The 2023 NFL Draft was even more bonkers than expected. Multiple trades to maneuver only one draft spot. A quarterback prospect who took perhaps the biggest free fall in draft history. A historic run on wide receivers. Shocking, seemingly wild swings and reaches for prospects who came off the board a full 10 or 20 picks before everyone thought.
A little bit of everything. What a night. Let's dive into the biggest winners and losers, with the understanding that, yes, this draft itself still has many more rounds in it and we won't know the truth until years down the road. Doesn't make this not fun to do for any of us sportzz writing folks.
Winner: SLENDER MEN
Here's a selection of height-weight listings for Thursday's first-rounders:
- 1. Panthers QB Bryce Young: 5-10, 185 (not using his Combine weight, ain't real)
- 5. Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon: 5-11, 181
- 12. Lions RB Jahmyr Gibbs: 5-9, 199
- 15. Jets EDGE Will McDonald IV: 6-4, 239
- 16. Commanders CB Emmanuel Forbes: 6-1, 166
- 22. Ravens WR Zay Flowers: 5-9, 182
- 23. Vikings WR Jordan Addison: 5-11, 173
- 30. Eagles EDGE Nolan Smith: 6-2, 238
The very first man who heard his name called is the ultimate short king and slender man. Bryce Young is so soft-spoken, too. I have a hard time believing he'd fire up an NFL locker room. Seems like a trivial thing, right? I don't think it is. Either this dude commands so much respect for his reputed football genius, or he unleashes an absolute DAWG in him between the white lines that his teammates rally around. Maybe both. I don't know!!
Two EDGE defenders in the first round who are below 240 pounds? That's quite the outlier size-wise at that position. McDonald can bend around the edge maybe better than anyone in this class, though, and Smith plays the run so much tougher and better than you'd expect from someone with his frame.
How about Emmanuel Forbes 16th overall? if he lives up to his game tape and ball production as a multi-year SEC starter, he'll be worth the pick. Forbes is working to gain weight and already has…but yeah. One sixty-six. That's what he checked into the Combine at. Thus, the 16th pick was maybe a little high there for Washington to take him with other viable options on the board.
Uhh OK that first section kicked us off on a positive note but needs to come to a grinding, abrupt halt. Let's address the elephant in the room…
Loser: Will Levis and/or positive-skewing smokescreens
Not sure I've ever seen anything quite like the buzz Will Levis got in the week leading up to the draft. He was always the consensus QB4. The odds for the No. 1 overall pick reflected that. HOWEVER, all kinds of rumors about teams in the top five loving on Levis started flying about. Then a wildin' Reddit user claimed Levis was telling friends and family he'd be the No. 1 overall pick.
Once the Colts passed over Levis in favor of Anthony Richardson with the fourth pick, the slide to end all slides was on.
Reags was going through it for his ex-Kentucky QB.
Where does Will Levis even go now? His offensive coordinator at Kentucky from 2021 (when he had his most success) was Liam Coen. They're still tight. Coen has served on Sean McVay's Rams staff multiple times. Could the Rams take a swing with the 36th pick? Food for thought.
Other potential Levis landing spots…? Anyone?
Winner: The Seahawks, who got CB1 AND WR1
Totally believed Dan Campbell was gonna be all over this guy with the sixth pick and put Lions GM Brad Holmes in a chokehold until he relented and said he'd draft Devon Witherspoon. The Illinois cornerback allowed ONE YARD in press coverage this past season (h/t Mike Renner for the stat).
Then Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20? Come on. Now you're showing off, John Schneider and Pete Carroll. Wrote a blog on my birthday last year about how I suspected the Seahawks were building something very special, starting with their 2022 draft class.
I mentioned how awful their drafts of the recent past had been. Don't know what the fuck got into the water in Seattle before last year's draft till now. Whatever it is, suddenly the Seahawks are bringing in loads of young talent and could be ready to compete for a Super Bowl thanks in part to a wide-open NFC.
Loser: Wide receivers in general
As you slide in the draft, you lose more and more money. The tradeoff is, you're bound to land in more of a winning situation unless some trade happened where picks were exchanged. JSN coming off the board at 20 started a run of four straight wideouts. NFL Draft history was made.
Three of those four teams made the playoffs. I guess I could frame this as "these teams won because they scooped up receivers when no one else would take them". But no. I think draft day winners and losers are more about the prospects, and the bold-ass moves that GMs make to acquire them — both good and bad.
This wasn't a loaded wide receiver class to begin with. Silver lining for these guys? A chance to hit the ground running with solid-to-elite quarterbacks. And my goodness, how about the fashionable fits on Zay Flowers and Jordan Addison?
That'd be a pair of bonus/hidden-in-the-loser-section massive WINS in the eyes of most. Not quite up to par with the En Eff El Draft Show hosts' red blazers, of course!
Winner: Houston, for growing a pair AND THEN SOME
NICK CASERIO. YOU WHEELING DEALING DEVIL, YOU! Thought the Texans GM was a strategically conservative dweeb who'd trade back or not take a quarterback high up. I'm thrilled to have been so wrong! THIS WAS ELECTRIC.
Everyone credits NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah for putting the Texans' massive balls move to pick at Nos. 2 and 3 overall to take Ohio State QB CJ Stroud and Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr…and well, I get it. It's just..I called it sooner. Or rather implored the Texans to do it. On April 5. In this blog. Personal win here, too. Read it all and weep.
Loser: Lions high on their own supply
Had major hopes for the Lions. Love what the Campbell-Holmes HC-GM partnership is building. Unfortunately, I think they got a little too cute on Thursday night. Might've cost them an NFC North title this year. It's as if Aaron Rodgers' exit from the Packers created this gaping opening, only for Detroit to stumble over a slightly raised sidewalk before crossing the threshold.
With D'Andre Swift still in the fold and David Montgomery aboard from the visional rival Bears, it's not like running back was a major need. Using a first-round pick at that position is generally frowned upon. Holmes didn't give a fuck. He took Gibbs anyway. I was hoping he'd fall to the Bengals at 28! Not even close. LOL.
Then Jack Campbell. My LB1. Got him at +120 as the first at his position drafted over Arkansas' Drew Sanders. That's cool. AND. Taking a linebacker that high in the modern NFL isn't the best use of resources in the opinion of most.
I reserve the right to change my mind on the Lions being huge losers. Everyone's calling for their heads. They still have six more rounds of draft to go, with two second-round picks on Friday. Detroit can fill out more obvious roster holes then. That has to be thinking. For now, though, I'm like damn near everyone else who follows the NFL. Don't know what the hell the Lions were thinking with
Winner: Colts GM Chris Ballard (REDEEMED)
I rode the late (early?) train home with John Rich after the En Eff El Draft Show and was indoctrinating him with pro-Anthony Richardson propaganda. Richardson was my favorite prospect of the entire 2023 draft. I'm glad he went to John's team.
An even crazier development? CHRIS BALLARD FINALLY GOT THE RIGHT QUARTERBACK.
I have been as critical of Ballard as any NFL executive maybe ever. It's more because he's earned this, well, unearned benefit of the doubt over the years that he's some excellent GM when the on-field results and personnel say otherwise. Nothing has been more mismanaged by Ballard than quarterbacks. But then Thursday night happened and…
There's no way in my mind Ballard was going to take anyone other than Will Levis at No. 4 overall. Seemed like a stone-cold lock with all the aforementioned Levis buzz afoot. Thank goodness, Ballard had enough sense in him to select Richardson and pass on a guy nobody would touch for the rest of Round 1.
Loser: Packers gonna Packer
To quote Hubbs from this blog, "Death. Taxes. The Packers not taking a WR/TE in the first round."
Hey, at least Van Ness' family put on a winning performance. That said, it can only mean the Iowa product is one of the evening's losers. Sorry, Lukas. There have to be some, and if your family is a bunch of winners, chances are you are, too. Had an off night.
No but even as a prospect, Van Ness confuses me. All he can do is bull rush. He's kind of a tweener who played more snaps on the interior in college. Now, he's hitting the NFL and expected to play on the edge. There were some other reaches more egregious — at least one in particular — but I think Van Ness at 13th overall was a little rich for my blood.
Dalton Kincaid and every single wide receiver on the board. Packers say no. Even with Jordan Love in need of a viable WR3 of any sort.
Winner: Georgia defenders/THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
It's almost 5 a.m. on Friday morning at the exact time of this writing. I'm jumping around sections. I think this is the fifth one. I'm getting really tired. You can see most of that graphic, right? The Eagles acquired Jordan Davis in the first round and Nakobe Dean in the third round of the 2022 draft. Then they double-dip in Round 1 from the national championship-winning Bulldogs with Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith.
The GIF below does a pretty good job summing it all up for the reigning NFC East champions and how Howie Roseman keeps relentlessly building a powerhouse roster.
Pretty simple when you just say, "Huh. Not quite sure what to do here — guess I'll take another Georgia dude!"
Winner: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
An intentionally cryptic title for a deliberately cryptic coach/GM. The legend. Sheev Palpatine in the world of football. Bill Belichick.
The Hoodie — see? Emperor/Supreme Chancellor Papa Palps vibes — did one of his patented trade-back maneuvers and punted on drafting a wide receiver. Instead, Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez fell right into Belichick's lap. Didn't take long at all for that pick to be announced.
I guess I could argue a final "loser" would be someone who was hammering bets on UNDER lines for how long a draft pick would take to be made. Or the Under on how long it'd take us to get from "PICK IS IN" to the actual announcement. Or the Under on how long it'd take any given prospect to walk all the way to the damn stage. Those betting lines don't exist, to be clear. At least as far as I'm aware. Hope they don't.
Tying in the Pats to this tangent, I swear so many of the post-pick hikes were like this:
Anyway…the Patriots got even better on defense. Alas, if Bill O'Brien can't salvage the tatters of an offense left behind by Matt Patricia, the Gonzalez pick won't mean much. But let's not dwell on the negatives to end this thing. BOB may well revitalize Mac Jones' career, Gonzalez should step in as a starter, and New England can return to the playoffs. Right now, everyone is 0-0. Anything can happen.
Aaaaand we still have six more rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft to go. I will be on the edge of my seat for most of it. I have a problem. Hand up. I admit. But there is seriously nothing quite like draft SZN.