Night one of the NFL Draft 2023 is in the books, and as you would expect, there were some notable surprises, smart decisions, and a few head-scratching moments.
The event NFL fans look forward to each year kicked off with its opening night on Thursday as the league’s teams added the very best amateur football prospects in the world to their rosters. Heading into the first round of the NFL Draft 2023, some experts thought as many as five quarterbacks could be taken.
However, beyond Bryce Young going to the Carolina Panthers with the top overall pick, where the other top signal-callers landed on night one was at the heart of draft speculation for the last week. Yet, while the various elite quarterbacks in the class got much of the pre-NFL Draft 2023 coverage, there were also a bunch of talented skill players and defenders on the board for interested organizations in the opening round of the event.
With a wild first round coming to a close on Thursday, let’s take a look at which teams were the biggest winners and losers tonight in Kansas City.
NFL Draft 2023 winner: Houston Texans and CJ Stroud
The Houston Texans stole the show early in NFL Draft 2023 when they surprised league observers in taking CJ Stroud with the third pick overall, after every rumor this week suggested they had lost interest in selecting the Ohio State quarterback. It quieted all the doubters after his S2 score put his potential as an NFL star into question and showed the Texans were well aware of the hole they had at QB.
However, they weren’t done there as the organization made a shocking trade to move up from 12 to the Arizona Cardinals pick at 3.
With their second selection in the opening round, the Texans took Alabama EDGE rusher Will Anderson Jr. The player many thought they might take at two instead of quarterback. In one fell swoop, the hapless Texans were able to get the QB they needed and the defensive anchor they wanted in back-to-back picks at NFL Draft 2023.
Loser: Chicago Bears taking Darnell Wright at 10
The Chicago Bears made a bold move in March to trade out of the top position in the 2023 NFL Draft and go all the way to nine. On night one, they traded back another spot, and with the tenth pick they selected offensive lineman Darnell Wright.
The offensive line was an area of need after Justin Fields was one of the most sacked QBs in the league in 2022, however, there are questions on if Wright was a reach at 10. Heading into the event there was no doubt about his upside and talent, but there were also doubts about his work ethic and makeup as a football player. Those are very worrisome issues for a player a franchise hopes can be an anchor of their line for the next decade.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals get an impressive return for top pick
Rumors had swirled for weeks that the Arizona Cardinals’ top selection was up for sale. However, it seemed like they were having trouble finding takers. Well, they found it on night one of the draft and got a very nice return. In exchange for the No. 3 pick and their selection at 105, the Houston Texans sent them the 12th and 33rd this year, as well a first and third-round pick next year.
They then flipped those two picks this year to move up to the Detroit Lions’ spot at six and get the top offensive lineman in this year’s class, Paris Johnson Jr.
Essentially, they traded their pick at three to get the lineman they needed and an extra first round pick next year. Not too shabby.
Loser: New York Jets reach with linebacker Will McDonald IV
The New York Jets were quite protective of their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft when it came to trade discussions with the Green Bay Packers for superstar QB Aaron Rodgers. So instead of giving up the pick earlier this week, they swapped spots with Green Bay so they could still get on the clock Thursday night. But when the time came the player they felt they needed to have was Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV.
McDonald IV is not a bad player and has very nice potential as a pass rusher at the next level, but all the questions top pick Bryce Young had about his size should also be levied on McDonald IV too. His small frame could be the biggest hurdle for him to overcome as a pro, and his positive skills are not enough to make this a worthwhile pick at that point in the NFL Draft.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles get Jalen Carter
There are certainly concerns about Jalen Carter off the field, but there is no denying the game-changer talent he has on it. He is seen by many as the top talent overall in this year’s class, and the defending NFC Champions now have him.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost a major part of their defense in NFL free agency and Carter is the type of player who may come close to filling the shoes of Javon Hargrave in 2023. Getting a player with top-pick potential in a one-spot trade to No. 9 was a big win for Philly.
Loser: Detroit Lions take an old-school approach with two picks in the first round
The Detroit Lions turned the clock back in 2023 by taking a running back and linebacker with their two selections in the opening round. Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs and Iowa’s Jack Campbell are nice players, but they both compete at positions that have lost a lot of value in the league over the last decade.
For a team that took some big leaps forward last season, it’s hard to say if Gibbs or Campbell will be able to push the team forward like most first-round picks are expected to do. Detroit missed some opportunities on Thursday night.
Winner: New England Patriots did not reach for QB in Round 1
There has been a lot of drama surrounding the New England Patriots this offseason, and a bunch of rumors of a rift between QB Mac Jones and head coach Bill Belichick. Some suspected they might take a signal-caller with their pick in Round 1, however, the team passed on a chance to take Will Levis or Hendon Hooker and instead added talented cornerback Christian Gonzalez.
It doesn’t mean they won’t take a QB in a later round, but it likely means Jones will still be the QB1 this season and get a chance to make things right with returning offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Winner: Lamar Jackson gets more help on offense
Lamar Jackson had a very good day on Thursday, firstly, because after nearly a year of negotiations he and his mother were able to land him the richest contract in NFL history. But along with being locked in for the next five seasons, the Baltimore Ravens also gave him a little help in the passing game when they snagged up talented Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers in NFL Draft 2023.
At 23, the pick was fair value and Jackson gets a big play threat to pair up with Odell Beckham Jr. in a revamped offense next season.
Loser: Will Levis goes undrafted in opening round of NFL Draft 2023
After all the hype and talk of Kentucky QB Will Levis shooting up the NFL Draft board and possibly going in the top 5 selections, the much-ballyhooed signal-caller wasn’t even selected on Thursday night. It is all the more embarrassing for the 23-year-old as he took the risk of being in attendance on night one and ended up being one of the last players sitting around in the Kansas City green room.
Now, the big question heading into day two of the event is how far will Levis drop in this year’s draft.