After a first round that drew wide ire, the Detroit Lions landed on a list of the most improved teams from the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Detroit Lions ignored the wide perception of positional value by taking Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. If things had gone a different way, maybe they would have taken him at their original spot of No. 6 overall.
Then, the Lions doubled-down on ignoring the league’s general view of positional value by taking Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18.
A running back? A linebacker? With two top-20 picks? The criticism naturally came. What are the Lions doing?
On Day 2 of the draft, the Lions somewhat went against the grain by taking Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta 34th overall. The perceived top guy at the position for many, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, was still on the board.
Then the Lions seized an opportunity, moving up three spots in the second round to take safety Brian Branch. The versatile Alabama defensive back was regarded as a potential first-round pick, and the Lions got him at No. 45.
Detroit Lions ultimately land on list of most improved teams from 2023 NFL Draft
With its analytical tilt, it’s fair to assume Pro Football Focus wasn’t quite as negative on the Lions’ two first-round picks as many were initially. So that they made writer Sam Monson’s list of the most improved teams from the 2023 draft is not a huge shock.
Here’s some of what Monson had to say about the Lions’ draft haul.
"The Lions had an unusual draft, placing a premium on good players at low-value positions. It’s difficult to resolve that equation and determine whether or not they maximized their return, but it’s difficult to argue they didn’t improve significantly throughout the process.Jahmyr Gibbs may have been seen as a major reach at No. 12 overall, even independent of the concept of drafting a running back that high, but Gibbs brings elite speed and critically an impressive receiving skill set to an already dangerous offense. Gibbs averaged 1.83 yards per route run last season, sixth in the draft class.Jack Campbell will start right away at linebacker and brings one of the few traditional linebacker frames (6-foot-5, 249 pounds) to the table in this draft.Sam LaPorta is a broken tackle machine with the ball in his hands, forcing 20 missed tackles last season on just 58 catches.At pick No. 45, Brian Branch is one of the best value picks of the first two days of the draft…..A relatively average set of workout numbers is the only thing keeping him from being spoken about the way somebody like Minkah Fitzpatrick was when he came into the NFL.In the third round, Hendon Hooker likely makes little-to-no contribution in the short term, but he is an outstanding roll of the dice at the most valuable position in the game while fellow third-rounder Brodric Martin is the last player in their draft that figures to see significant playing time early."
Based on pure talent added, aside from the early position value conversation, the Lions accomplished quite a bit in this year’s draft. The broad narrative about their 2023 draft class has shifted positive since last Thursday night, given the space allowed by time regarding the first round and helped by nailing Day 2.