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No matter how many stars a team lands in free agency or via a big trade, NFL front offices will tell you the biggest part of roster construction happens over the three days of the draft.
The draft can be hard to navigate, even for veteran general managers. Player evaluation is hard. You can spend a long time falling in love with a college prospect and then get that player taken right before you go on the clock. Teams need to weigh whether to take the best player on the board vs. filling a need, and also figuring out whether to go all-in now with trades or pick up assets for the future. You can also make what you think is the perfect pick and it busts for reasons totally out of a team's control.
Through it all, some teams navigated the challenges of the draft in impressive ways. Here are the top five power moves from the first two days of the NFL Draft:
Titans move up to get Will Levis
The Tennessee Titans had a need at quarterback and didn't want to see Will Levis go before they picked. The Titans moved up eight spots to No. 33, giving up a third-round pick in 2024, to take Levis. Levis had a fall out of the first round that we'll remember for a long time, but he ended up in a good spot. The Titans need a quarterback of the future with Ryan Tannehill aging. Tennessee obviously coveted him to move up and draft him. And Levis can hit free agency early; he doesn't have the fifth-year option on his contract like first-round picks do.
It was a strong play from the Titans to get a quarterback they needed. Levis had a rough fall in the draft, but he has a good chance to establish himself as a top starter in the NFL with a team that needs new blood at the position.
Seahawks have a strong draft
The Seahawks had a lot of extra picks from the Russell Wilson trade and they improved the roster. In the first round they got Illinois Devon Witherspoon, the top cornerback in the draft, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the top receiver in the draft. They took Witherspoon at No. 5 and were fortunate when Smith-Njigba fell to them at No. 20. Witherspoon gives the Seahawks depth at cornerback and the Seahawks' receivers are dangerous between DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Smith-Njigba.
The Seahawks got some sideways looks for using a second-round pick on running back Zach Charbonnet when they already have Kenneth Walker III, but Charbonnet is a good back and the Seahawks love to stockpile running backs. Besides, they had all those extra picks.
Arizona Cardinals stockpile picks
Think about the Cardinals' draft this way: They got a player they needed and coveted, and in the process added what could be a top-five pick in the 2024 draft. Not bad. The Cardinals traded out of the third pick, getting an absolute haul from the Houston Texans that included the Texans' 2024 first-round pick. The Texans are projected to be among the NFL's worst teams again this season; that pick is valuable. The Cardinals moved all the way down to No. 12 in that trade they couldn't pass up, but still wanted Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. So they traded back up to No. 6, moving ahead of some teams that were also looking at offensive tackles, and took Johnson.
The Cardinals continued to obtain more picks on Friday. They got an extra third-round pick in 2024 from a trade with the Tennessee Titans. The Cardinals moved up from 81st to 72nd in the third round, got the third-rounder next year and moved back eight spots from No. 33 to 41 in the trade. That's a how a rebuilding team should work a draft.
Tight ends take over 2nd round
Overall this draft class wasn't considered a strong one. But the tight end class was deep.
We didn't see much tight end action in the first round, when only one was taken. That was Utah's Dalton Kincaid, who went to the Buffalo Bills. But talented tight ends were the story of the second round.
Five tight ends went in the second round: Iowa's Sam LaPorta to the Detroit Lions (34th overall), Notre Dame's Michael Mayer to the Las Vegas Raiders (35th), Oregon State's Luke Musgrave to the Green Bay Packers (42nd), Michigan's Luke Schoonmaker to the Dallas Cowboys (58th) and Penn State's Brenton Strange to the Jacksonville Jaguars (61st).
That didn't count Georgia's Darnell Washington, a huge and athletic player who was considered one of the top tight ends in the class.
Lions make moves, add talent including QB Hendon Hooker
The Lions made some debatable picks. But you can't blame Detroit for not being active.
Starting when they traded the No. 6 overall pick, the Lions were moving. Detroit started the draft with extra picks from the Matthew Stafford trade and moved around often. They moved down in the first round and ended up with running back Jahmyr Gibbs and linebacker Jack Campbell. There's a debate to be had about taking two first-round players at devalued positions, but they'll help.
The Lions used an extra pick from trading the No. 6 pick to the Cardinals to take tight end Sam LaPorta. They moved up to take Alabama defensive back Brian Branch, a productive and versatile player. They made two more day two trades and one of the more interesting picks of the third round, taking Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker in the third round. That wasn't much to pay for an intriguing talent who can sit behind Jared Goff.