Cowboys flop as Steelers, Eagles top team hauls

The 2023 NFL draft is complete, all 259 selections made in Kansas City, Missouri, now official.

Naturally, that leads to the inevitable subsequent phase of draft analysis – parsing, evaluating, pondering and, of course, prematurely grading it … because we know you demand the insta-labels for all 32 clubs’ hauls.

First impressions are what they are, and who am I to not give the people what they want? (And I’ll oblige even if my kneejerk reaction three years ago was to give the Eagles a “D” as part of a group that included second-round QB Jalen Hurts. Oops … though most of my other quick-turn evaluations were largely on point, as was the inclination to scold Philadelphia for taking WR Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson in Round 1. Oops to you, Howie.)

As I grade each team, the goal is to pull back for a big-picture look at its performance holistically rather than judging from a vacuumed perspective that doesn’t include trades and other considerations that more accurately frame the decisions.

So, with that in mind, here are your ridiculously hasty 2023 NFL draft grades, with team classes ranked from best to worst:

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1. Philadelphia Eagles (A+)

If you want to argue it’s not all that hard to scout University of Georgia players, fine. But it’s not so easy reaching the Super Bowl yet nevertheless getting into positions to stockpile Bulldog-caliber talent, either, however EVP/GM Howie Roseman manages to do it. This time, he reeled in DT Jalen Carter – perhaps the No. 1 overall talent in 2023, his off-field question marks notwithstanding – at No. 9. Twenty-one spots later, Roseman continued reloading his front seven with uber-athletic Dawgs pass rusher Nolan Smith. High upside CB Kelee Ringo arrived in Round 4, and Roseman likely found his RB1 by essentially giving Detroit a 2025 fourth-rounder (and a seventh-round pick swap) for former Georgia star D’Andre Swift as he heads into a contract year. Bottom line? Good luck keeping the NFC champs out of Super Bowl 58.

2. Seattle Seahawks (A)

Seemed they continued to make the most of what increasingly looks like a lopsided trade of former QB Russell Wilson to Denver last year. First-round CB Devon Witherspoon and second-round pass rusher Derick Hall are direct byproducts of the megadeal and should fortify a 26th-ranked defense. Offensively, Seattle obtained Round 1 WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Round 2 RB Zach Charbonnet with its own capital. And even if those two seem a bit redundant for a team that already had plenty of firepower, you can’t argue with the quality – a team that appears it might be one of the top four in the NFC now scarily deep. On the value side, keep tabs on fifth-round DE Mike Morris. 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (A)

Rookie GM Omar Khan looked every bit the seasoned exec in his maiden draft as shot-caller. He vaulted in front of the Jets on Thursday night – in a deal with New England no less – in order to take highly touted Broderick Jones, who should solve Pittsburgh’s left tackle issue for years. Khan then ended the tumble of CB Joey Porter Jr., whose dad was a star linebacker in the Steel City, atop Round 2 – with a pick obtained last fall by trading WR Chase Claypool. Day 2 also brought DL Keeanu Benton and TE Darnell Washington, who’s a glorified tackle – though one with great hands and speed. And getting OLB Nick Herbig in the fourth? Larceny. Much rides on the development of QB Kenny Pickett, but this team appears much improved. 

4. Houston Texans (A)

They wisely doused the pre-draft speculation by taking QB C.J. Stroud second overall and then made an expensive deal with Arizona to obtain the next selection for OLB/DE Will Anderson, perhaps the best player in this draft and an early front-runner for 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Second-round C Juice Scruggs and third-round WR Tank Dell should earn snaps quickly on a roster where they’re largely there for the taking. And keep an eye on fifth-round LB Henry To’oTo’o, a teammate of Anderson’s at Alabama. Despite the cost for Anderson (four picks, including two first-rounders and one second), this should be the draft that will be remembered as the point which Houston officially moved past the specter of former QB Deshaun Watson. 

5. New York Jets (A-)

On its own, the first-round selection of pass rusher Will McDonald IV caused some NYJ fans to flash back to so many years of draft trauma. (In fairness to McDonald, he may turn out to be a fine player … if not worthy of a top-15 slot.) But let’s keep perspective here – GM Joe Douglas used this year as a means to acquire four-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers, who more than addresses New York’s main problem (and at very reasonable cost), which is why the Jets’ grade is so high. Still, you wonder if Douglas had a mulligan whether he would just let go of an unconditional 2024 first-rounder and keep No. 13 this year … because it’s hard not to believe he wouldn’t have taken either of the two players (Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness or Jones) who went right in front of him Thursday. Offensive linemen Joe Tippmann (Round 2) and Carter Warren (Round 4) have major upside – though not as much as Jones – yet it’s hardly a surety they will play extensively in 2023.

6. Carolina Panthers (A-)

They only landed five players and, hey, second-round WR Jonathan Mingo and/or fifth-round S Jammie Robinson could be winning lottery tickets. But this was all about the bold move following the scouting combine to pry the No. 1 pick from the Bears and turn it into former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. And GM Scott Fitterer, HC Frank Reich and owner David Tepper – had they not surrendered a slew of picks and WR DJ Moore – probably would have lost out had they not perhaps overpaid as early as they did. With Tepper’s long-awaited QB1 finally in place, should be fun to see what Young can do – especially in a division that seems eminently winnable.

7. Arizona Cardinals (A-)

New GM Monti Ossenfort quickly got to work, importing nine rookies to a roster that needed a talent infusion. Trading the No. 3 pick to Houston and ultimately winding up with OL Paris Johnson Jr. at No. 6 to protect recuperating QB Kyler Murray – while adding a first-rounder in 2024, among other assets – are indicative of a strong weekend. And Ossenfort might still eventually move WR DeAndre Hopkins to add to next year’s balance sheet.

8. Baltimore Ravens (B+)

It may not technically count as part of the draft, but finally striking an extension with QB Lamar Jackson set a nice tone Thursday and allowed GM Eric DeCosta to focus on player procurement without distraction. And he wasted little time getting Jackson another nifty weapon in explosive first-round slot WR Zay Flowers. DeCosta traded his second-round pick last year to get LB Roquan Smith (well-spent capital) and got rangy Trenton Simpson, who might be Smith’s running mate in the long term, in Round 3.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (B+)

We’re at a point where it’s hard to doubt much GM Brett Veach and HC Andy Reid do. First-round DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, second-round WR Rashee Rice and third-round RT Wanya Morris all seemed to arrive at the intersection of need and value. And don’t forget the champs obtained WR Kadarius Toney for a third- and sixth-rounder … before he played a key role in their Super Bowl 57 victory.

10. Chicago Bears (B+)

It wasn’t sexy – three of the their top four picks were linemen, most notably first-round OT Darnell Wright – and GM Ryan Poles might ultimately regret the midseason deal for Claypool, which cost him the top pick of Round 2. But this was probably the draft Chicago needed to bulwark a talent-deficient roster around QB Justin Fields – and don’t forget the package from Carolina for the No. 1 pick also brought WR1 Moore, who’s under contract for three more years.

11. Indianapolis Colts (B+)

It appears GM Chris Ballard was on his game, consistently finding value in the likes of second-round CB Julius Brents, third-round WR Josh Downs, fourth-round DT Adetomiwa Adebawore and fifth-round CB Darius Rush. But this draft will be defined by Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 overall pick but the third quarterback selected. No passer has a higher ceiling, but new HC Shane Steichen will have to mold the inexperienced former Gator – much as he did Hurts in Philadelphia and even Justin Herbert in LA. But if Richardson can finally stabilize this position, while coming close to the Cam Newton and/or Jackson comparisons, then this will be a landmark haul. 

12. Los Angeles Rams (B)

Bad as last season was, the 2021 trade for QB Matthew Stafford was worth it – and the Super Bowl 56 champs are now scheduled to make their first Round 1 pick since 2016 … next year. This draft was mostly about replenishing needed depth, though second-round G Steve Avila should be a plug-and-play starter. Should be fun watching fourth-round QB Stetson Bennett, a UGA alum like Stafford, proving he can play at this level during the preseason.

13. Minnesota Vikings (B)

Different kind of player, but first-round WR Jordan Addison should make hay as he steps into departed Adam Thielen’s role opposite Jefferson. And, remember, the Round 2 choice was used last year to get TE T.J. Hockenson. The Vikes’ most interesting picks might be fifth-round QB Jaren Hall and seventh-round RB DeWayne McBride given the uncertain futures of Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, respectively. Also, admittedly rooting for undrafted free agent OLB Andre Carter II, who played at West Point.

14. Green Bay Packers (B)

Can’t argue they got better by dealing Rodgers, but it was time – especially given the need to start evaluating 2020 first-rounder Jordan Love. And GM Brian Gutekunst got busy helping his new QB1 on Friday by snatching WR Jayden Reed (Round 2) and TEs Luke Musgrave (Round 2) and Tucker Kraft (Round 3). First-rounder Van Ness nicely strengthens the edge, while it appears sixth-rounder Anders Carlson, brother of the Raiders’ Daniel Carslon, will replace K Mason Crosby.

15. Cincinnati Bengals (B)

Seems like your typical Cincy draft, pretty much right down the fairway while addressing present needs and anticipating future ones. The first three selections were devoted to a 16th-ranked defense with a secondary currently in transition. But first-round DE Myles Murphy and third-round S Jordan Battle should get on the field early, while second-round slot CB DJ Turner II is a plus athlete – if a project who will get developmental time. Fifth-round RB Chase Brown, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last year after racking up nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage, could push Joe Mixon.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (B)

Cincy-esque, the typically talented Bolts in position to enlist quality players who can likely contribute in 2023 even if they’re not starting until 2024 – first-round WR Quentin Johnston, second-round OLB Tuli Tuipulotu and third-round LB Daiyan Henley all in that boat. And given no trade or replacement materialized, worth wondering if GM Tom Telesco can now find rapprochement with RB Austin Ekeler.

17. Buffalo Bills (B-)

With QB Josh Allen recently admitting he’ll soon have to gear down his running, felt like the AFC champs pivoted to supporting him in that effort. Dalton Kincaid was widely rated as the top tight end in a deep class of them, even garnering unfair comparisons to Travis Kelce. The first-rounder should become a needed volume option between WRs Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. Mauling second-round G O’Cyrus Torrence ought to make the pocket more comfortable for Allen if not improve the running game for guys actually charged with carrying the ball.

18. New England Patriots (B-)

They got a top-10 talent in CB Christian Gonzalez, even after trading back to 17th in the move that allowed the Steelers to jump the Jets for Jones (double win for Pats?). High-effort second-rounder Keion White adds juice to an already formidable pass rush. And Bill Belichick obtained three linemen to bolster the protection in front of QB Mac Jones. However BB did not get Jones any noteworthy weapons, had to do a deal with the hated Jets to get K Chad Ryland in the fourth round and rolled the dice on Round 3 Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (B-)

First-round DE Tyree Wilson, second-round TE Michael Mayer and third-round DT Byron Young could all be impact starters as rookies for a roster that seems to have fewer gaping holes than it did a week ago.

20. San Francisco 49ers (C+)

They didn’t pick before the third round due to the trades that brought QB Trey Lance (bad) and the one for RB Christian McCaffrey (good), though obviously neither move has yet brought a long-awaited sixth Lombardi Trophy. Third-rounders Ji’Ayir Brown (safety) and Jake Moody (kicker) should be important cogs for a mostly loaded team, and spending a premium pick to replace free agent K Robbie Gould isn’t all that crazy.

21. Miami Dolphins (C+)

They only had four picks, partially self-inflicted due to owner Stephen Ross’ tampering violation leading to the forfeiture of a first-rounder. Another Round 1 choice was spent on the trade for OLB Bradley Chubb. But it felt like the Fins made the most of what they had – second-rounder Cam Smith with a shot at being one of the league’s best CB3s behind Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard, and home-run hitting RB Devon Achane (Round 3) a decent bet to out-touch vets Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Could have been better, but not bad at all … all things considered.

22. New Orleans Saints (C+)

A little meat and potatoes, which is fine given the arrival of QB Derek Carr – and fun that he gets to mentor fellow former Fresno State passer Jake Haener (Round 4). New Orleans got deeper with first-round DT Bryan Bresee, second-round DE Isaiah Foskey and RB Kendre Miller, who’s additional Alvin Kamara insurance. Bresee lands here as part of the Sean Payton “trade,” though 2022 Round 1 OT Trevor Penning needs to make last year’s trade with the Eagles, which cost New Orleans a top-10 pick, pay off.

23. Washington Commanders (C)

Kind of a quiet draft as owner Dan Snyder quietly heads for a $6 billion door. Ball-hawking CB Emmanuel Forbes (Round 1) and slot CB Jartavius Martin are probably immediate starters for a pass defense that ranked fourth last year. Of note, per reports, the team opted not to pick up the fifth-year option of 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, so fifth-rounder KJ Henry might need to be ready next year.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (C-)

Given QB Tom Brady’s retirement, the defensive lean was surprising … unless HC Todd Bowles was making the picks. Pairing first-round DT Calijah Kancey with Vita Vea inside should create a deadly combo. But nice as second-round OL Cody Mauch should be, might have been nice to give QBs Baker Mayfield and/or Kyle Trask more help.

25. Detroit Lions (C-)

Really mixed bag. Hard not to view LB Jack Campbell as anything but a reach, even if GM Brad Holmes might have been right to scoop up fellow first-round RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 given the general lack of depth in this draft. At No. 34, worth wondering if Sam LaPorta was the optimal tight end to take, though DB Brian Branch was a slam dunk 11 spots later. And can’t argue with a third-round payout on QB Hendon Hooker, who’s at least a year away from competing for Jared Goff’s job. Fifth-round OL Colby Sorsdal out of William & Mary could provide a sweet ROI.

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26. New York Giants (C-)

Athletic first-round CB Deonte Banks and C John Michael Schmitz are upgrades at their respective positions. But as nice a player as Jalin Hyatt (Round 3) is, puzzling that GM Joe Schoen opted for another Smurf-ish receiver rather than finding QB Daniel Jones a rebounder.

27. Dallas Cowboys (C-)

DT Mazi Smith (Round 1), TE Luke Schoonmaker (Round 2) and LB DeMarvion Overshown (Round 3) are nice players who could be key contributors. But it’s worth wondering if Jerry Jones and Co. will rue opting against help at center or – all due respect to diminutive sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn – a replacement for RB Ezekiel Elliott who can share the load with franchise-tagged Tony Pollard. Stay tuned on that front. Far more concerning is a perception that the talent gulf between the Cowboys and NFC champion Eagles widened significantly.

28. Atlanta Falcons (C-)

If you subscribe to drafting by the “best player available” theory, then it’s hard to quibble with first-round RB Bijan Robinson, who should be a true game breaker, and second-round OL Matthew Bergeron … so there’s that. But is this team really going to coalesce into a legit Super Bowl contender before a good chunk of Robinson’s tread is worn off? And Bergeron seems a luxury given the strength of the O-line relative to holes elsewhere – to say nothing of the mystery that is QB Desmond Ridder.

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29. Tennessee Titans (C-)

They filled a need with a quality player, first-rounder Peter Skoronski arguably this year’s best blocking prospect, before “rescuing” a quarterback in free fall for the second straight draft – moving up for QB Will Levis with the second pick of the second round, a selection that speaks volumes about last year’s Round 3 investment in Malik Willis. The Titans still don’t seem recovered from the 2022 draft trade of WR A.J. Brown and don’t appear any closer to replacing him.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (D+)

OT Anton Harrison became a priority in light of the PED suspension incumbent LT Cam Robinson is facing and the departure of RT Jawaan Taylor in free agency. Aside from that, it felt like the Jags bolstered their depth if not finding much impact. Fifth-round DB Antonio Johnson could be the rookie who contributes most aside from Harrison. Still, for a team that narrowly won the AFC South in 2022, it feels like the rest of the division might have closed whatever narrow gap existed.

31. Cleveland Browns (D)

They spent this year’s first-round pick (plus two others) on Watson and what’s quickly projecting as an ill-considered, fully guaranteed, $230 million contract. Their second-rounder was used on underachieving Jets WR Elijah Moore in a pre-draft trade. In Round 4, they took massive Ohio State RT Dawand Jones – hard to see where he fits in, but maybe he’s a microcosm of a larger plan that will (hopefully) make more sense in time. Third-round WR Cedric Tillman and DT Siaki Ika appear like they could help immediately.

32. Denver Broncos (D-)

Second-round WR Marvin Mims Jr. and third-round LB Drew Sanders are flashy but potentially flawed players. That aside, new HC Sean Payton didn’t have his Round 1 or organic Round 2 picks due to the 2022 trade he didn’t make for Russell Wilson, a move that is an abject failure through one season … and TBD if Payton can rectify it.


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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