The B-Gap: The Colts get their guy, The Dolphins get even faster, and the Packers troll Aaron Rodgers; the five best picks of the 2023 NFL Draft
By Sam Robb O’Hagan
If you thought a Reddit user single-handedly moving the entire betting market on the first overall pick was the only notable event of the 2023 NFL Draft, you probably haven’t been watching the draft long enough.
The 2023 Draft is over. It has happened, officially ending a week ago.
SaleAgreeable2834 — yes, Vegas fell for that username — and his complete hoaxing of Will Levis’ draft fate is over, too (it ended about a day later than everyone was convinced it would, of course). If Levis’ story is any indication, this draft was weird.
Weird it was. The 49ers took a place kicker in the third round, seemingly as some kind of middle finger to the powers that be; the Commanders settled for… a cornerback? That cornerback? And the Lions did what can most generously be described as “something.”
But notability wasn’t only a red flag over the weekend. There were plenty of fun picks, and good picks, equally as notable for all of the right reasons. Here are five of the good ones from one of the most erratic drafts in recent memory:
The Indianapolis Colts finally have their quarterback
The Colts need a quarterback so bad they didn’t even bother with the traditional game of deception in the lead up to the draft. General Manager Chris Ballard publicly put his own job on the line in pursuit of a long-term passer, and owner Jim Irsay couldn’t resist the urge to tell everybody how much he loved eventual No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young.
Presumably, Irsay is equally infatuated with the mercurial Anthony Richardson — the quarterback they ended up with — and it would be hard to blame him. Richardson has daunting size and utterly remarkable athleticism. His arm generates effortless velocity to anywhere on the field, and his legs can house it from anywhere else. Per combine technicalities, Richardson is the most athletic quarterback of all time, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The Colts new coaching staff, headed by former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, has plenty of experience with ultra-athletic passers (there’s $255 million dollars in Jalen Hurts’ contract to prove it). Richardson is far more talented than even Hurts, but perhaps most comforting is that Richardson has the immediate potential as a rusher to keep his head above water in the NFL despite early struggles as a passer.
Many argued that Richardson was truly the best quarterback in this class, and the Colts got him with the fourth pick. Disagree with that assessment or not, it’s impossible to argue that Richardson won’t become the best if he realizes his potential.
The Miami Dolphins offense adds even more juice
The Dolphins were already the fastest offense in the NFL before the draft, torching defenses each week with perhaps the league’s two fastest players — Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
After drafting Texas A&M running back Devon Achane with the 84th overall pick in the third round, they’re somehow even faster.
Achane is a true track star out of the backfield (I’m serious, he ran track at A&M). His 4.32 40-yard dash was the third-highest of any player at the combine, but many felt he could’ve run even faster — he even generated legitimate buzz that he could break the all-time record. Achane is only 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, but his extraordinary juice makes him a game-changing threat.
The Dolphins built their breakout 2022 offense on their ability to score at any time, from anywhere, and no player in the 2023 Draft leans into the identity quite like Achane. Building on pre-existing strengths is always a sound draft strategy. Mike McDaniel and Co. have to be ecstatic.
The Chicago Bears steal one of the draft’s most explosive receivers for Justin Fields
If Achane is the most explosive player in this year’s draft, then Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott has a compelling argument to be the second.
Scott only ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine, but he plays much faster on tape and brings running back-like acceleration as a wide receiver. He is gifted with the ball in his hands, but he can consistently open up defenses with devastating deep routes, too.
Many thought Scott could leave the board as early as the second round, but the Bears secured his highly coveted skillset in the fourth round at pick 133. Chicago did well to add DJ Moore in their trade out of the first overall pick, but its receiving room still has plenty of room for improvement. Scott can be a productive gadget player as a rookie in a critical season for Fields.
But Scott has the potential to be a long term solution to a looming problem for Chicago. Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool are both on expiring contracts, and it’s difficult to imagine the Bears retaining both. Scott will remind many in Chicago of Mooney — an undersized, lightning quick receiver drafted on Day 3 — so he could be a cheap, valuable replacement for Mooney in an important role in the Bears’ offense.
Mooney is one of the Bears better draft picks of the last half-decade. With Scott, the Bears are returning right back to the well.
The Green Bay Packers finally draft receivers… for Jordan Love
This probably didn’t have anything to do with Aaron Rodgers, but I like to think it does.
Because the Packers spent a decade refusing to draft receivers to such a bull-headed extent that it alienated their Hall of Fame quarterback beyond return, only to exclusively draft receivers days after they finally traded him. Coincidence? I don’t know. I hope not!
Trolling aside, the Packers did really well here. Tight end Luke Musgrave, Green Bay’s first pick of the second round, is 6-foot-6, 253 pounds with elite upside. Wide receiver Jayden Reed, drafted eight picks later, was a Senior Bowl sweetheart. And then Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State’s tight end, provides a versatile skill set as a receiver and a blocker.
All three have exciting athletic traits, adding to a receiving core that already features Christian Watson. The Packers now have Musgrave, Reed, Kraft, Watson and Romeo Doubs all with at least three years left on their rookie deals. That’s an immediately exciting receiving core for pseudo-rookie quarterback Jordan Love to throw to in a prove-it year. The best part, though? If Love can’t hang as a starting NFL quarterback, the Packers’ group of young pass catchers will still be around to support his replacement.
A running back — smartly, this time — is drafted in the top ten
Look. The Atlanta Falcons’ Bijan Robinson pick certainly isn’t one of the five best value picks of the draft. Eighth overall for a running back is probably too high. But this time, and only this time, it kind of makes sense!
The Falcons are clearly intent on running the ball to the furthest extent of reason. Atlanta re-signed their two best offensive lineman to enormous contracts and signed big-bodied wide receiver Mack Hollins; three moves, presumably, made to ensure they can block in the run game well enough to accommodate Arthur Smith’s scheme. That scheme, by the way, led the NFL in total rush attempts in 2022.
The only problem? 210 of those handoffs were given to a fifth round pick. Tyler Allgeier was a good rookie, certainly, but Robinson raises the ceiling of Atlanta’s offense exponentially as a consensus top ten player in this class. He’s a true bell cow, three-down back, and the Falcons need him more than anyone else.
If the Falcons are going to stick to their guns and continue to run the ball as much as they do, they better have a damn good running back to hand it off to. And Robinson has the potential to be one of the best rushers in the league the moment he steps foot on his first professional field.
Warranted value concerns withstanding, Robinson makes the Falcons so, so much better.