Column | Winners and Losers of the 2023 NFL Draft


AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles (9) warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Giants on Jan. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J.

By Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

“You don’t win games in April,” Giants general manager Joe Schoen said when responding to his team’s high NFL Draft grades. Regardless of how promising a team’s draft picks look on paper, no one can truly judge the quality of a draft class until several years after the fact.

That doesn’t stop every sports media columnist and talking head on ESPN from barraging fans with their unsolicited opinions about which teams “won” the NFL Draft. The viewing public can do absolutely nothing with this information except wait idly by until the regular season to see how things play out.

It’s time to put aside useful analytic tools like pragmatism and nuance. Here are a few thoughts on the draft from a student paper sports columnist — who has never thrown a decent spiral in his life.

Winner: Steelers’ GM Omar Khan

Home bias aside, the Steelers’ 2023 draft received high grades across the board from sports media outlets like PFF, ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

It’s not easy to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Colbert — the two-time Super Bowl winning general manager who was with the Steelers for more than 20 years. However, in his first full offseason as GM, Omar Khan orchestrated the organization’s most exciting draft class in years. In the first two rounds, Khan addressed the team’s pressing needs on the offensive line and in the secondary.

In round one, the Steelers drafted Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. The New York Jets reportedly expressed interest in taking Jones with pick 15. A timely deal with the devil — er, I mean Bill Belichick — allowed the Steelers to move up in the draft and snag Jones at 14. Instead of blocking for Aaron Rodgers, Jones will make up a vital piece of the Pickett fence.

In the second round, the Steelers addressed their need for a cornerback by drafting Joey Porter Jr. — son of all-time great Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who won Super Bowl XL with the team in 2006. In round seven, Khan drafted Purdue cornerback Cory Trice for additional depth in the secondary.

Loser: 2017 Super Bowl Champion Nick Foles

After Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired before the 2019 season, the Colts went several years without a definitive answer at quarterback. For the past few seasons, the Colts locker room served as a sort of halfway home for the league’s washed-up, geriatric or nearly retired quarterbacks.

The Colts organization decided the quarterback room is long overdue for some new blood. With the fourth pick of the NFL draft, Indianapolis selected quarterback Anthony Richardson from Florida. A week after drafting Richardson, the Colts released Nick Foles.

Two things are equally true. One — Nick Foles is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and an eternal legend in Philadelphia for bringing home the Eagle’s first Super Bowl win. Two — Nick Foles is a casualty of the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Winner: Geno Smith and the Seahawks

After the Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson last offseason, very few people believed the team could still contend with quarterback Geno Smith as their starter. However, Smith defied expectations by leading Seattle to the playoffs and winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Seattle reaffirmed their confidence in Smith by drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba with pick 20 — the first wide receiver taken off the board. With Smith-Njigba added to the lineup alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks have one of the most complete receiving corps in the NFL.

Losers: Anyone who put money on Will Levis going first overall

Just days before the NFL Draft, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis’s odds of getting drafted first overall went from +4000 to +400. The betting market shifted dramatically because an anonymous Reddit user claimed Levis told friends and family that Carolina would take him with the first pick.

Even if the first overall pick rumors were far-fetched, ESPN Analytics gave Levis a 99.9% chance of getting drafted in the first round. On day one of the draft in Kansas City, the cameras cut to Levis’s anxious face anytime a quarterback-needy team was on the clock. The first round came and went, but Levis went undrafted.

It’s unclear why Levis didn’t go round one. If I were a betting man, I would say it’s because he posted videos of himself eating unpeeled bananas or putting mayonnaise in his coffee. However, I’m not a betting man, so I didn’t lose money when Levis fell to the second round.

But one thing is clear — Levis isn’t a loser for dropping to the second round. He found a good landing spot in Tennessee, with the chance to learn behind Ryan Tannehill. The real losers are the people who put money on Levis to go first overall because of information they got from some random person on Reddit.

Winners: Short quarterbacks

With the first overall pick in the draft, the Panthers selected Bryce Young — a 5’10”, 204-pound quarterback from Alabama. Not that long ago, a quarterback of Young’s size would have never gone in the first round, let alone first overall. 

The physical standards for the quarterback position have shifted dramatically in the past decade. The Carolina Panthers drafted 6’5”, 248-pound quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick in 2011.

Shorter quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have forever changed the physical standards of the position. General managers recognize that intelligence, accuracy and work ethic are more valuable than physical stature. 

In the fourth round, the Los Angeles Rams selected Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who measures 5’11” and 192 pounds. Bennett won back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championships with the Bulldogs. With the Rams, he can sit behind Matthew Stafford and learn from Sean McVay — one of the best head coaches in the league.