Almost nobody liked Detroit Lions NFL draft first-round haul: ‘I just don’t get these two choices’

Waking up Friday morning, one thing is clear when it comes to the NFL draft.

The Detroit Lions have a lot of people scratching their heads.

Beginning Thursday night, the Lions had two first-round picks, Nos. 6 and 18. They then traded, essentially, their sixth pick for No. 12 and an extra second-rounder. The move was roundly applauded.

But then …

The Lions used the No. 12 pick to take Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. He was the second RB picked in the first round, a position and round that seemed to have had a divorce over the last few years.

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Jahmyr Gibbs competes during Alabama Pro Day at Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility on the campus of Alabama, March 23, 2023 in Tuscaloosa.

Jahmyr Gibbs competes during Alabama Pro Day at Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility on the campus of Alabama, March 23, 2023 in Tuscaloosa.

Then at 18, the Lions picked another position many haven’t valued in recent memory: linebacker Jack Campbell, who’s best suited as a middle linebacker, aka an off-ball player.

Searching the internet for grades and analysis from across the globe, one theme emerges: no many like what Brad Holmes did.


Mel Kiper Jr., the top dog in NFL draft analysis, wrote that he just doesn’t understand what the Lions did.

“Look who else was on the board at 12, though,” Kiper wrote. “One of the cornerbacks — Christian Gonzalez or Emmanuel Forbes or Deonte Banks — or edge rusher Nolan Smith made more sense to me. Yes, Detroit has a bunch more picks on Day 2, but it could have found a running back there instead of at No. 12.”

Kiper also wrote that the Lions reached some 40 spots for Campbell. Ouch.

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“I thought he’d go in the middle of Round 2 instead. When we talk about positional value, both of these positions are not usually prioritized in the first round, so this is the very definition of head-scratching. The funny thing is I had pegged Campbell to Detroit at No. 48 in my two-round mock a couple of weeks ago.,” Kiper wrote.

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, March 2, 2023 in Indianapolis.

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, March 2, 2023 in Indianapolis.

Two more ESPN analysts answered the “pick that left you shaking your head” question with Detroit. Matt Miller wrote: “Gibbs is an electric runner and receiver out of the backfield, but to have two running backs off the board before a single wide receiver was drafted clocked in as the first big surprise of the draft.”

And Jason Reid said “I was more confused by the Jack Campbell pick at No. 18. That was another reach, despite the need on defense. The linebacker class is among the weakest of any position this year, but taking the Iowa defender seemed very premature.”


Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz broke down the “most questionable first-round picks,” and the first two mentions were the Lions’ selections. With Gibbs, Middlehurst-Schwartz mentioned that the comparisons for Gibbs to Alvin Kamara aren’t totally accurate because Kamara is 16 pounds heavier. And, as everyone else mentions, taking a running back in the first round is virtually taboo.

SHAWN WINDSOR: Brad Holmes said he was willing to get ripped for his NFL draft. And he is.

“And after doling out a three-year, $18 million deal earlier this offseason so David Montgomery could join D’Andre Swift in the backfield, Detroit’s balance seems out of whack. This seems like the move that a bona fide contender would try to make to put itself over the top. The Lions are close to ending their playoff drought, but this is a luxury they can’t afford,” he wrote.

And to this writer, Campbell lacks “a flair for making big plays.”

“Campbell has plenty to offer a defense. But for a team that could have used a cornerback or defensive tackle – and perhaps could have traded back into the end of the first round if it so sorely wanted the linebacker – this was a poor use of a key asset for a draft class that seems like it’s out of another era,” Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote.

Nate Davis shared his winners and losers for the first round, and you’ll never guess where he had the Lions.

“Gibbs at No. 12? Iowa LB Jack Campbell at 18? Feels like both were major overdrafts — and even if you were worried about Gibbs going later in the round, like, do the Jets a solid and trade down to 15th? But the running back, in particular, was an especially bizarre choice given the presence of recently signed veteran David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift, a 2020 second-rounder (though, in fairness, he is entering the final year of his rookie deal and has missed 10 games in three seasons),” Davis wrote.

The Ringer

Danny Kelly shared his grades for each of the 31 first-round selections, and the Gibbs picked earned a C-plus.

“Gibbs brings rare juice as a runner and should help create explosive plays for Detroit, but I don’t love the value here — especially for an undersized runner who doesn’t project as a volume-heavy back. Gibbs will need to be a true difference-maker in the passing game to live up to this cost,” he wrote.

Kelly wasn’t nearly as kind with the No. 18 pick. He gave the Lions a D for the Campbell selection.

“Campbell fills a need, but this feels like a big reach for the Lions, who grab my 73rd-ranked player at no 18. The former Iowa standout racks up stats as a throw-back, downhill linebacker—but he’s stiff when moving in reverse and could be a liability in man-to-man coverage. Paired with the selection of running back Jahmyr Gibbs at no. 12, Detroit’s decision to draft two non-premium positions with their two first-round picks could come back to haunt them,” Kelly wrote.

Pete Prisco seemed to zag as everyone else zigs. The longtime NFL writer gave the Lions a D for taking Gibbs and an A-plus for picking Campbell.

As for Gibbs, Prisco lamented: “why take him here when there is a guy like corner Christian Gonzalez on the board? He’s good but he’s a back. At least it wasn’t a top-10 pick.”

But with the Campbell pick, Prisco seems to be a big fan of the former Iowa star and last season’s Dick Butkis Award winner.

“I love this pick for the Lions. This kid will be special. He is big, can run and will improve as a cover player as he gets acclimated to the NFL game. He’s one of my favorite players in this draft,” Prisco wrote.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Almost nobody liked Detroit Lions NFL draft first-round haul

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