2023 NFL Draft: Big-name QBs among five veterans who took advantage; Ryan Tannehill, among the young RBs disrupted

The 2023 NFL season isn’t that far away, especially since the draft is now complete and every team begins offseason minicamps in preparation for the new league year. Outside of veteran free agents looking for new teams, many players on rosters know where they stand on the depth chart heading into minicamp. These players have a much clearer view of their job status and who is standing in the way of getting that position.

Of course, there are veteran players who benefited immensely from the draft based on what their teams did to improve the roster during the three-day selection meeting. Some rosters certainly improved over the course of the weekend compared to how they appeared on paper after the first two waves of free agency.

Which players are worth buying stocks after the draft is completed? How to stay away from players? There are experts to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Five veterans helped draft

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Jackson was the biggest winner on draft weekend — he became the highest-paid player (in terms of average annual salary) in NFL history. With a contract extension finally in place, the Ravens wasted no time in giving Jackson another pass-catching wide receiver who is expected to contribute immediately.

Baltimore drafted Jay Flowers in the first round, and he could immediately start in the slot with Odell Beckham and Rashod Bateman occupying the outside. Jackson has his best wide receiver unit since being drafted by the Ravens in 2018, while Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely are tight end options in the middle of the field.

Not only is Jackson getting paid, but he has a security blanket in Flowers that he can go under. Jackson should have the best passing numbers of his career in 2023 — and he once led the league in touchdown passes and passer rating.

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After the Detroit Lions selected Jahmir Gibbs in the first round, Swift’s future in Detroit was in significant uncertainty. The Lions had already signed David Montgomery, reducing Swift’s role, but Gibbs was essentially Swift’s long-term replacement — a free agent at the end of the season.

Swift ended up in a great place, the Philadelphia Eagles. He carries with Rashaad Penny in Philadelphia, running behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. The Eagles have the most rushing yards (5,224) and rushing touchdowns (57) over the past two seasons — and now they have their best pass-catching running back since LeSean McCoy.

No longer asked to carry the run game, Swift should thrive in Philadelphia. It helps that he grew up in the city, attending nearby St. Joe’s Prep.

Justin Herbert

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Does Herbert still have a long-term extension with the Los Angeles Chargers? No, but the Chargers are making sure their franchise quarterback earns as much money as he can get.

The Chargers added another explosive pass catcher to their offense by selecting Quentin Johnston in the first round, joining Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the team’s wide receiver unit. Johnson is another big-play wideout who should get plenty of open looks with Allen and Williams. Herbert should have no trouble finding Johnson downfield and racking up passing yards.

The Chargers are deep at wide receiver (Los Angeles also has Joshua Palmer, Jalen Guyton and rookie Derrius Davis), but Austin Ekeler is still employed by the franchise. Los Angeles couldn’t trade Ekeler during the draft, so the Chargers kept the player with the most touchdowns the past two seasons.

The Chargers offense is loaded. A big season for Herbert will earn him more money than he’s already set to earn.

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The Seattle Seahawks certainly gave Smith all the playmakers he needed to succeed in the draft, starting with adding Jackson Smith-Nzigba to a wide receiver group that already featured Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Smith-Nzigba immediately moves into the slot, creating a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses — Seattle arguably has one of the best wide receiver trios in the league.

Seattle added Zach Charbonnet to the running back room as he spells second-year running back Kenneth Walker with his speed out of the backfield. Not only does Smith have plenty of talent at the skill positions, but every top running back and wide receiver not named Tyler Lockett is 25 or under.

Smith has a loaded offense with an offensive line that improved throughout last season. He got a new contract this offseason and Seattle didn’t draft a quarterback. This is Smith’s team — and the Seahawks gave him all the playmakers to have an even better 2023.

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Cox took a hometown discount to stay with the Eagles, but the veteran defensive tackle was asked to carry the interior with Jordan Davis entering his first season as a starter. Milton Williams also had a significant role in the rotation, though things were made easier for Cox as Jalen Carter’s stock fell in the draft.

Carter No. The Eagles fell into the lineup at 10, so they traded up just one draft spot to get him. Cox starts with a quick impact rookie like Carter or plays significant snaps and a defensive tackle rotation with Carter, Davis and Williams — preserving his body for the second half of the season.

With the Eagles pass rush loaded on the edge and deep at defensive tackle, Cox should have another strong season at 32 — while providing crucial veteran leadership in an already strong locker room.

Five veterans hurt the draft

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This is another year of Tannehill looking over his shoulder at quarterback. The Titans selected Malik Willis in the third round of last year’s draft, and while he never provided much of a challenge for Tannehill’s job, Will Lewis could offer a more serious threat.

The Titans traded for Lewis with the second pick of the second round, getting a quarterback once projected to go in the top five of the draft. Lewis certainly has the potential to be the next franchise quarterback in Tennessee and will have a year to develop in Tim Kelly’s offense.

Can Lewis unseat Tannehill this year, the final year of his contract? If Tannehill struggles or suffers a multi-week injury, Lewis may not get his job back if he plays well. Tannehill will be the starter to open the season, but will he be the starter in January?

Tannehill’s starting quarterback job at Tennessee appears to be for one more season — at most.

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The reward for rushing for more than 1,000 yards in a freshman season? Allger watched as the Falcons used a top-10 pick to select a generational running back.

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Bejon Robinson at No. 8 overall, the first running back taken in the top 20 of the draft since Saquon Barkley in 2018. Robinson ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (159.9) and was second in rush-play percentage (55.3%) last season — so he’s going to put up big numbers behind one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in football.

What about Algiers? He threw for 1,035 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry (on 210 carries) last season. The Falcons will still use Algiers in the offense, but he will get significantly fewer carries in his second season in the NFL. Cordarelle Patterson is also part of the running back rotation.

Allgeier will probably be productive, though he won’t look close to the 16.7 carries per game he received over the final six games of last season.

Kenneth Walker

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Here’s another running back who didn’t average the same number of carries per game as he did in his rookie season. Walker was one of the best rookie running backs last season, rushing for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns (4.6 yards per carry) — averaging 18.6 carries per game as a starter.

Walker is still featured in Seattle, but some of his touches will be removed this season by Zach Charbonnet. Seattle didn’t draft Charbonnet in the second round to bench him — Rashaad Penny was the reigning no. Ditto with Walker when 1.

He’s going to make a strong combination for the Seahawks running game, but Walker’s playing time will be affected.

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The Colts will be playing for one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, but the no. The pick of Anthony Richardson at No. 4 sealed Minshoo’s fate. Minshew may be the top quarterback on the depth chart heading into training camp, but will he be good enough to hold off Richardson for Week 1? Does it matter?

Richardson’s future for the Colts — they might want to play him in Week 1 and develop him with on-field experience. Head coach Shane Steichen did this with Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts when he was offensive coordinator, and wants to do the same with Richardson.

If Richardson gives the Colts a better chance to win games, he will play. Minshew could be the No. 2 quarterback in Indianapolis as he was in Philadelphia.

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Jones was one of the biggest free-agent disappointments last season, not having the impact the Las Vegas Raiders had hoped for when he signed. While Jones has 47 pressures and a 10.6% pressure rate (same as 2021), the sack total has dropped from 10.5 to 4.5. Jones didn’t have a game with a full sack until Week 13; Not so good, Max Crosby played on the opposite end.

The Raiders took Tyree Wilson at No. Drafted at 7, he is expected to contribute immediately in the pass rush. Whether Wilson or Jones will get the majority of the snaps will be determined in training camp, but the top-10 picks are expected to be quick impact players. Wilson will get snaps in his rookie season.

Jones is still a good pass rusher at age 33, but needs to earn his snaps going forward. He can still play a significant amount of snaps if he is productive on the field.

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