If you’re just starting to notice the magic of American football, the NFL Draft is simply an un-missable event. So arm yourself with some of the major details and key storylines.
Experts in the states are crunching the numbers, grinding the film and mocking the picks. There’s no stopping gridiron nutters this time of year, because football junkies are filled with a combination of optimism and a thirst for information overload.
That’s what happens in the months that back up the Super Bowl; the NFL Draft shifts into focus, as teams attempt to fill some holes through free agency and familiarise themselves with all the best emerging prospects whose college days are behind them.
Our 2023 NFL Draft Preview
Where is the 2023 NFL Draft?
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
It’s an event so big that the league moves it around between cities each year and in 2023, it lands at Union Station in Kansas City.
It’s just a coincidence that the NFL Draft happens to be taking place in the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs’ home city; event planning commences well in advance. We already know that the 2024 Draft is happening in Detroit, Michigan.
When is the 2023 NFL Draft?
FRIDAY APRIL 28 – SUNDAY APRIL 30 (in Australia)
This is a major three-day event. Round 1 draws major attention on the first night, the second day features Rounds 2 and 3, and the third rips through the rest – Rounds 4-7.
DAY 1 START TIME: Friday 10:00am AEST
DAY 2 START TIME: Saturday 9:00am AEST
DAY 3 START TIME: Sunday 2:00am AEST
What is the NFL Draft?
One of the largest events in American sport, the NFL Draft is a franchise and even league-altering process that pairs the brightest football prospects with professional football teams.
While there are other pathways in the NBA, all the best footballing talent comes straight out of America’s NCAA Football – college – system.
While AFL fans are also familiar with the Draft process, the key difference between the NFL and Aussie Rules equivalent is that in the states, these guys are rarely teenagers; they’re older, more mature prospects with more information and data points available for deciphering.
One pick at a time, NFL franchises decide which prospect they want the rights to, within the allotted time limit.
The order of the NFL Draft is decided by teams’ win-loss records the previous season. It does bring ‘tanking’ into the conversation at times, but it’s a process which theoretically, over time, balances out the wealth and competitiveness; it aims to ensure cyclical success throughout the league.
Every NFL team is given one natural selection in each round of every NFL Draft. But of course, these picks become assets – the higher the pick, the more valuable it is – so many of them become commodities that are traded to rival organisations, in return for players, cap space, other picks and more.
The inception of the NFL Draft was all the way back in 1936.
Round 1 NFL Draft order
The first night of the NFL Draft always generates the most attention and excitement, of course, with the elite of the elite up for grabs. The top picks in the Draft each year are spent on either the most promising talents at premium positions or quarterbacks that teams will hope become the face and future of the organisation.
Here’s how the 2023 NFL Draft order currently looks:
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago), 2. Houston Texans, 3. Arizona Cardinals, 4. Indianapolis Colts, 5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver), 6. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams), 7. Las Vegas Raiders, 8. Atlanta Falcons, 9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina), 10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans), 11. Tennessee Titans, 12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland), 13. Green Bay (from Jets), 14. New England Patriots, 15. New York Jets (from Green Bay), 16. Washington Commanders, 17. Pittsburgh Steelers, 18. Detroit Lions, 19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 20. Seattle Seahawks, 21. LA Chargers, 22. Baltimore Ravens, 23. Minnesota Vikings, 24. Jacksonville Jaguars, 25. New York Giants, 26. Dallas Cowboys, 27. Buffalo Bills, 28. Cincinnati Bengals, 29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco, through Miami and Denver), 30. Philadelphia Eagles, 31. Kansas City Chiefs
There are only 31 first-rounders this year, despite 32 NFL teams. The Dolphins had its pick taken away as punishment for violating league policies, relating to ‘the integrity of the game’. An investigation concluded that Miami had tampered; held illegal communication with contracted members of rival organisations – Tom Brady at the Patriots and coach Sean Payton at New Orleans.
How to watch the 2023 NFL Draft
In Australia, the Draft is broadcast live on ESPN – via Foxtel or Kayo.
Key 2023 NFL Draft storylines
Which teams will look to solve their quarterback woes?
The Panthers last month unloaded a haul of assets at Chicago’s doorstep to move up from nine overall to the top pick in the Draft. Along with Carolina, Houston (2) and Indianapolis (4) are the most QB-needy teams with the Draft arsenal to take a swing at the position.
Seattle (5), Detroit (6) and the Raiders (7) are also dark horses with top 10 picks that may decide to start the timer on their succession plans, if the right prospect falls to them.
Along with Bryce Young and CJ Stroud, Will Levis (Kentucky) and Anthony Richardson (Florida) are the other quarterbacks in the top 10 conversation.
What teams are expected to trade their top pick?
There are franchises with premium picks that might be best to turn that asset into multiple ‘swings’ across the first two days of the NFL Draft. And there will always be surprises as the day unfolds, as general managers react to the cards being dealt.
Arizona is the obvious one, with pick three. The Cards will not take a quarterback; they’ve got Kyler Murray on a huge contract. But they’ve also got a number of holes to fill and are a roster on the rebuild, so it would make a tonne of sense to find a partner and move back, ‘splitting’ that pick into two or three high value selections. It’s being discussed at length and, frankly, will most likely turn out to be a mistake if they don’t. Play the odds, Arizona.
There’s growing chatter that Ohio State QB CJ Stroud could be the surprise prospect that ends up sliding, as the first round of the draft unfolds. That could be the same for Will Levis and Anthony Richardson, should some organisations – like Houston (2), Seattle (5) or Detroit (6) – overthink things.
But if any of these names start to fall to near the bottom of the top 10, or into the teens, it’s highly feasible that an organisation with a later first-rounder gets aggressive to trade up and grab one of them.
We saw that with Chicago a couple of years ago, giving up assets to move and take Justin Fields. You could make a case that Tennessee, Washington, Tampa Bay, Minnesota or even the LA Rams could do whatever it takes, if the Draft breaks a certain way.
Which moves will get the NFL Fantasy community talking?
While it’s widely considered sub-optimal to invest high capital at the running back position, a franchise may well spend a first-round pick on Texas’ Bijan Robinson. He’s considered one of the best prospects since Saquon Barkley and wherever he lands, Robinson will likely earn a large workload in the NFL very quickly.
It’s actually possible that a second running back gets snapped up on day one; Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs. The guy has freakish speed, clocking a 99th percentile 4.36 40-yard time at the Combine, and is a prolific receiving threat out of the backfield. He’s been likened to New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara. The problem is he didn’t even reach 200 pounds on the scales (199lbs), which means he shouldn’t be asked to handle a sizeable workload at NFL level. So do you spend premium capital on a back best suited to splitting duties at-best? We shall see.
Ohio State has overseen some astounding wide receiver talents in recent years and Jaxon Smith-Njigba might be the pick of a bunch that’s included Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Wilson and Olave were massive hits from last year’s Draft, both taken early on day one. CJ Stroud was their college quarterback.
‘JSN’ played mostly as a slot receiver at college, but is widely considered the top guy at his position. He’s expected to go in the top half of the first round. It’s very unlikely Smith-Njigba falls anywhere below the Packers at 15. But landing spot will be important for his early career fantasy prospects.