Just a week before the NFL Scouting Combine, the football world has a pretty solid handle on where players will go in the 2023 NFL Draft. The underclassmen have already declared and the seniors have already gone through practices at the Senior Bowl and Shrine Bowl in front of NFL evaluators.
With the help of the consensus draft board, let’s try to pin down where the strongest and weakest positions (relative to averages) are in this upcoming draft class. How we did this was by measuring the draft value of individual position groups in the top 100 picks since 2011, when the rookie wage scale began and the quarterback position was then buffed by cost-controlled contracts. We focused on top-100 picks as selections on Day 3 of the draft are crapshoots (at best.)
Using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger Trade Chart, a more accurate and modern version of the Jimmy Johnson chart, we assigned value to position groups based on where their players were picked in the top 100. We can do the same with players projected to go in the top 100 in this upcoming draft, based on the consensus draft board, and measure the difference from the 12-year average. You can check out that table below:
2023 Expected Draft Value
Strongest Position Groups
Georgia TE Darnell Washington is going to be a cheat code in the RZ in the right scheme at the next level. Absurd physical attributes for the position, though he remains rather raw overall. pic.twitter.com/hCxpuDNta1— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) February 20, 2023
The strongest position group in this draft, at least relative to averages, is tight end. Three tight ends, Michael Mayer (Notre Dame), Dalton Kincaid (Utah) and Darnell Washington (Georgia) are in the conservation to come off the board in the first round. Three others, Luke Musgrave (Oregon State), Tucker Kraft (South Dakota State) and Sam LaPorta (Iowa) are virtual locks to be drafted in the first three rounds of the draft.
No matter which type of tight end you’re looking for, there’s one available in this class. Mayer is your all-around guy, Kincaid is your lighter pass-catcher, Washington is your in-line bully blocker and Musgrave is expected to light up Indianapolis with his measurables. Tight end was voted by APC readers as the second-biggest need that the Packers have going into this offseason, so it’s nice to hear the position group carries 42 percent more draft value than the average tight end class in the top 100.
Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez put on a clinic in coverage vs UCLA. His patience, footwork, hip fluidity, and technique are outstanding.— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) November 4, 2022
He is not talked about enough but Gonzalez is a talented cover corner! pic.twitter.com/dby3o1QAjl
The Packers don’t have a significant need at cornerback unless they move Rasul Douglas to safety and Keisean Nixon isn’t re-signed to play the slot. It’s expected that Eric Stokes and Jaire Alexander continue to hold onto their starting positions as outside cornerbacks throughout 2023.
Still, the cornerback position is maybe the highlight of the first round of this draft class. Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), Devon Witherspoon (Illinois) and Joey Porter (Penn State) are projected top-10 picks currently while Cam Smith (South Carolina), Kelee Ringo (Georgia), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State) and Clark Phillips III (Utah) are in the first-round conversation.
In total, 16 cornerbacks are projected to be drafted in the top 100 picks per the consensus board’s most recent update.
Best spin in the class… Will McDonald is a fun pass rusher pic.twitter.com/Dkz14pqlzg— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 7, 2023
This edge rusher class isn’t above and beyond the best in recent memory, unlike tight end and cornerback, but it’s still very solid and comes with some star names. Will Anderson (Alabama) and Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech) are the freak athletes in this class. 13 other edge rushers are expected to come off the board in the first three rounds in the class including seven players who are in the first-round conversation.
Some notable players who are expected to be drafted on Day 2 of the draft are Keion White (Georgia Tech), Will McDonald (Iowa State) and Andre Carter (Army.) White is a converted tight end turned base end who transferred to Georgia Tech after dominating the Group of Five competition at Old Dominion. McDonald was one of the more accomplished pass-rushers in the country during his time at Iowa State but is slightly undersized for the position in the NFL. Carter will be the subject of many conversations going into the draft, as the 6’7” linebacker may have to delay his NFL career depending on how his active duty service is ruled.
Weakest Positions Groups
Bijan Robinson absolutely ran over Henry To’oto’o on this play pic.twitter.com/cTTVbgUUp6— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) September 17, 2022
You can find mock drafts this offseason where there’s not a single off-ball linebacker taken in the first round. According to the consensus draft board, there are only two linebackers ranked in the first 58 picks of this upcoming draft. Many Packers fans weren’t excited about Quay Walker’s up-and-down 2022 campaign, but maybe it was the right choice to take a linebacker a year before this class to get a year of development under his belt.
The position also quickly falls off after Trenton Simpson (Clemson) and Drew Sanders (Arkansas.) The third- and fourth-ranked linebackers, respectively, on the consensus board are Oregon’s Noah Sewell and Alabama’s Henry To’oto’o, who both have major question marks about their foot speed and coverage skills being able to translate to the modern NFL game.
Per @PFF_College, #WakeForest WR AT Perry was the highest graded WR during #ShrineBowl practices.— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) February 21, 2023
Talking to personnel afterwards, that matches up: he was one of the biggest winners of the week.
Feels like he’s going to go earlier than some think (on Day 2). pic.twitter.com/0NkVK0B3S5
This is the one that’s going to hurt Packers fans the most: This isn’t a great receiver class. The limited receiver crop is only going to be exacerbated by the team’s perceived size preference for 200-pound pass-catchers, which should knock off names like USC’s Jordan Addison and Boston College’s Zay Flowers off the board.
Last year was probably the class to take a receiver for Green Bay and they ended up drafting three. Unfortunately, those three 2022 picks now sit atop the Packers’ depth chart going into next season with Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb set for free agency.
There’s still talent in this class, but with Green Bay’s size specifications, they’re going to have to pick their spots. Two names I would highlight are SMU’s Rashee Rice and Wake Forest’s A.T. Perry, pass-catchers I’m personally fond of and who fit the “Packers receiver” prototype.
This run from Tyjae Spears is even MORE impressive when you realize that it was his 32nd carry of the GAME.— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) February 2, 2023
Green Bay could be in the market for a running back in 2023, but it’s way down the list of needs. Aaron Jones’ reworked contract means that the team will carry a $12.4 million dead cap in 2024 if the squad elects to move on from him next offseason. A.J. Dillon, the team’s number-two back, is in the final season of his rookie contract, though.
Bijan Robinson (Texas) is the gem of the running back class and Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama) is earning Alvin Kamara comparisons as a borderline first-round pick. UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet (6’1”, 220) and Tulane’s Tyjae Spears (5’11”, 195) have their fans this year, too.
The running back position doesn’t even seem that weak, even relative to previous classes. This may just be a case of prognosticators catching on to the fact that the NFL hasn’t valued the position in the same way that they did back in the 2010s.