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NFL Draft Recap and Grades
The 2023 National Football League Draft has now come and gone, and what a whirlwind of a weekend it was. The draft saw many big-name quarterbacks taken off the board early, followed by a run of offensive tackles and a surprising number of running backs. Many teams did well in the seven-round draft, while others made some questionable selections, not filling more dire needs. The Philadelphia Eagles were a team that did well in each round of the draft, getting great value and filling positions of need at almost every pick. The Eagles selected defensive tackle Jalen Carter out of Georgia at number nine overall, an absolute steal of a pick. Many draft experts had Carter ranked as the number one player in the class, but some off-the-field concerns hurt Carter’s draft stock. Jalen Carter goes to a Philadelphia team that has lots of great defensive veterans who will be sure to mentor him and shape him up. The Eagles also had another first-round pick (30th overall) and took yet another University of Georgia Bulldog in edge rusher Nolan Smith. Smith is an explosive talent who terrorized SEC offenses for four straight years. The only knock on Smith is his size; he weighs in at only 238 lbs, which is very light for an edge rusher, but Smith has all the tools to be great. The Eagles continued to add solid talent in the middle rounds, selecting offensive tackle Tyler Steen out of Alabama, defensive back Sydney Brown from Illinois, and another Georgia Bulldog in defensive back Kelee Ringo. These three players provide good depth and could see some meaningful playing time later in the season. Philly finished off their 2023 draft by picking up Stanford quarterback Tanner Mckee and Texas defensive tackle Moro Ojomo; both players showed flashes of greatness in college but were never able to fully put it all together. This is an elite draft class filled with talent in various positions; the Eagles get an A+ draft grade. A team that took a swing and a miss was the Detroit Lions. The Lions have recently been excellent in their draft selections, but that all went out the window in 2023. Detroit began the draft with the 6th overall pick and quickly traded back in the draft to the 12th spot, obtaining picks 34 and 168 in the process. This was not a bad trade value-wise, but the Lions left some good players on the board while deciding to trade down. At pick 12, Detroit selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, which, in many people’s eyes, was a questionable selection. Historically, drafting a running back that early has a bad track record, not to mention the Lions already have a solid running back room in D'Andre Swift and David Montgomery (D'Andre Swift has since been traded away to the Eagles). Gibbs is a unique player that could make a difference early in Detroit, but the value at 12th overall is not there. The Lions followed up Gibbs selection by drafting Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at pick 18. The linebackers in this 2023 NFL draft class were some of the worst linebackers we’ve seen in recent years, and surprisingly, Detroit uses one of their first-rounders and takes one at 18th overall. Campbell is a fine player who racked up a lot of tackles in his tenure at Iowa, but again, the selection is just a little too rich. In the second round, Detroit selected Campbell’s Iowa teammate, tight end Sam LaPorta, and Alabama defensive back Brian Branch. LaPorta was an average selection, but with better tight ends still available (Michael Mayer, Luke Musgrave, and Darnell Washington), the pick feels early yet again. Brian Branch, however, was a phenomenal selection for Detroit, as many believed he could’ve gone in round 1 with his special skillset of playing both cornerback and safety. At pick 68, Detroit made another questionable selection, adding Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker had a stellar 2022 season before tearing his ACL in late November, but the concerns with drafting Hooker are that he is 25 years old, not to mention he just tore his ACL and will not play football this season. Detroit, however, ignored these red flags and spent a top 70 pick on a 25-year-old quarterback that won’t play a snap of football in 2023. Detroit finished off their draft by adding some depth pieces in Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin, William and Mary offensive tackle Colby Sorsdal, and North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green. It isn’t a terrible draft class, but Detroit seemed to reach on many of their selections, so therefore the Lions get a C-. draft grade. Some other teams that fared well included the Pittsburgh Steelers for taking the best player available as often as they could (Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Darnell Washington) and the Seattle Seahawks for getting great value throughout every round (Devon Witherspoon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Kenny McIntosh). The 2023 NFL draft was filled with surprises, head-scratchers, and many other emotions, but that is the nature of this exciting and hope-filled process and why many look forward to these days in April.
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