2023 NFL Draft: Evaluating all 8 Detroit Lions picks

2023 NFL Draft: Evaluating all 8 Detroit Lions picks

Since his arrival, 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 littered with talent and players who immediately contributed as rookies.

This year feels a little different as the Lions are in a position where they’ve had a successful season and are ready to make some serious noise. To make that next step they’ll need another big year from their freshmen, so let’s take a look at how Holmes and co. fared with their third full draft class:

First round (12): RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama)

In 2020, I was pretty strict about choosing D’Andre Swift, gave him the grade ‘D’ at the time. I have similar feelings about this election, but the good news is… Brad Holmes isn’t Bob Quinn and Jahmyr Gibbs is a much better prospect when he graduates than Swift was.

Speaking of Swift, the writing was on the wall for him after that pick as the Lions found their new passing weapon. On the third day of the draft, the Lions decided to send Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a seventh-round pick swap and a fourth-round pick in 2025.

With Gibbs selected, David Montgomery will likely still carry the burden as the Lions’ “workhorse,” and the Lions might limit Gibbs’ carries because he’s on the smaller side, but I still imagine he might evolved into a bell cow in the future, if that’s what the lions want.

Gibbs can also potentially add value by lining up as a wide receiver for the Lions, which hopefully he will since the Lions put out such a high pick for him. This pick will get a low note from me because I really don’t like drafting a defender that high, but don’t confuse that with not liking the player. If the Lions actually plan to use Gibbs as a receiver, that would boost the grade, but we’ve seen teams say so and haven’t delivered before.

Role: Starter (will play its role as an offensive weapon and receive starter-level touches split between running and passing play)
Grade: D+

First round (18): LB Jack Campbell (Iowa)

That pick was probably even more shocking to me than the Gibbs pick, not because Campbell was about 20 slots higher than most projected him to be, but because the Lions even wanted to improve linebacker position with an early round first pick.

All year many (including me) had speculated that the Lions were happy with what they had as a linebacker and that they didn’t value the position too much. On Thursday, Brad Holmes basically said, “Fuck what you think and screw up your position value” and found an opportunity to snap his top draft linebacker with a premium pick. His villain arc is well underway.

As with the Gibbs pick, I don’t like the value here, but I still think this is an underrated pick for a number of reasons. First, it improves both linebacker positions in just one move. With Campbell likely taking on the MIKE position, that would move Anzalone to the WILL role, which I think he’s better suited for anyway. Second, 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 instinct really catches my eye and I’m amazed at how consistently he gets his landmarks, always seemingly in perfect zone coverage position. I have questions about his ability at all in man marking as he hasn’t had many opportunities to demonstrate that ability. And while He tested as a top athlete at the combine harvester, this elitist overall athleticism is not really noticeable in the film. He doesn’t look as explosive or as fluid as someone who lined up the numbers he made.

Role: Starter (MIKE linebacker and later leader of defense)
Grade: C+

Second Round (34): TE Sam LaPorta (Iowa)

Early in Day 2, the Lions took another low value position, but this was actually a good place for it and it was a position where it was needed. There was a tight run immediately after the pick, so the Lions did a good job of getting their man knowing he wouldn’t be there at their next pick. A clever play by Brad Holmes.

LaPorta is a bit undersized as a tight end, but it’s becoming more common for teams to acquire the likes of LaPorta to create disagreements. He’ll be able to win against linebackers with his speed while being too tall to deal with an average slot CB/Safety. Where LaPorta could use some work is on his blocking, especially in the running game. According to the PFF, his run blocking grade in 2022 was 53.1.

Here’s an excerpt from Dane Brugler’s The Beast on LaPorta:

Though he’s quicker than fast as a distance runner, LaPorta makes himself available in the middle of the course because of his lower-body quickness and athletic fluidity. As a blocker, his functional strength and consistency needs improvement, but Iowa pushes his tight ends to the limit (LaPorta even took three snaps from the Wildcat) and scouts rave about his competitive demeanor. Overall, LaPorta is an average point-of-attack blocker and his lack of length hurts his success rate in competitive situations, but he plays with excellent quickness and soft-handed body rhythm as a pass catcher. He’s in the form of Austin Hooper and projects as a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2 on an NFL depth map.

Role: Starter (instantly becomes the Lions’ best TE target and can lead to mismatches in the passing game)
Grade B

Second Round (45): S. Brian Branch (Alabama)

This is a choice I would have been happy with in 12th or 18th overall. So you can imagine my excitement when the Lions took him at 45. Branch has been used primarily as a slot corner with the tide, and I think that’s going to be his best position. He’s moving forward in the NFL, but he’s a very versatile player, moving all the way through the secondary and even closer to the line of scrimmage.

The Lions are currently safe and on the slot corner, but they could use Branch as extra collateral in dime packages and he’ll be good insurance should they suffer injuries or decide not to CJ Gardner-Johnson after this season bring back. This is a home run pick.

Role: Role Player (As a beginner I don’t expect Branch to play a ton unless injuries occur. Eventual starter at Slot CB/Safety)
Rating: A+

Third Round (68): QB Hendon Hooker (Tennessee)

The Lions finally have their developmental QB behind Jared Goff. I like Hooker and I’m very glad they put him on top in the third round instead of the first round where some were projecting him. Once Hooker is fully recovered from his cruciate ligament injury, he will have a lot of work to do after playing a non-professional friendly with the Vols. That choice could mean the Lions opt not to bring in Teddy Bridgewater as a backup, which looked likely if they didn’t expand the position via the draft.

Hooker is already 25 years old, which — as well as the injury and college system — contributed to his fall, but he has some great tools to work with, like his impressive deep-ball accuracy and running skills.

Hooker is another high character type chosen by this regime. Just check out what Brad Holmes had to say about him:

“…And there were little things that kind of stuck out to me, you know, he scored a touchdown and instead of sitting on the bench with his headset on or talking to the coach box, he’s standing on the sidelines waiting to do his extra.” -Congratulate points team. Well, it’s the little things like that that show what kind of person he (is). Regardless of where he comes from and all that, he’s just a good footballer and if he wasn’t we wouldn’t have gotten him. He is a good man. He is smart. He’s very talented. He has had a unique journey. He is overcome. He just has to get well. I think we have the right situation for him where he can just sit back, develop, heal. But we are excited to see his positive side.”

Role: Development (backup QB once he learns the system. Eventual starter?)
Grade B

Third Round (96): DT Brodric Martin (Western Kentucky)

The Lions bagged 122, 139 and 168 to return to the third round for Martin, a mammoth nose tackle. According to the man himself, even back in the 70s, Holmes wanted to swap to get Martin. I have to hand it to him, Holmes’ determination to get “his man” is something else. When I first saw the quote I just laughed. This man is psychotic. I love it.

Martin will give the Lions some much-needed size and length on the defensive line. After the Panthers’ loss last year, which essentially kept them out of the playoffs, you just knew the Lions would devote some resources to shore up their running defense, and they did just that with this pick.

Role: Role Player (Reserve Nose Tackle)
Grade B

Fifth Round (152): OL Colby Sorsdal (William & Mary)

This was the only selection where I honestly had never heard of the selected player. I couldn’t find him on PFF or The Beast, but I was quickly reassured on Twitter by OL guru Duke Manyweather, who I trust deeply when it comes to offensive play.

After the selection I watched a couple of full W&M games on YouTube and Sorsdal definitely stood out and dominated the competition. The Lions needed some depth on the OL and although it took a little longer than expected, they got their man.

Role: Developmental (probably a better guard than tackle, gives the Lions some security on the inside)
Grade B

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 difficult to pick apart those picks as it’s too far fetched for those players to even make a big impact. If the selection doesn’t add up then it’s no big deal, if so then it’s a pleasant surprise. I like Green’s chances more than the typical seventh-rounder because the Lions have a long-term need for receiver and he could potentially make the team their sixth receiver.

Role: Development (has a good chance of making the roster as the Lions’ #6 WR and can play the role of X and Z receiver for the Lions)
Class: A

Overall grade: B

Although the Lions didn’t use their premium picks to draft players into premium positions, when you look at the draft as a whole, it turned out to be a really nice class. They went out and hired players who clearly fit their culture and addressed some big areas of need. Brian Branch’s pick is the best of all for me, and while I don’t like picking a running back as tall as the Lions, the pick makes a lot more sense in hindsight if they give Gibbs some receiver time. My trust goes to Brad Holmes.

Opinion poll

What grade would you give the Lions in the 2023 NFL draft class?

#NFL #Draft #Evaluating #Detroit #Lions #picks

Labriola on Day 3 of the NFL Draft

Labriola on Day 3 of the NFL Draft

universe today

A black hole ripped a star apart. The closest we’ve ever seen.