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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What You Need to Know About the 2023 NFL Draft

The NFL draft is where dreams come true for college prospects


By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org


After months of anticipation, the 2023 NFL Draft begins on April 27. The annual event is often filled with uncertainty, and this year is no different. It is an opportunity for teams to either turn their franchises around, continue their successes or set themselves back for several years. Many believe that the 2023 draft class lacks true blue-chip prospects, but it does have incredible depth, which means there will certainly be difference-makers drafted in the later rounds.


An emerging QB1, uncertainty elsewhere

University of Alabama quarterback (QB) Bryce Young has emerged as the favorite for the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. After visiting the Panthers and the Houston Texans, who have the second overall pick, Young canceled his pre-draft visits with other teams. Vegas Insider has Young as the clear favorite to be selected first overall, but if he is not, the Texans are likely to pick him second overall. 

For the other top quarterbacks in this class — Ohio State University QB CJ Stroud, the University of Florida QB Anthony Richardson and the University of Kentucky QB Will Levis — there is no certainty as to where they will land. If Young is gone, the Texans may pick a premium defensive player rather than a QB with their second overall pick. With an abundance of draft capital, including the 12th overall pick, the Texans could then trade back into the top 10 to get a QB a few picks later. 

Currently, Richardson is the favorite to be drafted third overall, but the Arizona Cardinals possess that pick. They agreed to a large contract extension for current QB Kyler Murray last year, so another team would have to make a trade to acquire Richardson. One team rumored to have an interest is the Tennessee Titans, who currently possess the 11th overall pick. 

The Indianapolis Colts have the fourth overall pick, and there have been rumors that they favor Levis. Still, this could be complicated if Stroud is available as well. Regardless, the Colts are expected to take a QB with their first pick in order to solve the QB carousel that has plagued their team for years — in the past five years, the Colts have had a different QB to start each season. 


Premium defensive talent

At the top of this draft class, there are also some incredible defensive players: the University of Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr., the University of Georgia IDL Jalen Carter, Texas Tech University EDGE Tyree Wilson, University of Illinois DB Devon Witherspoon and University of Oregon DB Christian Gonzalez. Among these defenders, the expectation is that Anderson will be chosen first. He is predicted to be drafted as early as the second overall pick and no later than the fifth overall pick, which belongs to the Seattle Seahawks. 

Carter is one of the most uncertain players in this entire class. While he may be the most talented in the draft class and is expected to be among the first 10 picks, there have been several teams to remove him from their draft boards because of off-the-field concerns.

Wilson is a very talented and lengthy edge rusher; NFL Network Draft analyst Lance Zierlein slated him as the second overall pick in a recent mock draft. Witherspoon is the favorite to be the first defensive back (DB) picked this year, as rumors suggest that the Lions will pick him sixth overall. Meanwhile, fellow DB Christian Gonzalez is another talented player and will likely be among the first 10 picks. 


Who has the most at stake in this year’s draft?

The Panthers, Texans and Colts are picking early and need to acquire players that they can build their rosters around — especially since they are all expected to draft QBs. The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions also need to capitalize on the draft to progress in their rebuilds.

The Bears received a lot of draft capital after trading the first overall pick to the Panthers. In return, they get the Panthers’ 2023 first- and second-round pick, 2024 first-round pick and 2025 second-round pick. Despite adding some talent during free agency, the Bears’ roster is still lackluster. They need to fill holes in several positions in their offensive and defensive lines if they want to improve from last season, in which they had the worst record in the NFL. 

The Lions narrowly missed the playoffs last season and have improved during the last two seasons under Head Coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes. They are well positioned in the 2023 draft, having two first-round picks and two second-round picks this year.  With those picks, they will likely be looking to address potential areas of weakness, such as the defensive and offensive lines, and could also select a QB if they want to upgrade from current QB Jared Goff. 


A note on Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers continues to dominate the headlines this off-season. In early March, it seemed like his time in Green Bay was over. On the Pat McAfee Show, he announced that he intended to play for the New York Jets in the upcoming season, which meant that the Packers would have to trade him during the offseason as his contract was yet to expire. 

Now over a month later, Rodgers has yet to be traded. According to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, day two of the NFL Draft is the “soft deadline” for a trade like this to happen. The Jets have two second-round picks, the 42nd and 43rd overall picks, which will most likely be involved in the trade so that the Packers can build around young QB Jordan Love. If a trade does not come to fruition before the draft begins, NFL fans will have to watch out for one during the draft. 

In the words of California Aggie alum Omar Navarro, the draft is best characterized by the phrase “expect the unexpected.” It only takes one team to make an out-of-the-blue trade or pick to change the draft’s landscape. It is a pivotal event that will have ripple effects for the next 10 years of NFL action, and it begins on April 27, when Commissioner Roger Goodell will say: “The Carolina Panthers are on the clock.” 


Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org