An estimated 100,000 people flooded into the park outside Union Station in Kansas City, many decked in Chiefs red, where the twists and turns predicted by analysts before the 2023 NFL Draft began to unfold.
Only one pick had elapsed before the Houston Texans made a stunning move, securing C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson, Jr. in consecutive picks at No.2 and No.3, which set the tone for an unpredictable Round One. Bijan Robinson from Texas and Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs showed that running backs can have value in the first round, going to Atlanta and Detroit at picks 8 and 12 respectively. A number of players with first-round grades fell out of the first round and will hope to be picked up in the second round, which starts this evening. Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, Florida guard O'Cyrus Torrence, Alabama safety Brian Branch and most shockingly, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis will all nervously be eyeing the early picks tonight.
Here are my Day One winners and losers:
No surprise at No.1. Bryce Young, the mercurial Alabama quarterback became, astonishingly, the Crimson Tide's first number-one overall pick in the common draft era, which started with the merger of NFL and AFL leagues in 1970. Staggering when you think of their dominance in recent years. Carolina has its first championship-calibre quarterback since Cam Newton and deserves the plaudits for making a bold trade with Chicago, climbing up from No.9 to get their guy.
Houston Texans and GM Nick Caserio
At No.2, Houston snuffed out the murmurs of C.J. Stroud's apparent poor process testing results in recent weeks. The Texans were convinced enough by a body of work consisting of 41 touchdowns, just 6 interceptions and 3,688 passing yards that led Ohio State to a field goal miss of making the CFP Final. Bold draft day moves can pay off, as shown by Philadelphia's draft-day trade for A.J. Brown, a year ago, that elevated the Eagles to a serious playoff contender.
With Houston's quarterback of the future secured at No.2, GM Nick Caserio dramatically traded up from the Texans' second pick at No.12, to move into Arizona's No.3 slot to nab Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., the best defensive player in this class. Houston gave up the No.12 and No.33 picks this year plus their first and third-round picks in 2024. It was a stunning move and could kick start the Texans' revolution.
Philadelphia Eagles and Georgia's defense
Having plucked two of the best players from Georgia's championship-winning defense in the 2022 draft, the Eagles did it again in 2023. Trading up to grab Jalen Carter, arguably one of the most talented players in the draft, who fell to No.9 and snapping up edge rusher Nolan Smith at No.30 were master strokes. Carter and Smith, key members of Georgia's 2023 national championship team, join Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in the City of Brotherly Love.
Players in the trenches
Championships are often won and lost in the trenches with solid offensive lines and aggressive run-stopping defenses. In an increasingly pass-happy league, players who can put pressure on the quarterback are at a premium. Seven edge rushers were taken in the first round, part of 16 total offensive and defensive linemen taken, half of those picked in Round One.
The Kentucky quarterback, projected to go at either No.2, No.4, No.7 or No.11 by some analysts, endured a miserable evening in the Green Room, watching three other signal callers selected with the cameras watching his reaction. When Tennessee handed their card in at No.11, selecting offensive tackle Peter Skoronski, it was apparent there would be no curtain call for Levis, who must wait until tonight to learn his future. He, and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who had crept into some mock drafts (including mine!) in the first round, will likely be selected in the second or third rounds this evening.
A seemingly strong tight end class saw just one, Utah's Dalton Kincaid selected, by Buffalo at No.25. An odd pick given they have Dawson Knox in that position and need a replacement for outgoing receiver Stefon Diggs. Notre Dame's Michael Mayer and Oklahoma State's Luke Musgrave will be picked up in the second round, likely alongside Iowa's Sam LaPorta.
Round 1 picks in full:
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago) - Bryce Young - QB, Alabama
2. Houston Texans - C.J. Stroud - QB, Ohio State
3. Houston Texans (from Arizona) - Will Anderson - EDGE, Alabama
4. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Richardson - QB, Florida
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) - Devon Witherspoon - CB, Illinois
6. Arizona Cardinals (from Detroit via L.A. Rams) - Paris Johnson Jr. - OT, Ohio State
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Tyree Wilson - EDGE, Texas Tech
8. Atlanta Falcons – Bijan Robinson - RB, Texas
9. Philadelphia Eagles (from Chicago via Carolina) – Jalen Carter - DT, Georgia
10. Chicago Bears (from Philadelphia via New Orleans) – Darnell Wright - OT, Tennessee
11. Tennessee Titans – Peter Skoronski - OT, Northwestern
12. Detroit Lions (from Arizona and Houston via Cleveland) – Jahmyr Gibbs - RB, Alabama
13. Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets) – Lukas Van Ness - EDGE, Iowa
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (via New England) – Broderick Jones - OT, Georgia
15. New York Jets (from Green Bay) – Will McDonald IV - EDGE, Iowa State
16. Washington Commanders - Emmanuel Forbes - CB, Mississippi State
17. New England Patriots (from Pittsburgh) – Christian Gonzalez - CB, Oregon
18. Detroit Lions - Jack Campbell - LB, Iowa
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Calijah Kancey - DT, Pitt
20. Seattle Seahawks - Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR, Ohio State
21. Los Angeles Chargers - Quentin Johnston - WR, TCU
22. Baltimore Ravens - Zay Flowers - WR, Boston College
23. Minnesota Vikings – Jordan Addison - WR, USC
24. New York Giants (from Jacksonville) - Deonte Banks - CB, Maryland
25. Buffalo Bills (From New York Giants) – Dalton Kincaid - TE, Utah
26. Dallas Cowboys - Mazi Smith - DT, Michigan
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Buffalo) - Anton Harrison - OT, Oklahoma
28. Cincinnati Bengals - Myles Murphy - EDGE, Clemson
29. New Orleans (from San Francisco) - Bryan Bresee - DT, Clemson
30. Philadelphia Eagles - Nolan Smith - EDGE, Georgia
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Felix Anudike-Uzomah - EDGE, Kansas State