Editor's note: We have updated this edition of the All-Juice Team with the players' destinations during and after the 2023 NFL Draft. We hope you enjoy the team in honor of our late friend and colleague Terez Paylor. Please don’t hesitate to help us keep his memory alive and pick up one of the updated All-Juice Team T-shirts or hoodies, with proceeds going to Howard University and the University of Missouri. The funds will support a scholarship for journalism students in Terez’s name, helping to provide some of the same opportunities that Terez had on his trek to becoming an influential NFL reporter in Kansas City and on the national stage.
Terez Paylor liked to say making the roster of his All-Juice Team meant you had “the goods” as a player — otherwise known as a special combination of effort, attitude and performance. In the ninth annual installment of Terez’s brainchild, he might have called this year’s roster a sampling of players who won “the arguments.”
In many ways, that’s what the ninth annual All-Juice Team became for many of the honorees: a series of significantly contested debates among evaluators that showcased how much disagreement there is about this year’s NFL Draft class. In almost every position outside of tight end, there's a litany of love/hate arguments brewing over prospects, a reality perfectly encapsulated when one AFC general manager was given the name of a player expected to be chosen and abruptly declared, “That guy cannot be on the team. Nobody is going to take this seriously if he’s on it.”
Ouch. Well, the player did indeed land on the team, although we’re reserving the right to leave him unidentified in relation to that particular conversation. Surely, there will be plenty of guesses about who it might have been — as there will be some deep wells of differing opinions on the majority of the roster. Which is fine. Terez never intended to make this team an easy project, evidenced by his insistence in crafting the group the way a team crafts a draft class. It’s always important to remember, the All-Juice Team isn’t an all-star collection of the best at each position. Instead, it’s a group pulled together across the seven-round draft.
That’s meant to be challenging. And this year, it certainly was.
To recap the approach: The All-Juice Team is based on NFL evaluator and coaching staff feedback, choosing two players per “shelf,” building a full 22-man team (plus one priority free agent). The one extra player is a shoutout to an earlier edition of one of Terez’s All-Juice Teams where he added an extra defensive player to account for a nickel spot while also maintaining a traditional seven-man box. We have chosen to use the additional spot to add a preferred free agent who was put onto our radar by sources.
With that in mind, enjoy the 2023 team. As always, we hope Terez would have approved of the work. Here are the shelf breakdowns of where we projected the players, and each selection lists where they ultimately ended up going.
Top 10 — Alabama QB Bryce Young & Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
Nos. 11-20 — Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski & Boston College WR Zay Flowers
Nos. 21-32 — Florida IOL O’Cyrus Torrence & Tennessee OT Darnell Wright
Top of second — Pittsburgh EDGE Calijah Kancey & Michigan IDL Mazi Smith
Bottom second — Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald & Georgia TE Darnell Washington
Top third — Kansas State CB Julius Brents & Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry
Bottom third — Michigan IOL Olu Oluwatimi & Florida IDL Gervon Dexter
4th round — Tulane RB Tyjae Spears & Houston WR Tank Dell
5th round — Georgia S Chris Smith & N.C. State IOL Chandler Zavala
6th round — UAB CB Starling Thomas & Florida A&M LB Isaiah Land
7th round — TCU LB Dee Winters & Iowa S Kaevon Merriweather
Priority Free Agent — Jackson State LB Aubrey Miller Jr.
Draft result: First round, No. 1 overall, Carolina Panthers
We debated the quarterback choice, given the immense ceiling of Anthony Richardson (not to mention his fit into the mold of where the position is going). Ultimately the choice was Young on the basis of his significant leadership qualities and high-end polish from top to bottom. Size is a concern, but when Nick Saban compares him to Drew Brees, it’s not far-fetched that Young could continue to develop physically and turn into a prolific player under Frank Reich in Carolina. The past two years of his résumé are the embodiment of “effort, attitude and performance.” As one AFC personnel man said, “He’s 4 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than the ideal, and he will still be the No. 1 quarterback on most boards.” That says a lot about everything else in his game.
Draft result: Third round, No. 81 overall, Tennessee Titans
Need a big play? Call Tyjae Spears. He was lightning in a bottle last season for Tulane, averaging a wild 6.9 yards per carry to go with 21 total touchdowns. Spears won’t be a bell cow-type running back in the NFL, but his ability to rip off chunks at a time figures to pair well with Derrick Henry. Just watch his performance against USC. Yes, the Trojans had a terrible defense last season, but Spears looked like an NFL running back making people miss in the open field and finishing runs behind his shoulder pads.
Draft result: First round, No. 22 overall, Baltimore Ravens
A memorable line about Flowers from an executive: “I’m surprised he didn’t end up in the transfer portal before his senior season. His quarterback situation was [expletive]. … He has a little bit of the Steve Smith quality, where he plays faster and bigger and more aggressive than guys around him. He pops on tape.” Well, he's going to one of Steve Smith's old teams in Baltimore. We loved Flowers for his flexibility to be moved around. Despite having some slot size at 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, he was utilized more on the outside than the slot. He strikes us as a player who can be moved around in the Todd Monken's offense, and has a suddenness to his game to do a lot of damage with the Ravens.
Draft result: Third round, No. 69 overall, Houston Texans
Yes, his size is a serious concern, given that some teams have the impression that Dell played at 160 pounds for the Cougars. Pair that with his 5-foot-8 height and you’re not going to find many comps in the NFL that point to a long, successful career. That said, Dell chewed up Senior Bowl practices and looked like a nightmare for cornerbacks in man coverage. His 10-yard split of 1.49 is frightening for defenders, particularly with his change of direction. He gets on opponents fast and the longer a play extends, the more likely he’s going to break down coverage. Paired with CJ Stroud, Dell could produce a lot of explosive plays. It's a gamble with nice upside.
Draft result: Sixth round, No. 195 overall, New Orleans Saints
Perry has sky-high upside as far as the NFL is concerned. He wasn’t asked to run a whole lot of different routes in Wake Forest’s offense, but he is adept at running the routes he was asked to. Perry is a taller receiver at 6-foot-3, but has the athleticism to be a factor in the short area of the field while still offering a lot by the way of ball skills, contested catch ability, balance and winning deep down the field. Perry will need time to marinate in New Orleans and adjust his style to a more rigorous NFL route tree, but he has the natural ball skills and athleticism to make an impact early.
Draft result: Third round, No. 93 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Turns out it wasn't a stretch to hope that Washington is still on the board between the middle and end of the second round, and he landed in a good spot in Pittsburgh. So why Washington over so many high end pass-catchers? We're serious about protecting Bryce Young on our All-Juice Team, and with that in mind, Washington is an earth-moving player at 6-foot-7 and 264 pounds who almost looks like an offensive tackle in stature. He also still has considerable ceiling, given that he wasn’t asked to be a high volume pass-catcher. He’s a powerful dude with a lot of room to grow and refine as a player and could very well end up being the best “complete” tight end in this draft by a solid margin.
Draft result: First round, No. 11 overall, Tennessee Titans
Like we said, we’re serious about protecting Bryce Young, so you’re going to see an early emphasis on the offensive line in this edition of the All-Juice Team. That starts with new Tennessee Titans Peter Skoronski, and what teams really like about him is his flexibility to play any position on the line. That’s invaluable, even if there’s an argument about whether he would be a solid tackle versus an elite guard. The bottom line: Skoronski has a wealth of starts under his belt, is a top-end run-blocker and has a combination of good hands and feet. As one NFC general manager said, “he’s going to be a really good plug-and-play guy somewhere on the line. If it’s not tackle, it will be guard and that’s fine. I know he’s going to be a good, high-level starter somewhere in that mix.”
Draft result: First round, No. 10 overall, Chicago Bears
Wright was built in a lab to play offensive tackle in the NFL. He has the size, length, athleticism and technique to immediately be a high-caliber starter for the Bears. Wright played left and right tackle during his time at Tennessee and then blew the doors off the NFL scouting combine with a 5.01 40-yard dash at 333 pounds. Wright checks off a lot of boxes when looking for a long-term starter at tackle and has a chance to be the steal of the first round when we look back at the 2023 NFL Draft.
Draft result: Second round, No. 59 overall, Buffalo Bills
Every draft has a few prospects you need to see only a few plays to understand why they’re so highly touted. Torrence from Florida fits that bill, although he fell well into the second round to Buffalo. He’s a tough, physical prospect who played a lot of football for the Gators after transferring from Louisiana Lafayette. Torrence is a demolition machine that plays surprisingly well in space and in pass protection given his size. He didn’t have an incredible combine workout, but the tape shows a player who can start in the NFL and play at a high level for a long time.
Draft result: Fourth round, No. 114 overall, Carolina Panthers
Zavala stays in North Carolina, a legitimate developmental prospect for the Panthers. Zavala is a supreme athlete, hitting a 32.5-inch vertical jump, putting him among the top offensive line performers in that drill, according to Kent Lee Platte of Relative Athletic Scores. Zavala needs seasoning, but he has NFL-ready athleticism and isn’t a complete project in terms of coaching him up — he has the movement skills to start as a rookie.
Draft result: Fifth round, No. 54 overall, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle got one of the most experienced offensive linemen in this draft, not to mention one of the most decorated résumés in all of college football last season. Oluwatimi won the Rimington and Outland trophies for best center and interior lineman in the country, respectively, and earned consensus All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors. He started 32 straight games at center for Virginia, then transferred to Michigan for his senior season and started 14 more. Does his athletic profile blow teams away? No. But there’s a lot of weight to consider with his experience and the Michigan staff raving about Oluwatimi being a “glue guy” who made the Wolverines' offensive line great. Some think he’s overrated. Others think he’s a guy who knows how to play center at an instinctual level that sets him apart. One NFC talent evaluator said: “He’s got a Ryan Jensen quality to him where you look at the numbers on paper and they don’t blow you away. Then he works his way to a starting spot and anchors it for a decade.”
Draft result: First round, No. 19 overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kancey is a defensive tackle by trade, but listed as an edge prospect on the 2023 All-Juice Team. Kancey played defensive tackle at a high level in college, but his build (6-foot, 281 pounds at the NFL scouting combine) means Tampa Bay will have to pair him with the much more massive Vita Vea if he plays inside. He’s not built like former Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, who has played his way into first-ballot Hall of Fame status despite a smaller stature. Kancey has a frame that’s closer to a stout edge rusher more than an on-the-ball lineman.
What separates Kancey from other “tweener” DL prospects is that he has the athleticism to transition to the outside in the NFL. Despite weighing 280 pounds, Kancey ran the three-cone drill in 7 seconds this offseason, which would have been a great time if he actually was listed as an edge rusher. According to Mockdraftable, only one listed edge rusher ran a three-cone time faster than Kancey — Eastern Michigan pass rusher Jose Ramirez, who ran it in 6.95 seconds.
When looking at defensive linemen who may have to undergo a positional switch, the concept of translatable plays is crucial. In Kancey’s case, his ability to move in space and flip his hips to get around offensive linemen shows that he might be able to make that switch in the NFL if the interior offensive linemen in the NFL prove to be too much for him.
It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but when Melvin Ingram was coming out of South Carolina he flipped between defensive tackle and defensive end quite a bit and was even built similarly to Kancey. Ingram played much more defensive end than Kancey did in college, but in terms of body types who can make the switch, Kancey’s profile aligns with Ingram’s in that manner. Of course, Kancey would need time with the Buccaneers to make a switch to being a full-time edge rusher, but he’s one of the rare guys who can do so.
Draft result: First round, No. 15 overall, New York Jets
McDonald is a bit of a projection, but has all the tools and the on-field attitude to be successful with the Jets. The main problem with McDonald’s game is that he isn’t going to play the same position in the NFL as he did in college. McDonald was aligned at “4i” in Iowa State’s defense, which means he spent a lot of time aligned on the inside shoulders of offensive tackles. McDonald weighs 239 pounds. There’s just no way he’s going to play at that spot against pro offensive tackles.
Moving forward, he’s going to be a classic edge rusher. When Iowa State put him in a position that’s more replicable to what he’ll be doing in the NFL, he showed some fine skills. He’s a lot stronger than his size would suggest and didn’t struggle much resetting the line of scrimmage against tight ends. Even though McDonald was playing a position that sees a ton of double teams by design, he still posted back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks and tackles for loss in 2020 and 2021.
McDonald is a projection to a degree because he doesn’t have a lot of reps playing the way he will in the NFL, but he was durable — and productive! — at a position that wasn’t suited at all for his natural skills. That’s All-Juice worthy.
Draft result: Second round, No. 53 overall, Chicago Bears
Dexter is a powerhouse athlete who will need refinement in Chicago when it comes to being a productive professional, but there aren’t many players who can match his talent. When Dexter finds himself pass rushing with room to maneuver on the interior, he can be way too fast for most college offensive linemen to keep up with. His production at Florida wasn’t overwhelming, but he has the tools to develop into a disruptive, one-gap penetrator.
Draft result: First round, No. 26 overall, Dallas Cowboys
A captain for the Wolverines in 2022, we debated bumping Smith off the team after he faced a now-resolved misdemeanor concealed weapons charge late last year. But the Cowboys appear to be satisfied with his explanation that he was in the midst of completing paperwork for a concealed carry permit when the weapon was discovered during a traffic stop. That red flag aside, Smith was a valued captain for Michigan in 2022 and one of the true athletic freaks in college football, blending together elite short-area quickness and change of direction with superb size (6-foot-3, 323 pounds). Smith also isn’t a finished product, having a high ceiling in terms of development that could make him an elite player as he refines parts of his game at the pro level. He has the size of a run-stopping space-eater, but could also be so much more.
Draft result: Undrafted, signed with Dallas Cowboys
Land is a fairly explosive first-step edge with some things to like whose size at the scouting combine (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) projects more to 4-3 outside linebacker. Land was one of the players who got mentioned by several talent evaluators as a deep-into-the-reports sleeper who might take a year to be a contributor. As a junior, he led all of Division I football with 19 sacks and 25.5 tackles for a loss. That got him some transfer portal interest from some SEC teams. But he stayed at Florida A&M and had a solid senior season despite an academic hiccup that led to a missed game and slow start to his senior season. He finished 2022 with 34 quarterback pressures and seven sacks in 359 snaps. His two-year snapshot was enough to draw invites to the East West Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine. That’s a rare feat for any HBCU player. He has 4.62 speed and might be able to add more bulk.
Draft result: Undrafted, signed with Miami Dolphins
Miller is another HBCU player with some traits that you like from an inside linebacker who lingered to the priority free-agent stage for Miami. Miller runs guys down and racks up tackles as well as anyone, but he measured in at 5-foot-11 (considerably shorter than his listed 6-2) and has below-average speed and athleticism when compared to the NFL level. That’s likely why he wasn’t extended a scouting combine invite despite leading the American team in tackles at the Senior Bowl. Most NFL teams steer clear of short-ish, slow-ish middle linebackers who also aren’t going to test well athletically. But on tape, Miller is a physical player who handled himself well against the run and pass, showcasing why he was a prime signing for Missouri before he eventually transferred to Jackson State.
Draft result: Sixth round, No. 216 overall, San Francisco 49ers
Winters is about as small as it gets for an NFL linebacker (5-foot-11, 227 pounds), but in a class like this year’s, San Francisco still saw fit to roll the dice. Winters was an ace playmaker for the Horned Frogs and totaled 14.5 tackles for loss during his final season.
Draft result: First round, No. 17 overall, New England Patriots
Gonzalez is as smooth as it gets from a man coverage standpoint. He needs to improve his tackling as he ingratiates himself into Bill Belichick's Patriots, but it’s difficult to find players his size who move with the grace and skill that Gonzalez does in coverage. Gonzalez has the upside to be a prolific cover corner from Day 1 in the NFL and figures to be a major asset for New England.
Draft result: Undrafted, signed with Detroit Lions
He was a standout at the East West Shrine bowl and is a solidly built 5-foot-10 slot corner with a 6-foot-3 wingspan. A track athlete type who will have to work on his dedication against the run, Thomas has clocked a 40-yard dash hovering in the 4.28 to 4.30 range. His speed and quickness will keep him in most any play on the field. One AFC talent evaluator praised Thomas’ ability to burst and close on a route. The Lions figure to benefit from his speed/wingspan combo.
Draft result: Second round, No. 44 overall, Indianapolis Colts
Former TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston told Yahoo Sports that Brents was the toughest cornerback he faced in college — high praise for someone who also played against Georgia and Kelee Ringo in the national championship game. Brents is the physical prototype for an outside cornerback prospect. He showed off his size, length, athleticism and experience in a pass-happy conference like the Big 12. Brents has a chance to be a Day 2 steal for the Colts and make a splash as a rookie solely off of his athleticism. He had four interceptions in 14 games last season, and is going to get on the field quickly with his ability to be an explosive hitter against passes in the short area of the field.
Draft result: Undrafted, signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kaevon Merriweather worked his way over five years to become a starter and defensive captain in 2022. Merriweather checks the safety boxes for the NFL level, measuring 6-foot and 205 pound at the scouting combine. He has the fluidity and overall athleticism of a player who also had opportunities to play Division I basketball. He also has charisma and leadership abilities, and comes from a program that has produced good NFL safeties. Merriweather has flexible enough skills to succeed in man and zone coverage.
Draft result: Fifth round, No. 170 overall, Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are getting one of the captains of this year’s All-Juice Team, exemplifying the persistence and production it takes to stand out on the best defense in college football over the past two seasons. Smith started 27 games over the past two seasons, totaling six interceptions and six tackles for loss. Five of those tackles for a loss came during his senior season in 2022. Smith wasn't the highest selected member of Georgia’s vaunted defense, but he was the linchpin.