The 2023 NFL draft is now a week behind us. And while no true assessment of talent drafted can be completed until games are played, the dust has settled enough to look at how some of the teams faired.
General Managers are hired for a reason, so we could all look dumb in a few years, but not every team seemed to make the most out of their picks last weekend. Here is a look at those we think excelled and those that left us scratching our heads.
It’s Good to be in Pennsylvania
Two of the teams that jump out right away as winners this draft are the two teams in Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles are coming off their best season finish since the 2017 season and while they lost some talent on both sides of the ball (including Offensive and Defensive Coordinators) they wasted no time reloading.
Philadelphia had the luxury of two first-round picks thanks to a draft day trade in 2022 which landed them the 10th overall pick from New Orleans. GM Howie Roseman shrewdly traded up to the #9 spot and took DT Jalen Carter from University of Georgia. Many had Carter as the most talented player in the entire draft, but slid due to off-the-field issues.
The Eagles paired Carter with uber-athletic DE Nolan Smith, another Bulldog. Smith was one of the best performers in the NFL Combine and if you can get two stars from the NCAA Championship defense, why not get three? Their best pick in the draft might have come in the fourth round when they drafted CB Kelee Ringo, another player who had first-round grades and can be a day one starter.
Head west from the state Capitol and in Steel City the Pittsburgh Steelers immediately addressed needs across the board. The Steelers only drafted 7 players, with no picks in the 5th or 6th rounds but found 7 players who can start day one.
Drafting OT Broderick Jones 14th overall helps protect their long-term starting quarterback Kenny Pickett and support their rebuild for years to come. With their 32nd pick, they took one of the top cornerback prospects in Joey Porter, Jr from Penn State. Who Steeler fans will recognize and love immediately, the son of All-Pro LB Steeler Joey Porter. My favorite pick of their haul was TE Darnell Washington from Georgia in the third round. There may be a theme here that it’s a good sign if you draft Georgia players; may be wrong in the long term, but can’t fault drafting players from the best team in college football.
Are these the right cornerstones?
The Houston Texans were the worst team in the NFL for the vast majority of the season last year. They were competitive at times, but clearly in need of a complete rebuild. That started this off-season with the hiring of Demaco Ryans as head coach and continued with them selecting QB C.J. Stroud from Ohio State. Easily considered one of the best quarterback prospects this draft and despite some late news about a bad cognitive test, Stroud was in the discussion for the number one overall pick. Getting him at number two was a smart pick to start building around.
The questionable move came directly after Stroud, when the Texans traded for the Arizona Cardinals #3 pick (and #105). Houston gave up its 12th, 33rd, and 2024 1st and 3rd round picks. While getting LB Will Anderson Jr. from Alabama added to their roster with that 3rd pick, it is a lot of draft capital to part with for a rebuilding franchise. Not many will question that Anderson has the potential to be an All-Pro and opens as the DROY favorite at +350. Time will tell if those future picks could have helped the Texans turn around.
Jets and Packers linked in the draft
The Green Bay Packers and New York Jets were the talk of the off-season once QB Aaron Rodgers announced he wanted to play for the Jets. The trade talks dragged on for a while, but concluded days before the draft where the Jets and Packers swapped first-round picks (among others) for the QB.
At first glance, it was a lot to give up for the Jets to get a QB that didn’t want to play for the Packers. With Green Bay now selecting at number 13 overall, they went defense once again with DE Lukas Van Ness from Iowa. Van Ness’ talent is not up for debate, but the Packers are losing a lot of weapons on offense and had the entire wide receiver board open to them. Packers did address offense with a TE in the 2nd round, but further add to the confusion with another TE in the 3rd round. It could all pay off, but seemed odd at the time.
The Jets now have their QB to get them over the hump and back into the playoffs. Their defense wasn’t the issue last season, and have young talent on offense, so the thought would be to build around Rodgers. However, the Jets decided to go defense with EDGE Will McDonald IV from Iowa State. He fits Head Coach Robert Saleh’s scheme, but an offensive lineman might have made more sense here. Or finding more new weapons for Rodgers since still at #15 no wide receiver had been taken.
Jets fans are still celebrating the Rodgers get so no one is complaining yet. The concern will come in the season if injuries come to their offensive line and depth issues slow down their offense.