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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Thomas: Instant NFL Draft day one grades

The 2023 NFL draft kicked off from Kansas City, Missouri Thursday night. Thirty-one college players were made NFL players. These are instant grades and analysis of each pick.

  1. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
My pick: Bryce Young

My grade: A

The Panthers traded a package and got the chance to get the clear best quarterback in the draft. They didn’t fumble the opportunity, and can now build around their franchise quarterback after years of quarterback purgatory since Cam Newton. 
  1. Houston Texans: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
My Pick: CJ Stroud 

My grade: A

The Texans need a quarterback, and they avoided making the mistake of Richardson or Levis over Stroud. They get their guy … but then things got interesting. 
  1. Houston Texans: Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama
My Pick: Will Anderson 

My Grade: B-

The issue here is not the pick. It’s the trade. The Texans’ biggest needs were QB and an edge-rusher, and they got the best available at both positions. So that’s great. But trading No. 12, No. 33 and a first-rounder next year? Don’t love that for a team that has a lot to work on. The trade reeked of an ownership-coaching rift and a divide over who the right pick was at No. 3. As such, the Texans land two quality prospects, but they lose out at their first-rounder next year, and a chance at a high-end wide receiver in this year’s class. 
  1. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB
My Pick: Anthony Richardson

My Grade: A-

As long as they didn’t go Levis here, I was OK. Richardson is QB3 in the class and a risky pick to go in the top-five, so it’s not a straight A. Richardson is undoubtedly a project, but Indianapolis has expressed they’ll give their rookie a long leash and plan on starting him early, if not right away. So Richardson is placed into somewhat of a low-pressure situation with a chance to develop. I like the pick, overall.
  1. Seattle Seahawks: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
My Pick: Tyree Wilson, Edge

My Grade: C-

I really like Witherspoon as a pick, but I do like Christian Gonzalez more (which I know isn’t the most popular take). That being said, I really don’t get Seattle going cornerback here. It just didn’t feel like a pressing position of need, especially after hitting on Tariq Woolen last year. I’d have liked to see Wilson or Jalen Carter here, with the defensive line needing more work than the secondary in Seattle. 
  1. Arizona Cardinals: Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State
My Pick: Jalen Carter, DL

My Grade: B

Mixed feelings on this pick. Rumor is Kyler Murray wanted Johnson, and if that’s true, it’s hard to argue with pleasing your franchise quarterback. That being said, I do think the Cardinals have bigger issues on defense, either on the line (hence the Carter pick) or in the secondary (potentially going for Gonzalez). Again, hard to be too upset about this pick, especially if it was part of Kyler’s wishlist. 
  1. Las Vegas Raiders: Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech
My Pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB

My Grade: B+

I do like this pick overall, and I think the Raiders got an elite player. Honestly, if they picked one of Wilson, Peter Skoronski or Christian Gonzalez, I think Las Vegas would have addressed a need and gotten one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft class. I think the other two names would have addressed bigger needs, hence the B+, but the Raiders still got a solid addition in Wilson. 
  1. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
My Pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB

My Grade: C-

The only reason this grade doesn’t fail or get a D is that Bijan Robinson is one of my favorite prospects in the class. But he absolutely is not what Atlanta needs, especially after hitting on Tyler Allgeier, who set the Falcons’ rookie rushing record. Atlanta had so many bigger needs than going after another running back, and they elected to not go for Gonzalez, a consensus top-two cornerback in the class. 
  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
My Pick: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

My Grade: A-

The Eagles obviously wanted Carter, given that they jumped the Bears just one stop, likely sensing that someone else might try to make the same move. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, I liked Philadelphia to maybe just go best available here, and Carter certainly has a case to be considered that prospect on the board at this point. There were a few other names in the mix, but Carter is a solid add and fantastic value at No. 9. 
  1. Chicago Bears: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
My Pick: Peter Skoronski, OT

My Grade: C

They got the position right, but, I don’t think it’s too controversial to say the pick itself was surprising. With local product Skoronski, my personal top offensive lineman in the class and a consensus top-two tackle, still available, the Bears went for Wright. The Tennessee tackle is certainly a first-round tackle, but I’d have definitely taken Skoronski and probably Broderick Jones. 
  1. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
My Pick: Peter Skoronski

My Grade: A 

Some thought that the Titans were looking to trade up and get a quarterback. While not against that, I think offensive line was the right play, and getting Skoronski at No. 11 is amazing value. They got the best available prospect at their biggest position of need. Good start to the 2023 draft for the Titans. 
  1. Detroit Lions: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
My Pick: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

My Grade: D-

Up until the pick’s announcement, I thought the Lions had pulled off an absolute coup, trading back six spots and still getting their preferred guy in Gonzalez. And then they went to running back? I’m not denying there’s question marks surrounding DeAndre Swift in Detroit, but is the answer to invest more significant draft capital in a position with a short shelf life? I don’t think so. I think defensive line (Calijah Kancey), the secondary (Gonzalez) or tight end (Michael Mayer) all deserved Detroit’s attention before taking the second-best running back on the board. 
  1. Green Bay Packers: Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa
My Pick: Michael Mayer, TE

My Grade: F

I don’t think edge rusher was the position to address here for Green Bay, and even if it was, I don’t think Van Ness is the prospect worth a top-15 selection. With a new quarterback, I was fully sold on the Packers adding a weapon here to strengthen the offense. Mayer was on the board, as was every wide receiver. I do not like this pick. 
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT
My Pick: Broderick Jones, OT

My Grade: A-

Tell me at the beginning of the night that the Steelers are getting Jones, and I love it. Given Christian Gonzalez is still on the board, I don’t love it as much. However, I can very much get behind the decision to protect Kenny Pickett with the best remaining tackle on the board. 
  1. New York Jets: Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State
My Pick: Calijah Kancey, DL

My Grade: D-

Did the Jets really need to invest their first pick in an edge-rusher? Beyond the fact that I don’t think they got the best available edge rusher, the Jets also could have addressed other needs. I wanted them to get a tackle, but with the top four off the table, going elsewhere makes sense. After that, I’d have gone for a weapon, maybe taking Mayer to improve the tight end spot, or shore up the interior defensive line. I hate this pick. 
  1. Washington Commanders: Emmanuel Forbes, CB
My pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB

My Grade: C

The Commanders went with the right move in going to the secondary, and I like Forbes as a prospect, but I like Gonzalez, Joey Porter and Deonte Banks more. So this a C — nothing more, nothing less. A solid pick, I just think there was better available prospects. 
  1. New England Patriots: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
My pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB

My Grade: A

If you couldn’t tell, I really like Gonzalez as a prospect. I think he has a really good chance to be the defensive rookie of the year. The Pats got a prospect who could have gone in the top six or seven picks at No. 17 and addressed a position of need. That’s the steal of the round in my mind. 
  1. Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
My pick: Calijah Kancey, DL

My Grade: D+ 

Again, I just didn’t see linebacker as the position to address with two first-round picks. I don’t love the Lions’ haul, and I think Kancey or Mayer would be better talents here at bigger positions of need. 
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DL
My Pick: Will Levis, QB

My Grade: B

I am not sure what to think. I love Kancey as a prospect, and I think the Buccaneers got fantastic value. However, I think they could have maybe gone for a different position, and honestly, despite my general stance on Will Levis as a prospect, going quarterback here to add competition for Kyle Trask wouldn’t have been bad. Interesting selection by Tampa Bay. 
  1. Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
My Pick: Myles Murphy, Edge

My Grade: B+

Another great value to get at No. 20, but with two strong wide receivers headlining their corps, Seattle makes an interesting move to get a pass-catcher here, passing on another chance to bolster their defensive line. That being said, Smith-Njigba is an elite prospect, so Seattle has every right to be excited. 
  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
My Pick: Quentin Johnston, WR

My Grade: A

I could be happy with any receiver here, as after JSN, I think you could order the next three receivers in any way you choose. The Chargers made the right call to go for a receiver and got a great talent that, in a year with more receiver-needy teams could have been a top-15 talent. 
  1. Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
My Pick: Jordan Addison, WR 

My Grade: A

Again, I could have been happy with Flowers or Addison. I had Addison ranked slightly higher on my board, but it was by a marginal amount. Getting a weapon for the newly-extended Lamar Jackson was the priority, and the Ravens got a good one in Flowers. 
  1. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
My Pick: Joey Porter Jr., CB

My Grade: B+

I don’t mind the choice to go receiver here, but I do think the Vikings would have done well to address the secondary first. It was surprising that Porter was still available at this point, and he’d have been a great pick. As it is,the Vikings did need to grab a receiver, and Addison is the best remaining at the position. 
  1. New York Giants: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
My Pick: Joey Porter Jr., CB

My Grade: A-

I think Porter is slightly better, but Banks is a great prospect. I wanted the Giants to get a receiver if one of the top four was on the board, but with both Porter and Banks available, addressing the secondary was the correct decision. 
  1. Buffalo Bills: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
My Pick: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG

My Grade: D

I thought offensive guard was the biggest need entering the night for the Bills, and when they traded up, I thought it was to secure Torrence, the best guard in the class. Instead they went to tight end, which wasn’t a position of tremendous need, and they went for Dalton Kincaid instead of Michael Mayer, which I also view as a mistake. Lot of interesting decision-making from the Buffalo brass. 
  1. Dallas Cowboys: Mazi Smith, DT
My Pick: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG

My Grade: B

I mocked this pick yesterday, so I like the fit. With both Torrence and Mayer available, I did like the concept of adding talent on the line or at tight end, but the Cowboys go after a strong interior defensive lineman and get their guy in Mazi Smith. I don’t love it, but I can think of plenty worse picks that have been made. 
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Anton Harrison, T, Oklahoma
My Pick: Joey Porter Jr., CB

My Grade: B+

I really like Harrison as a prospect and I did predict him to land in this late first-round stage. But I think the secondary was a bigger need and drafting a cornerback like Porter would have been better value. Not as much an issue with who they picked, but an issue with who the Jaguars passed on. 
  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson
My Pick: Michael Mayer, TE

My Grade: C-

I really liked a potential fit between Harrison and the Bengals, but with him off the board, I’m not surprised they went to a different position. I also thought cornerback and tight end were bigger needs, as well as interior offensive line. Murphy is good value, but I thought there were bigger holes to address than edge-rusher. 
  1. New Orleans Saints: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
My Pick: Bryan Bresee

My Grade: A

I had two names on my mind for this pick as New Orleans was on the clock: Bresee or Georgia edge-rusher Nolan Smith. Both would have been slam-dunks in my opinion, and the Saints nailed the pick with the best available interior defensive lineman, which was a big position of need. 
  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, Edge/LB, Georgia
My Pick: Brian Branch, S, Alabama

My Grade: A

I liked Branch or Smith here. The edge rusher was probably the right move, honestly, but I think getting the best player at a position (and Branch is the best safety prospect) is sometimes a great move. But Smith is also a fantastic pick here for the Philadelphia Bulldogs…I mean the Philadelphia Eagles. 
  1. Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State
My Pick: Michael Mayer, TE 

My Grade: B+

I was a fan of going with an offensive tackle or an edge rusher, but I also didn’t like the value that was left on the board. Michael Mayer was more of a pick if the Chiefs went with the best-available player. Joey Porter or Brian Branch would have also been solid adds to the defense. But, when you’re the defending Super Bowl champions, you can reach a little bit in order to fill a need. So, really no major complaints, even if I still think it’s ridiculous that Mayer didn’t go in the first round. 

Best Still Available
  • Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
  • Brian Branch, S, Alabama
  • Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
  • O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
  • Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
  • Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
  • Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin