Every year, right after the NFL Draft concludes, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay selects the best “value” pick for each team.
Best value doesn’t necessarily mean best player.
In fact, most of the time it means something else completely.
This year, 20 of the 32 prospects that McShay identified as their new team’s best value were selected in Rounds 2-7.
McShay considers team needs, scheme fit, and acquisition cost (including any trades) when determining his selection for each team’s best value pick.
The full list (and McShay’s thoughts) can be found behind the ESPN+ paywall: McShay’s best 2023 NFL draft value picks for all 32 teams.
We’ll share who he picked for the Seahawks (spoiler: the headline gives it away) and what McShay said about the selection.
We’ll also share a few other selections that may be of interest to the 12s.
The Seahawks’ best value pick is . . .
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (Round 1, No. 20)
Brace yourself for another shock . . .
Most, if not all, of the reasons that McShay gives for considering JSN as Seattle’s best value pick are the same reasons the 12s loved, loved, LOVED this pick on Friday night.
Seattle landed the top receiver in the class way back at No. 20. It needed a reliable third option alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and there was no better available in this class. JSN was limited to three games in 2022 because of a nagging hamstring injury, but he went for 1,606 receiving yards in 2021. Go back and watch that tape to see what he can do.
And here’s the thing: Smith-Njigba posted those numbers with first-round talents Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave lined up next to him. Now he goes to Seattle where he can operate again out of the slot and stand out in a similar way, with Metcalf and Lockett taking some pressure off him.
What makes Smith-Njigba so special? For one, I love his route-running detail — the way he sells and tempos the route and how well he accelerates out of his cuts. You can just tell by watching the tape that he has a feel for the game and uses those instincts to beat defensive backs. But he also has terrific hands, body control and after-the-catch ability. This is going to be a dangerous offense if Geno Smith can repeat what he did last season.
Let’s see that last line again, but larger, and in bold lettering.
This is going to be a dangerous offense if Geno Smith can repeat what he did last season.
. . .
Call me crazy, but I think Geno Smith can improve upon what he did last season.
For three reasons:
- Comfort with Seattle’s offense
- A full offseason as the unquestioned starter
- He’s going to have even more weapons than he had last year
Should be fun!
Welcome to Seattle, JSN!
Best values for our division rivals
Seattle clearly had the best draft in the division, while also welcoming the division’s best new players, but that doesn’t mean our rivals didn’t have their moments.
For the Arizona Cardinals, McShay selected Ohio State Left Tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (R1.06) as their best value pick.
Two trades preceded this pick, and we need to consider that context. First, Arizona moved from No. 3 to No. 12 and added three picks, all on Day 2 or better and including a 2024 first-rounder. Then it jumped back up to No. 6, swapping firsts, picking up a third and losing a second and fifth. I had heard the Cardinals liked Johnson, but taking him at No. 3 was too rich, especially given what they could get to trade out. So they took advantage and slid back, but then they were able to get back ahead of the offensive tackle run to still get their guy.
I don’t like tipping my hat to a division rival, but Arizona NAILED this one.
I break down all of their trade machinations in the Bonus Coverage section at the end of the article, but the short version is that the Cardinals moved back three spots in Round 1, added an R3 (No. 72 overall), and picked up three future picks, including an R1 and two R3s, whilst still landing the player they wanted.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the Cardinals saved themselves a fair chunk of coin by moving back three spots.
How much coin?
The 4-year savings is $7,541,988 since the overall cost of Johnson’s rookie contract falls from $36,869,730 to $29,327,742. The upfront cost of the contract (aka the signing bonus) decreases by $5,485,080, and the 2023 cap hit lands $1,371,270 lower than it would have been had the Cardinals drafted Johnson at No. 3 overall.
Add it all up and there’s really no choice but to tip the ol’ cap to them.
Good job, Monti Ossenfort.
Don’t do it again.
McShay’s best value pick for the Los Angeles Rams is Tennessee Outside Linebacker Byron Young (R3.77).
There might not be a team with more needs in the NFL, as this roster undergoes a bit of a transition. Luckily, Los Angeles came into the draft with 11 picks to attack those needs. Unluckily, none of those 11 were first-round selections.
Hitting on the Day 2 and 3 picks is going to be important, and I think a lot of prospects in the Rams’ rookie class will have a chance to start at some point this season. So getting an impact edge rusher such as Young in the third round? Massive. He has a really explosive first step and closing burst, and it’s no surprise that Young lit up the combine with a 4.43-second 40 at 250 pounds, along with wild 11-foot broad and 38-inch vertical jumps. All three numbers were first or second among edge rushers.
. . .
He’s an older prospect at 25, but I think he’ll get on the field plenty right away, at the very least as a pass-rush specialist to support Aaron Donald. Especially since the Rams just don’t have many other options there.
I am absolutely convinced that the Rams picking Young at No. 77 is “the inciting incident” that led to John Schneider sending pick No. 83 to the Denver Broncos.
F__k the Rams!
Safety Ji’Ayir Brown from Penn State (R3.87) is McShay’s pick for the San Francisco 49ers best value pick in this year’s draft.
The Niners’ first pick came at No. 87, and it was a good one. Brown could be an NFL starter very soon. San Francisco has a very capable safety duo in Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson Sr., but the latter re-signed for just one year and is turning 33 years old.
. . .
I had Brown at No. 67 on my board, but I had a feeling he’d be underdrafted. He’s going to outplay his draft slot. Brown is an incredibly hard worker who will carve out a role in this 49ers defense, maybe even lining up as a big nickel in some situations.
Meh. That’s how I feel about this particular pick and the Niners draft class in general. I poked fun at them for selecting a kicker with pick No. 99 but, in hindsight, that might have been where they peaked.
A few more “best values”
Here are some of McShay’s other selections that caught my attention:
Atlanta: RB Bijan Robinson (Texas), R1.08
- - - I think I may have expressed my feelings about this player a time or twelve. I love the Devon Witherspoon pick and agree that it was a better use of draft capital. Still . . . the heartbreak is going to linger for a while.
Chicago: DT Zacch Pickens (South Carolina), R3.64
- - - I was hoping that Seattle would land Pickens and, as much as I love who we grabbed at No. 52, part of me wishes we had grabbed Pickens instead.
Detroit: QB Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), R3.68
- - - I’m sort of relieved that Seattle didn’t take Hooker, while also being quite thrilled that he ended up with my 2nd-favorite team.
Indianapolis: WR Josh Downs (North Carolina), R3.79
- - - I think you can make a case for five of the Colts’ first six picks, including Florida QB Anthony Richardson (R1.04), Kansas State CB Julius Brents (R2.44), and South Carolina CB Darius Rush (R5.138). However, in my opinion, the best value pick for the Colts has to be DE Adetomiwa Adebawore at No. 110 overall.
Las Vegas: TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame), R2.35
- - - I’m not gonna lie; I was praying that Mayer would slide to No. 37, and I would have been crazy mad if he had and we didn’t pick him.
Philadelphia: DT Jalen Carter (Georgia), R1.09
- - - I understand the logic; getting “the most talented player in the draft” at No. 9 is a huge W for the Eagles . . . if it works out. For me, getting Carter’s teammate, Nolan Smith, at No. 30 was a bigger value (and better pick).
Mixed in with a little bit of back-patting, McShay compliments the Seahawks and the Eagles for having really nice drafts:
In all, 86 of my top 100 prospects were drafted in the first 100 picks, and I particularly loved what the Eagles and Seahawks did over the course of seven rounds.
As promised, here is the complete breakdown of Arizona’s maneuvering with the picks they received by moving back from No. 3.
The two trades in Round 1:
TRADE No. 1:
- Houston got: No. 3 and No. 105 (R4)
- Arizona got No. 12, No. 33 (R2), a 2024 R1, and a 2024 R3
TRADE No. 2:
- Arizona got No. 6 and No. 81 (R3)
- Detroit got No. 12, No. 34 (R2), and No. 168 (R5)
The Round 1 trades as ONE trade:
- Houston got No. 3 and No. 105 (R4)
- Detroit got No. 12, No. 34 (R2), and No. 168 (R5)
- Arizona got No. 6, No. 33 (R2), N0. 81 (R3), a 2024 R1 (HST), and a 2024 R3 (HST)
Putting that another way, Arizona only:
The net result of the two Day One trades is that Arizona:
- Moved DOWN three spots in Round 1, from R1.03 to R1.06
- Moved UP one spot in Round 2, from No. 34 to No. 33*
- Basically swapped an R4 (No. 105) and an R5 (No. 168) for an R3 (No. 81)*
- Added an R1 and an R3 in 2024 . . . from the Texans (i.e., they could be picks near the top of each round)
We can’t stop there though . . .
Allow me to draw your attention to the asterisks on the 2nd and 3rd bullets, above.
Those are important.
Because on Day Two, the Cardinals packaged Nos. 33 and 81 and sent them to the Tennessee Titans for No. 41, No. 72, and a 2024 R3.
Thus, when all is said and done . . .
The actual net result is this:
- OUT: No. 3 (R1), No. 34 (R2), No. 105 (R4), and No 168 (R5)
- IN: No. 6 (R1), No. 41 (R2), No. 72 (R3), a 2024 R1 (HST), a 2024 R3 (HST), and another 2024 R3 (TEN)
As I noted in the article, I’m not fond of tipping my hat to a division rival, but . . .
That’s some damn fine wheeling and dealing.