We’ve known all season that the Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft class could be special, but the group’s performance in Week 13 has taken that to a whole new level. This isn’t just about the future. The Lions’ rookie class is proving what good drafting can do now.
Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft Class Accelerating Team’s Playoff Rise
The Lions selected four players in the top 50 of the 2023 NFL Draft. And three of those four players have been instrumental in building the Lions into a formidable playoff contender in the NFC this season.
That’s not to say that Detroit wasn’t a contender before the draft. Dan Campbell very clearly had the Lions on the upswing in 2022 — a season where they just missed the playoffs at 9-8.
Nevertheless, the Lions’ moves in the draft have taken this team over the top in 2023, and that was more evident than ever with the team’s 21-0 start in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints.
The Lions rocketed out to a 21-0 lead in Week 13 and only needed half of the first quarter to do it. Rookies Jahmyr Gibbs, Brian Branch, and Sam LaPorta all played major parts in building that cushion.
Gibbs ran for 40 yards on three carries in the first quarter, using his speed and agility to swerve through lanes and generate big plays, getting his offense in scoring position. LaPorta caught two passes for 42 yards and a score — his route-running savvy on display.
And on defense, Branch notched an interception off a tipped pass from Juwan Johnson, using his awareness and keen playmaking ability to again put the Lions in scoring position.
It’s well-known that the NFL Draft is at the foundation of team-building over the long term. But the Lions are proving in 2023 that good drafting can also make an impact on the immediate timeline.
The Lions’ early-round rookies are all dynamic athletes who also possess the instincts, football IQ, and versatility to be implemented in different ways. That quick integration has accelerated the Lions’ timeline, inching closer and closer to claiming the NFC North.
Change may still be on the horizon for Detroit — particularly in 2025, when Jared Goff’s contract is set to expire. The team will have a decision to make about the future of the quarterback position.
But for at least four years, Detroit has this strong, young, and cost-effective core to keep building off of. That’s a very good thing for the Lions.
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