The 2023 NFL Draft is underway! The first round was wilder than many expected. It was filled with a ton of trades. Some fans will be thrilled with their team’s selections and others are left scratching their heads wondering what their team wants to do. Here are the 2023 NFL Draft: First-round grades and reactions.
1. Carolina Panther (via Chicago Bears): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
No surprise here the Panthers draft the quarterback they have been rumored to take for weeks in Alabama’s Bryce Young. There is no question he was the most talented quarterback in the class. The only concern with Young was his size. He is going to a team in the Carolina Panthers that has an outstanding coaching staff built to help quarterbacks succeed. The Panthers’ offensive line is strong enough to ensure Young doesn’t take a lot of hits early in his career. There’s no doubt Young should be the Week 1 starter and could help this team be competitive as soon as next season.
2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
After tons of speculation that the Texans were not going to take a quarterback not named Bryce Young, Houston shocks the world early by taking C.J. Stroud. Even though Stroud was viewed as the safest quarterback pick in the draft he still has a ton of upside. Selecting their franchise quarterback was the right move for the Texans. Stroud should start right away for the Texans and could keep this team from selecting this early next year. This was the right pick for Houston to make here.
3. Houston Texans (via Arizona Cardinals): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
It’s been a very long time since there was a blockbuster deal made to get up this high in the draft on draft night. Tonight the Texans moved up from #12 to select back-to-back on the top-3 picks. The Texans took the player many expected them to take in Will Anderson Jr. Right after selecting their franchise quarterback they get their defensive cornerstone by taking the stud pass rusher out of Alabama. DeMeco Ryans gets his hands on the best pass rusher in college football over the last two seasons that happened to go to his alma matter. Stroud and Anderson Jr. are a great start to their 2023 draft haul that should definitely jump-start this franchise. Many people are critiquing how much Houston gave up to go select Anderson. The argument against the criticism should be that Houston gave up all they did to land their franchise quarterback. If Anderson and Stroud were flipped many would be applauding the deal.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
For a majority of the offseason, it felt like this selection came down to Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. Despite all the hype that Levis has the past few days, Indianapolis selects the quarterback that makes the most sense for them. Richardson’s freak athleticism compares favorably to Shane Steichen’s former quarterback Jalen Hurts. Even though he likely won’t be the team’s starter to begin the year Richardson could be viewed as a steal a few years from now. His size and athleticism are freakish and only comparable to the likes of Cam Newton. If the Colts can give Richardson the time to hone in on his craft and work on his passing mechanics he could be the next star quarterback in the AFC.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
This offseason many expected the Seattle Seahawks to spend this selection on a developmental quarterback or a front-seven defensive player. Instead, the Seahawks get Pro Bowl cornerback Tariq Woolen a running mate in Devon Witherspoon. He has great length for his size and an outstanding attitude which definitely got Pete Carroll’s attention. Seattle’s secondary is now loaded with talent. Witherspoon will be joining Tariq Woolen, Coby Bryant, Jamal Adams, Julian Love, and Quandre Diggs in coverage.
6. Arizona Cardinals (via Detroit Lions from Los Angeles Rams): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Arizona desperately wanted to move out from the third pick and got a nice haul back to move down to #12. However, they were aggressive enough to move back into the top ten to get their guy in Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr. Over the past few days it was reported that the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray were very interested in taking Johnson Jr. The Cardinals offense needed a ton of help and the team would have likely taken Johnson Jr. with the third overall pick if they stuck there. Current left tackle D.J. Humphries is capable of lining up at either tackle spot and Josh Jones is better at guard. Johnson Jr. will start at either left or right tackle for the Cardinals and could be their best offensive lineman in year one. Arizona now has a foundational offensive line piece to mark the beginning of their rebuild.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Raiders defense is a mess. There aren’t a ton of players currently on their roster that appears to be in the team’s long-term future. They took a chance drafting high-upside defensive lineman Tyree Wilson. He needs to be refined but has the potential to be an outstanding pass rusher at the next level. Wilson’s versatility to play on the edge and inside will be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators. On third downs, they could move Wilson inside and play veterans Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones on the edge. This is a huge addition for this team which needs to make major improvements on the defensive side of the ball if they want to be competitive in the AFC West.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
There is a valid case that no team has made more improvements this offseason than the Atlanta Falcons. They made a ton of additions to the defensive this offseason and retained key members of their offensive line. This validates Atlanta’s decision to take Texas running back Bijan Robinson eighth overall. Arthur Smith wants to run the football and now he gets his hands on the most dominant football to come out of college since Saquon Barkley was drafted in 2018. Despite how well Allgeier and Patterson played last season, Robinson is a massive upgrade over both of them. His addition to the team could propel this team to be a contender in the NFC South. No player should have a larger impact immediately on their roster than Robinson in Atlanta. His presence in the backfield will be huge for Desmond Ridder’s development next season.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (via Chicago Bears from Carolina Panthers): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The reigning NFC Champions added arguably the best player in the entire draft Jalen Carter. At the end of the NFL regular season, Carter felt like a consensus #1 overall pick to Chicago. However, after an awful draft process filled with character concerns and brutal workouts, Carter slips to the ninth overall selection. Overlooking the past few months Carter was the most dominant player on the back-to-back National Champion Georgia Bulldog defense. The Eagles have the infrastructure in place to get the best production out of Carter. He reunites with former college teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in Philadelphia. The Eagles landed the three best defensive players on arguably the greatest college football defense of all time in the past two drafts.
10. Chicago Bears (via Philadelphia Eagles): Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The first major shocker of the night as far as players being selected earlier than expected was Chicago taking Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright. Many did not expect Wright to be the second tackle off the board. He became a draft darling throughout the process. Many experts either loved Wright or thought he was overrated. Chicago loved Wright enough to take him with a top-10 pick. He should be cemented into Chicago’s right tackle role. This leaves Braxton Jones and Larry Borom to compete for the team’s left tackle spot next season.
11. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Tennessee Titans were under a major spotlight leading up to the draft. There was speculation that the Titans could jump into the top 10 to take a quarterback. Instead, the Titans stick it out at the 11th overall pick to take a player that fits their culture to a tee. Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski is one of the toughest and most dominant trench players in the draft. The only issue Skoronski was that his short arms could peg him into a guard role for some teams at the next level. Skoronski was announced as a tackle during the draft so he could supplant Nicholas Petit-Frere as their right tackle. But if Skoronski was to play guard for the Titans he could potentially be an All-Pro caliber player like Brandon Scherff was in Washington.
12. Detroit Lions (via Arizona Cardinals from Houston Texans originally from the Cleveland Browns): Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Rumors this past week emerged that Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs could be selected earlier than many expect on draft night. But no one expected the Lions to take him or for him to be selected within the top-15 picks. It was clear that the Lions were done with D’Andre Swift when they signed David Montgomery. But it doesn’t make sense to double-dip at the position this offseason. Detroit signed Montgomery who has proven to be a capable lead running back to a three-year $18 million deal. This team has specific needs and was a few upgrades away from being a competitor in the NFC North. Gibbs is a fine player but doesn’t fill a need for this roster that plenty of other players could have at this selection. It is clear they panicked when Devon Witherspoon wasn’t available at #6 and ended up here.
13. Green Bay Packers (via New York Jets): Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
This was supposed to be the year that the Packers took an offensive playmaker in the first round. They were linked to Dalton Kincaid throughout the entire process. Instead, the Packers do the Packers thing and select a ‘tweener’ pass rusher. Lukas Van Ness may not have started for Iowa but has all the tools to be a major contributor to Green Bay right away. Similarly to Rashan Gary, Van Ness’ size could allow him to play on both the interior and off the edge. He likely will be a rotational player early in his time with the team. But he could develop into a starter for the Packers to create a scary young pass-rusher duo with Rashan Gary.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (via New England Patriots): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Since Alejandro Villanueva left Pittsburgh in 2021 the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a major need at left tackle. Former fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. has filled in and played fine but the Steelers could use an upgrade. They get past the New York Jets to take the best remaining tackle, Broderick Jones. He is a huge upgrade at left tackle. Jones should step into the left tackle position and silence the concerns over this offensive line that struggled to protect Kenny Pickett and open up running lanes for Najee Harris.
15. New York Jets (via Green Bay Packers): Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
One of the picks many people had in their mock drafts all offseason was Broderick Jones landing with the New York Jets. Since the Jets moved down two selections as a part of the Aaron Rodgers trade, there was a chance the Jets could lose out on a top tackle like Jones. That is exactly what happened and New York clearly was in panic mode. They did land a player in Will McDonald IV who fits well with their defense. However, he doesn’t address a major need on this roster. Many also felt that McDonald would have been selected between the 20th-40th pick in this year’s draft so this was a little early for him. He should be a nice rotational piece for the New York Jets’ deep defensive line that could become a starter early in his career.
16. Washington Commanders: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Washington was expected to take a cornerback in the first round. Not many expected Christian Gonzalez to still be available this late in the draft. No one expected the Washington Commanders to take Emmanuel Forbes over Gonzalez if this situation presented itself. Forbes was extremely productive during his time at Mississippi State. However, he is an extremely light player. There was speculation that Forbes could be a first-round selection despite his size limitation. But it is hard to imagine the rationalization of taking Forbes over Gonzalez.
17. New England Patriots (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Christian Gonzalez, CB, New England Patriots
One season after making a head-scratching selection in the first round the Patriots land a player that they had no business in selecting in Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez. Throughout the draft process, many had Gonzalez as their top cornerback and a top-10 pick. There was a chance that Gonzalez could have been the elite prospect to fall out of the top 10. But no one thought he would fall this far. Gonzalez finds himself in an outstanding situation being coached by the greatest defensive mind in the history of the sport Bill Belichick. New England’s secondary was missing that true number-one cornerback that will shadow Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and Garrett Wilson throughout the season. Gonzalez could develop into an elite number-one cornerback in this system. This could be the selection we look back upon a few years from now and wonder how Gonzalez fell to this selection.
18. Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
From a culture standpoint, Jack Campbell fits the Detroit Lions. He is a traditional throwback linebacker who is not a liability in coverage. However, the Lions take another player in Campbell that doesn’t exactly fill a major need on their roster and was selected a little early. The Lions just gave Alex Anzalone a three-year $18.3 million deal and also have promising second-year linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez starting for them. He will be a foundational piece to this rebuilding defense. But until the Lions address the other needs on this roster it is hard to love this selection.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Is Calijah Kancey going to play left tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Obviously not, but this pick really makes no sense. The Buccaneers’ roster is a shell of what it was a few years ago. But the Buccaneers’ defensive line is still one of the stronger units on the team. They have Pro Bowl nose tackle Vita Vea, 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall, and recent addition and solid contributor Greg Gaines. At times it makes sense for teams to add to a strength on their roster. But it does not make sense when a team has as many weaknesses as the Buccaneers. Kancey was very productive in college but was viewed as a risk due to his measurements. Tampa Bay should have taken the best offensive lineman available after how the poor play of that unit affected the offense and team overall last year.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
It was no secret that this year’s wide receiver class was not as talented as the past few seasons. But it is wild that the best in this year’s class Jaxson Smith-Njigba fell all the way to Seattle with the 20th overall pick. This is an outstanding fit for Smith-Njigba. The Seahawks have been looking for a third wide receiver for their offense since Doug Baldwin retired in 2018. Former second-round pick Dee Eskridge never panned out and veteran Marquise Goodwin was a stopgap at the position. Pro Bowl quarterback Geno Smith has a ton of weapons at his disposal now. Smith-Njigba’s addition to this team will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night figuring out how they’re going to cover D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Noah Fant, and Smith-Njigba, and also contain Kenneth Walker III in the running game.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
On paper, it could be hard to understand why the Los Angeles Chargers felt the need to take a wide receiver in the first round with pass catchers like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, Josh Palmer, and Gerald Everett at their disposal. But over the past few seasons, the Chargers receivers have struggled to stay healthy. This past season the Chargers also struggled to create separation down the field to make big plays. Johnston’s addition should help both of those issues. If Allen and/or Williams were to miss time next season Johnston could slide right in as one of the team’s primary pass catchers. Also despite his size, Johnston has enough speed to create the separation between cornerbacks and himself to make huge plays downfield. Now that Allen and Williams are getting up in age, the Chargers may have found their future number-one receiver late in the first round of this draft.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The biggest need on this Baltimore Ravens roster was at cornerback. To this point, the team has failed to replace Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. Rather than address the position they decided to make another major addition to their wide receiver group in Zay Flowers. Less than 24 hours before the beginning of the NFL Draft there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Baltimore Ravens offense. By the end of the first round, the Ravens locked up former MVP quarterback to a five-year deal and gave him another weapon in Flowers. He could be used similarly to former Ravens receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for this offense. But he will likely start off in the slot while Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Jr. occupy the outside. Flowers, Bateman, Beckham Jr., and the team’s primary pass-catcher Mark Andrews now makes up an extremely talented group of pass-catchers for this Baltimore Ravens team. They have needed to make an upgrade in that area for the better part of a decade.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
There were a couple of directions that Minnesota could have gone with this selection. There was some added attention to this pick because both Will Levis and Hendon Hooker were available for the Vikings. Many felt the Vikings could be the final team to consider taking a quarterback during the first round of the draft. But they decided to address their need at wide receiver by taking Jordan Addison. The former USC receiver immediately becomes the second-best wide receiver and third-best pass catcher in Minnesota. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future of running back for this team. But Kirk Cousins has a talented young group of pass catchers now featuring Addison, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and K.J. Osborn.
24. New York Giants (via Jacksonville Jaguars): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
In mock drafts, the New York Giants have frequently slotted a wide receiver or interior offensive lineman. The receiver board didn’t break the way New York would have liked. So they decided to address a discrete need in a cornerback. Their cornerback room features notable names like Adoree’ Jackson, Cor’Dale Flott, Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, and Amani Oruwariye. Constant reports stated that the Giants have done a lot of homework on this year’s cornerback group. New York was lacking the cornerback that could be tasked with replacing what James Bradberry had been for this defense two years ago. Somehow Deonte Banks makes it down to the Giants here late in the first round. He could contribute right away to this defense as a starter. Banks is a perfect fit for Wink Martindale’s defense. This was a Smart Selection for New York considering all the talented receivers they will see on a consistent basis in the NFC East.
25. Buffalo Bills (via Jacksonville Jaguars from New York Giants): Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
The Buffalo Bills didn’t have many major needs on this roster at this point of the offseason. They could aim to add depth to their offensive line, secondary, and offensive weapons. They jumped over the Dallas Cowboys to select the best remaining pass-catcher tight end Dalton Kincaid. Buffalo didn’t necessarily have a need at tight end. Dawson Knox has been a solid contributor for the Bills in the red zone and in the middle of the field. However, Kincaid can be an upgrade over what they had in Isaiah McKenzie in the middle of the field. He could be used as a big slot receiver similar to how the Miami Dolphins used Mike Gesicki early in his career. He’ll be a size mismatch in the middle of the field for Buffalo and another weapon opposing defenses must account for when playing the Bills.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
Dallas has been aggressive this offseason at addressing major needs adding notable veterans like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. There isn’t a ton of gaps on this roster that need to be addressed early. The biggest need on this roster is at the tight end position. Following Dalton Schultz signing with the Houston Texans, the Cowboys are left with Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. So naturally Michael Mayer feels like a fit here. Instead, the Cowboys draft Mazi Smith to address a position that Dallas hasn’t had great success drafting in recent years. Since 2016 the Cowboys have taken the likes of Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, and John Ridgeway to address their defensive tackle need. Now Dallas takes a swing at defensive tackle in the first round on Mazi Smith. He is a freak athlete but did not put up great production at Michigan. This is a projection pick that doesn’t project to have a huge impact right away. The Cowboys are a great draft class away from hitting that next tier. They appear to have stalled after their first-round selection in this draft.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Buffalo Bills): Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
News broke earlier this week that Jacksonville’s starting left tackle Cam Robinson could miss time due to a suspension next season. On top of that, he is recovering from a major knee injury that ended this season. So the Jaguars decided to take Oklahoma tackle Anton Harrison in the first round. This feels like an overreaction by the Jaguars. Last offseason Jacksonville signed Robinson to a shockingly huge three-year $54 million deal after franchise tagging him twice. If Jacksonville had this kind of doubt about Robinson long-term they should have taken Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal first overall last year. Robinson only has a $5 million dead cap hit if he was released or traded next off-season. So Harrison could be the team’s starting left tackle in the short and long term. This selection further proves the theory that they completely mishandled Robinson’s extension and the first overall selection last year.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Cincinnati Bengals have been a juggernaut on offense the past few seasons. In the past two years, they have retooled their defense. A major reason for this is because once they pay their star offensive players they will likely let their better defensive starters walk in free agency. The Bengals add Myles Murphy to an edge rusher group featuring players like Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and Joseph Ossai. Edge rusher is not a major need for Cincinnati but could be in the near future. There is also no such thing as having too many pass rushers on a roster. In recent years defensive coordinators have built great depth in their defensive line room so they could keep players fresh. Murphy could rotate with their current edge rushers and also kick inside on third downs. In a year or two Murphy could emerge as a major contributor for this defense.
29. New Orleans Saints (via Denver Broncos from Miami Dolphins originally from San Francisco 49ers): Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Despite a lack of salary cap space seemingly every season the Saints have managed to limit their needs this offseason. Their weakest position group is the defensive line, specifically the defensive tackle position. After losing David Onyemata they signed Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepard to multi-year deals. However, the Saints need a high-upside starter on the interior of this line. Bresee is exactly what the Saints need. During his time at Clemson Bresee showed that he is capable of being a dominant player at times. Dennis Allen will have to get more consistent play out of Bresee. If the Saints unlock Bresee this could end up being one of the biggest steals in the entire draft.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
At this point in the draft, everyone had the same idea about what Philadelphia could do here. When they were selecting in the top 10 Nolan Smith was in consideration for the Eagles. Now he is available with the 30th overall pick. Philadelphia continued to keep loading up on Georgia Bulldog defenders adding Nolan Smith a few hours after adding Jalen Carter. Smith is a freaky athletic edge player who can play outside linebacker if asked to do so. His profile is very similar to his new teammate Haasan Reddick. Smith joins an outrageously deep defensive line group in Philadelphia and could be a major contributor right away. If he doesn’t make a major impact right away he could afford to develop over time with all the depth this roster has currently. This pick just feels unfair.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
There aren’t many holes on the Kansas City Chiefs roster. However, they could use another pass rusher after letting go of Frank Clark earlier in the offseason. Kansas City added the local prospect Felix Anudike-Uzomah to their defensive end rotation with 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis and recent signee Charles Omenihu. Kansas City landed a great athlete and one of the best defensive players in college football this past season. He is a great compliment to what Karlaftis brings to the team. He should be an impact player right away for the defending Super Bowl Champions.