Los Angeles Rams — Matthew Stafford
Base Salary: $31,000,000
In his first year with the Rams, Matthew Stafford was worth every bit of his massive contract (plus the trade package Detroit received). Following the LA’s Super Bowl win in ’22, the Rams inked Stafford to a sizable extension worth $160 million over four years. At the time, it seemed like the right move for a Rams team looking to contend for a second straight title.
Year 2 didn’t go quite as well for the QB. Stafford was limited to just nine games. In those games, Stafford nearly threw as many interceptions (8) as he did touchdowns (10). With the Rams looking like a sizable underdog in the NFC West behind the 49ers and Seahawks for the foreseeable future, paying an aging quarterback for the next several years isn’t the most cost-efficient move.
Houston Texans — Maliek Collins
Base Salary: $7,250,000
Being one of the youngest teams in the league, the Texans don’t have a ton of large contracts currently on their roster. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are the two highest paid on the team, while guard Shaq Mason checks in at No. 4. Spending on quality offensive lineman is a sound strategy when you consider the Texans will be starting a rookie QB (CJ Stroud) under center this year. This forces our attention to defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who is set to make a fairly sizable $7.25 million in ’23. Collins plays a little over half of the snaps on defense for the Texans, and has hardly been a game-changer in two years for Houston.
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Arizona Cardinals — Kyler Murray
Base Salary: $37,000,000
Kyler Murray has a long way to go in living up to the lofty five-year/$230 million contract he signed a year ago. Murray’s colossal deal included $160 million in guarantees, and ties the young QB with the Cardinals until at least 2027. There’s no doubting Murray’s ability — a two-time Pro Bowler and former Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, he was terrible in his lone playoff appearances and wasn’t very good in ’22 even before getting injured. Arizona is going to find it increasingly difficult to build a roster around Murray at that number if he’s not playing like a superstar. For example, the Cardinals could end up parting ways with stud WR DeAndre Hopkins soon in a cost-saving effort.
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Las Vegas Raiders — Chandler Jones
Base Salary: $16,000,000
A lot went wrong for the Raiders in their first year under HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler. Among the worst developments was the decline of Chandler Jones. He inked a three-year/$51 million contract prior to the ’22 season. Jones was expected to relieve some pressure off opposite-side edge rusher Maxx Crosby. Instead, Jones endured the worst season of his career as he registered just 4.5 sacks (3.0 of which occurred in one game). Jones’ play prompted Vegas to spend their first-round pick on another pass rusher (Tyree Wilson) instead of its leaky offensive line.
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New England Patriots — Hunter Henry
Base Salary: $9,500,000
Hunter Henry was one of two tight ends the Patriots splurged on during the 2021 offseason. Henry and former Patriot Jonnu Smith signed deals worth a combined $87.5 million during that summer. The pair combined for just two touchdowns last season, and Smith was traded to the Falcons back in March. Henry is coming off a rather pedestrian year — 41/509/2. His base salary of $9.5 million is the fourth-highest among all tight ends in ’23 behind only Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Evan Engram (franchise tag).
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Atlanta Falcons — Jake Matthews
Base Salary: $12,558,823
Jake Matthews is a quality starting left tackle, and has been one of the few bright spots for a Falcons offensive line which has struggled mightily over the last several years. A one-time Pro Bowler, Matthews agreed to an extension in ’22 worth $55 million over three years. Entering next season, no offensive lineman in the entire league has a larger cap hit than Atlanta’s Matthews. That means he’s consuming more of his team’s salary cap than perennial All-Pro’s like Trent Williams and Lane Johnson, among others. Matthews is good, but nowhere near the level of those other players.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Tom Brady
Base Salary: $35,000,000
In all likelihood, Tom Brady will not be suiting up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season. The seven-time Super Bowl winner announced his retirement (again) following a disappointing year. Because a large amount of the $50 million contract he signed with the Bucs back in ’20 was deferred, Brady’s cap hit will affect the team for the next two seasons. In ’23, Brady will cost the Bucs a whopping $35 on their cap — and he won’t even be playing. That is absolutely brutal for a team trying to rebuild its roster.
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Chicago Bears — Eddie Jackson
Base Salary: $17,090,000
Eddie Jackson is one of the last remaining members of the 2018 Bears group which led the league in virtually every defensive category. Now, he’s an overpaid safety for a defense that desperately needs a facelift. Jackson’s coming off back-to-back injury-riddled seasons which saw his numbers dip across the board. He’s the third-highest paid free safety in the league behind only Kevin Byard (First-team All-Pro twice) and Justin Simmons (named All-Pro three of last four seasons).
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Washington Commanders — Logan Thomas
Base Salary: $6,275,000
Tight ends are becoming more and more impactful in the modern game, with the elite players at the position getting paid handsomely for their services. Washington TE Logan Thomas gets paid like a top TE, but his production has failed to match. With a $6.275 million base salary in ’23, Thomas will be the ninth highest-paid TE in football next year. He was a non-factor last season — albeit coming off injury — finishing with a line of 39/323/1. Thomas ranked 23rd in receptions and 32nd in yards among tight ends last year.
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Tennessee Titans — Ryan Tannehill
Base Salary: $27,000,000
The Titans have selected QB’s in each of the last two drafts, but will still cut a hefty check to nominal starter Ryan Tannehill this year. Tannehill — who signed a four-year/$118 million deal back in ’20 — is coming off his worst year in Tennessee as the team approaches a likely rebuild. With Will Levis (and Malik Willis) waiting in the wings, it seems hardly beneficial to be paying a stop-gap option like Tannehill that type of money. It might be best for the team to cut ties with the veteran QB, as the Titans could use the money saved to build around one of the young quarterbacks. If they decide to keep him, Tannehill’s cap hit for ’23 is a whopping $36.6 million — second-highest in the entire league behind only Patrick Mahomes.
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Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly
Base Salary: $9,125,000
A once-heralded group, the Indianapolis Colts offensive line was disastrous in ’22. Not only did the Colts regularly wilt under pressure in pass protection, Indy’s maulers upfront couldn’t even provide consistent push in the run game. This was a group that was previously considered the core strength of the Colts as a whole. Now, the team is paying a lopsided amount to its declining offensive line. That includes starting center Ryan Kelly, who graded out unfavorably last season — 16th among 36 eligible centers per Pro Football Focus. Only seven centers in the entire league make more than $6 million per year. Kelly’s current deal has him around a whopping $12.5 million per season (four-year/$50 million). It’s fair to expect a little bit more out of Kelly in that case.
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Green Bay Packers — David Bakhtiari
Base Salary: $1,200,000
When healthy, David Bakhtiari is undoubtedly one of the top tackles in the game. Protector of Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, Bakhtiari was named an All-Pro each year from 2016-20 (First-team in ’18 and ’20). Unfortunately, staying healthy has become an issue for the 31-year-old. Over the last three seasons, Bakhtiari has missed 26 out of a possible 50 games. While his base salary is rather low following a restructuring, he holds a $21 million cap hit as a result of the four-year/$92 million deal he signed a few seasons ago. Green Bay hopes their big ticket tackle can suit up for a majority of the games in ’23.
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Carolina Panthers — Donte Jackson
Base Salary: $1,080,000
The uber-athletic CB Donte Jackson hasn’t exactly lived up to his lofty draft status. Formerly a first-round pick, Jackson has endured five lackluster, injury-riddled years in Carolina. While he’s collected a fair amount of interceptions (14) over his career, Jackson’s stature has often made him a target in the run game. Additionally, he hasn’t developed into the type of lockdown corner who can shut down one side of the field. While his base salary remains low for ’23, he comes with a near $7.5 million cap hit — fifth-highest on the team. He is set to miss the start of next season nursing a torn Achilles.
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New Orleans Saints — Taysom Hill
Base Salary: $10,000,000
The NFL’s version of the super-utilityman, Taysom Hill has to have one of the more unique and puzzling contracts in the league today. The converted-QB is now listed as a TE on the Saints roster, but is behind both Juwan Johnson and recently-signed Foster Moreau on the depth chart. It’s unclear why the Saints have invested so much time and funds into Hill as a player — though he is coming off a career-high 575 rushing yard season. Hill can be useful near the goal-line as a ball carrier, but he’s nowhere near an NFL-level QB or TE — certainly not one worthy of earning $10 million a season.
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Denver Broncos — Russell Wilson
Base Salary: $8,000,000
Wilson’s base salary for this season doesn’t tell the whole story. When the Broncos traded for the former Super Bowl winner, the team inked him to a lucrative extension (five-year, $242.5 million) on top of the two years he had remaining on his previous deal with the Seahawks. In ’23, his base salary was reduced to $8 million after the team paid out a whopping $20 million to him as part of stipulated guarantees. In reality, Wilson is getting paid around $49 million per year until 2028 to be Denver’s QB. If you watched him play at all last season, you’d know that is disastrous amount of money to pay at his current state. Wilson regressed substantially in his first year with the Broncos, and the team hopes new HC Sean Payton can revert him to a Pro Bowl level QB.
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Minnesota Vikings — Harrison Smith
Base Salary: $7,500,000
Not too long ago, Harrison Smith was a feared defender who helped lead a Vikings defense which boasted talent at all three levels. Minnesota’s defense has been rather dreadful over the last three seasons, and that runs nearly parallel to when Smith’s play began to slip. Now 33 years old, Smith isn’t the same type of player — against the pass and run — he once was. His declining play coupled with a hefty contract (four years, $64 million signed back in ’21) is a sore spot for the Vikes.
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Cleveland Browns — Deshaun Watson
Base Salary: $46,000,000
Over the duration of his contract with the Browns, Deshaun Watson is slated to make a whopping $230 million over five years. We have no idea as to how this contract will eventually turn out. After sitting out for a while due to off-the-field issues, Watson came back and registered a paltry 38.3 QBR for the Browns this past season — easily the lowest of his career. Additionally, Watson’s career record (31-28) is far from stellar. We’ll see if he’s really worth nearly $50 mil a year.
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Pittsburgh Steelers — Mitch Trubisky
Base Salary: $8,000,000
Trubisky is essentially getting $8 million to be the primary back-up to Kenny Pickett. That is a rather bloated number for a reserve in today’s NFL. It’s even more so the case when looking at Trubisky as a player. Often lauded more for his physical tools rather than his actual on-field production, Trubisky has accrued a 31-24 record over the course of his career. We’d have to think Pittsburgh will move off of him for a cheaper, younger option after his deal expires.
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Detroit Lions — Jared Goff
Base Salary: $20,975,000
Goff is in the midst of a contract paying him $134 million over four years. He’s a bit of curious case at the most important position in all of football. Goff won’t ‘wow’ anyone with his physical tools. He’s not overly athletic, has a tendency to fumble the ball due to small hands, and many think that the Super Bowl appearance he enjoyed was more so based upon Sean McVay rather than himself. Still, he has made three Pro Bowls over the course of his career. With that in mind, despite being considered an average starting QB, is Goff overrated?
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Miami Dolphins — Bradley Chubb
Base Salary: $16,781,233
Chubb left Denver to ink a 5-year deal with the Dolphins worth $110 million ($53 million guaranteed). You’d think that Chubb would be one of the league’s most prolific pass rushers based upon this hefty contract. Well, as fate would have it, he’s arguably one of the most overpaid players in the league based upon production.
After notching 12.0 sacks as a rookie, Chubb has combined to accrue 16.5 sacks over the last four years. As he approaches the prime of his career, the Dolphins surely hope he can recapture the prowess he demonstrated off the edge as a first-year player.
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New York Giants — Leonard Williams
Base Salary: $18,000,000
We won’t go as far as to say Williams has been a disappointment for the Giants. Coming over from the Jets, he did register a career-high 11.5 sacks in his first year with the G-Men. However, the numbers have dwindled since then. Following the career year, Williams’s sack numbers dropped to 6.5 in 2021 — and 2.5 this past year in 2022.
When you’re paying a guy nearly $20 million a year to rush the passer — especially when he’s only 28 years of age — you’re generally looking for more production.
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Los Angeles Chargers — J.C. Jackson
Base Salary: $12,000,000
Jackson had an abysmal 2022 season for the Chargers. The year before, he graded out with a percentage of 78.9 — thus ranking him as the seventh-best corner in the league out of 116 participants. In 2022, those numbers plummeted to the point he graded out as one of the worst corners in football — registering a percentage of 28.7 (all numbers courtesy of Pro Football Focus). While he did only play in five games, those numbers are certainly scary for the Chargers — who inked him to a 5-year/$82 million deal.
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Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley
Base Salary: $19,157,340
Stanley is getting paid as if he’s one of the best tackles in football. However, the narrative isn’t really matching up to reality. Baltimore extended Stanley with a 5-year deal worth $98.75 million. Throughout the course of his career, Stanley has made only one Pro Bowl appearance.
Since 2020, Stanley has appeared in 18 out of a possible 49 regular season games. Including this season, he still has three more years on his deal as he approaches age 30. While he’s a very talented player when healthy, Stanley hasn’t been able to consistently maintain the level worthy of such a lofty deal.
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Jacksonville Jaguars — Cam Robinson
Base Salary: $16,000,000
Cam Robinson has never made a Pro Bowl throughout his six-year NFL career. Due to the reported use of a performance-enhancing drug, Robinson has been suspended to start this upcoming year. Still — with all that in mind — Robinson is being paid as if he were one of the best left tackles in the NFL. We get that there’s a premium at the left tackle spot. With that said, is Robinson really worth this sort of financial commitment?
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New York Jets — Laken Tomlinson
Base Salary: $13,500,000
Tomlinson made one Pro Bowl (with the Niners) before coming over across the country to New York. His lone season with the Jets was — shall we say — a rough one. According to Pro Football Focus, Tomlinson ranked 58th overall out of 77 offensive guards in the NFL. Even rougher, he graded 69th out of a possible 75 when it came to run blocking. Fortunately for the Jets this year, the addition of Aaron Rodgers should lead to some more throwing of the football.
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Dallas Cowboys — Michael Gallup
Base Salary: $12,086,761
At this point, Gallup is the third receiver in Dallas behind CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. Paying your third receiver upwards of $12 million annually doesn’t seem like the smartest decision when dispersing resources. Even worse for Gallup, he’s coming off a career-low 424 receiving yards in 14 games. PFF had Gallup ranked No. 85 out of 113 receivers in all of professional football a year ago.
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San Francisco 49ers — Kyle Juszczyk
Base Salary: $4,750,000
To be fair, San Francisco has done a brilliant job in building its roster. There aren’t any contracts one could construe as ‘bad’ by any stretch. Even here, Juszczyk is one of the best fullbacks in the league. Compared to others, he’s rightfully earning more than the average. Technically, the Niners could move some of that money elsewhere and get a replacement-level fullback. However, Juszczyk really is an imperative member of the offensive scheme.
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Buffalo Bills — Dawson Knox
Base Salary: $10,270,000
Knox is a good player, and has proven to be one of Josh Allen’s most favorite targets. The 27-year-old made his first Pro Bowl this past season. Recognizing his talent, the Bills inked him to a 4-year/$52 million deal. Curiously, the Bills went and drafted another tight end (Dalton Kincaid) in the first round of this year’s draft. Maybe Buffalo can operate with a two tight end set…or there’s some thought that the Bills could ultimately cut bait with the more expensive option in favor of someone on their rookie deal.
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Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Mixon
Base Salary: $9,613,808
Mixon is making just south of $10 million annually with the explosive Bengals. As he approaches age 28, the former Oklahoma Sooner has been a fixture with the franchise his entire professional career.
The running back position certainly has been devalued over the last decade. Unless you’re one of the best in the league at the position, there’s not a ton of sense in paying more than $5 million annually on any running back. They’re effectively a dime a dozen — and can be had every year through the draft. As for Mixon, he’s only made one Pro Bowl in six years.
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Seattle Seahawks — Jamal Adams
Base Salary: $15,480,000
Adams is a stud. He’s easily one of the most imposing safeties in all of football, and much of his reputation comes from three-straight Pro Bowl appearances. Now with Seattle, the Seahawks made it a point of emphasis to keep him in the fold. Paying him nearly $71 million over four years is a lot of money — especially for a safety. While Adams is a very good player, he may be a tad overpriced here.
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Philadelphia Eagles — Jalen Hurts
Base Salary: $24,304,000
Hurts was fantastic last season. He finished second in the league MVP voting, and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. At only 24 years of age, the Eagles knew they had to lock him up to a long deal. Philadelphia signed Hurts to a 5-year deal worth $255 million (over $179 million guaranteed). While no one will fault Philly for signing Hurts, there are questions as to whether Hurts can live up to the commitment. Some are hoping he’s not the proverbial ‘one year wonder’. Before leading the Eagles to a 14-1 regular season record, Hurts was a combined 9-10 the prior two years.
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Kansas City Chiefs — Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Base Salary: $9,000,000
Coming over from Green Bay, Valdes-Scantling was supposed to be a big-time downfield threat for Patrick Mahomes. Despite getting a multi-year deal, MVS registered only 687 receiving yards last year in 17 games (two TDs). In fact, the most yards Valdes-Scantling has ever accrued in a single season is 690. So, even though the speedy receiver has never come close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark for a single year, he’s still making nearly $10 million a year.
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Draft Grades For 1st Round of 2023-24 NFL Draft
The Vikings were set on getting receiver help even after they saw three wideouts consecutively selected right before them. Minnesota kept the run on WR’s going with the selection of USC pass catcher Jordan Addison. The team needed another option opposite Justin Jefferson following the departure of longtime stalwart Adam Thielen. Addison plays bigger than his slight frame would suggest, and has impressive route-running chops. Not wanting to stray out of Southern California, the Vikings added another former Trojan in CB Mekhi Blackmon. He’ll help add some youth in a secondary which signed former Cardinal Byron Murphy Jr. this offseason.
After taking two USC players, the Vikings kept with the theme of pairs by taking back-to-back LSU defenders with their next two selections. Jay Ward is a versatile defensive back who can play safety or nickel corner, and DT Jaquelin Roy figures to be a nice rotation piece up front who can help Minnesota’s miserable run defense. Though some predicted the Vikings to use an early pick on a young QB, they waited until Round 5 to address that spot with BYU’s Jaren Hall. He will contend with veteran Nick Mullens for the backup role behind Kirk Cousins.
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Green Bay Packers
Much to the chagrin of Green Bay Packer fans, the team spent yet another Day 1 pick on a defender. Lukas Van Ness was selected 13th overall by the Packers with the pick the team received in the Aaron Rodgers trade. Van Ness is a stellar athlete who figures to be an immediate impact player on the edge for Green Bay. While it certainly addressed a position of need, the Packers likely could have traded down once more and still secured Van Ness in the latter-portion of the first round.
Fortunately for young QB Jordan Love, Green Bay spent both of its second-round picks on offensive help. First came TE Luke Musgrave — the first of two tight ends selected by the Packers — out of Oregon State. Then, Michigan State wideout Jayden Reed. Musgrave gives Love a big target who can win on contested catches, while Reed brings a much-needed speed dynamic that will work out of the slot. Tucker Kraft will join Musgrave in the TE room, and is excellent after the catch. With several losses on the defensive front, Colby Wooden out of Auburn could find early playing time despite being a bit undersized for a defensive tackle.
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Detroit certainly had the most puzzling Day 1, trading down to select RB Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall selection. Gibbs’ is a tremendous talent who will see the field early now that D’Andre Swift is with the Eagles. Still, it was a rather aggressive pick — especially after the Lions had the chance to take the consensus No. 1 RB in the draft (Bijan Robinson) with the fifth selection before trading down.
The Lions further spat in the face of “positional value” by taking an off-ball backer with the No. 18 pick. Jack Campbell will be a Day 1 starter in the middle of Detroit’s defense. The Lions took Campbell’s Iowa teammate in Sam LaPorta in Round 2 — to the surprise of many as Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer was still on the board.
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The Bears weren’t quite done trading down in the first round. After trading out of the No. 1 overall pick, Chicago traded down once more from No. 9 to No. 10 on draft day. While acquiring an additional fourth-round pick, the Bears eventually used their first selection of the draft on tackle Darnell Wright. It was obvious they needed to get more protection for QB Justin Fields, and they did just that with this pick. Wright will be an immediate starter — likely at right tackle.
Their next three selections all addressed obvious needs across the defense — run-stopping defensive tackle (Gervon Dexter), press corner (Tyrique Stevenson), and another edge rusher (Zacch Pickens). With David Montgomery leaving for Detroit, the Bears were likely to take a RB in this draft. They settled on Texas runner Roschon Johnson who should have fresh legs after backing up Bijan Robinson for the past three years. WR Tyler Scott could be an immediate-impact player who lasted all the way until the end of the fourth round. Blessed with incredible top-end speed, Scott’s ability to stretch the field pairs well with Fields’ vertical style of play.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers want to get back to fielding a dominant defense like the one during their Super Bowl run. Calijah Kancey drew comparisons to another undersized defensive tackle out of Pitt — let’s not go there — and was the team’s first-round selection. While he doesn’t figure to be an every-down player right away, Kancey can be a difference-maker if deployed correctly. Looking at the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay got a mauler in North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch. A likely starter at guard, Mauch will help open up holes for Tampa runners.
Edge rusher YaYa Diaby will be used on passing downs as a pass rusher, and off-ball backer SirVocea Dennis could find early-down work for his ability to play run support. The offense added two new weapons in 6-foot-6 TE Payne Durham and speedy wideout (4.33 40-yard dash) Trey Palmer.
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New Orleans Saints
The Saints had an obvious need of getting younger and more athletic on the defensive line. With Marcus Davenport leaving and Payton Turner not flashing much as a rookie, the Saints were essentially forced into revamping that group. That led to them possibly reaching with each of their first two picks. Clemson’s Bryan Bresee will be a great run defender, but his ability to rush the passer was inconsistent for the Tigers. Isaiah Foskey is more adept at rushing the passer, but went about 40 picks ahead of expectation.
In the third, the Saints addressed a rather large elephant in the room with the selection of TCU RB Kendre Miller — putting the future of former All-Pro Alvin Kamara in doubt. With the Miller pick and the offseason signing of Jamaal Williams, the Saints could be preparing for a lengthy suspension for their star back. Old Dominion tackle Nick Saldiveri will be an important depth piece at tackle. The Saints also added a second Fresno State hurler to their QB room with the selection of Jake Haener. He will be joining former Bulldog and mentor Derek Carr.
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After taking offensive skill players in the first round of each of the past two drafts (Kyle Pitts and Drake London), the Falcons continued that trend by taking do-it-all back Bijan Robinson. The Texas standout was considered a top-3 prospect — regardless of position — in the entire class. He’ll be used in all sorts of ways in Arthur Smith’s offense, and gives young signal caller Desmond Ridder yet another weapon to utilize.
Previous Falcons teams that boasted considerable talent have been thwarted by shaky offensive lines. In an effort to remedy that, Atlanta’s used its second pick on Syracuse lineman Matthew Bergeron. He has experience playing guard and both tackle spots, and that kind of versatility will be extremely helpful for a Falcons line still trying to find its footing. Zach Harrison was a highly-touted recruit that could find early playing time due to Atlanta’s lack of consistent pass rushers. A ballhawk at Utah, CB Clark Phillips lack of size won’t be quite as apparent in Atlanta’s zone-heavy scheme.
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Bryce Young highlights a Panthers draft that was predictably thin following its trade for the top pick. Of course, if Young is everything scouts and fans believe him to be then the rest of the class won’t matter quite as much. Still, getting quality players in the margins is paramount for a team like the Panthers (which already boasts a rather talented roster). In the second round, Carolina grabbed Ole Miss wideout Jonathan Mingo (who had been rapidly rising up boards prior to the draft). The QB-WR pairing will now have the chance to build chemistry from the onset.
Oregon’s DJ Johnson was one of just two picks spent on defenders. The edge rusher has an intriguing combination of speed and size which could earn him work in obvious passing situations. Chandler Zavala — one of the draft’s top interior offensive lineman — and versatile Florida State DB Jammie Robinson concluded a rather successful draft for the Panthers.
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Can’t go wrong with getting OT Peter Skoronski off the board at pick No. 11. He was one of the draft’s premier tackles and will be a stalwart for a rebuilding Tennessee offensive line. After they probably considered him in the first-round, Kentucky hurler Will Levis surprisingly fell into Day 2. The Titans traded up to the second pick of the second round to take Levis, who will supposedly start out as QB3 behind longtime starter Ryan Tannehill and 2022 draftee Malik Willis.
Tulane back Tyjae Spears could be a great addition to this offense. Electric in the open field, Spears will be used as both a runner and receiver at the next level. We also particularly liked the value Tennessee got on Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan — an excellent run blocker who started all four years at Maryland.
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It was a bit of a mixed bag for the Jaguars, who made 13 picks over three days. Their lone Day 1 pick was used on Oklahoma tackle Anton Harrison who projects to slot in at right tackle to begin the season. The fifth offensive lineman taken off the board, Harrison had more of a second-round grade entering the draft. Though, the Jaguars had an obvious need at the position with presumed starter Cam Robinson facing a multi-game suspension to start the year.
The Jaguars draft got even weirder from there. Jacksonville doubled up on TE with Penn State’s Brenton Strange after getting a strong season out of Evan Engram last year. We understand 2-TE sets are all the rage in 2023, but that doesn’t seem like a great use of resources. Especially when it was followed up with yet another running back in Round 3 with Auburn’s Tank Bigsby. The former Tiger figures to be the thunder to Travis Etienne’s lightning. Jacksonville spent their next four picks on defenders, with the most intriguing selection being DB Antonio Johnson — a rangy 6-foot-2 defender who could thrive as a nickel corner.
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The Colts swung for the fences, and we have to give them credit for doing so. Anthony Richardson has the highest ceiling of any QB in the class, but his development will be key as he looks to improve in several areas. We love his chances of succeeding in Indianapolis, especially when we analyze the rest of their draft.
In the second-round, Indy continued to build up their defensive backfield with K-State’s Julius Brents. The 6-foot-3 corner could prove to be extremely valuable as a shadow for bigger wideouts. Adding Josh Downs to the WR room is exactly what that group was missing. He’s the ideal speedy, slot wideout next to Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr. Northwestern DE Adetomiwa Adebawore is an absolute freak of an athlete who ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at 280 pounds. The Colts somehow got him in Round 4.
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Houston wasted no time making the first big move of the draft. After selecting Ohio State gunslinger C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick, the Texans shocked everyone when they reappeared on the clock moments later. Houston traded four picks to move up to No. 3 (plus adding No. 105) to select the top defender on the board in Will Anderson. We spoke about this in the first-round grades piece, but the Texans obviously did a marvelous job here selecting two potential cornerstones on either side of the ball.
That being said, nailing the second and third overall picks in the draft isn’t exactly rocket science. While Houston should be applauded for their aggressiveness to move up, what they’re able to do with the rest of their draft capital could ultimately decided the next several years. Houston added some much needed depth to their interior line with the selection of two natural centers — Juice Scruggs and Jarrett Patterson. With an obvious need at pass catcher, the Texans took nearby wideout Nathaniel Dell in the third round. The former Houston Cougar is one of the most polished route runners in the entire class.
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From a positional-need and value perspective, the Steelers arguably had the best draft of any team. In the middle of the first-round, Pittsburgh nabbed the last potential franchise tackle in Georgia’s Broderick Jones. The Steelers did have to trade up to secure their guy, but it’s a small price for a player who further enhances the development of the team’s two previous first-round picks (QB Kenny Pickett and RB Najee Harris).
In the second, Pittsburgh called upon a familiar name to bolster their secondary. Joey Porter Jr. plays just like his former Steeler father — except he’s a 6-foot-2, 200-pound, press corner instead of a 250-pound edge rusher. He figures to get playing time early due Pittsburgh’s thinness at the position. Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton fits the mold of a 3-4 defensive tackle that provides consistent push upfront. Though they already have Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers couldn’t pass on TE Darnell Washington in the fourth round. Washington creates matchup problems at 6-foot-7, and is basically a sixth blocker on the edge of the line.
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Cleveland had to wait all the way until the third round to make their first selection. That’s the price a team pays for giving away half of their draft for a “franchise” QB. In their effort to build the offense around Deshaun Watson, the Browns’ first selection (No. 74 overall) was used on Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman. Standing at 6-foot-3 with a large catch radius, Tillman will give this offense another big target opposite 6-foot-2 Donovan Peoples-Jones.
The Browns added depth to both lines with four of their final six picks. Siaki Ika is an enormous defensive tackle that could be a factor in the run game early. In the fourth round, OT Dawand Jones presented tremendous value as insurance for starters Jack Conklin and Jedrick Willis Jr. Day 3 saw Cleveland make a play for a development QB in UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The former Bruin will likely start as QB3 behind Watson and backup Joshua Dobbs, but boasts intriguing athletic tools which could earn him playing time in a different role.
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The Bengals fought the urge of adding to their already explosive offense in Round 1, opting for edge rusher Myles Murphy instead of TE Michael Mayer. There’s no doubt Cincinnati could use a boost up front defensively. Despite boasting one of the league’s better defenses last season, Cincy finished 29th in sacks and were routinely coming up short of bringing down opposing quarterbacks. Murphy is a perfect fit with the Bengals — as his size and athleticism give him the potential to deployed at multiple spots.
Second-round selection DJ Turner could help define this class for Cincinnati. What Turner lacks in size he makes up for in speed and instincts. The 5-foot-11 corner ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine and was well-coached at Michigan. He’ll already be familiar with one of his new teammates, safety Daxton Hill, from their time as Wolverines together.
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It’s difficult to not get excited about what the Ravens have over the last couple of weeks — highlighted by re-upping franchise QB Lamar Jackson to a massive extension. The Ravens already showed their commitment to getting Jackson more weapons with the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — but the team didn’t stop there. With their first-round pick, Baltimore added another wideout in Boston College’s Zay Flowers. A quick-twitch route runner, Flowers is adept at generating separation between himself and defenders.
The Ravens added some athleticism on the defensive side of the ball with their next three picks, adding to all three levels with linebacker Trenton Simpson, edge rusher Tavius Robinson, and corner Kyu Blu Kelly. Simpson is the most intriguing of the bunch, as his range and coverage skills could potentially make former first-rounder Patrick Queen expendable. In the seventh, the Ravens arguably got the steal of the draft in USC’s Andrew Vorhees. The burly guard is set to miss the entire season after tearing his ACL at the combine, but could be an excellent long-term stash.
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Los Angeles Rams
Currently in a bit of a rebuilding process, the Rams were loaded with picks — making a whopping 14 selections between Day 2 and Day 3. The obvious hope is that the franchise will ‘hit’ on some of these guys. At the very least, it’s feasible to assume that second-round pick Steve Avila out of TCU will start up front along the offensive line. He’s a mauler in the run game, and very good in pass protection.
Third-round pick Byron Young was quite active during his time at Tennessee. He could provide the Rams with some pass-rushing production off the edge. We really like DT Kobie Turner out of Wake Forest (he could play sooner than you’d think). If you’re looking for a late round sleeper, Sixth-round pick DB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson was a stud at TCU. He could walk into the Rams’ secondary and offer some help at nickel. All in all, this was a very solid draft in terms of helping to rebuild the team’s depth.
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Los Angeles Chargers
With Zay Flowers on the board, the Chargers opted to instead take Quentin Johnston mid-way through the first round. There’s no denying his speed or size on the perimeter. Still, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams already on the roster, you wonder whether the Chargers could’ve selected a receiver with a bit of a different profile.
With that said, we like the next three picks by the Chargers’ front office. USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu was arguably the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 this year. He has the versatility to play all along the defensive line. Daiyan Henley out of Washington State is a highly active linebacker with some plus-athleticism. Lastly, LA rolled the dice on another TCU receiver — this time being Derius Davis. Davis is a sub-4.4 guy with real value in the return game.
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San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco didn’t pick until the third round. We didn’t love what they did — spending a third on a kicker (Jake Moody) and another on a TE (Cameron Latu) who figured to still be around potentially in the fifth round. Moody will take over for longtime kicker Robbie Gould now that he’s departing.
The secondary needed a reboot — which should come via Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown (a player the team is said to be very high on). From there, fifth-round pick Robert Beal out of Georgia could provide the 49ers with situational pass rushing.
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Kansas City Chiefs
When you’re a good franchise, it should come as little surprise to see said team drafting well year after year. Yet again, the Chiefs were able to add players from the prep ranks that should come in right away and help.
Chief among them, local prospect Felix Anundike-Uzomah. Hailing from K-State, Anundike-Uzomah graded out as a terror on the edge. He constantly pressured opposing quarterbacks, and a deep dive into the analytic breakdown indicates he was one of the most successful pass rushing threats within the Big-12. He should immediately make an impact for KC.
Additionally, Rashee Rice gives the Chiefs a deep threat within its WR corps. OT Wanya Morris out of Oklahoma is talented enough to potentially be a developmental starter down the line. Other than that, Texas nose guard Keondre Coburn could see some time as a run-stuffing option.
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Las Vegas Raiders
We don’t love the Raiders’ first-round pick. While Tyree Wilson is a fantastic athlete, corner was a more pressing need. However, the team bounced back terrifically in the second round to nab Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame. The big TE will immediately be a starter for the franchise, and he could very well prove to be one of the bigger steals in this draft.
The mid-round selections of Jakorian Bennett and Tre Tucker were clearly aimed at improving the team’s athleticism — particularly on special teams. Fifth-round selection Christopher Smith (from Georgia) looks like a guy who could end up not only making the team — but potentially getting some snaps as a rookie.
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Most people had Seattle rolling the dice on Jalen Carter here. Others thought they’d maybe stash a QB behind Geno Smith. Instead — in pure Pete Carroll fashion — Seattle opted for presumably the best corner in the draft in Devon Witherspoon. He graded out phenomenally well last year at Illinois, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him become a Pro Bowler as soon as next year.
Witherspoon was followed by a plethora of really smart picks. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a supremely gifted receiver, adding yet another weapon to the offense. Zach Charbonnet was one of the country’s best running backs last year, offering a combination of quick feet, pass-catching ability, vision, and the penchant for breaking tackles. Auburn’s Derick Hall could be a difference-maker immediately off the edge, LSU’s Anthony Bradford could become a starter as an interior offensive lineman, and fourth-round nab Cameron Young out of Mississippi State may end up among the best picks of this crop. Heck — even the Michigan duo of Mike Morris and Olusegun Oluwatimi could end up very good pros one day.
In short, this was a home run draft for the Seahawks.
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More than anything, the Cardinals needed some stability moving forward. This draft seemed to signal a move in the right direction. Moving down to accrue more draft capital, Arizona nabbed the top OT in the draft in Paris Johnson (a move to surely help Kyler Murray). From there, LSU’s BJ Ojulari — a guy often lauded for his work ethic and energy — was taken in the second round. Both picks look to be very good value-wise.
The secondary got better with the addition of Syracuse’s Garrett Williams. Stanford’s Michael Wilson is more of a possession receiver with terrific ball skills. Keep an eye out for UCLA’s Jon Gaines. Grading out as one of the most explosive guards in the draft, he played every position along the offensive line for the Bruins. Additionally, he’s super smart and a future team leader.
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In the wake of the Russell Wilson trade, the Broncos didn’t have a ton to do throughout the weekend. Denver had only five picks in total. In Round 2, wanting to get Wilson some help, the Broncos took Oklahoma deep threat Marvin Mims. He’s a guy who should help stretch the field vertically.
Drew Sanders is a very good athlete — having played both inside and on the edge for Arkansas. At the very worst, Sanders and fellow third-round pick Riley Moss (out of Iowa) will be special teams guys. Moss actually has the profile of a guy who outplays his draft spot. He’s experienced, intelligent, and has good ball skills.
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New York Jets
After improving its offensive skill talent considerably in the offseason, the Jets opted to nab DE Will McDonald out of Iowa State midway through the first round. While McDonald is a decent player, this pick appears to be a bit of a reach. He probably could’ve been had at the end of the first round/early second round. There’s also not much of a track record when it comes to McDonald stringing together multiple good seasons in Ames.
With that said, the offensive line was addressed in rounds 2/3 with center Joe Tippmann and tackle Carter Warren, respectively. Tippmann comes from the offensive lineman factory that is Wisconsin, and Warren should be able to function as a reserve early. Other than that, we really liked the gabbing of Pitt RB Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round. As they say, he’s got ‘some juice’ when it comes to accelerating in space.
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New York Giants
The Giants did well in filling some areas of concern with this draft. First-round pick Deonte Banks is one of the fastest and most gifted athletes in this entire draft. Getting a guy with this sort of upside late in the first round is rather rare. He’s truly got all-pro potential should he develop well.
Second-round pick John Michael Schmitz was one of the better interior linemen in the Big Ten. A four-year starter at Minnesota, he’s got the ‘look’ of a 10-year starter in the NFL — utilizing brute strength with nimbleness and brains. Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt dropped all the way to the third round despite dominating the SEC this past year. While a bit thin, there’s no denying his big-play ability.
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Washington Football Team
This might not be a draft chock-full of high-end difference makers for Washington. However, we do think it can offer some very solid depth pieces at multiple spots.
Emmanuel Forbes is a terrific athlete from Mississippi State. He’s a true ballhawk from the corner spot — and should start right away. In the second round, Washington went back to the secondary well and nabbed Illinois corner Jartavius Martin (a guy who’s played both corner and safety in his collegiate career).
From there, the offensive line was beefed up. Center Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas) and tackle Braeden Daniels (Utah) were taken in consecutive rounds. Both have a chance to stick as rotation guys this year. Lastly, we like the Round 6 selection of Chris Rodriguez. When healthy, the Kentucky back flashed some above-average ability in accruing YAC.
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It was a very quiet draft for the Dolphins. Miami had only four picks over the three days (Two of which were taken in the sixth and seventh rounds). There’s not a whole lot to take away — though we’ll focus on second-round pick DB Cam Smith and third-round pick RB Devon Achane.
Smith comes from South Carolina — where he was tested weekly versus top competition in the SEC. He’s a bit of a ball magnet, and has the versatility to play both on the perimeter and in the slot as a nickel corner.
Achane is a true home run hitter. Blessed with electric speed (4.32 in the 40-yard dash), he’s the type of guy you get out in space at all costs. We actually think he can be a factor in this offense similarly to how the 49ers used Raheem Mostert a few years ago.
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New England Patriots
In true New England fashion, the Patriots loaded up on picks (12 of them to be exact).
The front office must’ve been doing cartwheels when Christian Gonzalez dropped to them at No. 17. A big, physical corner out of Oregon, he’ll immediately start from Day 1. The same probably will be said for Georgia Tech DE Keion White (who appears to be a perfect fit in a 3-4 alignment).
The mid-round picks were arguably the most intriguing. In Rounds 4 and 5, the Pats picked up two maulers in the interior of the offensive line. Eastern Washington OG Sidy Sow is known for his athleticism. UCLA guard Atonio Mafi — a former nose guard — has massive hands, terrific feet, and ridiculous strength. When paired with fellow fourth-round selection in center Jake Andrews, the Pats may have just rebuilt 3/5ths of its starting OL group in one draft.
And of course…we can’t forget to mention Round 6 selection Kayshon Boutte out of LSU. For whatever reason, he went from being a surefire 1st rounder preseason to dropping all the way to the 6th after a rough 2022-23 year in Baton Rouge. On talent alone, he makes a case as being the most gifted receiver in this class.
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Why not keep Josh Allen happy? While the defense does need some help, the Bills went offense with their first two picks. Dalton Kincaid was nabbed towards the end of the first round. At Utah, he was virtually unstoppable from the slot. Kincaid not only has terrific hands, but he’s super competitive and isn’t shy when making the tough catch in traffic. He’ll immediately become a fan favorite.
O’Cyrus Torrence is a big guard from Florida. Some projections had him going in the first round. However, he fell to the middle of the second round where he projects to be a starter early in his career. In Round 3, the Bills traded up to get speedy ‘backer Dorian Williams. Hailing from Tulane, he’s known primarily for his coverage skills and closing speed.
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The Georgia-to-Philadelphia pipeline is still going strong. The Eagles took two Bulldogs in the first round this year. Jalen Carter might be the most talented player in this draft, and the Eagles were able to trade up and get him at No. 9. Not only does he fill a huge need up front, but he’s an elite talent when not distracted by off-the-field issues. Nolan Smith is a sub-4.4 linebacker with terrific instincts and even better character. For an aging group of pass rushers and outside linebackers, getting Smith was a major plus.
We also liked the additions of Alabama tackle Tyler Steen, physical Illinois safety Sydney Brown, and Georgia corner Kelee Ringo (who unexpectedly fell to Round 4). Even Tanner McKee — the gunslinger from Stanford — has some terrific value as a 6th Round guy who can pump the ball downfield with real velocity.
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The Cowboys had the chance to either trade up for Kincaid, or draft Mayer. Instead, they went defensive tackle with Michigan product Mazi Smith. To be fair, he’s not a bad player by any stretch. We’ll see how much of a difference maker he can be from Day 1.
In the second round, Dallas went back to the University of Michigan — this time for a TE in Luke Schoonmaker. Most projections had him going in the third round. We don’t necessarily see a dynamic pass-catching threat (though surely coming from Jim Harbaugh’s world — he’ll be well-coached and disciplined). Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown from Texas was a solid get in the third round. We also love the addition of diminutive yet explosive RB Deuce Vaughn in the 6th. His dad works for the Cowboys in the personnel department, and the younger Vaughn himself terrorized Big 12 defenses with suddenness and cat-quick agility.
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