The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone.
The rookies won't suit up for real NFL games until September, but it's not too early to praise and critique the selections and moves. After the first 31 picks, here are six winners and losers from the draft's opening round:
2023 NFL Draft Winners:
The Panthers had a good draft, selecting the draft's best QB, Bryce Young, first overall. But 'winning' is about more than the best player, it's about value, strategy, and fit:
The Eagles didn’t need much help, entering the 2023 Draft with the league’s third-lowest Super Bowl odds. So, naturally, the rest of the league colluded to hand them two of the top defensive players in the class.
For the second straight year, Philly let the board come to them and walked away from the draft with two elite Georgia defenders, grabbing Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith to pair with Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean from last year. Carter certainly has his question marks, but with depth and talent across the roster already, the Eagles were perfectly positioned to take the risk.
Thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks had two top-20 picks despite making the playoffs a year ago. It would’ve been pretty hard to mess that up, but not impossible (see Detroit).
By selecting DB Devon Witherspoon and WR Jaxon Smith-Njiba, the Seahawks added Todd McShay's seventh and 17th-best players from the class. Neither were obvious fits for the Seahawks, but they were two of the most talented players on the board. Witherspoon will pair with Tariq Woolen in the secondary to give Seattle a new deadly defensive back duo while JSN joins arguably the best receiving core in football (alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett).
The Wilson trade was a risk at the time, but the 2023 NFL Draft further solidified the move as a clear Seattle W.
The Baltimore Ravens' QB had a good day on Thursday. The 26-year-old signed a fresh five-year, $260 million contract to become the highest-paid player in NFL history (for now), and then the Ravens gave him a new toy a few hours later. With the 23rd-overall pick, Baltimore took speedy Boston College receiver Zay Flowers.
With Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and Mark Andrews, Jackson has a higher quality and quantity of pass-catching options around him than ever before. Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP and led the league in passing touchdowns with Willie Snead IV and Nick Boyle as two of his top-four most targeted players. Now, he's got four legit options out wide and a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken to scheme up another MVP campaign.
With a new contract and fresh weapons around him, Jackson sits eighth in 2024 NFL MVP odds (+1600) after the draft.
That new-look Ravens offense 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/4SxwVyGc90— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) April 27, 2023
2023 NFL Draft Losers
Let's be clear, this doesn't mean these picks won't pan out or be good NFL players. But, given the industry-accepted values on Draft Day (great movie, by the way), here are three losers from the first round:
Just like the Seahawks, the Lions entered the draft looking to build on a solid playoff-caliber core with two early picks. Instead, they left us scratching our heads by selecting RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LB Jack Campbell.
Per McShay's rankings, the Lions spent the 12th and 18th overall picks on the 28th and 58th-ranked players in the class. It's fair to reach a few picks for your guy, but 30?
You know it's bad when even the guy you drafted thinks the pick was a bit of a reach: "Yeah, I thought like in the 20s because that's where it is usually for running backs," Gibbs told ESPN.
It's not that Gibbs can't be a great NFL RB, as he's currently fifth in 2024 Offensive Rookie of the Year odds. But, he's a guy the Lions probably could've gotten 10 picks later, or maybe more. Campbell was the favorite to be the first linebacker selected (-115) but most people thought that pick wouldn't come until Friday.
Allgeier was one of the surprise stories of 2023. The fifth-round pick won Atlanta's starting RB job last year, rushed for over 1000 yards, and came fifth in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. But now he's RB2.
When the Falcons took Bijan Robinson with their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Allgeier got a loud reminder that the NFL is a business. He'll still probably see rotation touches in 2023, but he'll probably never repeat his rookie season success with Bijan in town.
Tyler Allgeier's fantasy stock 📉 pic.twitter.com/xQfTN3GVcb— ESPN Fantasy Sports (@ESPNFantasy) April 28, 2023
As of this writing, the former Kentucky QB hasn't been taken yet and will likely hear his name called at some point on Day 2. Sure, Levis may end up in a better fit, but his draft tumble has cost him a fair chunk of change.
If Levis went fourth overall to the Colts, he would've made $6.5 million per year on his rookie deal. Even if he goes with the first pick in the second round, that number's now down to $1.8 mill per year. Some realistic Day 2 landing spots for Levis are the Lions (34th overall), Rams (36th), Raiders (38th), and Titans (41st). The more Levis falls, the more money he'll miss out on:
|Round, Overall Pick
|2023 Cap Hit
|1, 1 (Panthers)
|1, 4 (Colts)
|2, 34 (Lions)
|2, 36th (Rams)
|2, 38th (Raiders)
|2, 41st (Titans)