The Detroit Lions made some eyebrow-raising selections over the course of the 2023 NFL Draft, which makes their review all the more fun. Although their selections drew a lot of criticism, they still brought in several impact players, as they had six picks in the first three rounds.
Throughout the 2023 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions added the following players:
- First Round, 12th Overall: Jahmyr Gibbs RB Alabama
- First Round, 18th Overall: Jack Campbell LB Iowa
- Second Round, 34th Overall: Sam LaPorta TE Iowa
- Second Round, 45th Overall: Brian Branch CB/S Alabama
- Third Round, 68th Overall: Hendon Hooker QB Tennessee
- Third Round, 96th Overall: Brodric Martin DT Western Kentucky
- Fifth Round, 152nd Overall: Colby Sorsdal OT William and Mary
- Seventh Round, 219th Overall: Antoine Green WR North Carolina
Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Draft Review Grade: 6.5/10
Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Draft Review: Was It Really That Bad?
Best Player: Brian Branch
With the Detroit Lions’ fourth selection, they selected Alabama DB Brian Branch with the 45th overall pick. This was very good value and caused many around the internet to point out that if you switched the order in which they picked players their draft looks better. Branch fell because slot corners aren’t valued super highly by NFL teams.
However, Branch plays that role incredibly well as he is a jack of all trades. In coverage, he plays with good leverage consistently putting himself in good positions in coverage, plus he has the closing speed to make plays on the ball when necessary. Branch is also an excellent run defender, so much so that it’s like having another linebacker on the field. He has great instincts against the run and is the best tackler in the entire draft.
S – Tracy Walker
S – C.J. Gardner Johnson
S – Kerby Joseph
S – Brian Branch
CB – Cam Sutton
CB – Emmanuel Moseley
CB – Jerry Jacobs pic.twitter.com/loSOOUZQsJ
— Natalie Sparbeck (@NatSparbeck) April 29, 2023
The Head-Scratcher: Brodric Martin
Both of Detroit’s first-round picks qualify as head-scratchers, but both Gibbs and Campbell will be impact players from day one. This makes trading up for Brodric Martin in the third round the biggest header-scratcher. The Lions gave up a fourth-rounder (122nd overall) and two fifth-rounders (139th and 168th overall) for the 96th overall pick to select Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin.
At 6-foot-5, 337 pounds his size against his conference USA is certainly quite apparent on tape and he has the potential to improve as a run defender and dominate leverage battles. However, Martin is unpolished at this stage of his career and, for that reason, many of the major ranking services had him outside of the top 150 player rankings. This includes PFF (163rd) NFL Draft Buzz (189th), NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board (235th), and Pro Football Network Industry consensus big board (260th).
The Surprise: Jahmyr Gibbs
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire first round was the Detroit Lions selecting Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall. Gibbs is a good running back who brings an intriguing skill set to the table for offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to utilize. He is phenomenal as a receiver, has home run speed, and good elusiveness. The issue with this selection is that a running back needs to be special to spend a first-round pick on the position, much less the 12th overall pick. The Detroit Lions could have had their choice of any receiver, tight end, almost any cornerback, and many more options at positions more valuable than running back.
The Steal: Brian Branch Again
As I mentioned earlier, the best pick in the 2023 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions was Brian Branch. He is one of the safest projections of any player to develop into at least a solid starting quality player at the next level in this draft. So, landing him in the second round is outstanding value and the highlight of the draft for them.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Jack Campbell
The Detroit Lions’ other first-round pick also received criticism, as they selected Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick. Although the positional value of selecting an off-ball linebacker in the first round is justified, the Lions are getting a likely Day 1 starter with this pick.
For starters, Campbell is a very good athlete as at 6-foot-4 ⅝, 249 pounds he runs a 4.65 40-yard dash (67th percentile for linebackers), 37 ½-inch vertical (84th percentile), 128-inch broad (94th percentile), and 6.74 3 cone drill (95th percentile). With his size, he matches up well against tight ends in coverage. As a run defender, he has good instincts and flies to the football as he had 50-plus stops in each of the last two seasons.
With their first of two second-round picks, the Lions took Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta with the 34th overall pick. LaPorta was the second tight end off the board in a talented class due to his receiving abilities and upside as an athlete. He wins as a separator and is dangerous after the catch. LaPorta was a four-year contributor to the Hawkeyes offense and led the team in receiving over the past two seasons. He has some improvements to make as a blocker, but ultimately the impact he projects to make as a receiver makes this good value in the second round.
The Lions also made headlines with their first of two third-round picks when they selected Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. Goff will be the starter for the foreseeable future, but the Lions can now look to develop Hooker behind him. Hooker fell to the third round for a variety of reasons. This includes him being an old prospect at 25 years old, he’s coming off an ACL injury, and Tennessee’s offense is very hard to project quarterbacks to the NFL as he often didn’t have to make full-field reads. Hooker is however an accurate quarterback with good athleticism who has produced very well in the best conference in college football.
After trading up for Brodric Martin in the third round, the Lions were left with just two selections on Day 3. They used a fifth-round pick on William & Mary offensive tackle Colby Sorsdal. He’s a potential sleeper in this class and someone I expect will make the Lions roster. His competition level is low in the Colonial Conference at William & Mary, but he was straight up a dominant force. His combination of size and power overwhelmed defenders, especially in the run game. He won’t be able to dominate with size and power in the NFL but he has the physical tools to be at least a quality backup and depth piece for the Lions, making this solid value in the fifth round.
In the seventh round, the Lions added North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green. He was productive last season for the Tar Heels as he had 798 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. At nearly 6-foot-2, 199 pounds with a 4.47 40-yard dash he utilizes his size and speed to his advantage to win vertically and come down with contested catches downfield. This late in the draft, it’s unlikely to find starters, but Green is someone with a chance to make the Lions roster as a backup receiver and special teamer.
Main Photo: Kirthmon Dozier – USA Today Sports