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2023 NFL Draft Day One: Grading All 31 First-Round Picks

The top 5 picks of the 2023 NFL Draft, outside of Bryce Young going #1 overall, provided a lot of drama. We ended up with a lot of smoke and mirrors and the top 4 picks going about as chalky as they could have. It still took a trade by the Texans to get Will Anderson and C.J. Stroud at picks 2 and 3, leading to some early drama. Still, the draft overall went as expected, except for a few picks in the middle of the order that surprised everyone, starting with the Lions selecting RB Jahmyr Gibbs at pick 12.

Other 2023 Day One NFL Draft notes

  • Only three QB drafted. Many projected 4 or 5, including myself, late as the buzz for Will Levis and Hendon Hooker was rising, and C.J. Stroud was trending downward in the media. Will Levis is still available on day two.

  • On day one, teams wanted to build the trenches. A total of 16 combined offensive and defensive linemen were drafted.

1). Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama (A+)

Analysis: Bryce Young was always the overwhelming favorite to go number one overall. Bryce Young will continue to get knocked for being the smallest QB in the league, but his film and production at Alabama are undeniable.

2). Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (A)

Analysis: There was a lot of chatter that the Texans might pass on a QB at pick 2, but if they wanted C.J. Stroud, he was not falling out of the top 10. C.J. Stroud took quite a beating in the draft community the last few weeks after his low S2 Cognition score leaked. He absorbed it and was still the 2nd QB drafted, as initially projected. The S2 score will still linger in the minds of many until he proves it on the field. This was the right pick for a Texans team that needed to add a potential franchise QB.

3). Texans (Via Cardinals): Edge Will Anderson Jr., Alabama (A+)

Analysis: The Texans paid a hefty price to get Will Anderson Jr., the top prospect on our board. Will Anderson is an Instant Impact rookie who will come right in and start on day one. Was the price worth it? According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals traded the 3rd overall pick with pick 105 for the Texan's 2023 12th, 33rd, with a 2024 1st and 3rd. The pick is an A+, but the price is a C-.

4). Colts: Anthony Richardson, Florida (A)

Analysis: The Colts had long been projected to take Will Levis or Anthony Richardson if one or the other would be available. The Colts chose Richardson, and his athletic profile and big arm appear to be the perfect match for a Shane Steichen-led offense. One guarantee I'd bet on is that we better get ready for a heavy dose of Richardson 3rd and 4th & 1 rugby scrums.

5). Seahawks: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois (A)

Analysis: The Seahawks are re-creating a no-fly zone in the pacific northwest after they opted to draft a CB to pair opposite Tariq Woolen. Witherspoon was not a player we projected in this spot. The favorite had always been Jalen Carter or Will Anderson. At the end of the day, The Seahawks added an elite physical defender that can provide a year-one instant impact.

6). Cardinals (via Lions): OT Paris Johnson Jr. Ohio State (A-)

Analysis: The Cardinals traded back with the Texans only to trade back up with the Lions. Kyler Murray reportedly wanted them to Draft Paris Johnson Jr., which is precisely what happened. The Cardinals have a lot of needs, and those needs start with protecting their franchise QB. Paris Johnson Jr. provides positional versatility and can be a year-one starter as an interior player as he learns the speed of the NFL game before flipping to tackle. They could have drafted an interior impact defender Jalen Carter in this spot, or Tyree Wilson.

7). Raiders: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (A-)

Analysis: The Raiders need a lot, and building the defense will be imperative if they want to compete in the AFC West. They started the process by drafting Tyree Wilson, whose tape jumps off the screen. Wilson is a true edge-setter with freakish length and athleticism.

8). Falcons: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (B+)

Analysis: The Falcons have a lot of needs. I would have loved to see them make a move to #3 overall to get a QB, but the price was obviously too high. They could have taken a swing at Will Levis in this spot. Never forget that they passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they did not miss on this pick. Bijan Robinson is one of maybe 4-5 can't miss players in the draft. He is the safe pick in this spot. Yes, it is a RB, but he will be a day-one starter with three-down versatility that can help whoever it is at QB succeed. They could have filled a need at CB or IDL.

9). Eagles (via Bears): IDL Jalen Carter, Georgia (A+)

Analysis: Carter was once the top prospect on our board. It came down to him, and Will Anderson Jr. Carter had a rough lead-up to the draft. He was at the scene of a fatal street racing crash that took the lives of a teammate and Georgia staffer. He was not found to be at fault, but it raised eyebrows when it was reported he was on the scene. He followed that up with an awful pro-day performance where he failed to finish drills appearing out of shape. His tape is undeniable. He has the potential to be a dominant interior player. You don't just find elite interior players that can line up anywhere. The Eagles are becoming the Georgia of the north.

10). Bears (Via Eagles): OT Darnell Wright Tennessee (A)

Analysis: GM Ryan Poles is doing everything right to rebuild the diminished Bears roster he inherited. They traded back with the Panthers to gain more draft capital, and it appears they will work on building the team from the inside out around Justin Fields. The Bears drafted one of the top offensive linemen with arguably the highest ceiling.

11). Titans: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (A)

Analysis: The Titans reportedly were a team looking to move into position for a QB, but ultimately remained at pick 11, where they would land one of if not the top tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft. Skoronski provides positional versatility at a position of need.

12). Lions (Via Cardinals) RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama (B+)

Analysis: I do not hate this decision. It is earlier than I believed Gibbs would go, not because of his tape. Gibbs provides Alvin Kamara with three-down versatility and will be paired with David Montgomery and Deandre Swift. I still believe they should have taken CB Christian Gonzalez, but I am not sad that I get to see the Lions build an elite offense.

13). Packers (via Jets): Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa (B+)

Analysis: Not a flashy pick. People texted me when the Packers were on the clock, asking me what they might do. I believed they would go with Broderick Jones to help bolster an ailing offensive line. They ultimately chose the elite upside potential of Lukas Van Ness. Everyone wanted to see them go WR here.

14). Steelers (Via Patriots): OT Broderick Jones, Georgia (A)

Analysis: The player I believed the Packers might take goes to the next team needing offensive line help. The Steelers had to trade up to get Jones, the last of the top-tier tackles left on the board.

15). Jets (via Packers): Edge Will McDonald, Iowa State (B-)

Analysis: I don't hate it. McDonald was an extremely productive player at Iowa State. He is a bit lean but can potentially be a year-one impact player. I had McDonald going late round one at best.

16). Commanders: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State (B+)

Analysis: Forbes is the record holder for career pick-sixes and collected 14 INT's in college. The dude had a knack for pick-sixes in high school. He is a lean player weighing about 170 lbs soaking wet, but he has length at 6-1, and his tape shows he can play physically and did that in the SEC.

17). Patriots (Via Steelers): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon (A+)

Analysis: Finally, a team gets it right. Gonzalez is a top-ten player in this draft. He fell in the lap of Bill Belichick, and it is a match made in heaven. Gonzalez is a fluid, lengthy, physical corner with year-one instant impact potential.

18). Lions: LB Jack Campbell, Iowa (B+)

Analysis: I like the player, but where he is being picked is questionable. He is the perfect match to pair with Dan Campbell and is an athletic freak who will be a year-one instant impact player.

19). Bucs: IDL Calijah Kancey, Pitt (B+)

Analysis: Word in the scouting community all week had the Bucs potentially taking a QB. Some had Will Levis, and others had Hendon Hooker. I mocked Hooker as a possibility this week, but they ultimately go the safe route by upgrading the interior of their defense.

20). Seahawks: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (A)

Analysis: A direct hit from my last mock draft. Smith-Njigba in the slot with Metcalf and Lockett on the outside should be amazing. Njigba is a true slow receiver who drew comparisons to Julian Edelman and Amon Ra St. Brown throughout the process.

21). Chargers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU (A)

Analysis: I did not have Johnston on my Bingo card to the Chargers, but it is a great pick. I had cooled on Johnston in recent weeks. He does have a high ceiling, and for a WR his size that does what he can after the catch is not common. Justin Herbert will elevate his ceiling as a rookie.

22). Ravens: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College (A+)

Analysis: The next Tyler Lockett or Antonio Brown is the word on the streets. He shows it on tape at the college level and has the wheels to be elite in the NFL. He should be an immediate starter in 2023, and with Lamar Jackson signing his record contract a few hours earlier, the energy in Baltimore is to the moon.

23). Vikings: WR Jordan Addison, USC (B+)

Analysis: At one point, Addison was the WR1 on our board. We flipped to Quentin Johnston at another point during the process because of the size and athleticism before ultimately going back to Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The reality is that this receiver class at the top is graded equally for different reasons. In addition, the WR group has a lot of scheme-specific players who would need to be a fit in the right spot. Addison will instantly be an impact player paired with Justin Jefferson in year one. The Vikings still need to upgrade at CB.

24). Giants (Via Jags): CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

Analysis: Well, they traded two day-three picks to move up one spot. They ultimately take the best available CB. It is a need, and they could have drafted Nolan Smith as well and waited for a CB in what is a deep day-two group.

25). Bills (via Jags): TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah (A)

Analysis: Kincaid is an elite receiver who can line up all over the formation. The Bills need to add a versatile offensive player, and they had to trade up to do it.

26). Cowboys: IDL Mazi Smith, Michigan (B)

Analysis: The Cowboys wanted a TE; rumors indicate they wanted Kincaid. They did not get him. I mocked them, taking an IDL numerous times, and Mazi Smith was one of those I mocked a few times in this position. Smith is a freak who can anchor the middle of your defense. He is not a pass-rush specialist, but he will stuff the run. The concern is he did not post gaudy numbers in college. Can Dan Quinn elevate his ceiling? I graded them lower because Bryan Bresee was still on the board.

27). Jaguars (Via Bills): OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma (A)

Analysis: An experienced player from Oklahoma, he has positional versatility and only gave up 4 sacks his entire career, according to PFF.

28). Bengals: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson (A)

Analysis: So many people believed the Bengals would go TE, but when an edge rusher with Murphy's athletic profile falls to you, you have to prioritize it even if the need is not that vital. Look for the Bengals to add to their secondary in later rounds.

29). Saints: IDL Bryan Bresee, Clemson (A-)

Analysis: Bresee once held top-ten value, but his injury history derailed his stock. He is still worthy of a late pick, and the Saints capitalized.

30). Eagles: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia (A+)

Analysis: What a steal. I have had Smith in or around the top ten of my draft board throughout the process. Smith is a tweener. He could be the next Von Miller or Hassan Reddick, and to get that type of ceiling potential at pick 30 is absolute thievery. The Eagles sealed their day-one title with this pick.

31). Chiefs: Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah (B-)

Analysis: I did not have Uzomah graded to go this high, but many people did, and he has a nice ceiling to work with. The Chiefs have now Drafted two edge rushers in back-to-back years (George Kalaftis) in the late first round.


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