The phenomenon of Day 3 draft picks surprising as rookies takes shape every year in the NFL. Last season, it came by way of Dameon Pierce, Jack Jones, Romeo Doubs, Tyler Allgeier, Braxton Jones and Tariq Woolen.
The year before that, it was L'Jarius Sneed, Gabriel Davis and Darnell Mooney. In 2019, Gardner Minshew, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Maxx Crosby were instant hits. In 2018, Taron Johnson, Genard Avery and Avonte Maddox proved they could play out of the gate.
While all the 2023 Day 3 selections listed below aren't guaranteed to thrive as rookies, they have the best chance to make an instant impact due to their talent and opportunity on their new teams.
Darius Rush, CB, Colts
Round 5, No. 138 overall
Rush will have to contend with second-round selection Julius Brents for playing time. Yet the fact that the Colts picked two super-long, highly athletic corners in this class indicates they have a dire need for size and athleticism on the perimeter of their secondary. Frankly, I won't be surprised if Rush outplays Brents early on. He's much faster in a straight line and found the football more frequently in the SEC than Brents did during his solid collegiate career.
The Colts have gotten by with unlikely pieces at defensive back of late -- like Kenny Moore and former Day 3 pick Isaiah Rodgers -- and Rush is a big-time talent with the physical, body control, and natural ball skills to quickly acclimate to the NFL level.
Kei'Trel Clark, CB, Cardinals
Round 6, No. 180 overall
It feels like the entire Cardinals roster, outside of a select few positions, has job availability. While former first-round pick Isaiah Simmons has moved from linebacker to essentially full-time slot defender, Arizona still has a specific need to deploy a small, twitched-up nickel corner to deal with lightning-quick slot receivers every Sunday.
And Clark has a serious argument as the most sudden, plant-and-drive explosive cornerback in the entire 2023 class. At 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, he's not concerningly small either. Perfect size to stay with inside wideouts with attempt to win with foot speed and acceleration out of their breaks. If Budda Baker is traded, Clark's importance to the defense skyrockets, but I believe he still has enough natural talent to make waves early in camp and preseason as a playmaker at an increasingly important position in today's NFL. That should earn him more playing time in 2023 than most rookie sixth-rounders.
DeMario Douglas, WR, Patriots
Round 6, No. 210 overall
Douglas could've caught 80 passes in his rookie season had Tom Brady still been the quarterback of the Patriots. The Liberty receiver is that type of squatty but sudden slot weapon with enough downfield juice to keep cornerbacks honest. He has the feet to run dynamic, intricate routes underneath and boasts reliable hands. Douglas only dropped eight passes in his final three seasons with the Flames. Now, of course, Mac Jones is not Brady. But New England still wants to methodically move the football down the field, and Douglas absolutely can be that viable chain-moving target from the slot who either beats man directly or gets to vacancies in zone in a hurry before knifing through the defense with the ball in his hands.
The Patriots have 41.3% of their 2022 targets available, meaning pass catchers who received more than 40% of the team's total targets a season ago are no longer on the team. There's plenty of opportunity for Douglas -- and fellow sixth-round wideout Kayshon Boutte.
Antoine Green, WR, Lions
Round 7, No. 219 overall
The Lions have just over 40% of their targets from 2022 available -- 227 of them to be exact -- and while the likes of second-round tight end Sam LaPorta, first-round versatile back Jahmyr Gibbs, and 33-year-old reliable vet Marvin Jones will eat into that opportunity, Detroit isn't super-deep at perimeter receiver. For as much as Jones has maintained a reasonable level of productivity in this long career, he's no longer a real vertical threat.
That's precisely where Green can step in and stand out. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Green ran 4.47. While his vertical was below average, his 6.99 time in the three-cone indicates above-average quickness, particularly relative to his size. He won on exactly 50% of his contested-catch situations -- actually a reasonably high figure -- and only had three drops on 65 targets. Actually, now that I think of it, there's a lot of Marvin Jones to Green's game. He can be a fun, occasional splash-play option in the Lions' dynamic offense in 2023. Green rocks after the catch too.
DeWayne McBride, RB, Vikings
Round 7, No. 222 overall
I don't remember the last time I wrote this much and was this high on a seventh-round running back selection instantly following the draft. Then again, McBride had no business going in the seventh round. There were not 15 better backs than him in this class. Yes, he ran in Conference USA at UAB, yet McBride's film stacked up with many of the top backs in this class, as did his numbers.
Not being healthy enough to fully work out before the draft may have contributed to his late draft position. Irrespective of that, McBride is a slippery, elusive, effortlessly power-through-contact rusher with feature-back size. And yes, 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds is plenty big enough to shoulder a between-the-tackles workload in the modern NFL. McBride finished seventh in all of college football last season with 76 forced missed tackles and his 4.60-yards-after-contact-per-rush average was second in the nation among qualifiers. Given the uncertainty about Dalvin Cook's future, and only Alexander Mattison in front of him on the depth chart -- Ty Chandler will be McBride's main competition -- this rookie has a path to carries unseen virtually every seventh-round pick.