We've made it.
The 2023 NFL Draft will kick off tonight at 7 p.m. (CT) in Kansas City, and questions about which players will get drafted by which teams will finally be answered.
While much of today's attention will focus on first-round picks, NFL.com's Mike Band, who specializes in Next Gen Stats research and analytics, recently highlighted potential "hidden gems" who probably won't go off the board until Friday or Saturday. Band, whose work includes previous time in the Vikings personnel department a few years back, wrote:
By combining Daniel Jeremiah's ranking of the top 150 prospects and the results of the NGS Draft Model, we've identified starter-caliber players who will likely still be available when Round 2 kicks off on Friday.
This is the fourth year we've released our list of Day 2 standouts and Day 3 hidden gems. In 2020, our top Day 2 standout was Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor; in 2021, Green Bay Packers CB Eric Stokes; last season, it was Chicago Bears S Jaquan Brisker. All three earned starting roles as rookies. Taylor reached All-Pro status in Year 2.
Taylor was selected with the 41st overall pick. Stokes actually wound up going off the board at No. 29 near the end of the first round. Brisker was tabbed with the 48th overall selection last year.
Band named four players as Day 2 "standouts" (Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt, Michigan CB DJ Turner II, North Carolina WR Josh Downs and Georgia TE Darnell Washington) and four Day 3 "sleepers" (SMU WR Rashee Rice, Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg, Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry and Old Dominion TE Zack Kuntz).
Band projected Rice to have the highest (18) percent chance to being voted to the Pro Bowl after his rookie season.
Downs enters the draft with the second-highest "overall draft score" of any wide receiver in the 2023 class, trailing only Jalin Hyatt (88). At 5-foot-8 3/4 and 171 pounds, Downs might have been considered a sure-fire first-round pick if he had a larger frame.
The second-team All-American posted 90-plus receptions, 1,000-plus receiving yards and eight-plus touchdowns in each of his last two seasons at Chapel Hill. Those marks helped Downs earn an 88 NGS production score, tied for the second-highest among 2023 draft-eligible receivers behind only Jordan Addison (91).
Downs and DJ Turner II share more than just a place on this list. The two players were once teammates and key contributors to the North Gwinnett High School team that won the 7A state championship in 2017. At NGHS, Downs finished third in the state in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. That translated to the combine, where the North Carolina star jumped 10-foot-11, putting him in the top 6 percentile among wide receivers invited to the event since 2003.
Band gave Perry the next-highest chance at 17 percent, calling him "an intriguing Day 3 prospect who possesses an ideal combination" of height, length, speed, explosiveness and quickness.
On the field, Perry consistently demonstrated his prowess as a receiver, exceeding 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 10 touchdowns in each of the 2021 and '22 seasons, becoming the first player in program history to log multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons. As NFL teams evaluate their options in the later rounds of the draft, Perry's blend of physical attributes and consistent on-field performance makes him an enticing prospect to watch.
Click here to see Band's full breakdown of all eight players.
Chuck Foreman celebrates 50th anniversary of being drafted to the NFL
Vikings Legend Chuck Foreman was drafted 12th overall by Minnesota in 1973, making this year the 50th anniversary of his NFL career's start.
Interestingly, in the years since, Foreman has remained the only first-round pick out of Frederick County, Maryland.
But that might change tonight.
View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.
Two NFL prospects with a chance to be first-round picks hail from Foreman's hometown: WR Jordan Addison and DT Bryan Bresee. Joshua R. Smith of The Frederick News Post recently chatted with Foreman and discussed the possibility of Addison and/or Bresee joining the former Vikings running back in Frederick County history. Smith wrote:
Both have known for a while of their first-round potential.
Bresee, who transferred to Damascus High after his freshman year at Urbana, entered Clemson as the top-rated high school player in the country. Addison caught 60 balls in 10 games as a breakout freshman at the University of Pittsburgh.
They've been on this path for years — and known it. There's a cottage industry of draft analysts and insiders who have informed them, in some manner or another, without even meeting them.
Back in Foreman's day, he didn't have much of a clue where he stood as he entered his senior year — even after he'd rushed for a then school-record 951 yards and 10 touchdowns as a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior at Miami. Those numbers, in a time when running the ball was foremost, portended something great for his final college season.
But during his senior year, Foreman got moved around to suit the coaching staff's needs. Like, maybe they needed someone to try and shut down an opponent's star receiver.
"I played three different positions. Cornerback, running back, wide receiver. Never played one position all the way through," Foreman told Smith. "You might've had guys come in after me that had all the yardage, but they were just one-dimensional players.
"I could play any position you put me in," he added. "I may have had 400 yards here and 500 yards there, but if I had played one position, I might have tripled those yards. But it was never like that. That's what people don't understand, that I was moving around to all these positions."
But sometime during his senior season spent here and there in 1972, he got an inkling of his future from agents who wanted to represent him at the next level. And when Foreman heard what they had to say about what others were saying about him, he needed a beat to believe it.
"What?" Foreman said. "First round?"
Click here to read Smith's feature in its entirety.
Foreman's success with the Vikings is part of a legacy the team has established with draft picks made in years ending in 3.
1963: Paul Flatley in fourth round; won NFL Rookie of the Year honors (Minnesota's first two picks that year — Jim Dunaway at No. 3 and Bobby Bell at No. 16 — opted to play in the AFL)
1973: Foreman in first round; won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, made five Pro Bowls and is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor
1983: Joey Browner in first round; made six Pro Bowls and garnered three First-Team All-Pro selections; earned placement on the Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team for the 1980s and is in the Vikings Ring of Honor
1993: Robert Smith in first round; made two Pro Bowls and ranks second on the franchise rushing leaderboard
2003: Kevin Williams in first round; made six Pro Bowls and garnered five First-Team All-Pro selections; earned placement on the Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team for the 2000s and is in the Vikings Ring of Honor
2013: Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round