Youmans: 2023 NFL Draft biggest winners

April 30, 2023 01:08 AM
 

 

Two months after Jalen Hurts was the losing quarterback in the Super Bowl, the Eagles have emerged as the biggest winners from the NFL Draft. While the first half of the previous sentence is fact, the second half is only opinion.

It will be a few years before we know for certain which teams won and lost in this draft, and there’s no better example than Hurts and Philadelphia’s draft class of 2020.

Now being touted as a superhero by the media, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman made a massive mistake with his first-round pick three years ago. Remember when Roseman took Jalen Reagor, a wide receiver from TCU, at No. 21 overall, one spot before the Vikings grabbed LSU wideout Justin Jefferson? Reagor was a bust — Roseman, ironically, traded Reagor in August 2022 to Minnesota for a future seventh-round pick — and Jefferson has blossomed into a star.

Roseman made up for the blunder by picking Hurts in the second round (No. 53 overall). At the time, however, the Reagor pick was celebrated by most, and Roseman’s decision to draft the Oklahoma quarterback was widely criticized and questioned.

The lesson is no one, not even ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., knows for sure which teams win or lose in a draft. It’s senseless to hand out grades, but it is somewhat important to assess which teams appear to have addressed their needs and improved while public perception shapes the betting market.

A year ago, Hurts was a question mark, and now he’s an elite quarterback. Philadelphia is no longer a buy-low opportunity in Super Bowl futures. The Eagles will continue to be public favorites, reinforced by what is being acclaimed as a spectacular draft class.

Roseman went into this draft needing to prioritize the defensive line, running back and safety positions. In the first round, he was fortunate that Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter slipped to the Eagles at No. 9 and Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith, projected by some to be a top-10 pick, slipped into his lap at No. 30. Roseman found elite talent and great value.

Philadelphia made seven picks — including Alabama guard Tyler Steen and Illinois safety Sydney Brown in the third round, and Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo in the fourth round — and all were worthy of the usual claps, fist bumps and handshakes in the team’s draft room.

To top it off, Roseman struck a deal during the draft with Detroit to acquire running back D’Andre Swift, who was the Lions’ second-round pick (No. 35 overall) in 2020.

DraftKings opened the Eagles’ regular-season win total at 10.5 (Over -150) and made Philadelphia the +115 favorite to win the NFC East. A team that finished 14-3 last season looks even better on paper after Roseman’s big hits in the draft.

It’s only my opinion, of course, but it seems obvious for now to rank the Eagles No. 1 on my Top 10 list of draft winners.

2. Steelers — The offensive and defensive lines, cornerback and tight end were Pittsburgh’s primary needs. The team filled coach Mike Tomlin’s wish list by getting Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones in the first round, Penn State corner Joey Porter Jr. and Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton in the second, Georgia tight end Darnell Washington in the third, Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig in the fourth and Purdue corner Cory Trice in the seventh. The Steelers, who finished last season with a four-game winning streak to go 9-8, added some immediate-impact starters.

3. Seahawks — With 10 picks, Seattle was able to get quality and quantity. The first-round picks — Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon (No. 5) and Ohio State wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 20) — were ranked as the draft’s top players at their positions. The Seahawks also had an impressive second round by adding Auburn outside linebacker Derick Hall and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet.

4. Lions — Forget about so-called value for a moment. Yes, picking a running back No. 12 overall, which Detroit did by going for Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, was a dubious decision. The Lions also took Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 18, much higher than expected. Still, the team added two first-rounders who could make a big impact before grabbing Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta, Alabama safety Brian Branch and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker in the next two rounds. Hooker has the potential to make this a home-run class. The NFC North favorites (+140) acquired some serious talent.

5. Bengals — After addressing the defense in the first three rounds with Clemson end Myles Murphy, Michigan corner DJ Turner and Alabama safety Jordan Battle, Cincinnati found nice weapons for quarterback Joe Burrow, the top overall pick in 2020. Burrow will welcome the late additions of Purdue receiver Charlie Jones and Illinois running back Chase Brown, two of the nation’s most productive offensive players last season.

6. Texans — It’s always a positive when a team can land a franchise quarterback (Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud) and a defensive leader (edge rusher Will Anderson) in the top three. The nine-player class is solid top to bottom, but Stroud and Anderson must both deliver and next year’s first-round pick that was traded to Arizona might be something to regret.

7. Cardinals — This team’s roster is a mess, but the repair work has started. Arizona acquired first- and third-round picks for 2024 in a trade with Houston, and the first-rounder should be high if the rebuilding Texans remain among the league’s worst teams. Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., picked sixth overall, and second-round outside linebacker BJ Ojulari from LSU should be immediate starters. Next year’s extra first-round pick could be a big bonus.

8. Giants — Maryland corner Deonte Banks filled a giant need in the first round, and Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz did the same in the second. New York’s draft continued to trend in the right direction with Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt in the third round and Oklahoma running back Eric Gray in the fifth. The Giants seem to have closed the gap on the Cowboys in the race to be second-best in the NFC East.

9. Patriots — Bill Belichick hauled in 12 players, an eclectic mix that includes a kicker and a punter. After trading down three spots and getting exceptional value with Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17, Belichick made some puzzling picks. But he’s the smartest guy in the room, and he finally has hired a true offensive coordinator (Bill O’Brien) and found a potential star receiver (LSU’s Kayshon Boutte) in the sixth round.

10. Panthers — If Alabama quarterback Bryce Young can do for Carolina what Burrow has done for Cincinnati, this ranking will prove too low. The 5-foot-10 Young is small, but he has everything else a franchise needs in a No. 1 overall pick. Young has the experience required to excel right away, and he’ll grow up against a relatively soft schedule. The NFL schedule release is expected to come on May 11, but we know the Panthers play in a weak division and also get to face the teams from the NFC North and AFC South.

* Best of the rest, the next 10: Packers, Colts, Raiders, Titans, Browns, Ravens, Bears, Bills, Falcons and Broncos.

NFL win totals posted by DraftKings

Kansas City Chiefs 11.5 Over -140

Cincinnati Bengals 11.5 Under -120

San Francisco 49ers 11.5 Under -140

Philadelphia Eagles 10.5 Over -150

Buffalo Bills 10.5 Over -140

Jacksonville Jaguars 10.5 Under -140

Detroit Lions 9.5 Over -150

New York Jets 9.5 Over -145

Dallas Cowboys 9.5 Over -130

Los Angeles Chargers 9.5 Over -125

Baltimore Ravens 9.5 Over -120

Miami Dolphins 9.5 Under -120

New Orleans Saints 9.5 Under -125

Cleveland Browns 9.5 Under -150

Minnesota Vikings 8.5 Over -120

Pittsburgh Steelers 8.5 Over -120

Seattle Seahawks 8.5 Over -120

Denver Broncos 8.5 Ov/Un -110

New York Giants 8.5 Under -125

Atlanta Falcons 8.5 Under -130

Carolina Panthers 7.5 Over -120

Chicago Bears 7.5 Over -120

New England Patriots 7.5 Over -120

Tennessee Titans 7.5 Under -130

Los Angeles Rams 7.5 Under -140

Green Bay Packers 7.5 Under -150

Las Vegas Raiders 7.5 Under -150

Washington Commanders 7.5 Under -160

Indianapolis Colts 6.5 Over -140

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6.5 Ov/Un -110

Houston Texans 5.5 Over -120

Arizona Cardinals 5.5 Under -145

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