2023 NFL Draft recap and grades

Bryce Young goes first overall


Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (top left), Ohio St. quarterback C.J. Stroud (top right), Alabama Edge Will Anderson Jr. (bottom left) and Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (bottom right) highlighted the top four in what proved to be one of the most exciting and interesting drafts in a long time. Nearly 40% of all picks were traded at some point in time in just the first round. Photo from Logan Moseley.

Kansas City hosted the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27, 2023, in what one NFL executive predicted would be “one of the most unpredictable nights ever.” It was all over the place, massive trades and more. I’ll be offering some insight behind the picks, and grading how each team did in the first round.

1- Alabama Quarterback Bryce Young – Carolina Panthers (trade) – A+

After acquiring the first overall pick from the Chicago Bears for wide receiver D.J. Moore and more picks, Carolina hoped to finally move on from Cam Newton at the quarterback position, and took the 5 ’10 quarterback from Alabama. Bryce Young brings a great skill set in his athletic ability and high football IQ, but some worry about his size. We’ve seen guys like Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson go on to win, and that is exactly what the Panthers want, and got, in Young.

2- Ohio St. Quarterback C.J. Stroud – Houston Texans – A-

The expectation once the draft order had been finalized would be the Texans getting their successor to Deshaun Watson, however for the past few weeks this was not the case. An incredible smokescreen here by the Texans. He is definitely built like your prototypical franchise superstar. However his score on the S2 Cognitive test, placing the 13th percentile which was worst amongst all quarterbacks, raised some red flags. Stroud and Young were 1A-2A, so this is a great pick here by the Texans.

3- Alabama Edge Will Anderson Jr. – Houston Texans (trade) – A+

Easily the best pick in the draft, and what a way the Texans got him. By taking Stroud second overall, they also tanked the Cardinals pick, then jumped from 12 to 3 to take the best defensive player in the draft, and to many like myself, the best overall player in the draft. Will Anderson Jr. will add so much pressure off the edge, and even expect him to have a few INTs on the year, as he is just that versatile of a player on defense.

4- Florida Quarterback Anthony Richardson – Indianapolis Colts – B-

This new regime for Indy is going to have either the next Josh Allen or Josh Rosen with this pick; a potential superstar to elevate you to the top of the league, or a guy you trade next year and restart all over. This is nothing against Richardson, but I don’t think his skills will transfer to the NFL well, but heading to Indianapolis might have been the best place for him, as he is paired with former All-Pro running back Johnathan Taylor, potentially creating an offense that will run it down your throat.

5- Illinois Defensive Back Devon Witherspoon – Seattle Seahawks (trade) – B

This was a nice luxury pick here for Seattle, as they hope to build off their impressive and surprising season by adding a nice DB2 to pair alongside standout rookie Tariq Woolen. Seattle nearly took all the time off the clock, which likely means they tried to trade out of this pick, one that they acquired in the Russell Wilson trade last March. Witherspoon was lock down in his time with the Fighting Illini, which will be great for Seattle, especially with the more pass-happy teams they face this year compared to last year.

6- Ohio St. Offensive Tackle Paris Johnson Jr. – Arizona Cardinals (trade) – A+

After face of the franchise quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a season ending ACL tear late last year, bolstering the offensive line had to be the top priority for Arizona. The sixth overall pick has been around town, starting off with the Los Angeles Rams, then going to Detroit in a part of the Matthew Stafford trade, and ending up with Arizona after they traded from 3 to 12, then jumping back into the top ten and taking the star out of Ohio St. Johnson is the best tackle in this class, and reports indicate that the team listened to Murray about Johnson, however that has been refuted by the team. Interesting to deny listening to your star quarterback about someone he wants on the team, and could lead to some burned bridges in the desert.

7- Texas Tech Defensive End Tyree Wilson – Las Vegas Raiders – B+

Tyree Wilson doesn’t get a B+ for his ability, but rather the team he went to. With Vegas still trying to find their identity as an organization, whether they are rebuilding or competing, Wilson will beef up what is already a solid defensive line led by All-Pro Maxx Crosby. If Crosby stays, then this is a great pickup for LV, and here’s to hoping he can be a mentor for him. However I would have liked to see another offensive lineman go off the board here, as that may have been a bit higher of a priority if I were Mike McDaniels. 

8- Texas Running back Bijan Robinson – Atlanta Falcons – C?

The Falcons were highly competitive in free agency this year, grabbing key veterans like defensive lineman Calais Campbell and trading for cornerback Jeffery Okudah, but running back here was questionable for many reasons, especially as rookie Tyler Allgeier ran for over 1,000 yards. This once again could have been a spot for o-line, however Robinson was probably the best offensive player in this class. The 6 ‘0, 220ib star was electric at Texas, but seems to be a bit of a head-stratching pick as this was not the need for the Falcons, especially as they try and take advantage of a very weak NFC South.

9- Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter – Philadelphia Eagles (trade) – A

You can call the Eagles the Philadelphia Eagles on offense, but on defense please refer to them as reigning national champions Philadelphia Bulldogs. This was their third former Georgia player, and second on the defensive line. Carter didn’t fall this far for lack of playing production, but rather his pending legal case and his involvement in a deadly crash shortly after their back-to-back championship win earlier this year, which killed a player and a staffer. Assuming Carter doesn’t have to miss any time, he could very well be in conversations for defensive rookie of the year. This pick was swapped with the Chicago Bears from the Carolina Panthers trade. They originally were at 10, after last year’s draft day trade with the Saints in which they gained the rights for their 2023 first round pick.

10- Tennessee Offensive Tackle Darnell Wright – Chicago Bears (trade) – A-

I love this pick here for the Bears for so many reasons. Yes, Peter Skoronski was on the board but the reason they picked Wright was because of the pass blocking ability, something Skoronski lacks. This shows a massive pivot for the Bears offensively, as they are trying to create more time for sensational quarterback Justin Fields to throw the ball, rather than running it as much as they did.

11- Northwestern Offensive Tackle Peter Skoronski – Tennessee Titans – B+

I have many concerns for this Titans team. After cutting veteran tackle Taylor Lewan due to cap constraints, this was a good move to try and make sure the team will be able to run the ball next year, and not have to resort to Lewan’s backups, as he was often off injured. The Titans would later go on to draft Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, and with veteran Ryan Tannehill and sophomore Malik Willis, Skoronski should be able to provide some blindside protection to whichever of those three quarterbacks see the most playing time this upcoming season.

12- Alabama Running back Jahmyr Gibbs – Detroit Lions (trade)- D-

Every year there is some draft pick that many ask questions about. Gibbs was seen as a second to third round pick by many, as he was small and great in the receiving game, but downhill running was not what he was known for. It also questioned many why they would draft Gibbs, after signing running back David Montomery in free agency as well as having Deandre Swift on the roster. Swift was flipped for a second and a fourth in 2025 to the Philadelphia Eagles on day two of the draft, however still a head scratcher for a team that has the chance to compete. 

13- Iowa Defensive End Lukas Van Ness – Green Bay Packers (trade) – B

The first of multiple first round picks given up by the New York Jets in a deal that sent Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the Brox saw the Packers once again neglect the biggest position of need since the early 2000s, wide receiver, in favor of a depth piece on the front seven. Van Ness was great at Iowa, and was a key part in one of the best defenses in all of college football, but many will question if not taking a wide receiver will behold the same fate for new quarterback Jordan Love, just like those before him, Rodgers and Brett Favre, where the team did not draft any skill players in the first round.

14- Georgia Offensive Tackle Broderick Jones – Pittsburgh Steelers (trade) – A-

Protect Kenny Pickett. Period. The one mistake many franchises have made is taking the flashy wide receiver to pair with their new quarterback, and neglect to add protection to the offensive line. The Steelers are not one of those teams, as they take the next best blindside protector for Pickett, and fill a dire position of need, one that has been high on their board since 2018 and the days of Ben Rothlisburger. This pick was acquired via a draft night trade from the New England Patriots.

15- Iowa State Linebacker Will McDonald IV – New York Jets (trade) – C-

The fact that the Jets kept a pick in the first round this year and traded for a generational quarterback in Aaron Rodgers is nuts to me, but a huge round of applause for their front office for pulling it off. However this is not who I would have seen at 15. A lot of people wanted a wide receiver just to mess with Packers fans a little bit more, but taking a linebacker right now might not have been the best idea, however if the team plans to move on from linebacker C.J. Mosely, and save some money while they are at it, then this may not be a bad pick. Just remember, this guy is a project player, and needs to be treated as such.

16- Mississippi State Defensive Back Emmanuel Forbes – Washington Commanders – C

The first “position of need pick” since early in the first round. A Ron Rivera defense is best led by a strong corner, and that is what Washington is hoping to get out of Forbes. He played well under Mike Gundy (rest in peace) and the Bulldogs defense, but the question is how well it will transition. This is a medium ceiling, low floor guy, however it rubs off on other players, and he elevates the team around him.

17- Oregon Defensive Back Christian Gonzalez, New England Patriots (trade) – B

Gonzalez was one of the higher ranking prospects, and I am nervous on what the defensive mastermind of Bill Belichick can do with a versatile player like Gonzalez. He will play all over the field, and was a key contributor to Oregon’s comeback story this year. The one downside is he may get caught up in a crowded cornerback room, as somehow Belichick manages to whiff on first rounders, and create All-Pro’s from the seventh round.

18- Iowa Linebacker Jack Campbell – Detroit Lions – B+

This is a much better pick than Gibbs, as the Lions NEED defense DESPERATELY. It is very hard for a team to make it to the playoffs boasting the league’s worst defense, but they somehow managed to slot in at pick 18 for their incredible offense. It fills a position of need for sure, but you have to wonder if this was the right guy to take, when you could continue the run on corners at this pick.


*Note- All teams after this point made the playoffs, except for New Orleans, who acquired the San Francisco 49ers pick via a set of trades*


19- Pittsburgh Defensive lineman Calijah Kancey- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – B

Everyone wants the next Aaron Donald, and it’s never a bad idea to try and test the same waters in where he came from in Pittsburgh. Kancey and Donald are similarly built- undersized and big guys that are great at breaking through to get to the quarterback- however a team that just lost Tom Brady should probably go after a quarterback, especially with Will Levis being on the board at this pick. This pick shows extreme confidence in Baker Mayfield, and time will tell on if this pays off or not.

20- Ohio State Wide Receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba- Seattle Seahawks – A-

The sure fire best wideout in this draft class. What a steal at 20, and pairs an already loaded wide receiver room in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Metcalf has the 50-50 ball ability, Lockett has the route running ability, but JSN has a bit of both, with the highlight of his career coming in his first game as a Buckeye, where he made the Nebraska end zone defense look silly with an incredible one-toed snag for the touchdown. However he is coming off a serious injury, one that many should look out for.

21- Miami Dolphins – F(orfeited)

The Dolphins were dumb and tried to tamper to get both Tom Brady and Sean Payton out of retirement, attempting to create the next QB-HC combo. They were caught, and lost this pick. GOOD JOB MIAMI!

22- TCU Wide Receiver Quentin Johnson – Los Angeles Chargers – A+

Probably the best pick in the mid 20s, and helped catapult the run on wideouts as you will later see. The Chargers just gave Justin Herbert the keys to the candy shop, as now he has his speed demon in Johnson, who showcased it all over the place for the Horned Frogs in their National Championship bid, one that would fall short in his new home of SoFi Stadium. Let’s hope that performance by TCU was a fluke, as six current and past Frogs found new homes in LA, either with the Chargers or Rams.

23- Boston College Wide Receiver Zay Flowers – Baltimore Ravens – A

Step one- pick up Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency. Step two- extend Lamar Jackson (Note, this may take three years). Step three- draft Jackson’s favorite wide receiver in the draft. Congratulations Baltimore! You have just successfully navigated the off season! You have now added weapons to make Lamar happy, and paid him a pretty penny in the process. Now, win. Easier said than done but Flowers should help that wide receiver room a lot, and potentially become their next best receiver since Steve Smith Sr., who started his career in Carolina.

24- USC Wide Receiver Jordan Addison – Minnesota Vikings – A

Addison was probably the best weapon in all of college football this past year, after moving from Pitt to USC to pair with the presumed first overall pick in the 2024 draft in quarterback Caleb Williams. Addison has it all; speed, route running and hands, making him the prototypical NFL wideout. This should pair nicely with WR1 Justin Jefferson, who will be in line for a nice contract extension in the near future.

25- Maryland Cornerback Deonte Banks – New York Giants – A+

What a steal this late. Banks had Top-10 talent written all over him, however he just dropped. I couldn’t even tell you if I tried. I was expecting a wide receiver at this spot, after the failed Kenny Golladay experiment, but corner is just as nice, as that is one piece of defense that did require a good amount of improvement. Banks should be as locked down as any defensive guy in this draft, so be on the lookout for his name in the next few years.

26- Utah Tight end Dalton Kincaid – Buffalo Bills – B-

This is around where we get to the best available players going to the top teams, for not necessarily filling a position of need, but rather just trying to get your team to be over the top. Kincaid allows Buffalo to run a two tight end system very effectively, with Dawson Knox on the other side, to make Buffalo’s offense in the red zone to attack you from all corners. 

27- Michigan Nose Tackle Mazi Smith – Dallas Cowboys – C+

Everything is indeed bigger in Texas, and the run stuffer in Mazi Smith added another extra 10 pounds of muscle flying south from Michigan. Great pickup here by Dallas, as they were torched on the ground nearly every game this year. As of right now the NFC is run by San Francisco and Philadelphia, both teams that run the ball over 60% of the time, so stopping the run should lead to success.

28- Oklahoma Offensive Tackle Anton Harrison – Jacksonville Jaguars – B

With starting tackle Cam Robinson leaving in free agency to the Kansas City Chiefs, this was the top position of need for Jacksonville, who had a great first season under head coach Doug Peterson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In order for Lawrence to reach his sky high potential, he needs time to throw the ball, and Harrison allows him time to find his open man, and potentially, score.

29- Clemson Edge Myles Murphy – Cincinnati Bengals – A-

Great value pick here for Cincy, as once again this is a team taking the best available player. The Bengals are almost there, and getting another piece in the pass rushing rotation. With vets like Trey Hendrickson able to show Murphy the ropes of the NFL, I expect big things from Murphy.

30- Clemson Defensive Tackle Bryan Bresee – New Orleans Saints (trade) – B-

Get ready for a story of the 29th pick. This pick originally belonged to the San Francisco 49ers, who traded THREE first round picks to the Miami Dolphins for the rights of the third overall pick in the 2021 draft, who they took Trey Lance. Miami then flipped this pick during the trade deadline for Broncos star pass rusher Bradley Chubb, which also included extra compensation. Finally, the Saints wound up with this pick here in a trade involving the contract rights for retired head coach Sean Payton, who went to the Broncos, and this pick to the Saints. Overall this is not a bad pick at all for the Saints, who need a lot of help from the defensive line, especially the interior, as they lost key players in free agency, like former first rounder Marcus Davenport.

31- Georgia Linebacker Nolan Smith – Philadelphia Eagles – A+

Smith tested off the charts at the combine early February, and the Eagles continue to pick up former Bulldogs left and right. It’s worth noting they also picked Georgia corner Kelee Ringo on day three, which makes me believe that general manager Howie Roseman knows something down in Athens leads to winning, something he hopes to finish this time, and Smith will help tremendously off the edge.

32- Kansas St. Defensive lineman Felix Anudike-Uzomah – Kansas City Chiefs – C

The hometown picks to get the crowd in KC ready for football. It is never a bad idea to get rotational pieces for your team, regardless of how your team preformed last year. Great pick by KC, and it is always a cool story to see the hometown kid get drafted in the first round.


And with that the first round of the 2023 draft is graded and complete. Many teams drafted great over the next few days, others not so much, and only time will tell until we know who truly won the 2023 NFL Draft.