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NFL executives raise concerns about Detroit Lions 2023 draft class

The Detroit Lions entered the 2023 NFL Draft with some of the most draft capital around the league, boasting the sixth and 18th overall picks in Round 1. While Detroit came out of it with multiple starting-caliber players, many had questions about the positions taken.

Sitting on the clock with the No. 6 pick, the Lions traded down with the Arizona Cardinals and acquired the 34th overall pick by making the move. Multiple reports suggested Detroit wanted cornerback Devon Witherspoon and once he was off the board, the Lions moved down.

Related: 2024 NFL mock draft

After selecting running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick, reports also emerged that Detroit even considered taking him sixth overall. Even after the trade-down, the decision to spend a top-12 pick on a running back received plenty of criticism.

Mike Sando of The Athletic spoke to a variety of NFL executives regarding each team’s draft class. When it came to Detroit’s 2023 draft haul, several executives had questions about what it would take for some of the top picks to justify where they were picked.

“Using a first-round pick to swap out a non-premium position, that was a weird one. How great does Gibbs have to be to justify it?”

NFL executive on the Detroit Lions selecting Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick

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Detroit Lions draft picks 2023

  • Round 3, 68th overall: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
  • Round 3, 96th overall: Brodric Martin, DT, Western Kentucky
  • Round 5, 152nd overall: Colby Smith, OT, William and Mary
  • Round 7, 219th overall: Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina

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Running backs have become devalued by a majority of NFL teams, with some of the best in the NFL often not signed to contract extensions. By the time Gibbs is in the later years of his rookie contract, he’ll be one of the highest-paid running backs in football.

At the time of Detroit’s selections in the first round, many draft analysts thought the Lions reached for Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell. It’s a perspective that many NFL executives seemed to share.

“I think it’s really high to take Gibbs (No. 12), and it was high to take Campbell (No. 18), and you paid those positions in free agency with almost identical three-year, $18 million contracts. That said, Gibbs is dynamic, and that offensive coordinator (Ben Johnson) is going to get the most out of him. They are going to be hard to defend.”

Anonymous NFL executive on Detroit Lions’ first-round picks

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While many NFL executives and draft analysts questioned the Lions’ choices in Round 1, landing defensive back Brian Branch in the second round and quarterback Hendon Hooker in the third round were viewed as draft-day steals.

Only time will tell whether or not the Lions’ process was right or general manager Brad Holmes must re-evaluate how he values certain positions. While there is still plenty of skepticism regarding the choices Detroit made, many also believe the Lions will be a playoff threat in 2023.

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