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NFL Draft: First-Round Analysis

Unpredictable First Round Meets Expectations

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft lived up to the hype with a flurry of trades and shocking picks. The draft order seemed uncertain with varying opinions on prospect rankings. That showed with some players, like edge rusher Will McDonald IV and cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, coming off the board earlier than most NFL picks expected.

With the first 31 selections of the draft behind us, let’s look at the best and worst picks of the first round.

NFL Draft: First-Round Analysis
(L-R) Bryce Young poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell | David eulitt/getty images/afp

Best Picks

  • Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
    As most NFL expert picks expected, the Carolina Panthers selected quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick. The Panthers made the correct pick after trading up for a franchise quarterback. Young was regarded as the top signal-caller for most of the process. Carolina gets an elite playmaker with impressive mobility and accuracy.
  • Houston Texans: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

The Houston Texans were the aggressor of the night, trading a package of picks, including the Nos. 12 and 33 picks, for the Arizona Cardinals’ No. 3 selection. Houston selected edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. after taking quarterback C.J. Stroud with the second pick. What a haul; the most accurate QB and the top defensive end of the class. After a potential franchise-changing first round, look for the sportsbook to raise the Texans’ projected win total for the 2023 season.

  • Philadelphia Eagles: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
    Jalen Carter slid on Thursday night due to off-the-field concerns. The Philadelphia Eagles scooped the top player of the 2023 class with the ninth selection. Philly has found its replacement for defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency. The Eagles will feature the most talented and deep defensive line in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
    Offensive tackle was one of the Pittsburgh Steelers biggest needs of the draft. However, it seemed a first-round tackle would be out of reach at the No. 17 pick. Pittsburgh elected to trade up, acquiring the No. 14 pick. Broderick Jones has star potential at left tackle as one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the class. Without the trade, Jones would have likely landed with the New York Jets at 15.
  • Seattle Seahawks: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
    Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba lasted longer than expected, and the Seattle Seahawks hopped on the opportunity. They needed a receiver that could work the middle of the field alongside the vertical threats of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Smith-Njigba is the perfect fit with exceptional route-running and reliable hands out of the slot.

Worst Picks

  • Detroit Lions: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
    Many NFL predictions expected Jahmyr Gibbs to be a first-round pick after his stock surged in the final days leading up to draft night. However, no one expected Gibbs to hear his name called this early. This was the most shocking pick of the night by a landslide. The Detroit Lions elected to pass on two elite defensive line talents at No. 6 and traded back to No. 12. The Lions took Gibbs, who is a speedy and versatile running back. This felt far too high, and Detroit has David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift in the backfield.
  • New York Jets: EDGE Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
    Will McDonald IV was tracking for a late first-round selection? The New York Jets made a gamble with the No. 15 pick. McDonald’s will provide excellent speed off of the edge. However, this selection felt too high; why not trade down? New York likely made this pick due to most offensive tackles being off of the board.
  • Detroit Lions: LB Jack Campbell, Iowa
    The Lions could be the biggest loser of the first round. After reaching the No. 12, Detroit did it again by selecting linebacker Jack Campbell with the 18th selection. NFL odds had Campbell as a borderline first-round prospect. He fills a need as an off-ball linebacker. However, this feels too high. The Lions could have traded down and still acquired Campbell.
  • Los Angeles Chargers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
    The Los Angeles Chargers needed a No. 3 receiver. The Chargers went with another big-body receiver in 6-foot-3 Quentin Johnston. He can play in the slot, which gives the Chargers versatility. However, Zay Flowers would have been a better fit with game-breaking speed.

  • Buffalo Bills: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
    NFL lines favored Dalton Kincaid to go within the top 24 picks. He fell on Thursday night, causing the Buffalo Bills to trade up to the No. 25 pick. Kincaid is a good value here as an exceptional receiving target. However, the Bills have Dawson Knox, and there were good guard and cornerback prospects available.

Before placing a bet on the NFL game, it’s important to check the latest NFL Vegas odds to make an informed decision.

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