There were countless quality selections made in the 2023 NFL Draft, but which specific player-team fits stood out from the pack? Here are a few schematic matches that could pay early dividends for NFL teams.
Top Player-Team Fits From the 2023 NFL Draft
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Baltimore Ravens have been starving for more explosive WR play, and now they have a player who fills that need in Zay Flowers. But more importantly, they also now have an offensive coordinator in Todd Monken who can utilize Flowers’ energized athleticism.
Flowers can separate on the boundary or in the slot in spread looks, and his speed and play pace can also stress defenses vertically. But even more exciting is the way Flowers can be used laterally and on sweep tosses with his balance and RAC ability. The key is getting the ball into Flowers’ hands, and Monken has proven he can be creative in doing so.
Mazi Smith, DT, Dallas Cowboys
The Mazi Smith selection in Round 1 was a slight reach on my board, but the ways Smith can magnify the Cowboys’ defensive personnel compensates for the gap. Dallas needed a nose tackle who can be a force multiplier on the defensive line, and now they have one.
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Pound for pound, there might not be a stronger player in the 2023 NFL Draft class than Smith. He can encumber and absorb double-teams with his strength and demolish one-gap assignments with his torque. His double-team utility will free up other linemen, but Smith also possesses the explosiveness and power to provide his own pass-rushing appeal.
Derick Hall, EDGE, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks’ odd-front scheme favors edge rushers who can rush from outside the tackles and utilize wider rushing angles, and it doesn’t hurt to be able to shade in front of outside runs and set a strong edge. Derick Hall can do all of those things, and he offers an elite power profile.
At 6’3″, 255 pounds, with 34 1/2″ arms, Hall is built to disrupt and displace as a pass rusher. His explosiveness and short-area twitch help him load up force into contact, and he’s combative as a finisher. But he also has the play strength and natural leverage to slab blockers in the running game and prevent movement, and he’s a vulture in pursuit with his reach and closing speed.
Joe Tippmann, OL, New York Jets
Joe Tippmann profiles as the New York Jets’ long-term starting center, but in the immediate timeline, he also provides valuable projected versatility. Connor McGovern is only on a one-year deal, and Laken Tomlinson is back at left guard after regressing in 2022.
If needed, Tippman has the athleticism and power to shift over to left guard. His best use long-term is ultimately at center, where his football IQ can be fully exhausted. But either at guard or center, Tippmann has the raw strength and torque to displace on zone blocks, as well as the athleticism and range to steamroll defenders as a puller. He’s a versatile, high-upside piece who shores up New York’s interior in multiple ways.
Jayden Reed, WR, Green Bay Packers
The Packers have an explosive, versatile move piece in Christian Watson. And they have another boundary presence in Romeo Doubs. But what the Packers needed for Jordan Love was a truly reliable three-level threat with boundary-slot versatility. Jayden Reed gives them that.
Reed can be a target funnel right away with Love. He has the route tree and depth to separate at all ranges of the field, and his release and stem work can be brutal. He has the speed to stretch seams and stack defenders, as well as the RAC ability to make use of quick touches. And he’s also one of the best at contorting for and corralling high-difficulty throws. He’s the perfect final complement for this Packers offense.
Marte Mapu, LB/S, New England Patriots
If there’s one thing we know about Bill Belichick, it’s that he goes by his board and no one else’s. And sometimes, he gets the last laugh. It worked out for him with Cole Strange in 2022. If there’s another thing we know, it’s that he knows how to use versatile defensive personnel.
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In that second lens, Marte Mapu becomes an incredibly intriguing 2023 NFL Draft selection. At 6’3″, 217 pounds, Mapu can do it all. He’s fluid and explosive enough to play the overhang slot and match up with WRs or TEs. He has the bend to sear around the arc as a pass rusher, and he’s also very natural sifting through congestion and tracking plays from the second level.
Devon Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins
Mike McDaniel had Raheem Mostert and decided that wasn’t enough speed. So he went and added Devon Achane in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s not hard to imagine what Achane can do in Miami’s offense, but it’s especially exciting to think about.
Achane has the game-breaking speed that Mostert has, but he also has much more tread left on his tires at just 21 years old. In wide-zone looks, Achane can use his speed to beat everybody to the edge and rocket upfield, but he also has the short-area instincts and quickness to dart through congestion on inside-zone looks. Achane has rare dynamic potential, and McDaniel knows how to maximize that.
Dorian Williams, LB, Buffalo Bills
Everyone has been stressing about who might end up being the Buffalo Bills’ replacement for free agent departure Tremaine Edmunds. And yet, there hasn’t been a ton of discussion yet on whether or not Dorian Williams can be the guy. I think he can.
Williams is only 6’1″, 228 pounds, compared to Edmunds at 6’5″. But Williams has arms almost as long as Edmunds’ at 34″. That length, combined with Williams’ 4.49 speed, gives him absurd range patrolling the second level, as well as an incredibly wide disruption radius in coverage. And in the box, he has the urgency and foot speed to sift through congestion, as well as the strength to stack and squeeze running lanes.
Yasir Abdullah, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
With the first pick in the fifth round, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Yasir Abdullah. He was presented as a linebacker, but he’ll join an EDGE rotation that includes Travon Walker and Josh Allen. At 6’1″ and 237 pounds with 32 3/8″ arms, Abdullah is a sharp contrast to the other profiles on the roster, but he’s a perfect fit as a sparkplug and third EDGE.
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Abdullah might have the build of an off-ball linebacker, but he has the unhinged tenacity of a true rush LB. He’s extremely explosive (4.47 40-yard dash, 10’9″ broad jump), with lightning-fast quickness off the line. With his bend, he can sink under lurching tackles with devastating ease, and he also brings size-defying shock in his hands. In Jacksonville’s odd-front defense, rushing from wide 9, Abdullah can be hard to stop.
Puka Nacua, WR, Los Angeles Rams
As a Round 5 pick, Puka Nacua might’ve fallen under the radar for onlookers. But he has a legitimate chance to make an impact for a Rams’ receiving corps that has very little in the way of established talent after Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson.
At 6’2″, 210 pounds, Nacua has the size, body control, and extension ability of a boundary threat, but he also brings the smooth athleticism necessary to move around the front. And as a RAC threat, he’s an explosive long-strider who can eat up space and pry through arm tackles. His versatility is something Sean McVay will quickly make use of, both with his variable receiving utility, and his ability to be used in motion and on designed touches.