Round 1 Review: Young, Stroud, Richardson only QBs selected

The Indianapolis Colts surprised many by nabbing uber-athletic QB Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick. Syndication Gainesville Sun
The Indianapolis Colts surprised many by nabbing uber-athletic QB Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick. Syndication Gainesville Sun

There was plenty of drama, surprises and oddities in the first round of the NFL's 2023 Thursday in Kansas City.

As expected by most, undersized Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers and OSU quarterback C. J. Stroud went No. 2 to the Houston Texans, who then immediately traded up to snag defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama).

Those picks were formful in terms of pre-draft expectations.

Indianapolis then staged the first shocker of the day by grabbing inexperienced Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, whose Indy Combine workout set records at that position. At 6-4 1/4, 244 he ran 40 yards in 4.43 seconds, jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical and 10 feet, nine inches in the broad.

Richardson is such a great athlete that this is not a boom or bust pick. Even if he doesn’t work out at quarterback, his vast ability could be used as a receiver, à la a move made by a similarly gifted Terrelle Pryor.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard and new head coach Shane Steichen, who are rolling the dice on their careers with this interesting selection, discussed their views on Richardson.

"We knew after we spent our time, worked him out, spent a lot of time with him, just felt really good about who he was as a person," Ballard said. "Of course, he's still young but just felt really good about who he was."

"His character — the vetting process that we did, calling around people that know him, that have been around him — that's a big part of this thing," Steichen said. "There are a lot of guys that I know that I trust that I talked to about him and everything was, you know, right at the top of the list as far as that (character). Then, just going through having him here, getting to know him as a person, talking football with him, I think he's got a chance to be a really good player in this league."

"The development of players comes with more experience," Steichen said. "(Richardson had) 13 starts, I think when you play more, that's how you develop. You know what I mean? So, with him playing and his experience as a player and getting more reps, practice reps, game reps, I think that's how you develop."

Steichen spent the past couple seasons working with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia, and Richardson has a similar skill set but in a much bigger body. Hurts was not the most accurate passer in college either, but that improved in the NFL when he was put in a better position to succeed and given higher-caliber weapons. The hope for the Colts is that Richardson's athleticism and rushing ability give him (and their offense) a floor while his processing and accuracy come along to raise his ceiling in the future. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Richardson was the last quarterback picked in the first round, leaving Kentucky's Will Levis as a constant television target while he waited in the green room. Also not selected was Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who was headed for a Heisman Trophy before a November ACL injury.

My favorite picks of the first round were Texas running back Bijan Robinson to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6 to the Atlanta Falcons and thieving Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, No. 16 to Washington.

Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia seemed to have a sensational first round, taking two of the best athletes in the draft — Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter (No. 9) and his college teammate, edge rusher Nolan Smith.

A closer look at Round 1 selections:

Selection NDS rate, Pos Rate, Player, Position, Ht, Wt., Proj. Rd

1. 2. (2) *Bryce Young, Alabama, QB, 5101, 204, Jr, 1

Carolina Panthers: As predicted by most. Now the undersized magician must show he can pull the rabbit out of the hat against NFL defenses intent on squishing him like a bug.

2. 1. (1) *C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, QB, 6030, 214, rSo, 1

Houston Texans: Texans could have traded to acquire more picks for their anemic roster, but opted for Stroud, our top-rated quarterback, and then. . .  

3  3. (1) *Will Anderson Jr., Alabama, DE, 6034, 253, Jr, 1

Houston Texans: Great trade up top get  Anderson, who was top edge player on most lists. Now he will be asked to be more productive in the NFL than he was in college.

4. 16. (5) *Anthony Richardson, Florida, QB, 6042, 244, rSo, 1

Indianapolis Colts: Swinging for the fences, the Colts grabbed a phenomenal athlete who now must show he can become a good quarterback. Big leap to NFL after only 13 college games.

5. 7. (1) Devon Witherspoon, Illinois, CB, 5114, 181, Sr, 1

Seattle Seahawks: Big payoff for a guy who was a no-star prep recruit and then showed aggressiveness that frustrated receivers, but drew penalty flags.

6. 15. (2) *Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State, OT, 6063, 313, rJr, 1

Arizona Cardinals: Looked good in 13 games at left tackle last year and might help keep Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray upright and healthy.

7. 5. (2) Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech, DE, 6055, 271, rSr, 1

Las Vegas Raiders: With wingspan of a two-car garage, Wilson should team with Maxx Crosby to bedevil the AFC West's list of dangerous quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and a Russell Wilson looking for a bounce-back year.

8. 4. (1) *Bijan Robinson, Texas, RB, 5110, 215, Jr, 1

Atlanta Falcons: His tremendous talent as rusher, receiver will change outdated theories that running backs should be devalued. He can control games. Early candidate for Offensive Rookie of Year.

9. 8. (1) *Jalen Carter, Georgia, DT, 6030, 323, Jr, 1

Philadelphia Eagles: The rich get richer with Carter, possibly the best athlete in the draft at any position. Eagles must keep him focused on football after a problematic offseason off the field.

10. 22. (3) Darnell Wright, Tennessee, OT, 6053, 333, Sr, 1

Chicago Bears: Mean-spirited offensive lineman who played all over the front in college but looked better at right tackle and right guard more than at the prized left tackle position.

11. 9. (1) *Peter Skoronski, Northwestern, OG, 6040, 313, Jr, 1

Tennessee Titans: This athletic beast started in 33 straight games at left tackle, but with short arms (32 1/4 inches) looks like a plug-and-play at NFL guard.

12. 44. (2) *Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, RB, 5091, 199, Jr, 2

Detroit Lions: Two RBs in top 12 may indicate NFL realizes some have major value. Gibbs can score from anywhere with 40-yard time of 4.36 seconds.

13. 17. (3) *Lukas Van Ness, Iowa, DE, 6050, 272, rSo, 1

Green Bay Packers: Next game he starts will be first since high school as he came off bench in all 27 college games, but devoured blockers in an animalistic manner.

14. 13. (1) *Broderick Jones, Georgia, OT, 6053, 313, rSo, 1

Pittsburgh Steelers: Another star at left tackle in college, but could be a menace at guard immediately.

15. 42. (6) Will McDonald IV, Iowa State, DE, 6035, 239, rSr, 1-2

New York Jets: Surprisingly high pick of a guy who didn’t even watch football until junior year of high school, but had 34 college sacks. Still learning to harness his athleticism.

16. 26. (5) *Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State, CB, 6006, 170, Jr, 1

Washington Commanders: In a cornerback-heavy draft, Forbes was my personal favorite. A skinny terror (166-170 pounds) with larceny in his heart: FBS record six pick-sixes in three seasons, eight in four years, counting high school.  

17. 11. (2) *Christian Gonzalez, Oregon, CB, 6013, 197, rSo, 1

New England Patriots: Can start as a rookie in a division full of great quarterbacks.

18. 45. (1) Jack Campbell, Iowa, ILB, 6045, 249, rJr, 2

Detroit Lions: Coach Dan Campbell got another "knee biter" with this athletic thumper, who was expected to be a mid-second round pick at best.

19. 30 (3) *Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh, DT, 6010, 281, Jr, 1

Tampa Bay Bucs: He dislikes the comparison, but Kancey looks like the second coming of Aaron Donald in terms of size and athleticism, including a blink-quick first step and 40-yard time of 4.67 seconds at 281 pounds.

20. 10. (1) *Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, WR, 6005, 196, Jr, 1

Seattle Seahawks: Interesting addition to a team with excellent wide receivers. Was rated best of so-so receiver class. Probably a slot player.

21. 31. (2) *Quentin Johnston, Texas Christian, WR, 6026, 212, Jr, 1

Los Angeles Chargers: Another addition to a talented wide receiver room, meaning another target for quarterback Justin Herbert on those fourth-down gambles.

22. 51. (7) Zay Flowers, Boston College, WR, 5092, 182, Sr, 2

Baltimore Ravens: Curiously, Flowers made a late climb in ratings on many lists the last couple of weeks, after we locked him in at 51. Compared to feisty Steve Smith Sr., one of our all-time favorites.

23. 36. (3) *Jordan Addison, Southern California, WR, 5111, 173, Jr, 1-2

Minnesota Vikings: 2021 Biletnikoff winner at Pitt, transferred to USC last season and wasn’t on his game entire year. Nifty, but small.

24. 21. (4) *Deonte Banks, Maryland, CB, 6001, 203, Jr, 1

New York Giants: Maybe the only corner to have a good game against OSU's Marvin Harrison Jr. With a great attitude and a 40-yard time of 4.35 seconds, Banks is one of several CBs who will start as rookie.

25. 40. (4) Dalton Kincaid, Utah, TE, 6035, 246, rSr, 1-2

Buffalo Bills: Look out AFC East, this gives quarterback Josh Allen yet another target. Kincaid's receiving yards and 35 touchdowns were career bests among active collegiate tight ends last season.

26. 52. (5) *Mazi Smith, Michigan, DT, 6030, 323, Jr, 2

Dallas Cowboys: Upon further review, we underrated Smith at 52 overall. Two-year starter is on the ascent and can create havoc all long the interior defensive line.  

27. 61. (5) *Anton Harrison, Oklahoma, OG, 6043, 315, Jr, 2

Jacksonville Jaguars: Not sure where he will play after a career at Oklahoma lining up at RT 27 times, LT 13 and RG twice. Regardless, he will help quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne.

28. 23. (4) *Myles Murphy, Clemson, DE, 6046, 268, Jr, 1

Cincinnati Bengals: Should fit best as a base end. Power rusher who will need to add finesse but should start as a rookie.

29. 19  (2) *Bryan Bresee, Clemson, DT, 6054, 302, rSo, 1

New Orleans Saints: Outstanding talent, but last season Bresee battled through injuries and the emotional trauma of losing his younger sister to brain cancer.

30. 18. (1) Nolan Smith, Georgia, OLB, 6022, 238, Sr, 1

Philadelphia Eagles: With DT Jalen Carter (No. 8 overall), the Eagles snagged two of the best athletes in the first round. Smith ran 40 yards in 4.39 seconds at the Indy Combine and will be a major menace to opposing QBs. Hard to believe he lasted this long.  

31. 76. (8) Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin, DT, 6036, 309, Sr, 2-3

Kansas City Chiefs: This was our lowest-ranked player (76) taken in first round (31) and we were wrong. Powerful lower body, huge wingspan and strong hands. Should play plenty as a rookie along the interior DL.


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