. They’ve gone out and drafted players who clearly fit their culture and have met a big need. Brian Branch’s pick is the best of the bunch for me, and while I don’t like picking a running back as high as the Lions, if they give Gibbs time as a receiver, the pick has a lot more. meaning with hindsight. My trust is in Brad Holmes.
How would you rate the Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft class?
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