2023 NFL draft: Best picks, rookie classes, bold predictions

Why Pollack loves Hendon Hooker's fit with the Lions (1:39)

David Pollack explains his favorite pick and his surprise pick from Day 2 of the NFL draft. (1:39)

With the 2023 NFL draft nearly two full weeks behind us and rookie camps starting up around the league, our NFL experts have had plenty of time to assess the class. So we asked 10 of them to weigh in on some of the draft's biggest questions and make predictions.

Which rookies could have outstanding careers? Who could be a fantasy sleeper? Which draft picks are the early favorites to earn some hardware? Which teams have instant-impact classes? And what were the best picks and biggest head-scratchers of the draft? Our experts dive in on the top takeaways from this year's class, beginning with bold predictions.

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Bold predictions | Rookie fantasy sleepers
Defensive ROY | Offensive ROY
Most impactful rookie class
Favorite draft picks | Biggest head-scratchers

Give us a bold prediction for a rookie in the 2023 class.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Lions safety Brian Branch will lead all rookies in interceptions. Branch has the natural instincts and positional versatility to create on-the-ball production as a rookie. Detroit landed a defensive back with first-round traits on Day 2 of the draft.

Mike Clay, fantasy football analyst: Bijan Robinson will lead all running backs in fantasy points as a rookie. Yes, all backs -- not just rookies. Of the six RBs selected in the top 10 since 2012, three finished top five in fantasy points per game as a rookie, and none of the six finished lower than 15th. Robinson can dominate as both a rusher and receiver in the league's run-heaviest offense in 2022. He's set up for a massive rookie season with Atlanta.

Liz Loza, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Running back Kendre Miller will clear 1,000 total yards in his first pro effort and start 2024 as the Saints' RB1. Miller is an elusive back with excellent vision. He recorded 74 forced missed tackles (third-most in the FBS) at TCU last year. Given Alvin Kamara's legal concerns and contract situation, Miller figures to see immediate action. Seven years younger than Jamaal Williams, the rookie is likely to surge ahead of the vet and could average double-digit touches by midseason.

Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst: Jalen Carter will become the NFL's best defensive tackle within his rookie contract. Aaron Donald and Chris Jones are turning 32 and 29, respectively, and while players like Jeffery Simmons have loads of ability, Carter's all-around traits are at a higher level than any player drafted at the position in the past five years.

Eric Moody, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Anthony Richardson will start for the Colts and have a better rookie season (and a better fantasy season) than Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Richardson has a unique advantage over Young and Stroud due to his rushing ability. Coach Shane Steichen had a lot of success with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia and should be able to replicate it with Richardson.

Jason Reid, senior Andscape writer: Bryce Young is embarking on a career that will one day culminate with his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some guys just have it, and Young is one of those guys.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst: Jordan Addison will surpass 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie. With Adam Thielen gone, the Vikings have a huge hole at the WR2 spot. Addison can step into that role right away and will immediately create one of the league's best 1-2 punches alongside Justin Jefferson.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office insider: Hendon Hooker will become the best QB of this draft class in the long term. I've been sold on Hooker for a while, and I think he can be a star once he takes over the Detroit offense.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer: Steelers' fourth-round pick Nick Herbig will have a double-digit sack season at some point during his rookie contract. The Wisconsin product had 11 last season and looks like a major value in the draft based on my projected sacks model for prospects.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: The Lions will be the ones laughing at the end of this 2023 regular season, as their top four rookies will all have significant roles from Day 1 and prove to be extremely capable starters. And running back Jahmyr Gibbs will become one of the most exciting players in the league as a rookie.

Which midround pick will have fantasy value in 2023?

Bowen: Devon Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins. Achane has the speed and playmaking traits to be deployed as a motion/movement player in Mike McDaniel's offense. In addition to backfield touches, McDaniel can scheme for Achane on fly sweeps and screens. He's a late-round points per reception (PPR) target who could emerge as a flex play in your lineup.

Clay: Roschon Johnson, RB, Chicago Bears. Johnson's primary competition for touches will be career backup/committee backs Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer. Johnson has a terrific size at 6-foot, 219 pounds and was super efficient at Texas. I love him as a sleeper to take on a big role in what could be a breakout offense.

Loza: Achane. A track-and-field standout at Texas A&M, Achane is a blazer (4.32-second 40-yard dash). He also has awesome vision while remaining undeniably elusive, making him a nightmare to contain in space. He'll begin the year behind Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., but given the vets' respective ages and injury histories, Achane could emerge as a fantasy star down the stretch.

Miller: Achane. This is a popular pick for a good reason. Achane's burst around the edge and open-field speed is ideal for the Miami offensive scheme. What he adds as a pass-catcher and even potentially as a return man should give him a boost in fantasy leagues.

Moody: Achane. I agree with everything Bowen, Loza and Miller said. Achane fits McDaniel's wide zone scheme really well. Mostert and Wilson are his only competition for touches. They're both older running backs who have had many injuries. Achane is going to be aggressively targeted late in fantasy football drafts, especially by those implementing a "zero RB" strategy.

Jason Reid: Tyler Scott, WR, Chicago Bears. The speedy wideout is among the newcomers Chicago will rely on to help QB Justin Fields take a big step forward. He had 1,419 yards and 14 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Cincinnati.

Jordan Reid: Achane. Achane is the most popular and obvious answer here because of how perfect he fits in the Dolphins' offense. With his quickness and one-cut-and-go style, he fits McDaniel's scheme well. He not only provides value in the running game but could also be a versatile target in the passing game.

Tannenbaum: Tyjae Spears, RB, Tennessee Titans. Spears will be tremendous out of the backfield and quickly become Ryan Tannehill's security blanket this year. He rushed for 1,581 yards on 229 carries with 19 touchdowns in his final season at Tulane.

Walder: Chase Brown, RB, Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have publicly backed Joe Mixon. But the fact remains that he is scheduled to make $9.9 million between salary and roster bonuses in 2023 after generating just 31 rush yards over expectation over the past four seasons combined, per NFL Next Gen Stats. I'm still not totally convinced he's on the Bengals roster come Week 1, and that -- plus Mixon's lack of efficiency in recent seasons -- makes me think Brown has late-round fantasy value.

Yates: Nathaniel Dell, WR, Houston Texans. There aren't many midround picks this year that project to have season-long fantasy value, but Dell should have pockets where he can squeeze into lineups as a flex consideration in deeper leagues. The Texans do not have a deep receiver corps, and Dell has a real shot at playing starting snaps out of the slot.

Who is your early pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Bowen: Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Houston Texans. It's the pass-rushing traits of Anderson with the multiple fronts in coach DeMeco Ryans' defensive system. We'll see schemed one-on-ones and stunts that open up rush lanes. Ryans can set up Anderson to produce big sack totals as a rookie.

Clay: Christian Gonzalez, CB, New England Patriots. New England has ranked no lower than third in interceptions each of the past five seasons, producing at least 18 each year. Gonzalez could emerge as the team's top perimeter corner right out of the gate. The No. 17 overall pick will have an opportunity to make an instant impact under the best defensive coach in football, Bill Belichick.

Loza: Anderson. Ryans is building his defense around Anderson's game-wrecking traits, as he traded up to select the Alabama standout with the No. 3 overall pick. Anderson's speed, size and instincts figure to sing off the edge in Ryans' scheme.

Miller: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks. Opposing teams have to throw it somewhere, and they'll likely target the rookie cornerback over Tariq Woolen or Quandre Diggs in coverage. Witherspoon has exceptional ball skills, toughness and timing. He'll have some interceptions, thanks in part to the opportunities coming his way opposite Woolen and in part to his immense talent.

Moody: Anderson. Anderson had an impressive college career with 34.5 career sacks, the second-highest in Alabama history. Additionally, he led the FBS with 130 pressures over 2021-2022, making him a promising addition to Ryans' revamped defense.

Jason Reid: Anderson. Ryans will put Anderson in positions to thrive. Anderson has the tools and drive needed to deliver on his part. This will be a productive partnership.

Jordan Reid: Anderson. He steps into the NFL expected to be a double-digit sack player. Likely to play the Nick Bosa role in Ryans' defense, he's set up to have a productive first year. His versatility and exceptional pass-rush ability will likely translate well to the next level.

Tannenbaum: Jalen Carter, DT, Philadelphia Eagles. Simply put, it's an ideal situation for Carter to thrive. He's arguably the most talented player in the class, and he landed with the perfect team.

Walder: Anderson. The obvious pick is the right one. Not only is Anderson an elite prospect, but the fact that his skill set should result in a bunch of sacks -- an obvious production marker that might be hard for voters to overlook -- should give him the edge over other contenders.

Yates: Jack Campbell, LB, Detroit Lions. We can quibble over whether the Lions paid too much of a premium to select Campbell at No. 18 overall, but he should slide right into a starting role from Day 1. Beyond the starting role for Campbell -- who is an idyllic fit for the Lions' culture -- the linebacker position lends itself to counting stats that often help build a player's case for individual awards.

Who is your early pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Bowen: Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons. Robinson is an all-purpose playmaker who will see steady rushing volume in the Falcons' system, and coach Arthur Smith can scheme for him in the pass game, too. The new feature back in Atlanta should produce impressive numbers as a rookie.

Clay: Robinson. Atlanta selected Robinson with the No. 8 overall pick, and history tells us that he'll be a featured player immediately. Since 2012, six running backs (Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Trent Richardson, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey) have been selected in the top 10 of the draft. Those six averaged 296 touches, 1,510 total yards and 12 TDs as a rookie. None were below 1,000 total yards or seven TDs, and only McCaffrey fell below 250 touches, 1,294 yards and 10 TDs. Barring injury, Robinson has this in the bag.

Loza: Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers. The most talented quarterback Frank Reich has coached since Andrew Luck, Young is a poised passer who thrives under pressure. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner has an exceptional feel for the game, demonstrating elite pocket mobility and the necessary arm strength to reach all levels of the field. Working behind a top-15 offensive line and with Jonathan Mingo added to the wide receiver corps, Young should excel in Year 1.

Miller: Robinson. Robinson was the safest prospect in the draft, and he enters an offense that featured a 1,000-yard back last year in Tyler Allgeier. He's an improvement over Allgeier and will also add a pass-catching element missing out of the backfield in Atlanta last year -- Cordarrelle Patterson led all backs with 21 receptions. Robinson had 609 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his last two years at Texas. He could approach 1,500 total yards with double-digit scores in his rookie season.

Moody: Young. He is surrounded by a lot of offensive playmakers and a good offensive line. During his collegiate career, he passed for 8,356 yards and 80 touchdowns, the second-most in Alabama history. After two straight years of wide receivers winning the award, the pendulum might swing back to a quarterback.

Jason Reid: Young. The No. 1 overall pick in the draft is not just ready to play -- he's ready to star. Working with Reich will only help Young climb the ladder faster.

Jordan Reid: Robinson. Coach Smith -- who previously worked as the Titans' offensive coordinator -- now has his own Derrick Henry, and I expect the Falcons to use Robinson similarly as a rusher. And he gives you even more as a pass-catcher. Robinson could have a truly great rookie year.

Tannenbaum: Young. As the others have said, Young will start immediately and thrive with the help of his good offensive line to protect him.

Walder: Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings. With Adam Thielen gone, Addison can step in and be the No. 2 wideout against defenses primarily focused on Justin Jefferson. That should yield plenty of opportunities for the rookie.

Yates: Robinson. While some will point to how Atlanta has not maximized its first-round talents over the past two seasons, I'll be stunned if Robinson doesn't take on one of the largest workloads in the NFL. If he doesn't press for 300 total touches this season, I'm not sure why the Falcons made the pick.

Which rookie class will make the biggest impact this season?

Bowen: Chicago Bears. The Bears added depth and talent at premium positions, with a couple of potential Day 3 steals. Darnell Wright is your Day 1 starter at right tackle. Both Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens have the traits to create interior disruption on the defensive front, and corner Tyrique Stevenson brings a physical play demeanor to the secondary. Plus, running back Roschon Johnson and wide receiver Tyler Scott could factor into the offensive game plan as rookies.

Clay: Los Angeles Rams. This might seem like a weird response considering the Rams didn't have a first-round pick, but have you seen their roster, especially on defense? L.A. lost a ton of talent during the offseason and will be filling its roster -- and a chunk of its starting lineup -- with rookies and undrafted free agents. Expect immediate roles for guard Steve Avila, linebacker Byron Young and defensive tackle Kobie Turner, among many others.

Loza: Indianapolis Colts. After years of being stuck in neutral, general manager Chris Ballard finally dropped the hammer on a ceiling play at the sport's most important position. And he gave his new quarterback Anthony Richardson a T.Y. Hilton-esque playmaker by selecting Josh Downs in the third round. The Colts additionally found excellent value with cornerback Julius Brents (who should step into the void created by Stephon Gilmore's departure) and defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore.

Miller: Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks could have drafted a quarterback of the future at either No. 5 or No. 20 overall but instead bolstered a roster that should be the favorite to win the NFC West this season. Cornerback Devon Witherspoon and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba ranked as my best players at their respective positions and could help push Seattle past San Francisco for the lead spot in the division. Outside of Round 1, depth adds like outside linebacker Derick Hall and running back Zach Charbonnet were important, too.

Moody: New York Giants. New York carefully addressed its needs and made impressive defensive additions -- including cornerback Deonte Banks -- that caught my attention. The Giants had a solid draft haul overall, and this class has the potential to exceed expectations.

Jason Reid: Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers completely nailed the draft, selecting players who will help them get back on the right track soon. Picking offensive tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14 was what they needed to help young quarterback Kenny Pickett. Cornerback Joey Porter Jr., the first pick of the second round, possesses first-round talent. In the third round, Pittsburgh added tight end Darnell Washington, a big-time blocker. Fourth-round outside linebacker Nick Herbig, a talented edge rusher, will boost the defense.

Jordan Reid: Colts. The only way Richardson will gain experience is by being out there, so he should start Week 1. He will have plenty of highs and lows in 2023, but he needs a trial-and-error period as a rookie. Brents, Downs and Adebawore also have the potential to be key contributors during their rookie seasons. The Colts needed young talent at key spots, and they got it after an impressive draft that included plenty of instant-impact prospects.

Yates: Texans traded a haul to get Will Anderson Jr.

Field Yates breaks down Texans trading up to the No. 3 pick to take Will Anderson Jr.

Tannenbaum: Detroit Lions. Despite much backlash around the value of Detroit's early selections, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch will all contribute this year. And Hendon Hooker should be the quarterback of the future.

Walder: Houston Texans. Trading as much as the Texans did to move up to No. 3 was a horrendous team-building decision. But this Texans class has a chance to have the biggest impact because they spent the most to acquire it. C.J. Stroud gives them a chance to have a major upgrade at QB, Will Anderson Jr. is an amazing prospect even if they overpaid for him and Nathaniel Dell could make an impact right away in a weak receiver room.

Yates: Texans. With Stroud in line to become their starting quarterback, the Texans were already on the short list of teams whose rookie class could contribute the most. Couple that with the trade for the top defensive player on several teams' boards in Anderson, and this class could change the complexion of this franchise right away.

What was your favorite pick of the draft?

Bowen: Quarterback Anthony Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 4. New Colts coach Shane Steichen can scheme for Richardson's dual-threat traits like he did with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. This is a really good spot for his pro development.

Clay: Quarterback C.J. Stroud to the Houston Texans at No. 2. The speculation in the weeks leading up to the draft that Houston would pass on a QB with the second pick never made sense. And fortunately for Texans fans, Houston didn't do it. It's the most important position in football, so Houston adding a potential franchise quarterback early in the draft was a no-brainer.

Loza: Tight end Michael Mayer to the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 35. This was not my favorite splash pick, but it was certainly a solid value for Las Vegas. Mayer is a pro-ready player with high-end ball skills. He figures to slide right into coach Josh McDaniels' offense, working as a short-to-intermediate target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Miller: Defensive tackle Jalen Carter to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 9. Carter is potentially the best overall talent in the '23 draft class and lands in an environment where he has known leaders -- and former teammates at Georgia -- around him in defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean. Carter can learn behind Fletcher Cox and is in the best-case situation for unleashing his immense potential.

Moody: Offensive tackle Darnell Wright to the Chicago Bears at No. 10. This pick filled a huge hole along the offensive line for a Bears team that allowed the fourth-most sacks last year (58). Wright is a plug-and-play starter for Chicago and has a physicality unmatched by any other offensive linemen selected in the first round.

Jason Reid: Richardson to the Colts at No. 4. To say he wowed scouts at the combine would be an understatement, so it was no surprise he went so high in the draft. And for Richardson, he lands in a great place for his development. He'll grow under the tutelage of Steichen, who knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks.

Jordan Reid: Stroud to the Texans at No. 2. After a disastrous 2022 season, the Texans were seeking a true franchise quarterback. And they got one. Stroud is poised, polished and accurate, and he is exactly the type of player Houston needs under center moving forward.

Tannenbaum: Quarterback Will Levis to the Tennessee Titans at No. 33. The Titans have their heir apparent to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and there is no rush to play him. Learning from Tannehill for a year is the ideal situation for Levis to develop; he threw 23 interceptions in the past two seasons and still has work to do on his game.

Walder: Quarterback Hendon Hooker to the Detroit Lions at No. 68. Questions about Hooker's age, recovery from a torn ACL and transition from that Tennessee offense to the pros are all fair. But in the third round, it's a tolerable risk for Detroit to take for the potential upside of a quarterback who ranked No. 1 in QBR last season. He also won't be rushed onto the field with Jared Goff in line to be the starter.

Why Stroud and Richardson face the most pressure among rookie QBs

Dan Orlovsky breaks down why C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson will face the most pressure with their respective teams.

Yates: Cornerback Christian Gonzalez to the New England Patriots at No. 17. We typically see a mixture of drafting for need and drafting for value, but the Patriots managed to check both boxes early -- even after trading down from No. 14 to No. 17. Gonzalez was viewed as one of the 10 best players in the entire class and fills the Patriots' most pressing need, as a cornerback with 6-foot-1 size and great speed.

What was the biggest head-scratching pick?

Bowen: Linebacker Marte Mapu to the New England Patriots at No. 76. This isn't a knock on Mapu as a prospect, as his versatility will be utilized in Bill Belichick's defense. Instead, this is about the Patriots passing on some much-needed offensive juice here with wide receiver Josh Downs and running back Devon Achane still on the board. I thought both prospects would've boosted the pass game for quarterback Mac Jones.

Clay: Running back Zach Charbonnet to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 52. OK, I'm going to put on my fantasy football hat here and yell at Seattle for selecting Charbonnet, which crushes the fantasy upside of both he and Kenneth Walker III. The UCLA back has a three-down skill set, and we were hoping he'd land a feature back role somewhere. Instead, he'll slot in behind -- or, best case, alongside -- 22-year-old Walker for the next few seasons. Seattle had other roster voids it could've filled.

Loza: Kicker Chad Ryland to the New England Patriots at No. 112. The Pats traded up for a kicker with below-average leg strength, and they did it two rounds before they addressed the wide receiver position.

Miller: Linebacker Jack Campbell to the Detroit Lions at No. 18. Campbell is a good player, and middle linebacker was a moderate need for the Lions. But the Mike linebacker position has been devalued across the league, and Campbell could have been drafted later after a trade down the board. This isn't knocking the player but rather questioning the value this early in the draft.

Moody: Running back Jahmyr Gibbs to the Detroit Lions at No. 12. Detroit's decision to draft Gibbs this early might not have been the wisest move, as many draft experts had projected him as a late first-round pick at best. Despite his playmaking ability, superb route running and reliable hands, the Lions missed an opportunity to address more pressing needs on their team. Adding to the confusion, they had already signed back David Montgomery in free agency.

Yates: Bijan Robinson is a 'total game changer' for the Falcons

Field Yates explains why the Falcons taking Bijan Robinson is the right move for their offense.

Jason Reid: Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes to the Washington Commanders at No. 16. It was bad enough that the Commanders didn't address their offensive line in the first round. But to instead take a 166-pound player so high, well, their whole approach here was a true head-scratcher.

Jordan Reid: Campbell to the Lions at No. 18. The Lions entered the draft with two first-round selections and prime opportunities to address premium positions but failed to do that. Campbell is an instinctive and productive linebacker, but the selection seemed premature. Detroit needed help up front, and better players were available at that spot.

Tannenbaum: Forbes to the Commanders at No. 16. While I like Forbes' game a lot, I thought a 6-foot-1, 197-pound Christian Gonzalez -- who was still on the board at Washington's pick -- was the better player. Forbes has ball skills (14 career interceptions), but his 6-foot, 166-pound frame concerns me in the first round.

Walder: Running back Bijan Robinson to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. Taking a running back in the top 10 -- a low-value position where veterans are available on the cheap -- is almost indefensible. For a team likely without a franchise quarterback on its roster and with another young back already on the team, it's even worse. Defenders of the move will say the Falcons are a run-first team, so this fits. That isn't a good thing. Running a lot is just what you do when you don't have good enough quarterback play, as the Falcons didn't last season.

Yates: Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. to the Denver Broncos at No. 63. This has nothing to do with Mims as a prospect. But when a team that is bereft of 2023 draft capital and already has Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick on its roster makes a move up from No. 68 to No. 63 to take another receiver, my antenna goes up. Could a trade be forthcoming?