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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / NFL Draft First Round Grades

NFL Draft First Round Grades

Publish Date: 04/28/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

First round grades

The first round in the NFL Draft is a round where teams should be selecting players that will start for them, it should not be the crap shoot of later rounds. But teams make head-scratching decisions all the time based on potential. Sometimes it pans out, but more often than not, it does not. Watch a complete game of the player that your team picked, it gives a much better idea than watching some analyst on ESPN tell you if they drafted the right guy or not.

1) Carolina Panthers: (from Chicago Bears): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

I know he is too small; he has been too small his whole life 5’10, 205lbs is not big enough to be a great quarterback. At least, this is what detractors will say. The Panthers selected the most polished quarterback in this draft; he has great escapability and reads defenses at an elite level. This pick gives the Panthers a shot this year in a weak NFC South and makes it so the Panthers, more importantly, have a bright future.

Grade: A+

2) Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Stroud is not as finished a product as Bryce Young is, but he is exceptionally talented, but some worries do exist for me with Stroud. Reading coverages and processing quickly are the issues, but I don’t think they are overwhelming issues. Stroud is going to be a stud, I think and the Texans had to make this pick.

Grade: A+

3) Houston Texans (from Arizona Cardinals): Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama

Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans is one of the game’s premier defensive minds, so this trade was made to give DeMeco Ryans both his quarterback and a star defensive player to mould as part of his blueprint. Anderson brings an explosive force off the edge that should put him into discussions for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Texans already have a draft that may make them contenders in a weak AFC South.

Grade A+

4) Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Richardson resembles Josh Allen in every respect, from his size, speed, arm strength and inability to hit open targets (54.7 per cent completion rate at Florida),- so Indianapolis must surround Richardson with the talent to help maximize this enormous potential. That enormous potential is being based by his athletic ability, but Richardson is far, far behind the two quarterbacks picked at numbers one and two that this is a laughable pick. Ceiling is a scary word when dealing with Quarterbacks at the NFL level, and Richardson had one average season; this is a massive over-reach.

Grade D

5) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

I can’t complain too much about this pick. Witherspoon is the top corner in this year’s draft and should become an instant starter on Day 1, with Pro Bowl potential. The Seahawks could have one of the best Cornerback duos this season.

Grade A

6) Arizona Cardinals (from Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Was it worth giving up a top-35 selection to select Johnson over Broderick Jones or Peter Skoronski? Given their needs, this year’s draft picks could have provided more value than targeting sixth overall directly.

Johnson may prove worth his while. He displays all the traits needed for success as an NFL left tackle: massive size, long arms and quick feet. He is still a work in progress.

Grade C+

7) Las Vegas Raiders: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech

The Raiders need someone like Wilson. With Jones and Maxx Crosby as potential mentors for him to learn behind, playing behind those two should provide ample opportunity for growth and development.

On another team where he would have had more responsibility immediately upon joining, Wilson could have presented severe bust potential. Instead, the Raiders know precisely what they’re doing and now possess a defensive cornerstone with the approximate wingspan of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Grade B

8) Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

This could be brilliant, maybe Nijan is good enough to carry this team like Derrick Henry has the Titans, but I think this is a bad pick for a team that needs defensive help. Robinson will be a stud, but other more dire needs existed. He needs to have a Derrick Henry like impact for this pick to be better than average.

Grade C+

9) Philadelphia Eagles (from Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

Great value pick, but red flags do exist with Carter on and off the field. When you are the NFC Champions with a team with few holes, you can afford to take a risk on a guy like Carter.

Grade A

10) Chicago Bears (from Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints): Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Wright is a versatile tackle who boasts blindside potential while providing immediate value on the right side opposite 2022 rookie standout Braxton Jones. Chicago had an urgent need in their frontline after Justin Fields was sacked more than 13 per cent of his dropbacks during his first two seasons as a pro. This, to me, is an excellent pick for a man that will be the Bears’ starting right tackle for the next decade.

Grade A

11) Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, G, Northwestern

Skoronski will most likely transition into playing bowling ball guard for the Titans’ interior offensive line – which, to be clear: is an excellent idea!

Grade B+

12) Detroit Lions (from Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns): Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Detroit also holds picks 18th, 34th, 48th and 55th over the next couple of rounds, which should provide ample opportunities to select running backs. At the same time, edge rushers and corners could already have been picked through. Much like Atlanta, I think the Lions had more glaring needs elsewhere.

Grade B-

13) Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets): Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa

The Packers take on Lukas Van Ness, who is probably more of a project than an instant-impact player. In the long run, with a 6-foot-5, 272-pound frame, Van Ness might morph into a great pass rusher and critical cog on a Green Bay front featuring three former first-round picks, Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt. More likely, though is he turns out to be just a guy. The Packers had their pick of the Wide Receivers in the draft to help out new starting quarterback Jordan Love but chose not to.

Grade D

14) Pittsburgh Steelers (from New England Patriots): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

He is, ironically, the exact kind of blocker the Patriots could have used β€” and Pittsburgh swooped in and stole him at the low cost of a mid-fourth-round pick.

That’s a massive win for the Steelers, whose offensive line requires repair. Dan Moore is vulnerable at left tackle and may be better off in a swing position, but he can hold down the fort until Jones is ready.

Grade A-

15) New York Jets (from Green Bay Packers): Will McDonald IV, LB, Iowa State

Will McDonald was just the person to take advantage of all of the double and triple teams Quinnen Williams receives on each play.

McDonald is an exceptional athlete, evidenced by his athleticism in every play. Unfortunately, his size might make him overmatched against 300-pound players; highlight reel washouts will likely be frequent; nevertheless, I don’t anticipate New York employing him full-time just yet.

Grade B-

16) Washington Commanders: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

I think the Commanders could have used help elsewhere but this pick would get an A if it were at pick 25. Here the pick doesn’t garner as much value. Still, Forbes should be an excellent pick in the long run.

Grade B

17) New England Patriots (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Gonzalez is an uncompromising cornerback who can tackle receivers at the line of scrimmage and keep pace with even the fastest running backs. I was taken aback to find such an accomplished lockdown player slipping outside the top 10.

Grade A+

18) Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Campbell was in contention as part of a strong yet not overwhelming corps of off-ball linebackers for Detroit. However, one could argue they should wait to select him using one of three second-round picks or instead opt for similar inside linebackers like Drew Sanders or Trenton Simpson.

Grade B-

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt

Kancey was incredibly productive for the Panthers, using his smaller frame for leverage over poor offensive linemen in the ACC. He is not Aaron Donald, but he should be a productive player for the Bucs.

Grade B-

20) Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

He runs silky smooth routes that don’t provide opposing cornerbacks with any inside leverage, breaking away and creating space from nothing. Furthermore, his hands-and-body control on the sidelines will soon become immortalized in an endless string of Next Gen Stats commercials.

Grade A

21) Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Johnson is a freak athlete; the issue is dropping 12 per cent of all passes throen his way last year, but he is worth the risk.

Grade B

22) Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Flowers is a rising tide that lifts all boats. He finds ways to win no matter the number of defenders coming at him; with nearly 500 more yards from scrimmage than anyone else on the Boston College roster, he left opposing defenses defenslesss. Flowers roasted cornerbacks with crisp routes, strong separation and an instinctual drive to get to the ball first.

Grade A-

23) Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Addison is a great value pick at this point in the first round. Addison will serve as Justin Jefferson’s sidekick, making for a deadly duo. I wouldn’t rest well tonight if I were an NFC North cornerback! I also think he is better than both receivers picked right before him.

Grade A

24) New York Giants (from Jacksonville Jaguars): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

Banks is blessed with tremendous speed and quick hips that allow him to turn and run with any opponent, his closing speed being enough to erase routes near the sideline and his minimal cost; all in all, this worked out quite well for the G-men. I do like Joey Porter Jr. a little more but this is a solid pick.

Grade B+

25) Buffalo Bills (from Jacksonville Jaguars via New York Giants): Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

The Bills already possess Dawson Knox, an individual similar to Kincaid, but they don’t throw nearly enough passes his way. So what would change with Kincaid joining the fold? I would guess they saw their number of receivers drop drastically and became desperate enough to take a shot; now the question is how they will utilize both players effectively in helping Josh Allen out.

Grade C

26) Dallas Cowboys: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

Jerry Jones may have surprised many by passing up Michael Mayer, a tight end who bears striking similarities to Jason Witten, but no one could dispute Smith’s value as an efficient gap-shooting tackle upfront. A nose tackle was needed; that position is underwhelming for the Cowboys.

Grade B

27) Jacksonville Jaguars (from Buffalo Bills via New York Giants): Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

Harrison may not be an ideal prospect, but his size and length make up for any deficiencies in athleticism; nonetheless, he should suffice in Cam Robinson’s absence to keep the ship sailing smoothly.

Grade B-

28) Cincinnati Bengals: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

Murphy was a five-star recruit who had a big-time Freshman season at Clemson; since then, he has not progressed. If you watch highlight films and the combine and nothing else you will love this pick, but Murphy is a bit of a project and a huge risk for a team seemingly on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl. This team needed a corner, Joey Porter Jr. was still available, and they needed safety help, and all safeties were still on the board. This is a boom or bust pick, as he has the talent to be a big-time pass rusher. Bengals fans, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Grade C-

29) New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco 49ers via Miami Dolphins via Denver Broncos): Bryan Bresee, OT, Clemson

Breese is not an excellent physical specimen, and he won’t blow anybody away at a combine, but he will do his job and always plays hard. This is a solid pickup.

Grade B+

30) Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

This is a steal for the Eagles; Smith had injury issues with a torn pectoral muscle last year. This is a high-value pick for the Eagles and the defense became even faster,

Grade B+

31) Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State

Anudike-Uzomah will join a deep Chiefs defensive line rotation and receive valuable seasoning. Though technically considered a luxury pick by Kansas City, one can never have too many capable edge defenders in an AFC filled with difference-makers under center.

Grade B

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