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Detroit Lions May Scouting Report
Before we get to the draft recap, there was some surprising news involving an important player on the Lions. WR Jamison Williams has been suspended 6 games for violating the NFL gambling policy. It was determined he had placed bets on sports while at a Lions team facility. WR Quintez Cephus, who was a longshot to make the team this year, was suspended indefinitely (at least a year) for betting on NFL games. He was released from the Lions roster. WR Stanley Berryhill, another longshot, was also suspended 6 games. For Williams, there had been some maturity/attitude concerns during his brief time with the Lions. Liking tweets from fans that he should get the ball more, liking tweets saying the Lions should trade for Lamar Jackson, campaigning to switch his jersey number to 1 right after Jeff Okudah was traded, etc. Little things for sure, but the gambling suspension might be the wake up call he needs to get his mind right and be a professional. Did he not know the rules about gambling? Or did he know and just think he wouldn't get caught? Either one is problematic. Obviously this damages his value in redraft leagues. If your league has reserve spots, he would be a great guy to target in the late rounds if you can stash him away in a reserve spot knowing that he will return in week 7 or 8 depending on when the bye week falls. And other Lions skill players will get chances to pick up the slack in the early season. Remember, the Lions invested a high pick in Williams last year so they are not going to give up on him.
Now on to the draft, where the Lions got mixed reviews. They were very active trading picks, making six deals during the draft, so I won't even try to recap all of that wheeling and dealing. They ended up making eight picks, of which 5 were offense and 3 were defense. Let's look at the picks:
1.12 (12) RB Jahmyr GIbbs, Alabama. This was a bit of a stunner. The Lions were sitting there at 6 and I think they were targeting CB Devon Witherspoon who went to Seattle at 5. Rather than reaching to take Gibbs or Bijan Robinson at 6 (I think they actually liked Gibbs better), they traded down to 12 and still got the guy they wanted in Gibbs. I am in the camp that does not believe in drafting a running back in round one. But the Lions feel like Gibbs can be their Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey. I'm just afraid he will be nothing more than another RB D'Andre Swift. Which isn't all bad. Swift made plays when healthy, and Gibbs will surely make plays as well, especially in the passing game where Jared Goff will like having Gibbs as an underneath option. I just question if this was the best use of a valuable resource. Speaking of Swift, I did mention in my report last month that if the Lions drafted Robinson it would make Swift immediately expendable. Well drafting a Swift clone made that even more true, as Swift was traded to the Eagles during round 4 of the draft. So this backfield will be a combination of Gibbs and RB David Montgomery.
1.18 (18) LB Jack Campbell, Iowa. Another pick where you want to like the player they picked, but again positional value was the question here, as Campbell is an off ball linebacker who most had projected to go in the middle of round 2. But the Lions loved him, and he figures to play a ton next to LB Alex Anzalone as a rookie, sending fan favorite and Hard Knocks star LB Malcolm Rodriguez into a backup/special teams role. Campbell is a big linebacker (6'5, 246), so you would hope that length can help him in coverage, where he could get tested by opposing offense. He figures to be a nice IDP option.
2.3 (34) TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa. I mentioned last month that the Lions could land a new starting tight end in round 2 if the board fell right. Well the board certainly fell right as even Michael Mayer was still there at 34, among others in a solid class of tight ends, but the Lions opted to go to Iowa again and they grabbed LaPorta. Remember the Lions got a lot of touchdowns in 2022 from their committee of tight ends. LaPorta wil have redraft value if he can seize control of the position. He will need to prove he can catch the ball consistently after some struggles with drops at Iowa. His run after the catch ability looks good, maybe some shades of George Kittle. He didn't put up huge numbers at Iowa, but the Iowa offense is generally known for being dysfunctional in recent years.
2.14 (45) DB Brian Branch, Alabama. Well after taking two players from Iowa, the Lions grabbed a second player from Alabama. Branch is versatile enough to play corner or safety and was projected as a first rounder, so it seemed like a value to get him at 45. The Lions rebuilt their secondary in free agency, so they will bring Branch along slowly and figure out where he fits best.
3.5 (68) QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee. Maybe the most intriguing pick of the Lions draft class. Hooker was a first rounder in many mocks, but it seems his age and knee injury scared teams from taking him in round 1. When he was still there in round 3 the Lions picked him and we will see what happens. He could be a guy they stash away on the PUP list for most of the year, or he could catch on quickly and become Goff's backup right away. Long term, if Hooker never amounts to anything, at least it was only a third round pick that went to waste. But if he develops, it give the Lions options. They could keep him as a high upside backup to Goff, or maybe even shop him around as a trade chip in the future. Or if Goff regresses in 2023 and the Lions are hesitant to extend him for $45 to $50 million per year, Hooker gives them leverage.
3.33 (96) DT Brodrick Martin, Western Kentucky, 5.18 OT Colby Sorsdal, William & Mary, 7.2 (219) WR Antoine Green, North Carolina. Martin and Sorsdal are depth picks for the trenches. Martin is a big run stuffing nose tackle type, a two down player that the Lions traded up for. Sorsdal might project as a guard where the Lions have a long term need. Green is a solid pick for round 7, an outside receiver with good size and speed. Again, with Williams out early, a guy like Green will have an extra chance to make the roster, at least initially.
UDFA (skill positions only): QB Adrian Martinez, Kansas State. RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota. WR Chase Cota, Oregon. WR Keytaon Thompson, Virginia. Please note that as of this writing the Lions have not officially announced their UDFA signings so these have been compiled based on various sources. Martinez is a dual threat quarterback, but I don't see him as an NFL talent. I do like Ibrahim, who I am familiar with as a Big Ten fan. There is no sure thing on the depth chart behind Gibbs and Montgomery, so keep an eye on Ibrahim. Cota and Thompson are both 6'4 so they figure to get a look as an outside receiver.
That's it for this month. I will be back next month with a new report including a look at the schedule and any other news that develops from the OTAs and minicamps.
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Monday, April 24th, 2023
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