2023 NFL Draft: First Round Instant Grades for All 31 Picks

Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon was a first-round pick of the Seahawks NFL Draft.  (AP Images for the NFL/Doug Benc)


1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama – The Panthers have their new face of the franchise. What the youngster lacks in size and physical talent, he more than makes up for in skill. Carolina could have made a riskier pick here with NFL real home run potential like Anthony Richardson, but Young has the skills to qualify for the position. It’s a new era in Carolina. Grade: B+

2. Houston Texans: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State – At this point, the Texans stood up and made the most logical choice. They kept their draft capital and still ended up with a top-flight quarterback in Stroud. If his performance against Georgia is anything to go by, this is a slam dunk. It checks all the boxes. Grade: B+

3. Houston Texans (from Arizona Cardinals): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama — Anderson is arguably the best defensive player in the draft, but the Texans gave up a lot of draft capital to move up for his services, including trading their 2024 first-round pick to acquire him. He’s a sure bet to be a star and the Texans have a pick from the Browns to buffer their loss of draft capital. The only thing that knocks this grade below A+ is the loss of draft capital. Grade: A-

4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida — The Colts take a home run swing with Richardson here, but he’s not as raw as people think based on his numbers. He has a chance to start as a rookie and step up to Gardner Minshew II. The Colts’ offense, at least, became more dynamic. Nice step to take on a misunderstood prospect here. Grade: A

5. Seattle Seahawks: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois – Witherspoon isn’t the biggest cornerback, but he has all the skills to be a top-flight cornerback for the Seahawks. Tarik Woolen and Witherspoon are an uber-talented young duo, and now the Seahawks have a loaded cornerback room, which is never a bad thing. His swagger, physicality, and ball skills will immediately make the Seahawks tough to beat through the air. Grade: A+

Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon was a first-round pick of the Seahawks NFL Draft. (AP Images for the NFL/Doug Benc)
Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon was a first-round pick of the Seahawks NFL Draft. (AP Images for the NFL/Doug Benc)

6. Arizona Cardinals (from Detroit Lions): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State — The Cardinals were able to pretty much curb the draft pick return on this pick as they moved back to take Johnson. He was one of the elite players on the big board this year and will be the Cardinals’ immediate starter in right tackle. They still have their picks for the 2024 draft and a potential elite offensive tackle. Grade: A-

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7. Las Vegas Raiders: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech — The Raiders quietly needed pass rush help, with Chandler Jones not making the impact they were hoping for in his first year with the team. Much of the responsibility fell on Max Crosby’s shoulders, making Wilson and his big upside a must-pick here. Grade: A-

8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas — Robinson is an excellent player and will make the Falcons’ roster better, but they had some more pressing needs that could have been taken care of this year. The Falcons are almost a test case for why Tyler Allgear was one of the top backs in the league at this point in the draft, but there’s no debating Robinson’s talent as an elite player. Grade: C

9. Philadelphia Eagles (from Chicago Bears): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia – Carter is the best player in the class. When he’s healthy, he’s the most dominant player on the field from a physical and technical standpoint and will give a championship-caliber defense a championship-caliber player. Grade: A+

10. Chicago Bears (from Philadelphia Eagles): Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee — Wright was the third-ranked player on our big board this year so it’s impossible to get a bad grade on this pick. Wright is a standout tackle who will give the Bears a much better offensive line than where they were this time last year. Grade: A+

11. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern — I swear, I’m not a pushover with grading, I love this year’s picks! Skoronski was the fifth player on the board this year and the Titans have a huge need on their offensive line Skoronski can play all five positions at a high level. Grade: A+

12. Detroit Lions: Jahmir Gibbs, RB, Alabama – Are the Lions okay? Gibbs is a huge surprise early in this draft and absolutely no one had him going in this series. Let’s not get carried away, Gibbs is a solid player, but he was ranked 42nd on the Yahoo Sports big board and only 25th on the consensus big board on the Pro Football Network. Here comes the main running back who won’t even be a bell cow for this team since they signed David Montgomery to a three-year deal. Grade: F

13. Green Bay Packers: Lucas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa — Van Ness is a solid, do-it-all defensive lineman with room to grow and a high floor. Van Ness needs development before he can be a consistent Pro Bowl-level starter, but guys with his athleticism almost never fail. His presence gives the Packers some flexibility with Preston Smith moving forward. Grade: B+

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (from New England Patriots): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia – Jones is raw as a prospect, but there’s no doubting his upside and movement skills at left tackle. For a team that really needs offensive tackle help, he’s a quality dice roll. Grade: B

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15. New York Jets: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State – McDonald will need some time to adjust to being a full-time defensive end in the NFL, but there is no doubt that he has the physical attributes to be an effective edge rusher in the league. It’s an old prospect, but all along the defensive line Trump features. He has a legitimate curveball to cut corners at offensive tackle, something the Jets lack. Grade: B-

16. Washington Commanders: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State — Forbes has a chance to be a sticky man cover corner in the league, but he only weighs 166 pounds, which is concerning. That’s short for an NFL player, no matter how you slice it. Talented player, just worry about size. Grade: C+

17. New England Patriots (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon — Gonzalez has all the ability in the world to be a dominant man cover corner in the NFL. Maybe his lack of physicality is why he’s still here, but he was the last of our blue-chip players to get off the big board. Grade: A+

18. Detroit Lions: Jake Campbell, LB, Iowa – The Lions could have potentially gotten Campbell two rounds later than this one. so crazy Campbell is a quality athlete and could be a solid starter, but this is a big reach. Grade: F

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kalijah Kensi, EDGE, Pittsburgh – Depending on how the Buccaneers plan to deploy Kensi, he could be a grand slam of choice. He’s a bit of an odd fit in their odd-man front, but if he shifts to the defensive end and plays more on the edge, he has the attributes to do so. The defensive line is a position where it’s almost always OK to take chances on athletes. Grade: B

20. Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State – Best pick for the Seahawks at this point. Currently, they have the best wide receiver trio in the NFL with DK Metcalfe, Tyler Lockett and now Smith-Njigba. Picking Smith-Njigba will keep their receiver room strong even after Lockett moves on from the Seahawks in the coming years. Grade: A

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU – Johnston fills a need at receiver, but they could have used someone a little more interested in playing down the field for Justin Herbert. Still, Johnston is a good receiver prospect who is a monster after the catch and profiles as a nice replacement for Keenan Allen in the long run. Grade: B-

22. Baltimore Ravens: Jay Flowers, WR, Boston College – The crow does crow things again. On the same day, they signed Lamar Jackson to a record-setting contract, they gave him another receiver to throw to in Boston College’s Jay Flowers. Flowers is explosive, can dominate the field, and have a strong feel as a ball carrier. This is a huge asset for the Ravens’ receiver room. Grade: A+

23. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, WR, USC – Addison is the ideal No. 2 wide receiver prospect, and he’s going to play next to Justin Jefferson in the NFL. In an offense that projects to throw the ball a lot, especially if the Vikings trade Dalvin Cook, Addison could be a star. Grade: B+

24. New York Giants (from Jacksonville Jaguars): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland – Banks is the perfect type of cornerback for Wink Martindale’s scheme. He can get pulled into man coverage, which is essential for a blitz-happy defensive coordinator. Banks isn’t right for every team, but it certainly is for this one. Grade: A-

25. Buffalo Bills (from Jacksonville Jaguars through New York Giants): Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah – This seems like an odd choice for Buffalo. Kincaid should play a similar role to Dawson Knox, who is still locked up on the Bills’ roster for at least the next two seasons. Maybe they have a different idea in mind for how the pair will play together, but right now it seems crowded. Kincaid is a breeder, at least. It is not accessible in terms of talent. Grade: C

26. Dallas Cowboys: Mazie Smith, DT, Michigan – Smith isn’t the most dynamic defensive tackle, but he fills a big need for the Cowboys with a tough run  NFLstuffer in the middle of their defense. Smith has some pass-rush ability, but his main role will be stopping the run. Grade: B

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Buffalo Bills): Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma – With Cam Robinson reportedly on the brink of suspension, the Jaguars needed a stud tackle to protect Trevor Lawrence and become the NFL long-term starter. Harrison is a strong replacement for Jawan Taylor and has the athleticism to be a dominant player. Grade: A

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson — You can never have too many pass rushers, and now the Bengals have an athletic monster to play opposite Trey Hendrickson long-term. Murphy is an NFL-ready run defender who has the athleticism to be a strong No. 2 edge rusher. Grade: B

29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco 49ers): Brian Bracey, DT, Clemson — Bracy should pan out to be a quality starter, but it’s a wonder if the Saints could have picked a more explosive option at defensive tackle here. Still, he would add nice depth to their defensive line rotation at a very bad time. Grade: C

30. Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia – Smith is undersized as far as edge rushers go, but it’s hard to find guys with legitimate 4.3 speed on a pass rusher. Smith, Hassan Redick, Jaylen Carter, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Jordan Davis? Good luck with that blocking. Grade: A-

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudik-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State — The Chiefs need to be patient with Anudik-Uzomah, but they have the benefit of turning into an impact edge rusher. Anudik-Uzoma is a better fit for an NFL defense than the part-time interior role he played at Kansas State. Playing alongside Chris Jones and George Karlaftis will certainly help accelerate his learning curve. Grade: B

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