The NFL draft is the hallmark event of the NFL Offseason. Free agency has now largely come and gone and there certainly were some record breaking contract extensions signed. But now it is time for the new guys to get their shot at the big time. College kids who have worked up to this for their entire lives & scouts working tirelessly around the clock lead up to this moment.
But what happened at this year’s NFL Draft? Well, here’s your quick fire guide to all the mayhem that went down last weekend in Kansas at the NFL’s 89th annual draft:
Basics of the draft
In case you aren’t familiar with how the NFL Draft works here’s some quick basics to get you up to speed!
Consisting of seven rounds and a minimum of 256 picks, the order of who gets to choose first is based off last season’s performance. Generally speaking, the team with the worst record has the first pick, second worst, second pick and so on and so forth.
This repeats for each round however some teams also get compensatory picks. Compensatory picks seem complicated however they are simply compensation for teams who have previously lost big name free agents. All you really need to know is that generally the better the player lost in free agency to another team, the higher the compensation pick given. Given by the league between rounds 3 and 7, they are important but largely inconsequential to understand the draft.
What is crucial to know though is that teams trade draft picks all the time. Some notable examples that happened this year were:
The Carolina Panthers trading a haul of picks to the Chicago Bears for the number first overall selection. All to select their quarterback of the future and even sacrificing star wide receiver DJ Moore in the deal as well.
NFC Champions the Philadelphia Eagles owning the 10th pick of the draft from a trade of draft picks with the New Orleans Saints last year.
With all that being said, here’s what else happened this year:
Quarterback galore in the top 4
Incredibly, three of the top 4 selections at this year’s NFL Draft were all quarterbacks. Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson all made history as the first ever three black QBs to be selected in the first five selections. Even though you can critique how much the Panthers gave up to get Bryce Young, and the Colts for selecting Richardson at number 4 despite starting just 13 times in college. To build a team into a contender you need your QB.
Already this offseason we have seen how much teams prioritise finding and securing their long term QB. As the key to the offence and most likely a championship, QBs are given the keys to the bank. Record breaking contracts have been signed by the likes of Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and even 39 year old Aaron Rodgers. All whilst teams who have tried to rotate through misfits QBs in the last seasons have failed spectacularly. The Panthers and the Colts themselves were no strangers to this. As revolving QB doors, they have failed to find any success, not least make the playoffs.
Although it’s not a sure fire thing that a QB can save a franchise, the Bengals never won a playoff game before Joe Burrow. was selected. After Joey B was selected first overall in 2020, he brought them to the Super Bowl in just his second season. That’s the difference a great QB can make, and the NFL Draft is the easiest way to get them for pennies on the dollar.
Levis dropping out of the first round
Before the draft and even in our NFL Offseason guide, University of Kentucky Quarterback Will Levis was talked about as a top QB prospect. Many debated where he should go and some even projected him as going number 1 overall hours before. However it was not meant to be for the mayo coffee drinker QB out of Kentucky. Levis ended up falling out of the first round altogether, being selected 33rd overall by the Tennessee Titans.
Perhaps due to personality concerns or not proving enough in college, Levis going that low was still a huge shock. Compared to Richardson selected at 4 for months prior, it seemed like Levis would be taken at a similar time. However, compared to the other QBs, ultimately Levis didn’t have the surefire nature of Young or Stroud or the elite athletic upside of Richardson. Combined with some strange behaviour at college, there was reason for teams to pass on him with their prestige pick in the draft.
That being said, in Tennessee, Levis still has the opportunity to succeed at the next level. Many great QBs have slid down draft boards. Big earners this offseason Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers both did. Now they have 5 MVPs between them and earn $50 million + a year. But like every prospect, it is up to Levis and the Titans to now make his NFL story a success.
The Eagles robbed the draft
Even though the NFL Draft is meant to be a great equaliser, it is not always the case. In a classic case of “the rich get richer”, the Eagles fresh off reaching the Super Bowl have reconstructed their defence with Georgia Bulldogs. After selecting Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis last year, the Eagles added Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo from the two time NCAA champions this year. So much so, that the Eagles have now jokingly been given the moniker…
So how did this all happen? Surely this is unfair like what rival Dallas Cowboy Micah Parsons moaned at the Carter pick? Well, it’s simply the result of far foresight from Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman. Previously subject to a draft blunder drafting Jalen Reagor over current OPOY Justin Jefferson in 2021. In recent years, Roseman has made several moves to acquires pick hauls from the likes of the Dolphins, Saints and Colts. Combine that with actually drafting great players such as DeVonta Smith, Roseman has ‘won’ the draft year in and year out.
Although it is impossible to say teams how teams have truly done in the draft immediately after. The Eagles have added an elite group of college prospects to an already loaded roster. It seemed as though Carter and Smith fell into their laps at pick 10 and 30 despite being listed in the top 3/5 and top 10/15 players of the draft respectively. With them also already being best friends from college, the Eagles make the draft seem plain unfair.
Bold Moves from the Texans, Steelers and Falcons
One of the most surprising and exciting drafts yet was full of bold moves and trades. Starting off with the Houston Texans, with the choice of Ohio State QB CJ Stroud and Alabama EDGE rusher Will Anderson Jr. The Texans said why not both! Trading with the Cardinals to select Anderson with the third pick after selecting Stroud. The Texans now have two franchise stalwarts they can fully rebuild off, but will they regret giving up next round’s first rounder?
Leaping over the New York Jets, the Steelers secured protection for their starboy QB Kenny Pickett at pick number 14. Offensive tackle Broderick Jones out of Georgia fulfils a vital need for the team to let their young QB have time to grow as a passer. Not only is the position need now fulfilled, Broderick Jones is an absolute stud at 6’5, 311 pounds and the skills to become one of the best pass protectors in the league. To compliment Jones, the Steelers also drafted Joey Porter Jr in the second round. Not only was he projected to go in the first but his dad is also a Pittsburgh legend…
In perhaps less of a surefire pick than Jones and the Texans’ duo, the Falcons selected star Texas running back Bijan Robinson at number 8 overall. There’s no doubt in Robinson’s ability but drafting a running back this high is certainly making people question. Especially when the Falcons were already ranked third in rushing yards per game last season, the question is do they really need Robinson? Either way, certainly a bold move by the Falcons…