2023 NFL Draft: AFC South Rookie Projections
A plethora of rookie signal-callers are set to invade the AFC South, as they attempt to catch the Jacksonville Jaguars who suddenly rule the roost!
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The 2023 AFC South campaign theme will be one of great changes this fall and the NFL Draft will go down in history as the most defining moment in division history. We saw three organizations select who they believe will be their next ‘franchise’ quarterback.
With the Houston Texans selection of CJ Stroud, the Indianapolis Colts commitment to Anthony Richardson and the Tennessee Titans investment in Will Levis, it will be a year to remember for these young guns. Neither team figures to factor into the playoff hunt but these three quarterbacks will be connected at the hip for the duration of their careers.
It is clear, the road to the AFC South runs through Jacksonville. In the blink of an eye, Doug Pederson has the Jaguars on the brink of being legitimate contenders. With the continued development of Trevor Lawrence, reinstatement of Calvin Ridley, an improving defensive unit and more reinforcements added through the draft, Jacksonville can compete with any team, on any given Sunday.
Below is a breakdown of how each selection of the 2023 NFL Draft fits in with their new teams for the AFC South, plus projections on how they might perform in year one. In addition, we have awarded an overall impact rating for each rookie class. For year-round coverage of the NFL Draft, be sure to subscribe to our All Access Football Newsletter.
PREVIOUS IMPACT PROJECTIONS: AFC East | AFC North | Up Next: AFC West
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
HOUSTON TEXANS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 72]
Rd1.No.2. CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State: The Texans truly are a good quarterback away from being a competitive team and Stroud ultimately holds the keys to success. Projection: 16 games played, 15 starts, 299 completions, 475 attempts, 2,988 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 14 interceptions (140 rushing yards). Impact Factor: 8.6
Rd1.No3. Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama: A draft day trade for the ages, Houston acquired a cornerstone player to build around in Anderson. Projection: 17 starts, 65 tackles, eight and a half sacks, 13 tackles for loss, two interceptions. Impact Factor: 8.6
Rd2.No.62 Juice Scruggs, C, Penn State: Going through the draft process, Scruggs showed glimpses of greatness due to his technique and tenacity. Projection: Starts all 17 games at center. Impact Factor: 8.5
Rd3.No.69 Tank Dell, WR, Houston: Rumor has it that Stroud made a plea for the Texans to select Dell, who can take the top off any defense. Get used to this combo! Projection: Slot wideout, 15 games played, 34 catches, 476 receiving yards, four touchdowns. Impact Factor: 7.8
Rd.4No.109 Dylan Horton, DE, TCU: Houston double-downed on pass-rushers; Horton lacks ideal length but is relentless in pursuit. Projection: Plays 12 games, 21 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd5.No.167 Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama: Other than special teams, To’oTo’o will spend a year in the strength and conditioning program as a developmental player. Projection: 10 games played, 15 tackles, two tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.3
Rd6.No.201 Jarrett Patterson, C, Notre Dame: Add Patterson to the offensive line jambalaya. There are a slew of players on the current roster capable of playing all three interior positions; let the best man win. Projection: 13 games played. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd6.No.205 Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State: In what would appear to be one of the most competitive positional groups headed into training camp, don’t be surprised if Hutchinson emerges from the crowd and earns a spot on the 53-man roster. Projection: 13 games played, 15 catches, 222 receiving yards, one touchdown. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd7.No.248 Brandon Hill, FS, Pittsburgh: There are several veterans ahead of Hill on the depth chart. Other than special teams, it’s hard to envision a role for him this upcoming season. Projection: Practice squad. Impact Factor: 6.0
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 67]
Rd1.No.4. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida: If anyone can reverse engineer Richardson and make a quarterback out of him, it’s new Colts head coach Shane Steichen. Projection: 10 games played, nine starts, 110 completions, 195 attempts, 1,385 passing yards, 475 rushing yards, six passing touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Impact Factor: 7.8
Rd2.No.44 Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State: If Indianapolis wishes to get back to contention, it will require an immediate contribution from Brents. In fact, they may be asking too much early on. Projection: 17 starts, 42 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass deflections. Impact Factor: 7.9
Rd3.No.79 Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina: Until Richardson matures as a passer, he’ll need to utilize his underneath and slot weapons such as Downs who is slippery in the open-field. Projection: nine games played, 22 catches, 302 receiving yards, one touchdown. Impact Factor: 6.7
Rd4.No.106 Blake Freeland, OT, BYU: An extremely athletic tackle, Freeland needs to translate some of that finesse over to toughness; probably a year away from contributing on a consistent basis. Projection: 12 games played. Impact Factor: 6.6
Rd4.No.110 Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, Colts: Another prospect like Freeland who tested much higher than players at their position athletically, ‘Double A’ has a non-stop battery. Projection: 14 games played, 18 tackles, one and a half sacks, two tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.6
Rd5.No.138 Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina: An injection of youth in the secondary was needed. Rush, along with the aforementioned Brents should be valuable assets for the next several years. Projection: 15 games played, four starts, 30 tackles, two interceptions, six pass deflections. Impact Factor: 6.8
Rd5.No.158 Daniel Scott, SS, California: Able to play both safety spots, Scott is somewhat limited in coverage but provides adequate depth. Projection: 11 games played, 23 tackles. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd5.No.162 Will Mallory, TE, Miami: The Colts have assembled a nice young collection of tight ends in recent drafts; the fact that Mallory was still hanging out this late in the draft was too good to resist. Projection: nine games played, 15 catches, 185 receiving yards, one touchdown. Impact Factor: 6.6
Rd5.No.176 Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern: Thumpers wanted. Add Hull to the collection of bruising running back committee. He’ll backup up Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss when needed. Projection: Six games played, 38 carries, 152 rushing yards, one touchdown. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd6.No.211 Titus Leo, OLB, Wagner: We can confirm that Indianapolis are one of the few NFL teams who made the trek out to Staten Island and they get to reap the rewards with the selection of Leo. Projection: Eight games played, 20 tackles, three and a half sacks, five tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd7.No.221 Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M: Yet another cornerback with traits and upside. Projection: Four games played. Impact Factor: 6.2
Rd7.No.236 Jake Witt, OT, Northern Michigan: The draftnik underworld rejoiced with the selection of Witt who was the ultimate workout warrior at his pro day. Projection: A year on the practice squad. Impact Factor: 6.0
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 67]
Rd1.No.27 Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma: With Cam Robinson facing a league suspension and Jawaan Taylor (Chiefs) fetching free agent dollars, the Jaguars recognized the need to trade up and pluck Harrison. Projection: Starts 17 games, half of them at left tackle. Impact Factor: 8.4
Rd2.No.61 Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State: Remember how Doug Pederson employed Trey Burton in Philadelphia, a similar role could be in store for Strange with the Jaguars. Projection: 17 games played, 22 catches, 248 receiving yards, one touchdown. Impact Factor: 6.7
Rd3.No.88 Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn: A dependable backup to help ease the workload for Travis Etienne was needed and Bigsby can take some of the tough between the tackles carries off his plate. Projection: 88 carries, 356 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards, three touchdowns. Impact Factor: 6.9
Rd4.No.121 Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida: A medical red flag on his foot caused Miller to be selected on the final day. He should provide depth at inside backer when healthy. Projection: eight games played, 33 tackles, four tackles for loss, one interception. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd4.No.130 Tyler Lacy, DE, Oklahoma State: The defensive line competition will be highly competitive and Lacy figures to have a spot in the rotation. Projection: 15 tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.5
Rd5.No.136 Yasir Abdullah, LB, Louisville: Will likely make more of an impact on special teams in year one. Projection: nine games played, 13 tackles. Impact Factor: 6.4
Rd5.No.160 Antonio Johnson, FS, Texas A&M: On paper, this would seem to be one of the better value picks of the draft. Johnson will boost special teams but don’t be surprised to see him earn a few spot starts and he could also slide in at nickel. Projection: 17 games played, five starts, 38 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss, one interception. Impact Factor: 6.9
Rd6.No.185 Parker Washington, WR, Penn State: While he struggles to create separation, Jacksonville will make good use of his speed. Projection: six games played, nine catches, 84 receiving yards. Impact Factor: 6.2
Rd6.No.202 Christian Braswell, CB, Rutgers: A gritty cover man who could be relied upon to receive valuable reps in the slot. Projection: 15 games played, 20 tackles. Impact Factor: 6.7
Rd6.No.208 Erick Hallett, FS, Pittsburgh: Unless the injury bug bites, Hallett will be a strong candidate for the practice squad. Projection: developmental year, four games played. Impact Factor: 6.0
Rd7.No.226 Cooper Hodges, OT, Appalachian State: Finding depth at tackle is tough and Hodges flashed enough traits to warrant a look-see. Projection: practice squad. Impact Factor: 6.0
Rd7.No.227 Raymond Vohasek, DT, North Carolina: An injury-riddled final season in Chapel Hill limited Vohasek, he needs to prove durable. Projection: practice squad. Impact Factor: 5.8
Rd7.No.240 Derek Parish, LB, Houston: The next Kyle Juszczyk? Possibly. Parish is making the switch from linebacker to fullback and is an athletic freak of nature! Projection: 12 games played, 25 carries, 105 rushing yards, 12 catches, 96 receiving yards, three touchdowns. Impact Factor: 7.0
TENNESSEE TITANS [OVERALL ROOKIE IMPACT RATING = 73]
Rd1.No.11 Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern: It was vital to build around the quarterback position, whoever that might be and Skoronski could start at tackle or guard. Projection: 17 starts at tackle and guard. Impact Factor: 8.5
Rd2.No.33 Will Levis, QB, Kentucky: We know that it’s just a matter of time before Levis gets a chance to audition for the starting job. Tennessee has been seeking an alternative option to Ryan Tannehill. Projection: 10 games played, seven starts, 145 completions, 245 attempts, 1,725 passing yards, eight touchdowns, 15 interceptions. Impact Factor: 7.3
Rd3.No.81 Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane: The Titans could be shoppers at the trade deadline and if the team is able to unload Derrick Henry, the slashing Spears could suddenly find himself as the lead back. Projection: 14 games played, five starts, 105 carries, 462 rushing yards, 248 receiving yards, six touchdowns. Impact Factor: 8.5
Rd5.No.147 Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati: It would appear to be wide open at tight end behind Chigoziem Okonkwo who was a pleasant surprise last season. The opportunity for Whyle to see reps and targets are there. Projection: 18 catches, 233 receiving yards. Impact Factor: 6.7
Rd6.No.186 Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland: If anyone is going to tap into the potential that lies within Duncan, it’ll be Titans headman Mike Vrabel. Projection: 15 games played, two starts. Impact Factor: 6.9
Rd7.No.228 Colton Dowell, WR, Tennessee-Martin: If Dowell is to make the team, it will likely be as a special teams ace; he has an extensive background as a gunner. Projection: practice squad. Impact Factor: 5.9