Best 2023 NFL Draft Classes: Top 5 Rookie Classes and Their Impact Players

February 6, 2024

As the NFL is set to play its final game of the season, we take a look back at the 2023 NFL Draft and reflect on the selections and the impact these rookies made on the field. Despite uncertainties and speculation, some draft classes have defied our expectations, while others delivered what we expected with each propelling their franchises toward a brighter future. Let's dive into the top five NFL draft classes of 2023, highlighting the standout picks and their contributions to their respective teams' success.

 
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original Grade: A- | New Grade: A-
 
Best Pick: Joey Porter Jr.
 
The Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie class showcased remarkable talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. First-round pick Broderick Jones became the starting right tackle, not the starting left tackle they hoped for and was up and down his rookie year with some trouble in pass protection. Second-round pick Joey Porter Jr. emerged as a formidable cornerback, poised to anchor the secondary for years to come. Notable defensive standouts include Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig. Darnell Washington, wasn’t a big contributor catching the ball but made an impact as a blocker. Each made significant contributions in their rookie campaign. The Steelers' draft class has a bright future for Steel City football.
 
4. Los Angeles Rams
Original Grade: D | New Grade: A-
 
Best Pick: Puka Nacua
 
Despite initial skepticism, the Los Angeles Rams unearthed hidden gems in the 2023 NFL Draft. Led by the steal of the entire draft fifth-round pick Puka Nacua, who broke all-time rookie NFL records for both receptions and receiving yards. The Rams' draft class exceeded expectations. Offensive lineman Steve Avila was a key contributor and a full-time starter. Defensive standouts Byron Young and Kobie Turner (who earned All-Rookie Team honors) showcased their immediate impact, solidifying the Rams' defensive foundation. With a blend of talent on both sides of the ball, the Rams' 2023 class was one of the biggest surprises this season and it lays the groundwork for sustained success in Los Angeles.
 
3. Detroit Lions
Original Grade: D+ | New Grade: A
 
Best Pick: Sam LaPorta
 
The Detroit Lions defied expectations with their 2023 draft class, turning perceived reaches into key contributors. Dynamic running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell proved their worth with standout rookie seasons, helping to propel the Lions to newfound heights. Sam LaPorta, arguably had the greatest rookie season by a tight end in NFL history, tallying 86 receptions, 889 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. Second-round pick Brian Branch became the best player in the Lions’ secondary and underscored the Lions' ability to continue to build a competitive roster. With a resurgence in the NFC North, the Lions' draft class symbolizes a new era of Detroit football.
 
2. Green Bay Packers
Original Grade: A | New Grade: A
 
Best Pick: Jayden Reed
 
The Green Bay Packers' 2023 draft class signifies a bright future, anchored by breakout star Jayden Reed. With a blend of offensive and defensive talent, including Lukas Van Ness, Carrington Valentine, and Dontayvion Wicks, the Packers cultivated a roster poised for success. Sixth-round nose tackle Karl Brooks was an impactful rotational player on the defensive line all season. Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft both improved the TE position. Special teams standout kicker Anders Carlson and defensive contributor Colby Wooden highlight the depth and versatility of Green Bay's draft selections. As the Packers move forward, their 2023 class added a multitude of depth to a roster with championship aspirations.
 
1. Houston Texans
Original Grade: B+ | New Grade: A
 
Best Pick: C.J. Stroud
 
The Houston Texans orchestrated a draft masterclass in 2023, reshaping the franchise's trajectory with strategic selections. Led by quarterback C.J. Stroud and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., the Texans solidified their foundation for future success. The Texans found great value with players like Tank Dell a third-rounder, designated as the team's big-play specialist, and Juice Scruggs who finished the year as a starter. Houston's offense and defense boast massive potential. Henry To'oto'o was a steal in the fifth-round wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. The Texans' draft class embodies the type of tough and talented players head coach DeMeco Ryans wanted to reshape this franchise with and ushers in a new era of dominance in the AFC South.
 
The 2023 NFL Draft unveiled a crop of talent poised to leave a lasting mark on the league. From defensive dynamos to offensive juggernauts, these draft classes embody the essence of gridiron greatness. As the NFL landscape evolves, the legacy of these rookies will endure, shaping the future of the NFL for years to come.
 
-Brad Fowler, Pint Glass Football
Image courtesy: Marca

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