Sometimes matches are made in heaven.
At least in NFL terms, when watching X player in college, you might find yourself pondering how he’d be a great fit for Y team.
Watching Travis Etienne thrive at Clemson with his frame and intangibles made the Jacksonville Jaguars a stalwart landing spot in 2021. Then seeing Seattle grab Tariq Woolen in the fifth round in 2022 produced a similar feeling given the Seahawks’ history with tall, physical corners. The same applies to the San Francisco 49ers’ recent affinity for picking defensive lineman with their first pick, regardless of it being in the first round or later.
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The examples are endless, but the 2023 draft is quickly approaching. Let’s take a look at which players would make a consummate fit with one respective team, regardless of where they’re positioned in the draft order (listed in alphabetical order by city name):
Arizona Cardinals – EDGE Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
This starts on the right foot given it’s a highly likely scenario in the draft. If the Bears didn’t trade down, Anderson was essentially locked in the No. 1 spot. Overall, he could end up being the best prospect in the draft, including quarterbacks. The 6-foot-4 edge rusher recorded 17.5 sacks in 2021 and with the Cardinals in retool mode, he would become the face of their defense alongside Budda Baker.
Atlanta Falcons – DB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
New England Patriots
This pick came prior to Jeff Okudah’s arrival from Detroit for a fifth-rounder, but it still stays. Okudah’s arrival alongside A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, Mike Hughes and more is a logjam that questions adding Gonzalez to the fold, but factoring in where the franchise is in their rebuild and Hayward turning 34 in September, moving on from him and developing Gonzalez for the future would make their secondary dangerous for years to come. And that’s before we get into Jessie Bates III’s pending debut.
Baltimore Ravens – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
The jury’s still out on Lamar Jackson’s future with Baltimore, but if the Ravens want to keep him, give him more weapons. Odell Beckham Jr. should not be their marquee wideout on the roster; instead, drafting someone who could become WR1 sooner rather than later should be a priority. If they can get a hold of Smith-Nijgba, who is one of the complete players in his pool this year, the Ravens could really fly next season and beyond.
Buffalo Bills – EDGE Myles Murphy (Clemson)
Handing Von Miller a six-year, $120 million deal when he was 33 years old would always come with inherent risk – then he tore his ACL on Thanksgiving. Though he’ll be good to go for 2023, adding the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Murphy off the edge to rotate with Miller and Greg Rousseau could help improve Buffalo’s slightly below average pass rush. Going for a potential WR2 alongside Stefon Diggs could also be looked at.
Carolina Panthers – QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
It’s obvious Carolina is looking for a franchise quarterback with Andy Dalton currently serving as the bridge. Just who that is, though, remains to be seen, but the hints point at Stroud. That makes it easy because the two sides make a great fit, despite the roster clearly needing improvements in the long term to align with Stroud’s growth. He’s patient, accurate and loaded with a strong arm, but putting it all together alongside his mobility is pivotal.
Chicago Bears – DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
The Bears have several positions to address to take the next step, but the defensive line (as well as the offensive side) needs serious talent. That’s where Carter comes in as he’s one of, if not the best, defensive tackles available in 2023. His arrest on March 1 due to reckless driving and racing charges may see him slip, but he’d undoubtedly be an excellent starting point to retool that department.
Cincinnati Bengals – CB Emmanuel Forbes (Miss. State)
Cornerbacks should be the name of the game for Cincinnati. With Eli Apple not re-signing, second-year Cam Taylor-Britt and Chidobe Awuzie currently are the top two options for a team that ranked No. 26 in pass yards allowed per game last year. Forbes may not be a physical specimen, but he’s an incredible athlete – primarily aerially – who has the ball production to potentially make an immediate impact for a team in the title mix.
Cleveland Browns – DT Bryan Bresee (Clemson)
Cleveland’s offense can’t be fully evaluated yet due to Deshaun Watson only playing the latter six games of the season, but the defense can be: the rush defense was atrocious. Dalvin Tomlinson came over from Minnesota as a veteran addition, with former 49er Maurice Hurst possibly being an underrated move, but they’ll need more. That’s where Bresee comes in, a 6-foot-5, 298-pound tackle. He had an ACL tear in 2021 and shoulder surgery in 2022, but his athletic build down the middle could make him a unique prospect as long as he stays healthy.
Dallas Cowboys – EDGE Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)
Brandin Cooks fortified the wideout options for Dak Prescott, so the attention turns to the defensive side. Dallas could look to improve the interior, but Tyree Wilson’s profile here couldn’t be overlooked. The Texas Tech product is a 6-foot-6, 271-pound edge rusher with a 7-foot wingspan, and his intangibles combined with his potential forms a frightening ceiling. With DeMarcus Lawrence on one side and Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. emerging on the other, adding Wilson to the mix could make that rotation special.
Denver Broncos – OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
Russell Wilson couldn’t have endured a worse cookout to begin his tenure as a Bronco. The offense ranked dead last in points per game (16.9), but they were also 30th in QB sack percentage (9.94%). So the offensive line is the focus here, and Jones might be what Wilson needs. Mike McGlinchey came from San Francisco to shore up the right tackle spot, so Jones, an athletic and quick 6-foot-5 tackle, could aid Wilson’s mobility on the left side. Denver does not have a first-round pick, but trading up for a stout lineman would be beneficial.
Detroit Lions – TE Dalton Kincaid (Utah)
With Okudah gone for an already struggling secondary, it’s likely that Gonzalez or Devon Witherspoon – to be named later – goes to Detroit. But Kincaid comes here to boost the Lions’ promising aerial attack with Jared Goff quietly logging robust numbers in his second season with the franchise. The 6-foot-4 Kincaid is the best ready-made route-running tight end in this draft, which Detroit currently lacks. With Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams and Marvin Jones Jr. at wideout, Kincaid would make life tougher for opposing defenses despite limitations as a blocker.
Green Bay Packers – OT Dawand Jones (Ohio State)
A lot of Green Bay’s roster construction hinges on Aaron Rodgers’ prolonged exit. Will it happen or will it not? For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say Jordan Love is handed the keys. Rush defenders is a department in need of help, but creating a stable environment for Love tops that. David Bakhtiari’s injury history is far too unreliable, so the 6-foot-8 Jones could help swallow defenders from Love’s blindside should he land in Lambeau. With that height and weighing 374 pounds comes natural athleticism concerns, but the Buckeye has immense power to counter defenders.
Houston Texans – QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)
The Texans obviously need a long-term quarterback. Davis Mills’ 5-22-1 record in two seasons as a starter isn’t good enough, and new head coach DeMeco Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, both from San Francisco, will want something new. Slowik recently discussed the philosophy they want the team to have, where he said he wants the first thing to jump out on the tape about their players is: “Are we fast, are we physical, are we tough?” The 6-foot-4, 244-pound Anthony Richardson definitely fits the bill with a 4.43 40-yard-dash time at the combine. Houston’s offense still needs more weapons, but Richardson, who arguably has the best ceiling of the QBs in this class, needs time, and he should receive that with Ryans and Co.
Indianapolis Colts – QB Will Levis (Kentucky)
The Colts are also in the same boat as the Texans, one of their AFC South counterparts, in terms of needing a quarterback for the future. New head coach Shane Steichen explained his QB philosophy as someone who “love(s) playing that position and love(s) the grind and love(s) the process of having a chance to be successful.” That’s essentially another way of saying he wants someone who exudes good vibes or “has that dawg in him.” While Levis’ potential and ceiling is highly debated among the NFL spectrum, seeing him transition from the Wildcats’ blue and white to the Colts’ has a good vibe to it.
Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Trenton Simpson (Clemson)
The Jaguars’ offense is rising by leaps and bounds (the passing is ahead of the rushing), but their pass defense needs tightening if they are to build off this past season’s playoff exit. One way is improving their pass rush, as they ranked 28th in sack percentage (5.29%). They also would benefit from more speed in their 3-4 setup, which is why Simpson comes in here. He’s a 6-foot-2 linebacker who ran a 4.43 40-yard at the combine and covers ground superbly on the outsides. He could fittingly go from a Tiger to a Jaguar.
Kansas City Chiefs – WR Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee)
With Patrick Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs will always be in the title race despite a lackluster secondary. The defending Super Bowl champions have dealt with secondary woes the last few seasons but managed to win games, so a wideout enters the fold. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s departure means Marquez Valdes-Scantling is now WR1, with second-year Skyy Moore and 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney primed for bigger roles. But also factoring in Mecole Hardman’s exit, Hyatt makes sense given his elite speed. He primarily optimizes it on deep seams, but if he can branch out his route tree, there’s a serious prospect Mahomes could work with.
Las Vegas Raiders – CB Devon Witherspoon (Illinois)
Quarterback may be a sneaky route the Raiders take in spite of Jimmy Garoppolo’s addition, but cornerback has to be the way to go. Last year, Las Vegas allowed a 67.63% completion percentage, ranking 30th. Witherspoon, potentially the best corner in the 2023 class, allowed a completion rate of 34.9% last season, per Pro Football Focus. He’d have plenty of reps with the potential to be CB1 for years to come with the Raiders.
Los Angeles Chargers – TE Darnell Washington (Georgia)
Austin Ekeler’s trade situation may see the Chargers eye a young running back, but they’re all about passing the football with Justin Herbert slinging it. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer are the top pass catchers and another could be added via the draft, with the 6-foot-7 Washington having potential as a long-term upgrade over Gerald Everett. His receiving stats at Georgia grew every year, but it’s the mismatches he could supply with Los Angeles that could charge their offense to a new level. Kincaid is another profile that fits.
Los Angeles Rams – WR Jordan Addison (USC)
Head coach Sean McVay reportedly didn’t want to be part of a rebuild amid rumors of him possibly stepping away from the gig, but since his renewed commitment, the Rams have shipped several stars without any elite players filling in. They have 11 picks in 2023 – no first-rounders – so defense looks to be a priority. But so should a wide receiver, with Addison located a few miles away. Cooper Kupp needs more help than Allen Robinson II and Van Jefferson have supplied, so Addison can become just that. He’s not a physical specimen, but he has excellent speed and agility to create separation across the three route levels, which would give Matthew Stafford another trusty target.
Miami Dolphins – WR Marvin Mims Jr. (Oklahoma)
Tua Tagovailoa needs to stay healthy if the Dolphins want to fly above water in 2023, and secondary was a glaring issue until Jalen Ramsey’s recent acquisition. With no first-rounder for Miami, another receiver comes in alongside Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Mims is another deep threat for a team that wants to go long, but he can also catch short and accumulate yards after the catch. Just keep stacking the explosive wideouts, Miami.
Minnesota Vikings – WR Quentin Johnston (TCU)
Adam Thielen out, Quentin Johnston in? The Vikings are another team that wants to throw the ball, and why not? Justin Jefferson fell 200 yards shy of a 2,000-yard receiving campaign in 2022, and T.J. Hockenson will have a full year after coming from Detroit via a trade. Adding the 6-foot-3 Johnston as the WR2 would keep defenses honest on overloading Jefferson’s side, though the TCU product still needs reassuring with his hands.
New England Patriots – LB Drew Sanders (Arkansas)
The Patriots endured quite the rollercoaster season in 2022, and 2023 should answer even more questions about the long-term roster construction. New England has some intriguing linebackers in Ja’Whaun Bentley and Matthew Judon, but Sanders in its 3-4 system could add dazzling versatility. The 6-foot-4 linebacker can play inside or rush from the edge, so his uniqueness under Bill Belicheck could be a fun one to track.
New Orleans Saints – QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
You might have been wondering why Young hadn’t been paired with Houston or Indianapolis. He was saved for this section. The Drew Brees comparisons are tough to overlook given their frame and the way they operate on the field, but also seeing Young in the Saints’ black and gold would be quite the sight as their next franchise QB. Michael Thomas’ injury status is still precarious, but Chris Olave collected 1,000-plus receiving yards as a rookie. The only downfall here is New Orleans opted for Derek Carr, with Jameis Winston hoping to fight for his former starting role.
New York Giants – WR Cedric Tillman (Tennessee)
The Giants have to hit on a wide receiver at some point, right? Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley anchored the offense in their run to the postseason last year, but having Darius Slayton’s 724 receiving yards as their No. 1 option isn’t going to cut it. The key is Jones doesn’t throw long often, so the 6-foot-3 Tillman would bring a fruitful blend of size, physicality and reliability on all three levels for a team needing a gem at that position.
New York Jets – RB Bijan Robinson (Texas)
As aforementioned in the Packers section, Rodgers’ situation holds significant influence. If he does join the Jets, they already boast a playoff-caliber defense. Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman bolstered the receiving room, so it comes down to the right side of the O-line or landing an eccentric weapon. Robinson would be phenomenal for New York to pair with Breece Hall. He would keep Rodgers’ workload lighter and though the usual rule of thumb is not getting a RB in the first round, Robinson is one of those rare exceptions.
Philadelphia Eagles – DT Calijah Kancey (Pittsburgh)
The Eagles were extremely well-balanced last year en route to their trip to the Super Bowl, but they’ve lost key players that helped them get there. One of them is Javon Hargrave, who flipped coasts and signed with the 49ers. Jordan Davis will be tapped for an increased role down the middle with Fletcher Cox, but Kancey is a riser in mocks who could be looked at. His build is reminiscent of Hargrave, though he’s about 20 pounds lighter. Kancey is exceedingly quick and productive as a pass-rushing tackle who can cause havoc as a rotational run defender, and his hard-nosed, motor-driven profile feels right in Philly.
Pittsburgh Steelers – EDGE Nolan Smith (Georgia)
How Kenny Pickett develops in Year 2 will determine the brunt of the Steelers’ success in 2023 and beyond, but a versatile defender in Smith comes next. His 238-pound frame may not be ideal for a 3-4 system, but if there’s a team with a history of optimizing shifty edge players like Smith and extracting more production from them, it’s Mike Tomlin and the Steelers.
San Francisco 49ers – OT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
The 49ers have a paramount battle at QB between Trey Lance and Brock Purdy – and don’t count out Sam Darnold under Kyle Shanahan just yet – but which five players protects whoever triumphs is just as imperative. San Francisco’s biggest strength has been fielding versatile players who can move around in the case of injury – which usually ends up being the case every year – and Skoronski on the O-line fits that bill. Spencer Burford and Jaylon Moore are the projected starters at right guard and right tackle, respectively, but Skoronski’s talent and profile, having played tackle but might be best suited as a guard, is what strengthens this O-line.
Seattle Seahawks – CB Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
The Seahawks’ run defense is suspect and needs confronting, but as aforementioned about their history with corners, adding someone next to Woolen could make them dangerous to throw against yet again. Porter Jr. is just under 6-foot-3 and is fast and physical at 193 pounds. If he maximizes his ceiling, there’s a CB1 in him. But slotting him with the 6-foot-4 Woolen, who recorded six picks as a rookie, wouldn’t be ideal for opposing receivers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – LB Jack Campbell (Iowa)
The initial pick here was DT Adetomiwa Adebawore from Northwestern, but Devin White’s trade request spices this up. Tampa Bay will be led by Baker Mayfield and may have enough individual talent to top an open NFC South, but losing White would impair the heart of its defense. Campbell, at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, is as solid and reliable as it gets in the middle of the box. His ceiling isn’t exceptional, but his feel for the game and consistency as the QB of the defense is worth gambling on.
Tennessee Titans – EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
The Titans are fortunate to be in the AFC South given they can still compete for a wild card spot despite a lackluster team, but they had the best rush defense in the NFL last season. However, their pass defense and inability to rush the QB hindered them, as they ranked near last in several statistical categories. Van Ness won’t stuff the sack sheet right away, but his floor is high and his ceiling can augment even higher thanks to his speed and strength. Tennessee needs a leader on the D-line, and the “Hercules” nickname he’s been dubbed with from college makes sense for a team named the Titans.
Washington Commanders – CB Deonte Banks (Maryland)
Like the Jets, the Commanders also possessed a defense worthy of competing in the playoffs but lacked the signal caller to take the offense over the top. Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell are the top options there, but Washington could also benefit from drafting a future CB1, too. Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St. Juste are slated to be the top two at the moment, but someone like Banks, 6-foot, 197 pounds with versatility in multiple schemes and elite athleticism, is the type of player the Commanders need. His back-to-the-ball IQ will need polishing, but playing behind a vigorous D-line led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Co. should help him acclimate. He’s also from Maryland, which adds to the feasibility. Alabama safety Brian Branch is another deserved shout.