AFC rookies picked after Day 1 of NFL Draft who could earn key roles in 2023: Tyjae Spears among 16 sleepers

Breece Hall and Dameon Pierce were Day 2 choices who played like first-rounders in Year 1 in the NFL. The season prior to that, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith went from rather unknown non-Day 1 selects to essential pieces of the Chiefs offending line as novices.

In 2020, Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, Steelers receiver Chase Claypool, and Patriots guard Michael Onwenu were AFC novices who weren’t picked on Day 1 of the draft however sure as heck played like Day 1 choices throughout their launching season. 

The year prior to that, A.J. Brown, Diontae Johnson and Gardner Minshew headlined those impressive worth choices. And you, NFL fan starved for football, understand everything about your preferred group’s first-round choice in the 2023 draft. Now it’s time to actually get adapted with the non-Round 1 choice who has the skill — and scenario — to thrive as a novice. 

Earlier today I went through who these gamers can be this season for each NFC group. Below is the AFC edition. 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

POUND Dorian Williams
 No. 91, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand:  4.49 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-0 3/4″ and 228 pounds

Williams may not begin Week 1 beside Matt Milano in Sean McDermott’s defense. He will, ultimately, play significant and crucial snaps as a novice. Blessed with that supreme speed at his size, Williams can get to the football in a flash, and he showed eager awareness of path mixes behind him in college, as evidenced by his 13 pass breaks up and set of interceptions in his last 3 seasons for Tulane. Beyond that, Williams plays like a large, downhill linebacker, which alleviates the majority of any size issues, stacking and shedding strongly. With almost 34-inch arms, his taking on radius is big. Williams is the prototypical linebacker for Buffalo’s system, and there’s a beginning gig open. Williams will prosper under McDermott as a novice. 

Miami Dolphins

CB Cam Smith
No. 51, 2nd round
Impressive stat to understand: 16 pass breaks up and 4 interceptions in his last 2 seasons at South Carolina

Everything’s turn up Devon Achane relating to the Dolphins novice class in the month after the draft. And I like the fit with Mike McDaniel. I wish to focus some attention on Smith here. It’s deserving. He was my No. 1 corner in the 2023 class — yes, that takes place often, among your premier potential customers enters Round 2, or later on — after an excellent, lockdown profession in the SEC at South Carolina. He is a tick lighter than the other corners selected ahead of him however otherwise has equivalent athleticism. His ball abilities were significant on movie, and Smith constantly invites the difficulty of playing press guy on an island. He mirrors like an experienced veteran too. Even with Jalen Ramsey in the mix, Smith will bounce around various areas of Vic Fangio’s defense and fairly frequently close tossing lanes in a rush as a novice. 

New York Jets

RB Israel Abanikanda
No. 143, 5th round
Impressive stat to understand:  86 required missed out on deals with on his last 364 brings at Pittsburgh

Abanikanda is who we’ll all ultimately indicate as “EXAMPLE A” when pitching why there’s definitely no requirement to select a running back in the preliminary (no offense, Bijan and Jahmyr). Abanikanda is a still-20-year-old electrical runner with cool feet and subtle contact balance at the 2nd level. Abanikanda was the undoubted centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s offense and balanced 6.0 lawns per rush with 20 hurrying ratings in 2022. He’s stealthily quick in leading equipment and has subtle make-you-miss skill. Even with Breece Hall working his method back from injury, Abanikanda will supply the Jets with electrical energy as a rotational ball provider in Year 1. 

New England Patriots

WR DeMario Douglas
Drafted: No. 210, 6th round
Impressive stat to understand:  39.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-2 inch long jump at the integrate

Douglas would’ve captured 75-plus passes as a novice in the Tom Brady period. The offending approach has actually normally been the very same considering that Brady’s departure with the focus being on high-percentage tosses beneath and lawns after the catch. Those are the 2 locations in which Douglas flourishes. He’s little however active and has trusted hands. Douglas’ reception overall and getting lawns increased in all 4 seasons at Liberty. He’s going to be a go-to, chain-moving target for Mac Jones in 2023.  

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

RB Chase Brown 
Drafted: No. 163, 5th round
Impressive stat to understand:  Above the 85th percentile amongst RBs in the 40-yard dash, vertical, long jump and bench press at the integrate … which’s dating to 1999 at the position

In brief — Brown runs like a rocket. At simply under 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he has a perfect, stocky frame. While not a ludicrous contact-balance back, Brown weaves through traffic like an action-movie star in a car-chase scene and showed in 2022 he has soft hands — 27 receptions for the Illini. With Samaje Perine now in Denver, the Bengals required a genuine enhance to Joe Mixon. They have it with Brown. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Darnell Washington
Drafted: No. 93, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand: Forced 14 missed out on deals with on 45 profession receptions at Georgia

I can’t get enough Washington buzz. Send all of it my method. I loved him as a possibility although I acknowledged he was significantly various than the huge bulk of en style tight ends today. Those required missed out on deals with? Most of them were made Angry Runs design through, not around, protectors. At a hair under 6-foot-7 and 264 pounds with a frame that might quickly include another 10-15 pounds with no volatility being sapped, Washington will be a runaway train in the NFL inform. Plus, he’s a genuinely terrible blocker. Washington includes such an enjoyable and distinct layer to Year 2 of the Kenny Pickett period. 

Cleveland Browns

EDGE Isaiah McGuire
Drafted: No. 126, 4th round
Impressive stat to understand:  76 pressures on his last 551 pass-rush snaps at Missouri

McGuire has active hands he releases with identify accuracy, and he showed top-level surge with his integrate exercise. The Browns included Za’Darius Smith and Obo Okoronkwo to the Myles Garrett-led pass rush yet most groups have 4 capable outdoors rushes they utilize on gamedays. McGuire is polished enough to be the 4th guy because rotation — although Alex Wright stands in front of him — as a novice. He has a slippery design and can turn on the power switch when needed. 

Baltimore Ravens

POUND Trenton Simpson
Drafted: No. 86, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand:  Ran 4.45 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds

Simpson is an in-space protective weapon out of Clemson. He’s not all set to deal with old-school linebacker tasks from the dive in the pros, however with Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith, the Ravens do not require Simpson to play a conventional function. Simpson and his elite speed are totally emphasized when he’s a movable blitzer and opponent of outdoors runs. The protection might take some time to round into appropriate kind. Simpson will work prior to that takes place since of his volatility.  

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars

TE Brenton Strange 
Drafted: No. 61, 2nd round
Impressive stat to understand: 10-foot-4 inch long jump (92nd percentile) at the integrate

Strange ought to’ve gotten the ball more at Penn State. Felt like whenever it remained in his hands he was making an important play for the Nittany Lions offense and often, he made something out of a basically absolutely nothing, beneath toss. That natural ability and his elite screening figures are why he was a second-round choice regardless of very little getting production — just balanced 11.3 lawns per in his last 2 seasons. Even behind Evan Engram, who’ll in theory be a great instructor to a young, extremely athletic tight end, Strange will pop when provided chances from Trevor Lawrence.  

Indianapolis Colts

WR Josh Downs
Drafted: No. 79, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand:  195 receptions in his last 2 seasons at North Carolina

Downs will be the extension of Indianapolis’ run video game in 2023. Particularly with Shane Steichen calling the plays and a novice quarterback in the shotgun. Steichen became part of the training personnel that offered Justin Herbert with a lot of simple, schemed-open targets in his novice season of 2020 then followed by belonging to the personnel that built a comfortable environment for Jalen Hurts in 2021. Downs will be the primary recipient of Steichen’s RPO video game and receiver screens of every range. He’s ultra fast and has sly volatility. Plus, he tracks the football like he’s 6-foot-2. 

Houston Texans

WR Tank Dell
No. 69, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand: Led college football with 1,398 getting lawns in 2022

Houston’s lineup isn’t an abomination any longer thanks to an aggressive complimentary representative costs duration. However, the receiver group wasn’t resolved with a collection of recognized pass-catching alternatives, and the club selected Dell, who developed a relationship with C.J. Stroud throughout the pre-draft procedure. Gone is Brandin Cooks, suggesting the Texans require that ultra-quick weapon who can assault downfield. That’s precisely where Dell will make his effect. He might deal with physical corners out of eviction. Good luck suffocating Dell at the line, however. He’s an amazing difficulty in press guy. 

Tennessee Titans

RB Tyjae Spears
No. 81, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand:  Forced 106 missed out on deals with on his last 360 hurrying efforts at Tulane 

Spears was a super star at Tulane the previous 2 seasons, and he balanced an enormous 6.8 lawns per lug in his four-year college profession. Explosive cuts and velocity through the 2nd level are the trademarks of his video game, and there’s misleading power through weak arm-tackle efforts. Of course, there’s the unique Derrick Henry in Tennessee’s backfield, yet the front workplace has actually tried to discover a trusted enhance to him for several years now. The Titans discovered that man in Spears. He’s a huge play waiting to occur and does not require much area to actually go. Henry led the NFL in brings last season, marking the 3rd time in 4 years that’s taken place. If anybody can carry a massive work, it’s him. But the Titans will likely lean on any functional contributions from the ground video game more than ever prior to in the Henry period. 

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

WR Rashee Rice
No. 55, 2nd round
Impressive stat to understand:  Forced 52 missed out on deals with on 232 profession receptions at SMU

I took a substantial swing on Skyy Moore in 2015, and pulled my hamstring on the whiff. However, I do still think in Moore and visualize a large rebound his 2nd season, however that is for another short article, another time. Rice is the second-round Chiefs novice receiver who’s going to pop immediately. He’s a compact wideout from a spaced-out offense not too different philosophically from Andy Reid’s attack. Beyond that, Rice is a contested-catch winner and frightening YAC danger. It’s simple to comprehend why the Chiefs selected him. There are a lot of targets to walk around in Kansas City. Rice will be a highish-volume manufacturer in Year 1. 

Las Vegas Raiders

CB Jakorian Bennett
No. 104, 4th round
Impressive stat to understand: 24 pass breaks up and 5 interceptions in his last 2 seasons at Maryland

Bennett had a Day 2 grade in my searching gradebook. He was that sticky and efficient on movie. Oh, and he evaluated like an elite professional athlete at the integrate. While not rather as huge and long as his first-round cornerback mate Deonte Banks, Bennett was around the football more regularly at Maryland and has genuine perimeter-slot flexibility. The Raiders have actually invested years attempting to revamp the secondary with very little return. Bennett will become part of an enhanced, more opportunistic — Las Vegas just has 12 interceptions over the previous 2 seasons! — Raiders secondary in 2023. His lively, athletic nature will be invited to the protective backfield.  

Denver Broncos

LB/EDGE Drew Sanders 
Drafted: No. 67, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand: 26.3% pressure-creation rate on 148 pass-rush snaps in 2022 

As long as the Broncos do not attempt to make Sanders a traditional off-ball linebacker and mostly ask him to do things like stack and shed blocks in between the deals with and sort through traffic to get to the ball providers, he will make a considerable influence on the Broncos defense in 2023. So what should they make with him? Literally release him exactly the method the Cowboys finished with Micah Parsons in 2021. Plenty of conventional edge-rushing obligations. Some interior blitz chances. That’s where Sanders is finest. If he’s unchained to hurry the passer from the boundary of the protective line — beast novice year for Sanders.  

Los Angeles Charges

POUND Daiyan Henley
No. 85, 3rd round
Impressive stat to understand: Five interceptions in his last 2 seasons at Washington State

Want to get a concept of how athletic Henley is? He began his profession at Nevada … at pass receiver. Played that position for 2 seasons prior to moving to Washington State. He bulked to 225 pounds at near 6-foot-1, completely appropriate size for the linebacker position today and had probably the cleanest, three-down movie of any linebacker in the class. Lightning-fast processing of plays, major speed to the boundary, convenience in protection, ball abilities galore. After losing Drue Tranquill in complimentary company, the Chargers required to include a really athletic, coverage-specialist linebacker. They got that in Henley. 

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