The 2023 NFL Draft is finally here as Round 1 begins tonight, and all 32 teams are looking at another opportunity to add talented players to their team. Of course, different teams have different goals when it comes to the draft, but it's surely more important that some get things right than it is for others, whether due to where they are slated to pick or what their team situation is.
My colleague Jordan Dajani took a look atthat need to get this year's draft right. In the space below, I'll dig into the AFC.
Not only do the Texans own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, they are currently scheduled to make a league-high 12 picks, including two in the top half of the first round, five of the top 73 selections, and Mr. Irrelevant. There's the potential for this to be a franchise-changing class, and the process begins with nailing that No. 2 pick, which it is widely assumed will be used on the team's quarterback of the future. The most likely candidates seem to be Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, but whoever it is will thankfully be dropped into a somewhat friendlier offensive environment than the one Davis Mills operated in the past two seasons, thanks both to Houston's bevy of picks and its offseason signings that focused on solid, dependable veterans who will be in the right place at the right time and raise the floor of the offense. They can use the draft to raise the team's ceiling in the future.
Much like their division rivals, the Colts are widely assumed to be looking for their quarterback of the future in this class. Will they be able to stick at No. 4 to get him, or will they have to give up something of value to the Arizona Cardinals to make sure another team doesn't jump them for the No. 3 overall pick? That's a big tipping point in this year's draft. But the Colts have also underratedly had a bit of a swoon in their player-acquisition choices over the past few years. The roster is not of the same quality as it was a few years ago, when it seemed like this team was just a quarterback away from being a perennial contender. There's a need to restock the cupboard, and that process has to begin with this draft class. (That task is also made more difficult if the Colts do end up having to make the move up from No. 4 on the board to No. 3.)
We're not purposely going with the AFC South theme here, but with the Titans picking just outside the top 10 and seemingly preparing to embark on a full-scale rebuild under a new front office, it seems important that they lay the foundation for that next era with a strong draft class. Tennessee has already undergone a bunch of roster turnover this offseason, and it's entirely possible that by this time next year (if not earlier), both Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill are no longer on the team, either. Will the Titans try to move up and get their quarterback now? Will they try to trade back and accumulate more assets? Could Henry be on the move during the draft? There are a lot of directions this team can go, but whatever they do should be with an eye on contending a few years down the line, which is a big change of pace for a team that has been all-in on win-now mode in recent seasons.
The Brandon Staley era is heading into Year 3. In the first two years, Los Angeles has missed the playoffs on the final day of the season, and then blown a 27-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs. This team has now swapped out its offensive coordinator, and last year it went on a big spending spree to upgrade its defensive personnel. The results have yet to come on defense, and this team needs to be about something other than "Justin Herbert is awesome and we have Austin Ekeler and our coach sometimes goes for it on fourth down." The Chargers desperately need to add some explosiveness in this draft, whether with a perimeter receiver or a tight end, or a complement to Ekeler in the backfield. They also, again, need to fix their run defense, because it was not nearly good enough last season. Picking from the back half of the first round, there's a lot of work to be done here.
The Bills have been one of the best teams in the NFL for a few years now, but have been unable to break through and get to the Super Bowl. Unlike last year, they did not make a massive addition in free agency with an elite player (Von MIller), so they'll have to upgrade their talent base via the draft. Quietly, they could use some more weapons for Josh Allen because when Stefon Diggs didn't have his A-plus game last year, there wasn't much else Buffalo could do to move the ball. The offensive line still needs work, and after Tremaine Edmunds walked in free agency, the second level of the defense could use some help as well. The Bills are still really, really good, but they need an infusion of talent to help reach their ultimate goal.
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