The most important piece of the draft process is making sure that a prospect fits a team's scheme and culture.
When teams are able to add players who check off all the boxes for them, the results show up immediately on the stat sheet. Think of Justin Jefferson (with the Vikings in 2020) and Ja'Marr Chase (with the Bengals in 2021) putting up ridiculous numbers as rookie receivers, or Sauce Gardner (with the Jets last season) shutting down pass catchers on the perimeter. Ideal team-prospect marriages can help a franchise make a dramatic jump in the standings. They can also help secure long-term success for the organization.
Given some time to review and reflect on the whirlwind of transactions that took place in the 2023 NFL Draft, here are 10 perfect fits to keep an eye on:
Drafted: No. 1 overall (Round 1)
It is hard to imagine a young quarterback beginning their career in a better situation than what is awaiting Young in Carolina. The No. 1 overall pick will be surrounded by former NFL quarterbacks and veteran quarterback whisperers with significant experience developing the position. Frank Reich (head coach) and Josh McCown (quarterbacks coach) can share insight from their journeys as longtime NFL backups. At the same time, Jim Caldwell (senior offensive assistant) can tap into his experiences with Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford to help Young quickly master the nuances of winning quarterback play. With an exceptional "think tank" sharing ideas with a creative offensive coordinator (Thomas Brown) who is well-versed in a quarterback-friendly system, the Panthers can design an offense that enables their new QB1 to feel comfortable from Day 1.
Drafted: No. 4 overall (Round 1)
Richardson enters the league with just 13 collegiate starts to his name. He's also a supreme athlete with exceptional arm talent -- and he might have joined the perfect team to help him reach his superstar potential. Head coach Shane Steichen has a knack for helping young quarterbacks play at a high level, as evidenced by his past work with Justin Herbert (as Chargers offensive coordinator) and Jalen Hurts (as Eagles offensive coordinator). Steichen has shown the creative flexibility and adaptability to scheme around a young quarterback's deficiencies and build game plans that match the QB1's strengths as a playmaker. With Richardson's dual-threat talents meshing well with the established stars on Indianapolis' roster (running back Jonathan Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman), the Colts can lean into a dynamic, RPO (run-pass option) attack that forces opponents to defend every blade of grass, from sideline to sideline and end line to end line.
Drafted: No. 8 overall (Round 1)
The surprisingly early selection of Robinson did not address a glaring need of the Falcons, but it enables coach Arthur Smith to build around a superstar running back with an expansive toolbox. During his tenure as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Smith orchestrated an imposing ground-and-pound attack spearheaded by Derrick Henry. In Atlanta, Smith has an opportunity to bully defenses once more, with Robinson shouldering the workload as an explosive runner-receiver boasting big-play potential. Between Robinson, Ty Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield and Drake London and Kyle Pitts on the perimeter, the Dirty Birds can create problems for opponents with many formations and personnel combinations. The upgraded supporting cast should make it easier for Smith to run an offense that features Desmond Ridder functioning as a high-end game manager, despite his inexperience and limitations as QB1.
Drafted: No. 25 overall (Round 1)
As a sticky-fingered pass-catching specialist, Kincaid adds another dimension to the Bills. Joining Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox, Kincaid will serve as one more weapon Josh Allen can target, helping an offense that largely relied on the Allen-Diggs connection become a more diversified, catch-and-run attack capable of taxing defenses with various concepts featuring multiple playmakers in space. Kincaid's versatility as a flex tight end should enable Allen and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to create chaos from a 12 personnel package driven by a talented collection of weapons on the perimeter.
Drafted: No. 28 overall (Round 1)
Cincinnati's recent investment in blue-chip pass rushers has paid off, with the team emerging as a powerhouse in the AFC. Murphy gives the Bengals another power rusher to add to a rotation that features Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard wreaking havoc on the edges. As an energetic pass rusher with a non-stop motor and relentless spirit, the Clemson product matches the blue-collar culture established by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Murphy has the potential to deliver the sack production needed to harass the talented collection of passers in the conference.
Drafted: No. 45 overall (Round 2)
The Lions addressed many of their secondary concerns in free agency, but adding Branch gives defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn a few options to fill the critical nickel corner position. The Alabama star is a natural fit as a high-IQ defender with outstanding instincts, awareness and playmaking ability. Branch's experience and expertise manning the slot for the Crimson Tide should help him transition quickly into playing a vital role in the Lions' sub-packages. With elite hybrid defender Chauncey Gardner-Johnson available to serve as a mentor, Branch should make an immediate impact on a defense that looks vastly improved on paper.
Drafted: No. 46 overall (Round 2)
White's versatility and blue-collar approach perfectly fit the Patriots' workmanlike culture. He can align anywhere on the defensive front to create or exploit favorable matchups; this positional flexibility should enable Bill Belichick to morph from three-man to four-man fronts without radically changing personnel. White's style and relentless effort will likely result in solid production as he benefits from playing alongside Matthew Judon and Josh Uche on the line of scrimmage.
Drafted: No. 57 overall (Round 2)
The Giants have become a blue-collar squad under the direction of head coach Brian Daboll. Schmitz gives them another rugged frontline blocker who specializes in paving a clear path for runners at the line of scrimmage. New York appears committed to running the ball with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, and Schmitz has a chance to make his impact as a tone-setter at the point of attack, thanks to his combination of athleticism and nastiness.
Drafted: No. 66 overall (Round 3)
Brown is a versatile defender with a combination of size, speed and ball skills that could make him the monster in the middle of a turnover-obsessed unit. His takeaway prowess and "hit-stick" skills give him the potential to be an interesting chess piece in a hybrid scheme for the Eagles. With a ferocious pass rush in front of him, the Illinois standout has a chance to emerge as a dark-horse contender for all-star honors at the end of this rookie season.
Drafted: No. 99 overall (Round 3)
Some observers snickered at the 49ers selecting a placekicker on Day 2, but Moody is a prolific point-scorer with a can't-miss game as a short-range kicker. The Michigan product totaled 147 points in 2022 (second-most in the FBS) on 29 field goals and 60 extra points. In addition, he tallied 222 touchbacks on 393 career attempts (56.5%) to keep opponents backed up in their territory. Considering how many NFL games come down to a kick at the buzzer, the 49ers could have the final laugh by the end of the 2023 season.