Winners: Houston Texans & Pittsburgh Steelers
The Houston Texans were the gunslingers of the NFL Draft’s First Round, shaking things up with a trade to move up into the #3 overall pick, to compliment the #2 overall pick that they already had in tow. At the #2 slot, Houston went with what they think is their franchise quarterback of the future in Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, a talent who checks every box across the board with solid size, great vision, strong mobility and more. If Stroud does become that elite-tier talent, the Texans won’t seem too crazy for holding onto their selection and not trading down to see what fell to them.
Now, with the #3 pick, Houston turned some heads by appearing back on the board and wasted no time scooping up Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. The 6’ 4”, 250-pound product who balled out for Nick Sabin in Tuscaloosa is every bit as good as advertised and could be an All-Pro player for years to come, if he lives up to the hype. Just like the Texans need that signature piece on offense since Deshaun Watson’s departure, they needed one on defense to fill that massive gap of JJ Watt’s ever-lingering void. They went for the gold and grabbed it on Day One in 2023.
And least we forget the Pittsburgh Steelers, who not only snagged big Broderick Jones, a long-term bookend offensive tackle out of Georgia with the #14 pick, but also set themselves up nicely for Day Two. Pittsburgh will have the first choice in the second round and if they choose not to swap it, they’ll be sitting at the table with Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (yes, that Joey Porter) as one of the top available prospects - or you know, a whole bevy of other choices too.
Losers: Will Levis & New York Jets
It’s becoming almost a staple of the NFL Draft at this point that one signature quarterback talent goes into absolute free-fall in the First Round for one reason or another. On Thursday night, the next name to add to the list suddenly became Kentucky’s Will Levis. A month ago, there were swirling rumors that Levis might have even worked his way into the top overall selection and that the prototypical talent was ready to hear his name called early. Instead, the draft coverage became hours of Levis sitting next to his family waiting on something that simply wasn’t coming.
If there is good news for Levis, it’s that during the overnight break of the draft, teams of maybe a bit higher caliber that are looking for their next heir-apparent could be lining up trades and the complete rebuild he could’ve been stuck in might just transform into a decent situation for growth. But there’s guarantees in the NFL Draft, unless of course you count the New York Jets being their confounding usual selves, grabbing Iowa State’s edge talent Will McDonald IV off the board at pick #15 overall. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy McDonald IV and think he’s a fine talent, yet with all the voids that New York had to fill, the reach for the Cyclone was just a classic Jets move.