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Three Complete 2023 NFL Draft Prospects Every Fanbase Realistically Wants

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

NFL fans as a community have certain 2023 NFL Draft prospects it seems every fanbase has their eyes on, leaving 31 teams disappointed. So much of the negatives have been discussed this year: for example, I do not think I have ever seen a prospect take more heat from fans as a consensus than Will Levis. For example, the neverending Bryce Young size discussion (irrelevant I might add). It is nice to talk about the positives. Three prospects should be feeling like the most popular man in town, regardless of what franchise, city, or rabid fanbase adopts them as their own because everyone wants them on their team’s Draft card at some point: let’s discuss.

John Michael Schmitz – 6’4, 301 lbs – Center – Minnesota

While John Michael Schmitz could theoretically sneak into the bottom of Round One, he is almost assuredly a Round Two lock. Schmitz is the most consensus-mentioned prospect in this 2023 NFL Draft in terms of “I want _____.” While Wisconsin’s winning mullet man Joe Tippmann has been surging lately in competing for that top center spot, the topic at hand is who the fans want most, not necessarily who the front office wants most, and in that regard, Schmitz is undoubtedly the most wanted.

Select analysts and scouts refer to Schmitz as an interior offensive lineman. I cannot look at Schmitz as anything other than center, where he accrued his extensive 36 collegiate starts. Yes, his physical makeup could allow for guard training and positional versatility, although his shorter extended arms (32 5/8″) certainly fall more comfortably in NFL center-caliber criteria, but why be good at two things when you can be great at one?

When discussing positions of a scarcity of marketable, difference-making talent, the first to come to mind and be discussed are typically quarterback and tight end. Centers do not get the lore but belong in that discussion. Schmitz offers a team the opportunity to join the top tier of elite starting center caliber talent. Schmitz can aid a quarterback on day one as a rookie with his communication and cognitive recognition of defensive opposition. Whether it is picking up pressures, getting to the second level, making calls for the offensive front, or hand-offs within his zone-blocking scheme, Schmitz is plug-and-play right now.

As seen in the previous clip, the smoothness in handling twists and consistency in establishing a steadfast pass-blocking anchor for Schmitz keeps the quarterback with no one in his lap and interior pass rushers mitigated. Schmitz can create for those around him, including lateral quickness to reach block and hook open field availability for his guard and back to get to the second level. As far as team fits for Schmitz, the New York Giants, and the Chicago Bears are two easy ones that come to mind.

Julius Brents – 6’3, 198 lbs – Cornerback – Kansas State

Often NFL fans want “The next ___” and want it sooner than later, whereas waiting is for the weary when it comes to this league. Seattle Seahawks Tariq Woolen went 153rd overall last year and walked away in third place for NFL AP Defensive Rookie of The Year. Fans are found hankering for that next tall, rangy 6’3+ cornerback freak athlete prospect. Let us remember those don’t grow on trees, in fact, they’re made in a lab. Enter this year’s attempt at “The next Tariq Woolen”: Julius Brents.

You’ll notice Brents does not have the high-end vertical speed that Woolen bolsters (4.26), but according to Relative Athletic Score, Brents is the fourth most athletic cornerback prospect to enter the Draft out of 2212 corners between 1987 and 2023. Brents’s 6’3, 198-pound frame stands tall against the run and tackles with a thump, all while giving receivers not much of a chance in the blocking department, he’ll shed them quickly and close quickly. 34” arms more than hang in press coverage and intimidates at the catch point for receivers of all sizes.

A zone-schemed defense is going to draft Brents and be comfortable that he’ll transition quickly. He’ll be more than able to hold his own in moments he needs to enforce the law on an island but will appreciate moderation and excel in the run game and at the catch point. Don’t expect a Woolen-type year out of Brents, but expect some team to go value hunting on Day Two with a freak athlete. A few potential team fits could be the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, or the Washington Commanders.

Cody Mauch – 6’5, 302 lbs – Offensive Lineman – North Dakota State

Cody Mauch seems to be one of those people where if you don’t like them, you’re probably the problem. He has fan favorite written all over him already. What seems like a toothless, red Rapunzel-locked teddy bear could very well be true, but Mauch turns the switch on on the field and is nasty, wanting to bullishly drive block defenders into the dirt. That bear can dance too.

My favorite thing about Mauch’s on-field performance is how light he is on his feet and how consistently active they remain. “Mauch was originally a tight end” is a “that makes sense” observation because he can move in space as such. For purposes of this conversation, I identify Mauch as an interior offensive line prospect, most specifically a guard, who can excel in a zone-blocking scheme particularly.

While I can see why certain analysts have Mauch as a left tackle prospect, his 32 ⅜” arm length is subpar for me and his current 302-pound frame most likely is not going to carry a ton more weight. I don’t see as smooth of a transition putting Mauch on an island in pass sets versus being kicked inside where he can maximize his ferocious run blocking and getting out in space in the second level, where he consistently maintains his blocks and angles on defenders setting screens and pulling.

All that to say though, Mauch is the definition of a Swiss Army knife for a team. Oh man, it can be looked at both ways with Mauch. Say he goes to a team with a rough offensive line. Take the Arizona Cardinals for example. Cumulatively, they have the worst lines of scrimmage in the NFL. Mauch could serve legitimate minutes at all five positions for that team as they rebuild and accrue Draft assets. He could be a Swiss Army knife and a band-aid all at the same time for Arizona.

On the other hand, take a decently built-out offensive line that needs a starting spot or two upgraded, such as the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, or Atlanta Falcons. The positional versatility and skilled communication at all positions will make it impossible to keep Mauch off the field.

 
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