NFL draft 2023: Every QB picked in the first round

Friday, April 28, 2023

At the outset of Thursday evening, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the microphone and announced, "With the first pick in the NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers select Bryce Young, quarterback, Alabama."

And with that, the race was on.

The 2023 draft, as expected, featured a flurry of picks at the game's most critical position right out of the gate. One year after just one quarterback was chosen in the first round in 2022 --Kenny Pickettto the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20 overall -- three quarterbacks were selected in the first four selections.

Young, as expected, went first. The Panthers, after trading a haul of picks to the Chicago Bears to move to the No. 1 pick, got their man by selecting the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. He became the first Alabama player to be selected first overall in the modern era, giving the Panthers a possible solution to their many years of quarterback instability.

The Houston Texans, after keeping the football world in suspense, swooped in and selected C.J. Stroud with the second overall choice. After much debate about Stroud's ultimate fate, he ended up being one half of Houston's historic Thursday night haul (the Texans also traded into the No. 3 spot to select Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.).

The Indianapolis Colts jumped at the chance to select Florida's Anthony Richardson at fourth overall, making him the Colts' highest-drafted quarterback since the team chose Andrew Luck first overall in 2012.

While those three went off the board quickly, two others were noticeable by not being called, especially Kentucky's Will Levis. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker also had a chance at the first round.

The top of the first round resembled 2021, when quarterbacks were chosen with the first, second and third overall selections (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance).

Projections are from Mike Clay while flaws are from Bill Connelly's analysis.

-- Stephen Holder

No. 1: Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Clay's 2023 projections: 320 of 517 for 3,553 yards; 19 TDs; 13 INTs; 46 carries for 162 yards and 2 TDs in 15 starts

Intel: Young is a fast processor with a quick release and the touch to lead receivers to yards after the catch. He has rare poise, no moment is too big for him and he rarely makes mental errors. He's a pocket passer first, but Young has the mobility to extend plays and effectively run or scramble. He has held up well, despite a shoulder injury that limited him for a few weeks in the middle of the 2022 season, a short linear frame by NFL quarterback standards. -- Steve Muench

Fit: Young's skill set is an ideal fit in Frank Reich's offense, which mixes a passing game that attacks multiple areas of the field with a diverse run game. A new coordinator in Thomas Brown comes from a Rams scheme that uses shifts and motions to create confusion, and Young's accuracy, decision-making and poise should translate well here. He could be the long-term answer for the Panthers, who completed just 58.4% of their passes and finished 31st in Total QBR at 27.6 last season. -- Jordan Reid

Rookie starter? That's the plan, although adding veteran Andy Dalton in free agency gives Carolina the flexibility to audible if Young isn't ready. But everything general manager Scott Fitterer has done this offseason, from re-signing center Bradley Bozeman to ensure all of last season's line was back to signing veteran running back Miles Sanders, tight end Hayden Hurst and receivers Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, was done so he could drop a rookie quarterback into the mix and have a chance to succeed. And as Fitterer has said all along, Young has the talent to make it work. -- David Newton

Flaw: Size. He measured 5-foot-10, 204 pounds, nearly the same as Kyler Murray (5-foot-10, 207) but without Murray's elite speed and mobility. He's fast but not Murray fast. I've seen a Drew Brees comp pop up more frequently of late -- and a half-Brees, half-Murray split isn't entirely inaccurate -- but even Brees measured in at 6-foot-0, 213. Brees was one of the best pocket passers in NFL history; will 2 fewer inches of height make a big difference? -- Bill Connelly

Key stat: Thrived under duress, throwing an FBS-high 24 touchdown passes when pressured over the last two seasons. His 79 passing TDs the last two seasons are the most over a two-season span in SEC history.

No. 2: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Clay's 2023 projections: 315 of 515, 3,380 yards, 17 TD, 14 INT; 39 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD (15 starts)

Intel: Stroud is the best pure pocket passer in the 2023 draft class. He sees the whole field and is decisive, and his timing as a thrower is outstanding. He has a smooth delivery -- there isn't a throw he'll need to make that he can't deliver with authority. He has a unique feel for trajectory, layers the ball beautifully and has a large catalog of remarkably accurate throws under pressure. Stroud needs to continue to improve his strength and show more willingness to run the football and extend plays with his feet. -- Steve Muench

Fit: Davis Mills finished the 2022 season with the NFL's highest off-target percentage and ranked 29th in QBR, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Stroud won't give the Texans an elite runner at quarterback, but new offensive coordinator and former 49ers pass game coordinator Bobby Slowik worked with a number of different quarterbacks in San Francisco and knows how to tailor the Kyle Shanahan offense to whoever is under center. Expect him to lean on talented second-year running back Dameon Pierce, setting up a passing attack heavy in play-action. And Stroud has the accuracy to excel in such an offense. -- Steve Muench

Flaw: We have no idea how he will handle steady pressure. What happens if Stroud doesn't have a superior receiving corps? He escaped pressure well at Ohio State, but does that continue if he's facing far more pressure? And what happens when he's taken out of the most beautifully spaced offense in college football? -- Bill Connelly

Key stat: Had an FBS-high 85 passing touchdowns during his two seasons as the starting quarterback (2021-22). He also had the best Total QBR (90) in the FBS during that timespan.

No. 4: Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Clay's 2023 projections: 258 of 425, 2,769 yards, 15 TDs, 12 INTs; 102 carries, 566 yards, 5 TDs (14 starts)

Intel: Richardson can flick his wrist and drive the ball with ease. He has the size and strength to extend plays. His speed makes him a big-play threat on designed runs and scrambles. His inconsistent game tape raises concerns regarding his footwork as it relates to accuracy. He also lacks touch on some shorter throws and misses too many layups. Given his limited experience, he's still figuring things out in terms of reading coverages and making good decisions. No quarterback in this class has a higher ceiling, however. His potential is tantalizing because of his elite skill set. -- Steve Muench

Fit:Richardson is tailor-made for Shane Steichen's system. He has elite physical traits, unique arm talent and is a competitive runner. He averaged 6.4 yards per rush, which was the best mark among FBS QBs last season. Steichen has previously worked with Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts, and Richardson brings a lot of similar traits to the table for Indy. The Colts will need to be patient with Richardson, but his upside is the best among all of the QBs in this year's class. -- Jordan Reid

Flaw: He might never be accurate enough. The only area where Richardson managed even standard-level completion rates was on quick hitters behind the line of scrimmage. Among the top prospects his footwork was easily the least consistent, and while the team picking him inevitably will employ a quarterbacks coach who has said "Oh, I can fix him for sure" to the general manager, QB coaches are only so effective in that regard. Instincts are difficult to mold. -- Bill Connelly

Key stat: Richardson will come to the NFL having started just 13 games at Florida. The only FBS QB in the last 20 years drafted in the first round with that few starts was Mitchell Trubisky in 2017 (13 career starts at North Carolina).

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