Detroit Lions NFL draft grades for 2023: They are actually better than you might think

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions survived another three-day draftapalooza, reeling in eight new players during the NFL draft 2023.

Brad Holmes, the team’s third-year general manager, made six trades in all, five while he was on the draft clock, to boost a roster and depth chart favored to win the NFC North crown.

Draft grades, taken with the morsel of fun they’re supposed to be, can be a useful evaluation of the process of a team’s draft with the information at the time.

The results? Well, we’ll give a fair hindsight evaluation of those three-plus years down the road.

Here’s how writers and pundits graded the Lions’ NFL draft class of 2023:

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USA TODAY’s Nate Davis

Grade: C-

The reason: “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.”

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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

Grade: B

The reason: “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. He can cover like a cornerback, and he’s not 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. … I still have a few questions about this Detroit defense, but Holmes’ Day 2 saved a C here.”

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The Ringer’s Danny Kelly

Grade: B

The reason: “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.”

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Grade: C+

The reason: “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. … 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.”

TONY GARCIA: Winners and losers from the Lions’ 2023 NFL draft

Pro Football Focus

Grade: B+

The reason: “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).”

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer

Grade: A

The reason: “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.”

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Trade grades: Lions B+*; Eagles C+

The reason: “The B+ grade above comes with just about the largest asterisk you can imagine. … If I were grading the entire chain of decisions — trading down from No. 6 to No. 12, selecting Gibbs there and then trading Swift, I’d give the entire ordeal an F. The selection of Gibbs was an awful misjudgment of positional value, comes with massive opportunity cost (the chance to draft a player worthy of the No. 12 overall pick) and was a reach for a player that would have likely been available later. All that being said: Once the Lions made the draft choice, to get a future fourth for Swift when he has just one year left on his contract is a good piece of business.”

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