With Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft in the books, Brendan Donahue, Ryan McCrystal, Dan Pizzuta, and Rich Hribar give their thoughts on what happened on Thursday night including the best moves, biggest surprise, and what they’re looking forward to on Day 2.

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Best Move of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft

Brendan Donahue: Arizona trading back from three after seemingly trying for weeks and getting 12, a 2023 second, a 2024 third, and a 2024 first from a team with a rookie quarterback and coach.

You can add also trading back up to six to then still get the guy they wanted in Paris Johnson Jr.

Ryan McCrystal: I have to agree with Brendan. Arizona probably has the worst roster in the league, so adding Houston’s 2024 first-round pick was as important as any selection we saw on Thursday.

Between their own pick and Houston’s, Arizona might have two top-10 picks next year. That draft capital can be used to build around Kyler Murray or potentially draft his replacement (Caleb Williams?).

Dan Pizzuta: Arizona getting that 2024 first is definitely the biggest win for a team, but as far as a pick, let’s go with Seattle taking Devon Witherspoon. The Seahawks don’t take corners that early, so for Seattle to have conviction on the physical corner from Illinois is exciting.

Witherspoon was the best man coverage corner in the draft but he’s going to a team that played the second-lowest rate of man coverage in the league last season, per TruMedia.

However, there are still man principles in some of Seattle’s coverage schemes, and Witherspoon is also great in zone. By the end of last season, teams were avoiding Tariq Woolen in coverage, and putting Witherspoon across from him might make that harder.

Add in the Seahawks sitting back at No. 20 and letting Jaxon Smith-Njigba fall to them as the first receiver taken, Seattle had a great Round 1.

Rich Hribar: I hate to be the broken record here, but it was definitely the Cardinals. This is an organization re-vamping things and resetting the roster, so this was a solid first step.

They drafted the player we had them taking third overall at six, kept their second-round pick this season, and also added a first (which is Houston’s and not the Cleveland pick) and a third next season.

Biggest Surprise of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft

BD: Devon Witherspoon to the Seahawks at No. 5 overall.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times asked, “Would the Seahawks take a cornerback despite the position looking pretty strong and their history in the Carroll era? Under Carroll they haven’t drafted a cornerback earlier than the third round (Shaquill Griffin at 90th in 2017).”

The thought was maybe they would add one late, but there was never any hint it would be at fifth overall. Shocking.

RM: Jahmyr Gibbs going to the Lions is the correct answer, but to take the conversation in a different direction I’ll say Nolan Smith sliding to the end of the round.

It was especially shocking to see the Jets snag Will McDonald IV, another undersized pass-rusher, 16 spots ahead of Smith. According to Sports Info Solutions, Smith generated a 20% pressure rate when lined up on the edge last season compared to 9.7% for McDonald.

DP: Detroit’s whole deal on Thursday night. We’ve seen the Lions do some smart things under this regime and they even started out their night by trading back and picking up an early second-round pick from the Cardinals.

But then their two first-round picks were Gibbs and Jack Campbell.

Gibbs could add another element to the Detroit offense since he led the class in snaps split out wide as a receiver, but he was projected to maybe go in the back half of the first round. He’s also a smaller back who might not play every down, especially when you consider the free agency signing of David Montgomery.

The Lions had a diverse run game behind a good offensive line but only ranked 15th in EPA per running back run. The position could have used an upgrade, but it wasn’t necessary at 12th overall.

The Campbell pick might have been a bigger stretch because it’s not clear how much he changes the overall structure and outlook of the defense.

Campbell is an athletic linebacker who picked up a ton of tackles, but just 44% of them were solo tackles last season.

He also is not a great coverage defender. The Lions could be better off giving more snaps to last year’s fifth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez and letting him develop.

These were two weird picks from the Lions. Even putting positional value aside, these might be the two most over-drafted players in the first round.

RH: The Lions taking Gibbs at 12 overall caught me completely off guard. Granted, D’Andre Swift is in the final season of his rookie contract, but does this pick actually make them better?

This is supposed to be their season to make a genuine jump. They had potential EDGE players available in Lukas Van Ness and McDonald available as well as cornerbacks in Christian Gonzalez and Emmanuel Forbes.

What makes it worse on the exterior is that there were 95% implied odds that Gibbs would be there at pick 18 (which they also blew).

This regime has struggled to extend Swift’s workload as a full-time back when he has been available. And Swift was a 212-pound prospect. Gibbs is 199 pounds.

Even as the best speed and space back in this class, they need close to a Christian McCaffrey-level outcome here, and you can still argue that their team actually doesn’t even get significantly better even if Gibbs is a great player.

Biggest Winners of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft

BD: The Eagles. It’s apparently where all talented Georgia defensive players leave school to go play.

Jalen Carter was the No. 1 prospect on many boards, and they were able to get him at nine with just one move up for a fourth rounder. Then, the captain of that defense in Nolan Smith falls in their laps at No. 30.

They were able to follow a very similar blueprint last draft when they took Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.

RM: Anthony Richardson.

He’s so far from being a polished quarterback that going to the wrong coaching staff would have cemented his status as a bust before he even put on a jersey. But the Colts staff has experience developing mobile quarterbacks: Shane Steichen with Jalen Hurts and quarterbacks coach Cam Turner with Kyler Murray and Cam Newton.

They’ll be able to pull from their experiences to design an offense suited to Richardson’s skill set. It is still a big gamble from the Colts’ perspective, but for Richardson, this was the perfect landing spot.

BD: The Lions for the same exact reasons Ryan mentions. The head-scratching moves may fit the type of culture Dan Campbell is trying to build in Detroit, but both seemed to be reaches and not huge needs for them either.

DP: I’ll agree with Ryan here. Richardson could not have gone to a better coaching staff — maybe the Panthers, but that wasn’t going to happen. It’s great to see the Colts finally pull the trigger on a quarterback, and with a pick so early there is confidence in what Richardson can become.

Richardson has accuracy issues, but I don’t think he’s completely lost in a way some other inexperienced quarterbacks look. He’s trying to do the right thing and the process is there. He’s been working on his mechanics and he’s going to a team that should be able to build on his strengths.

Colts head coach Shane Steichen was asked at the combine if accuracy was a fixable trait. He said, “I think you can [fix it]. You can help accuracy with mechanics and part of it is the scheme you put him in. Don’t make him think too much and simplify the offense to build it around the quarterback.”

That sounds like the best philosophy for getting the most out of Richardson early in his career.

RH: The Seahawks and the Eagles stand out. Granted, both teams had multiple first-round picks, but so did the Lions and they did not capitalize.

Philly just standing still at 10 and 30 and landing two players that were frequently mocked to them at 10 is a layup.

This is a team that led the NFL with a 12.6% sack rate and they get to rotate in two more high-upside pass rushers to go along with their veteran core. They also add to an interior that just lost Javon Hargrave.

If Witherspoon is a hit, Seattle gets to pair him up with Woolen. Teams just outright avoided throwing to Woolen’s side of the field to close 2022.

Then just hanging out and having the WR1 in this class come to them at 20 in Smith-Njigba.

Smith-Njigba works here on many levels. It is a long-term play on Tyler Lockett (who turns 31 this season and has a potential out on his contract after the year) and allows this offense to improve its versatility.

Seattle really struggled to find a primary third target last season and used 11 personnel on just 63.0% of their passing plays (26th). They can now open things up more while Smith-Njigba is a perfect complement to players that we know can clear out space in DK Metcalf and Lockett.

Seattle had a stellar 2022 draft class and they still have the sixth pick when things open back up on Friday.

Biggest Losers of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft

RM: The Lions. Detroit had two picks in the top 20 and ended up with the 48th and 51st players on my big board, Jack Campbell and Jahmyr Gibbs, respectively. To make matters worse, neither player is going to have a significant impact on their ability to defend the pass.

Consider these stats on the Lions’ defense via TruMedia:

  • Allowed an NFL-worst 75 completions at 15 or more yards downfield
  • Ranked 30th in yards per attempt allowed when the quarterback was not pressured (8.2)
  • Generated pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 20.7% of opponent dropbacks (ranked 22nd)

Campbell is not going to help them defend the deep ball, and he’s not helping them get after the quarterback. It was a bizarre first round for Brad Holmes and his staff.

BD: The Lions for the same exact reasons Ryan mentions. The head-scratching moves may fit the type of culture Dan Campbell is trying to build in Detroit, but both seemed to be reaches and not huge needs for them either.

DP: Everyone is going with the obvious team but I’ll go with another player, the quarterback who fell. Will Levis went from the betting favorite as the second overall pick to not being selected in the first round.

Levis also has some accuracy and processing issues, but he looks like an NFL quarterback so there was a sense he’d be popular around the league.

There are apparently some injury concerns and his performance under pressure is a red flag — tons of sacks in 2022 and tons of interceptions in 2021. The Lions, though we disagree with what they did, at least picked who they wanted.

Thursday night could not have been much worse for Levis.

RH: Easily the Lions for me. Just tough to justify their use of great draft capital that was spent on a running back that may not end up a three-down player and an off-ball linebacker.

The main case here is that both Gibbs and Campbell can actually be good players and successful picks from a performance stance, but they do not play positions that truly impact wins and losses or change the team dynamic.

Looking Forward to Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft

BD: How soon do Levis and Hendon Hooker come off the board and where? Also curious to see where Michael Mayer and Brian Branch go as I thought both were locks to go Round 1.

RM: Lots of good players are still on the board.

My best available is Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders. I’d love to see him go to a defense that blitzes a lot.

Also interested to see where Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones lands. Day 2 is devoid of talent at tackle, so he should be coveted. Pittsburgh could even take him with the first pick of the day and completely overhaul their line with him and Broderick Jones 一 we know Mike Tomlin loves Ohio State prospects.

DP: The run on the pass catchers we didn’t see in the first round.

There was no run on tight ends, which left Dalton Kincaid as the only one to go.

Mayer, Darnell Washington, Luke Musgrove, and Sam LaPorta can all be useful pieces of an NFL offense. Mayer should have been a first-round pick based on his profile.

Then there are the receivers. This was already a class of pick-your-type at the position and we have a bunch of different styles left between Jalin Hyatt, Jonathan Mingo, and Josh Downs. Marvin Mims is a favorite of mine, and I’d love to see him go somewhere fun.

RH: As the resident fantasy guy, I am looking for clarity on these jumbled secondary tiers at running back and wide receiver.

The players that went in the first round at each position were in the front tiers at those spots. But the secondary levels at each position are deep.

I still have eight wide receivers in the next tier and nine running backs in the same tier after Zach Charbonnet. I really want to see the way these guys are sorted out through draft investment and landing spots to find some added clarity on parsing out those tiers on a more linear level.

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