Detroit Lions Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa – Round 1
General manager Brad Holmes had his third phenomenal draft to help continue the building of Detroit into one of the top teams in the AFC. I thought the Lions had the best 2023 NFL Draft in the league as they landed at least four long-term starters and some potential difference-makers. One of those players who I think will at minimum be a solid starter is Campbell. It would not surprise me if he plays well as a rookie and ends up becoming a solid starter immediately.

Campbell (6-5, 246) is the complete linebacker package. He has very good instincts and will very quickly read his keys to get in position to make plays. For a tall linebacker, Campbell plays with good leverage and does not stand up too high. He is a tough box linebacker who shows the strength to take on blocks, shed offensive linemen, and make the tackle. Campbell is smart to understand what offenses are trying to do, and he is disruptive when he isn’t making tackles.

In the ground game, Campbell is very consistent and tough to help shut down rushing offenses. He is a very good run defender and projects to be an asset to help produce favorable down-and-distance situations for his defense. His production was rock steady over the past two years. In 2021, Campbell broke out with 140 tackles, a sack, forced fumble, two interceptions and five passes defended. He stayed consistent as a senior in 2022, recording 125 tackles, one pass batted, one sack, one forced fumble and two interceptions.

In pass coverage, Campbell is a skilled defender. He rapidly reads the plays and covers a lot of ground in zone. Campbell’s height and length make him valuable to interrupt passing lanes, and that could be seen in his interception of C.J. Stroud last year. With his length and quickness, Campbell can run down the middle seam, and he functions well as a Tampa 2 coverage linebacker. On dump off passes to the flat, Campbell is quick enough to get to the ball-carrier and is good at making tackles in space. His size and athleticism give him to have the potential to play some man coverage on tight ends and backs out of the backfield.

The Lions badly needed help in the middle of their defense. Alex Anzalone is a solid veteran, but Detroit needed help next to him. With Campbell and Anzalone, Detroit has a pair of linebackers who are smart, instinctive, big, athletic and versatile. Immediately, Detroit’s run defense and pass coverage should be improved with Campbell. As soon as his rookie season, I think Campbell will be a solid starter for the Lions.

2022: Aidan Hutchinson, DE
2021: Levi Onwuzurike, DT
2020: D’Andre Swift, RB
2019: Austin Bryant, DE
2018: Frank Ragnow, C
2017: Jalen Tabor, CB
2016: Taylor Decker, OT
2015: Laken Tomlinson, G
2014: Travis Swanson, C
2013: Darius Slay, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee – Round 3
Hooker produced a good season for the Volunteers in 2022, lighting up the scoreboard and leading them to some legendary wins. However, a number of team sources were not as high on him as the media hype suggested. While there were many projections of Hooker being a first-round pick, sources from multiple teams had him graded on Day 2. They said they didn’t like Hooker being older, coming from gimmick offense, and needing development despite his age. Those things in combination with a torn ACL that could delay his availability in the first half of his rookie season are why Hooker slid to the third round.

If Hooker ends up being a bust, it’s not a huge loss for Detroit because he was only a third-round pick. Hooker is definitely a worthy gamble because he has a quality skill set with size, arm strength, athleticism, and good intangibles. The Lions needed to improve their backup talent behind Jared Goff, and they were fortunate that Goff stayed healthy in 2022. Even if Goff is signed to an extension and Hooker is just a solid backup, Hooker will still improve Detroit’s roster significantly. Taking Hooker in the third round also gives the Lions some leverage in contract negotiations with Goff. On the positive side, if Hooker turns into a quality starter, he will be a massive steal for a third-round pick.

2021: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB
2021: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB
2020: Jonah Jackson, G
2019: Will Harris, S
2018: Tracy Walker, S
2017: Michael Roberts, TE
2016: A’Shawn Robinson, DT
2015: Alex Carter, CB
2014: Eric Ebron, TE
2013: Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama – Round 1
To the NFL media, Gibbs was a surprise as No. 12 pick of the draft, but it was not a shock to NFL team sources. Sources from a few teams separately told prior to the draft that Gibbs was one of the best players in the class, period, regardless of position. With his outstanding receiving ability, kickoff return skills, and game-breaking speed, Gibbs is a playmaker who is a threat to score or break off a big gain on any touch of the ball.

Gibbs has illustrated that he is a natural runner with three-down starting potential for the NFL. The first trait that jumps out about Gibbs is his speed. He is a fast back with a quick first-step and a burst to the second level. He can pull away from defenders and is a threat to take any carry or reception down the field for a huge gain. Gibbs does not have the speed of Chris Johnson, but he is a quick ball-carrier who provides a speed mismatch out of the backfield. Gibbs is a slashing shifty speed back in the mold of an Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey. In the NFL, Gibbs will be a threat to break off long runs thanks to rare quickness for a starting back.

On top of being fast, Gibbs is a natural runner. He has excellent vision, body lean, and patience, plus runs behind his pads. Gibbs sets up blocks and uses his speed to dart through holes before they close. Defenders really struggle to get a hold of Gibbs because his great feet make him very elusive. He is sudden with his ability to cut and change direction. To go along with suddenness, Gibbs has a devastating jab step with cuts back to the inside, and he uses his talents to make tacklers grab air. His abrupt juke even works on defensive backs. With his change-of-direction skills and quick feet, Gibbs can create for himself, turning bad looks into big runs all on his own, and Gibbs is an asset to bail out his line when blocking assignments are missed.

While Gibbs is not the biggest of backs, he does have strength to his build and is able to break tackles while picking up yards after contact. He is not overpowering for the next level, but he will be able to shed tacklers to get additional yards. Gibbs also finishes runs well, delivering some blows to defenders while falling forward.

Gibbs is well-suited for the passing-driven NFL because he is a superb receiving back. He runs good routes out of the backfield and has soft hands. On top of that, Gibbs is a very good blocker and blitz protector.

Sources who have been with Gibbs in the past have said that he is a great kid with a tremendous work ethic, no ego, and is a perfect teammate. Gibbs is a great culture fit in Detroit and is a perfect fit for Ben Johnson’s offense. As soon as his rookie season, Gibbs could be producing game-changing plays for the Lions.

2021: Jameson Williams, WR
2021: Penei Sewell, OT
2020: Jeff Okudah, CB
2019: T.J. Hockenson, TE
2018: Kerryon Johnson, RB
2017: Jarrad Davis, LB
2016: Graham Glasgow, C
2015: Ameer Abdullah, RB
2014: Kyle Van Noy, LB
2013: Larry Warford, G

Future Depth Player

Brodric Martin, DT, Western Kentucky – Round 3
The Lions were in need of more talent for the inside of their defensive line, and Martin gives them another big-bodied run stuffer to go with Alim McNeill. Detroit had some issues stopping the run in 2022, but adding Martin and linebacker Jack Campbell will greatly improve the team’s run defense. Martin is big load at the point of attack who can hold his ground and stuff interior running lanes. In the sub package, Martin will probably leave the game for interior pass-rushers like Josh Paschal and John Cominsky. Teams play the sub 70 percent or more, so that will make Martin more of a rotational backup. While he may not be a starter, I think Martin will provide good depth and turn out to be a solid role player for Detroit.

2022: James Mitchell, TE
2021: Alim McNeill, DT
2020: Julian Okwara, OLB
2019: Amani Oruwariye, CB
2018: Da’Shawn Hand, DE
2017: Brad Kaaya, QB
2016: Miles Killebrew, S
2015: Quandre Diggs, CB
2014: Larry Webster, DE
2013: Devin Taylor, DE

Walt’s 2023 NFL Draft Grades:

12. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama – A- Grade
I think the Lions could have gotten Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 18, but you never know. Thus, I don’t hate this value, especially because Detroit moved down in the first place. Gibbs has drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles and Alvin Kamara, so Gibbs will help the Lions win the Super Bowl. Yes, the Super Bowl. Unlike the Falcons, the Lions are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, so I really like this selection.

18. Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa – B- Grade
I had Jack Campbell going to the Lions in the second round. However, this is not like the Will McDonald selection because I’ve had Campbell going in the 20s on occasion, as we knew there was some interest from teams in that range. Campbell will also fill a huge need for Detroit. Still, I wish the Lions would have traded down for Campbell.

34. Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa – B Grade
Iowa tight ends have worked well for the Lions before, so why not draft another one? I think Michael Mayer would have been the better pick, but LaPorta is a dynamic receiving threat who will make the offensive even more explosive.

45. Brian Branch, S, Alabama – A+ Grade
Brian Branch’s fall finally ends. He should have been taken off the board 20 picks ago, so I can’t blame the Lions for leaping up 10 spots to select him. Branch is a very versatile defensive back who can play anywhere in the secondary, so he’ll be a great fit for a secondary that needed one more piece. This is a great value selection, so I’m willing to give it an A+.

68. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee – A+ Grade
I absolutely love this pick. Hendon Hooker is a quarterback I had rated above Will Levis, who went way earlier than this. He’s an athletic player with great passing ability, but he fell because he’s a 26-year-old coming off a torn ACL. However, he doesn’t need to play right away. The Lions can develop him and have him as the starter down the road.

96. Brodric Martin, DT, Western Kentucky – D Grade
I don’t get why the Lions surrendered resources to move up for Brodric Martin, whom I had in the middle of the third day. Detroit wanted a defensive tackle – Gervon Dexter was an option in the second round – but Martin is a reach. I love Detroit’s draft, but not this pick.

152. Colby Sorsdal, OT, William & Mary – C+ Grade
This is a bit early for Colby Sorsdal, whom I never had in my mocks. However, Sorsdal was a solid right tackle and a team captain. He could provide good depth on the offensive line.

219. Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina – B- Grade
Antoine Green was an inconsistent player at North Carolina. He has some deep speed ability, but he’ll need to be a more consistent player to make it in the pros.

2023 NFL Draft Team Grade: A-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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