The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft was expected to bring a bevy of shocking, unexpected results. With as many as five quarterbacks in consideration to be taken in the top 31 picks and the class being considered down overall, teams didn’t hesitate to make aggressive moves to land who they wanted. We saw four trades in the top 20 picks alone.
Some highly touted players who were projected to be top-10 locks fell deep into the first round. There are still a number of notable stars available as we head into Day 2 on Friday. Let’s dive into our biggest Round 1 steals and snubs.
Biggest Round 1 Steals and Snubs in the 2023 NFL Draft
Some of the biggest steals and snubs from the first round either heard their names called much later than expected or didn’t hear it called at all. These six players will have extra motivation to prove to teams they made a mistake by passing on them when they hit the field this fall.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Seeing Will Levis surge as a betting favorite to be the No. 2 overall pick leading up to the event was shocking, but I’m just as surprised to see Levis fall out of Round 1. The public seemed much lower on Levis than NFL teams, who the Colts reportedly “loved” and the Titans were intrigued by. But even then, PFN Mock Draft Simulator users were still drafting Levis no lower than 16th overall since mid-September, on average.
Levis’ 2022 tape was concerning, and he also dealt with injuries. A muscled-up passer who struggled with accuracy and decision-making, he struck me quite similarly to Brady Quinn as a prospect. It’s easy to see the athleticism, big arm, and the flashes are tempting, but it’s possible he never overcomes his deficiencies in the NFL.
It’s notable that Levis wasn’t picked in the first round. The recent track record for second-round quarterbacks is awful, with Jalen Hurts proving to be the last competent selection since Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were taken there in 2014. Teams aren’t bound to second-round picks as much as first-rounders, meaning that Levis will have a shorter leash to prove himself.
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Buffalo Bills
NFL Network’s Peter Schrager called his shot when he said Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid would go between the 10th and 25th overall picks. It barely happened, as the Buffalo Bills leapfrogged the Dallas Cowboys from the 27th pick to 25th, but Kincaid will be catching passes from Josh Allen for the foreseeable future.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Grades
Kincaid is the best pure receiving tight end in the draft and it’s surprising he fell so far. He was cleared from a back injury that could’ve caused him to fall much farther. But considering the expectation for this draft to produce as many as four first-round tight ends, Buffalo couldn’t have known he’d be available when their pick got close.
Christian Gonzalez, CB, New England Patriots
PFN Mock Draft Simulator users and mock draft experts around the NFL world whiffed badly on how the NFL valued Christian Gonzalez. He was certainly a steal for the New England Patriots considering that the public, on average, was drafted eighth overall in recent weeks. New England was able to trade down to the 17th overall pick and grab him.
Gonzalez heard his name called 12 picks after the first cornerback, Devon Witherspoon, came off the board. This was a shocking revelation as the NFL has historically leaned toward bigger, faster athletes who have more physical upside. The Seahawks made waves by taking Witherspoon fifth overall and New England wisely capitalized on the opportunity to get a bigger-bodied defender.
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals
The biggest faller in terms of their value on the PFN Big Board was Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy. Despite being ranked No. 9 after showing tremendous athleticism, valuable versatility, and gaining experience on a talented unit throughout his career, Murphy went far lower than we expected. He was the only top-10 player on our board to still be available in the 20s.
Despite the NFL’s neverending need to add more pass-rush help, Murphy was passed on by Detroit, Tennessee, Chicago, New York Jets, and Seattle. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah lauded Murphy for his ability to “start right away” and contribute, making him look like a major steal.
The Bengals ended up taking Murphy with the 28th overall pick. With Trey Hendrickson needing help chase down Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Murphy could prove to be a highly competent player in 2023 in rotation with Sam Hubbard.
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia, Philadelphia Eagles
Another edge defender who was being linked more to top-10 teams than the late first-round mix was Georgia’s Nolan Smith. The lanky pass rusher who produced 12.5 sacks over the course of his career checked all of the athletic boxes at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle in late October and missed the rest of the Bulldogs’ National Championship run.
Despite the injury and lack of upper-tier production, there’s no denying Smith looked the part on film. A speedy presence who figures to earn a role as a rotational player on Day 1 as he adds more bulk to his frame, Smith has considerable upside. However, his slide may show that teams feel he’s more of a scheme fit than a universal star, much like Azeez Ojulari was a few years ago.
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The NFL is finicky when it comes to cornerbacks. Joey Porter Jr. checks most boxes for being a lockdown, cover cornerback. In terms of film, there’s not one I’d rather have on my team, even if he’s not a ballhawk or someone who can run with the fastest receivers in the NFL consistently.
The 6’2 ½”, 193-pounder is physical, fast, and long, boasting a wingspan in the 97th percentile of all cornerbacks ever measured at the combine. Despite this, Porter watched Witherspoon, Gonzalez, Emmanuel Forbes, and Deonte Banks go in front of him. The son of Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, Porter plays with a special polish that legacy players seem more likely to have.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.