NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft: Perfect player fits for teams that did not spend big in free agency

College Station, Texas, USA; LSU Tigers defensive end BJ Ojulari (18) in action during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the LSU Tigers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

• Will Anderson Jr. and Cardinals continue to be a perfect match: The oft-mocked Anderson to the Cardinals makes all the sense in the world considering the team's sudden lack of talent along the defensive line.

• Rams could start rebuild with BJ Ojulari: Los Angeles' list of needs is long, and an impact pass rusher such as Ojulari could be the perfect way to kick off their 2023 NFL Draft.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

With 2023 NFL free agency dying down after the initial rush of the new league year, we wanted to turn toward the 2023 NFL Draft to predict potential player fits for some of the teams that have yet to spend much this offseason.

Here are seven team-player pairings we think could be a home run.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals didn’t spend much in free agency this year. They brought in linebacker Kyzir White, kicker Matt Prater and edge rusher L.J. Collier, but on cheaper deals. The bigger deal was them losing both defensive lineman Zach Allen and cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. And with defensive lineman J.J. Watt retiring, their defensive line needs new talent in a major way. With 146 total pressures and 28 sacks over the past two seasons, Anderson should be very high on the Cardinals' board, if not their No. 1 overall player. 

Green Bay Packers

The Packers made only one addition to their roster this free agency period, signing safety Tarvarius Moore. That lack of action is mostly because of the pending Aaron Rodgers deal with the Jets. But when it comes to their perfect post-free agency fit in the draft, my eyes go to their pass rush. The Packers have Rashan Gary and Preston Smith as their edge duo right now, but Smith is 31 years old and the cap hit on his contract really jumps after this season. Plus, even with him, the Packers need more production up front.

They’d love to grab the versatile 6-foot-6, 270-pound Wilson, but he likely won’t make it to the middle of the first round. Van Ness is a better bet to be available, though that might even be a risk now after Van Ness had a fantastic showing at the NFL Combine.

Both of these edge players have the size, speed and strength combination to play multiple spots on the Packers' front.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs didn’t have much money to work with this free agency due to the dead cap hit from Tom Brady’s retirement and turning the page on some of the aging parts of their roster at the same time. One of their roster cuts was long-time left tackle Donovan Smith. With no real obvious choice to replace him on the roster, they’ll need someone who can step in right away. While All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs is capable of playing on the left side, they’ll have a need at tackle regardless.

The dream for Tampa Bay is Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., but it would be quite the stretch for him to fall to the back of the top 20. If they don’t want to trade up for Johnson, they could stay put and grab the experienced Anton Harrison, who played more than 1,800 snaps at left tackle for the Sooners as their starter for the past three years. Both of these guys could, in theory, come in and contribute at a crucial spot.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ only addition via free agency this year was adding veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks, and so some of their biggest needs remain the heading toward the draft.

When Joey Bosa went down last season, it exposed the Chargers’ lack of pass-rush depth. With Khalil Mack also playing at age 32, they need to get some new juice in that lineup. Nolan Smith would be perfect for them as a fierce run defender and a player who has a ton of athletic upside as a pass rusher. But he likely won’t be available for them in the 20s. Will McDonald IV doesn’t have the run-defense pedigree, but he is one of the more explosive and bendy pass rushers in this class. He would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles' 3-4 scheme.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens were one of two teams that didn’t make an outside signing during the first week of free agency. As you would expect, much of their time and potential budget has been allocated to the ongoing Lamar Jackson situation.

If Jackson leaves, quarterback is their biggest priority, but assuming he will be back (as he was given the franchise tag), cornerback appears to be the next big area of need. Joey Porter Jr. would be a perfect fit for a Ravens secondary that needs a man coverage player opposite Marlon Humphrey. JPJ’s height, arm length and wingspan were all above the 95th percentile for the position, and his scheme and style are a perfect match for Baltimore.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Along with the Ravens, the Jaguars were the only other team that did not make an outside signing on the initial week of free agency. Now, they did officially acquire Calvin Ridley in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, so you can sort of count that as an addition during free agency week, but for the most part the Jaguars’ biggest draft needs are unchanged. As one of the most reliable nickel defenders in the country, Branch would be an immediate starter at slot cornerback for Jacksonville.

Los Angeles Rams

  • Draft Pick: 36
  • Perfect Fit: EDGE BJ Ojulari, LSU

Truth be told, the Rams have one of the longest talent “needs” list of any team in the NFL. They still have Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp, but Jalen Ramsey’s exit shines an even brighter spotlight on a roster that is much closer to a rebuild than to legit contention.

Because of that, the Rams' perfect fit is a different-making player in the trenches. Here, I went pass rusher. Ojulari’s skill set involves good athleticism and flexibility, and he could be an immediate starter as a stand-up outside linebacker. He finished 2022 with 48 total pressures and an 18.6% pass-rush win percentage. 

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