2023 NFL Draft: Day 3 Picks in Perfect Situations to Contribute Early

Brent SobleskiMay 6, 2023

2023 NFL Draft: Day 3 Picks in Perfect Situations to Contribute Early

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    Bengals RB Chase Brown
    Bengals RB Chase BrownMichael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The first and second days of the NFL draft draw the most attention, but those days account for less than 40 percent of the total picks.

    During Day 3 of this year's draft, 157 players heard their names called. Some of them could make an immediate splash on their new teams.

    As noted during this year's draft grades, last year's Day 3 selections included Coby Bryant, Spencer Burford, Joshua Williams, Cordell Volson, Chigoziem Okonkwo, Sam Howell, Tyler Allgeier, Tariq Woolen, Braxton Jones, Malcolm Rodriguez, Jamaree Salyer, Isiah Pacheco and Mr. Not-So-Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. Their respective squads will count on them as key contributors heading into their sophomore campaigns.

    The majority of Day 3 selections become minor role players, special teams contributors or possibly practice squad additions. However, certain players have the talent to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

    Eight players who were selected on Day 3 this year appear to have landed in an ideal setup heading into rookie minicamps this weekend. These prospects are primed not only to contribute but to thrive with their new teams.

Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Indianapolis Colts

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    COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 22: Northwestern defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore (99) rushes the quarterback during the Northwestern Wildcats versus Maryland Terrapins game on October 22, 2022 at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Northwestern's Adetomiwa Adebawore was generally considered a Day 2 talent. The 6'2", 282-pound defensive tackle crushed the predraft process with a standout week at the Senior Bowl followed by awe-inspiring performances at the NFL combine and the Wildcats' pro day.

    That didn't stop him from falling to the fourth round, where the Indianapolis Colts selected him at No. 110 overall.

    Utilization is a key component to Adebawore's value. After three years serving as a defensive end for the Wildcats, the third-team All-Big Ten selection will make a full-time transition to defensive tackle on the Colts.

    General manager Chris Ballard confirmed the switch during his post-Day 3 press conference. He specifically mentioned the rookie playing 3-technique.

    "We think that's going to be his best position," Ballard said.

    The Colts lacked depth along their defensive interior last year. Adebawore would have set combine records for a defensive tackle with his 4.49-second 40-yard dash, 37.5-inch vertical and 10'5" broad jump.

    The incoming rookie is an explosive and athletic option positioned well to learn from starter DeForest Buckner.

Clark Phillips III, CB, Atlanta Falcons

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III (1) defends in coverage on defense during the Pac-12 Championship football game between Utah Utes and USC Trojans on December 2, 2022 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Atlanta Falcons retooled their cornerback room this offseason by acquiring Jeff Okudah in a trade from the Detroit Lions, signing cornerback Mike Hughes in free agency and drafting Clark Phillips III in the fourth round.

    B/R Scouting Department graded Phillips as a top-30 prospect. However, questions persisted about his size (5'9", 184 lbs) and marginal athleticism, which likely contributed to his slide.

    However, the 21-year-old's instincts and ball skills can't be taught. Last season, Phillips tied for third in the nation with six interceptions. The unanimous All-American also defended 27 passes over the last two seasons.

    "You can't have too many defensive backs who can cover and take the ball away," Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot told reporters after the draft. "He's a tough, competitive player who came from a tough program. He's about what we're about so we're excited to add him to the group."

    Phillips can immediately take over the majority of the Falcons' slot reps. The team still has Dee Alford, but Isaiah Oliver left in free agency. Along with safety Richie Grant, the trio split nickel duties last season.

    Phillips can take that spot on a full-time basis, or he can provide extra flexibility.

    "He can do both," head coach Arthur Smith said. "A guy like Clark, highly productive (at) which I think's one of the better programs that's sustained success, have a lot of respect for Utah's program."

Nick Herbig, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig gets set for a play during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 24-10. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
    AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been a family-run organization. The on-field products represent what the Rooneys have done since starting the franchise in 1933.

    Nick Herbig, whom the Steelers selected at No. 132 overall, is joining his older brother Nate, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent this offseason. They're the third set of brothers currently on the roster alongside the Watts (T.J. and Derek) and the Heywards (Cam and Connor).

    "Me and him talked about this since we were little kids," Nick Herbig told reporters. "We grew up, we share the same dream, we work out together, we do everything together. That's my best friend. I don't think blood can make us any closer."

    But the reunion isn't just a good story. Herbig is an ideal fit in the Steelers' defensive scheme.

    The first-team All-Big Ten selection primarily played off the edge at Wisconsin, but he lacked the size and length to continue in that role for most NFL teams. Pittsburgh is different, though. The 6'2", 240-pounder should be able to stick at outside linebacker on the Steelers.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Herbig was the only edge-defender in college to post pass-rush grades over 90 in each of the last two seasons. With Alex Highsmith set to become a free agent next offseason, Herbig can be as a rotational piece as a rookie and then potentially take over the spot opposite T.J. Watt.

Tyler Scott, WR, Chicago Bears

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    CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Tyler Scott #21 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs the ball during the game against the Kennesaw State Owls at Nippert Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears needed to improve quarterback Justin's Fields' supporting cast after he spent most of last year trying to shoulder their offense. General manager Ryan Poles used the draft to his advantage by trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for a haul of assets, including 26-year-old veteran wideout D.J. Moore.

    After trading down to the ninth overall pick as part of the deal with Carolina, the Bears traded down one more spot with the Philadelphia Eagles and then took right tackle Darnell Wright at No. 10 to help shore up their offensive line.

    The Bears' first fourth-round selection, running back Roschon Johnson, will make the league's top-ranked running game even more potent. But fellow fourth-round wideout Tyler Scott will add another dimension to the offense.

    "Do you have the tools that you can't teach?'' Poles responded to reporters when asked about Scott. "And that's speed, so he has one box checked. Then the player himself and the work ethic and the time they're going to put into the details. . . . I know with good coaching and hard work that he's going to put in, too, that he can take that next step and add the details of route-running with the speed. And that will be a deadly combination."

    The No. 133 overall pick brings 4.44-second 40-yard-dash speed to take the top off opposing defenses. All three levels can now be consistently threatened between Moore, wideout Darnell Mooney and the incoming rookie. If Fields establishes a rapport with Chase Claypool as well, the Bears' passing game can go from dud to dynamic.

Chase Brown, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 19: Illinois Fighting Illini running back Chase Brown (2) runs toward the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a college football game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 19, 2022 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Bengals remain non-committal when it comes to lead back Joe Mixon. The 26-year-old is facing to one count of aggravated menacing after the Cincinnati Police Department reopened his case, although he has pleaded not guilty, per ESPN's Ben Baby.

    According to The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., the Bengals are expected to ask Mixon to take a pay reduction. The tailback, who has a $12.8 million salary-cap hit this year, runs the risk of being released if he refuses.

    If Mixon isn't with the squad this fall, the Bengals' fifth-round investment in Illinois' Chase Brown will prove prescient.

    Brown led the Big Ten last season with 328 carries and finished fourth in the nation with 1,643 rushing yards. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished first with 48 carries of 10 or more yards, second with 77 missed tackles forced on runs (trailing only Bijan Robinson) and third with 935 rushing yards after contact.

    The 5'9½", 209-pound tailback is also an explosive athlete with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical and 10'7" broad jump.

    "When you hear the way people talk about him who are around him on a daily basis, it fires you up," Bengals scout Christian Sarkisian said, per Dehner. "Not only is he a great alpha, leader, hard worker, all that, he really, really cares about his teammates."

    Even if Mixon remains with the team, Brown is an excellent backup with future starting potential.

Owen Pappoe, LB, Arizona Cardinals

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    AUBURN, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 03: Linebacker Owen Pappoe #0 of the Auburn Tigers during their game against the Mercer Bears at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 03, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
    Michael Chang/Getty Images

    There's still plenty of uncertainty about the Arizona Cardinals as they transition from head coach Kliff Kingsbury to Jonathan Gannon while first-time general manager Monti Ossenfort takes the reins. Some players remain in limbo, including Isaiah Simmons.

    New Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis has yet to reveal how he plans to deploy Simmons. The 24-year-old's versatility played a huge role in why the Cardinals took him with the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft.

    Simmons is likely to remain at strong safety, which could open up opportunities for others at linebacker, including No. 168 overall pick Owen Pappoe.

    Zaven Collins remains at middle linebacker, and Kyzir White signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Cardinals in free agency. However, Pappoe's speed can bring a completely different element to the Cardinals' defense.

    The 6'0", 225-pound defender ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Neither Collins nor White broke the 4.65 barrier at their respective pro days.

    "They definitely saw what kind of athlete I am, how explosive I am, how fast," Pappoe told reporters in his introductory press conference. "I feel like any team that saw what I needed to correct, their coaches could help me."

    The Auburn product may be small, but his quickness coupled with continued improvement could get him on the field as the Cardinals' weak-side linebacker sooner than later.

A.T. Perry, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    WINSTON-SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 12: A.T. Perry (9) of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons catches a touchdown pass during a football game between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the North Carolina Tar Heels on Nov 12, 2022 at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints paid a steep price when they traded up to acquire wide receiver Chris Olave at No. 11 overall last year. The rookie target justified that decision by leading the team with 1,042 receiving yards despite subpar quarterback play.

    Olave needs help, since no other wide receiver on last year's roster finished with more than 28 receptions or 488 receiving yards. Michael Thomas should be back after two injury-plagued campaigns, but no one knows what to expect out of him. Both Rashid Shaheed and Tre'quan Smith are still on the roster, but they're better served as complementary options.

    Wake Forest's A.T. Perry could be a starting NFL wide receiver even though he fell to the 195th overall pick. That's why the Saints traded tight end Adam Trautman and a seventh-round pick to acquire the two-time first-team All-ACC selection.

    "We like Traut, he's been a good player for us," Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters, "but we felt good at that position, and we wanted to go out and get the receiver."

    B/R's Scouting Department graded Perry as a late second/early third-round talent because of his body control and ability to beat defenders deep. His 26 receiving touchdowns were the most by any Power Five wide receiver over the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus.

    "Perry is a towering vertical threat with the athletic tools to blossom into a complete X receiver," B/R scout Derrik Klassen wrote.

Zack Kuntz, TE, New York Giants

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    CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 17: Old Dominion Monarchs tight end Zack Kuntz (80) looks towards the sidelines during a college football game between the Old Dominion Monarchs and the Virginia Cavaliers on September 17, 2022, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA. (Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    It's difficult to identify potential contributors in the seventh round, because prospects taken that late are often viewed as projects.

    Former Old Dominion tight end Zack Kuntz is definitely a work in progress. However, his natural tools can immediately help the New York Jets if he can gain the trust of new quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    Last season, Tyler Conklin served as a solid outlet option in the Jets' passing game. His average of 9.5 yards per reception ranked 24th among the league's tight ends.

    Conklin is 6'3" with 4.8-second 40-yard-dash speed, while Kuntz is 6'7", with 4.55 speed. The No. 220 pick is the most athletic tight end prospect over the last 36 years, according to Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte. His testing metrics were elite in every category.

    That unparalleled athleticism didn't stop Kuntz from falling to the seventh round, though. He isn't much of an in-line option, his routes could be crisper, and he needs to improve upon his consistency. But Kuntz's athletic profile gives him a good chance to make a difference at some point early in his NFL career, even if it's just as a red-zone target.

    "The size, the length, the speed, the jumps," general manager Joe Douglas told reporters after the draft. "He's another guy who may have been drafted sooner if it weren't for the injury [knee] this year."