2023 NFL Draft: Round 1 for home runs and head-scratchers: Eagles, Seahawks shine; Lions are confusing

The 2023 NFL Draft promised to be polarizing, given how many of the NFL’s 32 teams agreed there were fewer than 20 players with true first-round picks. Thursday night lived up to that billing as not one, but TWO quarterbacks went in the first round of our Lord’s two thousand and twenty three NFL draft. If I was told this would happen beforehand, I would have thought it was a weird dream or a hallucination after a few days of sleep deprivation.

Many teams blew their picks, including the first two picks, with Bryce Young going No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers and CJ Stroud going No. 2 to the Houston Texans after plenty of success. smoke and mirrors.

I liked three teams with multiple picks (Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks), but one (Detroit Lions) drafted like it was the 1990s. Here are five picks I liked and five I didn’t like after the opening round in Kansas City.

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Choices I liked

QB CJ Stroud (No. 2 vs. Texans)

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It makes all the sense in the world. i had my”What Teams Should Do” mock draft came out earlier this week and I said the Houston Texans should take CJ Stroud and not overthink it. We heard some talk about him possibly being Will Anderson Jr. A great football player, but he doesn’t pass. Stroud checks all the boxes. He can even win with his legs, which he showed against the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

He is arguably the most accurate passer in this class, including Bryce Young. He doesn’t throw with as much eagerness as Young, but Stroud also had Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jackson Smith-Njigba. Those guys were always open. I understand why there were questions about that part of his game, but from what I saw, no moment was too big. You get a firsthand sense of the edge he plays with. I think this is a great pick for the Houston Texans.

CB Devon Witherspoon (#5 to Seahawks)

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I like this choice. The Seahawks already had their version of 2022 defensive rookie Sauch Gardner with fellow first-year player Tariq Vullen, whose six interceptions were the most in the NFL last season. Now you have someone to line up against Woolen in Witherspoon, who didn’t allow a single touchdown as the starting quarterback in the 2022 college season at Illinois. He is a dog. Even though he’s barely six feet tall and weighs 180-185 pounds, watch him play against Indiana. He blew the guys up.

He can also cover extra guys. Witherspoon feels like a classic Pete Carroll, Seattle’s cornerback from the Legion of Boom when Richard Sherman and Cam Chancellor returned. I had heard they were targeting Florida linebacker Anthony Richardson, who went fourth overall to the Indianapolis Colts. I heard they were from Jalen Carter, so they went to their table and picked the best player for Witherspoon.

DT Jalen Carter and EDGE Nolan Smith (Nos. 9 and 30 Eagles)

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If you were just watching football in the fall and knew nothing else about Jalen Carter, you’d have to wonder why he was still on the board at this point. It was because a charges of a couple of misdemeanors on January 15 as a result of a fatal single-car accident. Winning fixes a lot of things, so you have this culture of winning in Philadelphia. Plus, he has people around him, like his Georgia teammates in linebacker Nakobe Dean and defensive back Jordan Davis, who can keep him in line. The idea of ​​him next to Davis on that defensive line, playing with Dean in the front seven, is a scary proposition for opposing offenses. Carter led the national champions in quarterback pressures (66), quarterback hurries (48) and tackles for loss (15.5) over the past two seasons. Huge win to add some great talent to an already great Eagles defense.

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Georgia State running back Nolan Smith is a generational athlete, not just as an edge rusher, but across the NFL athletic landscape. At 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, Smith is the heaviest player at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 40-plus-inch vertical (41.5 inches) and sub-4.4 40 time (4.39 seconds) since individual records were publicly tracked in 2003. numbers. The second and third heaviest players to accomplish feats of athletic dominance at the combine: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (228 pounds) and New York Jets quarterback Brice Hall (217). Redick, whose 16 sacks last season were second-most in the NFL behind only 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa’s 18.5, is simply unfair.

OT Broderick Jones (#14, Steelers)

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Broderick Jones’ athleticism is off the charts: He ran a 4.97 40-yard dash, the fastest of any offensive lineman at the 2023 NFL Combine, while standing at 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds. He didn’t allow a single sack and gave up just eight quarterback pressures for 449 blocks against the 2022 national champion Georgia Bulldogs while showing perfect health while starting all 15 games. That’s about as strong as the Steelers, who were desperate to improve the defense of 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett.

Choices I didn’t like (or didn’t see coming)

RB Jahmyr Gibbs and LB Jack Campbell (Nos. 12 and 18 Lions)

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I will say this: When Rick Spielman and I were at Alabama’s Pro Day watching Bryce Young, Jameer Gibbs caught our eye running routes and running backs. He looked different. I just didn’t expect him to go in the top 12 based on team needs and other potential prospects.

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Pairing the 2022 Butkus Award winner, the best linebacker in college football, with Malcolm Rodriguez creates a nice running back tandem in the middle of head coach Dan Campbell’s big-mouth, blue-collar defense. Campbell had the fastest three-cone drill time (6.74 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle time (4.24 seconds) of any linebacker at the 2023 NFL Combine. I just didn’t expect a quarterback to come in the middle of the first round and the Lions to be the ones to take it.

DT Mazi Smith (No. 26, Cowboys)

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They needed help in the middle of their defensive line. In my last mock draft, released Thursday, I had them take Pitt’s Kaley Cansey, who was already off the board after going 19th overall to the Buccaneers. At 323 pounds, Smith is a freak athlete, but it doesn’t show play-by-play. That’s when you think, why not? Does he like football? Is there anything else going on? How are we going to deal with it? Fortunately, Dallas has players around him who can keep him focused on football. Defensive line depth is clearly thin in Dallas.

EDGE Tyree Wilson (No. 7 Raiders)

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Some teams expressed concern that Tyree Wilson’s foot injury was not medically appropriate after suffering a foot injury in November. He didn’t work at the Senior Bowl, but I talked to him there. Well done young man. Great year despite injury, leading the Big 12 in quarterback pressures with 50 despite missing three games. Wilson also had the highest quarterback pressure rate in the conference in 2022 at 20.7%, 5.2% higher than the next player (Oklahoma State’s Colin Oliver, 15.5%) with at least 150 passes. That’s the difference between the second-leading pass rusher in the Big 12 and the 31st-leading pass rusher in the Big 12.

He is very serious about football and wanted to train at the combine, but it did not happen. The Raiders were a team that was okay with him. He’s 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds, but he’s so tall he looks like he’s 220. That’s a nice complement to Maxx Crosby, but if you look at the secondary and see cornerback Christian Gonzalez available, maybe first you go to the back of the defense. .

OT Darnell Wright (No. 10 Bears)

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Entering the 2022 college football season, Wright was considered a Day 3 pick until he moved from left tackle to right tackle. Wright didn’t have a sack last season and had five pressures in 461 pass-blocking snaps, ending his career with a 19-game hitting streak, the last 13 of which came in 2022. He just got better (young players get better when you face SEC competition on a regular basis.) At the end of the day, though, the Bears were able to take Jalen Carter, the top overall prospect in this draft, at No. 9 before letting the Eagles trade up just one pick ahead of them. fourth round pick.

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