2023 NFL Draft: Who Won and Who Lost?

This past weekend, the stage was set for college football players to learn where they will be playing in the NFL. The NFL Draft took place over three straight action-packed days of teams adding key pieces to their rosters, either aiming for present or future success in the form of a rebuild. Most importantly, the draft is a time when dreams come true for the athletes who have been selected. 

The Top Picks

The Carolina Panthers had the first overall pick in this year’s draft via a trade with the Chicago Bears, who were the worst team in the NFL last season. With the first pick, the Panthers selected University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The Panthers desperately needed help at the quarterback position, and they’re hoping an impressive player like Young will finally bring some stability. After the failed experiments of Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, drafting Young will hopefully be a new and a better beginning for the Panthers, as the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner’s statistics were nothing short of impressive, throwing for over 3,000 passing yards in 2022 and over 4,000 passing yards in 2021, taking The Tide to a national championship during his tenure. 

The next two picks in the draft were made by the Houston Texans. They had the second pick by virtue of a second-worst record and traded up for the third pick in the middle of the draft. Houston is looking to end its streak as the NFL’s laughing stock – they have been far from competitive in the past two seasons, and they have fired two coaches over the same span. The second overall pick was Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, who had the potential to be first overall. Like Carolina, the Texans needed a quarterback badly, and they got someone who was nothing short of a standout while with the Buckeyes. Stroud finished third in the Heisman race this year, following an 11-1 record in the regular season and a College Football Playoff (CFP) appearance. For the third pick, which was acquired in a pick swap trade with the Cardinals, the Texans took University of Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. Anderson in his time at Alabama registered over 100 tackles and will be a fantastic defensive addition to the Houston Texans.

With the fourth overall selection, the Indianapolis Colts selected University of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, an outsatnding athlete for the quarterback position. While playing for the Gators, Richardson threw for over 2,500 passing yards and 17 touchdown passes last season. He will be a great addition to the Colts, who have still been looking for their future quarterback following the retirement of the great Andrew Luck in 2019.

Next, the Seattle Seahawks selected Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick. This selection was the result of the Russell Wilson trade with Denver – Seattle got the fifth overall pick and the opportunity to add to the roster that made a surprise return to the playoffs behind the play of QB Geno Smith. Drafting Witherspoon will hopefully be a good addition to the defense as Seattle looks to improve upon their defense since last year when they surrendered more than 20 points in 13 of 17 regular season games.  

Draft Winners

Philadelphia Eagles: The defending NFC champions have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, and they only improved further during the draft. It was not just the picks that made them a winner, but how they used their draft stock to land stellar running back D’Andre Swift in a trade with Detroit. The Philadelphia native and Georgia Bulldogs alum had himself a decent season in 2022, running for over 500 yards and scoring five touchdowns. If Swift can stay healthier in 2023, these numbers will look even better. Other players that the Eagles selected were defensive lineman Jalen Carter and edge rusher Nolan Smith, two key defensive components from the championship-winning Bulldogs. They also selected Alabama tackle Tyler Steen in the third round, which will be a big help for the offensive line.

Carolina Panthers: It is hard not to be a winner when you have the number one overall selection. Bryce Young will be a great addition to the Panthers, and hopefully, greener pastures are ahead in Carolina if their quarterback problems can finally be solved. In addition to Young, the Panthers drafted solid players such as Jonathan Mingo, a wideout from Ole Miss, as well as offensive lineman Chandler Zava from North Carolina State. Carolina now has a quarterback and a team to build around and will provide a set foundation for the future.

Draft Losers

New York Jets: Big news came before the draft when the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers – a trade which included a pick swap in the first round amongst other draft picks – from the Green Bay Packers. As a result, the Jets forfeited draft capital while the Packers, on the other hand, used their picks to draft around their new starter at quarterback Jordan Love. I also think the Jets missed out on one of the most talented receivers in the first round, Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State University, who could have assisted Rodgers. There are still a lot of question marks about what an older Aaron Rodgers can bring to the table, and they were not able to assist him much in the draft.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers started the draft without a first or second-round pick as a result of a trade with Miami for a pick that resulted in the drafting of quarterback Trey Lance, as well as a trade with Carolina for running back Christian McCaffrey. With the picks they did have in this year’s draft, they selected All-American kicker Jake Moody in the third round – a questionable choice. Also, going into training camp, the 49ers have a quarterback battle between Trey Lance, who is coming back from injury, and “Mr. Irrelevant,” also known as Brock Purdy, who took the Niners to the NFC Championship last year. The lack of draft picks was the result of trading for Lance, so this coming preseason will be the deciding factor on whether that trade was worthwhile for San Francisco.