Skip to main content

Zay Flowers, Brian Branch and 8 other NFL Draft prospects our experts love

In his legendary book, “Finding the Winning Edge” — a literal manual on how to be a professional football coach — Bill Walsh wrote a near 14,000-word chunk about how to properly evaluate players via the NFL Draft. It included every detail, from how a fullback should be built to how sturdy a lineman’s “ballast” must be.

However, before going into that opus, Walsh distills his entire draft philosophy down to one critical question: “Can this individual make a meaningful contribution to the team?”

Not “next year’s” team, but “the team” — right now. For all the focus on traits and tests and interviews, the best teams still draft with their basic instinct of finding guys who are going to add value the minute they walk in the door.

Here are 10 prospects from the 2023 NFL Draft that we think meet that standard (Nick Baumgardner’s favorites on offense, Diante Lee’s on defense). A few could go in Round 1, others might land on Day 2 or 3, but these are 10 guys we’d pound the proverbial war room table for on draft weekend.


Peter Skoronski, G/T, Northwestern

It’s a familiar conversation, and one not without merit: Skoronski’s not a long player, period. At 32 1/4 inches, his arms are shorter by a decent bit than ex-Northwestern teammate and the No. 13 pick in 2021 RaShawn Slater (33 inches).

It’s fair to have concerns about Skoronski giving up his chest to longer defenders, as it happened quite a bit during his time at Northwestern. However, as was the case with Slater, Skoronski’s unique. His ability to change up his approach versus longer pass rushers (or, really, just about anyone he sees) — sometimes, even series to series — is advanced. His size limitations have forced him to become a technician, and he’s exactly that. Skorosnki is like a cerebral pitcher in baseball: studying tape, honing his strategy and making sure his approach isn’t predictable.

He pass protects,