The 2023 NFL Draft was full of surprises and drama, as teams made bold moves to secure their future stars. However, not every pick was a slam dunk, and some teams may have reached too far for players who did not fit their needs or value.
Here are two of the biggest reaches in Round 1, according to my own Big Board and analysis.
Bijan Robinson, Rb, Texas – Atlanta Falcons (No. 8 Overall)
Don’t get me wrong, Robinson is a phenomenal talent who can do it all as a running back. He has a rare combination of power, agility, vision and receiving skills that make him a nightmare for defenses.
He was the best running back in college football last season, rushing for 1,811 yards and 21 touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry.
But this pick was not about Robinson as a player. It was about the Falcons as a team. Atlanta is clearly in rebuild mode after trading away Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the offseason.
They have a new head coach in Arthur Smith who wants to establish a run-heavy offense. They also have a young running back in Tyler Allgeier who they drafted in the fifth round last year and who performed well as a rookie, rushing for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry.
So why did the Falcons spend a top-10 pick on another running back when they had other pressing needs on both sides of the ball? They could have used this pick to address their secondary, which ranked 31st in pass defense last year, or their pass rush, which ranked 29th in sacks.
They could have also traded down and acquired more picks to help their rebuild.
Instead, they chose to draft a luxury player who plays a devalued position in today’s NFL. Robinson will undoubtedly produce some highlight-reel plays for the Falcons, but he won’t make them a contender anytime soon.
And with such a deep running back class this year, they could have found a similar player later in the draft.
Will Mcdonald, Edge, Iowa State – New York Jets (No. 17 Overall)
The Jets had two first-round picks this year thanks to the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle. They used their first one wisely, selecting quarterback Will Levis from Kentucky to be their franchise signal-caller.
However, they used their second one questionably, picking edge rusher Will McDonald from Iowa State.
McDonald is an explosive athlete who led the nation with 14 sacks last year. He has a quick first step, a high motor and a variety of moves to beat blockers.
He also has good size at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds.
However, McDonald is not without flaws. He is still raw as a pass rusher and needs to refine his technique and hand usage. He also struggles against the run and can be overpowered by bigger linemen.
He is more of a situational player than an every-down defender at this point.
The Jets already have a solid edge rusher in Carl Lawson who they signed in free agency. They also have other young players like Bryce Huff and Jabari Zuniga who can contribute as rotational pieces.
They did not need to draft another edge rusher so high when they had bigger needs elsewhere.
The Jets could have used this pick to bolster their offensive line, which ranked 29th in pass protection last year and needs to protect their new quarterback.
They could have also added a weapon for Levis at receiver or tight end, or improved their linebacker corps or secondary.
Instead, they chose to draft a player who may not make an immediate impact and who plays a position that was not a priority for them. McDonald has potential, but he may not live up to his draft status.
Final Thoughts: Analyzing the Biggest Reaches of the 2023 Nfl Draft
The NFL Draft is always full of surprises, and the 2023 edition was no exception. Teams made bold moves to secure their future stars, but some selections left analysts scratching their heads.
In particular, the Atlanta Falcons’ selection of Bijan Robinson and the New York Jets’ pick of Will McDonald were two of the biggest reaches in Round 1.
The Falcons’ decision to draft Robinson at No. 8 overall was questionable, given that they already had a promising young running back in Tyler Allgeier and had more pressing needs on both sides of the ball.
Robinson is a talented player, but running back is a devalued position in today’s NFL, and the Falcons could have found a similar player later in the draft.
Meanwhile, the Jets’ choice of McDonald at No. 17 overall was also puzzling, given that they already had a solid edge rusher in Carl Lawson and other young players who can contribute as rotational pieces.
McDonald has potential, but he may not make an immediate impact and plays a position that was not a priority for the team.
Both selections show the dangers of reaching for players based on their potential rather than their fit and value. While Robinson and McDonald have talent, their selections may not address their respective teams’ most pressing needs.
The Falcons and Jets may have been better off using their picks to address other areas of their roster or trading down to acquire more assets.
Overall, the 2023 NFL Draft was full of surprises and drama, and only time will tell how these selections will pan out. But the Falcons and Jets may have some explaining to do if these players don’t live up to their draft status.