Updated: Jun 16
Written by: Austin Thomas
The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone in the blink of an eye after months of impatient waiting. There were good, bad, and surprising selections within the first 31 picks of the draft, along with some trades sprinkled in. The drama was plentiful, the emotions were fierce, young men were in fancy suits and Roger Goodell was booed during the opening ceremony. It's a wonderful tradition that football fans all look forward to jump-starting their craze for the upcoming season. Moving on, let's get to my first initial reactions to the first round.
PICK #1: CAROLINA PANTHERS - QB - BRYCE YOUNG - ALABAMA
The selection that the majority of the people had coming into draft night finally became a reality. Carolina gets their franchise quarterback and Bryce Young will be blessed to be working with a coaching staff that knows how to develop a quarterback. Looking at the overall state of the NFC South right now, if Young can step up right away he and the Panthers can start their dominance of the division for years to come starting this season.
PICK #2: HOUSTON TEXANS - QB - CJ STROUD - OHIO STATE
The quarterback position was always the pick leading up to the NFL draft, then a week before the draft the media was telling us to pump the breaks and feeding us the defensive angle with Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson. Well, here we are with Houston grabbing their next franchise quarterback. I believe CJ Stroud is the best pocket passer in the whole draft and the Texans will look for him to produce right away, and compete in a weaker AFC South division right away.
PICK #3: TRADE! HOUSTON TEXANS - EDGE - WILL ANDERSON - ALABAMA
The Houston Texans went and made a huge splash atop the draft board by first taking their unexpected franchise quarterback and then trading back up to pick #3 and grabbing arguably the best defensive player in the draft. DeMeco Ryans comes over from San Francisco and where he built a stout defensive unit, now he gets his first building block to start the process in Houston. The Texans played their hand perfectly here and are making a fabulous start to the new regime.
PICK #4: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - QB - ANTHONY RICHARDSON - FLORIDA
Everybody knew the pick would be a quarterback, but no one knew which one would be there for the taking. I will be the first to say, I LOVE this pick. Indianapolis hired former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to be their next head coach and he was a huge reason for Jalen Hurts' sudden MVP-caliber jump in production. I'll admit, Richardson is a raw talent, but possesses tremendous upside. I think the Colts are best equipped to dig deep and find the buried treasure that is Richardson's potential.
PICK #5: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - CB - DEVON WITHERSPOON - ILLINOIS
Could Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks recreate the Legion of Boom? Devon Witherspoon was arguably the best corner in the draft and they now pair him up with last year's rookie sensation Tariq Woolen, who rivaled New York Jet's defensive rookie of the year Sauce Gardner. Pete Carroll is old school and comes from the generation that believes defense wins championships, so this pick is not surprising in the slightest. I'm not liking this pick at all if I play quarterback in the NFC West, it'll be a rough day at the office during Seattle week.
PICK #6: TRADE! ARIZONA CARDINALS - OT - PARIS JOHNSON - OHIO STATE
Kyler Murray got his wish and landed his #1 player on his draft board, Paris Johnson. Arizona has struggled to protect their franchise quarterback and now they get a great pass blocker to keep Murray upright in the foreseeable future. Not to mention, Kyler Murray is also coming off a major leg injury and won't be able to be as mobile right away - keeping him healthy and protected is the top priority and this selection fits all the criteria.
PICK #7: LAS VEGAS RAIDERS - EDGE - TYREE WILSON - TEXAS TECH
The Raiders add a pass rusher to an already good duo including Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. However, Jones isn't getting any younger and Crosby needs more help from his counterpart. In a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson you need to get after the quarterback. Tyree Wilson, at times, was favored over Will Anderson as the better pass rusher and Las Vegas will need all the help they can gather. The Raiders need to improve their defense if they want to slow down the rest of their division rivals.
PICK #8: ATLANTA FALCONS - RB - BIJAN ROBINSON - TEXAS
The most likely landing spot for Bijan Robinson was Atlanta. I know there is a group of people that don't believe running backs should go in the first round, but there are a select few dynamic play-makers that deserve the privilege. Robinson is a generational talent that will make Arthur Smith's offensive run scheme explode to the next level. You thought Tyler Allgeier looked good as the starter, just wait and see what Bijan Robinson will do!
PICK #9: TRADE! PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - DT - JALEN CARTER - GEORGIA
Philadelphia moves up one spot to assure they land the apple of their eye, Jalen Carter. At one point, Carter was talked about as the potential #1 overall selection when the Chicago Bears owned the pick. Despite the off-field issues, I think Philadelphia was the perfect landing spot for Carter. He'll be reunited with former Georgia teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean to help keep him out of trouble. Philadelphia loves to add talent to the trenches and Carter does just that.
PICK #10: CHICAGO BEARS - OT - DARNELL WRIGHT - TENNESSEE
Similar to the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago Bears have got to protect their quarterback. Acquiring an anchor at the tackle position to help give Justin Fields time to throw will benefit this offense and bring it to a new level. Darnell Wright has the traits to become a high-level tackle in the NFL, and I'm sure Justin Fields and Chicago offense will be happy to have him around.
PICK #11: TENNESSEE TITANS - OL - PETER SKORONSKI - NORTHWESTERN
This might be disappointing for some fans, but this is a great pick for the Titans. Peter Skoronski is a versatile player that has the capabilities of playing tackle or guard. Although, Skoronski is a tremendous run-blocking specialist which fits perfectly for what the Titans want to do with the football; run the ball! So, I envision Skoronski eventually transitioning into a full-time guard.
PICK #12: DETRIOT LIONS - RB - JAHMYR GIBBS - ALABAMA
Wow! Honestly, this pick made me speechless. I anticipated Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round, but not this early and certainly not to the Lions. The first thing that came to my mind though is that D'Andre Swift won't play another snap for the Detroit Lions. Gibbs is an elite talent and with Detroit showing frustration with Swift last season, they could replace him with inspirations of fulfilling the role Swift was meant to play. Interested to see how this one plays out.
PICK #13: GREEN BAY PACKERS - EDGE - LUKAS VAN NESS - IOWA
Back-to-back selections I did not see coming. I would have put an obscene amount of money on Green Bay taking Jaxon Smith-Njigba here. I know they need pass-rush help, but still, Lukas Van Ness is a raw player that needs some time to develop and likely won't contribute right away. On the bright side, Van Ness does bring versatility by rushing off the edge or sliding inside and being physical in the run game. He could be a monster upfront if he finds his footing.
PICK #14: TRADE! PITTSBURGH STEELERS - OT - BRODERICK JONES - GEORGIA
Seems to be a theme for these teams with young quarterbacks, which is protection! Pittsburgh needs to find out if Kenny Pickett is the real deal or not and building a wall to guard him is the key cog to that. Broderick Jones is a big physical tackle and just screams AFC North player.
PICK #15: NEW YORK JETS - EDGE - WILL MCDONALD IV - IOWA STATE
The New York Jets have a great defense and just got even better. When you have to face Josh Allen twice a year you need to get after the quarterback. Pairing Will McDonald IV with Carl Lawson off the edge, while Quinnen Williams soaks up the middle, will only give offensive lines fits.
PICK #16: WASHINGTON COMMANDERS - CB - EMMANUEL FORBES - MISSISSIPPI STATE
Washington needed to add to their secondary and Emmanuel Forbes is an excellent choice. Forbes has a knack for finding the ball and creating turnovers. With the Commanders having great defensive pass rush depth, their one weakness was their secondary, and now Forbes is a great start to improving it.
PICK #17: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - CB - CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ - OREGON
This is such a Bill Belichick move. Seeing a talented player slide down the draft, then move back a couple of spots while collecting more picks, and then still being able to grab one of the best corners in the draft is *chef's kiss*. Christian Gonzalez is going to be an excellent shadow corner which is great for New England as he'll have the task of lining across the likes of Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle, and even Garrett Wilson within the division.
PICK #18: DETROIT LIONS - LB - JACK CAMPBELL - IOWA
This is a Dan Campbell-type player. Jack Campbell is tough and plays with a lot of grit. Campbell is the best MIKE linebacker in the draft and adding him to the middle of this surging defense will help them take that next step towards taking the North.
PICK #19: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - DT - CALIJAH KANCEY - PITTSBURGH
Side-stepping Will Levis and adding to the defensive talent should give confidence to both Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask moving forward. Calijah Kancey is a quick interior pass rusher that'll give this defense a boost. With big man Vita Vea stuffing the run and getting double-teamed, Kancey will compliment him nicely as he'll get a lot of one on one matchups to take advantage of.
PICK #20: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - WR - JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA - OHIO STATE
The rich get richer. Seattle adds arguably the best receiver in the draft to an already great WR room with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Geno Smith should be a very happy man right as he avoided a first-round QB and got an elite playmaker. Watch out NFC, here comes the Seattle Seahawks!
PICK #21: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - WR - QUENTIN JOHNSTON - TCU
At first, I wasn't too keen on the selection, but as I sat there during a commercial break and pondered the idea of Quentin Johnston taking over, essentially, the Austin Ekeler "dump off/screen" role it made me burst with excitement. I've been saying for months that Johnston reminds me of a bigger, faster Cordarrelle Patterson/Deebo Samuel type player, and with his elite YAC skills, that would be a terrifying combo. With Austin Ekeler saying he wants a new contract beyond the 2023 season, and rumors of the Chargers potentially moving him before the season, we could see a major change in the offense.
PICK #22: BALTIMORE RAVENS - WR - ZAY FLOWERS - BOSTON COLLEGE
Lamar Jackson wanted play-makers if he was going to stay in Baltimore. Well, the Ravens went and signed Odell Beckham Jr and now have drafted Zay Flowers. Those two along with Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews give Lamar Jackson by far the best supporting cast in his professional career. With the Ravens bringing in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, they've preached they want to pass the ball more and this certainly makes that statement come closer to fruition.
PICK #23: MINNESOTA VIKINGS - WR - JORDAN ADDISON - USC
The Vikings moved on from long-time WR Adam Thielen in the off-season and didn't do anything to replace him. Of course, Justin Jefferson is the de-facto #1 WR on the team, but they need a reliable second option. KJ Osborn is more of a speedy field stretcher, so Jordan Addison will look to absorb the targets underneath and compliment his fellow teammates giving more options for Kirk Cousins to utilize.
PICK #24: TRADE! NEW YORK GIANTS - CB - DEONTE BANKS - MARYLAND
New York needed to add secondary help and they get a good corner here in Deonte Banks. The NFC East is becoming flooded with good receiving talent and the Giants struggled to contain them last season. The Giant's defense allowed a lot of big plays through the passing game last year and that's where Banks is a great fit, he was one of the best collegiate corners this previous season to not allow big plays downfield. Appears to be a good match on the surface.
PICK #25: TRADE! BUFFALO BILLS - TE - DALTON KINCAID - UTAH
My #1 tight end finally comes off the board in a great landing spot. Dalton Kincaid is a phenomenal playmaker and is cut from the same cloth as Travis Kelce. Adding Kincaid to one of the best offenses in the league is going to be scary for opposing defenses! I don't think it'll take long to surpass Dawson Knox atop the depth chart and make an impact right away. Defenses will key on Stefon Diggs and take away the deep ball from Gabe Davis, so it'll make Kincaid a mismatch nightmare in the red zone where he'll flourish.
PICK #26: DALLAS COWBOYS - DT - MAZI SMITH - MICHIGAN
Dallas needed to solidify their run defense, and Mazi Smith will attempt to do just that. Last season, the Cowboys tried to patch the holes along the middle of their front seven, but weren't quite successful in doing so. I think this pick was a bit of a stretch, but it fills a need for the Cowboys and that should make Jerry Jones happy for the time being.
PICK #27: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - OT - ANTON HARRISON - OKLAHOMA
With the suspension of Cam Robinson, Jacksonville needed to add another pass protector to keep Trevor Lawrence upright. Even when Robinson comes back, Anton Harrison should just play on the opposite side and give the Jaguars a solid duo of tackles for years to come. I like what the Jaguars are doing down in DUVAL and they should be one of the better teams in the AFC shortly.
PICK #28: CINCINNATI BENGALS - EDGE - MYLES MURPHY - CLEMSON
I'm somewhat shocked that the pick wasn't Michael Mayer to continue feeding Joe Burrow with offensive talent. Nonetheless, Myles Murphy will give the Bengals some more pass-rushing assistance to go with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. The AFC is littered with elite quarterbacks and it makes sense that one of the better defenses among the top teams will want to add to their defensive front and pass-rushing rotation. Murphy should make an impact right away.
PICK #29: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - DT - BRYAN BRESEE - CLEMSON
New Orleans adds a solid player to their already good defense. Bryan Bresee should help the pass rush from the interior while Cam Jordan attacks from the outside. Bresee can improve upon his run defense, but not many teams are better than the Saints when it comes to teaching good run defense techniques. Give it a couple of years of development, this could be one of the staple defensive players for the Saints.
PICK #30: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - EDGE - NOLAN SMITH - GEORGIA
I'm sure the Eagles were ecstatic that Nolan Smith made it to them at pick #30, he was an option for them in the top 10 after all. Like I previously mentioned, Howie Roseman loves to build his team through the trenches, and adding yet another Georgia Bulldog that was a part of the college's best defensive units most definitely sets this team up for the future along with skillful players that help this season too. Smith is the fourth defensive Bulldog Philadelphia has drafted over the past two drafts. It's almost like they're trying to keep the gang together.
PICK #31: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - EDGE - FELIX ANUDIKE-UZOMAH - KANSAS STATE
Despite coming off a Super Bowl victory, Kansas City needed to add to their pass rush. At times it was lackluster and needed a spark. Felix Anudike-Uzomah will boost the position and helps take some pressure off Chris Jones and George Karlaftis. Teams will have to fight, for their right, to passsss the ball. (See what I did there? 😎)
Even though the first round has concluded, the fun has just begun. We still have two days and six more rounds to enjoy over the weekend. I'm excited to see how it all plays out and ready to see where these new faces end up. Let your opinion be heard - tell us who your favorite draft selection was down in the comments below!