Every season, the NFL is filled with rookies who surprise us and play extremely well despite being underrated during the draft process. This season will likely be no different, and there are four players from the 2023 NFL Draft who could shine during their rookie year.
Despite being overlooked, all four of these prospects are exceptional football players who could have a huge impact early in their careers. Let’s take a closer look at each of these rookies and why they have the potential to be awesome from the get-go.
Will McDonald IV is an explosive pass rusher waiting to be unleashed
1. Will McDonald IV, Edge Rusher, New York Jets
The New York Jets shocked the football world when they selected Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald IV with the 15th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. While McDonald was not expected to be a top fifteen pick, he wasn’t a bad prospect as he was a top forty player on the consensus big board.
However, he was seen as a reach especially considering he was drafted ahead of a younger and probably more talented edge rusher Nolan Smith who was connected to the Jets early on in the pre-draft process.
Although most analysts would say the Jets made a mistake drafting McDonald over Smith, this isn’t a disastrous selection because McDonald is extremely talented, and he has the traits to be an effective player right away.
Will McDonald IV is one of the best pass rushers in this year’s draft, as he ranks near the top of the edge rusher class in key stats like career sacks per game, PFF pass rush grade vs. true pass sets, and pass rush win rate vs. true pass sets.
In college, McDonald played in a 3-5-5 defense which required him to play a role that didn’t allow him to shine as a pass rusher. That’s why his final season counting stats like total sacks and total pressures were underwhelming. However, he looks really good when you look at his production on a rate basis, and his sack and pressure totals during the 2021 season were among the best in the class.
According to Connor Rogers, during McDonald’s draft call, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said the team wanted him to play in the “wide 9” spot, which would put him out wide on the defensive line and allow him to feast on opposing offensive tackles.
If he actually gets to play this role in New York, he could be extremely productive right off the bat and a legitimate contender to win the defensive rookie of the year award.