NFL Futures: 2023 could be the year of the Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions, Dan Campbell (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions, Dan Campbell (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have laid a foundation for success, but it won’t be in 2022. Could the team finally return to relevance in 2023?  After the 2020 season, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford finalized their divorce, as the team sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, and one of the centerpieces of the deal was Jared Goff.

They also brought in a new regime in Dan Campbell as the head coach and Brad Holmes, a former Rams executive, as the general manager.  In year two of this marriage, the Lions have turned quite of bit of their roster over and do boast some talent on both sides of the ball.

Detroit Lions are rebuilding the right way on both sides of the ball

Let’s start with the offense.  The offensive line is perhaps the best unit on their team.  Players like Taylor Decker, Penei Sewell, and Frank Ragnow round out one of the better units in the NFL.  The Lions appear to have this unit solidified, and it isn’t costing them a ton of money.  No matter what direction they go, Detroit has arguably the second most important part of their roster settled.

They’ve also made great strides to overhaul their offensive skill players.  Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, DJ Chark, TJ Hockenson, and D’Andre Swift highlight an above-average grouping of pass catchers and running backs.  Seriously, this unit is unit as a whole is incredibly talented and should get their credit for being such.

Their quarterback, Jared Goff, is the epitome of average.  It’s an interesting debate whether or not he’ll end up staying around as the franchise guy, but between the draft, free agency, and trades, the Lions’ offense has more talent than they’ve usually had.

Their defense has a bit farther to go, in my opinion, but they’ve also made notable additions over the past few years in Jeff Okudah, and Aidan Hutchinson, trading for Michael Brockers, and using mid-round draft picks on other players.

My opinion is that Detroit could use a little boost on each unit of their defense.  My theory here for the future of the team is that in 2023, the team will prioritize its defense heavily.  They won’t have a ton of projected cap space at the moment, but teams have proven that the cap is something that can be heavily manipulated.  I would look for the team to go heavy in the draft on their defense and also try to bring in a free agent or two on this side of the ball.

I also think they’re going to monitor the quarterback market for an upgrade.  I don’t think they’ll be picking first or second overall, but I do think they have their eyes on Lamar Jackson’s situation.  I’m not sure who else could be available next offseason, but there could be a couple of others.

I say all this to say that 2023 is going to be a very telling year for the future of the Lions.  I am personally not a fan of the Dan Campbell hire, but he also gets a pass for this year if the Lions only win five or six games.

I think the pressure is very much on beginning in 2023.  With the weak NFC, the Detroit Lions may have an excellent opportunity to break through and clinch a playoff spot.  We’ll see if Campbell is truly the guy for the team based on his team’s performance in 2023.