Sunday, April 30, 2023

Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Detroit Lions? What are they saying about the Lions' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: C+

The Lions made two surprising picks in the first round, though Gibbs can be explosive and Campbell will be an immediate contributor on defense. Picking LaPorta to replace the traded T.J. Hockenson over Michael Mayer and Luke Musgrave was interesting. Trading up for Branch and Hooker were both wise moves, while trading multiple picks to get a nice athlete in Martin seemed a bit impatient.

Unsurprisingly, after the Gibbs pick, the Lions moved on from former second-round pick D'Andre Swift for a swap of seventh-rounders with the Eagles and a 2025 fourth-round pick. They only had two picks on Day 3 after trades, though I liked Sorsdal as a top-150 selection moving from tackle to guard in the NFL and Green could become a deep threat in time.

ESPN - Grade: B

For the past couple of mock drafts that I did, as I studied depth charts and free agent and trade additions, I found it really hard to identify clear needs for the Lions. That's because general manager Brad Holmes has done an outstanding job of filling holes and putting together a roster that is the NFC North favorite in 2023. In my two-round mock -- which came out just before Detroit dealt cornerback Jeff Okudah -- I gave this team a luxury pick at No. 18, with top running back Bijan Robinson still on the board. With the pick they got from the Rams at No. 6, though, I thought the Lions needed to grab an impact defensive lineman. So how did they fare?

Let's say there were mixed results, as I wrote Thursday night. They traded down from No. 6 to No. 12, but the reached for running back Jahmyr Gibbs there. While I like Gibbs' game, this is too high. Even Gibbs was shocked at being taken so early. At No. 18, the Lions did what great teams don't do, and that's reach for a need. Off-ball linebacker Jack Campbell is No. 58 overall on my Big Board and is ranked third at the position. There were better players available at both spots. I thought an edge rusher made more sense.

They flipped the script in Rounds 2 and 3, however, and I thought they had a really nice Friday. Tight end Sam LaPorta (34) is going to help as a pass-catcher as a rookie, while Brian Branch (45) is my top-ranked safety. Branch can cover like a cornerback, and he isn't afraid to tackle. I would have been harsher on a team taking quarterback Hendon Hooker (68) in Round 1, but Detroit was able to land him at the top of Round 3. I was surprised he dropped that far. Hooker has some holes in his game, but this is good value, even if he never develops into a high-end starting quarterback. The strange thing is he's only three years younger than starter Jared Goff, who just wrapped up Year 7 in the NFL.

I mentioned defensive end as a need, and the Lions didn't address it at all in this class; they had just two Day 3 picks. Will they go after veteran free agents in May instead? They at least were able to get something for 2020 second-rounder D'Andre Swift, who was traded to the Eagles on Saturday; the Gibbs pick made him expendable.

I still have a few questions about this Detroit defense, but Holmes' Day 2 saved a C here.

SI - Grade: C+

The Lions opened with three consecutive head-scratching picks. Instead of prioritizing the defense, the Lions reached for Gibbs, and later traded D'Andre Swift to the Eagles to make room for him in the crowded backfield. Detroit might regret the trade if they face the Eagles in the postseason. Coach Dan Campbell wants a physical team, but the Lions passed on tight end Michael Mayer, who's probably a better blocker than LaPorta. Jack Campbell might have been available in the second round, but he'll help the Lions' defense because of his size and speed. Detroit, however, was smart to pounce on Hooker on Day 2 to possibly become the quarterback of the future.

PFF - Grade: B+

Day 1: Gibbs is the second-ranked running back on the PFF big board, but he is also just the 34th-ranked prospect. Viewed as a potential late first-round pick, this is a big reach with the 12th overall pick. He can make an impact in the passing game, though, as he hauled in 103 passes for 1,215 receiving yards over the past three seasons.

Campbell is the top linebacker on the PFF big board but was just 39th overall. It's not a good value pick, but he produced a 91.9 PFF grade, which led all linebackers. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, he has impressive size and NFL-caliber range.

Day 2: Detroit shocks the football world once again by taking tight end Sam LaPorta over Notre Dame's Michael Mayer at Pick 34. The Iowa product plays an incredibly physical game, something head coach Dan Campbell covets at every position. LaPorta is a high-quality athlete and an after-the-catch weapon. His 368 yards after the catch and 20 missed tackles forced were both top-three marks among FBS tight ends in 2022.

The Lions have made several big "reaches" already in this draft based on PFF and consensus big boards, but they get one of the better values here with Branch. He's the best nickel prospect in this draft class and one of the best tackling defensive backs since PFF began tracking college football in 2014 (2% missed tackle rate).

Lions QB Jared Goff has two years remaining on his contract, so the Lions are wise to draft a potential successor behind him. Hooker fell in the draft after an unfortunate ACL tear at the end of the 2022 season that took him out of a Heisman race, but he earned a 93.4 passing grade on deep throws and is great in a clean pocket. If he can improve under pressure once healthy, he could prove to be a great pick.

The 163rd overall player on the PFF big board, this is a bit of a reach for the Lions, but Martin is a big player who can fill a role in the middle of their defensive line at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds. Despite his size, he graded out better as a pass-rusher than a run defender in college and won 9.4% of his pass-rushing snaps in 2022.

Green brings size at 6-foot-2 and earned a 75.1 receiving grade in 2022 with 2.34 yards per route run. Detroit is smart to continue to add depth at receiver, and Green's 18.1-yard average depth of target could make him a good student for veteran Marvin Jones Jr. to take under his wing as the downfield contested catch option in Detroit.

Fox Sports - Grade: B+

If you don't look at where each prospect was taken, the draft in totality was solid. First pick Jahmyr Gibbs was a head scratcher until the team traded away D'Andre Swift on Saturday. The team also filled needs in the secondary and tight end with players who should contribute right away, especially Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta. Quarterback Hendon Hooker was a sneaky good value in the third round. He'll be under no pressure to start right away and the Lions can figure out how much longer they want to be tied to Jared Goff over the next couple seasons.

USA Today - Grade: C-

Really mixed bag. Hard not to view LB Jack Campbell as anything but a reach, even if GM Brad Holmes might have been right to scoop up fellow first-round RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 given the general lack of depth in this draft. At No. 34, worth wondering if Sam LaPorta was the optimal tight end to take, though DB Brian Branch was a slam dunk 11 spots later. And can't argue with a third-round payout on QB Hendon Hooker, who's at least a year away from competing for Jared Goff's job. Fifth-round OL Colby Sorsdal out of William & Mary could provide a sweet ROI.

The Ringer - Grade: B

The Lions surprised everyone when they reached pretty dramatically for non-premium positions in Round 1, taking Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs at no. 12 and Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at no. 18. They did redeem themselves pretty thoroughly over the final two days, though, adding a playmaking, YAC-creating tight end in Iowa's Sam LaPorta, a highly instinctive defensive back in Alabama's Brian Branch, and a developmental backup quarterback in Tennessee's Hendon Hooker. Hooker, who is recovering from a torn ACL, has the skill set to develop into a starter down the line. It was a real journey following Detroit's draft, but if the team had shuffled the order in which they took these guys (going Branch> Gibbs > LaPorta > Campbell with their four picks in the first two rounds) we probably wouldn't have thought twice about their class.

Sporting News - Grade: A

There's a tendency to knock the Lions for Brad Holmes, their GM, getting a little aggressive and perhaps over-drafting Gibbs and Campbell a little in the first round. But Detroit is in "win big" now mode and those players will have massive immediate impact, much like Aidan Hutchinson. LaPorta and Branch also were great values to fill two more voids. Getting Hooker to stash behind Jared Goff was gravy. Detroit is a lot more than strong NFC North favorite in 2023.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B-

There is the Detroit Lions' concept of positional value, and there is everybody else's. They proved that with the first-round picks of Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell. Running backs and linebackers might not matter to other teams, but they do to these guys. My only issue is that I had borderline second-round grades on each player, and these aren't the kinds of positions where other teams are generally trading up to grab them.

In any event, Detroit's second round saved their draft. Brian Branch is a do-it-all defensive back who projects well everywhere from slot to safety, and I can't wait to see how defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn deploys him, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Kerby Joseph. And Sam LaPorta will do a lot more in Ben Johnson's offense than he was able to in Iowa's "three yards and a cloud of meh" system.

The Hendon Hooker and Brodric Martin picks (Martin is a massive dude who can also get after the quarterback) are cool, and the Hooker pick may turn out to be one of the steals of this draft. But that first round is tough to overcome.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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