A fresh wave of talent has emerged in the Motor City, and The Athletic has taken notice. In their recently published “Early All-Rookie Team” for the 2023 NFL season, three Detroit Lions rookies made the list. It’s a heartening nod to the future of a team that’s showing promising signs of resurgence.
The Exceptional: Brian Branch
Brian Branch, the Lions’ second-round pick and defensive back out of Alabama, is making his presence known in the NFL with undeniable panache.
Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic raved:
“Not only has Branch been arguably the best rookie DB in the league thus far (and maybe the NFL’s best defensive rookie period), he’s also been one of the most reliable slot corners in the NFL, regardless of age.”
Branch’s credentials so far include:
- 25 tackles (21 solo)
- Three tackles for loss
- Four pass defenses
- One interception, returned for a 50-yard touchdown
- His three tackles for loss tie for second among NFL rookies
Branch has seamlessly transitioned into the NFL, showcasing not just skill but an uncanny ability to read the game, often being several steps ahead of his opponents. His agility, decision-making, and natural instincts set him apart. Opposing offenses are already wary of the threat he poses, and his teammates – bolstered by his energy – are reaching new defensive heights.
The Safety-Net: Sam LaPorta
When the Lions selected Sam LaPorta as the 34th overall pick, a mix of skepticism and curiosity surrounded the decision. But four games into the season, the Iowa product is silencing doubters and captivating fans.
Nick Baumgardner highlighted LaPorta’s achievements by saying:
“Detroit surprised many when it took LaPorta at No. 34, ahead of Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. However, the Iowa product set multiple NFL rookie tight end records during the season’s first three weeks.”
LaPorta’s stats are impressive:
- 22 receptions for 242 yards (11.0 avg.)
- One touchdown
- Most yards after catch among TEs (2nd in NFL)
- Most yards after contact among TEs (1st in NFL)
- Recorded the longest touchdown reception by a rookie tight end in team history
LaPorta is not just a stat-sheet filler; he’s a game-changer. His ability to navigate tight spaces and secure crucial catches has turned him into a safety net for QB Jared Goff. Each game reveals another layer of LaPorta’s multifaceted skill set, affirming that the Lions’ gamble is paying off generously.
The Developing: Jack Campbell
Jack Campbell might not be the first name many think of when discussing rookie linebackers, but his contributions have been undeniable.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic offered insights:
“Personally, I voted for To’oTo’o as the second linebacker (behind Ivan Pace Jr.)…But I also understand the love for Campbell. He hasn’t been a full-time guy for the Lions just yet, but he has been productive when on the field.”
Campbell’s notable moments include:
- Six total tackles and one tackle for loss in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons
- First career sack on the final play of the first half of the same game
While he might not have had as many opportunities as some other rookies, Campbell’s adaptability and dedication stand out. Campbell has shown versatility by taking on roles wherever the team needed him. Whether it’s rushing the passer, dropping back in coverage, or gunning down the field on special teams, he does it with unrelenting energy. His hardworking nature and willingness to adapt have endeared him to both the coaching staff and the fans.
The Detroit Lions are not just rebuilding; they’re rejuvenating, with rookies leading the charge. This acknowledgement by The Athletic speaks volumes about the talent being fostered in Motor City. As the season progresses, one thing is clear: these young Lions are not just future stars; they’re the present torchbearers, guiding the team towards brighter days. As they continue to dazzle and grow, they’re not just chasing personal records but are also fueling dreams of division titles and long-awaited playoff victories. The Motor City has reason to roar louder than ever before.
The Athletic’s “Early All-Rookie Team” Full List:
The complete All-Rookie Team list and honorable mentions is rich in talent. Among the Lions’ pride, Jahmyr Gibbs also received a nod in the honorable mentions for the running back category, further emphasizing the depth of young talent that is eager to define this era of Detroit Lions football. Here is the complete list:
- Quarterback: C.J. Stroud, Texans
- Honorable mention: Anthony Richardson, Bryce Young
- Running back: Bijan Robinson, Falcons; De’Von Achane, Dolphins
- Honorable mention: Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Charbonnet, and others
- Wide receiver: Puka Nacua, Rams; Tank Dell, Texans; Zay Flowers, Ravens
- Honorable mention: Marvin Mims Jr., Jordan Addison, and others
- Tight end: Sam LaPorta, Lions
- Honorable mention: Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid, and others
- Offensive line: Dawand Jones, Browns; Jarrett Patterson, Texans, and others
- Honorable mention: O’Cyrus Torrence, Darnell Wright, and others
- Edge: Will Anderson Jr., Texans; Tuli Tuipulotu, Chargers; Byron Young, Rams
- Honorable mention: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Lukas Van Ness, and others
- Defensive line: Jalen Carter, Eagles; Bryan Bresee, Saints
- Honorable mention: Gervon Dexter Sr., Kobie Turner, and others
- Linebacker: Ivan Pace Jr., Vikings; Jack Campbell, Lions; Henry To’oTo’o, Texans
- Honorable mention: Marte Mapu, Nick Herbig
- Cornerback: Christian Gonzalez, Patriots; Devon Witherspoon, Seahawks; Emmanuel Forbes, Commanders
- Honorable mention: Jakorian Bennett, Deonte Banks, and others
- Nickel/Safety: Brian Branch, Lions; Christian Izien, Bucs
- Honorable mention: Jordan Howden
- Kicker: Jake Moody, 49ers
- Honorable mention: Brandon Aubrey, Anders Carlson, and others
- Punter: Ethan Evans, Rams
- Honorable mention: Bryce Baringer, Brad Robbins, and others
- Special teams: Marvin Mims Jr., Broncos
- Honorable mention: Charlie Jones, Xavier Gipson, and Derius Davis
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports