Of course, there are the veteran players who immensely benefited from the draft, based on what their teams did to improve the roster over the course of the three-day selection meeting. Some rosters certainly improved over the course of the weekend compared to how they appeared on paper after the first two waves of free agency.
Which players are worth buying stock in with the draft completed? How about the players to stay away from? Here are the veterans to keep an eye on in the coming months.
Five veterans the draft helped
Jackson was the biggest winner on draft weekend — as he became the highest-paid player in NFL history (in terms of average annual salary). With the contract extension finally in tow, the Ravens wasted no time giving Jackson another pass-catching wide receiver who is expected to contribute right away.
Baltimore drafted Zay Flowers in the first round, and he immediately can start in the slot with Odell Beckham and Rashod Bateman occupying the outside. Jackson will have his best wide receiver unit since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2018, while having Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely as his tight end options in the middle of the field.
Not only did Jackson get paid, he has a security blanket in Flowers he can go to underneath. Jackson should have his best passing numbers of his career in 2023 — and he once led the league in touchdown passes and passer rating.
Once the Detroit Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round, Swift’s future in Detroit was in significant limbo. The Lions already signed David Montgomery, diminishing Swift’s role, but Gibbs essentially was the long-term replacement for Swift — who is a free agent at the end of the season.
Swift landed in the best possible spot, the Philadelphia Eagles. He’ll split carries with Rashaad Penny in Philadelphia, running behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. The Eagles have the most rushing yards (5,224) and rushing touchdowns (57) over the last two seasons — and now they have their best pass-catching running back since LeSean McCoy.
No longer asked to carry a run game, Swift should thrive in Philadelphia. It also helps that he grew up in the city, attending nearby St. Joe’s Prep.
Does Herbert have a long-term extension with the Los Angeles Chargers yet? No, but the Chargers are making sure their franchise quarterback can make the most money he can get.
The Chargers added another explosive pass catcher to their offense by selecting Quentin Johnston in the first round, pairing him with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in the team’s wide receiver unit. Johnson is another big-play wideout who should get plenty of open looks with Allen and Williams needing to be accounted for. Herbert should have no trouble finding Johnson downfield and racking up the passing yards.
Not only are the Chargers deep at wide receiver (Los Angeles also has Joshua Palmer, Jalen Guyton, and rookie Derius Davis), but Austin Ekeler still remains employed by the franchise. Los Angeles was unable to trade Ekeler during the draft, so the Chargers appear to be retaining the player with the most touchdowns over the last two seasons.
The Chargers offense is loaded. A huge season for Herbert will make him even more money than what he’s already set to earn.
The Seattle Seahawks certainly gave Smith all the playmakers he needs to succeed in the draft, starting with adding Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a wide receiver group that already has Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Smith-Njigba immediately goes to the slot, creating a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses — while Seattle arguably has one of the the best wide receiver trios in the league.
Seattle also added Zach Charbonnet to the running back room, as he’ll spell second-year back Kenneth Walker with his speed out of the backfield. Not only does Smith have a lot of talent at the skill positions, every top running back and wide receiver not named Tyler Lockett is 25 or under.
Smith has a loaded offense with an offensive line that improved throughout last season. He also received a new contract this offseason and Seattle didn’t draft a quarterback. This is Smith’s team — and the Seahawks gave him all the playmakers to have an even better 2023.
Cox took a hometown discount to stay with the Eagles, but the veteran defensive tackle was asked to carry the interior with Jordan Davis entering his first season as a starter. Milton Williams was also going to have a significant role in the rotation, yet things got much easier for Cox thanks to Jalen Carter’s stock falling in the draft.
Carter fell to the Eagles’ range at No. 10, so they traded up just one draft spot to get him. Cox will either be starting with an instant impact rookie like Carter or play significant snaps and a defensive tackle rotation with Carter, Davis, and Williams — preserving his body for the second half of the season.
With the Eagles pass rush loaded on the edge and deep at defensive tackle, Cox should have another strong season at 32 — while providing crucial veteran leadership in an already strong locker room.