The Detroit Lions are gearing up to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2023 NFC Championship Game. This is their first conference title game since 1991, and the Lions could be heading to their first ever Super Bowl. Detroit went 3-13-1 two seasons ago and has accomplished the stereotypical rebuild in just two years. Part of the team’s success came from how well they drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look back at Detroit’s first four picks and the impact they have had this season.
Lions 2023 NFL Draft Class
1.12 — RB Jahmyr Gibbs — A
The selection of Gibbs came with some scrutiny after Detroit had recently signed veteran running back David Montgomery to a deal, and the team still had D’Andre Swift. The Lions later traded Swift in the draft but still had Montgomery and Gibbs on the roster. Detroit was learning how to use its two backs, and the rookie only had 14 combined carries over the first two weeks of the season, while Monty had 37.
Montgomery dealt with an injury during the middle part of the season, which allowed Gibbs to show off his talents in the run game. The veteran had 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns on 219 carries, while Gibbs had 945 yards and 10 touchdowns on 182 carries. The Lions have one of the best one, two punches in the league even though they didn’t retain their top two running backs from last season.
1.18 — LB Jack Campbell — A
Detroit had two first-round picks in this draft to wrap up the deal with the Los Angeles Rams for Matthew Stafford. Campbell was brought in to improve the Lions’ defense, providing reliable play as their weak-side linebacker. The rookie linebacker played in all 17 games of the regular season and finished with 95 total tackles, the second-most on the team behind Alex Anzalone. Campbell added two sacks, five tackles for loss and a pass defended.
2.34 — TE Sam LaPorta — A++
Tight ends can be hit-and-miss in the draft. Kyle Pitts was the best tight-end prospect we had seen coming out of college in a while, and he has been misused by the Atlanta Falcons so far in his career. Detroit was looking for a replacement for T.J. Hockenson after trading him to the Minnesota Vikings mid-season, and LaPorta has fit the bill so far.
The tight end played in all 17 games this season and brought in 86 of his 120 targets for 889 yards. LaPorta finished tied for the team lead with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and their 10 receiving touchdowns. He has been quiet in the postseason so far, with only 79 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions in two games, but he still has had an impact.
2.45 — DB Brian Branch — A
Branch suited up for 15 games in the regular season. He finished with 74 total tackles, including 50 solo and 24 assisted. Branch had one sack and seven tackles for loss. He had three interceptions, including one pick-six. Branch leads the team with 16 tackles in the postseason and has added a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass defended. He fell in the draft and right into the laps of the Lions at 45. Branch has helped solidify the Detroit secondary and not only had an early impact but still has the chance to improve.