Grading Detroit Lions’ draft selections of Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell
After the Detroit Lions worked off their own unique draft board Thursday night, let’s put a grade on both of their first-round picks.
It was not a surprise the Detroit Lions traded down from No. 6 overall on Thursday night, especially when their most popularly mock-drafted player (cornerback Devon Witherspoon) was taken fifth overall. They moved down to No. 12 overall, in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals.
What was surprising was their choice at No. 12. Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who was shocked to be taken that high. It’s not about Gibbs’ talent per se, it’s more about the perception of positional value in today’s NFL and already having David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift.
Then the Lions made another surprising pick at No. 18 overall, taking Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell. Again it’s not about Campbell’s talent or potential, it’s about the perception of value for off-the-ball linebackers and the Lions having their two base-defense starters seemingly locked in there.
2023 NFL Draft: Grading Lions selections of Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell
Gibbs is clearly a dynamic talent. After two seasons at Georgia Tech, he transferred to Alabama and led the Crimson Tide in rushing (926 yards) and receptions (44) last season. The possibilities for him in the Lions’ offense feel massive, and comps to Alvin Kamara feel apt.
But Gibbs was almost sure to be available at No. 18, if not later after a potential trade down from that pick. Based on what his rookie contract should be, the Lions will have $11 million tied up in him and Montgomery this year. D’Andre Swift is now even more likely to be traded, but any leverage the Lions might have had there is now all but gone.
Taking a running back was in the cards for the Lions in this draft. Taking one in the first round was a step in an interesting direction. But Gibbs reeks of a reach when one didn’t have to be made to get him.
Campbell seems to be a great fit for the Lions. The reigning Butkus Award winner is also an underrated raw athlete, which he showed in Combine testing. On some other teams, he’d be a Day 1 starter immediately upon arrival.
But the Lions have Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez seemingly locked in as their two starting off the ball linebackers. Anzalone signed a three-year deal to come back in March, and Rodriguez will not be easily supplanted after a solid rookie season. But the depth behind them starts with Derrick Barnes, and falls off big after.
The Lions should have been looking at linebackers in this draft. Taking one in the first round, and top-20, went against the grain. But Brad Holmes will not apologize for getting his guys, and Campbell has a path to a starting job if he’s given the opportunity.