- Anthony Richardson: The Indianapolis Colts were the perfect landing spot for Richardson's skill set as he progresses into his final NFL form.
- Deonte Banks: The New York Giants played more Cover 0 or Cover 1 (man coverage) than any team in the league last year. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), Banks is one of the top man coverage corners in the class.
- Darnell Washington: Adding a player like Washington only increases the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ ability to run more looks out of 12 personnel.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
As our analysis of the 2023 NFL Draft rolls on, we wanted to take a look at some perfect player/team fits that ended up coming to fruition from draft weekend.
These are the 10 best player fits from the 2023 NFL Draft:
Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Mid-way through the 2022 college football season, I’m not sure anyone was predicting Richardson to be a top-five pick. However, he was selected there due to what he can be, projecting what we saw this past year from him as a first-year starter wasn’t his final form. Indianapolis was one of the ideal landing spots for Richardson to grow and improve.
First, he’ll get to work with new head coach Shane Steichen, who was the Philadelphia Eagles‘ offensive coordinator from 2021-2022 and worked hands-on with quarterback Jalen Hurts as he improved into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFC. Hurts saw his turnover-worthy plays drop from 18 to 11 from 2021-2022, and his adjusted completion percentage went from 73.7% to 78.0%. Hurts has also been one of the top rushing quarterbacks in the NFL across the past two seasons, something the Colts obviously want to utilize in Richardson.
Second, Richardson will go to a decent supporting cast right off the bat. The receiving corps is solid with a young WR1 in Michael Pittman Jr. and good young talent around him. Additionally, the offensive line should improve from a down 2022, and Richardson will have Jonathan Taylor to lean on in the run game.
Deonte Banks, New York Giants
This one fits like a glove. The Giants played more Cover 0 or Cover 1 (man coverage) than any team in the league last year. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) Banks is one of the top man coverage corners in the class. He was a 90th-percentile athlete in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump at the combine, and that kind of athletic ability shows up on tape when he’s asked to guard the other team’s best receiver. He finished 2022 with an 81.8 overall coverage grade and led the team with five force incompletions in Cover 0 or Cover 1.
Darnell Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers
Not only did I like this pick due to the value, but I also loved it for the versatility it presents this offense. The Steelers played 12 personnel (two tight ends) for 256 snaps in the regular season, which was 12th most in the NFL — up from the 213 snaps they played from this personnel group in 2021 (21st). The Steelers overall grade from this personnel grouping also went improved from 66.7 to 76.3. Adding a player like Washington only increases the ability to run more looks out of 12 personnel. I believe that’s where Pittsburgh wants to go, and Washington will be a key piece in doing so.
Nolan Smith, Philadephia Eagles
A popular NFL comparison for Smith was Haason Reddick, who was drafted 13th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 but struggled to live up to that top 15 billing. He finished his first season with the Cardinals with a 53.2 pass rush grade, mainly as an edge player. He then spent the next two seasons as more of an off-ball linebacker. Over the last three years, he’s made the switch back to edge rusher and has recorded 12.5, 11 and 16 sacks in each of the last three seasons, respectively, to go with an elite 90.0 pass-rush grade in 2022.
With the blueprint for Reddick’s success already on the roster, hopefully, the Eagles can just use Smith as an edge player in the way Reddick has found similar success with a similar skill set and body type.
John Michael Schmitz, New York Giants
As a four-year starter for Minnesota, Michael-Schmitz shouldn’t look lost in the early parts of his NFL career. In fact, he’s in a great environment to start at center on the Giants' interior offensive line. Michael Schmitz, at 6-foot-3 ½ and 300 pounds, is one of the bigger and stronger centers in the class, which will gel well with the guys already entrenched on the Giants offensive line. New York nailed its first two selections, leaving little projection needed to envision impact starting roles for both Banks and Michael-Schmitz.
Cody Mauch, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mauch is a fit with the Buccaneers for a few reasons. First, general manager Jason Licht is no stranger to small-school offensive linemen. He drafted Hobart's Ali Marpet in the second round in 2015, Humboldt State's Alex Cappa in the third round in 2018, and you can even throw in Central Michigan's Luke Goedeke in the second round in 2021 in there, as all three became starters. Mauch, drafted in the second round from North Dakota State, is poised to be the next offensive lineman in that royal lineage. With Tristan Wirfs moving to left tackle and Goedeke kicking out to right tackle, Mauch could earn a starting spot at guard later this summer.
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
This one is an obvious one, but it had to be noted. Robinson was the draft's top back, which is why he was picked in the top 10 selection. He went to a spot where the rich seemed to just get richer in the rush category, as Atlanta finished third in the NFL in total rushing yards in 2022. It’s clear with Robinson now aboard that the Falcons are gunning for that No. 1 spot, as well as the continued usage of their running backs in the passing game given Robinson’s 75.4 receiving grade this past season.
Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers
This one is a fit because the Packers seemed to really want to get multiple tight ends on the field last season, even with a group that was not the strength of their offense. Green Bay ran 325 snaps out of 12 personnel last season, which was second only to the Seattle Seahawks. That should have been a strong suggestion that the Packers would be in on this year's deep tight end class. Drafting Musgrave and Tucker Kraft in 2022 should mean that the percentage of snaps in multi-tight end sets will continue to be high.
Drew Sanders, Denver Broncos
When I look at the Broncos' depth chart and how the team is set up, I like Sanders as a utility player in their lineup, as they can get the most out of his unique ability as an off-ball linebacker or edge rusher. If the Broncos want him to still play more of an off-ball role, he presents an athleticism and height/length upgrade over Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton. But if they still want him to be a situational pass-rusher as well, he’ll fit right in with Baron Browning, Randy Gregory and Nik Bonitto.
Cedric Tillman, Cleveland Browns
The Browns didn’t pick until the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, but they were still able to get the perfect player to help round out their receiver room. They already have Amari Cooper, who is a No. 1 WR who can play and win all over the field. They also have a slot receiver in Elijah Moore after their trade with the New York Jets. Then they have their deep threats in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Marquise Goodwin. However, they didn’t have that true “X” type of receiver who could win with size and strength on the line of scrimmage — Tillman fits that bill perfectly.