2023 NFL Draft: Biggest Day 2 Steals and Snubs Include Brian Branch, Josh Downs, and John Michael Schmitz

    Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft has come to a close. Brian Branch and Josh Downs include two of the biggest steals in Rounds 2 and 3.

    2023 NFL Draft: Biggest Day 2 Steals and Snubs Include Brian Branch, Josh Downs, and John Michael Schmitz

    Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft brought a furious onslaught of trades through the second and third rounds. Teams continued to maneuver as certain players fell far beyond their expected range.

    Some highly touted prospects who were mocked as first-round picks fell deep into Day 2, and there are still a number of notable stars available as we head into Day 3 on Saturday. Let’s dive into our biggest Day 2 steals and snubs.

    Biggest Day 2 Steals and Snubs in the 2023 NFL Draft

    Some of the biggest steals and snubs from Day 2 either heard their names called much later than expected or didn’t hear it called at all. These six players will have extra motivation to prove to teams they made a mistake by passing on them when they hit the field this fall.

    Steal: Brian Branch, DB, Detroit Lions

    The Detroit Lions have had a tale of two drafts. After being universally panned for selecting running back Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall and linebacker Jack Campbell 18th overall in Round 1, the Lions quickly got back into good graces in Round 2. They addressed massive needs with tight end Sam LaPorta, defensive back Brian Branch, and quarterback Hendon Hooker.

    I could argue that Hooker was a steal, but because of Hooker’s learning curve and age, Branch is the most notable addition until we see Hooker on the field. The Lions desperately needed to add secondary help and seemed devastated after missing out on cornerback Devon Witherspoon in the first round. They could still use a talented body at outside corner, but the safety position is massively improved.

    MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

    Set to play alongside Tracy Walker, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Kerby Joseph, Branch should prove to be a valuable Swiss Army knife. He was announced as a cornerback on the broadcast, and he’s capable of playing in the slot full-time if the Lions require it.

    Getting a player ranked 16th overall on the industry big board at pick No. 45 is the definition of hitting a draft steal.

    Steal: Josh Downs, WR, Indianapolis Colts

    The Indianapolis Colts entered this draft with two goals: finding a franchise quarterback and adding a ready-made offensive playmaker. They nailed both of those goals without giving up additional assets than their original draft slot. Adding North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs with the 79th overall pick vaults the floor of their offense considerably.

    While most teams have built deep, complementary receiving corps over the last few years, the Colts have struggled to identify helpful playmaking depth. Michael Pittman Jr. is a solid up-and-comer, and Alec Pierce is an intriguing vertical threat with a big catch radius. However, their decision to let Parris Campbell walk in free agency left them without talent behind them.

    There’s still a need for some vertical speed for Anthony Richardson. But the gap between Ravens first-round pick Zay Flowers and Downs is small. Downs is a ready-made slot presence who’s quicker than fast and runs routes extremely well.

    Steal: John Michael Schmitz, C, New York Giants

    The New York Giants have had an incredibly utilitarian draft, checking off massive roster needs after their surprising playoff run in 2022. While being so true to need can lead to poor results where better players at other positions were passed on, the Giants have nailed their draft. Cornerback Deonte Banks is an excellent fit for Wink Martindale, and second-round pick John Michael Schmitz will start immediately at center.

    Schmitz will stabilize the Giants’ center position for years to come.’s Lance Zierlein lauded his impressive polish and “tenacity” in the run game, giving him an edge that’ll fit the Giants’ culture perfectly. Best fit for a zone-running scheme that Big Blue often features for star rusher Saquon Barkley, Schmitz will maximize any opportunity he’s given to work in space.

    The Giants have devoted a significant number of assets to fix this offensive line over the past three years. Schmitz isn’t the final piece — both guard spots have some long-term questions — but he’s the best-case scenario to man a much-improved unit that needed a foundational piece in the middle.

    Snub: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

    When very good players and prospects fall into Day 3 of the draft, it’s not uncommon for the reason to be tied to medical concerns, character dings, or a need for a specific scheme. For as well as Ohio State’s Dawand Jones performed at the 2023 NFL Senior Bowl and throughout his collegiate career, his hulking 6’8”, 374-pound frame just isn’t a good fit for most teams.

    There aren’t many comparables for a player that large. Orlando Brown Jr. has performed well in the NFL thanks to his size, cashing in with a $64 million deal with the Bengals this offseason. But Brown is also on his third team since 2018.

    Jones’ impressive wingspan and strength make him more likely to be a productive player compared to the expectations of most Day 3 picks. He was a logical fit for Kansas City or Cincinnati, or even the Los Angeles Chargers as a depth piece. Someone will get a steal on Saturday in Jones.

    Snub: Adetomiwa Adebawore, Edge, Northwestern

    NFL evaluators get a lot wrong often, but they’ve done well when it comes to trusting freak athletes along the defensive line. The majority of productive defensive linemen are some of the best athletes to ever play the game. It’s not hyperbole to say that Adetomiwa Adebawore is one of those guys, and yet he fell to Day 3.

    The 6’1 ⅝” Adebawore blew the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine out of the water. He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash time at 282 pounds and ranked in the 88th percentile with a 37.5” vertical and 90th percentile with a 125” broad jump. It seemed much more likely he’d end up as a first-round pick than a Day 3 pick one week ago.

    MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Grades

    NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah mentioned on the draft’s broadcast that teams were unsure of where to play Adebawore because of his size.

    Though Adebawore is short, he’s not lacking length, ranking in the 63rd percentile for edge defenders with 33 ⅞” arms. This feels like teams are overplaying his lack of height when everything else adds up to a valuable rotational player.

    Snub: Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh

    We knew the 2023 NFL Draft class boasted an incredibly deep running back class. Whenever that happens, there will be some exceptionally talented players who aren’t drafted at all, or much later than their talent would normally indicate. Even though five running backs heard their names called on Day 2, Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda headlines the best backfield players still available.

    Abanikanda was a relative unknown entering the 2022 season. He produced 651 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground with Kenny Pickett as his quarterback in 2021. But he set the country on fire as a senior. With Pickett gone, Abanikanda averaged six yards a carry and finished with 1,577 total yards and 21 touchdowns.

    Possessing fantastic speed for a back weighing 216 pounds, Abanikanda projects well to a Tony Pollard-type role in the NFL. His ability to stretch rushing lanes on outside zone concepts and then hit the open hole with instantaneous speed makes him a standout prospect.

    It wouldn’t be surprising to see Abanikanda emerge as a starter early in his career as Pollard has in Dallas.

    Ian Valentino is a Fantasy and Betting Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy.

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