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GM on easy mode

Howie Roseman is in a class of his own.

The Eagles were already dubbed the big winners of draft weekend after a perfect first round, and deservedly so. Resisting the temptation to trade up even further and only having to go from No. 10 to No. 9 to get Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter – perhaps the most talented player in the entire class – was an expert understanding of how boards were going to fall around the league.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Eagles had that pick coming off a Super Bowl appearance because of a masterful draft day trade in 2022, capitalizing on the Saints’ desperation and moving out of the first round in exchange for a top 2023 pick.

Nolan Smith was one of the names consistently linked to the Eagles at No. 10 heading into the draft. As picks came off the board in the 20s, with the explosive Georgia edge rusher dropping further than expected, it seemed almost inevitable that he was going to fall right into Philly’s lap at 30. Sure enough, he joined Carter and former teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean to give Philly an incredible amount of national-champion talent up front.

But that was just the beginning for Roseman and his front-office staff. Tyler Steen was an intriguing developmental depth piece on the offensive line at the top of the third round, and Sydney Brown, our third-ranked safety in the class, is a playmaker who fills a major need.

Then the Eagles went back to Georgia alums. Trading up early in the fourth round to get Kelee Ringo, a talented corner with first-round physical traits, has the potential to be a major steal. Addressing their running back need by getting D’Andre Swift from Detroit for a seventh-round pick swap and a 2024 fourth-rounder (read: pennies) was the cherry on top of a home-run draft.

Some teams just do this thing better than others. The most talented roster in football having a perfect draft weekend should be a scary thought for the rest of the NFL.

Excitement vs. restraint

Houston coming away with both C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson was perhaps the most thrilling draft-day maneuvering we’ve ever seen.

The Texans didn’t want to choose one or the other at No. 2 overall – they wanted both. The aggressiveness to make that happen and land two of the best players in the draft at premium positions of need should be commended. But the excitement of Houston’s bold move can’t allow us to overlook the cost of doing business. Make no mistake – it was enormous.

Moving back up to No. 3 required the Texans to send the Cardinals a massive package, including No. 12, No. 33, and first- and third-round picks next year. Anderson would have to be a perennial All-Pro to give Houston a reasonable return on that value. And even then, it’s a tough price to swallow.

Think of it this way: Alternatively, the Texans could have stayed at No. 12 and addressed their pass rush with a player like Lukas Van Ness. A less spectacular addition than Anderson, to be sure, but by no means meaningless. The No. 33 pick could have been used on one of the sliding tight ends, like Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, a top defensive back like Alabama’s Brian Branch, or perhaps an interior defensive lineman like Keeanu Benton.

Most importantly, the Texans are giving up their own first-rounder in a 2024 draft class that figures to include the likes of Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr. Landing Stroud theoretically takes care of the quarterback need, so Williams may be less of a factor. And maybe Houston takes such a leap with its two first-rounders that next year’s pick falls outside the top 10.

But would anyone be surprised if the Texans, who are still in the early stages of this rebuild process, end up with a top-five pick again next April? We’re probably getting a little carried away if we rule out that possibility.

As things currently stand, it’s fair to look at this trade as an exhilarating move that injects some life into an organization that was painfully short on talent. But there’s risk: We’ll be calling this deal one of the all-time worst draft moves if it turns out the Texans gave up the chance for a generational prospect next year. It’ll be fascinating to see how it shakes out.

In the meantime, credit to Arizona for being on the other end and setting the table for a potential monumental 2024 draft. The Cardinals have the worst roster in football – earning the right to draft Williams on their own is very much on the table. Now, imagine the possibility that the Texans put them in position to get Harrison, too. Yeah, that’s the good stuff.

Every team’s best pick

Winners & losers

Winner: Steelers

Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport / Getty

What more could the Steelers have wanted out of this draft? One pick after another, it felt like the board was falling perfectly for first-time general manager Omar Khan. Broderick Jones gives Pittsburgh a potential cornerstone left tackle with an incredibly high ceiling, and cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was both an exciting legacy pick and a perfect match of need and value at the top of the second round. Pittsburgh also landed potential instant-impact players in Keeanu Benton, Darnell Washington, and Nick Herbig to round out a dream haul. Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons might continue for a while if this is how the Steelers are going to be building the roster.

Loser: Lions

Let’s be clear: The Lions added a bunch of exciting talent this weekend. Looking at the names alone, it’s easy to be encouraged about the players tasked with pushing this team to the next level. The process, however, left something to be desired. Top-20 selections spent at running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and linebacker (Jack Campbell) were arguably the two most bizarre picks of Day 1. Detroit took a major risk by passing on top-level talent at more valuable positions with a pair of first-rounders. Trading down before taking Gibbs somewhat helps, and scooping up tight end Sam LaPorta and safety Brian Branch in the second round were quality moves. But it feels like the Lions may have wasted an opportunity in a pivotal draft for the organization.

Winner: Lamar Jackson

Locked in a contract standoff with their star quarterback and once again lacking weapons on offense, it sure seemed like the Ravens had messed this one up. But the recent signing of Odell Beckham Jr. appeared to signal a long-awaited commitment to investing in the wide receiver position, and, sure enough, they were finally able to get a deal done with Jackson leading up to the draft. Baltimore then continued to revamp the offense with dynamic receiver Zay Flowers in the first round. All of a sudden, Jackson not only has the contract he’s always deserved but also the supporting cast the team has for so long neglected to give him. Don’t forget the Ravens on the increasingly long list of AFC powerhouses.

Loser: Jaguars defense

This was supposed to be a crucial draft for the future of the Jaguars’ defense – especially after an offseason where cap constraints limited the team’s flexibility in free agency. The result: nada. Spending a first-round selection on Anton Harrison makes plenty of sense, as offensive tackle was quietly a major need for Jacksonville heading into 2023. The same can’t be said about the Jags sticking with the offensive side of the ball for the entirety of Day 2, adding Brenton Strange as a second tight end behind Evan Engram and Tank Bigsby as a change-of-pace running back alongside Travis Etienne. Ventrell Miller, their first pick of the fourth round, likely enters camp fourth on a crowded linebacker depth chart. Passing on numerous opportunities to add to the secondary – by far the roster’s biggest weakness – could end up delaying Jacksonville’s ascent to AFC contender.

Under-the-radar moves

Dalton Kincaid ➡️ Bills

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Bills got a steal in Kincaid toward the end of the first round. The official position may read tight end, but the Utah product is more receiver than anything else. In fact, you wouldn’t hear any arguments from us if you ranked him the best pure pass-catcher in this draft. Look for Kincaid to get plenty of work detached from the formation while still keeping Dawson Knox on the field as a more natural tight end. His ability to complement Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis should help Josh Allen and the offense take another step forward.

John Michael Schmitz ➡️ Giants

The Giants entered this draft with a major need at center. Resisting the temptation to fill that spot in the first round – and instead bolstering the secondary with Deonte Banks before circling back in Round 2 – proved to be a stroke of genius from Joe Schoen. The board fell perfectly for New York on Day 2, with our No. 5-ranked offensive lineman dropping right into its lap at No. 57 overall. Schmitz is a Day 1 starter with the technique and movement skills to be a long-term impact player in the middle of the offensive line.

Biggest reach

Lions – Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 12 overall)

Gibbs is an electrifying player. The Lions’ offense will be a better unit with him on the field, and he’s going to put up some monster production in a system designed to let running backs feast. All that said, this was still the most shocking moment of the entire draft. While there are certainly arguments to make against the Bijan Robinson pick, going No. 8 overall to the Falcons, that’s also a bit of a different conversation given his projection as a bell-cow back. Gibbs is a smaller body who you likely don’t want to be taking on a major workload between the tackles. As spectacular of a playmaker as he may be, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield, there were better ways to use an early first-round pick – even after trading down to No. 12.

QB takeaways

Bryce Young – Panthers

David Eulitt / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There was little debate at the top of the draft. Young was always the sensible pick, and Panthers fans should be thrilled. While the size may present some concerns in terms of durability, it’s certainly not something that ever impacted his play on the field at Alabama. There simply aren’t many quarterbacks on the planet who demonstrate his level of poise, vision, and creativity. The arm talent and accuracy are pretty great, too. The Panthers are in good hands.

C.J. Stroud – Texans

The Texans’ front office played the media like a fiddle. A few weeks out from the big day, general manager Nick Caserio had mock drafters everywhere, myself included, buying the idea that Houston would be passing on a quarterback. In the end, the Texans made the right decision with Stroud. The move to go back up for Anderson is a complicated one, as we discussed above, but the important part is that Houston capitalized on a rare opportunity to get a franchise-caliber quarterback prospect. Stroud faced a lot of unfair narratives leading up to the draft, but he was always worth this kind of investment.

Anthony Richardson – Colts

Speaking of playing the media, the Colts had everyone convinced they were all-in on Will Levis. Logic prevailed, though, and Indy took a swing on the quarterback with more upside than any other in this class. Is there some risk in Richardson’s profile? Absolutely. You’re banking on mechanical improvements and more experience addressing his accuracy lapses. But all such issues are correctable with time, and the narratives about his struggles at Florida got a little out of control. The pocket presence, among other quietly impressive traits, makes him much more than the athletic project many have painted him as. Richardson should play right away, and there’s superstar potential here.

Will Levis – Titans

Levis had to wait longer than expected to hear his name called, remaining on the board until the Titans moved up at the top of the second round. Historically speaking, it’s unlikely that all four of the consensus top quarterbacks hit. But this does feel like a nice value pick for Tennessee after not being able to move up for one of the other top passers in the first round. Levis has all the tools to develop into a solid starter at the next level, and he’s a particularly nice fit for the Titans’ play-action-heavy offense.

Hendon Hooker – Lions

The buzz on Hooker potentially going in the first round was always a little ridiculous. The production, of course, was otherworldly. But Tennessee’s offensive system, which is unlike anything we’ll ever see in the NFL, was a major factor in those silly numbers. Hooker is also already 25 years old and coming off a torn ACL. Day 2 was the far more sensible range for him to come off the board, so the Lions scooping him up early in the third round is a logical gamble. Hooker can take his time getting healthy behind Jared Goff before getting a chance to show whether he can make the transition to an NFL offense.

Rookie award picks

OROY – Bryce Young

Taking the No. 1 overall pick here is a bit of a cop-out, but this is equal parts a bet on this year’s top quarterback talent and faith in everything the Panthers are building on offense. This isn’t your typical team picking at the top of the draft; Carolina made the aggressive deal to come up from No. 9 weeks in advance. The staff has made some savvy moves to upgrade the playmaking talent around its young quarterback, starting with the offseason additions of Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark before rounding out the receiver group with Jonathan Mingo in the second round. Fourth-round steal Chandler Zavala could be the final piece for a stout offensive line, and Frank Reich put together an outstanding staff to lead the new-look group. This is the ideal situation for a rookie quarterback; Young should hit the ground running.

DROY – Ji’Ayir Brown

The 49ers had a bit of a weird draft; taking a kicker with your second pick of the weekend isn’t exactly the most inspiring move. Don’t sleep on the potential for instant impact from their first selection in the third round, though. Brown has impressive instincts and playmaking traits in the deep middle. Opponents can take advantage of his aggressiveness in coverage at times, but doing so is easier said than done when he’s got a pass-rush group like that of the 49ers up front. The ball will be coming out quickly more often than not against this defense, giving Brown plenty of opportunities to create turnovers.

Best moment

Deuce Vaughn gets drafted by Dad

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