2023 NFL Draft: AFC North Rookie Impact & Stat Projections
Ric examines each pick, how they fit and what to expect this upcoming season with our ‘Rookie Impact’ series. Next up, the AFC North!
There is brisk excitement in the air around the NFL as rookie camps are in full throttle. The AFC North figures to be one of the most competitive divisions from top-to-bottom. Let’s examine how each organization fared in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Despite a winning record, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to reach the playoffs last season. However, they reloaded more than any other team during the draft. After executing a masterful trade to acquire a new left tackle in Broderick Jones on day one, they kicked off day two with the selection of Steelers legacy player Joey Porter Jr. In fact, you can expect contributions from nearly every player chosen in the Pittsburgh rookie class, they will be a tough out.
Remarkably, the Baltimore Ravens may have emerged from the draft feeling even better. That is because the team finally reached a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson. The high risk/high reward signing of Odell Beckham Jr. certainly turned heads and then Baltimore doubled down in the draft with their first round selection of Zay Flowers. Finally, Jackson will have some weapons to target other than Mark Andrews—with a healthy JK Dobbins and stout defense, the Ravens are built for the long haul.
The Cincinnati Bengals fell short in the AFC Championship one year after losing in the Super Bowl. After back-to-back heart thumping losses, no team is hungrier than Cincinnati. They loaded up on defense with their first three selections, then added some new toys for Joe Burrow on offense with their following three picks. On paper, you can state a strong argument that this is the best roster one-through-fifty three in the entire NFL.
Will Deshaun Watson recapture his Pro Bowl form? Cleveland had few picks to work with early on due to their acquisition of the lightning rod quarterback. With their first selection they added a tall, fast wideout to the mix in Cedric Tillman. The Browns know they need to play big boy football, so they invested four of their seven overall picks in the trenches on either the offensive or defensive line. After winning NFL Coach of the Year during his first season, Kevin Stefanski has a losing record and has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The pressure is on.
Below is a breakdown of how each selection of the 2023 NFL Draft fits in with their new teams for the AFC North, plus projections on how they might perform in year one. In addition, we have awarded an overall impact rating for each rookie class.
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Player Rating Impact Scale: 10 – 9.5 = All Pro Impact | 9.4 – 8.9 = Pro Bowl Impact | 8.8 – 8.0 = Starter Impact | 7.9 – 7.0 = Rotational Impact | 6.9 – 6.0 = Backup Impact | 5.9 – Below = Practice Squad Impact
BALTIMORE RAVENS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 69]
Rd1.No.22 Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College: This is a great fit, as Flowers provides Lamar Jackson with another check down option. Flowers is elusive in space, can go over the middle and play Robin to OBJ’s Batman. Projection: Starts 17 games in the slot, barring injury, 45 catches, 715 receiving yards, five touchdowns. Impact Factor: 8.2
Rd3.No.86 Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson: Considered by many to be the consensus top off-ball linebacker, pairing Simpson alongside Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen makes for danger! Projection: Plays 17 games, makes 11 starts, 50 tackles, one and a half sacks, six tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 7.9
Rd4.No.124 Tavius Robinson, DE, Ole Miss: Looking to inject another pass-rusher into the rotation, Robinson has a chance to see 15-20 reps per game based on situational matchups. Projection: Plays 13 games, has 19 tackles, three sacks, five and a half tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd5.No.157 Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford: There is a solid baseline with KBK to work with, he owns impressive coverage skills and should be able to play himself into a backup role but will need to earn his keep on special teams first. Projection: Plays 13 games, makes 11 tackles, three pass deflections. Impact Factor: 6.3
Rd6.No.199 Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, OL, Oregon: While he started at right tackle with the Ducks, the athletic profile of Aumavae-Laulu projects best on the inside where he can play a backup role at both guard spots. Projection: Plays eight games as backup. Impact Factor: 6.2
Rd7.No.229 Andrew Vorhees, OG, USC: A savvy organization such as Baltimore saw an opportunity to nab a potential top 100 talent in Vorhees, who suffered a pre-draft injury and was unable to work out. Projection: Will likely redshirt this season but could compete for a starting role in year two. Impact Factor: 6.2
CINCINNATI BENGALS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 69]
Rd1.No.28 Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson: The Bengals are hoping Murphy eventually develops into a starter but they are asking him to provide valuable reps as a pass-rusher as a rookie. Projection: Plays 17 games, makes three starts, 28 tackles, four sacks, nine tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 7.5
Rd2.No.60 DJ Turner, CB, Michigan: One of the deepest rosters in the league, Cincinnati again compiled depth with their second selection. Turner possesses the size to play outside, or the speed to kick into the slot. He’ll see plenty of time in both roles. Projection: Plays 17 games, makes 29 tackles, has two interceptions, nine pass deflections. Impact Factor: 7.4
Rd3.No.95 Jordan Battle, FS, Alabama: With the offseason departures of Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, the selection of Battle will help fortify the safety group. He can play both safety spots and boost the special teams unit. Projection: Plays 15 games, makes 23 tackles, has four pass deflections. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd4.No.131 Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue: In Duke we trust, GM Tobin again has an eye on the future, knowing that he won’t be able to keep all of the current wideouts long term. Jones gets a year to transition and should become the full-time slot by year two. Projection: Plays 14 games, makes two starts, 20 catches, 313 receiving yards, three touchdowns. Candidate to be full-time returner. Impact Factor: 6.6
Rd5.No.163 Chase Brown, RB, Illinois: The pending legal situation surrounding Joe Mixon isn’t expected to cause the starter to miss any time but Brown is a great insurance policy just in case. He could also factor as an eventual successor. Projection: Plays 17 games, makes three starts, 112 carries, 459 rushing yards, 285 receiving yards, five touchdowns. Impact Factor: 6.9
Rd6.No.206 Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton: A boundary receiver with size and speed, Iosivas is another developmental player. Projection: Plays five games, makes 11 catches, 123 receiving yards. Impact Factor: 6.1
Rd6.No.217 Brad Robbins, P, Michigan: Some might say Robbins was the best punter in the draft. His backwards rotational spin is rare and difficult to judge. Projection: Future Pro Bowl caliber punter. Impact Factor: 8.3
Rd7.No.246 DJ Ivey, DB, Miami: Solidifying more depth in the secondary and on the team overall was a common theme, as Cincinnati gets set to pay Joe Burrow the big bucks. Projection: Ivey will have to earn his way on special teams; practice squad candidate. Impact Factor: 6.0
CLEVELAND BROWNS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 67]
Rd3.No.74 Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee: A great value pick, Tillman brings a size, speed, athleticism profile similar to Donovan People-Jones. Projection: Should backup DPJ and/or Amari Cooper. Projection: 13 games played, one start, 26 catches, 346 receiving yards, two touchdowns. Impact Factor: 6.7
Rd3.No.98 Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor: One of the largest players in the draft, Ika has surprising mobility and the Browns seek to implement him as a rusher, in addition to being a run-stuffer. Projection: 14 games played, 18 tackles, one and a half sacks. Impact Factor: 6.6
Rd4.No.111 Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State: Despite weight and behavior concerns leading up the draft, this may turn out to be one of the more pleasant surprises in the draft. Projection: Groomed to be a future starter, spears in 12 games as backup. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd4.No.126 Isaiah McGuire, DE, Missouri: A high-motor player who will need to bulk up, McGuire will be cross-trained at both defensive end spots and could even backup inside if needed. Projection: 10 games played, 13 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd5.No.140 Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA: This is an excellent fit, as the Browns won’t need to alter the offense should Deshaun Watson suffer an injury; they are similar style signal-callers. Projection: Not expected to play unless injuries occur. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd5.No.142 Cameron Mitchell, CB, Northwestern: A special teams dynamo at Northwestern, Mitchell will compete for playing time at corner, most likely in the slot. Projection: 10 games played, six tackles. Impact Factor: 6.1
Rd6.No.190 Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State: One of the biggest unexplained mysteries of the draft might be the slide of Wypler. Possibly due to the center position being devalued but make no mistake, Wypler could wind up having the biggest impact of all amongst Cleveland rookies. Projection: Plays 17 games; makes 13 starts. Impact Factor: 7.8
[PITTSBURGH STEELERS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 75]
Rd1.No.14 Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia: A shrewd Omar Khan leapfrogged the Jets to nab Jones who steps in and assumes the starting left tackle role. Projection: Starts all 17 games. Impact Factor: 8.6
Rd2.No.32 Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State: The cookies couldn’t crumble any better. Look for Porter Jr. to step in and start opposite Patrick Peterson. Projection: Starts all 17 games, 46 tackles, two interceptions, 12 pass deflections. Impact Factor: 8.6
Rd2.No.49 Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin: Add Benton as another potential plug-and-play starter; a two-down run stuffer who can start at nose tackle. Projection: Plays 17 games, 14 starts, 30 tackles, four sacks, eight tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 8.2
Rd3.No.93 Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia: What a tremendous luxury to provide Kenny Pickett with, as Washington can serve as a sixth offensive lineman, or a large pass-catching threat in 12 personnel. Projection: 17 games played, two starts, 27 catches, 365 receiving yards, four touchdowns. Impact Factor: 7.6
Rd4.No.132 Nick Herbig, OLB, Wisconsin: Will backup Alex Highsmith, who is also a high-motor player that makes plays due to relentless pursuit, a solid fit. Projection: 14 games played, two starts, 33 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.8
Rd7.No.241 Cory Trice Jr., CB, Purdue: There is a lot to like about Trice, as his overall skill-set is astute. He may not be called upon often as a rookie but he should contribute on special teams. Projection: 11 games played, 14 tackles. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd7.No.251 Spencer Anderson, OG, Maryland: The position versatility is what appealed most to Pittsburgh, as Anderson can step in and play all three interior positions; he has extensive experience at center. Projection: eight games played. Impact Factor: 6.3
Have a great day!
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