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NFC Draft Grades (2023 NFL Draft)

NFC Draft Grades (2023 NFL Draft)

And just like that, the 2023 NFL Draft is behind us. Let’s take a look at each team in the NFC and break down their picks. Here are my draft grades, rankings, and player comps for all of the NFC teams over the last three days.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

2023 NFL Draft: NFC Draft Grades

Carolina Panthers | Draft Grade: B-

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
1 Panthers QB1 1 Bryce Young Alabama Russell Wilson
39 Panthers WR10 86 Jonathan Mingo Mississippi Chase Claypool
80 Panthers ED20 151 DJ Johnson Oregon James Smith-Williams
114 Panthers OL7 73 Chandler Zavala North Carolina State Josh Sitton
145 Panthers S5 91 Jammie Robinson Florida State Quandre Diggs

The bulk of the import of the Panthers’ five-man class was an outcome decided in advance. But the Panthers made the right decision in taking QB Bryce Young at 1.1.

So often this spring, you heard about Young’s body size, how he’s an “outlier.” And I suppose that’s true. More topically and to the point, Young is an outlier in terms of brain size. The kid sees the field like Professor X from X-Men sees the universe. You aren’t goading Bryce Young into anything. If any of your coverage breaks down, he will make you pay dearly. Young will present a puzzle to NFL defenses that is utterly unique from what they’ve seen before.

I know that WR Jonathan Mingo was all the rage in the weeks leading up to the draft, and for that reason, I wasn’t surprised to see him taken in early-R2. But I can’t get on board with that price point. The movement Mingo’s exceptional pre-draft testing suggested was not apparent on his film. But I will say: His route-running chops opened my eyes at the Senior Bowl, and his QB last year, Jaxson Dart, left a metric ton of unrealized Mingo yards on the field.

Others were higher on Round 3 EDGE DJ Johnson than I was. But I appreciated Carolina’s value-shopping on Saturday, grabbing OG Chandler Zavala and S Jammie Robinson. The only questions about Zavala are medical-related. If his body holds up, how fun is it going to see him with OT Ikem Ekwonu again? Those two together were atomic bombs at NC State, cratering out their side of the line of scrimmage.

San Francisco 49ers | Draft Grade: F

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
87 49ers S7 103 Ji’Ayir Brown Penn State Calvin Pryor
99* 49ers K1 165 Jake Moody Michigan Ka’imi Fairbairn
101* 49ers TE13 237 Cameron Latu Alabama Kaden Smith
155 49ers CB26 178 Darrell Luter Jr. South Alabama KeiVarae Russell
173 49ers ED32 285 Robert Beal Jr. Georgia Jordan Willis
216* 49ers LB16 196 Dee Winters Texas Christian Monty Rice
247 49ers TE14 265 Brayden Willis Oklahoma Josiah Deguara
253* 49ers WR23 158 Ronnie Bell Michigan Freddie Mitchell
255* 49ers LB24 249 Jalen Graham Purdue Xavier Adibi

One of my draft-grading philosophies is to not artificially penalize teams who have less draft equity. I see that as a cop-out. I try to judge the ball where it lies.

I say this to impress the point that San Francisco didn’t fail this draft because they previously traded their premium picks and had less to work with. The 49ers failed this draft because they did poorly in the nine non-premium slots they were selecting in. We saw a procession of reaches.

With two exceptions, LB Dee Winters and WR Ronnie Bell. One of Bell’s former coaches told me this spring that he will play in the NFL for a long time. I don’t disagree with that.

But outside of those two picks, San Francisco could have done a better job identifying values in the slots they were picking in. This felt like a myopic process, where every pick is a luxury pick and nothing is at stake. Perhaps the 49ers have entered the pre-Rams-Super-Bowl “f*** them picks” phase of their evolution.

New Orleans Saints | Draft Grade: C

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
29 Saints DL3 29 Bryan Bresee Clemson Jerry Tillery
40 Saints ED9 57 Isaiah Foskey Notre Dame Marcus Davenport
71 Saints RB13 147 Kendre Miller TCU Lamar Miller
103 Saints OT10 93 Nick Saldiveri Old Dominion Paul McQuistan
127 Saints QB6 121 Jake Haener Fresno State Brock Purdy
146 Saints S19 241 Jordan Howden Minnesota Gibril Wilson
195 Saints WR11 90 A.T. Perry Wake Forest Devante Parker

Classic hit-it-down-the-fairway draft. Starting with a high-variance selection that was nonetheless qualitatively exactly that: I had Clemson DT Bryan Bresee, the No. 29 pick, exactly No. 29 on my board.

I didn’t love New Orleans’ Friday night. But I will say, contextually, that the Saints were able to get in on the edge-rushing run before the talent in that crop dropped off a shelf. With the depth of the running back class what it was, I’m not able to afford the same benefit of the doubt to using a top-75 pick on RB Kendre Miller.

However, the Saints bounced back with a very strong Saturday. That started at the opening bell with OL Nick Saldiveri. Regardless of whether the Saints view him as a tackle or a guard, Saldiveri was strong value at No. 93.

I also really liked the QB Jake Haener and WR AT Perry picks. Haener isn’t the next Drew Brees. Stop with that. But he could be the next Brock Purdy. Haener is small, and his arm lacks oomph. But he’s a leader who makes quick decisions and takes profits on the field. It wasn’t a surprise that Haener’s leaked S2 score was in the Purdy football-Mensa range.

The NFL apparently soured on Perry because of his mediocre agility. But he was an incredibly productive collegiate receiver who presents problems down the field with his 6-foot-10 wingspan and ball skills.

Arizona Cardinals | Draft Grade: D+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
6 Cardinals OT1 10 Paris Johnson Jr. Ohio State D’Brickashaw Ferguson
41 Cardinals ED12 63 BJ Ojulari LSU Azeez Ojulari
72 Cardinals CB16 106 Garrett Williams Syracuse Bryant McFadden
94 Cardinals WR9 84 Michael Wilson Stanford Braylon Edwards
122 Cardinals OL15 184 Jon Gaines II UCLA Mark Glowinski
139 Cardinals QB10 174 Clayton Tune Houston Josh McCown
168 Cardinals LB14 182 Owen Pappoe Auburn Christian Harris
180 Cardinals CB32 234 Kei’Trel Clark Louisville Parry Nickerson
213* Cardinals DL20 250 Dante Stills West Virginia Darius Stills

The NFL likes next year’s NFL Draft crop better than this one. And now Arizona has set itself up to gorge at that buffet by acquiring Houston’s 2024 R1, Tennessee’s 2024 R3, and Philadelphia’s 2024 R4.

As for the work in this year’s draft, the quantifiable stuff we’re here to discuss, I wasn’t as impressed. I like OT Paris Johnson Jr. But is there a big enough qualitative gap between him and OT Broderick Jones to justify giving up No. 34 and No. 168 (while getting back No. 81) to move up to get him?

The only pick in this class I really liked was made was WR Michael Wilson. Wilson may well end up as one of this class’ best receivers. That’ll depend on if he can kick the nagging-injury bug.

But Wilson has an extremely unique ability to slam on the breaks into route breaks and accelerate quickly out of them for a big receiver. That’ll play at the next level – with the standard Wilson caveat “if he can stay on the field.”

Atlanta Falcons | Draft Grade: C+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
8 Falcons RB1 17 Bijan Robinson Texas Edgerrin James
38 Falcons OT6 53 Matthew Bergeron Syracuse Jermon Bushrod
75 Falcons ED13 72 Zach Harrison Ohio State Clelin Ferrell
113 Falcons CB8 51 Clark Phillips III Utah Mike Hilton
224 Falcons S26 335 DeMarcco Hellams Alabama Marcus Demps
225 Falcons OL38 415 Jovaughn Gwyn South Carolina Kasey Studdard

I wouldn’t use a top-10 pick on a running back – your path to recouping the value is precarious. That said, and to state the obvious, RB Bijan Robinson is a stud.

Per PFF charting dating back to 2014, Robinson is tied with Javonte Williams for the highest missed tackle rate (39%). In 2022, Robinson broke PFF’s single-season record with 104 missed tackles forced. He’s a slalom runner with creativity who puts the entire defense on a balancing platform with death-defying change-of-path machinations in the open field. Robinson will also greatly aid QB Desmond Ridder in the passing game.

OT Matthew Bergeron was a slight reach at No. 38, but I’m not going to quibble too much about that one – the tackle class dropped off significantly shortly after that.

The pick I loved of Atlanta’s class was CB ​​Clark Phillips in Round 4. Phillips is relegated to the slot in the NFL, but he’s gonna be a good one. A unanimous All-American in 2022 and the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Phillips will take care of any matchup in which he can’t be physically trump-carded.

Just ask Vikings R1 WR Jordan Addison. Addison needed the cast of Stranger Things to retrieve him from the Upside-Down after Phillips erased him from the face of the earth in the Pac-12 title game.

Green Bay Packers | Draft Grade: C-

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
13 Packers ED3 11 Lukas Van Ness Iowa Trey Hendrickson
42 Packers TE6 71 Luke Musgrave Oregon State Cole Kmet
50 Packers WR17 120 Jayden Reed Michigan State Russell Gage
78 Packers TE5 54 Tucker Kraft South Dakota St. Dawson Knox
116 Packers DL13 150 Colby Wooden Auburn Christian Ballard
149 Packers QB15 303 Sean Clifford Penn State Colt McCoy
159 Packers WR20 137 Dontayvion Wicks Virginia Van Jefferson
179 Packers DL12 143 Karl Brooks Bowling Green Marlon Davidson
207 Packers K5 Anders Carlson Auburn David Kimball
232 Packers CB31 222 Carrington Valentine Kentucky Kendall Sheffield
235 Packers RB30 359 Lew Nichols III Central Michigan Brandon Bolden
242 Packers CB34 254 Anthony Johnson Virginia Jason Pinnock
256* Packers WR32 235 Grant Dubose Charlotte Cody Lattimer

Green Bay’s first-round pick was vintage Packers. EDGE Lukas Van Ness’ speed-to-power machinations are going to give NFC North offensive tackles headaches. After that, things got weird.

I hated the reach for TE Luke Musgrave in Round 2. Especially since a strong receiving tight end that I ranked 17 spots higher on my big board was still available. That would be Tucker Kraft… who the Packers incredibly picked 36 selections later! That pick was as strong as the Musgrave one was suspect.

Speaking of suspect, in-between, the Packers egregiously reached for WR Jayden Reed. Reed developed a small cult-like following during the pre-draft process. Green Bay apparently drank a cup when the Kool-Aid was getting passed around. Bill Simmons once proposed the concept of “press box hot.” That’s exactly what Reed was in this terrible receiver class. Normal year, nobody is disagreeing that he’s a Day 3 guy. But he got hotter and hotter as folks got a full gander at the ugly 2023 receiver offering.

I didn’t agree with many picks that came after that, but I liked Green Bay’s shots on WR Dontayvion Wicks and DT Karl Brooks. Both are unorthodox players whose utility wasn’t fully appreciated by the NFL for explicitly that reason.

Philadelphia Eagles | Draft Grade: A+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
9 Eagles DL1 4 Jalen Carter Georgia Ndamukong Suh
30 Eagles ED5 20 Nolan Smith Georgia Haason Reddick
65 Eagles OT8 78 Tyler Steen Alabama Luke Petitgout
66 Eagles S6 96 Sydney Brown Illinois Nick Scott
105 Eagles CB13 77 Kelee Ringo Georgia Trayvon Mullen
188 Eagles QB7 132 Tanner McKee Stanford Mike Glennon
249 Eagles DL10 119 Moro Ojomo Texas Amobi Okoye

Classic Howie Roseman.

You want steals? You want Georgia Bulldog defenders in bunches? You want an Alabama prospect on offense? You want a buy-low trade for an on-the-outs veteran at a position of need? Howie’s got you!

Philly hit the jackpot in the first round. We knew that the Eagles were extremely interested in DT Jalen Carter. We just thought it was going to cost more for the Eagles to move up to acquire him.

Roseman was patient, and he was rewarded for it. Carter fell to No. 9, and Roseman chipped in a 2024 fourth-rounder to Chicago to move up one slot to get him, a pocket-change tax to block other suitors.

We also knew that Philly loved EDGE Nolan Smith. So much so that Smith was a popular mock-draft selection to the Eagles at Philly’s original No. 10 slot. But instead, Smith fell through the cracks – all the way to the Eagles’ slot at No. 30.

Twitter went wild! Roseman had added two Georgia first-round defenders to join their former college teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean. On Saturday, Roseman shouted, “Are you not entertained?” (probably) as he submitted the card to add a fifth Bulldog defender, CB Kelee Ringo, to his homage to the nastiest collegiate defense of the past decade.

I was one of the lowest in the media on Ringo – but at No. 105? On athletic profile and theoretical upside alone, that’s a no-brainer.

Roseman didn’t want Alabama-bred Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and Landon Dickerson on the other side of the field (along with Josh Jobe) to feel out-numbered by Georgia alums, so he popped Crimson Tide OT Tyler Steen in Round 3. Oh to be a fly on the wall at Philadelphia’s team hotel on a fall Saturday during an Alabama-Georgia game.

Pick-after-pick, Roseman matched value with need. With a class this good, it was almost an after-thought that Roseman stole RB D’Andre Swift from the Lions for a 2025 fourth-rounder after Detroit tanked the value of its trade asset by picking RB Jahmyr Gibbs.

Minnesota Vikings | Draft Grade: D+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
23 Vikings WR4 30 Jordan Addison USC Tyler Lockett
102 Vikings CB17 113 Mekhi Blackmon USC J.C. Jackson
134 Vikings S17 219 Jay Ward LSU Madieu Williams
141 Vikings DL17 221 Jaquelin Roy LSU Nick Eason
164 Vikings QB13 270 Jaren Hall BYU Shea Patterson
222 Vikings RB10 129 DeWayne McBride UAB Tyler Allgier

Considering Minnesota’s poor cornerback room, it couldn’t have been easy to pass on CB Joey Porter Jr. at 1.23. But ultimately, the Vikings made the correct three-dimensional-chess call, calculating that the depth of the CB class and weakness of the WR class would present a superior prospect at the former when the team came back on the clock in Round 3.

The Vikings ended up trading down off that pick – swapping No. 87 to San Francisco for No. 102, No. 164 and No. 222 – to up its pick allotment from five to seven. In lieu of the team’s cap issues, that was sage. At No. 102, the Vikings took Mekhi Blackmon.

I believe the Vikings when they say they were going to take Blackmon at No. 87 – he’s a perfect fit for new DC Brian Flores’ uber-aggressive scheme. Blackmon fist-fights you off line, is sticky in man, and is an enthusiastic run defender who rarely misses tackles.

The Addison and Blackmon “USC special” couplet was qualitatively superior to, for instance, the alternate reality of CB Joey Porter Jr. and WR Charlie Jones had Minnesota chosen to walk that path.

Minnesota’s lack of equity and cap problems boxed them into a corner that they needed to continue to punch out of on Saturday. With one exception, I just didn’t see that.

I’m not a fan of either of the LSU defenders that the Vikings took. And there’s a 98% chance that the Vikings lit the No. 164 pick on fire when they took the wildly inconsistent QB Jaren Hall.

The one Day 3 pick I liked was RB DeWayne McBride. RB Dalvin Cook will almost assuredly not be on the 2023 roster. In a post-Dalvin world, McBride could surprise immediately. You don’t want McBride on the field on passing downs, but he’s a natural runner who is extremely difficult to get on the ground. McBride’s 36% career forced-missed-tackle rate trails only Bijan Robinson and Javonte Williams in PFF’s nine-year history.

Bears | Draft Grade: D

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
10 Bears OT3 16 Darnell Wright Tennessee Brandon Shell
53 Bears DL9 95 Gervon Dexter Sr. Florida Montravius Adams
56 Bears CB15 101 Tyrique Stevenson Miami Rock Ya-Sin
64 Bears DL8 79 Zacch Pickens South Carolina Nick Fairley
115 Bears RB7 112 Roschon Johnson Texas Brian Robinson Jr.
133 Bears WR14 102 Tyler Scott Cincinnati Corey Coleman
148 Bears LB11 153 Noah Sewell Oregon Jasper Brinkley
165 Bears CB11 67 Terell Smith Minnesota Sam Webb
218 Bears DL42 Travis Bell Kennesaw State Khalil Davis
258* Bears S37 484 Kendall Williamson Stanford Daniel Bullocks

I couldn’t have taken OT Darnell Wright in the top-10, because I don’t think he can be a standout NFL left tackle. And I hated the DT Gervon Dexter Sr. and CB Tyrique Stevenson picks.

The Bears were in jeopardy of earning one of my “F” grades before a strong showing on Saturday. I loved the value they got at positions of need with RB Roschon Johnson and CB Terell Smith in particular.

Last year, when the Texans popped Dameon Pierce in Round 4, I tweeted: “Dameon Pierce is your darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s going to start immediately in Houston.” On Saturday, when Chicago popped Roschon Johnson in Round 4, I tweeted the exact same with Johnson/Chicago swapped in for Pierce/Houston.

Smith is an intriguing sleeper. He was a collection of athletic traits with no instincts prior to last year. But the light flipped on over the offseason and Smith was fabulous in 2022. Smith then tested like the freak Gophers coaches had forwarded him as. If Smith’s development arrow continues to point up, his selection will be looked back upon as highway robbery.

Cowboys | Draft Grade: F

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
26 Cowboys DL5 44 Mazi Smith Michigan B.J. Raji
58 Cowboys TE8 108 Luke Schoonmaker Michigan Dalton Schultz
90 Cowboys LB10 136 DeMarvion Overshown Texas Divine Deablo
129 Cowboys ED24 210 Viliami Fehoko San Jose State Jalyn Holmes
169 Cowboys OT17 183 Asim Richards North Carolina Terrence Metcalf
178 Cowboys CB38 287 Eric Scott Southern Miss Mark Webb
212* Cowboys RB18 203 Deuce Vaughn Kansas State Tarik Cohen
244 Cowboys WR51 361 Jalen Brooks South Carolina Isaiah Ford

I didn’t understand what the Cowboys were doing.

At the end of Round 1, they had a shot to plug their gaping tight end hole with either Sam LaPorta or Michael Mayer – worthy candidates for the slot. Instead, they reached for DT Mazi Smith, a supposed freak athlete who curiously passed on the agility drills in pre-draft testing.

Then, the next round, Dallas reached for his teammate, TE Luke Schoonmaker, who is raw as a receiver and has medical questions. Would you have preferred those two, or either LaPorta/Mayer and one of Zacch Pickens/Byron Young/Siaki Ika? Yeah, me too.

The rest of the picks were more of the same, reaching for prospects in slots that didn’t fit. It felt like Dallas went into each day with a plan to take specific positions in specific slots, and were unable to move off the plan to take advantage of the values dropping to them.

Seahawks | Draft Grade: C+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
5 Seahawks CB1 6 Devon Witherspoon Illinois Darius Slay
20 Seahawks WR2 23 Jaxon Smith-Njigba Ohio State Adam Thielen
37 Seahawks ED10 58 Derick Hall Auburn Sam Williams
52 Seahawks RB2 43 Zach Charbonnet UCLA Todd Gurley
108 Seahawks OL9 104 Anthony Bradford LSU Louis Vasquez
123 Seahawks DL15 186 Cameron Young Mississippi St. Jay Bromley
151 Seahawks ED17 123 Mike Morris Michigan John Cominsky
154 Seahawks OL17 198 Olusegun Oluwatimi Michigan Keith Ismael
198 Seahawks S30 397 Jerrick Reed II New Mexico Jordan Pugh
237 Seahawks RB19 223 Kenny McIntosh Georgia Mewelde Moore

In my “talent added” metric, the Seahawks finished No. 5 in the NFL. But they spent the third-most equity to get there.

Still, how are you going to argue with the CB Devon Witherspoon and WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba picks? I cannot. Witherspoon is one of my favorite corners to enter the NFL in my five years evaluating the draft. It’s a testament to how dominant Witherspoon is that the corner-length-obsessed Seahawks took him 1.5 in the longest cornerback class to ever enter the NFL.

Smith-Njigba is essentially exactly what this offense needed – a stud slot to take advantage of the space that DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett open up. He’s going to level-up the offense.

I loved RB Zach Charbonnet as much as anyone – he was my RB2 – but boy was that a confusing pick. The Seahawks just took Kenneth Walker in Round 2 last year. The team’s brass explained in a presser that Charbonnet was awesome in the screen game. Which, yeah, agreed. But you’re not using the No. 52 pick to improve your screen game. You could have done that with a Day 3 specialist. So what gives?

I liked Seattle’s upside shot on athletic freak OG Anthony Bradford in Round 4. But I thought the Seahawks were inefficient with their other picks on Saturday. That, in conjunction with the EDGE Derick Hall mini-reach in Round 2, dinged the final grade.

Lions | Draft Grade: C

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
12 Lions RB3 45 Jahmyr Gibbs Alabama Dalvin Cook
18 Lions LB1 36 Jack Campbell Iowa Leighton Vander Esch
34 Lions TE3 39 Sam LaPorta Iowa Owen Daniels
45 Lions S1 13 Brian Branch Alabama Tyrann Mathieu.
68 Lions QB5 65 Hendon Hooker Tennessee Jordan Love
96 Lions DL18 226 Brodric Martin Western Kentucky Al Woods
152 Lions OT35 438 Colby Sorsdal William & Mary Leonard Wester
219 Lions WR36 272 Antoine Green UNC Steve Breaston

Have you ever seen a more “we-don’t-give-a-f***-what-you-think” class than this? The Lions made one of the most shocking selections of the past several drafts when they took RB Jahmyr Gibbs at 1.12. They did so after trading out of the 1.6 slot that could have purchased RB Bijan Robinson.

Six picks after Gibbs, the Lions threw another curveball, taking LB Jack Campbell. Campbell was one of my favorite players in this entire class. LB3 on many other boards around the industry, I had him LB1 with a bullet – and in the first-round of my last mock draft (to Buffalo).

Campbell will be a fabulous NFL linebacker – but man, that was aggressive. I would have advocated a trade-down that stayed ahead of Buffalo in Detroit’s shoes… but the Lions told the media they weren’t presented with any attractive trade-down possibilities for that pick.

After the Thursday wonkiness, I was prepared to kill Detroit in this column. But they kept ducking and weaving expectations. They started Friday with TE Sam LaPorta, who I beat the drum for all process. If he’d played in a different offensive environment than the rancid situation at Iowa, LaPorta may have been a first-rounder. He caught a ridiculous 30.2% of Iowa’s market share of receptions last season while converting two-thirds of his catches the past two years into first downs or touchdowns despite playing in an offense that last season finished No. 130 out of 131 FBS teams in scoring.

Next, the Lions stole S Brian Branch at No. 45. Switch the order that Gibbs and Branch were picked, and you jive the value of both slots on my board.

Early on Saturday, Detroit followed up the Gibbs pick by trading RB D’Andre Swift to the Eagles for a 2025 fourth-rounder. Swift is entering the last year of his contract. This opens the door for a Gibbs-David Montgomery platoon in 2023 that should be very strong.

I railed against the absurd idea of Hendon Hooker as a first-rounder all spring. But I can’t complain about where the Lions got him. That slot was almost smack-dab where I ranked him on my board.

Tampa Bay Bucs | Draft Grade: B-

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
19 Bucs DL2 22 Calijah Kancey Pittsburgh John Randle
48 Bucs OL3 33 Cody Mauch North Dakota St. Cole Strange
82 Bucs ED15 97 YaYa Diaby Louisville Boye Mafe
153 Bucs LB12 159 SirVocea Dennis Pittsburgh Joel Iyiegbuniwe
171 Bucs TE12 213 Payne Durham Purdue Gavin Escobar
181 Bucs CBx Josh Hayes Kansas State
191 Bucs WR19 133 Trey Palmer Nebraska Jalen Reagor
196 Bucs ED29 247 Jose Ramirez Eastern Michigan Uchenna Nwosu

This wasn’t a sexy class, but it has the potential to move the needle for a franchise that desperately needed a talent infusion.

DT Calijah Kancey is a havoc-wreaker. He doesn’t look like much off the bus, but every ounce of the athleticism he showed during the pre-draft process was apparent on tape. He’s got the agility and burst of a souped-up linebacker playing on the interior.

Speaking of athleticism, OL Cody Mauch moves as well as any offensive lineman in this class. He was a destructive force at left tackle in an NDSU running game that made great use of his mobility. Due to Mauch’s lack of length and inconsistent technique in pass-pro on the outside, I think his best fit in the NFL is at guard.

Either way, that was a good value pick. After it, outside of taking one of only two players in the draft who wasn’t amongst the 800-plus players I ranked before it (CB Josh Hayes), I thought Tampa Bay blended high-floor cost certainty and high-upside dart throws in appropriate slots.

Washington Commanders | Draft Grade: D-

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
16 Commanders CB6 38 Emmanuel Forbes Mississippi St. Jack Jones
47 Commanders S3 83 Jartavius Martin Illinois L’Jarius Sneed
97* Commanders OL19 218 Ricky Stromberg Arkansas James Daniels
118 Commanders OL8 89 Braeden Daniels Utah Ali Marpet
137 Commanders ED19 138 KJ Henry Clemson Kemoko Turay
193 Commanders RB20 229 Chris Rodriguez Jr. Kentucky Benny Snell
233 Commanders ED36 315 Andre Jones Louisiana Tashawn Bower

I like CB Emmanuel Forbes fine. But in one of the deepest corner classes in years, what need was there to take him at No. 16? Washington apparently wasn’t concerned about his sub-170-pound frame. And that’s fine.

But what trump-card trait were they seeing that incited the urgency Forbes’ “ball skills”? Four of Forbes’ six picks last year were gift-wrapped on reps he had already lost.

Later, in a draft where safeties were falling, Washington watched Detroit steal the best of the entire bunch, Brian Branch, two spots before they ultimately reached for Jartavius Martin. And I like Martin! But not there.

Same story with the rest of the picks, with one exception. I did like Washington’s shot on Utah’s Braeden Daniels. He’s a sleight-but-athletic collegiate tackle whose game will translate to the interior.

Los Angeles Rams | Draft Grade: C-

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
36 Rams OL5 42 Steve Avila TCU Chris Kemoeatu
77 Rams ED16 110 Byron Young Tennessee Ben Banogu
89 Rams DL16 199 Kobie Turner Wake Forest Justin Madubuike
128 Rams QB11 192 Stetson Bennett Georgia Ian Book
161 Rams ED22 180 Nick Hampton Appalachian St. Samson Ebukam
174 Rams OT12 111 Warren McClendon Georgia Martinas Rankin
175 Rams TE10 175 Davis Allen Clemson Cole Turner
177 Rams WR15 114 Puka Nacua BYU Discount Deebo
182 Rams CB23 168 Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson Texas Christian Tim Jennings
189 Rams ED26 225 Ochaun Mathis Nebraska Aaron Lynch
215 Rams RB12 142 Zach Evans Mississippi Elijah Mitchell
223 Rams Px Ethan Evans Wingate
234 Rams S10 134 Jason Taylor II Oklahoma State Gerald Sensabaugh
259 Rams DL22 274 Desjuan Johnson Toledo Rakeem Nunez-Roches

The Rams didn’t have a Round 1 pick, but they made an incredible 14 picks anyway. They doubled-up picks with trade-downs twice, adding to the kitty. Los Angeles’ hollowed-out roster could have used an exceptional draft.

The Rams didn’t get it. But the Rams’ strategy of eschewing upside for cost-certainty is likely to convert the lion’s share of this haul into roster cogs. That seemed intentional. Due in large part to the specific roster it is now joining, it is also going to provide multiple immediate starters, most prominently TCU’s Steve Avila, who is already carved into the 2023 starting lineup in stone.

The Stetson Bennett pick at No. 128 was ludicrous in lieu of the help needed elsewhere. But the Rams got serious late.

Of note, OT Warren McClendon, WR Puka Nacua, and CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson could all see the field as rookies. This is the perfect situation for Nacua – an underrated prospect with a diverse skillset and the ability to play both inside and outside. Sean McVay knows how to use guys like this.

New York Giants | Draft Grade: B+

Pick Team Position Rank Name School Comp
24 Giants CB4 25 Deonte Banks Maryland Eli Apple
57 Giants OL4 37 John Michael Schmitz Minnesota Dan Koppen
73 Giants WR12 92 Jalin Hyatt Tennessee John Ross
172 Giants RB11 139 Eric Gray Oklahoma Clyde Edwards-Helaire
209 Giants CB48 368 Tre Hawkins III Old Dominion William Bartee
243 Giants DL39 Jordon Riley Oregon Otito Ogbonnia
254* Giants S15 201 Gervarrius Owens Houston Eddie Jackson

The Giants were so desperate for receiving help that, earlier in the process, a sportsbook dropped a prop that they’d take a first-round receiver at even-money odds against every other position.

The Giants, then, had to be heartsick when the consensus top-four WR went consecutively directly in front of their 1.25 pick. But when the NFL Draft gives you lemons, you need to make lemonade. So New York got to squeezin’.

The combination of that receiver run and the NFL artificially deflating the value of non-Devon Witherspoon first-round corners due to the depth of the class presented an unexpected opportunity: CB Deonte Banks, who had been mocked higher all spring, at 1.25. The Giants simply accepted the gift, plugging a different roster hole.

In Round 2, with that receiver hole still a glowing neon light, the Giants returned to the clock – with no obvious receiver to select. Once again, they didn’t panic or reach. Instead, they opened another present the NFL had gift-wrapped for them – C John Michael Schmidt. It was not a well-kept secret that the center-desperate Giants loved Schmidt during this process.

In mock drafts that mimicked the top-four-receivers-off-the-board-by-25 scenario that actually happened, Schmidt was a popular 1.25 pick for New York. Instead, the Giants saw the class’ best center fall into their lap a full round later.

In Round 3, the Giants finally needed to scratch that receiver itch. They took WR Jalin Hyatt. I wouldn’t have gone in that direction, but it wasn’t an egregious reach. Hyatt only brings one trick to the Big Apple, but it’s once-you-pop-the-top-you-can’t-stop neat one.

Day 3 wasn’t as much of a bonanza, but I did like New York’s pick of RB Eric Gray. Gray is small and isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s got a versatile skillset that stresses defenses. A similar back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, went in the first round not so long ago.

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Next Up - Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Chris Olave, Joe Burrow, Raheem Mostert, Dallas Goedert

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