The 2023 NFL Draft was expected to be one of the least predictable drafts in recent memory. Within the first few picks of the first round, that belief proved to be true.
This draft is not believed to have been stacked with high-end talent. Some teams decided to swing on upside while others settled for the safe picks. The results show. Some players thought to be first-round talents fell all the way to the third round while others with higher floors but limited upside were taken much earlier than expected.
Every team will exit the draft feeling like they won the day. No GM leaves the draft room saying they hate their draft class. However, every draft has its winners and losers. Ultimately, that final conclusion cannot be drawn until a few years later on, but usually, there is a general idea of who won and who lost.
I am going to give it my best shot anyways. Here are the winners and losers from the 2023 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft Winners
Rumors swirled that the Texans were willing to pass on a quarterback with the second overall pick. Whether it was a smoke screen by the team or reporters running with the slightest piece of information, many began to believe Houston would indeed pass on a franchise signal caller. The team proved those rumors wrong after selecting C.J. Stroud. The Ohio State product is the most naturally accurate quarterback in the class and has a knack for attacking the intermediate areas of the field.
Houston followed that up by trading up to the third overall pick and selecting Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. With two first-round picks, the team landed pieces to build the offense and defense around.
The rest of Houston’s picks were not quite as exciting. They landed a new starter at center in Juice Scruggs. Tank Dell is an intriguing weapon for Stroud to throw the ball to. However, while the rest of the picks are not up to par with the Texans’ first selections, landing Stroud and Anderson allows the team to take significant strides forward in 2023.
Howie Roseman continues to show why he is arguably the best general manager in the NFL. Philadelphia traded up one selection to draft the falling Jalen Carter. The Georgia product could turn out to be the steal of the draft. Talent was never a question for Carter. He is widely viewed as the best non-quarterback prospect from this class. However, the off-field concerns pushed him down from a slam dunk top-three pick. That goes to Philadelphia’s gain. The Eagles find a replacement for the departing Javon Hargrave on the interior of their defensive line.
With their second first-round pick, the Eagles landed another steal in Nolan Smith. The edge rusher was mocked by many to be a top 15 selection, Philadelphia selected him 30th. Smith fits the same profile as Haasan Reddick: a quick and undersized athletic edge rusher. Smith and Carter join former Georgia teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean on the Eagles’ defense.
With 65 and 66 Philadelphia took Lane Johnson’s eventual replacement and a potential long-term starter at safety in Tyler Sheen and Sydney Brown. Sheen is not a highly touted offensive line prospect, but the Eagles have a knack for developing linemen into elite talents. Brown can compete immediately with Terrell Edmunds for a starting safety spot. Kelee Ringo fits their prototypical corner build and Tanner Mckee has starter/solid backup upside.
The Eagles continue to load their roster with talent and depth for the now and future.
Pittsburgh entered the draft with two major needs on its roster: offensive tackle and cornerback. The team moved up in the first round to find a new franchise left tackle to protect Kenny Pickett’s blindside. Broderick Jones is viewed as possibly the rawest of the top tackle prospects in this year’s class, but his style of play fits Pittsburgh’s power run scheme. Jones takes on power rushers with ease and has the athletic profile to develop into one of the better tackles in the NFL. He may not have been the best day-one tackle in this class, but he projects the highest upside of anyone in the class.
With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Steelers found their answer at cornerback. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., whose father played for the Steelers, heard his name called with the first pick on day two. Pittsburgh added developmental depth at defensive line with Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton with their second second-rounder. At pick 93, the Steelers stole tight end Darnell Washington. The blocking specialist fell in the draft with concerns over a knee injury. Nick Herbig is a good backup edge rushing option as well.
NFL Draft Losers
New York Jets
The Jets landed a superstar quarterback for the next season or so when they traded for Aaron Rodgers. However, the team failed to land a tackle prospect to protect Rodgers during his tenure with New York. Swapping picks with the Green Bay Packers allowed the Steelers to swoop in and trade ahead of New York to take the best remaining tackle prospect. Instead, the Jets settled for Will McDonald IV. The selection came with Nolan Smith and Myles Murphy still on the board. McDonald is an explosive pass rusher, and he has as good a shot as any to be a productive edge. However, missing out on critical pieces to the offensive line could come back to hurt New York in 2023.
In the second round, the Jets landed an interior offensive lineman in Joe Tippmann. The Wisconsin product can push Connor McGovern for the starting center position, but he will most likely play his rookie season as a backup guard. It is not a terrible pick for New York, but the Tippmann pick does not immediately make this team more competitive. That is a problem after spending big on Rodgers.
The Jets found a tackle on day three in Carter Warren. The Pittsburgh product is a developmental player, and could eventually be a productive starter. But for a team that needs to protect Rodgers now, it is a tough shake. The Jets gambled on one of the top tackle prospects falling to them at pick No. 15, and it did not pay off.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints landed a steal in the first round with Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee. He is a run-stuffing presence with legitimate upside as a potential high-end pass rusher. In the second round, the team drafted Notre Dame edge rusher Isaiah Foskey. The longtime Fighting Irish has the talent to be a productive pass rusher at the NFL, but he did not always display his ability consistently on tape.
For a team looking to make its way out of no man’s land, the Saints did not do enough in the draft. Jake Haener is a decent project quarterback, but his upside is ultimately as a backup. The rest of New Orleans’ draft class is nothing to write home about. In a weakened NFC South, the Saints could have positioned themselves as the division winners. After this draft, everything is going to have to go their way to compete for the division title.
How long does it take for the Saints to tear it down. The team has been in salary cap purgatory for the past few seasons, and there is no end in sight. With the team investing in Derek Carr, that rebuild will be a long time coming.
Just days before the NFL Draft kicked off, Levis was the betting favorite to go second overall to the Houston Texans. Just about an hour before the draft started, those odds sank. Levis was still believed to be a favorite to land with the Indianapolis Colts, but the team decided on Anthony Richardson instead.
Levis found himself in free fall. Other potential quarterback-needy teams opted to pass on the Kentucky product. Levis’ cannon for an arm was not enough to grant him favor early in the draft. The quarterback fell out of the first round completely.
It was not until the Tennessee Titans traded up to the 33rd pick that Levis came off the board. The strong-armed quarterback can spend a season behind Ryan Tannehill to develop and then take the reigns in 2024.
The final destination is not bad. Levis is in a good position in Tennessee, but the fall for a player expected to go top five makes him one of the losers of the NFL Draft.
Malik Willis is another loser from this draft. His future as a Titan is all but over.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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