The 2023 NFL Draft was unpredictable from the start. Which team improved their chances for the 2023 season and who saw their chances suffer?
The winners and losers of the 2023 NFL Draft won’t be known for some time.
It takes a few seasons to really evaluate how well a team drafted. But thanks to increasing coverage of the NFL Draft and familiarity with prospects, we can take an immediate look at the results and assess the value each team received from their picks.
This year’s draft had one somewhat predictable moment – Bryce Young going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers – followed by twists and turns for the next three days. Here’s the first look at the winners and losers from the 2023 NFL Draft.
Best 2023 NFL Draft: Philadelphia Eagles
As one NFL insider asked Thursday night, “How do they keep getting away with this?”
For the second straight year, the Eagles moved up in the first round.
For the second straight year, they did so to take a defensive line anchor of the national champion Georgia Bulldogs defense (Jordan Davis in 2022; Jalen Carter this year). And for the second straight year, draft pundits loved the move.
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Carter graded as one of the top-2 prospects in this year’s draft, yet slid down the board after a tragic off-field incident following Georgia’s national championship celebration. The Eagles took that opportunity to jump up and select the unanimous All-American at No. 9, surrendering their own first-round pick plus a fourth rounder in exchange.
Who Else Did the Eagles Pick Up?
They weren’t done, picking up two more Georgia stalwarts in EDGE Nolan Smith and CB Kelee Ringo. In all, five members of the Bulldogs’ record-breaking 2021 defense now call Philadelphia home.
In addition, the Eagles snagged OL Tyler Steen from Alabama and added a potential Jalen Hurts backup in Stanford QB Tanner McKee. But first-rounders Carter and Smith assure that the strength of last year’s NFC Champions’ defense – the defensive line and pass rush – will remain at the top of the heap for at least one more year.
Best Draft for the Future: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals were miscast in the top-four picks of this year’s draft as the only team not looking to take a franchise quarterback.
Still, it was a surprise when they traded with Houston to move back to No. 12, since the Texans took the player Arizona was thought to covet, Alabama EDGE Will Anderson.
But Arizona’s plan made sense when they moved back up to No. 6 in a separate deal with Detroit. What’s more, they used that pick to secure Paris Johnson Jr., widely believed to be the best offensive lineman in the 2023 NFL Draft and a personal favorite of Cardinals QB Kyler Murray.
So in all, the Cardinals not only secured the draft’s best lineman but added two extra picks, including a first rounder, for the 2024 NFL Draft. Not a bad day’s work for a team that’s probably at least a couple years from contention.
Teams Who Also Had Strong 2023 NFL Drafts
It wasn’t just the Eagles and Cardinals that found draft success in April 2023.
New England Patriots
Christian Gonzalez, thought by many to be the top cornerback, slid to the Pats at No. 17, while third-rounder Marte Mapu is one of the best all-around athletes in the Draft. The Patriots had 12 picks this year and made the most of them.
Every Steelers pick seemed to have the same theme – the genuine reaction being “wow, I’m surprised he was still available!”
That includes first-round pick OL Broderick Jones, second rounder CB Joey Porter Jr. – the son of Steelers legend Joey Porter – and late third-round pick TE Darnell Washington. The Steelers got the most out of each of their seven picks.
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Worst 2023 NFL Draft: San Francisco 49ers
Not entirely their fault, as they traded their first- and second-round picks some time ago (for Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey, respectively).
But when you wait until the 87th pick to finally draft, you’d think the Niners would’ve addressed their offensive line, a spot that hurt them in the NFC Championship loss to Philadelphia. Safety Ji’Ayir Brown should help the secondary, but it wasn’t the area of most need.
What’s more, of the Niners’ nine picks, three were linebackers and two were tight ends – two of their strongest areas. Finally, they took a kicker in the third round – a great one in Michigan’s Jake Moody, but still a luxury pick for a team with legitimate needs.
Worst Draft for the Future: Minnesota Vikings
While there’s something to be said for knowing your strengths, taking a wide receiver with your first pick doesn’t make a ton of sense when you’ve already got the best one in the NFL.
But that’s what the Vikings did, adding USC’s Jordan Addison to pair with Justin Jefferson. Admittedly, it’s a strong receiving corps, but a curious move for team that was eliminated from the playoffs after allowing 31 points and 400+ yards – at home – to a lackluster New York Giants’ offense.
The Vikings also traded out of the second and third rounds, meaning it wasn’t until pick No. 102 when they finally did something to address their defense with cornerback Mekhi Blackmon.
Teams Who Also Struggled in the 2023 NFL Draft
Here are a few franchises that joined San Francisco and Minnesota in the unwanted NFL Draft section.
Another team where this isn’t so much about the players they picked as it is about their lack of picks.
Denver had only five selections (second fewest to Miami’s four) thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, which cost three draft picks including the No. 5 overall selection. All the Mile High franchise can hope is that Wilson starts to pay dividends in 2023.
They chose second and third overall, and if QB C.J. Stroud and EDGE Will Anderson become stars, nothing else will matter.
But the Texans gave up a lot – a second-round pick, first- and third-round picks next year – for Anderson, so if he doesn’t pan out it will be doubly painful.
In all, the Texans did what they thought best to capitalize on their astounding amount of draft capital – but in turn, sacrificed plenty of opportunity in the future.
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Most Intriguing 2023 NFL Draft: Tennessee Titans
I didn’t know what else to call this category, because I don’t like it or dislike it.
But for two straight years now, it’s been Tennessee who’s taken the quarterback who fell down draft boards.
Last year was dual-threat Malik Willis from Liberty University in the third round. This year? Rocket-armed Will Levis from Kentucky in the second round, after many predicted Levis would go in the top five.
What does it mean? Are they stockpiling talent for a potential trade or trades? Are they already admitting Willis was a mistake? And what about incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill?
No position starts the 2023 NFL season with more intrigue than the quarterback spot in Tennessee.
2023 NFL Divisional Odds
With the Draft behind us and the preseason only about three months away, here are the odds for each team to win their respective divisions in the 2023 NFL season (All odds from FanDuel):
|New York Jets||+250|
|New England Patriots||+750|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-160|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+360|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+1200|
|New York Giants||+550|
|Green Bay Packers||+410|
|New Orleans Saints||+125|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+500|
|San Francisco 49ers||-165|
|Los Angeles Rams||+550|