2023 NFL Draft Grades: Detroit Lions
What draft grades have the media given to the Detroit Lions? What are they saying about the Lions' 2023 draft haul?
NFL.com - Grade: C+
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
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+
PFF - Grade: B+
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+
USA Today - Grade: C-
The Ringer - Grade: B
Sporting News - Grade: A
Touchdown Wire - Grade: B-
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.
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