The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft presented new opportunities for 31 of college football’s best prospects, but it also had consequences for several NFL veterans. Some established players could lose their starting jobs as a result of selections made on Thursday night, while others might be traded or released.
Which NFL Veterans Will Be Most Affected by the 2023 NFL Draft?
Seattle Seahawks | CB Mike Jackson
While the Seahawks were thought to be open to the idea of adding a quarterback with the fifth overall pick, they instead opted for one of the draft’s best defensive players in cornerback Devon Witherspoon. The feisty Illinois product should immediately step into the starting lineup opposite Tariq Woolen, Seattle’s fifth-round choice a year ago who led the NFL in interceptions in his rookie campaign.
Witherspoon’s addition should push Mike Jackson into a depth role in Seattle. A fifth-rounder in 2019, Jackson bounced around the league before landing a futures contract with the Seahawks last January. He offered acceptable play on more than 1,100 snaps in his first season as a full-time starter, but Seattle obviously felt an upgrade was in order.
Jackson is only 26 years old and is still an exclusive rights free agent. He won’t reach restricted free agency until 2024 or unrestricted free agency until 2025. While the Seahawks could theoretically explore trading him, Jackson makes far more sense as an overqualified CB4.
Arizona Cardinals | G Josh Jones
The Cardinals were active on Thursday night, first trading down from No. 3 to No. 12, then moving back up to No. 6 before selecting Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. All told, Arizona turned the No. 3, No. 34, and No. 105 picks into Johnson, the No. 33 pick, and first- and third-round choices in 2024.
Johnson was considered the best offensive lineman in this year’s class, but there’s at least some question about where he’ll initially line up with the Cardinals. After handling both tackle and guard in college, Johnson said he “can play anywhere” at the NFL level.
Because Arizona already has D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum at tackle, I’d expect Johnson to usurp Josh Jones at left guard to start his pro career. However, Johnson could take over for Beachum at right tackle as soon as next season, while he’s the clear long-term replacement for Humphries on the left side.
Las Vegas Raiders | EDGE Chandler Jones
The Raiders made perhaps the biggest mistake of the 2022 free agent period when they signed edge rusher Chandler Jones to a three-year pact worth $51 million. Jones, 33, posted just 4.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hits in his first season in Las Vegas and already looks like a massive free agent whiff.
Jones’ contract will keep him with the Raiders in 2023, but Vegas can cut him next offseason and save $12.2 million against the salary cap. After selecting Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson with the No. 7 pick, the Raiders have a viable successor for Jones. Wilson, who was reportedly in consideration to go as high as second overall, should form a dominant pass-rushing duo with Maxx Crosby and will begin to steal snaps from Jones as early as this year.
Atlanta Falcons | RB Tyler Allgeier
Tyler Allgeier was a late-round success story for the Falcons in 2022, posting 1,035 rushing yards behind an excellent Atlanta offensive line in his first NFL go-round. But the Falcons, who featured one of the league’s run-heaviest offenses last year, wanted to inject even more juice into their backfield.
Bijan Robinson, whom Atlanta picked eighth overall, is a much more dynamic player than Allgeier, especially in the passing game. There’s a chance the Falcons could use Robinson and Allgeier on the field together, especially if Robinson is comfortable working in the slot or out wide. But as Robinson emerges as a three-down back, it might be easy for Atlanta to leave Allgeier on the bench.
Detroit Lions | RB D’Andre Swift
After the Lions surprisingly used the 12th selection on Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, they’ve already received calls on fellow RB D’Andre Swift, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, who adds Swift “appears poised to leave Detroit.”
Swift appeared to have fallen out of favor in the Motor City even before Gibbs joined the roster. The Lions signed former Bears running back David Montgomery to a three-year, $16 million contract this offseason, and head coach Dan Campbell suggested at the Combine that Detroit would work to limit Swift’s touches moving forward.
Pittsburgh Steelers | OT Dan Moore Jr.
The Steelers knew they had to get ahead of the Jets if they wanted to land an offensive tackle prospect, so they sent a fourth-rounder to trade spots with the Patriots at No. 14. Georgia OT Broderick Jones looks like an immediate starter for Pittsburgh, meaning one of the club’s starting tackles is headed to the bench.
While Jones could theoretically replace right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, I think it’s more likely that he’ll take over for Dan Moore Jr. on Kenny Pickett’s blindside. Moore, who was admittedly offering more consistent play by the end of last season, could be primed to compete with Okorafor for the Steelers’ starting right tackle job.
New York Jets | EDGE Carl Lawson
The Jets have used first-round picks on edge rushers in each of the last two drafts: Jermaine Johnson II in 2022 (No. 26), and Will McDonald IV in 2023 (No. 15). Could that signal the end of Carl Lawson’s tenure in New York?
Lawson, who missed the 2021 campaign after rupturing his Achilles, returned last season to post 5.5 sacks in 17 games. But the Jets have an out built into his contract and could clear $15.4 million by releasing him.
New York likes to deploy waves of pass rushers, and head coach Robert Saleh said in March that Lawson will be a Jet for “as long as he can walk and play.” Still, it’s possible that the addition of McDonald will change the club’s plans.
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