Grading a Few 2023 Draft Picks Performances this Season

The 2023 NFL Draft brought an influx of exciting new talent into the league. Here's how three big first-round picks and two surprising second-round picks have fared.
CJ Stroud has the Houston Texans on the brink of making the playoffs.
CJ Stroud has the Houston Texans on the brink of making the playoffs.@HoustonTexans on X

The 2023 NFL Draft brought an influx of exciting new talent into the league, and as the season progresses, it’s crucial to evaluate how three big first-round picks and two surprising second-round picks have fared.

Let’s delve into the performances of C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson Jr., Jahmyr Gibbs, Will Levis, and Sam LaPorta, assessing their impact and growth in the professional realm. Their contributions to their respective teams have been pivotal, and here, we break down their journey from draft day to their current status in the NFL.

C.J. Stroud’s Arm Talent and Field Vision

C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick has been elite, as expected, and he has the Texans on the brink of making the playoffs.

Stroud has distinguished himself as a quarterback with remarkable arm talent and field vision. His ability to fit the football into tight windows and execute layered throws is noteworthy. Stroud’s prowess in placing the ball precisely, especially on throws outside the numbers, is evident from his game tapes. He demonstrates a keen sense of timing, quickly releasing the ball when needed, and showing an impressive ability to fire accurate passes down the seam.

Handling Pressure and Intangibles

While Stroud effectively handles pressure, there’s room for him to utilize his mobility more effectively in extending plays. His intangibles, such as remarkable athleticism and the ability to manipulate defenses, set him apart. Stroud’s anticipation skills and field vision are exceptional, making him a special talent among young quarterbacks. The Texans have their franchise quarterback, and he will keep getting better.

2023 Season Stats:

14 games | 63.2 pct | 3,844 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 21 pass TD | 5 INT | 147 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Grade: A

Will Anderson Jr.’s Defensive Impact and Skills

Will Anderson Jr., the third overall pick, is a force on defense, known for his quick first step and powerful hands. His ability to overpower blockers and his versatility in pass-rushing are notable. Anderson’s skills in setting a hard edge, locating the ball, and quickly disengaging to defend the run showcase his range and relentless pursuit.

Contribution to Houston’s Defense

In Houston, Anderson’s presence has been a game-changer, providing the secondary with more time to operate effectively. His role as a tempo and culture setter on defense has been instrumental in shaping the team’s defensive identity. The Texans made another home run pick with Anderson, and he will be an anchor of their defense for years to come.

14 games | 44 total tackles | 29 solo tackles | 15 assists tackles | 7 sacks 

Grade: A

Jahmyr Gibbs’ Dynamic Playmaking Ability

Jahmyr Gibbs brings speed to the Detroit Lions rushing attack.
Jahmyr Gibbs brings speed to the Detroit Lions rushing attack.@Lions on X

Jahmyr Gibbs, who was selected with the 12th pick in the NFL Draft by the Lions, stands out as a dynamic playmaker with his ability to evade defenders in tight spaces and his impressive acceleration. While he may not be the most overpowering runner, his balance and ability to absorb contact are commendable. His skills as a pass-catcher are evident, with a knack for adjusting to off-target throws and creating plays after the catch.

Role in the Lions’ Offense

In the Lions’ offense, Gibbs’ role is reminiscent of D’Andre Swift, bringing a burst of speed to the backfield. He has quickly become a focal point in the game plan, offering versatility as both a runner and receiver. His partnership with Amon-Ra St. Brown has kept defenses on edge, highlighting his impact on the team’s offensive strategy. Gibbs will likely have more carries next season while helping the Lions make another playoff run.

14 games | 169 carries | 915 rushing yds | 5.4 ypc | 9 rush TD |  52 rec | 1 rec TD

Grade: B+

Will Levis’ Versatility and Potential

Will Levis, the second pick in the second-round (33rd overall), has demonstrated versatility as a quarterback, capable of making off-balance throws and delivering deep balls with precision. His experience in pro-style systems has honed his ability to progress through reads. Levis’ combination of vision, power, and speed presents him as a quarterback with significant potential.

Impact as a Starter and Development

With another start, Levis, a former Kentucky star, would become the third rookie quarterback in franchise history to start at least 10 games. Vince Young started 13 games in 2006 and Marcus Mariota had 12 in 2015.

His early performances in the NFL have showcased his strong arm and athleticism. However, there is a need for him to develop in areas such as full-field reads and consistency in shorter throws, as well as in protecting himself and the football. Levis has proven he can take over under center for the foreseeable future. It will be up to the Titans to get him more help.

Kentucky Sportsbooks saw a lot of action after Will Levis was promoted to the starting role, indicating his growing prominence and potential impact in the league.

2023 Season Stats:

9 games | 58.4 pct | 1,808 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 8 pass TD | 4 INT | 57 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Grade: B+

Sam LaPorta’s Receiving Skills and Route Running

Sam LaPorta has been an impact tight end for the Lions.
Sam LaPorta has been an impact tight end for the Lions.@LionsPR on X

Sam LaPorta, a second-round pick like Levis, (third pick of the second round, 34th overall) deserves a special mention here. LaPorta’s skills as a tight end are evident in his crisp route running, ability to create separation, and focus in traffic. His performance as Iowa’s leading receiver in his last two seasons highlights his talent in securing difficult catches and performing under pressure. His route running and short-area quickness are particularly impressive.

Role in the Lions’ Offense

Selected by the Lions to replace T.J. Hockenson, LaPorta has slotted in seamlessly as a starter. His ability to make plays after the catch and his potential as a three-down tight end speak to his significant upside. LaPorta’s contributions have added a new dimension to the Lions’ offense, enhancing their passing game. Look for LaPorta to play even better next season.

16 games | 81 receptions | 860 yards | 10.6 yards per catch |  9 receiving TD |

Grade: B+

These 2023 NFL Draft picks have made significant strides in their debut season. Each player, from C.J. Stroud’s exceptional arm talent to Sam LaPorta’s impactful route running, has brought unique strengths to their respective teams. Their ability to adapt and excel at the professional level speaks volumes about their potential and sets an exciting tone for their future contributions. These players validated their selection, and all have a bright career in the league ahead of themselves.

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