NFL draft picks 2023: Analysis of every team's first-round selections
The 2023 NFL draft is live from Kansas City, Missouri, the Chiefs the league's first reigning Super Bowl champions to host the league's marquee offseason event in their backyard since it hit the road.
The league's 88th annual "Player Selection Meeting" kicks off with an unusually large amount of mystery and intrigue, but the answers finally come to light starting Thursday night in Round 1.
USA TODAY Sports will have the latest news, while analyzing each pick as it's made.
(Note: The Miami Dolphins, who were scheduled to select 21st, forfeited their pick for illegally tampering with QB Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton when they were under contract with other clubs.)
Big board for Round 2:These are the best available players in NFL draft on Friday
First round's winners & losers:Eagles, Texans ace both picks. Who didn't?
Picks that raised eyebrows:These NFL teams (including the Lions) make unexpected selections
2023 NFL draft tracker: First-round picks
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears) – QB Bryce Young, Alabama
As expected, they get their new point guard in Young, who has a basketball background and distributes the football in a similar manner. He becomes the new face of a franchise that's been trying to fill (former point forward) Cam Newton's shoes for years. Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, isn't the perfect prospect, his 5-10, 204-pound frame providing valid reason for concerns about his durability. Yet his experience in a pro-style offense and quick cycle time through his progressions are among the traits that distinguish him, perhaps akin to a minus-sized Joe Burrow.
Young's Heisman-winning performance included 4,872 yards and 47 TDs through the air. He's accurate (66% completion rate in college) and his career 80-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio is indicative of solid decision-making. Young is also highly mobile, though typically buys time to pass and does a nice job keeping his eyes downfield, often running as a last resort – a la peak Russell Wilson. (And, it's worth noting, Carolina GM Scott Fitterer was the Seahawks' director of college scouting when Wilson was drafted in 2012 and seems more than comfortable with Young's stature.)
As poised at the podium as he was while reading the field from the Bama pocket, a lot to like about Young. However for a team that's traded RB Christian McCaffrey and WR DJ Moore within the past six month, not to mention the draft assets sent to the Bears in order to obtain the No. 1 pick for Young, it could take time to put impactful weaponry around him – particularly in the passing game.
Who has work to do?:These teams face critical picks on Day 2 of 2023 NFL draft
2. Houston Texans – QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
This selection had become an intense source of speculation in recent weeks when rumors began to circulate that Houston would pivot from the expectation of selecting a quarterback for a defender. But they ultimately take the guy who will be expected to fill the gaping void created by Deshaun Watson's ugly departure.
Stroud's throwing session at the scouting combine was as impressive as any in recent years, backing up his assertion beforehand that, "(I) throw guys open, and that's something that I think is rare – because, at the league, dudes aren't wide open." That's probably going to be especially true in Houston following the trade of Brandin Cooks, given Texans WRs Robert Woods, Nico Collins and John Metchie III aren't exactly elite or swift relative to their position – and there's a legitimate argument to be made that Stroud had better pass catchers in Columbus the past two years. A guy who feels like he should have won the last two Heismans is going to need every scintilla of his next-level passing ability in the pros given the Texans still have a lot of roster building ahead.
Stroud (6-3, 214 pounds) is accurate (69.3% completion rate in college), productive (85 TD passes, 12 INTs, 182.4 passer rating over last two seasons) and athletic – but has been inclined to extend plays to throw rather than break the pocket, though admits he should probably tuck the ball and dash a bit more. He was spectacular in his final game for the Buckeyes, a 2023 College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Georgia, passing for 348 yards and four TDs against a Bulldogs defense that is almost NFL-caliber. He could be the man to stabilize a franchise that has essentially been in free fall for more than three years.
3. Texans (from Arizona Cardinals) – OLB/DE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
If taking Stroud was a surprise, the Texans moving back up to No. 3 is a stunner – and for the player who was purportedly their preference at No. 2 the past few weeks. Though this draft isn't considered especially deep with blue chip talent and may not have many (or any) generational stars among its ranks, Anderson (6-4, 253) may be the best of the lot.
The two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year (and Crimson Tide's first two-time unanimous All-American) was truly spectacular in 2021, when he led the country with 17½ sacks and 31 tackles for loss. He was only slightly less impressive last season (10 sacks, 17 TFLs), when he didn't have as many opportunities to hunt quarterbacks. But his ability to do so will certainly be welcomed by new Houston HC DeMeco Ryans, a defensive wizard, and by a unit whose best pass rusher, Jerry Hughes, will be 35 this season.
And with Stroud and Anderson in the barn, the Texans may have their leaders on both sides of the ball for the next decade-plus.
Houston gave up the 12th pick, the 33rd pick, a 2024 first-rounder and 2024 third-rounder in the swap.
4. Indianapolis Colts – QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
The self-styled "Cam Jackson" blew up the combine as a bit of a Cam Newton-Lamar Jackson hybrid. At 6-4, 244 pounds, Richardson blazed a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and hit combine quarterback records with a vertical jump of 40½ inches and a broad jump of 10 feet, 9 inches. So though he's lacking in experience (13 starts for the Gators), Richardson's physical tools – to include a bazooka of an arm – make him a very early selection. He's quite a departure from the pocket passers Indy has largely been reliant on in recent seasons, but the Colts' options were instantly limited after the Panthers jumped them and Houston plucked Stroud. Yet new HC Shane Steichen might be the perfect man to shape Richardson given the success he had with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. And with veteran QB Gardner Minshew II now in the fold, the Colts have another guy who could teach Richardson the offense and even start indefinitely if the 21-year-old isn't ready to play ... even if that means the entire 2023 season. If he is on the field? Do you spy Richardson or key on 2021 rushing champ Jonathan Taylor? Indy's getting dangerous.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) – CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
A tough-as-nails defensive back will be instantly welcomed into Pete Carroll's highly competitive environment. Witherspoon, who didn't allow a TD pass in 2022, isn't afraid to stick his nose in the backfield when he's not disrupting opposing passing attacks – the All-Big Ten performer breaking up 23 passes over the past two seasons. The 6-foot 181-pounder joins Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, giving Seattle a talented young corner trio ... and perhaps the backbone of a new era "Legion of Boom."
6. Cardinals (from Los Angeles Rams via Detroit Lions) – OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
Arizona leapfrogs from No. 3, down to 12th, then back up to sixth for the Buckeyes star, who will be charged with protecting QB Kyler Murray (ACL surgery) once he's ready to return this season. A 6-6, 313-pound consensus All-American, Johnson was widely rated as the draft's top left tackle, though he's also played extensively at guard and could start his professional life there pending the future of Cards LT D.J. Humphries. Fun fact: Johnson speaks Mandarin and Portuguese.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – DE/OLB Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
The Silver and Black bolster a 28th-ranked defense, adding a young edge presence to team with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. Wilson, a 6-6, 271-pounder with 14 sacks and 27½ TFLs over the past two seasons – even though his 2022 campaign was cut short by a broken foot – has size, speed and power and will be instantly tasked with negating the damage Vegas will face from AFC West QBs Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson. The Raiders' 27 sacks in 2022 were the AFC's fewest.
8. Atlanta Falcons – RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Widely regarded as the best back since Saquon Barkley in 2018, he instantly becomes the linchpin of a 27th-ranked offense in 2022. And remember, HC Arthur Smith was highly reliant on RB Derrick Henry in his former post as offensive coordinator of the Titans. Robinson should also take a lot of pressure off second-year QB Desmond Ridder. A three-down back with speed – Robinson clocked a 4.46 40 at the combine while showing off velvety soft hands – had more than 3,300 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons (while averaging 6.7 yards per touch).
9. Philadelphia Eagles (from Panthers via Bears) – DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
The NFC champs move up one spot for a controversial player but perhaps the best one in the entire draft. Carter said on HBO recently that teams haven't probed him too deeply regarding his role in the fatal automobile crash that killed Bulldogs teammate Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy in January. And any issues pertaining to his occasionally sputtering motor on the field are likely to be taken care of within a locker room of professionals. So clearly the Eagles are comfortable on the risk-reward matrix. The 6-3, 300-pounder's sack numbers (3 last year) won't wow you. But the All-American is cat-quick, lines up at all points along the front, can push the pocket and gets exceptional penetration and is especially effective at swallowing running backs. It doesn't hurt he'll be reuniting with former Dawgs teammate Jordan Davis, a first-round pick last year, and LB Nakobe Dean. And Carter would be wise to settle under the wing of veteran DT Fletcher Cox.
10. Bears (from New Orleans Saints via Eagles) – OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
He can play left tackle or right, where he really shined in 2022 – including shutting down Anderson in the Vols' upset of Alabama. Either way, the 6-5, 333-pound, All-SEC selection will now be expected to bolster the protection of Justin Fields for an offense that ranked 28th in 2022 despite the second-year quarterback's singular heroics.
11. Tennessee Titans – OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
The unanimous All-American, who's grandfather Bob played for Vince Lombardi's Packers, can play tackle or guard and is made to order for an O-line in transition. But should be a welcome pick for Henry and Ryan Tannehill ... or whoever is under center in Nashville this year.
12. Lions (from Cleveland Browns via Texans and Cardinals) – RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Often compared to Alvin Kamara, he brings an additional element to a crowded Detroit backfield that already includes D'Andre Swift and recently signed David Montgomery. Gibbs, a second-team All-SEC selection in 2022, averaged nearly 1,300 yards from scrimmage and 40 receptions over the past two seasons.
13. Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets) – DE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
Their streak of resisting a first-round receiver extends to 21 years. But for good reason. Van Ness never started for the Hawkeyes but sure was impactful – totaling 13 sacks and 19 TFLs the past two seasons. The 6-5, 272-pounder with sub-4.6 speed – whether he starts or subs – also fills a need for a defense where LB Rashan Gary is coming off a torn ACL.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (from New England Patriots) – OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
Pittsburgh vaults the Jets, conspiring with their AFC East rival Pats, to snag the lineman very likely in Gang Green's crosshairs. Probably this draft's premier pass blocker, the 6-5, 311-pound All-SEC performer capably guarded QB Stetson Bennett IV's blind side the past two years as the Bulldogs won a pair of national title. Now Jones, 21, upgrades a Steelers line that's needed a boost for some time, QB Kenny Pickett and RB Najee Harris immediate beneficiaries.
15. Jets (from Packers) – OLB/DE Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
New York seemingly pivots to the three-time All-Big 12 selection, a 6-4, limber, 239-pounder who tied the conference record with 34 career sacks. McDonald may not directly benefit newly acquired QB Aaron Rodgers as a receiver or blocker. But if this defense is even nastier while being staked to leads by "AR8?" Then everyone will be happy. Defensive-minded HC Robert Saleh, who likes to roll deep up front, surely is as no NYJ edge player had more than seven sacks in 2022.
16. Washington Commanders – CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
He's quite a thief, picking off 14 passes in three seasons with the Bulldogs, six returned for TDs (an FBS record). But he will need an NFL nutrition program to add to the 166 pounds currently attached to his 6-1 frame. However he should eat up more balls on the field considering the pressure applied by the Commanders' vaunted D-line.
17. Patriots (from Steelers) – CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
The 6-1, 197-pound All-Pac-12 performer had four INTs and seven passes defensed in 2022 and showcased his explosiveness at the combine, running a 4.38 40-yard dash, posting a 41½-inch vertical leap and broad jumping 11 feet, 1 inch. Given the value here – Gonzalez was widely projected as a top-10 selection – and his ability to play man or zone, he's a good fit for a team that needs help at corner ... especially at a time when New England will be in the unfamiliar position of facing a superior quarterback in all of its divisional games.
18. Lions – LB Jack Campbell, Iowa
Maybe the biggest surprise of the first round, but Detroit opts for the 6-5, 249-pound All-Big Ten performer to punch up a defense that surrendered the most yards in the league in 2022. Despite his size, Campbell should be a three-down backer, better in coverage than as a blitzer.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
When you think undersized Pitt interior D-linemen who live behind the line of scrimmage ... OK, let's not saddle Kancey with the Aaron Donald comparison. But let's celebrate the 6-1, 281-pounder who dropped a 4.67-second 40 at the combine after posting 14½ sacks and 27½ TFLs for the Panthers over the past two years combined. Now imagine adding the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year to the interior of a defense where DT Vita Vea sucks up blocks. Should be a scary combo, and one that could keep the Brady-less Bucs relevant in the NFC South.
20. Seahawks – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The first pass catcher off the board bolsters a Seattle offense already featuring WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Smith-Njigba, who had 347 receiving yards in the 2022 Rose Bowl before missing most of last season with a hamstring injury, is a silky smooth weapon out of the slot and should feast given he'll likely start out as the team's No. 3 receiver. And that's three Buckeyes in the top 20 if you're keeping track.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
Bolts QB Justin Herbert will have twin towers downfield options with Johnston (6-3, 208 pounds) joining another uber-sized wideout in Mike Williams. Johnston, who has sub-4.5 speed, averaged 19 yards per catch in college and had a dozen TD grabs over the past two seasons. However he's prone to drops and must clean up his concentration.
22. Baltimore Ravens – WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
A weapon in the slot, from where he'll occasionally motion into a jet sweep (57 rushes in four seasons at BC), the 5-9, 182-pounder with 4.4 speed could bring a different dimension to a new-look offense under recently hired coordinator Todd Monken. But on a day when he re-signed for five years and $260 million, QB Lamar Jackson has to be thrilled as Flowers joins a stable that already included TE Mark Andrews and WR Odell Beckham Jr. Flowers is Baltimore's third first-round wideout in the past five drafts (Marquis Brown, Rashod Bateman).
23. Minnesota Vikings – WR Jordan Addison, USC
That makes a first-round record four wideouts in a row. At 5-11 and 173 pounds, you'd like Addison to have better than 4.49 speed. However he was highly productive at Pitt (100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 TDs in 2021) before transferring to the Trojans and leading them with 59 grabs for 875 yards and eight scores last year despite missing time with an ankle injury. His ability to play wide or in the slot is appealing, and Vikes WR Justin Jefferson is surely thrilled to have a new Robin now that Adam Thielen has moved on to Carolina.
24. New York Giants (from Jacksonville Jaguars) – CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
Measuring 6 feet, 197 pounds, Banks shone at the combine with a 4.35 40 time, 42-inch vertical and a broad jump measuring 11 feet, 4 inches. However, despite the athleticism, Banks isn't much of a ballhawk, picking off just two passes in four seasons for the Terps. Still, his physical demeanor should fit well into coordinator Wink Martindale's defense opposite CB Adoree' Jackson.
25. Buffalo Bills (from Giants via Jaguars) – TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
The AFC East champs vault Dallas for perhaps the best tight end in the field this year. An All-Pac-12 player (70 catches, 890 yards, 8 TDs) in 2022, Kincaid gives QB Josh Allen a nice option in the seams between WRs Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. A back injury suffered at the end of the 2022 season prevented Kincaid from working out this spring, but he's been medically cleared to resume football activities.
26. Dallas Cowboys – DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
The first-team All-Big Ten performer topped The Athletic's famed "Freaks List" last year, so that says plenty about his physical prowess. And Smith (6-3, 323) showed off his standout strength in Indy (34 reps on the 225-pound bench), and that will come in handy as he tries to suck up blocks and inside rushes between edge rushers Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence in Big D.
27. Jaguars (from Bills) – OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
By swinging a pair of trades while dropping here from No. 24, they add fourth-, fifth- and seventh-rounders ... and Harrison. Not bad. He could be QB Trevor Lawrence's long-term bodyguard on the left side. Harrison may also start the 2023 season there with Cam Robinson facing a PED suspension. Harrison primarily served as the Sooners' left tackle the past three seasons, though did log time on the right side in 2022, too.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – DE Myles Murphy, Clemson
The AFC North champs just juiced a line and pass rush that was already in good hands with DEs Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. Enter Murphy (6-5, 268), an All-ACC pass rusher who compiled 18½ sacks and 36 TFLs over the past three seasons.
29. Saints (from San Francisco 49ers via Dolphins and Broncos) – DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
New Orleans picked up this peripatetic pick by letting former HC Sean Payton go to Denver, which momentarily had it after trading OLB Bradley Chubb to Miami. A guy who can play up and down the line, Bresee (6-6, 298) is too good to pass up for a team that needed to replenish its defensive front. And after the health issues (ACL tear, kidney infection) and personal adversity, including the loss of his sister to cancer last year, Bresee faced with the Tigers, he seems primed to unleash his talent with a fresh start.
30. Eagles – OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia
Philly continues to morph into Athens North with yet another Bulldog en route to a team that led the NFL with 70 sacks in 2022. Smith is an extraordinary athlete, posting a sub-4.4 40 and a 41-inch vertical leap at the combine and is essentially recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2022 season. At 6-2, 238 pounds, he's on the light side for a pass rusher ... but then again, so is new teammate Haason Reddick (16 sacks in 2022).
31. Kansas City Chiefs – DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
The 6-3, 255-pounder had 19½ sacks and 25½ TFLs over the past two seasons and becomes a bookend to 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis on a team that let DE Frank Clark go after winning Super Bowl 57. Nice local touch for KC by snatching the two-time, All-Big 12 star from up the road in Manhattan.
NFL draft rankings
The mystery of which quarterback the Carolina Panthers will select with the No. 1 overall pick remains unresolved. Uncertainty reigns further down the draft board as well, as this year's class has left plenty of room for disagreement on the pecking order for top talent, even though several of the marquee names have established themselves in the premier tier. And comparisons become even more difficult when trying to weigh players at different positions.
With all that in mind, here's USA TODAY Sports' top 50 player rankings for the 2023 NFL draft. – Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
NFL draft's 50* biggest busts of the last 50 years
It is a pretty good juncture to reflect on the NFL players who rate as history's biggest deterrents to playing the draft lottery over the past half-century.
Some words about the methodology: This ranking and analysis are certainly interspersed with opinion. But we tried not to view these wayward picks in a vacuum – taking into account what teams sacrificed to take a player, either in terms of trade currency or whom they opted not to select, when evaluating each bust. Some deals themselves are included since many prevented teams from choosing superior options. Naturally, extra weight was given to quarterback gaffes.
Lastly, we tried to have some fun and creativity in select spots to keep you (and me) engaged, so try not to get too bent out of shape if that defensive tackle or tight end your team took in the top 10 before he petered out didn't warrant a mention.
Read Nate Davis’s complete rankings here.
How do NFL draft analysts prepare for the final stretch before a big event?
Chasing ghosts might feel like a futile task. For Daniel Jeremiah to be best prepared as NFL Network’s lead draft analyst, it’s essential.
Jeremiah said that with roughly two weeks before the draft, the level of studying a prospect is not as intense compared to the weeks before the combine in March. At this point, he’s doing his best last-minute work to be prepared for three days of broadcasting from Kansas City.
“You're just pulling guys out of the pile,” Jeremiah told USA TODAY Sports. “I kind of joked that it’s like the scene from ‘Gladiator.’ This is not a full scouting report. It’s a thumbs up or thumbs down operation, whether or not these guys are draftable or not draftable types of players.
“You’re kind of drinking through a firehose.”
Todd McShay, ESPN's senior NFL Draft analyst alongside Mel Kiper Jr., said that by April, most of the work is done. “At this point, to be quite honest, it’s a lot less stressful because ‘the hay is in the barn,’ as they say,” McShay wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports.
Read Chris Bumbaca’s full feature here.
NFL draft betting rules explained: Which states can you legally bet from?
Even in jurisdictions where sports betting is regulated, the state may not offer wagers on the NFL draft. Of the states where sports betting is legal, NFL draft bets are not permitted in:
- New York
- Rhode Island
It comes down to what the state's sports gambling governing body considers a competition. The rules vary state-to-state, with deadlines and bet limits differing across certain borders. – Chris Bumbaca
Winners, losers of Aaron Rodgers trade: How did Jets, Packers fare in deal?
After months of speculation, Aaron Rodgers is finally Big Apple-bound ... or at least headed to the New York Jets' rustic New Jersey base of operations. By finally reaching middle ground Monday, the Jets and Packers can now focus on their draft boards without the Rodgers specter lurking over Thursday and/or Friday nights. Still, this transaction, expected as it was, marks a seismic shift to the NFL landscape and seems to further shift the balance of power to the AFC. Here’s our breakdown of the winners and losers of the Rodgers deal. – Nate Davis
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.