Getty Images

The NFL Draft is always a grind and it's always an event. It was no different in 2023, although I will say it was interesting to see how flat-lined the draft got once the quarterback drama was settled.

Poor Will Levis essentially provided all the drama in this draft, along with a ton of first-round trades. The NFL has what it wants: a spectacle on the first day that most everyone pays attention to, a second day catering to football fans and a third day for people who live and die with this sport (and apparently pee-happy puppies and pumpkin pie, everyone in this industry might need to pass a psych test).

Inevitably the winners and losers below won't be accurate, if only because predicting the NFL Draft is impossible. Tom Brady is the greatest professional athlete of all time and he went No. 199 overall. Calling the NFL Draft an "inexact science" is an insult to both science and accuracy, both of whom go largely hand in hand. 

This year will probably end up -- in my opinion -- not resulting in a lot of disastrous takes on teams being good and failing, because the expectations are so low. All the quarterbacks ended up in pretty good spots, though. Even Levis falling to the second round ended up with a pretty good ending since he found a perfect fit home with Mike Vrabel and the Titans.

Anyway, there's a lot of draft coverage to consume. You're gonna read these winners and these losers -- and if you want to get mad and yell at me I'm @WillBrinson on Twitter and @WillBrinson on Instagram (there aren't many WB's and I'm old) -- and then you should dive into the rest of our coverage. We've got:

And at some point, CBS Sports Junior NFL Draft Analyst Ryan Wilson will publish a Way Too Early 2024 NFL Mock Draft that will probably be more accurate than his actual final mock. Shoutout Jake Fromm

To the future old takes:


Originally I had Howie Roseman and Kirby Smart as the winners and I'd be fine with that, but like giving a shoutout to my buddies Buzz (Eagles fan) and Hart (UGA fan) with the more fun title. Both Howie and Kirby won big in the draft for different reasons, but it's easy to connect the two of them with the Eagles drafting three additional Georgia alums from the historically great 2021 defense. Jalen Carter was a steal in the first round if he reaches his potential. Nolan Smith felt like great value and Kelee Ringo has plenty of upside as show by his pick six to seal the natty last year for Georgia. That's now a whopping FIVE players from that title team in 2021 on the Eagles, a historically aggressive approach to targeting a single college team.

It's hard to blame Roseman for targeting Kirby's defense -- 2021 UGA was basically the oppo side of the ball version of Joe Burrow's LSU offense. We saw how good the Philly defense was last year but they've lost their defensive coordinator and the guys up front are getting long in the tooth. Replacing them with DAWGS is a pretty good idea by Howie. 

Kirby wins big here because it's hard not to simply say Georgia has passed Alabama as the premiere college football program in America. Nick Saban is still the GOAT and it's very close up top, but Kirby has it rolling in Athens. Back-to-back national titles is quite obviously success, but all these dudes being drafted in the NFL starts to create a self-fulfilling recruiting process. Twenty-five players selected in the NFL Draft the last two years is completely outrageous.

Loser: Patriots QB rumors

For a long stretch leading up to the draft, we kept hearing over and over again how much Bill Belichick did not like Mac Jones and how he might be willing to trade his former first-round selection. This buzz picked up a ton of steam heading into the draft with the Patriots connected to Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and generally considered a team very likely to draft a quarterback -- definitely if Mac was out the door. However, there were over 10 quarterbacks taken in the 2023 NFL Draft and not one of them went to New England, a very interesting sign of support for Mac, especially coupled with reports after the draft about Belichick's lack of interest in this quarterback class.

The Patriots instead got a fun little bit of schadenfreude courtesy of Green Bay after the Packers forced the Jets to flip with them at 13 and 15. New England was the only team capable of snaking the Jets when an offensive lineman run started so Belichick more than willingly jumped out of No. 14 to let the Steelers beat the Jets for their guy. The bonus was the Patriots landing Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez who dipped a little further than people though. 

New England landed GT edge rusher Keion White in the second before grabbing a small-school defensive back (BB is nothing if not on brand) in Marte Mapu. Belichick taking a kicker that early is wild but he's got a good history of identifying excellent kickers even if this is a little more expensive than normal. The Patriots added a TON of prospects but didn't bother with a quarterback. That says a lot about how they feel about Mac or at least what they want to do in 2023. 

Winner: Carolina Panthers

Whenever a team gives up serious assets to fire up the draft board, there's inherent risk in how much of a haul they'll come away with. And the Panthers weren't a "QB away" when they went to No. 1 overall in a big swap with the Bears. However, they overall class Scott Fitterer and Co. came away with is impressive, not just in terms of quality but how the players complement each other. 

Bryce Young, the top overall pick, was clearly the best quarterback in this class in terms of a consensus among NFL teams. The Panthers might have identified someone else before the process and everyone's said they liked all the quarterbacks. But Young clearly has the best floor/ceiling combination of everyone in this class. If he plays a full season it would be surprising to see him struggle given his pedigree, the coaching staff, Carolina's personnel (adding vets like Adam Thielen and Hayden Hurst was sneaky smart) and the division.

The Panthers also did something I love to see teams do in the draft: take a QB and give him some pieces around him. With their second-round pick (Carolina dealt a later one they got from the 49ers for Christian McCaffrey to Chicago) the Panthers scooped up wideout Jonathan Mingo out of Ole Miss. 

Carolina assisted Young further by grabbing underrated NC State offensive lineman Chandler Zavala. Carolina keyed in on Zavala -- who was surprisingly not invited to the combine -- after spotting him during their tape study of last year's first-round pick Ickey Ekownu. The call between the coaching staff and Zavala when he was drafted was revealing in terms of how much both sides really seemed to hope this would happen and the chance he could see meaningful time:

Carolina's been trying to revamp the offensive line for the last few years and has some actual consistency now, for the first time in a long time. If the line takes a step forward and this underrated group of weapons builds a better passing game baseline, Young could thrive and the Panthers would become a very interesting team in a weak division. Big sea change moment for the Panthers over the weekend potentially. 

Loser: Chasing Mister Irrelevant

We saw a new, surprising trend develop during the 2023 NFL Draft: because of Brock Purdy's success with the 49ers last year, a record-breaking number of quarterbacks were selected, particularly on Day 3 of the draft. Maybe "QB Expectations" is better here? Mister Irrelevant isn't always a quarterback and no one thinks being the last pick in the draft is bad. 

But if this continues, it's not great for the possibility of the last pick becoming a star quarterback dings Mr. I a bit. And it's interesting for how we'll see these quarterbacks get drafted over the next several years. Sean Clifford -- who actually beat out Will Levis at Penn State a few years back -- went in the fifth round to the Packers, despite most people assuming Clifford would go undrafted. The number of quarterbacks who flew off late in the draft is almost entirely Purdy-related too, much in the same way people talked for years about throwing darts in the draft because of Tom Brady. 

Chasing a trend instead of creating one usually ends poorly in the NFL.

Winner: Chris Ballard

The Colts GM -- who has shepherded a pretty strong period of success in Indy despite constantly trying to figure out the quarterback position -- did in fact listen to my mock draft, buck up and go for gusto. I'm not sure if Ballard actually reads "Calvin and Hobbes" but he acted like it on Thursday by taking Anthony Richardson at No. 4 overall. 

I firmly believe Jim Irsay told his GM -- and really his entire organization -- it was time to draft a quarterback and if they didn't he would lock them in Lucas Oil Stadium, max out the volume on the speakers and do acoustic covers of Joni Mitchell until everyone acquiesced to his demands. Rather than face a fate worse than hell, Ballard chose to take a QB and since it's the first quarterback he's been in charge of drafting he rolled the dice on enormous upside in Richardson. 

Would the Colts have taken Bryce Young instead? Uh, yeah. Of course. But Richardson has salivation-worthy upside, especially paired with Shane Steichen and the type of offense from Philly last year. To be clear: it's not easily repeatable and Richardson will need to improve his accuracy and touch by a lot, but man is the ceiling there. 

Josh Downs will help! The diminutive UNC receiver is a problem in the open field and a slot beast, not to mention his return skills. If the NFL operated with three wideouts on the field required he would have gone in the first round. He's superb value here for the Colts -- if the offensive line bounces back and Richardson can meet the hype this is a fun offense again. 

Loser: Miami Dolphins

Dipping back into my Day 1 winners and losers here but how can you not look at the Dolphins as losers in this spot? Miami is in a division with the Bills, the Aaron Rodgers Jets and Bill Belichick (even if you don't love the Patriots roster, BB still lingers), has a major question mark at quarterback as they move forward with Tua Tagovailoa and came away from this draft with just four players.

For comparison sake, the Patriots had nine picks on Day 3 of the draft. Adding just four players to your roster in the draft is never great. Last year the Dolphins added only four as well in the draft, but their first round pick was used on grabbing Tyreek Hill. That makes seeing the draft class much easier. However the Dolphins lost their first-round pick for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton, meaning they get nothing in return.

If Tua can't stay healthy in 2023 -- and his concussion concerns make it a total wild card -- the Dolphins have a very low floor despite having Mike McDaniel's offense and Jaylen Waddle/Tyreek Hill providing massive upside and having been really aggressive in trying to improve the last few years, with very few first-round picks to show for it. 

Winner: Tight ends

The respect given to the tight end position fluctuates wildly over the course of NFL stylistic transitions. Spring-boarding off their predecessors' success in helping to change the position, George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen currently run TE University and have been amusingly vocal about demanding respect for an impossible position. 

Well, carpe freaking diem, gentlemen, because NINE tight ends were taken in the first TWO DAYS OF THE DRAFT. Another six would come off the board on Saturday, meaning we saw 15 tight ends drafted this year! Or as we like to call it around these parts, "a day at the office for Georgia." 

The guys who went off the board are really interesting too. Dalton Kincaid was the lone first-round pick to the Bills -- we've seen the chemistry with Josh Allen and Dawson Knox and it wouldn't be crazy if this beefed up the Bills ability to get single coverage outside and make Allen even more dangerous in the red zone. 

Sam LaPorta was next off the board and should be stoked to join this Lions offense given that depth chart. The Raiders didn't draft an offensive lineman somehow but Michael Mayer absolutely counts for something with his run blocking skills. Green Bay took a pair (Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft), definitely not out of spite, nope, thanks for asking! And the Cowboys finally relented too and snagged one in Luke Schoonmaker, apparently tricking everyone into believing they eyed the position in the first round. 

Wide receivers have become far more popular around draft time and tight ends pushed back this year.

Loser: New Orleans Saints

The Saints were already behind the eight ball thanks to last year's trade with the Eagles last year, putting them at the back of the first round. Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey give them some help up front but the late selection is also a reminder about the loss of Marcus Davenport and how the Saints spent two first-round picks to land him in a draft as well. 

Jake Haener was drawing tons of Drew Brees comparisons and grew up idolizing him. Very cool that he lands in New Orleans, but good luck there kid! Kendre Miller is a curious pick in the top 75 when the team just signed Jamaal Williams in free agency and has Alvin Kamara on the roster.

The Saints have a good roster and are understandably the favorite to win the NFC South currently. Maybe some of these picks end up being used to bolster depth (Bresee probably starts) as they transition the roster. But the biggest problem for New Orleans is this draft doesn't feel like they pulled further away in their division, in fact quite the opposite.