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2023 RZL First Round Draft Grades (1-10)
By Keith Van Wagner
Special to rzl-football.com

The Preseason is now over and all the teams are anxiously awaiting the first game of the 2023 season. I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on the recent draft and give some grades for the first round. This year’s class was one of the worst in RZL history, so the grades will be skewed a bit. Also, because I didn’t have a first rounder and had traded away much of my draft, the truth is I didn’t do as much review of the class as I normally would. Hell, I was on vacation and missed the whole thing. So I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Still, it’s a fun exercise. So here are the Draft Grades for 2023:

1.1 – CB David Murphy, Packers. I don’t think there were any mock drafts, and in this draft class there probably wasn’t a consensus number one. I had a Corner as my best best player on the board, but it wasn’t Murphy. Frankly, I didn’t even have Murphy with a first round grade. But it’s easy to see why he’d be attractive – Murphy is one of the tallest CBs in the draft and has good speed (92 SPD). But other than his size, there’s not much elite about his skill set. In fact, his agility is one of the worst in the draft class, which could be a problem at the position. GRADE: C-

1.2 – WR Wayne White, Packers. Pity the Packers – they end up with the top two picks in the draft in a year that there are so few blue chippers. With the second pick overall, Green Bay goes big – 6’5” Wayne White. Like Murphy, his size is his greatest asset. And there’s something to be said for towering over DBs. But White also lacks an elite set of attributes. Like Murphy, he doesn’t have much agility. Also troubling is the big man’s lack of strength (42 STR) and stamina (63 STA). GRADE: C

1.3 – CB Steve Johnson, Bengals. Cincinnati, like Green Bay, had two picks back-to-back in the Top 5. With the first selection, Cincy grabbed arguably the best player in the draft, CB Johnson. Johnson lacks Murphy’s size (6’2” vs 6’0”) but has off the charts athleticism. His agility and acceleration are unmatched in the draft. Johnson does only possess good speed (92 SPD) however. In a normal draft year, Johnson would be a nice mid-first round pick. Here, he is a nice prize at third overall. GRADE: A+

1.4 – LE Nick Washington, Bengals. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this pick. When I checked my Defensive End board, he wasn’t on it. Then I realized I’d ended up putting him with the outside linebackers, where I judged him a mid-round pick. In retrospect, I think I may not have evaluated him correctly. His lack of size (257 lbs) coupled with average speed (80) and strength (72), does not make him a prototypical DE. But on my first pass I didn’t really catch his amazing acceleration (88). So maybe there’s more than I originally thought. GRADE: C+

1.5 – DT Robert Williams, Browns. Again, here’s a player going in the Top 5 that I didn’t even have a first round grade on. Williams is one of the fastest DTs in the draft and has solid attributes across the board. But arguably Mitchell and Guerrero are the better prospects there. Williams also have something of a potential injury issue. GRADE: C-

1.6 – QB Jeffrey Reed, Cardinals. The Cardinals finished a woeful 4-12 last year and have holes all over the starting line-up. While they needed a QB, there were a lot of other positions that perhaps they needed more. It would be one thing if Reed were an immediate savior, but his skill set tracks more of that of a second rounder in a normal draft year. Still, Reed has his positives – his 70 awareness is terrific for a rookie. But he will need a few years to get his accuracy developed. How long can the Cardinals afford to wait? GRADE: B-

1.7 – DT Robert Mitchell, Patriots. New England got itself a stud Defensive Tackle with its first pick overall. Mitchell certainly looks the part – 6’4”, 370 lbs – and is by far the strongest tackles available. Though not very nimble (57 AGI) he has good speed (62 SPD) and the best acceleration in the class (75 ACC). GRADE: A

1.8 – WR Lawrence Ellis, Colts. The Colts grab Ellis here, getting a remarkable talent at a reasonable cost. Ellis has the best speed (96) and hands (84 CTH) in the draft and decent size to boot (6’1”, 192 lbs). Of all the WRs entering the draft, he is without a doubt the most complete. Now the Colts just need to decide who will be throwing to him come Week 1. GRADE: A

1.9 – WR Scott Wade, Chargers. The Chargers are looking to develop the cannon-armed Ryan Mallett and give him another weapon in Wade. Wade has decent skills all around and will be an asset. In this talent-deprived draft, snagging Wade makes a lot of sense. He’s a polished WR with a big body (233 lbs) and good-to-great speed (93 SPD). The team could have also taken Warren Carson, but Wade was too tempting to pass up. GRADE: B+

1.10 – CB Jesse Long, 49ers. You can never go wrong with nabbing a good Corner and the Niners get their man at the end of the Top 10. On my board there were three CBs still available bunched together – Willie Saunders, Todd Barnes and Long. I liked Saunders a bit more, but Long is a legitimate choice as well. San Francisco basically opted for Long’s height (6’1”) over Saunders’ speed (94 SPD). Long lacks elite speed but does have the mental side covered (68 AWR). GRADE: B
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