With more than half of the top 100 available players already signed in 2023 NFL free agency, we are not far away from collectively turning our full attention to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Below are the prospects in the 2023 class with similar traits and on-field styles to some names who changed teams in this free-agent period. First, a disclaimer. They aren't the biggest free-agent adds, but I will never force pro comparisons when they're simply not there. These are legit.
OT Mike McGlinchey
Signed with: Broncos
Prospect with similar traits: Old Dominion's Nick Saldiveri
McGlinchey was viewed as a high-floor right tackle with advanced run-blocking skills, plenty of length and the pass-protection prowess needed to be a long-term, high-ish level starter blocking an edge of an NFL offensive line. The consensus opinion on him entering the league out of Notre Dame in 2018 was mostly right. He was a steady force on Kyle Shanahan's almost always successful offensive fronts yet never truly dominated.
I get McGlinchey vibes from Saldiveri, who's almost identically sized to McGlinchey, by the way. Both are tall offensive tackles who win with technically sound hand work -- punch timing and accuracy -- and get the most out of their impressive albeit unspectacular athleticism by making a concerted effort to get low to sink their center of gravity. Like McGlinchey too, once Saldiveri gets rumbling downhill, he'll move people in the run game. Now, of course, Saldiveri isn't going in the top half Round 1 like McGlinchey did, but there are lots of parallels between the size, athletic skill sets, and play style of these two.
WR Deonte Harty
Signed with: Bills
Prospect with similar traits: Houston's Tank Dell
Right out of the gate, Harty and Dell are spitting images of each other size-wise and had nearly identical pre-draft workouts. Harty's Relative Athletic Score (a composite metric of a prospect's size and combine/pro day performance) was 5.20 in 2019. Dell's was 5.44.
They're short, spindly rockets and shine after the catch. Contact balance? No, not really. Explosion, scary long speed, running back-like vision when they're given any breathing room while holding the football. And because of their burst, they can really separate and routinely beat press at the line with lightning-quick feet.
Now, Harty was an incredibly decorated return guy -- his 14 return touchdowns are the most in NCAA history, regardless of division -- yet Dell has electric return man-type movement skills on the field.
EDGE/DT Zach Allen
Signing with: Broncos
Prospect with similar traits: Auburn's Colby Wooden
Wooden is a tall, thick, powerful, deceptively athletic inside-out defensive lineman. Sound like anyone? Yeah, Allen, who had growing pains playing as a defensive end early in his professional career -- he was predominantly an edge player at Boston College -- before erupting in 2022 as primarily an interior rusher.
That's how I view Wooden. He lived on the edge at Auburn and fared well with 76 pressures on over 800 pass-rushing snaps the past two seasons in the SEC. But to maximize his talents at over 6-foot-4 and nearly 275 pounds, he needs to mainly be utilized on the interior where he'll be quicker than most guards and can still still with sheer force through blockers.
EDGE Arden Key
Signed with: Titans
Prospect with similar traits: Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah
The main intrigue with Key when he entered the NFL in 2018 was centered around his on-field explosion and bend on his outside speed rush. After an 11-sack sophomore season, there was talk he could be the No. 1 overall pick. A somewhat down junior campaign sunk his stock all the way to Round 3. Five years later, Key has earned his fourth NFL contract after demonstrating serious pass-rush ability.
Anudike-Uzomah has a comparable story and is a comparable prospect -- an explosive, flexible-around-the-corner rusher with a constantly revving motor. In 2021, he had 11 sacks then saw a dip in his classic-stat production in his final season. I have a feeling, though, he won't be picked as late as Key was in the draft. Teams have smartened up about dynamic, bendy edge rushers.
LB David Long
Signed with: Dolphins
Prospect with similar traits: Tulane's Dorian Williams
For three years at West Virginia, the short, ultra-active linebacker was ubiquitous. He registered 39.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks to go along with 246 total tackles in 33 games for the Mountaineers. Dude could really play. Yet, his 5-foot-11 frame was the reason he wasn't picked until Round 6 of the 2019 draft. Sure enough, Long's outplayed his draft position by a mile.
Funny how quickly the NFL evolves, because now there aren't nearly as many size concerns with Williams, a 6-foot-nothing, 228-pound second-level defender with a Long-like skill set.
Probably drafted in Day 2 (or maybe early Day 3), he possesses the range, quickness and coverage instincts to transcend his lack of height at the next level -- just like Long has.