Eagles

5 dream team-prospect fits after 2023 NFL combine

Eagles
Smith-Njigba, Richardson

NFL scouts just collected some valuable intel to further evaluate prospects. 

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up on Sunday and added additional insight on players’ skills and traits ahead of the draft in April.

While some players optimized the opportunity and established themselves as high draft picks next month, others faltered and left scouts with more questions than answers.

After seeing the results and letting it marinate, which players would make great fits for needy teams? Let’s look at five dream combinations from the 2023 combine:

Christian Gonzalez - Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have several holes to fill for next season, and a piece of me wanted to pair them with quarterback Anthony Richardson. But because it’s highly unlikely Atlanta will use a high pick on another young QB after grabbing the intriguing Desmond Ridder last year, a defensive back enters the frame instead.

They drafted A.J. Terrell with the No. 16 overall pick in 2020, which has been a hit thus far, and adding 20-year-old Christian Gonzalez to the mix as his long-term partner could make for a mesmerizing duo.

 

The Oregon product flourished in his first season as a Duck after transferring from Colorado, and his tape from the combine highlighted his potential.

Anthony Richardson - New York Jets

It’s not a secret Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson possesses blazing speed.

But the 21-year-old’s arm strength, combined with solid accuracy in this open-field setting, bodes well for a QB with possibly the most potential in this draft.

The intangibles of being 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds are present, but seasoning his game could take him to new heights, and the New York Jets feel like a sizzling possibility if he were to somehow be available at No. 13.

Head coach Robert Saleh and Co. seem keen to move on from Zach Wilson, and with young weapons like Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims and more on the roster, adding a young QB to the mix for the long-term roster construction would be enthralling, to say the least.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba - Baltimore Ravens

When does the first receiver go off the board in April, and who will it be? There are multiple ways the apple could fall, of course, but Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba has WR1 written all over him.

The Houston Texans could pair him with C.J. Stroud using picks No. 2 and 12, and the Green Bay Packers could give Aaron Rodgers (if he stays) a weapon at No. 15 to keep the 39-year-old in the light, among other scenarios.

But if Smith-Njigba were to fall to No. 22 (which is a big ask, but possible) or the Baltimore Ravens make a move to trade up, seeing him in the purple and black to give Lamar Jackson a young top wideout seems like a vigorous duo.  

 

Jackson hasn’t had that standout receiver other than Hollywood Brown, with tight end Mark Andrews being his primary go-to guy. And even then, Brown is more of a WR2 or WR3 than he is the main option. If Jackson stays long term, Smith-Njigba could be the one. 

Darnell Washington - Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are in a precarious situation entering the offseason, mainly considering Keenan Allen’s future as a potential cap casualty. 

But if Los Angeles finds a way to make the finances work, Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer are a solid trio alongside Justin Herbert’s passing arm, with running back Austin Ekeler essentially acting as another receiver.

The position that could use a definitive upgrade, though, is tight end. Gerald Everett is more of a TE2 than he is the main option, which points the arrow to Darnell Washington. 

Washington, 21, is truly a (Georgia) Bulldog: He measured nearly 6-foot-7 and 264 pounds while clocking a 4.64 40-yard dash time. Add that he’s still developing his receiving game, as evident in the absurd catch below, and there’s a one-of-a-kind prospect in the making. The Chargers are slated to pick at No. 21, and Washington alongside Herbert and Co. would be gravy.  

Nolan Smith - Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions’ offense improved its consistency and firepower as the 2022 season progressed, but the defense never managed to maintain pace.

Part of it involved not getting to the quarterback enough, as Aidan Hutchinson logged a team-high 9.5 sacks and sixth-round rookie linebacker James Houston provided a crucial boost towards the end of the season, tallying eight sacks in seven games.

But they need more, and though quality at secondary is another concern that needs addressing, the Lions pick at No. 6 and No. 18 in the first round. One of those selections could be used on Nolan Smith, another Georgia Bulldog who wowed at the combine with his astonishing speed and athleticism. 

Smith will have to answer questions on if he can adeptly play as an edge rusher at just under 240 pounds against NFL offensive linemen – or he could switch to an outside linebacker hybrid role if he doesn’t bulk up to conserve his elite traits. Regardless, the Lions could benefit from more speed at defense, and the 22-year-old checks several boxes.