2023 NFL Draft 1st Round Grades

As expected, the 1st round of the 2023 NFL Draft was wild, and my mock draft didn’t even come close. I got the first pick, so there’s that. And then my second pick sat in the room all night reconsidering the decision to share his culinary preferences with the world.

So to pile on top of my failure as a reader of GM minds, I will now grade those GMs on what I believe is their success or failure in negotiation and talent evaluation. Buckle up, cause I played high school football, which makes my opinions much more valuable than all you wrestlers or men’s volleyball players.

1. Carolina Panthers

QB Bryce Young
Grade: B

*Yawn* Did it start yet? The B isn’t because he’s short. He’s extremely talented and probably the safest QB pick we’ve seen in years. Safe picks don’t get an A. At any height, Stroud is better.

2. Houston Texans

QB C.J. Stroud
Grade: A+

Absolutely the best pick. I love the look on Stroud’s face walking up. This guy heard everything that’s been said about him the past few weeks. And he’s ready to play with a chip on his shoulder. I love it. This is the best QB in the draft. Hold me to that.

3. Houston Texans

Will Anderson, Jr., Edge
Grade: A+

This is phenomenal. I just finished saying Stroud is the best QB in this draft. Will Anderson is the best defensive player in this draft. Thanks to everything Houston got for Deshaun Watson, they didn’t have to give up much. Arizona gets picks 12 and 33, plus a 1st and 3rd next year. Houston gets a generational edge rusher and pick 105. Nice move for both teams, but mostly Houston for recognizing they had the draft capital to make the move and recognizing the gap between Will Anderson and everyone else. This kid will be special.

4. Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Richardson, QB
Grade: C-

Don’t get me wrong. Richardson could be a very good QB someday if he’s given the time to learn. Indianapolis may not be a place where he’ll get that time. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s more ready than I think, but I don’t think so. The one thing that gives me hope is that they brought in Gardner Minshew. That likely gave them some comfort that they would have at least some time to develop Richardson and let the pro game slow down a bit. For Richardson’s sake, I hope that’s the case.

5. Seattle Seahawks

Devon Witherspoon, CB
Grade: A

The best DB in the draft by a lot. It’s not a sexy pick; a top 5 cornerback without a nickanme like Sauce rarely is. But then you realize Witherspoon and Tariq Woolen will be terrorizing passing games for years to come. You can do a lot of different things with the other 9 guys on defense when you know the other 2 have the edges locked down.

6. Arizona Cardinals

Paris Jones, Jr, OL
Grade: C+

They clearly wanted him badly and got tipped off that they wouldn’t be able to get him at 12 after trading back. I had him as my 3rd offensive lineman. It feels like Atlanta tipped their hand way too early and everyone else took advantage of that. This front office didn’t move around the board; they got moved around the board. Other GMs let them go where they wanted them to go to take who they knew they would take in a spot where Jones just isn’t that high of a value.

7. Las Vegas Raiders

Tyree Wilson, Edge
Grade: B

Given what’s available at this point, Wilson is pretty good value here for the Raiders. I don’t think it was a particularly high position of need, given the player comparison was Chandler Jones, who’s literally already on their team. Yeah, he’s old, but his arms didn’t shrink. Vegas needed secondary help more than another pass rusher. However, I do think there’s merit in the approach of overloading one level of defense to hide deficiencies elsewhere.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Bijan Robinson, HB
Grade: A-

The minus has nothing to do with his talent. Bijan has gobs of it. This is because their defense is porous, and there’s still a lot of trench talent available. I’m a very vocal fan of Desmond Ridder, and now he has Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, and Bijan Robinson. This team could put up 40 a game this season. And give up 45. But it’ll be fun to watch!

9. Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Carter, DL
Grade: A-

Another where the minus is about the context, not the player. Philly had pick 10 and gave up a 4th round pick to move up to pick 9. I’m sure there’s all sorts of backroom knowledge that I don’t have that would explain why they felt the need to move up one spot. But it sorta feels like Ryan Poles successfully duped Howie Roseman into believing the Bears might take Carter, and then gave an ultimatum. Which, I’m sorry, shouldn’t exist at this level. Roseman should’ve called his bluff. But, at the end of the day, Philly got who they wanted and didn’t give up much. Carter being added to that defensive line is bonkers.

10. Chicago Bears

Darnell Wright, OL
Grade: C+

Wright is a great pick in the 2nd round. There was just more talented offensive lineman available at pick 10. Unless your team is already stacked, you don’t take a right tackle in the top 10. I’m guessing Poles was trying to trade back further, but couldn’t find another trade partner after fleecing a 4th from Philly. Wright could maybe be a left tackle, but he’s more likely to be on the right or moved inside.

11. Tennessee Titans

Peter Skoronski, OL
Grade: A

I really expected this to be where Will Levis would eventually get picked. But Skoronski dropping to this spot makes Levis a secondary concern. If they think they can make a run at it with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, then Skoronski gives them a set-and-forget offensive lineman who can lock up any spot they need him to play. I like this pick an awful lot. The Packer part of my brain was getting excited to see him still available at 11, but alas, it was not meant to be.

12. Detroit Lions

Jahmyr Gibbs, HB
Grade: C

Have you ever had an office job where they give you a review and in each category you get a rating from 1 to 5, and they always over-explain how getting a 3 is actually okay and it means you’re fulfilling your role so then no one can ever get the highest raise possible because actually getting a 5 is impossible and managers are literally told they’re not allowed to give that score? That’s how I’m justifying this as a C. From a strictly value standpoint, Gibbs is more of a mid-20s pick. However, Detroit got extra value by trading back from 6 to 12, and it’s very likely there were several other teams in the teens interested in Gibbs. So they got what they could out of pick 6 and got who they wanted at 12. I can’t fault that, but also can’t grade a headscratcher too high.

13. Green Bay Packers

Lukas Van Ness, Edge
Grade: D+

I should just trust Brian Gutekunst’s talent evaluation skills. But I don’t. I selfishly gave Van Ness to the Bears at pick 9 in my mock draft because I knew he’d be drafted too high and I was hoping the Bears would be the greater fools. I badly want Van Ness to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him as anything more than a rotational edge rusher. You can get those on day 3. This really makes me question why the Packers even bothered getting the 1st round pick swap with the Jets in the Aaron Rodgers trade. Considering Pittsburgh jumped up to the 14th pick to get someone the Jets wanted at 15, I have to believe that deal was also on the table for the Packers and they turned it down to take Van Ness. I’ll be so happy if I come back to this article a year or two from now and regret saying all this.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

Broderick Jones, OL
Grade: A+

Fantastic move and pick. This is all-around perfection. I thought Pittsburgh would sit at 17 and get Joey Porter, Jr., but when they moved up it seemed like that wasn’t their target. To jump the Jets and get who I rated as the second-best offensive lineman and best pure tackle in the draft is just chef’s kiss beautiful. The Steelers have done so many things right the past few years and Mike Tomlin will be back in the playoffs quickly. Now they get the 1st pick of the 2nd round thanks to a savvy trade with the Bears last season.

15. New York Jets

Will McDonald IV, Edge
Grade: C-

The sheer panic in the Jets draft room when Pittsburgh snuck ahead of them and took their guy was noticeable. There seemed to be confusion about who was next on their board when Broderick Jones got taken. My feeling is that the panic was actually calling everyone behind them looking for a partner to trade back. McDonald is a special player who can jump in the rotation of edge rushers very quickly, but it’s not a position of need, there were better edge rushers still available, and they should’ve been better prepared for the possibility of Jones being off the board.

16. Washington Commanders

Emmanuel Forbes, CB
Grade: D

If he puts on a Merton Hanks turtleneck, I might change my mind. But Forbes is an injury waiting to happen and could’ve been a 2nd round pick. I kept hearing people say things like “he’s undersized, but no one told him that” as if it’s a tough guy thing. And then they show clips of him flying around and throwing his body into guys. Great, you want players, especially defenders, who aren’t afraid of contact. But now that 160 pound frame will have to play 6 more games a year against players who are consistently bigger and faster than what he’s seen in college.

17. New England Patriots

Christian Gonzalez, CB
Grade: A

The best front offices always seem to have talent and value fall into their laps. The Pats have been doing this for years. Gonzalez is a top 8 pick who fell so far that I think the Commanders didn’t realize he was still available. Even though the Pats have bigger needs, this immediately improves their defense. The positions where they still have needs have deep classes, so getting the best player at this spot was exactly what I expected from Bill Belichick.

18. Detroit Lions

Jack Campbell, LB
Grade: F

Okay, I think I know what happened here. Someone flipped out the Lions day 1 and day 2 draft boards. That explains it. That’s the only thing that explains it. He’s not a bad player, and he’s definitely a Dan Campbell guy, but they could’ve gotten him in the 2nd round, if not early 3rd.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Calijah Kancey, DL
Grade: B+

Kancey got a huge boost at the combine. Even though he’s undersized for an interior defensive lineman, his athletic ability is off the charts. This is a solid pick for Tampa, who needs a massive injection of youth on defense.

20. Seattle Seahawks

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR
Grade: A

Another example of a well-run front office letting the draft come to them. Smith-Njigba had question marks after missing most of last season with a hamstring injury, but honestly, it was smart of him to make sure he was fully healed. Hamstring injuries that linger can ruin careers. He took his time, then came to the NFL Combine and lit up the shuttle and 3-cone drill with the fastest times in both. Then he followed that up at the Ohio State Pro Day with a 4.48 40 and healthy 1.54 10-second split. Production-wise, this was the guy who dominated a WR room that included Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, both players already having an NFL impact.

21. Los Angeles Chargers

Quentin Johnston, WR
Grade: C

After a year of injuries to Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, WR was absolutely a position of need for the Chargers. I think they were hoping for Smith-Njigba but settled for Johnston. This is actually a very good spot for him to land because Williams and Allen are perfect mentors for the things he needs to improve. Williams can help him learn how to use his size, and Allen can show him how to be a move-the-chains target. Still, it’s not much more than an average pick when your first thought isn’t what a player brings to a team, but rather what he needs to fix to justify his draft spot.

22. Baltimore Ravens

Zay Flowers, WR
Grade: A

Love it. And not just because it’s another pick I got correct. Kinda. I thought the Ravens could’ve traded back a bit and still got him, but he was a very clear fit for them anywhere in the 20s, and trading back isn’t always possible. Flowers and Duvernay immediately give Lamar Jackson two burners to go with Odell Beckham, Jr. and possibly Deandre Hopkins. This was a beautiful nod to Lamar to say “See? We’re serious about this.”

23. Minnesota Vikings

Jordan Addison, WR
Grade: B

Solid player, solid value, high position of need. To me, that translates to a B. Addison is a versatile player wtih above average routes, with the potential to be a great route runner over time. He’ll have plenty of time to develop that behind Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn. Adding Addison to that room gives the Vikings 3 receivers they can move around almost at will. Now they just need to find a QB to start getting reps with these guys and prepare for the future. Or just begrudgingly hope Kirk Cousins is on that TB12 program.

24. New York Giants

Deonte Banks, CB
Grade: A

Love, love, love this pick for the Giants. His athleticism is absolutely elite. Like, one of, if not the most athletic player in this draft. He ran a 4.35 40 with a 1.49 10 yard split, then added a 42 inch vertical and 11’4 broad jump. That’s ridiculous. Plus he’s almost exactly 6 feet, 200 pounds. If you created a cornerback in a lab, it would be Deonte Banks. He has some question marks, but I often say that corner is where you can afford those if you’re the best athlete on the field. For the first part of his career, he’ll make mistakes and get burned… and he’ll be able to catch up. That speed and range lets him mask any deficiencies while he catches up to the speed of the pro game. If he can develop those instincts over time as the speed wanes, he can have a long career.

25. Buffalo Bills

Dalton Kincaid, TE
Grade: A-

Jumping ahead of Dallas to get Kincaid was shrewd and exactly the high drama I expect on day 1. I’m sure Dallas will never admit Kincaid was at the top of their board and they were holding their breath, but there’s a reason Buffalo felt the need to move 2 picks up to get ahead of them. This is a great situation for Kincaid to ease into the offense and improve his suspect blocking skills while Dawson Knox holds down the more traditional TE spot. Kincaid is almost more of a slot mismatch than a tight end. As I mentioned in my mock, think Dallas Clark. That’s what he could be.

26. Dallas Cowboys

Mazi Smith, DL
Grade: B-

As I said, I think this pick was supposed to be Kincaid. It’s so common when a team has their sight set on one guy with the right value at their spot… if they get jumped, they scramble to find a trade back partner. Mazi Smith is an okay pick that’ll help free up the other playmakers on the Dallas defense. His size and strength makes him the only true nose tackle before day 3, so if that role is something the Cowboys felt they needed, they probably needed to take him here or trade back. The latter would’ve been preferable, and I’m sure they tried, but it’s hard to pull off a deal that late, so you just take what’s there and be happy. And insist it’s exactly what you wanted.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

Anton Harrison, OL
Grade: B+

The length of Trevor Lawrence‘s career just ticked up a bit. Harrison has some work to do in the run game, but he’s a set-and-forget left tackle who will protect Lawrence’s back for years to come. He wasn’t the best offensive lineman or even offensive tackle taken in the 1st round, but he’s the best pure pass blocker, and there’s a ton of value in a guy who can protect the blindside of a team’s biggest investment.

28. Cincinnati Bengals

Myles Murphy, Edge
Grade: B

Great athlete with prototype size, speed, and strength combo to be a 3-down edge player. He ran a 4.51 40 with 1.59 split at the Clemson Pro Day, plus 25 bench reps at both the combine and pro day. What he lacks right now is proper instruction. Like so many players who get to this point, his physical gifts have always been more than enough to dominate college competition. Now you’re in the NFL, and everyone else has a lot of those physical gifts, too. Time to pair up that athleticism with some craftiness. He’s a smart player with a great motor, so I’m confident he’ll put in the work.

29. New Orleans Saints

Bryan Bresee, DL
Grade: C

This is a little high for Bresee, but it’s in the right range. Strength is a concern, so he’s a bit limited how much he can move around the interior front. But New Orleans didn’t draft him to be a nose tackls. He makes up for it with quickness that allows him to be moved around anywhere outside the A gaps. That fits well with the Saints scheme.

30. Philadelphia Eagles

Nolan Smith, Edge
Grade: A+

Stop it. Just stop it. sigh Nolan Smith will be able to use his elite athletic abilities as part of a rotation. Why does the rest of the league let him do this? Do you know how hard it’ll be a for a tired tackle to block a fresh Nolan Smith in the 4th quarter? I’m actually starting to wonder if we’ll start to see offensive line rotations in the near future to deal with these teams stacked with sub-4.5 edge rushers. It’s not even fair.

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge
Grade: A

My dream of the Chiefs trading out of the 1st round in front of the massive Kansas City crowd and the night ending in a chorus of boos was shattered when KC went and took a guy who can basically run horizontally. Anudike-Uzomah is the kind of player where you just need to watch the tape. No combine results or size comparisons will tell you what he can do. Edge rusher was a need for the KC defense, and he’ll be a great addition to it.

3 thoughts on “2023 NFL Draft 1st Round Grades”

  1. I love the Falcons offense very much but yeah, they’re going to have to outscore everyone. And please tell me they play the Lions this year because that one has a chance to break 100 combined points.

    The Texans did the right thing, twice! Good for a fan base that needed some good news after several seasons of forgettable.

    As for the Titans trading up to nab Levis in the second round? I hope the kid works out for them because I really dig Vrabel as a coach. The experts can opine on why Levis fell out of the first round but I know it was all because of that whole mayo in his coffee business . . .

    1. There’s still a lot of front 7 talent for Atlanta to find on day 3. They got a good edge rusher last night and a very good value tackle with Bergeron.

      I had to laugh when Levis went to Tennessee right away last night. The first 2 picks of the second round went to the team I picked them to go to, just a round late.

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