All position rankings and overall rankings are according to ESPN.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has now read the first 31 names of the 2023 NFL Draft. There were some surprises and questionable decisions by GMs around the league. Here’s a recap of the first round of the draft and a look at which teams made the right call.
1. Carolina Panthers select QB Bryce Young
This was the right pick for the Panthers. After bringing in head coach Frank Reich, G Bradley Bozeman, WR Adam Thielen and WR DJ Chark, the Panthers are a lot closer to playoff contention than people might expect. They finished last season 7-10 with middling quarterback play and they needed to draft an NFL-ready signal caller in this draft. People will knock him for his size, but Bryce Young is a proven winner. The one-time USC commit threw for 79 touchdowns in two seasons as the starter at Alabama, winning a Heisman Trophy in the process. The Panthers have the O-line to protect Young and Young has the proven talent to win a weak NFC South as early as this year.
2. Houston Texans select QB C.J. Stroud
Another selection, another smart choice for the Texans. Stroud is a two-time Heisman finalist and threw for 85 touchdowns in two years as the starter at Ohio State. Standing at 6 foot 3, Stroud has the size that Young does not. The only knock on Stroud is his lack of strong play in big moments. Two of Stroud’s biggest games in his college career came against rival Michigan. In his career as a starter, Stroud had better than a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio. In those two games against Michigan, which were both losses, that ratio dropped to 2:1. To Stroud’s credit, two of his best games came in a 48-45 Rose Bowl victory over Utah in 2022 and a 42-41 loss in the CFP to eventual-champion Georgia this past season. Other than those worries, Stroud will be a great NFL quarterback.
The only reason I question this pick is because the Texans are not ready to win like the Panthers. The Texans are coming off a 3-13-1 season and their team has more problems than just the quarterback position. With the Jaguars and Titans expected to contend for the AFC South, the Texans may finish in the cellar again. They could have focused on the defense and waited a year to pick Caleb Williams, the projected No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
3. Houston Texans select OLB Will Anderson Jr.
With that being said, the Texans did fill a need with Will Anderson Jr. But in doing so, they had to trade the No. 12 and No. 33 overall picks in this year’s draft, along with a first and third rounder in next year’s draft. While I certainly expect Stroud and Anderson, who finished his college career with 34.5 sacks, to significantly improve this Texans team, I still think they will finish in the bottom half of the NFL this year. Next year’s first round pick is almost a lock to be in the top 20 picks, with a solid chance to be in the top 10. The Texans could have drafted Anderson at second overall, kept the No. 12 pick and then drafted Williams next year. The Texans are clearly very high on these two players, but I’m not sure their decision making will look good down the line.
4. Indianapolis Colts select QB Anthony Richardson
Anyone who has talked to me about the draft knows I am very low on Richardson. He was only the starter at Florida for one season, going 6-7 with 17 touchdowns and a whopping 9 interceptions. The NFL combine showed how freakishly athletic he was and people are building him up to be the next Cam Newton. But those same people forget Newton won a Heisman Trophy in college. Richardson is a project and if any team were to take him, the Colts were the right team. Coming off a 4-12-1 season, Indianapolis is likely in rebuild mode for the next couple of years. Richardson has a lot to work on, but he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft, coupled with the lowest floor.
5. Seattle Seahawks select CB Devon Witherspoon
As a Seahawks fan myself, I was shocked at this pick. I thought Seattle was either going defensive line or quarterback, but they decided to go with Witherspoon to pair him up with Tariq Woolen, a 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year finalist. Head coach Pete Carroll loves speedy corners like Witherspoon, so he should fit in well on the Seahawk defense. This is likely a reach as the Seahawks have bigger holes in the front seven than they do in the secondary, but ESPN had Witherspoon as the top rated cornerback and the Seahawks avoided the mistake of drafting Will Levis with this pick. Overall, this was a solid pick.
6. Arizona Cardinals select OT Paris Johnson Jr.
The Cardinals dropped out of the top 10 with their trade with the Texans, but then traded up with the Detroit Lions to select Paris Johnson Jr. Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked 46 times last season, which was bottom 10 in the league, so this fills a large hole for the Cardinals. It was smart for Arizona to trade back into the top 10 as two other offensive tackles were taken before pick No. 12, where the Cardinals would have drafted if not for making the trade. ESPN rated the tackle from Ohio State as the second best offensive tackle in the draft, so this is likely a reach. The Cardinals could have afforded to let the Lions pick here and trade back into the top 10 with a different team.
7. Las Vegas Raiders select EDGE Tyree Wilson
The Raiders only had 27 sacks last season, third worst in the league. In comes Wilson, who had seven sacks in each of the last two seasons at Texas Tech. Wilson now pairs with Maxx Crosby for a formidable pass rush duo. There are many other holes on the Raiders roster, but ESPN rated Wilson as the No. 4 overall prospect and he was by far the best available on the board at the time. This is arguably the best value pick of the first round.
8. Atlanta Falcons select RB Bijan Robinson
This pick baffles me. Robinson is going to be a great running back in the NFL. But the Falcons already have Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 1,035 yards last season as a rookie. Robinson is certainly an upgrade over Allgeier, but there were many other prospects on the board who could have filled bigger needs for the Falcons. Atlanta now boasts Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Robinson on offense, but they really could have used the player whom the Eagles selected with the next pick.
9. Philadelphia Eagles select DT Jalen Carter
Carter is a great player who will pair well with former Georgia teammate Jordan Davis on the defensive line. There were not many holes on a team who went to the Super Bowl just this past season, but Brandon Graham is 35 and Fletcher Cox is 32. Those two are not done playing yet, but there needs to be some younger impact players for the Eagles as they look to make it back to and win the Super Bowl. He only had three sacks last season, but forced two fumbles on a team that won the national championship.
10. Chicago Bears select OT Darnell Wright
This one was a head scratcher. Wright was projected to be in the top 20, but was rated as the No. 4 offensive tackle in this class. With only one offensive tackle taken prior, it begs the question what the Bears saw in him that others didn’t.
11. Tennessee Titans select OT Peter Skoronski
Skoronski is who the Bears should have selected with their pick. He was rated as the No. 1 offensive tackle but might become a guard in the NFL, which may have dissuaded the Bears from taking him. Skoronski was one of few bright spots on a bad Northwestern team last year and will run-block well for Derrick Henry.
12. Detroit Lions select RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Maybe it’s my aversion to drafting running backs with top-20 picks, but this was another head scratcher. The Lions still have D’Andre Swift and signed David Montgomery this offseason. Similarly to Robinson, Gibbs will be a great player in the NFL. I just don’t understand what the Lions were doing here with holes on the defensive line. The Lions will likely compete for a Wild Card spot, maybe even the division with the Vikings, but they needed to have a home-run draft to truly be in the running. This was not a great start.
13. Green Bay Packers select DE Lukas Van Ness
Van Ness recorded 13.5 sacks across the past two seasons for a very good Iowa defense. But if Jordan Love is going to start at quarterback for the Packers, he is going to need some help. The Packers still have Rashan Gary and Preston Smith to rush the passer, so this was not truly a need for Green Bay. It’s especially so because Van Ness only earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors this past season.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers select OT Broderick Jones
This was a great pick as Jones will help protect second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett this upcoming season. Jones won two national championships with Georgia and will look to get Pittsburgh back to the playoffs. Pickett was sacked 27 times last year and got injured in the process. The Steelers were the only team to draft a quarterback in the first round of last year’s draft and will look to keep their investment healthy this year.
15. New York Jets select OLB Will McDonald IV
The Jets have their quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and turned to the defense with their first pick in the draft. This is likely a reach with Nolan Smith still on the board, but McDonald had 33 sacks across four seasons. He is on the older side, as he’ll be 24 in the fall, but this was a good pick by the Jets as they look to compete for a playoff spot.
16. Washington Commanders select CB Emmanuel Forbes
Forbes weighed in at 166 pounds at the NFL Combine. If you think that’s low for an NFL player, that’s because it is. For comparison, Denis Lynch, a kicker for the USC football team, stands at 5 foot 8 and is listed at 185 pounds. Forbes will need to put on some weight if he wants to produce at the NFL level but ran a blazing 4.35-second 40-yard dash. That was tied for fifth fastest at the combine and was tied for the third fastest cornerback time. It was an interesting choice to draft Forbes over Christian Gonzalez, who went to the Patriots with the next pick.
17. New York Patriots select CB Christian Gonzalez
ESPN had Gonzalez as the No. 8 prospect in the entire draft, but he fell to the Patriots at pick No. 17. I have nothing more to say other than this was a good pickup by the Patriots, who were able to pick up a player who slipped down draft boards.
18. Detroit Lions select ILB Jack Campbell
Another blunder by the Lions. Campbell was rated as the No. 58 prospect, but the Lions selected him at 18. If they were going to massively reach for a player, they should’ve reached for a player on the defensive line. James Houston was great for the Lions last year and Malcolm Rodriguez is still young, so while middle linebacker was a need, having someone to go opposite Aidan Hutchinson was more important. Let’s see if the Lions can recover in rounds 2-7.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select DT Calijah Kancey
Unless Baker Mayfield has an incredible career resurgence, which is still possible, the Buccaneers might be in the thick of the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. I only mention this because this is not a pick that will turn the Tampa Bay franchise around this upcoming year. Kancey had the fastest 40-yard dash of any defensive tackle at the combine and has great pass-rusher abilities, recording 7.5 sacks as a defensive tackle last year. He will pair well with Vita Vea and will be a good player, but it will likely be up to Mayfield to help Tampa Bay have a good season.
20. Seattle Seahawks select WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
The fact the Seahawks selected Smith-Njigba here likely means one of DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett is on their way out. The Ohio State product will be a great weapon for Geno Smith and Pete Carroll over the next couple years.
21. Los Angeles Chargers select WR Quentin Johnston
That was only the start of the wide receiver run though. Johnston was only one win away from a national championship with TCU this past year and will look to help the Chargers get to the playoffs. Los Angeles already has Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but that will likely put a third-choice coverage guy onto Johnston. This will bode well for the 6 foot 3 wideout.
22. Baltimore Ravens select WR Zay Flowers
Gosh, another wide receiver? Lamar Jackson just inked a new contract with the Ravens but likely requested the team get him more receiver help. Odell Beckham Jr. is not enough to fulfill Jackson’s wishes, so picking up Flowers was a smart move. He had over 1,000 receiving yards for Boston College last year.
23. Minnesota Vikings select WR Jordan Addison
Four in a row. Wow. USC fans already know about Addison. The former Biletnikoff Award winner will likely replace the role of Adam Thielen for the Vikings, as Thielen is now with the Panthers.
24. New York Giants select CB Deonte Banks
Banks will play opposite former Trojan Adoree’ Jackson as the Giants try to improve on their divisional round appearance. The former Maryland Terrapin fills a need for the Giants. There were a lot of question marks about the cornerback position behind Jackson, so Banks will compete for a starting position immediately.
25. Buffalo Bills select TE Dalton Kincaid
Kincaid is the third player in a row with a USC connection. Trojan fans will remember Kincaid’s 234-yard performance against USC en route to a 43-42 Utah win. Kincaid is the first tight end off the board in this draft and joins Josh Allen and a potent Buffalo offense.
26. Dallas Cowboys select DT Mazi Smith
Might as well add in another USC connection here. Smith went to Michigan and was coached by current USC defensive line coach Shaun Nua. Smith is primarily a run-stuffer but will also pull attention away from Micah Parsons so Parsons can do some damage in the backfield.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars select OT Anton Harrison
The string of solid picks ends there. It’s like the Jaguars want to be mediocre. According to ESPN, Harrison is the seventh best offensive tackle in this class, yet he was the fifth taken off the board. There is not much difference between offensive tackles 5-8, but Harrison was rated as the 55th overall prospect. It fills a need for the Jaguars as Cam Robinson was just hit with a PED suspension. Since reports of the suspension were handed down on draft day, the Jaguars may have been rushed to find this pick.
28. Cincinnati Bengals select DE Myles Murphy
There are no HUGE needs for the Bengals, which allows them to add Murphy to a position that was already a strength. Murphy will likely sit behind Trey Hendrickson and Sum Hubbard this year.
29. New Orleans Saints select DT Bryan Bresee
Bresee dealt with injuries in his time at Clemson, but if he stays healthy in New Orleans, he can have a big impact on the defensive line.
30. Philadelphia Eagles select OLB Nolan Smith
The Philadelphia Bulldogs — excuse me — the Philadelphia Eagles seem to want every single player from the University of Georgia. They have now drafted Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith in the last two drafts from Georgia. If Smith had declared for the draft a year earlier, he likely would have been drafted even higher than pick 30, but he had a season-ending injury this past season. He will likely become an impact player at the next level.
31. Kansas City Chiefs select DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
What a cool name to finish this off. The Chiefs lost Frank Clark this offseason, so Anudike-Uzomah will have a hand in replacing Clark’s production for the defending Super Bowl champs.