American Football

POLL: Which Lions rookie will make the biggest Year 1 impact?


Syndication: HawkCentral

Which of the eight Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Draft picks will have the biggest rookie-year impact?

A lot of people have called the Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft class an instant-impact group of players. And while I’m tempted to agree, I don’t necessarily believe that was design. If you are to believe the reports coming out of the draft, the Lions’ initial intention appears to have been drafting Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who likely wouldn’t have been an immediate starter after Detroit’s cornerback overhaul in free agency.

But plans change, and the Lions appeared ready for it. Instead, they moved down, grabbed some extra draft assets, and got a player they seemed dead-set on: running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Complementing that pick at 18 was this class’ top linebacker Jack Campbell. That night, Lions general manager Brad Holmes made it clear with both players: they are going to see the field right away.

“We feel really confident about the work that we put in and what those guys are going to do on the field,” Holmes said Thursday night. “I think our fans are going to be really, really proud and really excited about what they see. I’m not saying like a year, or two years, we believe that these guys are ready to go right now.”

But their immediate-impact picks didn’t end there. They added tight end Sam LaPorta three picks into Round 2—immediately placing him in contention for TE1 entering training camp. And while the next two picks—defensive back Brian Branch and quarterback Hendon Hooker—are likely more long-term pieces, Detroit likely got themselves a Year 1 contributor at the end of Day 2 with defensive tackle Brodric Martin.

So today’s Question of the Day is:

Which Lions rookie will have the biggest Year 1 impact?

My answer: If we’re talking snap counts, I’m not sure anyone will see the field more than linebacker Jack Campbell. This team clearly thinks he’s going to be an every-down linebacker, and that could mean playing nearly 100 percent of the snaps in as many games as possible in Year 1.

Production is another beast. The Lions are placing both Gibbs and LaPorta into favorable situations for rookie season impacts. Gibbs gets a strong offensive line in front of him, a strong rushing complement in David Montgomery, and a plethora of weapons to draw attention away from him. LaPorta gets the benefit of a coaching staff filled with guys who specialize in tight ends, and players like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, and eventually, Jameson Williams, occupying defenders. It’ll also help having a creative offensive coordinator Ben Johnson orchestrating the best ways to get both of those players into open space.

In the end, I have to go with the most obvious answer here. There’s a reason Holmes went nuts again in the war room when they drafted Jahmyr Gibbs. They have big plans for that player, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up the kind of 80-reception rookie performance that both Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara accomplished in their inaugural rookie seasons.

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