It took a few ticks under four hours for the NFL to run from No. 1 to No. 31, wrapping the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City on Thursday night.
Quarterbacks and Texans were prevalent with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young going first overall to the Carolina Panthers and the Chiefs closing up shop in front of a raucous crowd, snagging a hometown product, Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah 31st.
Three of the top four picks were quarterbacks, and the Houston Texans shook up the first round by acquiring the No. 3 pick from the Arizona Cardinals. The move ushered in a new foundation for the rebuild in Houston under coach DeMeco Ryans. Arizona traded back up to No. 6 in a swap with the Detroit Lions.
Young is the first Alabama player selected No. 1 since 1948 (Harry Gilmer) and the only Nick Saban-coached player to go first in the draft.
“It’s a dream come true,” Young said. “I can’t be more excited. I’m blessed to be a Panther.
“Being the number 1 pick is amazing, but I don’t want to be known as a number 1 pick.”
Houston followed suit. The Texans went with Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the second pick and used No. 3 on Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr.
“We’ve identified players with traits we want on the field and in our building,” Texans GM Nick Caserio said Thursday. He said Houston finally completed the deal with Arizona for the third pick with 90 seconds left on the clock.
Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon went fifth to the Seattle Seahawks, using the pick acquired from the Denver Broncos in the Russell Wilson trade. Seattle later selected Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20.
“I think it’s an awesome fit. Awesome opportunity,” Smith-Njigba said. “I’m so excited they called my name, and I know they won’t regret it.”
TCU’s Quentin Johnston (Los Angeles Chargers) and Boston College slot receiver Zay Flowers (Baltimore Ravens) went next during a run of four consecutive wideouts, and Southern California receiver Jordan Addison (23rd) landed with the Minnesota Vikings as a sidekick to Justin Jefferson.
The Cardinals took another Buckeye — Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. — sixth to play left tackle and go from protecting Stroud to safeguarding Kyler Murray.
“I’m just here to work,” Johnson said. “When I heard Cardinals, it sent chills through my body. I wanted the Cardinals.”
Texas college products stepped onto the stage and out of the Texans’ Thursday shadow. Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson went No. 7 to the Las Vegas Raiders, who were considered a prime landing spot for Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, before Texas running back Bijan Robinson was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.
The Super Bowl runner-up Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to move up one spot to No. 9 and drafted Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who will be paired with college teammate Jordan Davis (13th overall, 2022) on the dominant defensive front. Edge rusher Nolan Smith, a defensive end who ran 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, also joins “UGA North” in Philadelphia as the No. 30 pick.
Some scouts felt Carter was the No. 1 player in the draft, but his no-contest plea to drag-racing charges related to the death of a former teammate and a university staffer amplified questions about his maturity and character.
“It’s a lot,” Carter said on stage of his emotions. “It’s time to work. The Eagles got the best player in the draft. Day 1 when I get there, it’s time to work.”
Philadelphia’s trade dropped the Bears, who entered February with the No. 1 pick in the draft, down one more spot before they selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the 10th pick. Wright could play right tackle or guard, helping bolster a Chicago offensive line that allowed Justin Fields to be sacked a league-high 55 times last season.
The well-traveled No. 12 pick that began with the Cleveland Browns, went to the Texans for Deshaun Watson and was traded to Arizona and then Detroit on Thursday night was a surprise second running back in the top 12, Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs.
At No. 18, the Lions picked Iowa middle linebacker Jack Campbell, passing on every wide receiver in the draft despite recent suspensions thinning the depth chart at the position.
Pitt pass-rushing defensive tackle Calijah Kancey joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 19th pick and was introduced in Tampa by GM Jason Licht, who made comparisons to Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.
The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up with the New England Patriots to get Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones with the 14th overall pick in a run on blockers that included the Tennessee Titans adding Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski 11th.
Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness went No. 13 and will play outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, and Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV joined the rush on pass rushers when he got the call from the New York Jets at 15th overall.
Cover men went back-to-back with Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes (Washington Commanders) and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (Patriots) picked Nos. 16 and 17, respectively. The New York Giants joined to crush for cover men, trading up a spot with Jacksonville for Maryland’s Deonte Banks (24th).
Buffalo traded with the Jaguars, too, and followed the skill-position movement with Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid at No. 25. Jacksonville chose Arkansas left tackle Anton Harrison 27th on the day word leaked that left tackle Cam Robinson could be suspended to start the 2023 season.
The Dallas Cowboys went with a Michigan defensive lineman — powerful and agile defensive tackle Mazi Smith — in the first round (26th) for the second time in seven years (Taco Charlton, 2017). Two picks later, Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy went from the Tigers to the Cincinnati Bengals, one spot before Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (New Orleans Saints).
–Field Level Media