2023 NFL Draft: First Round Review
By Simon Carroll
The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is in the books – and as always it brought with it it’s fair share of drama! Simon Carroll gives his thoughts on all thirty-one selections made:
1. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
David Tepper gets his guy. What a situation for Young to land in; a young roster full of talent, with an improving o-line, revamped backfield and some reasonable weapons to work with. But most importantly, he gets to work with Frank Reich. The size concerns are legitimate, the talent undoubtable.
The Carolina Panthers are legit NFC South Contenders.
2. HOUSTON TEXANS
CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The right choice. Nick Caserio is heading into year three, and there are rumours his job is on the line. It’s time to shit or get off the pot as they say, and The Texans’ GM has finally hitched his wagon to a quarterback.
Stroud is an elite processor from the pocket who cn make all the throws with anticpation. He showed he can elevate his game outside of structure and in moments of adversity – just turn on the Georgia tape from last year. Houston has a franchise QB.
3. HOUSTON TEXANS
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Nick Caserio wasn’t done it seems. He wanted to get his business taken care of and head for a cold one, so traded up from 12 to take the best edge rusher in the draft.
There were rumours that Houston wanted Will Anderson all along, but knowing they had to go QB they orchestrated quite the splash at the top of the draft. Anderson is a locker room leader and high character guy; the ideal piece for DeMeco Ryans to build his defense around.
4. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Chris Ballard has done a great job with the Colts roster since he got the job, but has never been able to get over the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck. Today, he finally got his long-term answer at quarterback…
Pairing Anthony Richardson with Shane Steichen, considering what he was able to do with Jalen Hurts last year, seems like a match made in heaven. Richardson hasn’t landed on a team that has a veteran to sit behind and learn from, so he’ll take his lumps early – but his new head coach is the ideal man to tailor a playbook to his strengths.
5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Seahawks spring a mini-surprise, passing on an edge rusher and taking a cornerback instead. Selecting Devon Witherspoon is a classic tactic of doubling down on strength – last year Schneider and Carroll struck gold with their selections of Tariq Wooden and Coby Bryant. Witherspoon isn’t quite built the same way, but he brings undeniable playmaking skills to the position.
6. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State
Monti Ossenfort was having fun in his first ever NFL Draft as a GM! First he trades down from 3 to 12, before bouncing back up – switching spots with The Lions at 6. The target? an elite pass protector for Kyler Murray…
Paris Johnson is huge, with anincredible wingspan. He’s strong and quick, and has experience playing both on the left and right sides of the line. He’s another high-character prospect with a high floor that fills a positional need – an ideal first pick for a new GM.
7. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Raiders zig whilst the rest of the AFC West zags – instead of trying to fight fire with fire and load up the passing game, they instead look to bolster their pass rush and slow down the gunslingers in their division.
Tyree Wilson is long and has incredible play strength. He has made a living destroying pocket protection with his bull rush, but has the burst and movement to be more than that. A high upside pick, Wilson could be the best edge rusher of the lot when all is said and done – but he’s not there yet.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Oh I have loved mocking Bijan to the Falcons at every opportunity. The fit was just too good, and it seems Terry Fontenot agrees. The Falcons have poured a lot of money into their offensive line this offseason, and with young playmakers at receiver and tight end, adding an elite weapon in the backfield was the finishing touch to this offense.
Arthur Smith has rebuilt the offense he expertly presided over back in Tennessee. Are the Falcons ready to push for the playoffs?
9. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia
Cheeky little trade up here for Philly, throwing the Bears a 4th rounder to make sure they get the guy they have coveted all along.
This made too much sense. Howie loves to build the trenches and loves Georgia Bulldog defenders. Jalen Carter comes with some baggage, but there’s no denying the talent. The Eagles hope they have the characters and culture in the locker room to get the best out of him. He could be the final piece to get this team over the hump.
10. CHICAGO BEARS
Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
After spending heavily – wisely, but heavily – in free agency, Ryan Poles knew he had to address Justin Fields’ protection early in this draft. Moving down one spot didn’t affect their selection, taking Darnell Wright at 10.
Wright was utterly dominant against the best edge rushers in college football last year. Big and strong with a composed play style, he was an ascending draft prospect who will slot in at right tackle from day one.
11. TENNESSEE TITANS
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Tennessee avoids the temptation to draft Ryan Tannehill’s successor, despite Will Levis still being on the board. Instead, they offer their incumbent better protection, taking Peter Skoronski.
A technician, there isn’t much from a technique standpoint that Skoronski cannot do. He’s quick, smooth and powerful, and proficient as a run blocker and pass protector. His lack of length is the one drawback, but worst case scenario he kicks inside and plays guard. Either way, The Titans have found themselves a pro bowl offensive lineman.
12. DETROIT LIONS
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Were the Lions all in on Devon Witherspoon at 6? It seems that way, so when they saw him go to Seattle at 5, they traded out.
What came next raised some eyebrows, but to me it makes sense; this regime has never been sold on D’Andre Swift, and the thought of pairing David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs together in a ‘thunder and lightning’ tandem is exciting. In a draft where the consensus opinion is it lacks elite talent, taking a player you are confident will be productive for you is the priority – and to hell with positional versatility.
13. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Classic Packers pick. Firstly, forget the idea of a first round receiver – it’s now a matter of principle, and they won’t be taking one. Next, find a valued position in the trenches, and find the guy with the measurables and biggest upside – and that’s your man.
Lukas Van Ness looks like he’s been chiselled out of granite. He’s absolutely ripped! Big, strong and quick, he’s notoriously never started a game for Iowa, but that doesn’t mean much. He’s a little raw with a lot of upside.
14. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Steelers, anticipating the Jets will take Broderick Jones, jup up three spots to beat them to the Georgia behemoth.
Jones is ridiculously smooth for such a big dude. He’s probably better at pass pro than he is run blocking – but you still wouldn’t want to feel his hands hit your pads. A man mover, he has the feel of a decade long blindside protector.
15. NEW YORK JETS
Will McDonald, EDGE, Iowa State
Reach? Nah – consider this a ‘scheme fit’. Will McDonald is a smaller, quicker edge rusher with incredible dip. He reminds me a lot of Dee Ford, a versatile edge rusher who can attack the pocket as a hybrid end, either stood up or with his hand in the dirt. Robert Saleh used Ford in that role when he was at San Francisco, and McDonald will likely assume those duties for the Jets.
16. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
No prospect’s tape was more fun to watch than that of Emmanuel Forbes – unparallelled ball skills, the former Mississippi State DB recorded FOURTEEN interceptions in his college career. Adding a guy with that game-changing ability seems like a no-brainer right?
Well, thee is a caveat. Forbes is scarily lightweight. Like, 166lbs lightweight. My heart says this is a great pick, but there’s defintiely a danger this could backfire for Ron Rivera, despite his fondness for Josh Norman, a similar kind of cornerback.
17. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
After a few years’ hiatus reeling from the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots are back in their groove. Standard procedure once again; trade back, add picks, and let the talent fall to them.
In this case, it filled a big need too. Christian Gonzalez is a unicorn; a size, length, power & speed guy with the instincts to play in any coverage on the outside. Those guys don’t grow on trees, and being coached up by Bill Belichick is an ideal way for him to continue the growth he showed his one year at Eugene.
18. DETROIT LIONS
Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
The Lions appear to be taking standard convention and booting it right out the window.
Taking a linebacker in round one, is slightly dubious – more so when it’s an old school, double hard thumper. Jack Campbell doesn’t just share his surname with his new head coach, they both have similar outlooks on the game of football. A tackling machine who hairs around the field looking for something to hit, there’s no doubt Campbell fits the culture in Detroit. It feels like they exhausted trade offers to move back, and just took the guy they wanted anyway. In a draft with a lot of doubt, I can understand the logic.
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Calijah Kancey, IDL, Pitt
Draft Twitter loves Calijah Kancey. Whilst appreciating the insane burst and intensity with which he plays on the interior, I have more of a ‘buyer beware’ outlook. His tiny arms will make it much more difficult for him to shed blocks at the next level, but if any prosepct has the raw speed and power to negate such a thing it’s this kid.
Gerald McCoy, Vita Vea – the Buccaneers love drafting defensive tackles in the first round. And they usually do it with some success too, which bodes well.
20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
This is the ideal landing spot for me as far as Jaxon Smith-Njigba goes. Whilst Geno might not be int he elite tier of QB’s, the system there is set up and ready for JSN to walk straight in and assume slot duties.
Smith-Njigba was so good in 2021 he would have been WR1 in last year’s class, let alone this year’s. 2022 was beset by injury, which makes the eval more challenging. But lining up with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks look primed to head straight back to the playoffs.
21. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Tom Telesco likes big receivers. Well, now he’s got one on each side of the field. Quentin Johnston is your classic possession receiver, but with an added dose of danger with the ball in his hands. Feisty and physical, sometimes he’ll let you down with drops. And he wasn’t the redzone threat you’d hope for either, but that feels like something within his capabilities.
Johnston and Mike Williams on the outside, and Keenan Allen in the slot – Justin Herbert has some serious weapons to work with.
22. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Just over a week ago, the Ravens had zero passing game. Zilch. Nada. And then by the end of the first round, a freshly paid Lamar Jackson is now throwing to Odell Beckham Jr, Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews and now Zay Flowers.
That’s some change! Flowers is the cherry on the top of this offense, a dangerous receiver from the outside or the slot who plays bigger than he is and has hands like glue. And when he’s in space, he’s a big play waiting to happen.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The last first round receiver on the board, Jordan Addison has seen his draft stock slip throughout the process. Most put that down to a regression after transferring from Pitt to USC, but watch the tape and the traits are still there to see. He fires off the line of scrimmage, is agile and elusive through his routes, and has incredible hands outside of his frame.
Out of all the day one pass catchers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Addison rack up the most yards as a rookie.
24. NEW YORK GIANTS
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Another one-spot trade-up, this time the Giants making sure they got Deonte Banks. With Cor’dale Flott slated to battle Amani Oruwariye to play oposite Adoree Jackson, some ore reinforcements in the secondary were required.
Banks was one of my favourite evals this year. Competitive doesn’t decribe his play style – he’s feisty and sticky and a total menace at the catch point. If he can develop his instincts and processing, he could prove to be the best corner in this class.
25. BUFFALO BILLS
Dalton Kincaid TE, Utah
The Jags double down by trading down again, this time allowing the Bills to jump the Cowboys for the right to draft Dalton Kincaid. Keep it quiet, but Kincaid reminds me an awful lot of Travis Kelce – not an easy comparison to make but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. The former Utah TE is an elite pass catcher – some of the balls he reels in are just ridiculous, and putting him in this offense is orderline unfair.
If the AFC is an arms race, then the Bills just cranked up the heat.
26. DALLAS COWBOYS
Mazi Smith, IDL, Michigan
This pick reeks of a team that had just been gazumped – but I absolutely love it. The Cowboys are woefully thin on the interior of that defensive line, and Mazi Smith is (or was) a very underrated prospect in this draft class.
Sporting the girth and density of a nose tackle, Smith also has good burst and speed, and can offer some interior pass rush. This diverse skillset gives him scheme flexibility, and I imagine him being a three-down starter and pro bowl caliber player by the end of his rookie deal.
27. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Don’t look now, but the Jaguars are behaving like a, well – a WELL RUN FRANCHISE! Trading back twice and garnering three day 3 picks, Trent Baalke and Doug Pederson still get the guy they were targeting all along.
Anton Harrison was a late draft riser, a classic example of a prospect who was appreicated more by NFL teams than the media. He’s a polished pass protector with experience at both left and right tackle, and his character is off the charts. He interviewed really well too – considering the Jags’ need for more o-line help and the ability to trade down to get it, this was a home run pick.
28. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
This selection might not have the splash that some fans might want, but Myles Murphy is an accomplished edge rusher who should have gone a long time before pick 28. Big and fast with good production, Murphy might not have the elite burst or dip of a Nolan Smith, but he’s fundamentally sound with polished technique. He’s a high character, high floor prospect, and his bigger frame fits the brief for what the Bengals usually look for in their edge rushers.
29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Bryan Bresee, IDL, Clemson
Much the same as his Clemson teammate that went one pick ahead of him, Bresee doesn’t quite get the love he deserves. His final two years at Death Valley were beset by adversity – injury and family bereavement took their toll. The fact he’s come through such tough times tells you everything about the young man from a mentality standpoint. Add in some unreasonable athelticism for a defensive tackle, and he’s well worthy of a late first round pick.
30. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Howie is straight up taking the piss now. After getting the best player – talent wise – in the draft at #9, the Eagles sit pretty 21 picks later and still get a prospect they may have targeted at 10. Nolan Smith is an uber-atheltic outside rusher whose speed and bend but lack of ideal size and weight lead you to think he’ll be a designated pass rusher early in his pro career. But turn on the tape and you see a defender who is accomplished at setting the edge and stifling the run. He’s not the finished article, but the traits are tantalising.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
In a first round that was unpredictable every step of the way, it was fitting that Kansas City took an edge rusher I had pencilled in for mid day two with the last pick of the night. An attack-minded pass rusher who has a nose for the backfield and an array of developed pass rush moves to help him get there, Anudike-Uzomah is a hot-motor, toolsy weapon that Steve Spagnuolo will enjoy coaching.
KC have history surprising me with their picks, but they often make more sense two or three years down the line. ‘FAU’ has that feel.
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.