DECYFR’D: The 2023 NFL Draft

DECYFR’D: The 2023 NFL Draft

With all three days of the 2023 NFL Draft behind us, it’s time to take a look back at some of the ups and downs, risers and fallers, and incredible surprises the league’s ‘Annual Selection Meeting’ offered this year.

Undeterred by concerns over his size and build, the Carolina Panthers selected the University of Alabama’s Bryce Young with the first pick. The quarterback was favourite to be drafted first overall, despite scouts’ fears that Young – due to his 5’10” and 204-pound frame – may struggle to deal with the physicality of the NFL.

However, the Panthers clearly believe in Young’s talent and made the quarterback the first Alabama player to be selected number one overall in modern draft history.

C.J. Stroud was the next quarterback to be selected, as the Houston Texans used the second overall pick on the Ohio State University prospect. Ahead of the draft, rumours swirled that Houston would draft a defensive player instead of trying to find their franchise quarterback. And they did select a defensive player – just one spot later. The Arizona Cardinals traded the third overall pick to Houston to allow the Texans to draft highly touted edge rusher, Will Anderson Jr. from the University of Alabama.

One of the draft’s most intriguing players was taken fourth overall. Quarterback Anthony Richardson – seen as a ‘project’ after starting just 13 games for the University of Florida – was selected by the Indianapolis Colts.

Richardson proved to be the final quarterback drafted in the first round, which was bad news for the University of Kentucky’s Will Levis. Levis, once a possible second overall selection, fell to the second round and was eventually taken by the Tennessee Titans with the 33rd overall pick – and, as is tradition at the draft, the cameras captured every single awkward second of his wait.

A team with one of 2022’s best rushing offenses was the first to select a running back, even if draft experts now argue against using high picks on the position, as the Atlanta Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson from the University of Texas at Austin eighth overall. The Philadelphia Eagles also reinforced an area of strength in the first round – shocking the NFL world by trading up to the ninth pick to draft defensive tackle Jalen Carter from the University of Georgia. The Eagles are gambling on Carter, considering his apparent character issues, but the team that led the league in sacks last season has potentially acquired yet another defensive star.

But one of Thursday’s biggest winners was none other than Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Not only did he sign a mammoth five-year, $260 million contract extension with Baltimore, but the Ravens also added another exciting weapon for their newly-minted quarterback, drafting Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers with the 22nd overall pick.

Beyond the first round, the league’s generational links continued, as Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was selected with the 32nd overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers – the team his father represented for eight seasons, winning Super Bowl XL. Deuce Vaughn, a running back from Kansas State University, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round, and his father – a scout for Dallas – made the call to his son, sharing the news that he’d be joining him as a member of the Cowboys. Another Kansas State University player, wide receiver Kade Warner, followed in his father’s footsteps after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. His father is of course Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who is widely considered the greatest undrafted player of all time.

Four of the UK’s IHMA teams – the Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins – all used the 2023 NFL Draft to demonstrate their commitment to fans on this side of the Atlantic by announcing draft picks in London.

Finally, the honour, or infamy, of being the final pick in this year’s draft – and becoming ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ – went to University of Toledo defensive end Desjuan Johnson, who was selected by the Los Angeles Rams with the 259th overall pick.

Now every NFL fan’s attention turns to the schedule release on May 12, when they find out when, where, and whom against, their prize rookies make their league debuts.

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