What to Expect in the 2023 NFL Draft

Over the course of three days, professional NFL teams will select college football players to join their squads. Last night, the 2023 NFL Draft completed its first round of picks. The second and third rounds will occur this evening, while rounds four through seven taking place on Saturday afternoon. The draft order is determined by a team’s success (or lack thereof) in the previous season, with the team possessing the worst record (the Chicago Bears) earning the first selection of each round and the winner of the Super Bowl (the Kansas City Chiefs) having the last. As of Monday, April 25, here’s where the NFL stands leading up to a hectic first round. 

Teams are able to trade draft picks though, and that’s what happened with this year’s first overall pick. On March 10, the Carolina Panthers traded their ninth overall pick, 61st overall pick, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025 and wide receiver DJ Moore in exchange for the first overall pick. It seems like a steep price to move up just eight spots in the draft, but Carolina is in the market for a quarterback, which is the most valuable position on any football team. Chicago has a quarterback they believe in, giving them the incentive to trade down. A first-overall pick trade isn’t common — this year marks the first time it’s happened since 2016 and only the 16th time since 1967.

After sacrificing a lot to secure the first overall pick, the big question now looms: who will Carolina take? At first, many fans and analysts seemed to think that Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was the preferred choice, but in the last few days, Alabama’s Bryce Young has become the odds-on favorite to go first overall. 

Young won the 2021 Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s most outstanding player. He has started the last two seasons at Alabama, accumulating 8,356 passing yards and 87 total touchdowns. Young is accurate with decent-to-good arm strength, but where he stands out is in his ability to escape pressure and create plays out of structure. 

That being said, Young’s size is a major red flag. At 5-foot-10 and around 200 pounds, the NFL has not seen a quarterback that size succeed before, and there are serious concerns as to whether a player with his frame will be able to withstand the constant stream of hits he’s sure to receive in the NFL. 

By many, Stroud is seen as the safer option. Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Stroud has the typical build for an NFL quarterback. In his two seasons at Ohio State, Stroud accumulated 8,123 passing yards and 86 touchdowns. While he has a good arm and excellent accuracy, Stroud doesn’t have that same comfort under pressure that Young does. Stroud also benefited from having a wealth of receivers to rely on.

Two such receivers he played with in 2021 were selected within the first 11 picks of the 2022 draft (Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave), and another receiver is expected to be the first receiver selected in 2023 (Jaxon Smith-Njigba). On top of that, two more Buckeye receivers are expected to be first-round selections in 2024. Some believe that Stroud benefits from his receiver weapons rather than his weapons benefitting from him, but he’ll certainly have a chance to prove these critics wrong in the NFL. 

The wild-card quarterback of the draft is the University of Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Richardson is incredibly unpolished but has the most upside of any quarterback in this year’s draft: according to Relative Athletic Score (RAS), Richardson is the most athletic quarterback the league has ever seen. Richardson measures in at a bit over 6-foot-4 and weighs 244 pounds. At this size, he ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and posted a vertical jump of more than 40 inches, both of which were comfortably the best of this year’s quarterbacks. 

Richardson pairs that athleticism with an incredibly strong arm, something which gives him limitless potential. That being said, Richardson only started one season in his time at Florida, and his lack of experience is apparent. His decision-making needs work, and he severely struggles to be an accurate passer, even at the college level. He’s the ultimate lottery ticket at the quarterback position, and it will be interesting to see which team is willing to give him a shot.

With multiple teams — such as the Houston Texans at picks two and twelve, the Indianapolis Colts at pick four — needing quarterbacks early in the draft, it’s likely that all three quarterbacks will be selected within the first five picks of the draft. 

The other quarterback that should hear his name called early in the first round is Kentucky’s Will Levis. Levis is the only prospect of the top four that isn’t declaring after his third season, as he’s a fifth-year senior. Levis has a strong build and a great arm to go with it, but he struggles with accuracy and decision-making as well.

Aside from the quarterback position, there is plenty of talent at other positions. University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson is seen as the best running back prospect in the last five years. Running backs are not typically drafted as early, but Robinson is rumored to be a potential top-ten pick. Alabama’s edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. is another prospect who is considered the best in his position in the last couple of years. He’s widely expected to be a top-five (and potentially top-three) pick in the draft. 

There are plenty more players that will hear their name called over the course of these three days, 258 in total, to be exact. The draft is a time of excitement and anticipation for teams, players, and fans alike. It’s our first taste of football since the Super Bowl – while also being our last for the next few months as well.