Former Elite NFL GM Praises Lions’ Draft: ‘Detroit Really Jumped Out’

Bill Polian

Getty Bill Polian before the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, Texas.

The Detroit Lions put the finishing touches on the 2023 NFL draft on Saturday, April 29, and managed to do a solid job rounding out a deep class.

Now that the drafting is done, some reactions can begin to flow in for the Lions based on what the team has done. Already, based on a wild first day as well as a solid day two, the opinions have been all over the board as it relates to the team.

One person who is a major believer in what Detroit did, though, is former Super Bowl winning general manager Bill Polian. Polian was a six-time NFL Executive of the Year and claimed Super Bowl 41 with the Indianapolis Colts. He helped build contenders with the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers as well.

To Polian, the Lions may have done the best out of any team in the draft, and he included him as one of four teams that stood out to him for their work this year in a piece for The 33rd Team. As he wrote, the team leveraged the Matthew Stafford trade well, and added talented players in 2023 no matter where they were drafted.

“The Detroit Lions did a remarkable job. They’re still getting the payoff from trading quarterback Matthew Stafford two years ago in terms of draft capital. They also got starting quarterback Jared Goff in the deal, and he has performed well for them. The Lions did as good a job as anybody getting good players. Gibbs, Campbell, LaPorta and Branch all should contribute as rookies,” Polian wrote.

Specifically, while Polian wrote that while he typically avoids giving out designations as the best, he does think the Lions draft jumped out to him as exceptional this year, and certainly a top-tier effort.

“If I had to rate a team as No. 1, something I don’t like doing because you don’t know what this draft is going to look like for four years, Detroit really jumped out,” he wrote.

That’s high praise for the Lions, who will watch and see if they can get the kind of return on investment that Polian is talking about from their youngsters immediately.

Mel Kiper Gives Lions Solid Draft Grade

To start the draft, Mel Kiper wasn’t completely sure what the Lions were doing in adding Gibbs and Campbell in the first-round. Eventually, while watching the second and third-round play out, Kiper came around to the class.

In his wrap-up insider piece, Kiper gave the Lions a solid ‘B’ grade, and was most appreciative of what the Lions did Friday, landing tight end Sam LaPorta, safety Brian Branch and quarterback Hendon Hooker.

“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,” Kiper wrote in the piece.

If there was a flaw for Kiper, it was the fact that the Lions didn’t add a defensive lineman to the mix. Even such, he liked the fact that they were able to swing the D’Andre Swift trade, and have a good enough day two to prevent a much lower class grade overall.

“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.

In the end, considering the early frustration with what the Lions were doing on Thursday night, the team being able to rescue a ‘B’ from a pundit like Kiper is a very good outcome, indeed.

Lions 2023 NFL Draft Recap

Coming into this year’s draft, the Lions had the potential to do damage, because the team started with four picks in the first two rounds of the draft, and had 10 selections overall.

On the first day of the draft, the Lions added explosive Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th pick after a trade down as well as Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell. In the immediate aftermath, the team was questioned for the moves relative to where the players were ranked, but Holmes defended the selections effectively.

During day two, the Lions quickly struck with pick 34, adding the gritty LaPorta, a player that many see as one of the next top tight ends in the league. Detroit would trade up modestly from pick 48 to 45 for Branch, a top defensive back with strong character. In the third-round, Detroit traded back from pick 55 and then pick 63 to 68. When there, they nabbed Hooker, their quarterback of the future.

By day three, the Lions didn’t have many picks to work with, but they did add a developmental lineman in Colby Sorsdal in the fifth-round at pick 152. The team closed down the draft by nabbing wideout Antoine Green at pick 219.

While grades might be all over the place for such a draft, at the very least, a respected name like Polian has given it his stamp of approval.

Read More