Lions 2023 Draft: Unveiling Final Grades for Detroit’s Major New Class

Hendon Hooker

Getty Hendon Hooker throws a pass for Tennessee in 2022.

The Detroit Lions have finished off their 2023 NFL draft, and have done plenty of damage toward helping them to rebuild their roster for the future.

That future seems to be now after a solid 9-8 finish to the 2022 season, and lots of momentum during the early portion of free agency. Now, with a fresh crop of talented players, the Lions have continued that momentum pushing toward the rest of the offseason workout period ahead of training camp.

How should Detroit’s eight player class be graded individually and as a whole? Here’s a look at how well the team did after coming into the offseason with loads of draft capital at their disposal.

Round One, Pick Number 12 – Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama RB


If there’s only one question about this move, it’s whether or not running back is a true value in the first-round anymore. The Lions clearly don’t care, and it’s easy to see why with a player like Jahmyr Gibbs.

The youngster was one of the most exciting running backs in college at Alabama, and has plenty of big plays to his credit after he transferred there. He offers speed as well as solid position versatility being able to catch the ball well and split out wide.

As a whole, Gibbs put up 2,132 yards on the ground with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 103 passes for 1,212 yards and eight receiving scores. That proves what a dynamic playmaker he could be for a team like Detroit that is searching for offensive explosion.

Gibbs should be able to provide that explosion pretty quickly, and serve as a major asset for Detroit’s 2023 offense. For that reason, it’s a win.

Round One, Pick Number 18 – Jack Campbell, Iowa LB


The other pick many folks would have dubbed a reach, Jack Campbell joins the Lions as a top culture fit given he is a no-frills, hard-hitting football playing linebacker.

While it might be odd to see a linebacker drafted so high, players like Campbell don’t often come around at the position, either. That could make this a very brilliant selection when all is said and done, and the grade reflects it.

At Iowa, Campbell was a Consensus All-American as well as a First-Team All-American. He was also the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Statistically, Campbell was just as stout. He posted 299 tackles, three sacks, five interceptions and 12.5 tackles-for loss. He also had three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries to his credit during his time in school.

Campbell will fortify a major spot of need on the field, and is very athletic, something which should help Detroit’s defense which ranked 32nd in the NFL in 2022.

Round Two, Pick Number 34 – Sam LaPorta, Iowa TE


A team can rarely go wrong with an Iowa tight end given they’ve produced plenty of elite talents through the years like Dallas Clark, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle and Noah Fant. Matt LaPorta may well be next in line given the way he can make plays fluidly.

The tight end isn’t a prolific college pass catcher, having hauled in just five touchdowns and 1,786 yards in his career. He is gritty and tough as the tape shows, however.

Detroit went with LaPorta over other names on the board like Michael Mayer and Luke Musgrave, but that should be of little concern to Lions fans. He’s the kind of player that can develop as a blocker while giving the team solid pass catching instincts immediately.

Round Two, Pick Number 45 – Brian Branch, Alabama DB


There’s simply no need to over-analyze this selection for Detroit. Landing Brian Branch in the second-round is a heist for the team relative to the talent and leadership he routinely displays. As a result, it gets a perfect score.

Branch had fantastic numbers in three seasons of work, putting up 172 total tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and 23 passes defended. He is very athletic and has solid closing speed, which he always showed when he was on the field for the Crimson Tide.

Branch was voted a second-team AP All-American as well as a second-team All-SEC player for Nick Saban and his defense.

In Detroit, he will be a major chess piece on the back end, and another weapon for Aaron Glenn.

Round Three, Pick Number 68 – Hendon Hooker, Tennessee QB


Much like the Branch pick, landing quarterback Hendon Hooker was another big win for the Lions in the third-round of the draft, both in terms of talent and leadership. Instead of reaching for a top player, the Lions can now develop Hooker.

Statistically, Hooker was solid, putting up 8,974 yards in his career and 80 passing touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He also added 2,079 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground, proving his dual-threat impact.

Detroit finally has a quarterback that they can develop behind their starter, and this move does not mean Jared Goff is on the move soon. Hooker can take his time coming off his ACL injury and learn the ropes. There will be no pressure on him to play, which could help him take off once he learns the scheme.

Round Three, Pick Number 96 – Brodric Martin, Western Kentucky DT


Brodric Martin might come low on name recognition for fans given he played for Western Kentucky, but he has traits that simply cannot be taught, which is size. At 6’5″ and 330 pounds, Martin is a wide body that can occupy space up front, and may contribute to an improved Detroit run defense quickly.

Since 2021, Martin has played in 26 total games, and has managed to contribute 62 total tackles to the Western Kentucky cause. He’s piled up six tackles for-loss as well as four sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

So far, the Lions have not missed much on their defensive line evaluations given the addition of players like Alim McNeill in the draft as well as free agents like John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs in the past. Martin might need to get into an NFL training program to fine tune, but when he does develop, he could pack a punch.

Round Five, Pick Number 152 – Colby Sorsdal, William & Mary OL


Coming into the draft, it felt as if the Lions were going to add a piece to their offensive line. Perhaps the only knock on Colby Sorsdal is that a player at his position group wasn’t added a bit sooner.

Still, the Lions likely didn’t need anything more than a developmental player with some major upside, and Sorsdal fits the bill in terms of that in a big way. He was one of the best run blockers in FCS, and as many contend, could have starter potential for the team moving forward.

Sorsdal will now take his time to learn the scheme and develop, but he has some solid traits on tape, and could be a plus player that the team can rely on closer to 2024 or 2025. That’s good news as it relates to keeping their offensive line fresh and elite.

Round Seven, Pick Number 219 – Antoine Green, UNC WR


Seventh-round picks are often crapshoots, but Antoine Green offers the Lions a bit of upside at a key position late in the draft. That helps to push this to a very solid grade. He’s a 6’2″ wideout that can get down the field fast given 4.46 speed.

In college, Green had some nice numbers, posting 1,710 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air in a five-year career. While he dealt with injuries, when he did see the field, he was pretty dynamic as a field stretcher.

Given the situation in Detroit with Jameson Williams, Green could have a shot to win a job with a solid training camp. If he’s able to do that, there’s no telling how the Lions may want to use him as a rookie. He could offer the team some immediate help down the field with the deep ball.

Lions’ Final 2023 Draft Grade


While some will have plenty of qualms about the position value in the first-round, those voices have quieted down considerably following Detroit’s solid day two, which could go down in history if all of the players pan out to their full potential.

Not only did the Lions add an elite running back to the mix that will boost their offense, they solved a major hole at linebacker with one of the most athletic players in the draft. From there, the team was able to land a tight end that offers major pass-catching upside, while scoring with Branch, a versatile defensive back that is a big culture fit.

Detroit sacrificed plenty of picks on day three to move up for Martin, but if he clogs the leaky running lanes the Lions had in 2022, it will have been worth it. Sorsdal is a solid developmental guard with some starter upside, and Green is a good deep threat.

It’s hard not to love this class. On paper, it looks like another major win for Holmes and the Lions based on what most of these players figure to offer the roster in 2023.

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