The first round of the NFL Draft concluded on Thursday night. Thirty-one players from the Power 5 conferences were drafted. The Southeastern Conference had a strong night. Five of the ten Top 10 picks were first-round talents and nine players overall had their names called. Five schools from the SEC had players drafted in the first round. Georgia and Alabama led the way with three first-round draft picks each. Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi State each had one player drafted. Before we look at the biggest SEC NFL Draft First Round storylines here are the 2023 SEC first-round selections.
|1 Carolina Panthers||Bryce Young||Alabama|
|3 Houston Texans||Will Anderson Jr.||Alabama|
|4 Indianapolis Colts||Anthony Richardson||Florida|
|9 Philadephia Eagles||Jalen Carter||Georgia|
|10 Chicago Bears||Darnell Wright||Tennessee|
|12 Detroit Lions||Jahmyr Gibbs||Alabama|
|14 Pittsburgh Steelers||Broderick Jones||Georgia|
|16 Washington Commanders||Emmanuel Forbes||
|30 Philadephia Eagles||Nolan Smith||Georgia|
Young Goes #1 Overall
Alabama garnered top attention by securing two of the top three picks in the draft. Young went #1 overall to the Carolina Panthers and Anderson Jr. went #3 to the Houston Texans. Young is arguably the top quarterback in the 2023 draft. He has a strong arm and showcased his ability to make all the necessary throws while leading the Crimson Tide. In his two years as a starter, Young finished second in school history for passing yards and touchdowns. His 2021 campaign rewrote the Alabama record books for those two categories. While he measured up on the field, some questioned his actual measurables. Young measured in at the combine at 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches and 204 pounds.
Young brushed off the comments at the combine and decided to focus on what he could control at the combine, himself. “I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,” he said with a laugh at the combine. “I know who I am; I know what I can do. Everyone can speculate and ask whatever question is necessary.” He said. “But I’m going to control what I can control and keep working my hardest to put myself in the best position. I’m confident in myself, I know what I can do, and I’m just excited to get to the next level.” Carolina has had previous success with undersized players in the past: Sam Mills and Steve Smith, Sr. had pretty nice careers despite being ‘undersized.’
Anderson and Gibbs Keep the Tide Rolling
The flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia is two hours and 10 minutes. The path from Athens to the Philadelphia Eagles seems much more direct. The Eagles drafted two more Georgia Bulldogs in the first round on Thursday night. Carter went 9th overall and Smith went 30th overall. They join former Georgia teammates Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis who were drafted in 2022. Carter was projected as a Top-5 pick, but his stock fell after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection to a fatal car crash of a teammate and Georgia staffer on the first day of the combine. Smith played in eight games and had 18 tackles and three sacks. He suffered a season-ending torn-pectoral muscle last year.
Philadelphia wasn’t the only Pennsylvania team to take a Bulldog. The Steelers selected Jones with the 14th pick overall. Jones was considered to be one of the top offensive linemen available in the 2023 draft. Jones started every game in 2022 for the Bulldogs and was an Associated Press All-SEC first-team selection.
It Just Means More?
The Southeastern Conference did not have the most players drafted in the First Round in 2023. The Big Ten tied the SEC with nine players being drafted. For comparison, the SEC had 12 players drafted in 2021 and 2022 and the Big Ten had seven. The two conferences continue to distance themselves from the rest of college football in terms of media rights deals and sending players to the NFL. The Big 12 continued to make noise in the draft. They had twice as many first-round picks as the Pac-12 and two more than the ACC. Here is the breakdown of players drafted by the Conference in 2023.
|Conference||First Round Picks||Top Teams|
|Souteastern Conference||9||Georgia, Alabama (3)|
|Big Ten||9||Ohio State (3)|
|Big 12||6||Texas Tech, Texas, Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State (1)|
|Pac 12||3||Oregon, USC, Utah (1)|
Three Players SEC Players to Watch on Day Two
Will Levis (Kentucky)
There was plenty of hype surrounding Levis heading into Thursday night. While it may have been disappointing to have the cameras and social media commenting on not being selected in the First Round, it may turn out to be a blessing. Levis has all the tools and intangibles to have the makeup to be a top quarterback. Going later takes away the pressure to start right away and will allow him to continue to develop.
Darnell Washington (Georgia)
Washington has the tools for a team looking for a tight end. He is a devastating blocker with his hand on the ground and is a matchup nightmare in coverage. During his three years at Georgia, Washington had 45 receptions for 774 yards and three touchdowns.
Kelee Ringo (Georgia)
Ringo put the 2nd and 26 Alabama jokes to bed in last year’s national championship game. Ringo was Georgia’s top corner and consistently shut down the other team’s top wide receiver. The Eagles have the 62nd and 66th picks tonight, just saying.
Photo courtesy: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports