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Re-Drafting the 2023 NFL Draft Ahead of NFC, AFC Championship Games

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 27, 2024

Re-Drafting the 2023 NFL Draft Ahead of NFC, AFC Championship Games

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    C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young

    C.J. Stroud and Bryce YoungDavid Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    One season isn’t enough time to know any player’s future, but hindsight is already changing how we remember the 2023 NFL draft.

    Mostly, the NFL world saw C.J. Stroud put together a memorable debut season that flipped the perception on who the Carolina Panthers should’ve picked No. 1 overall. He propelled the Houston Texans to an AFC South title and a playoff bid. Carolina ended a league-worst 2-15.

    But how does Stroud’s emergence alter the rest of the opening round? Where would Bryce Young, the actual No. 1 selection, wind up calling his professional home?

    The order is primarily based on reality. I took a few liberties, though, since a few draft-day trades may not have happened if Prospect X was already off the board. In those cases, the selection reverted to the which franchise held the pick entering the night of the draft.

    As able, I also defaulted toward a team’s real-life selections with regard to the position, if not the specific player.

Picks 1-4

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    Will Anderson Jr.

    Will Anderson Jr.Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago): C.J. Stroud, QB
    Original Pick: Bryce Young, QB

    From a performance standpoint, there’s no argument C.J. Stroud should be the No. 1 pick. The fair question, however, is whether since-fired coach Frank Reich would have created a similar environment in Carolina to the one that led to Stroud’s outstanding year in Houston.

    2. Houston Texans: Anthony Richardson, QB
    Original Pick: C.J. Stroud, QB

    If you believe the Texans would have preferred Bryce Young, no problem. Either way, he and Anthony Richardson aren’t sticking around past the fourth overall pick in this re-draft. Richardson learned a hard lesson about how to protect himself as a runner and missed 14 games because of a concussion and a shoulder injury but showed off his playmaking ability in limited action as a rookie.

    3. Houston Texans (from Arizona): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE
    Original Pick: Anderson

    Houston had a clear mission in the draft: Identify a franchise quarterback and a cornerstone defender. Knowing that, it’s fair to keep the Texans’ trade up for Will Anderson Jr. to achieve the latter goal. Anderson tallied seven sacks and 32 pressures as a rookie.

    4. Indianapolis Colts: Bryce Young, QB
    Original Pick: Anthony Richardson, QB

    Only a surprising run of three straight quarterbacks would’ve kept the Colts from leaving the opening round with a new signal-caller. In this scenario, Indy happily ties its future to Young. This is a more comfortable landing spot for the Alabama product, given the Colts’ receiving corps of Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and fellow rookie Josh Downs.

Picks 5-8

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    Devon Witherspoon

    Devon WitherspoonMichael Owens/Getty Images

    5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): Devon Witherspoon, CB
    Original Pick: Witherspoon

    No sense in arguing about a player who quickly became a key contributor and earned a Pro Bowl nod. Devon Witherspoon notched 79 tackles with 16 pass defenses and yielded a minimal 5.4 yards per target, standing out as one of the best players on Seattle’s defense.

    6. Arizona Cardinals (from Detroit): Paris Johnson Jr., OT
    Original Pick: Johnson

    Arizona could have addressed what we see is a glaring need at receiver, but it’s still sensible to prioritize a blocker. Paris Johnson Jr. assembled a promising rookie year as the full-time right tackle, playing every snap along the way. Because of D.J. Humphries’ recovery from a left ACL tear, Johnson may shift to the opposite side in 2024.

    7. Las Vegas Raiders: Jalen Carter, DT
    Original Pick: Tyree Wilson, EDGE

    Does any selection save Josh McDaniels’ job? Probably not. Beyond that, Tyree Wilson had a forgettable debut season with 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks in a backup role. Jalen Carter, meanwhile, would have provided a much-needed jolt on the interior of the defensive line. He collected 33 stops with six sacks for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB
    Original Pick: Robinson

    Positional value is a fair point to consider, but Bijan Robinson lived up to the hype when the Falcons bothered to, you know, play him. Robinson rushed for 976 yards, caught 58 passes for 487 yards and totaled eight touchdowns. Atlanta’s new coach will have a superstar in the backfield.

Picks 9-12

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    Puka Nacua

    Puka NacuaRic Tapia/Getty Images

    9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina): Darnell Wright, OT
    Original Pick: Wright

    In the moment—even after trading down one spot with Philadelphia—it felt like a reach. Fortunately for the Bears, they appear to have added a long-term starter to the offensive line. Wright, like Johnson, played 100 percent of snaps at right tackle and played reasonably well despite the Bears’ issues on the interior up front.

    10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): Puka Nacua, WR
    Original Pick: Jalen Carter, DT

    Shoutout to my wife, who drafted Puka Nacua with her final pick in a fantasy football league “because he has a fun name.” And, I guess, the Los Angeles Rams, too. Nacua, a fifth-round choice, set rookie records with 105 catches and 1,486 yards, adding six scores. Perhaps his presence alone wouldn’t have sparked a reeling offense, but Philly received near-zero production from its slot receivers in 2023.

    11. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OL
    Original Pick: Skoronski

    After watching Andre Dillard and Jaelyn Duncan struggle so much at left tackle, it’s fine to wonder if that should’ve been Tennessee’s pick. Peter Skoronski is viewed more as a guard—he started 14 games on the left side—but could be that solution anyway. Regardless, he should be a fixture of the Titans’ offensive line in the future.

    12. Detroit Lions: Jahymr Gibbs, RB
    Original Pick: Gibbs

    David Montgomery and Jahymr Gibbs formed a dangerous duo in the Detroit backfield. Montgomery rushed for 1,015 yards and 13 scores, while Gibbs registered 945 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 52 passes for 316 yards, and his versatility has been a valuable part of Detroit making its first NFC Championship in 32 years.

Picks 13-16

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    Zay Flowers

    Zay FlowersRob Carr/Getty Images

    13. Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets): Joey Porter Jr., CB
    Original Pick: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE

    Green Bay endured an inconsistent year, and a shaky defensive line is among the reasons for that problem. Since no high-end pass-rusher is available here, though, shoring up the secondary is a sensible move. After all, the Packers ended up dealing Rasul Douglas during the season. Joey Porter Jr. worked his way into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineup and ceded just a 47.6 completion rate when targeted.

    14. Pittsburgh Steelers (from New England): Broderick Jones, OT
    Original Pick: Jones

    Between the Patriots’ historic trend of trading down and Broderick Jones remaining on the board, it’s logical to keep the trade. Jones surpassed Chukwuma Okarafor on the depth chart, starting the last 11 games of the season—including one in the playoffs—at right tackle.

    15. New York Jets (from Green Bay): Dawand Jones, OT
    Original Pick: Will McDonald, EDGE

    Beyond the reality of Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending Achilles injury on the fourth snap of the season, the New York Jets had a revolving door at right tackle. Five different blockers spent time at the position in 2023. Dawand Jones, a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, jumped into the lineup after Jack Conklin’s injury and impressed in nine starts.

    16. Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB
    Original Pick: Emmanuel Forbes, CB

    While it’s too early to say Emmanuel Forbes is a bust, he will not enjoy the memory of his rookie year. He surrendered 9.8 yards per target and lost his starting job within two weeks. Christian Gonzalez, on the other hand, jumped out to an excellent start in September before a shoulder injury ended his promising season.

Picks 17-20

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    Sam LaPorta

    Sam LaPortaSteven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    17. New England Patriots (from Pittsburgh): Zay Flowers, WR
    Original Pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB

    No single receiver would have changed the Patriots’ offensive woes or overcome their problems at quarterback. At the very least, though, Zay Flowers could be an impactful piece of New England’s impending rebuild. No wideout topped 561 yards for the Pats in 2023, but Flowers paced the Baltimore Ravens with 77 catches and 858 yards.

    18. Detroit Lions: Sam LaPorta, TE
    Original Pick: Jack Campbell, LB

    Jack Campbell has played an important role for Detroit, but the franchise undoubtedly would not want to expose Sam LaPorta much longer in a re-draft. There’s even a strong argument to flip Gibbs and LaPorta for the Lions’ picks, too. He gathered 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, securing second-team AP All-Pro recognition.

    19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DT
    Original Pick: Kancey

    After essentially missing the opening month, Calijah Kancey made a great impact for Tampa Bay. He started 14 games and wrapped up the regular season with 26 tackles—including 10 for loss—and added six tackles with 1.5 sacks in two playoff outings.

    20. Seattle Seahawks: Jordan Addison, WR
    Original Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR

    This is more a credit to Jordan Addison than a knock on Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The latter produced 63 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, and Seattle should be excited about his future. Nevertheless, the Vikings landed a strong debut from Addison while Justin Jefferson dealt with a half-season hamstring injury. Addison made 70 receptions for 911 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.

Picks 21-24

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    Tyrique Stevenson

    Tyrique StevensonCooper Neill/Getty Images

    21. Los Angeles Chargers: Tyrique Stevenson, CB
    Original Pick: Quentin Johnston, WR

    From a long-term view, Quentin Johnston might work out. However, he didn’t provide the impact the Chargers hoped he’d offer, particularly after Mike Williams’ knee injury. But the more expensive whiff happened at cornerback, where J.C. Jackson fell immensely short of his big-money contract. Tyrique Stevenson, a second-round choice of Chicago, overcame an ugly start to his rookie year with a strong second half. He notched 86 tackles and four interceptions.

    22. Baltimore Ravens: Rashee Rice, WR
    Original Pick: Zay Flowers, WR

    First-year coordinator Todd Monken has helped the Ravens elevate their offense, and Zay Flowers has played a valuable role in that. His ability to create yards the catch resulted in team-leading marks of 77 catches and 858 yards. Rashee Rice wasn’t as elusive, but his profile fits both motion-heavy offenses. Rice paced KC’s wideouts with 79 receptions for 938 yards and seven touchdowns.

    23. Minnesota Vikings: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR
    Original Pick: Jordan Addison, WR

    Convenient little trade we got here, huh? Jaxon Smith-Njigba put up 63 catches with 628 yards and four scores in his complementary role behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Minnesota’s need for depth at receiver became evident when Jefferson missed seven games and Addison stepped up. Smith-Njigba likely would’ve done a serviceable job, too.

    24. New York Giants (from Jacksonville): Deonte Banks, CB
    Original Pick: Banks

    For many reasons, it was a disappointing season in New York. The bright side is the Giants seem to have landed a fixture of the defense with cornerback Deonte Banks. He posted 64 tackles and two interceptions, ceding a solid 6.3 yards per target in 15 starts.

Picks 25-28

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    Dalton Kincaid

    Dalton KincaidPerry Knotts/Getty Images

    25. Buffalo Bills (from NYG via Jacksonville): Dalton Kincaid, TE
    Original Pick: Kincaid

    Because the Bills have committed big money to Dawson Knox, it was a bit surprising they drafted a tight end. The question was never about the talent, though. Dalton Kincaid matched his billing in a quality debut, reeling in 73 passes for 673 yards and two scores. Kincaid, who played 60 percent of snaps, will be the featured player at the position.

    26. Dallas Cowboys: Kobie Turner, DT
    Original Pick: Mazi Smith, DT

    Given that Dallas mismanaged Mazi Smith, it could be foolish to simply pick a new D-tackle. The difference is Kobie Turner would have better fit what the Cowboys asked of Smith instead of using him as a nose tackle. For the Rams, Turner collected 57 tackles and a team-best nine sacks.

    27. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Buffalo): Anton Harrison, OT
    Original Pick: Harrison

    Perhaps the Jaguars would consider O’Cyrus Torrence to bolster the interior of the offensive line, but Anton Harrison locked down an edge. As with most rookies, he encountered a tough early learning curve. Harrison made a mid-season leap and put himself in the conversation to start at left tackle in 2024 if Jacksonville moves on from Cam Robinson.

    28. Cincinnati Bengals: Steve Avila, OL
    Original Pick: Myles Murphy, EDGE

    Yet again, the Bengals dealt with a disappointing blocking unit. Cincinnati has devoted many resources to the O-line, but it is still trying to find a reliable group in front of Joe Burrow, who toiled through an injury-plagued year anyway. Steve Avila wouldn’t have completely solved the issues, but he quickly impressed as the Rams’ left guard.

Picks 29-31

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    Jayden Reed

    Jayden ReedRyan Kang/Getty Images

    29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco via Miami and Denver): Tuli Tuipulotu, EDGE
    Original Pick: Bryan Bresee, DT

    The reality is New Orleans would face a Catch-22 here. If the Saints don’t select Bresee, their need at defensive tackle rises. But, whew, did this defense lack pass-rushing danger. A second-round pick of the Chargers, Tuli Tuipulotu generated 22 pressures, which would’ve only trailed Carl Granderson in New Orleans.

    30. Philadelphia Eagles: Bryan Bresee, DT
    Original Pick: Nolan Smith, EDGE

    Versatile defensive back Brian Branch would be very logical for the Eagles, who swung a midseason deal to bolster the back end with safety Kevin Byard. Since the team drafted Carter in the first round, though, leaving the opening round with a D-tackle is sensible, too. Bresee must improve his run defense but noticeably progressed late in the season, finishing with 24 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

    31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jayden Reed, WR
    Original Pick: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge

    Jayden Reed assembled an outstanding rookie year in a ridiculously young Green Bay offense. Kansas City would likely be content to replace Rashee Rice—picked earlier in this re-draft—with Reed, who made 64 catches for 793 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 119 yards and two scores on 11 carries. He also served as a half-time punt returner.

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