Not every team in the 2023 NFL Draft selected players whose skills aligned with franchise schemes. Here are five of the best and worst fits for NFL rookies.
Following the 2023 NFL Draft, most draft grades were notably forgiving to NFL general managers. For example, the Minnesota Vikings received high grades for drafting Jordan Addison because Addison is a stellar wide receiver who will presumably work out well in Minnesota, never mind the fact that the Vikings should have focused on defense in the first round.
“Did everybody win the draft?” Pat McAfee asked on his show, addressing the bizarre phenomenon of general positivity post-draft.
Even though it may seem like a league of winners, admittedly, some star players landed in better environments than others. Minnesota is expected to get the best out of Addison, but a team in a quarterback crisis likely wouldn’t. Zay Flowers entered the draft conversation as an underrated prospect, and if the Baltimore Ravens never use him, it could reinforce assumptions about his limitations.
Drafting the right player isn’t easy, especially in a league where coaches and schemes usually change as often as the rosters. That’s why some lucky players ended up in ideal circumstances, while others joined teams that may not be able to make the most of what their players offer.
Here are the five best and worst fits of the 2023 NFL Draft:
5. Best Fit: Deuce Vaughn, Dallas Cowboys
Despite being the Cowboys’ assistant director of college scouting, Chris Vaughn wasn’t able to collaboratively evaluate every draft prospect in the 2023 class. When the Cowboys would discuss a particular running back out of Kansas State, Vaughn would recuse himself from these discussions. That’s because the running back was Deuce Vaughn, Chris’ 21-year-old son.
When the Cowboys decided to draft Deuce in the sixth round without Chris’ influence — or knowledge — it made for a “tearjerker” moment, according to Deuce. Storybook-ending aside, the Cowboys are an ideal fit for Vaughn.
Not every NFL team heavily incorporates runners, but the Cowboys include running back involvement as a mainstay of their offensive scheme. By adding Vaughn, the Cowboys wield an elusive, speedy runner and receiver who finds opportunities in space and creates separation within seconds. The Cowboys are optimistic for a Darren Sproles-type player, but at the very least, Vaughn’s tape ensures a special teams returner who can change games with improved field position. The Cowboys can find creative ways to utilize him in a league that’s beginning to prize speed over size.
Despite his productivity at Kansas State, Vaughn certainly could have landed in a much worse situation, struggling on a team that isn’t prepared with an offensive line or scheme to incorporate Vaughn’s talents. The addition of Mazi Smith and having Dak Prescott at quarterback means Deuce Vaughn can join the Cowboys and hit the ground running.
5. Worst Fit: Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
After drafting Felix Anudike-Uzomah with the last pick of the first round, the Chiefs addressed another pressing roster need in the second. Kansas City chose Rashee Rice, a speedy wide receiver out of SMU.
NFL.com projected Rice to go in the third or fourth round, and by trading up to pick at No. 55, it seems like Rashee Rice was a reach compared to his initial draft projection.
On paper, Rice has the qualities of the most successful Chiefs receivers, which is to say that he’s quick and explosive. “Rice has enough top-end speed to attack vertically,” wrote NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, describing Rice as a prospect boasting “terrific ball-tracking” and “jump-ball victories.” Yet in the same breath, Zierlein cautions that Rice is a risk considering his inconsistent route-running and ball security.
If the Chiefs wanted their usual speedy receiver, they could have drafted Jalin Hyatt or Josh Downs, two players who ranked among the Top 50 prospects and who were still available when the Chiefs picked. In fact, Hyatt sported a slightly faster 40-yard dash time and a longer broad jump measurement, as well as a higher overall prospect grade by NFL.com. Without inside knowledge, Jalin Hyatt appears to suit the Chiefs’ offense more than Rice does, especially considering the concerns that Rice will be able to develop enough to start.