With the 2023 NFL Draft over, it’s time to take a look back (and forward) at which teams were the winners of the night. It’s impossible to tell how each prospect will pan out, but looking at value, along with talent, we can tell who had a good draft.
Honorable Mention: Arizona Cardinals
I really like what the Cardinals did in this year’s draft. As a team that’s in the dreaded “no man’s land,” they needed to get some draft capital for the future, and they did. It was no secret they were looking to move out of the 3rd overall slot on draft night, and they got the haul they should have gotten in return from Houston. In terms of their players, Arizona (finally) got the top offensive lineman to protect their recently-paid QB. They also drafted OLB BJ Ojulari in the second round, one of my favorite picks at that value. Overall, a solid draft for the Cardinals as they look towards the future.
Honorable Mention: Chicago Bears
In the aftermath of the draft, the Bears’ weekend has gone under the radar. They acquired some really solid players, particularly guys I like in the late rounds. In the first round, they secured Darnell Wright, a tackle that will protect Justin Fields and was the most pro-ready guy at that spot. The Bears went heavy on defense in the second and third rounds, securing one of my favorite high-ceiling prospects in CB Tyrique Stevenson.
I also liked the selection of WR Tyler Scott to help boost this receiver room, along with the addition of ILB Noah Sewell, who was projected to be a first-round pick just a few months ago, in the fifth round. It may not move the needle for Chicago, but a good draft nonetheless.
5. Detroit Lions
The disrespect on the Lions’ draft has gone too far. Yes, they reached on a running back in a spot where they could have addressed defense, but in hindsight, it all worked out. RB Jahmyr Gibbs was one of my highest-ranked RBs in this draft, and if it wasn’t for Bijan Robinson, he would have undoubtedly been talked about as the top backfield prospect in this class. They took the best player on their board, and reaching for need gets GMs fired in this league.
LB Jack Campbell was the only pick I questioned since I think they might have been able to get him with their second-round pick or move up to do so, but their second-round was where Detroit thrived. Getting safety Brian Branch in the second round was massive for this secondary, which allowed the most yards in the league last season. Additionally, TE Sam LaPorta can fill the hole left by TJ Hockenson in this offense, and QB Hendon Hooker can sit behind Jared Goff and be drafted at good value in the third round.
The Lions could have swung big and hit a home run, but instead, they hit a single, which is still respectable.
4. Seattle Seahawks
With the fifth overall selection in the draft, many expected Seattle to take DT Jalen Carter or even a quarterback. Instead, they took CB Devon Witherspoon, a guy who’s going to have an immediate impact on this defense. Pete Caroll will pair Witherspoon with Tariq Woolen, who is coming off an incredible rookie season, to create one of the best young CB duos in the league. To make their night even better, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba fell to them at pick #20. Putting JSN in the slot with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the outside will create a possibly lethal trio to support Geno Smith. A very solid night for the Seahawks.
3. Houston Texans
Everybody thought the Texans had the possibility to have a good draft, and instead, they had a great draft. They got their franchise QB in C.J. Stroud and made the trade of the night when they moved back up to the third overall pick to select OLB Will Anderson Jr. out of Alabama, arguably the best overall talent in the draft. To support their young QB, they drafted WR Nathaniel Dell in the third round. With the Texans limited at almost every position, they needed to make an impact, and they certainly did. The Texans are rebuilding, and this draft made their future look a lot more promising.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
While many would mark the Eagles draft as the best of the night, I would put one team above them. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Howie Roseman had quite the draft. The Eagles’ draft strategy: take pretty much every player from Georgia’s defense. It isn’t a bad strategy, since the Bulldogs had the best defense in college football last season, and they already have young players in prominent roles, such as Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, who came from the same school.
They acquired DT Jalen Carter, who fell to them at the ninth overall pick, and OLB Nolan Smith, who slipped to them at pick #30. Both of those players are talented and were selected with great value, but it’s everything after the first round is what separates the best draft from Philly’s draft. The best mid-round pick for the Eagles was safety Sydney Brown, who can immediately step in and play a role with Philadelphia’s biggest hole being at that position.
Other than Brown, they moved up for Kelee Ringo, who most likely won’t be on the Week One roster, and they didn’t really take any positions of need, specifically on defense. With the Eagles needing to fill positions defensively, they took players who were solid and could have immediate chemistry on their defense and came out of the draft looking just a bit better than before.
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ first night of the draft ended early, but they had the best weekend of any team in terms of talent and value. They hopefully drafted their QB of the future in Anthony Richardson and took a chance on his ceiling, but it was after night one that made their draft special. They upgraded their secondary with CB Julius Brents in the second round, and CB Darius Rush in the fifth round.
They also acquired WR Josh Downs. Downs was a player that I expected to go in the first round, and pairing him with Michael Pittman Jr. will create a young WR duo to help their new QB. Indy drafted DE Adetomiwa Adebawore in the fourth round, who was a player that I had a second-round grade on and was one of the best young edge rushers in this draft. With the value they got on all these players, along with where they selected them, I think the Indianapolis Colts had the best draft.