Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Eric Edholm executes a division-by-division assessment of the 2023 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone — picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is the NFC East report card.
NOTE: Draft classes are displayed from best to worst within the division.
- Georgia DT Jalen Carter (No. 9 overall)
- Georgia edge Nolan Smith (No. 30)
- Alabama OG Tyler Steen (No. 65)
- Illinois S Sydney Brown (No. 66)
- Georgia CB Kelee Ringo (No. 105)
- Stanford QB Tanner McKee (No. 188)
- Texas DT Moro Ojomo (No. 249)
The rich got richer, for sure. But the thing with the Jalen Carter pick — the centerpiece of a strong draft class, but a prospect with well-documented character concerns — is that the Eagles built the perfect environment in which he can thrive. They assembled a veteran-laden D-line over time, already arguably the best in the NFL, and have a bevy of Carter’s college teammates on the roster (including two added during this year’s draft). They also have no shot to land Carter if GM Howie Roseman didn’t make a savvy pre-draft trade a year earlier. Carter might be the best player in this draft; Philadelphia got him with the ninth pick (after a trade up from No. 10) and is a successful enough franchise to be able to survive Carter busting for non-football reasons. One of those other Bulldogs the Eagles nabbed: Nolan Smith. Had he gone to another team in the top 15 or 20 picks, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much. But scooping him up at the bottom of Round 1 and knowing he doesn’t have to be a 50-snaps-per-game player immediately ups the appeal a notch or two. Even if his smaller size poses some issues, the explosive Smith has time to grow into a starting role. Tyler Steen actually has a chance to start in Year 1 if he can make the transition to guard and beat out Cam Jurgens. If not, Steen has extensive OT experience and could make for a quality four-position reserve. Sydney Brown, snatched up one pick after Steen, might be in a similar spot at safety. He has Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds ahead of him on the depth chart. At the very least, the rookie figures to man the third safety role and play special teams. Was Kelee Ringo worth trading a 2024 third-rounder to land? Time will tell, but like with Carter, Philly’s roster strength and quality asset management allow this franchise to take smart, calculated gambles on prospects with elite physical traits. Style-wise, Tanner McKee feels like a strange fit, given the quarterbacks the Eagles already have, but who are we to doubt this team’s approach when it’s clearly firing on all cylinders? I thought Moro Ojomo would have gone 80-to-100 picks earlier. He’s now a cheap insurance policy for Carter, which makes it all the better. Sending a fourth-rounder two years from now to the Lions for RB D’Andre Swift was the cherry on top of a stellar draft haul.
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- Maryland CB Deonte Banks (No. 24 overall)
- Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz (No. 57)
- Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt (No. 73)
- Oklahoma RB Eric Gray (No. 172)
- Old Dominion DB Tre Hawkins III (No. 209)
- Oregon DT Jordon Riley (No. 243)
- Houston S Gervarrius Owens (No. 254)
You can’t really compare GM Joe Schoen’s maiden draft in 2022 to his haul this year, simply because of the lack of high picks this time around. Last year, the Giants made seven of the first 114 selections; this year, they ended up with just three in the first 171. But New York still appeared to do well this year, both in terms of value and fit — especially with the first four picks. Deonte Banks addressed an immediate need at corner, and to get him as the draft’s CB4 (trading up one slot to snag him) was a nice draw. He has a great chance to start immediately opposite Adoree’ Jackson and appears to be a fine fit for a Wink Martindale defense. John Michael Schmitz might also be favored to win the starting center job, and Big Blue landed him in a good spot. With the crosstown Jets also drafting a Round 2 center (Joe Tippmann), the rookies’ careers are likely to be compared often. I wasn’t the biggest Jalin Hyatt fan, but that also came with the idea that some team could spend a top-50 pick on him. At No. 73, that blazing speed — something the Giants sorely lacked at receiver last year — was well worth the investment. (Minor quibble: They now have a lot of slot options but are not as deep outside, and I think Hyatt best projects inside.) The intriguing Eric Gray has good vision and some third-down ability, and he provides a layer of insurance with the future of Saquon Barkley still unknown. Tre Hawkins III and Gervarrius Owens provide more secondary depth, and Jordon Riley beefs up the D-line.
- Michigan DT Mazi Smith (No. 26 overall)
- Michigan TE Luke Schoonmaker (No. 58)
- Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown (No. 90)
- San Jose State edge Viliami Fehoko Jr. (No. 129)
- North Carolina OL Asim Richards (No. 169)
- Southern Mississippi CB Eric Scott Jr. (No. 178)
- Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn (No. 212)
- South Carolina WR Jalen Brooks (No. 244)
The Cowboys hadn’t spent a first-round pick on an interior defensive lineman since Russell Maryland in 1991, and it was fair to wonder — prior to them taking Mazi Smith — just how much this staff truly valued nose tackle. It’s also fair to wonder if Dalton Kincaid might have been the guy they wanted at No. 26, before Buffalo leapfrogged Dallas to secure the Utah tight end’s services. Still, the Cowboys have failed to stop the run in some critical games, and the dancing-bear Smith is expected to help on that front. Luke Schoonmaker might feel like a concession pick at tight end if they had their sights set higher, but he really is a good, functional, all-around player who should round that position group into form. DeMarvion Overshown and Viliami Fehoko Jr. were smart pieces to add to a defense that needed another layer of depth, and I can envision Overshown being a nice special teams player. That said, Overshown and Fehoko’s immediate contributions might not be that significant, which also could be the case with Asim Richards. If he can make the switch to guard, perhaps he can vie for a starting role as a rookie; otherwise, he rates as a versatile reserve. Eric Scott Jr. and Jalen Brooks were also late-round fliers at positions that needed fresh bodies; the Cowboys were shorthanded at corner and receiver late last year. I’m probably not alone in being hyped about the Deuce Vaughn pick, and not just because it gave us one of the great tearjerker moments of the 2023 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-5, 179-pounder legitimately could and should crack that RB depth chart, add some real juice to the offense and be a fan favorite by halftime of the preseason opener. It’s a mostly unsexy crop, but a fairly respectable one.
- Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes (No. 16 overall)
- Illinois DB Jartavius Martin (No. 47)
- Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg (No. 97)
- Utah OL Braeden Daniels (No. 118)
- Clemson edge KJ Henry (No. 137)
- Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. (No. 193)
- Louisiana edge Andre Jones Jr. (No. 233)
Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes was a surprise pick to some at 16 (especially with Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez still on the board), but he likely wasn’t going to last much longer. Scouts were infatuated with Forbes’ rare playmaking knack, which Washington could use in a stable QB division. Forbes had six INTs last season; the Commanders had nine as a team. Doubling up on DBs with the first two picks might feel a bit like overkill, especially with needs on the offensive line, but Jartavius “Quan” Martin was a player who really grew on me during the pre-draft process. He has the flexibility to play inside/outside corner, as well as safety. I think the nickel is his most likely home. Washington finally addressed the O-line with back-to-back picks after that, and though I liked Braeden Daniels more than Ricky Stromberg, the centers were coming off the board quickly. Daniels’ athleticism could make up for his lack of length and give him a chance at tackle; otherwise, he projects well inside, too. Pass rusher was another double-up spot with KJ Henry and Andre Jones Jr. on Day 3, and it’s another layer of insurance in light of Chase Young’s fifth-year option being declined. Henry, in particular, was a really nice pick in Round 5. He’s a high-character, high-motor player who very much can outplay his draft slot. I’d have liked to see a tight end land here, given the strength of the class, but instead, the Commanders used their one offensive skill-position pick on Chris Rodriguez Jr., a hard-running grinder who gives them some more depth at the position.
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