Winners and losers of the 2023 NFL Draft
Despite having only 17 games per team, the NFL still manages to remain a major topic of conversation in the US throughout the year, even when there are no games to talk about.
It’s a phenomenon that has infiltrated coverage of the Premier League, over the summer months, where fans are arguably more captivated by heated TV debates between ex-pros than live football matches.
This kind of hysteria, which has been amplified in recent years by social media and 24-hour sports news, is nothing new in America. For fans of the NFL, terms like ‘recruitment strategy’ and ‘rebuilds’ have been a part of the sport’s vernacular for more than three decades, and the reason for this is simple – the NFL draft.
Unlike Premier League football clubs, NFL teams don’t have youth academies for nurturing young talent. Instead, all 32 teams are entered into a draft, where they will be able to choose from the best college players in the country.
The draft, as well as player movement in the free agency market, is what dominates NFL discourse during the lengthy off-season. In the regular season, coaching staff and players try everything within their power to win a Super Bowl. During the off-season, however, an organisation is focused on one thing and one thing alone, forming a dynasty – a team that can dominate across multiple seasons. In recent years, fans have been arguably more excited by the prospect of the latter than the former.
This is why so much importance is placed on the draft, which is a bonafide event in the NFL calendar where cities bid to host the ceremony. In April 2023, Kansas City, the home of reigning Super Bowl champs the Chiefs, welcomed the biggest college prospects in the US for the draft.
If a team can recruit wisely in a draft, they can potentially lock down key positions for 10 years in a matter of days. A bad draft, on the other hand, could set a team back for several seasons.
Every year 259 players are drafted into the NFL, where typically the weaker teams will get first dibs on the most promising players, notwithstanding trades. However, when and where a player is picked in the drafting order is not necessarily an indication of how well they will perform in the NFL. Legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who won a record seven Super Bowl titles and three NFL MVP awards was famously picked in the sixth round (199th overall pick) in the 2000 draft.
UK-based fans of the NFL will no doubt have had a keen eye on the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2023 draft, with all-three teams set to feature in the NFL London games this autumn.
The Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans are scheduled to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the Jacksonville Jaguars will play at Wembley Stadium in what will be their 10th consecutive visit to the capital during the regular season.
The conclusion of the draft has sparked conversations between fans and experts about who will be the big winner of the event. The true victor won’t be known until the players chosen have shown what they can do in future seasons, but it’s still an exciting topic to debate. Below we have profiled the three London-bound teams plus one other standout franchise that made headlines during the draft.
NFL Draft Grades 2023
Buffalo Bills: A
The Bills are genuine Super Bowl contenders going into the 2023 season, despite falling short last year in the AFC Divisional Round.
They boast one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league in Josh Allen and going into the draft, they desperately wanted to bolster his receiver options. With their first pick the Bills traded up to the 25th to secure tight end Dalton Kincaid, arguably the best TE on the board.
The Bills were also lightweight in the offensive line meaning Kincaid’s blocking abilities will be a welcome added bonus. In the second round, the Bills picked up guard O’Cyrus Torrence, a player many predicted would go in the first round.
Tennessee Titans: B
The Titans had a lot of issues to address going into this year’s draft following a disappointing 7-10 season, chief among them was the offensive line which is why they selected OL Peter Skoronski with the 11th overall pick.
In the second round, the Titans picked up QB Will Levis, a player some analysts predicted to go in the top 15. The jury is still out on current Titans QB Ryan Tannehill so this may prove to be a shrewd pick in the future, but other positions, namely WR, OT and centre arguably needed addressing more urgently in the draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C
With a 9-8 record last season the Jaguars scraped into the playoffs and will be hoping to reach the postseason again this time around. Going into the draft the Jaguars desperately needed to bolster their offensive line to protect QB Trevor Lawrence following the suspension of starting OT Cam Robinson and the loss of Jawaan Taylor (OT) to the Chiefs in free agency.
With their first pick, the Jaguars acquired Anton Harrison, OT, at the bottom of the first round, which should plug the gap in the Jaguars’ offensive line. Another position that required attention for the Jags was cornerback, and in the 6th round, they picked up Christian Braswell, a player many consider to be undersized for his position but has the potential to be effective with his speed as a special teams player.
Philadelphia Eagles A+
Everyone is talking about the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2023 draft and for good reason. The Eagles were on the brink of glory last season and are expected to take the championship in the coming year.
The Eagles had a top-10 draft pick courtesy of a trade with the New Orleans Saints in 2022. With that pick the Eagles selected DT Jalen Carter, the most talented player in the draft in the eyes of many but overlooked by the teams ahead of the Eagles in the draft. They further bolstered their defence with linebacker Nolan Smith, the 30th overall pick although he was predicted to go inside the top 15 according to several pundits.
Even in the third and fourth rounds, the Eagles were picking up potential starters with safety Sydney Brown and CB Kelee Ringo, both of whom were expected to be drafted much sooner than they eventually were.
The rest of the league will be looking upon the Eagles with envy following a stellar draft, only time will tell if their picks will contribute to a Super Bowl crown or dynasty.
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