The 2023 NFL Draft is now over, and with it comes everyone’s favorite exercise: draft grades!
Not really though, we won’t be handing out a grade for every single team here. What’s going to happen instead is highlighting some of our favorite draft classes, from teams that executed both on Day 1 and Day 3, and have allowed fans and media members to see the vision behind what’s being built. If you’re looking for draft grades, I already graded every pick in round one, as well as graded every pick in round two and round three. I also have you covered on a way-too-early 2024 NFL mock draft.
So, let’s talk about a few NFL teams whose draft classes knocked it out of the park.
The Colts had a heck of a draft from top to bottom, and it starts with standing pat at number four and selecting Florida’s Anthony Richardson. For the Colts (hypothetical) offense to work under new HC Shane Steichen, a mobile QB with the ability to force defenses into adding on in the run game is crucial. Richardson will do that, while also getting more reps in the Colts offense. On Day 2, the Colts added CB Julius Brents and WR Josh Downs from North Carolina. Brents is one of my favorite DBs in this class, and his athletic profile and style of play make him a perfect fit in the Colts’ defense. Downs is a much smaller, shiftier variation of the Colts wideouts that are already on the roster, and he’ll provide a much different style of play, while exclusively being a slot defender. A few of my favorite Day 3 adds: DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, CB Darius Rush, and S Daniel Scott. All Senior Bowl alums who will add to that defense, especially Rush.
Most importantly, they added athletes:
This has the potential to be a great foundational draft class, one that could keep GM Chris Ballard with a job.
The Bengals didn’t wow anyone with their picks, but the most important thing is that they stocked up on their future defensively, while getting solid role players for the present.
EDGE Myles Murphy may not be a superstar, but he’s a long, strong and physical defender who fits the Bengals body type on the edge. They can kick him inside on passing downs and he’ll cause havoc. On Day 2, the Bengals added Michigan DB DJ Turner, who can eventually fill in the spot for Mike Hilton as the nickel or be depth on the outside. However, my favorite pick of theirs was Alabama S Jordan Battle in the third round. Battle isn’t going to wow fans with his athleticism, but he’s always in the right spot at the right time, and plays very instinctively. The Bengals got a lot younger on defense, while they still have to pay their stars on offense.
Speaking of the offensive side of the ball, on Day 3 the Bengals added Illinois RB Chase Brown, Princeton WR Andrei Iosivas, and Purdue WR Charlie Jones. Brown is a nice complement to RB Joe Mixon, while Iosivas and Jones provide more speed to the Bengals wideout group, Jones a bit more nuanced in his route running. Overall, the Bengals had a really nice draft, and ensured the future of their defense.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick worked his voodoo magic once again in the first round, trading back from 14 to 17, and still drafting one of the top players in the draft in Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a long, fluid and athletic corner who fits the Pats defense like a glove. On Day 2, the Patriots added a versatile defensive lineman in Keion White who can play on early downs against the run, then kick inside in passing situations so New England can have White, Matt Judon and Josh Uche on the field together. Plus, they drafted one of my favorite players in this draft cycle, Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu. He’s a bit undersized as a true LB (he played safety in college), but he’s fluid and instinctive in coverage, and comes downhill with bad intentions. Sub packages with he and Kyle Dugger on the field at the same time will cause a lot of problems for opposing offenses.
On Day 3, they addressed the offense with adding guards Sidy Sow and Antonio Mafi, both powerful players who fit the New England offensive line perfectly. They also swung for upside in LSU WR Kayshon Boutte in the 6th round. If it all works out, Boutte is a great complement to the Pats receivers, with his ability after the catch. The Patriots needed to get younger and more explosive on both sides of the ball, and in this draft they did just that.
The #Patriots prioritized high #RAS players in 2022, and they did the same in 2023. Their top two players were both 99th percentile athletes and their one below average player was only 0.01 below average, considered a faller in the draft. pic.twitter.com/6O54TS3r75
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2023
If this is what NFL Draft classes are like for the next few years under GM Omar Khan, the Steelers are in good hands. Pittsburgh traded up over the New York Jets to go get mauling offensive lineman Broderick Jones in the first round, player who will set the tone physically on that offensive line for a long time. Then, on Day 2 the Steelers selected CB Joey Porter Jr. (yes, the son of Steeler great Joey Porter Sr.), who’s physicality and ability in press should help the Steelers defense out a lot. Wisconsin DT Keeanu Benton is a typical Steeler defensive lineman, with big, strong hands that dislodge lineman at the point of attack.
Perhaps the biggest pick was taking Georgia TE Darnell Washington in the third round. Washington fell due to concerns about his knee, but if his medicals check out and he’s healthy, the only thing stopping that offense is offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Cory Trice and Nick Herbig will both play a lot as rookies with the chance to develop into starters as well. The Steelers knocked this draft class out of the park.
Draft season never ends. Check out my first 2024 NFL Draft big board when you’re ready to move onto next year’s class.