Draft Review

Pigskin’s 2023 NFL Draft Team Grades ALL

The month of June is on the horizon, and the NFL  Draft is a full month in the rear view mirror. And to be honest I have not seen a new specific Team Draft Grade request from any readers in over a week. So, I am going to wrap up my Draft Grade series with a total report card for all 32 teams. If your team did not previously get a player-by-player breakdown I apologize. Please get your request in after the 2024 NFL Draft concludes next year so we can fix that.

So let us get on with the 2023 grades alphabetically by NFL Teams…

ARIZONA CARDINALS      B+      Not quite an A grade but they did what they needed to and are stocked with Day One & Two extra Picks for the next two years. I am projecting that they may have 12 Rookies on the 53-man Roster in Sept. That is a lot this year, because the Draft Class of Prospects was very light when it came time to add RFA. Covid years are still affecting the League, not to mention NIL.

ATLANTA FALCONS     C+     I have no problem with a team coached by ARTHUR SMITH that would take a franchise RB like BIJAN ROBINSON in the Top 10 Picks, but I clearly have some differing player evaluations than their scouting staff for some of their Picks. I’ll be darned I can figure out what their scouting staff keys in on.

BALTIMORE RAVENS     D    They won a big one with the signing of LAMAR JACKSON to stay in Baltimore, just hours before the Draft started, but they were hamstrung by having only 6 Picks and even using one of those Picks on ANDREW VORHEES, who will likely be a medical red shirt this coming season. FLOWERS & SIMPSON are solid, and the rest are 50/50 shots to play much.

BUFFALO BILLS      C        Not condemning them here, but also questioning the NFL talent level for the second half of their 6 player Draft. KINCAID should really help JOSH ALLEN as a flex TE. DORIAN WILLIAMS will have to replace EDMUNDS. TORRENCE needs to supplant someone in their IOL and power up their inside run-game. The rest are destined for Special Teams and inactive lists for now.

CAROLINA  PANTHERS       C+   Maybe landing your franchise QB should count for a higher grade, but although I like most of their talent additions, those 4 guys are barely going to replace players they lost. They may be shooting for volume next Draft.

CHICAGO BEARS     C+       Considering the trades they made for Draft Capital I just don’t see enough quality here in their 10-man class. The only guy I see as a sure thing is WRIGHT, who was picked too soon, and must start at RT based on his college career. They were well stocked with Picks but I don’t understand some of the guys they targeted.

CINCINNATI BENGALS    B      When the only reason you haven’t been to multiple Super Bowls, recently with BURROW as your QB, is failing to get past MAHOMES and his Chiefs, then you are doing something right. Drafting DB on Draft Day 2 with both Picks in addition to VF A NICK SCOTT is good work, after losing both  their starters to VFA. BURROW’s huge second contract is coming up so they drafted multiple times to fill voids where they will have to let other VFA go elsewhere next year.

CLEVELAND BROWNS    B     Considering that it looked like the team had given up too much in trading for/signing WATSON last year, they did a nice job with their 7 Picks, none in the first two Rounds. They spread the Picks out to address multiple position groups. I expect all of their Picks to make the roster and most could contribute as Rookies.

DALLAS COWBOYS      C-    I am not convinced that this Draft group is going to contribute a lot, at least in the short term. MAZI SMITH is a physical/athletic freak (in a good way), but his flash plays are too few and far between to be picked in Round One. And unless they can re-sign ZEKE in Training Camp they did little to help their run game, which they claim they want to do.

DENVER BRONCOS    B-   Given what they got in a trade emaciated group of Picks with only 5 of them this wasn’t bad work. And they did get coaching guru SEAN PAYTON for Pick 29.  MARVIN MIMS/WR/RS, DREW SANDERS/LB & RILEY MOSS/CB were all deserving of Day Two selections, and will help their respective position groups. I expect to see a plethora of roster tinkering as Training Camps get under way. PATON & PAYTON could be a dynamic leadership duo if they can see eye-to-eye and not become dueling egos. I will be most curious to see what DC VANCE JOSEPH decides to do with Boise SS/LB J.L. SKINNER, their Round 6 Draftee. Now SEAN just has to get a guy named RUSSELL WILSON back to his old self… let’s ride, boys.

DETROIT LIONS      B     I thought they were headed for an A Grade, but then I believe they got a bit too cute trading back around and getting “their guys” . But they did enough to win a couple more games and take the NFC North crown. GIBBS could be a major upgrade if he stays healthy, unlike his predecessor SWIFT. BRANCH should be a big lift for their secondary, if they don’t play around with his positioning too much.

GREEN BAY     A-      They needed a big Draft effort as they were bitten hard and often by Salary Cap issues this off-season. They traded around a bit as GM GUTEKUNST  has shown a want to do. But they still came out with 11 Picks and a bunch of guys who should make the roster and contribute for them. They say LOVE is ready but they have to hope that many of their Draftees are ready, right now. They are likely to get the JETS 1st Rounder next Draft.

HOSTON TEXANS     B+     GM CASERIO went for the big enchilada right away, getting Picks 2 & 3 and filling them with two potential NFL stars in STROUD & ANDERSON. The next 7 Picks were surprising at times, but look useful overall. If STROUD is ready right away this team could hover around the .500 mark this season.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS     A     The Rent-A-Vet-QB strategy in Indy appears to be over with, although it may be folly to expect NFL level savvy from a QB who had only 13 career starts at Florida. Potential, hell yes… and the rest of the Picks? Very solid indeed. DOWNS is a good bet to replace HILTON (which they failed to do adequately last year). They have a whole bunch of guys to battle for work in a retooling DB group. They deserve that A, now can they keep JIM IRSAY occupied elsewhere for a while to put the pieces together.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS    C-     Perhaps the key to the whole Draft is whether of not 1st Rounder JON HARRISON can come in and win a starting job at OT. I like their early Picks but VENTRELL MILLER in Round 4 is more than a reach. He played forever at Florida but is not much more than a likely NFL Special Teamer. He is just not a great athlete. Ditto for LACY in Round 4, except he’s not even a Special Team likelihood. A mixed bag that may turn up a couple of surprises… they hope. The Picks were strong on Days 1 & 2, but other than ABDULLAH in Round 5, the rest of their Picks look like they let the “interns” pretty much man the Draft room on Saturday.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS   C    Maybe a C is all you need when your QB is Patrick Mahomes. But I find this group of 7 Picks to be a highly questionable group, with seeming multiple reaches. RASHEE RICE could be their most productive “get” in this group of Rookies. He and TONEY should be the top WR on the roster this season. The theory here is that MAHOMES can raise the level of play in his receivers group. He’d better. They are replacing both of his OT this season (again), and it looks like VFA JAWAAN TAYLOR & DONOVAN SMITH  are the two newcomers and no one voted either of them onto an All-Star team last season.  ER THOMPSON in Round 5 interests me as an athlete but he is raw, and even at 240 he looks skinny. But he dominated as an edge rusher in the Shrine Bowl.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS   C-      They made 9 Picks and hit on some while missing on others. But hey, the NFL success ratio on Draft Picks  hovers around the .500 mark historically.  I still maintain that they drafted the wrong BYRON YOUNG in Round 3. And I was shaking my head when they traded up to tab QB AIDAN O’DONNELL at Pick 135. MAYER is a solid TE to fill in for WALLER & MOREAU with both being gone. TRE TUCKER was a surprise at first but no doubt his explosive return skills were a big part of him being tabbed on Day Two. In my mind the biggest Pick has to be JAKORIAN BENNETT to start off Day 3. They are weak on secondary talent and BENNETT had a solid 2022 season as well as good testing numbers at the Combine. He has to come through for their Defense to improve. I also found it surprising that they failed to Draft an OL.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS     C+      It would not take much for me to bump this grade to a B, but I am still not totally sold on QUENTIN JOHNSTON from Round 1. He tests fine, but he drops too many balls and does not create the separation you expect, and need,  at the pro level. MATLOCK might be the brightest surprise, but as usual the absolute biggest challenge is keeping their players healthy enough to play every Sunday, or whenever. Drafting a health/training guru would have impressed me and gotten them  to that B level.

LOS ANGELES RAMS     C        They traded their souls away to bring in bright shiny stars and got their Super Bowl rings. They laughed about “F…” the Draft Picks, and then they went down the toilet drain and had little left to work with, not to mention some huge Salary Cap issues. So many of the big names are gone and even though they exercised a league leading 14 Picks in this Draft the impact may be somewhat marginal. However, of the 13 Picks 10 of them were later than the Top 150 Picks. Nice way to infuse youth into your depth chart, bur not extreme talent to replace what you had to let go. For example, I do not foresee Pick 89, KOBIE TURNER, being anywhere close to departed A’SHAUN ROBINSON, one of the best run-stopping DT in the NFL. AVILA was a nice Pick in Round 2, and should earn a starting job on the IOL right away. They Picked the correct BYRON YOUNG/Tennessee a mere 7 Picks after the Raiders took the wrong Byron Young. And my mouth went so wide open that I almost swallowed 2 flies when they used Pick 128 on STETSON BENNETT/QB. The latest talk has then possibly moving away from RB CAM AKERS for durability issues and maybe relying on 6th Rounder ZACH EVANS from Ole Miss.  They should be picking in the Top 10 next April, if they still have that Round One pick in their half empty “F” Picks quiver.

MIAMI DOLPHINS    D     They started with only only 4 Picks and may have wasted that 2nd Rounder on a fast, but small RB, which they already had several of on their roster; DEVIN ACHANE a former track star. Then they took a slow WR, with modest size, in ELIJAH HIGGINS and announced him as a TE conversion project. This Draft has the personification of meddling Owner STEPHEN ROSS written all over it. That would be the guy whose tampering and trying to play footsie with TOM BRADY cost them their Round 1 Pick this year. I better move on before I give my first F ever to them.

MINNESOTA      D     A small, and questionable Draft group for a team which was used to drafting double digit players in the RICK SPIELMAN as G.M. era.  Their Draft was greatly influenced by the near ending of that overpaid QB contract that they gave to Kirk Cousins ever so long ago, but which is almost over with now. This might the team that I’d be tempted to accuse of tanking for a guy named CALEB WILLIAMS who plays for the college program from which  they made their first two Picks this year from. Might just be a coincidence, but then again…

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS     A-     Things are looking up in New England for the first time since TOM BRADY left town. First of all it looked like BELICHICK really paid attention to this Draft and perhaps even considered more input from MIKE GROH and his scouting staff than ever before. Maybe…   After last year’s coaching fiasco, they actually now have a respected and seasoned O.C. in BILL O’BRIEN who failed in Houston and got fired not for bad coaching, but rather for accepting the G.M. position and acting like Trader Joe. They did some astute picking in the Draft, like finally deciding they needed Special Teams help and drafted PK CHAD RYLAND & P/CHRIS BARINGER. They may also have saved the pro career of QB MAC JONES, with the departure of MATT PATRICIA, the former PATS D.C who Little Bill thought should be the offensive play caller. They used their Picks to good effect overall, spreading young talent over multiple position groups.

NEW ORLEANS      B      They got lucky when SEAN PAYTON got tired of broadcasting pretty quickly and decided to come back to the league while still under contract to the Saints, which got his former team the 29th Pick in this year’s Draft. They got 7 useful Draftees  and as usual another 5-6 Rookie Free Agents who should fight for roster spots this Summer. A solid piece of work here.

NEW YORK GIANTS    C+     They started out with a bang, and I luv their top 3 Picks. But I have some issues with the guys they took on Day 3, like for instance ERIC GRAY, who was a total washout during Senior Bowl week anytime he was called upon to block in pas-pro, and dropped too many throws as well. But if BANKS/CB, SCHMITZ/OC & HYATT/WR, their Top 100 Picks, all win playing spots during Training Camp they may be of serious help at those positions of need.

NEW YORK JETS     B+      Of course I have to give them credit for getting AARON RODGERS on their roster, although if he stays healthy he will cost them their Round 1 Pick next year. But that will hurt next year’s Draft Grade not this year’s. I also am looking forward to what ZACH KUNTZ/TE Pick 220, an amazing athlete at 6’7/255, may do… long term. I also liked the addition of TIPPMANN/OC & WARREN/OT  to their OL group. Both have starting potential.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES    A      Once again Trader Howie (Roseman) turned in a sterling Draft effort, albeit in large part just a matter of selecting from the GEORGIA roster of one KIRBY (YES HE IS) SMART. DT/CARTER is basically in play to replace FLETCHER COX when he retires after this season. ER/NOLAN SMITH in some way will do the same for DE/ER BRANDON GRAHAM when he hangs up his pads after this season, his 14th in the NFL. Not sure how or exactly where, KELEE RINGO/DB will fit in their secondary, but he will find a place. SYDNEY BROWN/S may be good enough to replace the departed Marcus Epps at S. He had an excellent season in 2022 for the Fighting Illini. He is a ball hawk, and hits a ton.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS     B+      Based on transactions (including the Draft) it appears that OMAR KAHN is a bit more of a personnel risk taker than his predecessor KEVIN COLBERT, who was quite successful in his roster building efforts. Their Top 100 Picks, all 4 of them, have the look of immediate impact players for the Steelers. And the team continues to follow the “family” tradition. I expect all 7 Draftees to make their roster this Fall. By the way the family act additions in this Draft were CB/JOEY PORTER (whose father with the same name was a sack master LB for them), and LB/NICK HERBIG (whose bro NATE/OG was added as a VFA this off-season).

SAN FRANCISCO 49’ERS     C+      Some of the responsibility for this relatively blah grade for them is due to having traded away their top two Picks in previous trades. But certainly the trade that brought them CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY was well worth the price. Biggest surprise perhaps was picking PK/JAKE MOODY in the Top 100 Picks… 99th to be exact. However, he was arguably the best PK in this Draft and ROBBIE GOULD has left the Bay Area for what he expects to be greener pastures. JIMMIE WARD  is gone at a S slot, but Penn State’s SS/JI’AYIR BROWN plays much better than his mediocre athleticism numbers would indicate. If ROBERT BEAL could ever stay healthy he would likely develop into a productive EDGE defender. TE CAMERON LATU may be a more productive pro than he was a collegian.  Some decent pieces for the depth chart overall.

SEATTLE SEA HAWKS       A-     When you are still drafting with the added Draft Capital of last year’s RUSSELL WILSON trade you should ring the bell again. And they did, IMO. 4 Picks in their first 2 Rounds look to have yielded at least 4 part-time starters. This one trade of WILSON has now pretty much allowed the Sea Hawks to retool their roster in 2 years. Hell, even Bobby Wagner/LB came back from the retooling RAMS to rejoin his old team. In a pattern very similar to last year I would not be shocked if all their 2023 Picks make the roster and 5 or 6 could be rotational, almost-starters at the least. With the RAMS & CARDINALS being 10+-loss teams the retooled SEA HAWKS could be the realistic threat to unseat the 49’ers at the top of the NFC West, with the infusion of Rookie talent playing a major role.

TAMPA BAY  BUCCANEERS    B-     I actually thought GM LICHT and his crew did a solid job in this year’s Draft. They had a full basket of Picks, with 8, and overall they used them wisely. But with the exodus of a guy named BRADY and another slug of Cap Casualties, it is going too take a couple more years of smart drafting to rebuild the entire roster. To be frank about it, my only second guess of a Pick by them was in Round 6 with the selection of DB JOSH HAYES. I do NOT rule out the chance that CALIJAH KANCEY becomes the 2nd coming of AARON DONALD, though I admit that’s asking a lot. CODY MAUCH will start immediately somewhere along their OL. They may try him outside at OT, at least to start with. YA YA DIABY DE/ER  in Round 3, will likely be an Edge Rush specialist as a Rookie, but should be starting and providing double digit Sacks yearly by 2024. This may sound a bit crazy but their best long term helper may just be 6th Rounder SirVOCEA DENNIS a LB who may may need to replace either LAVONTE DAVID or DEVIN WHITE any day now. DAVID looked at VFA and is now 33-years old. WHITE is angry about his contract situation. PAYNE DURHAM/TE/Purdue is a big man (6’6/255) who can block and catch and will likely be replacing CAM BRATE. TREY PALMER was the fastest wideout at the Combine and uses that speed as a receiver and a Return Man. E. Michigan standout JOSE RAMIREZ specializes in pocket pressure, but can do more once they decide where he fits best. Despite the loss of Brady they did NOT draft a QB and are counting on BAKER MAYFIELD (signed as a VFA) or KYLE TRASK, their 2nd Round Pick in 2021. They likely will be in the QB market in the 2024 Draft.

TENNESSEE TITANS    B-      This grade may surprise you, but I thought the “new” management team of GM RAN CARTHON and HC MIKE VRABEL did a solid job of drafting some immediate help for the team. PETER SKORONSKI is a versatile OL who played Tackle in college and will get his first look there, though many think he will have to move inside because of short arms. He WILL start. Not so sure about their Round 2 Pick of QB WILL LEVIS. LEVIS was highly touted heading into the 2022 college season, but regressed as Kentucky’s QB. I am convinced (pretty much) that his ankle injury (plus other hurts) robbed him of his natural running ability and helped lead to a less than 2:1 TD/INT Ratio. He has the size, the Arm and physical toughness for the NFL, but may not be ready quite yet. The WILDCATS were thin on talent for him to work with as well last season. But when it comes to receivers the Titans, who didn’t draft any wideouts, must be counting on some serious progress from a group of mostly young wideouts.. WHYLE may have been a steal of a Pick in Round 5, ditto for OT DUNCAN in Round 6. TYJAE SPEARS/RB looks like a perfect compliment to their RB room, which is led by bruisers HENRY & HASKINS. But unfortunately SPEARS knees may lead to a short career in the NFL. What they really needed was another 3 Picks in the middle Rounds, but those Picks do not grow on trees.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS    C      The best news around Draft time was that the team was going to be sold by DANIEL SNYDER, and his wife. That did not affect their Draft much because GM MAYHEW & HC RIVERA are solid NFL guys, and not the main problems in D.C. They had their 7 allotted Picks and did OK with them. FORBES/CB and MARTIN/S cold both earn starting jobs in their secondary and that might be a major boost on game days. K.J. HENRY was a standout athlete at Clemson, when healthy. He may split time between DE/OB, but he will be full-time as en Edge Rusher, if he stays healthy. Their retuning OL group is not awful but OC/RICKY STROMBERG and G/T BRAEDEN DANIELS could upgrade that unit and certainly bring down their average age and vet salary levels. I like their addition of RB/CHRIS RODRIGUEZ   to their RB stable. He will fit right in as a 215+lb., between the Tackles runner with good contact balance and a nose for the end zone. But to be honest this year is all about new starting QB SAM HOWELL, from last year’s Draft class. HOWELL did some amazing things at UNC, if only those can translate to NFL QB play. But still, this team is not catching up to the GIANTS, COWBOYS & EAGLES this season, that’s for sure.

That’s a wrap folks… all 32 teams in a nutshell. Time for some time off, once OTA’s wrap up and then by Mid-July camps open around the league and we are off and running with the 2023 NFL season. Until then enjoy your Summer.