2023 NFL draft: Debating favorite picks, big head-scratchers

ByNFL experts ESPN logo
Monday, May 8, 2023

With the 2023 NFL draft more than a week behind us and rookie camps starting up around the league, our NFL experts have had plenty of time to assess the class. So we asked 10 of them to weigh in on some of the draft's biggest questions. We begin with which picks stood out as the best of the best and which picks were the most confusing. But we will continue to update this story each day this week with a new topic, including our analysts' favorite team classes, early Rookie of the Year picks, potential fantasy sleepers and bold predictions for the 2023 class.

What were the best picks of the draft? What were the biggest head-scratching selections? Our experts dive in, breaking down top takeaways from this year's class.

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Favorite draft picks | Biggest head-scratchers

What was your favorite pick of the draft?

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Quarterback Anthony Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 4. New Colts coach Shane Steichen can scheme for Richardson's dual-threat traits like he did with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. This is a really good spot for his pro development.

Mike Clay, fantasy football analyst: Quarterback C.J. Stroud to the Houston Texans at No. 2. The speculation in the weeks leading up to the draft that Houston would pass on a QB with the second pick never made sense. And fortunately for Texans fans, Houston didn't do it. It's the most important position in football, so Houston adding a potential franchise quarterback early in the draft was a no-brainer.

Liz Loza, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Tight end Michael Mayer to the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 35. This was not my favorite splash pick, but it was certainly a solid value for Las Vegas. Mayer is a pro-ready player with high-end ball skills. He figures to slide right into coach Josh McDaniels' offense, working as a short-to-intermediate target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst: Defensive tackle Jalen Carter to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 9. Carter is potentially the best overall talent in the '23 draft class and lands in an environment where he has known leaders -- and former teammates at Georgia -- around him in defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean. Carter can learn behind Fletcher Cox and is in the best-case situation for unleashing his immense potential.

Eric Moody, fantasy and sports betting analyst: Offensive tackle Darnell Wright to the Chicago Bears at No. 10. This pick filled a huge hole along the offensive line for a Bears team that allowed the fourth-most sacks last year (58). Wright is a plug-and-play starter for Chicago and has a physicality unmatched by any other offensive linemen selected in the first round.

Jason Reid, senior Andscape writer: Richardson to the Colts at No. 4. To say hewowed scouts at the combine would be an understatement, so it was no surprise he went so high in the draft. And for Richardson, he lands in a great place for his development. He'll grow under the tutelage of Steichen, who knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst:Stroud to the Texans at No. 2. After a disastrous 2022 season, the Texans were seeking a true franchise quarterback. And they got one. Stroud is poised, polished and accurate, and he is exactly the type of player Houston needs under center moving forward.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front-office insider: Quarterback Will Levis to the Tennessee Titans at No. 33. The Titans have their heir apparent to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and there is no rush to play him. Learning from Tannehill for a year is the ideal situation for Levis to develop; he threw 23 interceptions in the past two seasons and still has work to do on his game.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer: Quarterback Hendon Hooker to the Detroit Lions at No. 68. Questions about Hooker's age, recovery froma torn ACLand transition from that Tennessee offense to the pros are all fair. But in the third round, it's a tolerable risk for Detroit to take for the potential upside of a quarterback who ranked No. 1 in QBR last season. He also won't be rushed onto the field withJared Goffin line to be the starter.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Cornerback Christian Gonzalez to the New England Patriots at No. 17. We typically see a mixture of drafting for need and drafting for value, but the Patriots managed to check both boxes early -- even after trading down from No. 14 to No. 17. Gonzalez was viewed as one of the 10 best players in the entire class and fills the Patriots' most pressing need, as a cornerback with 6-foot-1 size and great speed.

What was the biggest head-scratching pick?

Bowen: Linebacker Marte Mapu to theNew England Patriotsat No. 76. This isn't a knock on Mapu as a prospect, as his versatility will be utilized in Bill Belichick's defense. Instead, this is about the Patriots passing on some much-needed offensive juice here with wide receiver Josh Downs and running back Devon Achane still on the board. I thought both prospects would've boosted the pass game for quarterback Mac Jones.

Clay: Running back Zach Charbonnet to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 52. OK, I'm going to put on my fantasy football hat here and yell at Seattle for selecting Charbonnet, which crushes the fantasy upside of both he and Kenneth Walker III. The UCLA back has a three-down skill set, and we were hoping he'd land a feature back role somewhere. Instead, he'll slot in behind -- or, best case, alongside -- 22-year-old Walker for the next few seasons. Seattle had other roster voids it could've filled.

Loza: Kicker Chad Ryland to theNew England Patriotsat No. 112. The Pats traded up for a kicker with below-average leg strength, and they did it two rounds before they addressed the wide receiver position.

Miller: Linebacker Jack Campbell to theDetroit Lionsat No. 18. Campbell is a good player, and middle linebacker was a moderate need for the Lions. But the Mike linebacker position has been devalued across the league, and Campbell could have been drafted later after a trade down the board. This isn't knocking the player but rather questioning the value this early in the draft.

Moody: Running back Jahmyr Gibbs to theDetroit Lionsat No. 12. Detroit's decision to draft Gibbs this early might not have been the wisest move, as many draft experts had projected him as a late first-round pick at best. Despite his playmaking ability, superb route running and reliable hands, the Lions missed an opportunity to address more pressing needs on their team. Adding to the confusion, they had already signed back David Montgomery in free agency.

Jason Reid: Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes to the Washington Commanders at No. 16. It was bad enough that the Commanders didn't address their offensive line in the first round. But to instead take a 166-pound player so high, well, their whole approach here was a true head-scratcher.

Jordan Reid:Campbell to the Lions at No. 18. The Lions entered the draft with two first-round selections and prime opportunities to address premium positions but failed to do that. Campbell is an instinctive and productive linebacker, but the selection seemed premature. Detroit needed help up front, and better players were available at that spot.

Tannenbaum:Forbes to the Commanders at No. 16. While I like Forbes' game a lot, I thought a 6-foot-1, 197-poundChristian Gonzalez-- who was still on the board at Washington's pick -- was the better player. Forbes has ball skills (14 career interceptions), but his 6-foot, 166-pound frame concerns me in the first round.

Walder: Running back Bijan Robinson to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. Taking a running back in the top 10 -- a low-value position where veterans are available on the cheap -- is almost indefensible. For a team likely without a franchise quarterback on its roster and with another young back already on the team, it's even worse. Defenders of the move will say the Falcons are a run-first team, so this fits. That isn't a good thing. Running a lot is just what you do when you don't have good enough quarterback play, as the Falcons didn't last season.

Yates: Wide receiverMarvin Mims Jr.to the Denver Broncos at No. 63. This has nothing to do with Mims as a prospect. But when a team that is bereft of 2023 draft capital and already has Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick on its roster makes a move up from No. 68 to No. 63 to take another receiver, my antenna goes up. Could a trade be forthcoming?

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