The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is over and Thursday proved to be one of the needle-moving days on the league’s calendar. Lamar Jackson finally got paid and several teams addressed some of their biggest needs ahead of next season. There were only 31 first-round picks this year (haha Miami) and teams picked almost as many running backs (two) as they did QBs (three). Whoever predicted that going into the first round would’ve been a psychopath. But here we are.
Some teams clearly made their futures better while others made decisions that are hard to comprehend. Here we’ll break down the biggest winners and losers from the NFL Draft. While everyone’s offseason isn’t over yet, not cashing in on the second biggest day on the NFL’s annual calendar means you’re behind the rest of the league. Let’s start with the most obvious loser from last night.
Before the draft began, it was a matter of where the former Kentucky quarterback was selected, not if he had to spend an extra night in a Kansas City hotel. And now the mayonnaise-in-his-coffee-loving jabroni will at best go No. 32 overall. Instead of celebrating with his new team, he had to watch ESPN’s Pete Thamel give a report on how teams didn’t find him likable and others thought he wasn’t of the same skill level as Anthony Richardson and possibly Hendon Hooker.
After losing out on the franchise’s single-pegged savior of Bryce Young to Carolina, the Texans “settled” on former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2. With the Cardinals heavily shopping the No. 3 overall pick, it was a matter of who jumped up to take the coveted spot, not if someone wanted to trade with Arizona. And Houston made the aggressive move to come up and get Will Anderson Jr., becoming the third team in the common draft era to have two of the top three picks in the NFL Draft. The others? Indianapolis in 1992 and Washington in 2000.
Before Thursday night, the Lions looked like a franchise on the rise with the tilting power of the NFC North. And they reached heavily on both first-round draft selections. Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell are good players but specifically didn’t address where Detroit’s major team needs are. The Lions already had D’Andre Swift and David Montgomery at running back. Thinking that a trio will exist by committee is foolish. What a waste.
The Ravens only had one first-round selection and used it to select Boston College WR Zay Flowers (pictured) addressing a major team need.
However, Baltimore won Thursday in general by locking Lamar Jackson into a long-term extension.
Now the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Flowers has one of the best quarterbacks in the league — and the highest paid — throwing to him and morale should be peaking for the Ravens.
The trade-down kings were at it again, this time fleecing a division rival. The Patriots traded back three spots from No. 14 and gave their pick to Pittsburgh, who selected former Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. That’s clearly who the Jets had zeroed in on because they appeared beyond unprepared with their 10 minutes and reached heavily on former Iowa State linebacker Will McDonald, who might still be available going into the second round if it wasn’t for a New York blunder.
The Eagles might’ve missed out on Bijan Robinson by two picks, which would’ve been a total break for the Super Bowl runners-up. Instead, they added two key defensive pieces who won two national titles at Georgia in Jalen Carter (pictured) and Nolan Smith. Carter’s off-field troubles are well-documented, but many had him as the most talented player in the draft. And Smith was on some teams’ radars around No. 16. Philadelphia continues to be the frontrunner in the NFC.
Neither the Commanders, Giants, nor Cowboys had a particularly phenomenal first-round pick, with the strongest probably being Washington. How that trio plans on stopping the Eagles is beyond me. The division might get three playoff teams again this season because none of them are bad, but the rich got richer on Thursday night. And the only NFC East team of true value right now is in Philly.
Yes, it was a slam dunk. No, they didn’t mess it up and took an incredibly talented quarterback. The Panthers are oddly set up as the former owners of the No. 1 overall pick to cater to a rookie quarterback. Their defense is already good and Carolina signed Adam Thielen and Miles Sanders this offseason. Now just add one of the best game managers college football has ever since in Bryce Young into the mix. That’s a victory.
How boring were portions of last night’s telecast? What the heck did the Jonas Brothers talking about their musical influences do to not put the audience to sleep? Saturday Night Live cast member Heidi Gardner and actor Eric Stonestreet starting off the show induced several yawns, only to be woken up by the annoying duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. You won the Super Bowl, we get it. The draft is in Kansas City. A rib-eating competition woulda been better.
Being in the odd position of having a trusted quarterback and still owning the No. 1 overall pick worked well in the Bears’ favor. They traded back twice, once each with Carolina and Philadelphia, and still addressed their biggest need in securing former Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright (pictured), who will help protect Justin Fields from day No. 1. It is weird that Chicago got exactly what it needed from the first round of the draft. Now the Bears’ fans will brace for impact for when their front office messes it up.