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8 biggest winners from 2023 NFL Draft: Eagles reload, Texans take a leap

We won’t know the true winners of the 2023 NFL Draft for at least two years, but it’s hard not to have an instant reaction to the aftermath. Teams who ‘win’ the offseason don’t always translate to a leap in the standings. Yet, there is no better way to improve a roster than by adding impact players through the draft.

This is the NFL Draft. There’s a high bust factor. For every Pro Bowl or All-Pro talent, there’s a player who doesn’t meet expectations. In the hype of the draft, let’s act like teams addressed their needs by the picks they made, meaning teams who picked a quarterback are no longer seeking a franchise solution.

So who are the biggest winners of the 2023 NFL Draft, taking all seven rounds and 259 picks into account?

Related: 5 biggest losers from the 2023 NFL Draft

Indianapolis Colts

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We could look back on this pick as a huge swing and miss in a few seasons. But the NFL Draft isn’t about finding players who are the best right now. It’s about finding prospects who could develop into stars, and when you’re picking this high, hopefully, superstars.

Anthony Richardson is the QB with the highest upside. We’ve never seen an athlete like him, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound QB with a rocket arm who can run a 4.43 40-yard dash? That’s only possible in a video game. Or so we thought. Now we’ll get to see this fantasy play out in real life.

The Colts then added much-needed talent to their receiving corps by taking Josh Downs, who should see early playing time operating from the slot. Adding Julius Brents with their top pick in the second round offers help on defense, with a 6-foot-3 cornerback who will surely present challenges for opponents in coverage.

Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson

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Not only did Lamar Jackson finally get the bag, the Baltimore Ravens also provided the former MVP with another weapon capable of taking the top off the defense. As long as he can stay healthy, there won’t be any more talk of the Ravens having a lack of weapons. In other words, there are no more excuses on offense.

Later in the third round, we saw the Ravens pick up Trenton Simpson, an athletic coverage linebacker who has also shown some ability as a pass-rusher. They had just two picks in the first 86 selections, but the Ravens managed to add two players who could become key contributors as rookies.

New York Giants

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After reaching the Divisional Round in 2022, the New York Giants are looking to add immediate contributors. They did just that by drafting freakish cornerback Deonte Banks at No. 24. Banks should quickly settle in as the starter opposite Adoree’ Jackson.

Later on, the Giants got their likely new starting center, nabbing Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz with the 57th pick. Landing Schmitz so late is another great value pick, helping provide protection for Daniel Jones while also boosting their floor in the running game. Jalin Hyatt in the third adds some much-needed speed to the receiving corps. Despite joining a crowded receiver room, Hyatt has a chance to be a quick riser.

Related: New York Giants NFL Draft grades: Taking a look at the first 3 picks

Arizona Cardinals

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After ‘earning’ the third overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals had a chance to grab a really good player at the top of the draft. Being that they were the NFL’s third-worst team and now are likely looking at Kyler Murray missing a chunk of the season as he rehabs his torn ACL, chances are the Cardinals aren’t going to be the last remaining undefeated team in 2023.

With a first-year GM and head coach taking over, this draft was all about the future, and the Cardinals nailed it. They did a fine job maneuvering around the draft board while collecting future assets that can help build a stronger contender when the time comes.

By the way, Arizona still got a really good player adding a new franchise left tackle with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. at No. 6. Sliding down the board allowed the Cardinals to add Houston’s 2024 first-round and third-round picks. Being that the Texans were the second-worst team in 2022, these picks could have potential. The Cardinals also added Tennessee’s third-round pick in 2024, giving them a total of 11 selections in next year’s draft.

The Cardinals may not be a lot better in 2023, but come 2024, after an even stronger draft class, Arizona might have a contender again.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft: Top 6 takeaways from Round 1

Seattle Seahawks/Geno Smith

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We heard plenty of rumors suggesting the Seattle Seahawks could consider drafting Geno Smith’s eventual replacement in the first round of the NFL Draft. That didn’t happen. Instead, he got another weapon, with possibly the best receiver in the class by taking Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Coach Pete Carroll also added some much-needed talent to the defense with a new CB1 in Devon Witherspoon. They then doubled down with sack specialist Derick Hall who combines speed with power to win off the edge. Coming into the weekend with two first-round picks, how the Seahawks approached the player selection process was crucial, but the results on paper are overwhelmingly positive.

Related: Denver Broncos’ trade for Russell Wilson keeps looking worse with Seattle Seahawks’ draft haul

Houston Texans get not one, but two franchise cornerstones

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Leading up to the final moments before the Houston Texans were on the clock with the second overall pick, all the hype pointed to selecting either C.J. Stroud or Will Anderson Jr. You know the story, they ended up with both.

Getting possibly the second-best quarterback, one who’s arguably pro-ready and should be ready to start right away, plus who many regard as the top defensive player, if not the best prospect in the entire draft class is a significant haul.

Of course, it came at a hefty price. Yet with the Texans sending their 2024 first-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals along with other draft choices to move back up to No. 3, they have to be happy with their results.

It’s hard to pin the Texans as anything but winners for now, but come 2024, it could be a different story. They better be sure C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans can lead a quick turnaround. Either way, chances are the Texans wouldn’t be able to get a better player than Stroud or Anderson with their own first-round selection in 2024. This gives them a head start, allowing both players to begin their development now.

Just how much of an impact can these young athletes make? A lot depends on coaching, but for the first time in a long time, the future looks bright in Houston.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft order: Picks by team, location and dates for 2024 NFL Draft

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Boasting the 16th, 32nd, and 49th picks in the NFL Draft, the Steelers appeared to have a strong chance of adding multiple impact players this weekend. With so much draft capital, the Steelers didn’t hesitate to climb up the board to pluck left tackle Broderick Jones, hopefully securing Kenny Pickett with a blindside protector for the next 10 years.

With the first pick on Day 2, the Steelers made the fanbase happy by selecting the son of a former Pittsburgh legend. Joey Porter Jr. may not be a sack specialist like his dad was, but Steelers fans will love his feistiness at the cornerback position. They then added Keeanu Benton to the defensive line, injecting a 6-foot-4, 309-pound strongman in the trenches. We like how the Steelers are rebuilding their core.

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings: Jets, Steelers rise and Cardinals, Patriots fall after 2023 NFL Draft

Philadelphia Eagles

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We knew the chances of the Philadelphia Eagles having an impressive draft haul were strong. Entering the weekend with two picks in the first 30 selections, the Eagles came away with the top defensive tackle (arguably the top-ranked player) and an edge rusher who could be an instant contributor. Later in the fourth round, they snatched another Georgia player, adding Kelee Ringo to the cornerback room.

But the Eagles already had a roster that brought them to the Super Bowl. Was this really necessary? That’s probably the question other teams are asking themselves, as the Eagles once again have set themselves up for the future. Howie Roseman does it again.

Related: Philadelphia Eagles move up in NFL Draft to snag best defensive player in 2023 class

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