NFL draft winners, losers: Eagles, Texans ace both picks in first round

What a wild first round the 2023 NFL draft provided, both in terms of who got picked (and when), and who didn't.

It was a big night for contenders and pretenders alike. And another banner evening for Southeastern Conference powers. And, per usual, the show was stolen early on by quarterbacks ... but as the night progressed, others wound up being no-shows.

With only 31 picks off the board, it's early yet – and the next six rounds can very much alter the complexion of each team's overall haul. But Thursday provided a snapshot – a big and vivid one – of where this holistic draft evaluation is headed

Your winners and losers from Round 1:


Philadelphia Eagles: The NFC champs appeared to further separate themselves from the rest of a largely humdrum conference – while continuing to build a northern satellite campus for the University of Georgia – by drafting Bulldogs DT Jalen Carter (No. 9) and OLB/DE Nolan Smith (No. 30). They join ex-Dawgs DT Jordan Davis and LB Nakobe Dean, whom Philly selected last year. A defense that ranked second overall in 2022 and paced the NFL with 70 regular-season sacks gets even deeper and scarier.

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C.J. Stroud: Coming out of this year's scouting combine – and certainly after the Chicago Bears dealt the No. 1 pick – the Ohio State star was widely presumed to be the first or second player off the board. That narrative changed in recent weeks, Stroud the subject of some unflattering (and unfair) press. But he wound up chosen second overall by Houston, becoming the highest-drafted Buckeyes quarterback in the common draft era (since 1967). And his relief and emotion was palpable once the call came.

Houston Texans: By the time the, ahem, smoke had cleared, the recent AFC doormats had indeed enlisted their new quarterback (Stroud) second overall before making a bold move – at great, great cost (two first-rounders, a second- and a third-rounder) – to vault back into the No. 3 slot for Alabama OLB/DE Will Anderson Jr., who should be a defensive captain for the next decade. The Texans became the third team in the common draft era to pick twice in the first three slots of Round 1. It may still be a few years before Houston is back in the playoffs, but this organization is headed for relevance and unlikely to be a walkover much longer.

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Houston Texans third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station.

Bryce Young: The first 'Bama player selected first overall in the common draft era, he takes his prodigious talent to a Carolina Panthers squad desperate for a quarterback and new face of the franchise. And the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner could have this team in the playoff mix after the Panthers just missed out on winning the NFC South last season.

Daniel Jeremiah's mock draft: The NFL Network chief draft analyst, who doubles as a swell guy, nailed it Wednesday night – predicting Stroud and Anderson would go to Houston with the second and third picks, respectively, by predicting the trade with Arizona. Anyone else have that? Feel free to pick my Powerball numbers, DJ.

Arizona Cardinals: They were the beneficiaries of bartering the Anderson pick to Houston and came up the board shortly thereafter to No. 6 for Ohio State LT Paris Johnson Jr., who fills a huge need for a team trying to get injured QB Kyler Murray (ACL surgery) back on the field. Feels like new GM Monti Ossenfort already has this rebuild well ahead of schedule.

Anthony Richardson: The supremely gifted – but woefully inexperienced – Florida quarterback landed with the Indianapolis Colts fourth overall ... and with new HC Shane Steichen, who was instrumental in the development of Los Chargers QB Justin Herbert and budding Eagles superstar Jalen Hurts. And, with Gardner Minshew in the fold, Richardson won't have to play right away – but if he does, he'll spend a lot of time handing off to 2021 rushing champion Jonathan Taylor.

Lamar Jackson: Before the draft commenced, the Baltimore Ravens superstar quarterback finally brokered his long-awaited contract extension, becoming the highest-paid player in league history (in terms of average annual compensation) with a five-year, $260 million mega pact. A few hours later, he also had a new weapon, GM Eric DeCosta taking a receiver in Round 1 for the third time in five years by selecting Boston College's explosive Zay Flowers.

Teams that need a quarterback in 2024: The Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings all have projected starting quarterbacks who will be free agents a year from now. Yet heading into Round 2, all have a good opportunity to select a potential replacement ... more on them later.

New England Patriots: They got a top-10 talent, Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez, with the 17th pick and stuck it to the division rival Jets in the process ... more on them later.

Running backs: A runner (Texas' Bijan Robinson) went in the top 10 for the first time since Saquon Barkley was selected second overall by the New York Giants in 2018. Two went in the top 12, Detroit taking Jahmyr Gibbs there, for the first time since 2017 (Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey). The 2019-2022 drafts marked the first time in the common draft era that no RBs were tabbed in the top 15, a streak that has now died. 

Power Five: For the first time in the common draft era, every first-round pick came from the quintet of major conferences, based on the leagues' current member affiliations. Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State had three Round 1 selections apiece. The Crimson Tide provided the draft's first offensive (Young) and defensive player (Anderson), the first time a school had done that since Michigan State in 1967.


Pac-12, ACC: They still somehow wound up the have-nots of the Power Five, the "coastal" conferences unable to crack the top 15 choices ... much like they've failed to qualify for the College Football Playoff the past two years. This draft was the first when the top 15 selections were limited to three conferences.

Bijan Robinson: He's a great player, featuring 4.4 speed, sweet feet, soft hands and loads of production (more than 3,300 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons while averaging 6.7 yards per touch). But you'd like to see a back of his caliber join a team that's ready to win immediately – like Buffalo or Philadelphia. Robinson is sure to make a huge impact on the Atlanta Falcons offense, but how much of his tread will be used up by what projects as an average-at-best team for the next few years? If Robinson is lucky, HC Arthur Smith will continue to lean heavily on Tyler Allgeier, a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie last season.

New York Jets: Everyone in America knew they needed another offensive lineman to safeguard newly acquired QB Aaron Rodgers – including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who got on the phone with the Patriots and acquired the 14th pick, leapfrogging the Jets and landing highly regarded Georgia LT Broderick Jones. The Jets, evidently truly stung by that swap of the 13th and 15th picks with the Green Bay Packers, didn't appear to recover well, either, taking slender Iowa State pass rusher Will McDonald IV rather than, say, Oklahoma LT Anton Harrison. Upbeat as Wednesday was amid Rodgers' introduction, Thursday was ... not so good.

Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love: The former Leader of the Pack and the new one still can't get any offensive help in the first round, Green Bay opting for Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness. The more things change ...

Penn State: Anyone have CB Joey Porter Jr., son of the former Steelers star linebacker, falling out of Round 1? And the Nittany Lions have, amazingly, still have never had a defensive back chosen in the first round.

Miami Dolphins: Their first-round pick forfeited due to owner Stephen Ross' tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton, when both were under contract elsewhere, Miami's ban held as the team didn't resurface via trade, either. The Fins entered the draft with four selections, same as 2022, when they also had the fewest.

Tight ends: The position is supposed to be among the deepest of the 2023 draft ... but only one, Utah's Dalton Kincaid, was picked Thursday (by the Buffalo Bills). Expect Notre Dame's Michael Mayer, Oregon State's Luke Musgrave, Georgia's Darnell Washington, Iowa's Sam LaPorta and others to come off the board fairly quickly Friday. The wideouts were shut out for a large chunk of the night, too, but then four were enlisted successively from picks 20-23, the first time that had happened since 1967.

Detroit Lions: Gibbs at No. 12? Iowa LB Jack Campbell at 18? Feels like both were major overdrafts – and even if you were worried about Gibbs going later in the round, like, do the Jets a solid and trade down to 15th? But the running back, in particular, was an especially bizarre choice given the presence of recently signed veteran David Montgomery and D'Andre Swift, a 2020 second-rounder (though, in fairness, he is entering the final year of his rookie deal and has missed 10 games in three seas

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