Gold: Pac-12 NFL Draft review
Welp, not exactly a banner year for Pac-12 in the NFL Draft.
The conference lagged far behind the top two conferences in college football and fell behind the other two Power 5 conferences, as well, ranking as the 5th of the 5 leagues.
Next year should be plenty exciting with a quartet of top quarterbacks hailing from the Pac-12 in USC’s Caleb Williams, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix and Utah’s Cam Rising.
But this year, just one quarterback was taken — UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. And he didn’t exactly find a great landing spot.
Here are the rest of my bests and worst of the 2023 NFL Draft…
Best draft class: Oregon Ducks
Considering cornerback Christian Gonzalez was the 1st Pac-12 player off the board — albeit 10 picks later than expected — with the 17th pick of the draft, it’s all too fitting that Oregon would end up with the best draft showing in the league.
A slew of late-round picks — including a pair of offensive linemen (Malaesala Aumavae–Laulu and Alex Forsyth) and a surprise selection of defensive tackle Jordan Riley — propelled the Ducks to the top of the Pac-12 draft heap.
Scariest stat: The Big Ten had more picks in the first three rounds than the Pac-12 did in the entire draft
With 9 picks in the 1st round and 11 in the 2nd, the B1G set an incredible pace, and unlike the SEC, the wealth was distributed as 11 programs had 1st or 2nd-round picks.
But the world expected such dominance from the two big bad wolves of college football.
But when the ACC (33) and Big-12 (29) have more draft picks than the Pac-12 (27), that’s not a good sign.
Worst draft class: Arizona, Colorado, Washington (tie)
Just 7 Power 5 programs were shut out this weekend, and the Pac-12 claims almost half of them.
Arizona, Colorado and Washington — a shocker — all produced zero draft picks, while a trio of other Pac-12 schools (Arizona State, Cal, Washington State) had just a single pick.
Big surprise: Washington’s shutout
Yes, Kalen DeBoer did the best job of re-recruiting in the Pac-12 if not all of college football, but it was still a surprise to see the 11-2 Huskies not have a single player drafted. Hulking offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland went from a fringe 1st-rounder to undrafted altogether after battling injuries his last two years, and he presented the best hope for UDub to hear its name called.
It’ll have to wait until next year, when quarterback Michael Penix Jr., wide receiver Rome Odunze, defensive lineman Bralen Trice and linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui should all go early.
Bigger surprise: Stanford’s massive haul
I’ll never understand how a team that had 5 players drafted, 2nd best in the Pac-12, could win just 3 games.
I’m a staunch David Shaw defender, but you can’t really defend that ratio.
Quarterback Tanner McKee is a nice developmental prospect for Philadelphia, which grabbed him in the 6th round.
Couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity!! Going to EARN everything! Just want to get to work!🤞🏽 https://t.co/g1tFHc2els
— Michael Wilson (@mikewilllyy) April 29, 2023
Best landing spot: USC OLB Tuli Tuipulotu to the Los Angeles Chargers
Love that the Pac-12 defensive player of the year is staying close to home.
Tuipulotu won’t be asked to do too much behind a star like Joey Bosa, and if he’s just used creatively in pass-rush situations, he’s got the motor to tally a half-dozen sacks as a rookie.
Bolt Up Tuli ⚡️
With the 54th pick in the 2023 #NFLDraft, the @chargers select @uscfb's Tuli Tuipulotu!#Pac12FB | @PaycorInc pic.twitter.com/wCcnC3ae8V
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) April 29, 2023
Best moment: Andrew Vorhees gets picked by Baltimore in the 7th
It was later than he would have hoped, but it had to feel nice for the USC stud to hear his name called after he suffered a torn ACL at the NFL Draft Combine, only to come back the next day and hulk out on the bench press.
Getting selected by a class organization like Baltimore helps. He should at least early a practice squad nod after he heals up.
Worst landing spot: Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Cleveland
Terrific that the UCLA quarterback got picked. Not great that he goes to a team with its quarterback position locked in with guaranteed money for the next half-dozen years. Deshaun Watson, faults and all, is firmly entrenched as the Browns field general for the foreseeable future.
Honorable mention goes to DTR’s UCLA teammate Zach Charbonnet, who has to share a backfield with talented Kenneth Walker in Seattle.
The moment Dorian Thompson-Robinson became a Cleveland Brown! #4sUp
📺 2023 #NFLDraft – April 27-29 on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/h9KSKVgyvj
— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) April 29, 2023
Biggest sleeper: Oregon’s Alex Forsyth in the 7th round to Denver
Forsyth strikes me as a long-time NFL starter, and I love that he’s going to Denver, which has a history of developing good centers.
I also like UCLA’s Jon Gaines II going to Arizona in the 4th round, as the Cardinals have big needs up front.
Best fantasy rookie: Oregon State TE Luke Musgrave
If he stays healthy, Musgrave has a chance to become Jordan Love’s safety valve in his 1st year as starter.
I was tempted to go with fellow tight end Dalton Kincaid, but the Bills still have a nice tight end in Dawson Knox.
Packers entered this draft needing more numbers at WR, TE and DL. Mission accomplished; two of each drafted already.
TE Luke Musgrave
WR Jayden Reed
TE Tucker Kraft
DL Colby Wooden
WR Dontayvion Wicks
DL Karl Brooks
More to come? Wouldn't doubt it
— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) April 29, 2023