The Detroit Lions finished the 2023 NFL Draft with a pair of first and second round picks to fill immediate needs on both the offensive and defensive side.

The Detroit Lions finished the 2023 NFL Draft with a pair of first and second round picks to fill immediate needs on both the offensive and defensive side.

Restore the roar? Lions draft picks leave fans with questions

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Metro | Published May 8, 2023


DETROIT — From a positive perspective, the Detroit Lions offseason has been unorthodox in comparison to the team’s traditional free agency and draft storylines.

A franchise that has been long doomed to sadness and despair finally took a breath of fresh air and started to smell the flowers with the team’s ascent toward the end of the 2022 season.

The Lions possess a new culture with new expectations under head coach Dan Campbell, and everything was trending upward as momentum. Fan confidence is arguably at an all-time high — that was, until 2022 first-round draft pick and wide receiver Jameson Williams was suspended for the first six games of the 2023 season for a violation of the NFL’s gambling policy.

Lions fans couldn’t have one offseason to finally enjoy their team with zero interruptions, but any negative attitude toward Williams was set aside as the NFL Draft took place on April 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.

After receiving so much fan support after, what looks like, a successful draft class thus far last season, Lions General Manager Brad Holmes was viewed with more skepticism after first-round selections of University of Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and University of Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.

Draft picks are not absolutes, and there’s nothing to show that Gibbs and Campbell aren’t the guys to get the job done. Where most disappointment sits is with the spot, since both guys were projected to be selected in the second round.

Before rushing to conclusions on who’s a bust and who’s not, it’s important to understand what each pick can bring to the table for the 2023 Lions.


Jahmyr Gibbs
Position: Running back.
College: Alabama.
Pick: 1st round, 12th overall.

It’s an interesting pick to say the least, and it’s not so much to do with Gibbs rather than everything to do with his position and the spot in the draft.

It’s a reach, and nobody seems to be really questioning that, but it’s not the pick a team whose defense was ranked last in yards per game in 2022 probably should make.

The running back position isn’t obsolete, but it’s no longer the premium position it used to be when guys like Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson or Marshawn Lynch were drafted in the first round in the 2000s, especially when the Lions recently signed David Montgomery, 25, to a three-year deal.

Regardless, Gibbs is a home-run hitter of the purest form, running a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash.

While pass blocking isn’t necessarily his forte, Gibbs is an elite-level playmaker in the passing game, hauling in 44 catches for 444 yards last season for Alabama.

The Lions have also struggled in the past to develop a scheme to properly utilize their running backs, but appeared to turn a corner last season with Jamaal Williams’ uptick in workload.

With Gibbs, the Lions are hoping to establish a more consistent usage with their backs, but he will most likely spend time behind Montgomery through the season.


Jack Campbell
Position: Middle linebacker.
College: Iowa.
Pick: 1st round, 18th overall.

Jack Campbell is a Dan Campbell guy with his hard-nosed play and sense for the football, tallying 140 and 125 tackles, respectively, in 2021 and 2022.

The 6-foot-5, 249-pound linebacker was a unanimous All-American and 2022 Dick Butkus Award winner — given to the nation’s top linebacker — but even more importantly, he fills a vital need for a defense that finished fourth in most rushing yards allowed per game (146.5).

He might have been a reach at the spot, but it’s hard to knock his talent and his ability to be a plug-and-play guy on day one.

Campbell, who ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, finished with an 89 athleticism score, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which ranked first out of the linebacker field.

Campbell’s ability to play in coverage will also be an added strength to a Lions defense that allowed 245 yards per game through the air, ranking as the third-worst in the NFL.

The Lions went into the draft looking for immediate starters, and indications are that Campbell can be that guy.


Sam LaPorta
Position: Tight end.
College: Iowa.
Pick: 2nd round, 34th overall.

As one Hawkeye leaves, another Hawkeye emerges. With the T.J. Hockenson trade leaving the Lions tight end position up for grabs, taking a tight end in the second round was a breath of fresh air for Lions’ fans who had to see Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Hockenson all be selected in the first round.

LaPorta is the all-time leader in receptions (153) at Iowa and second in receiving yards (1,786), and his 6-foot-3, 245-pound stature, along with his 4.59 40 time, makes him a viable target in the offensive unit.

The only question is whether he is a better option than Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer or Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, who were both rated above LaPorta, but that all remains to be seen.

Along with his Iowa teammate Jack Campbell, LaPorta fills a position of need and can be an immediate impact player.


Brian Branch
Position: Safety.
College: Alabama.
Pick: 2nd round, 45th overall.

At this point, Lions fans were wondering whether or not the team went to any other pro days besides Alabama’s and Iowa’s.

Aside from that, Branch was a can’t-miss prospect at the 45th overall spot, holding a projected first-round pick value heading into the draft.

A sure tackler who can play both safety and corner, including in the slot, Branch will be an immediate plug-and-play guy who fits the mold of the Lions defense to perfection.


Hendon Hooker
Position: QB
College: Tennessee
Pick: 3rd round, 68th overall

The Lions got their quarterback of the future, except for the fact that Hooker is 25 years old.

Since quarterback Jared Goff will be a free agent heading into the 2025 season, and only 31 that October, it’s likely this is more of an insurance policy rather than viewing Hooker as a potential future cornerstone, unless the Lions take a significant step backward, or a worst-case scenario of a Goff injury.

Hooker threw for 3,135 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions before having a season-ending ACL injury in 2022.


Brodric Martin
Position: Defensive tackle.
College: Western Kentucky.
Pick: 3rd round, 96th overall.

Another additional depth piece, Martin is a big-bodied defensive tackle who might be a reach in the third round but is a raw prospect who can develop into a strong interior lineman.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 337 pounds, Martin racked up 31 tackles last season for Western Kentucky.

Although he isn’t the player fans might have hoped for in the third round, Martin is a key addition to a position where depth is vital.


Colby Sorsdal
Position: Offensive tackle.
College: William & Mary.
Pick: 5th round, 152nd overall.

Sorsdal might not be an immediate impact player, or even a starter this season, but he’s a depth piece for a strong offensive line.

While playing his entire collegiate career at right tackle, Sorsdal can also play guard and center.


Antoine Green
Position: Wide receiver.
College: North Carolina.
Pick: 7th round, 219th overall.

With the suspension of Williams for six games and the release of Quintez Cephus due to gambling, Green adds much-needed depth to what looked like a strong wide receiving group heading into the 2023 season.

Green racked up 798 yards and seven touchdowns, and at 6-foot-2, he makes for a viable deep threat on the outside.