Things are bigger in Texas — including optimism about Houston’s performance in the NFL Draft. Winning two top-three picks has given a boost to Texans fans, who showed the greatest improvement in overall optimism from pre-draft to post-draft in a recent SBR poll.
With the dust settling on the 2023 NFL Draft, fans across the country are now eagerly awaiting September.
But which fanbases have been most inspired by their franchise’s footsteps in this year’s draft? And which fanbases are angry about their future?
Here at SBR, we polled 3,000 fans ahead of the annual event and asked them, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you think your team will draft?”
Now that the draft is in the books, we reached out to those same 3,000 fans to find out how their reaction to the draft differed from their anticipation by asking them, “On a scale of 10, how well did you do team drafted in your opinion?”
A look at the 16 biggest improvements in overall optimism from pre-draft to post-draft.
The Texans are the most pleasantly surprised fanbase
Although Texans fans went into the 2023 draft with ample draft funds, they still weren’t confident. Houston was the fifth most pessimistic fan base in our first draft of the poll — but things have changed dramatically.
The fact that he took out Ohio State QB CJ Stroud in 2nd place and then secured elite pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama in 3rd place sent shockwaves through the Texans fanbase. Their optimism average rose from just a 5.28 before the draft to a whopping 7.44 after the draft — easily the biggest positive difference in the entire survey.
Houston scored an impressive B in ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s post-draft grades, which is sure to add to the excitement of Texans fans.
The Las Vegas Raiders rank second on the Expectation vs. Response side of the poll, up 1.76 points (from 41.2 to 5.88). The Raiders fans were the worst performers on the pre-draft optimism scale, but were at least buoyed by the addition of Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson with the seventh overall pick and Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer standout at number 35.
Widely considered the winners of the 2023 draft, Philadelphia Eagles fans rank third in terms of fan anticipation vs. fan reaction (+1.39), followed by the Washington Commanders (+0.95) and the New York Giants (+0.79).
Eagles fans are the happiest in the league
Super Bowl loss aside, it’s good to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan these days.
The Eagles topped the draft in most expert opinions, and deservedly earned the highest optimism rating of any fan at a whopping 8.04 out of 10. Philadelphia’s impressive 2023 draft haul is underscored by the selection of DE Jalen Carter — whom many analysts have dubbed the top prospect available — with the No. 9 pick.
Meanwhile, Seattle fans resonated incredibly well that he knocked out top defensive back and consensus No. 1 wide receiver in the first 20 picks.
They rank second among the most optimistic fan bases across the league, averaging a 7.67 average rating after beating CB Devon Witherspoon (No. 5) and WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 20) to a strong draft -Lead class.
Capping an impressive burst of optimism in the state of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the third-happiest fan base by draft with an average score of 7.48. The Steelers put on one of the most impressive day two performances of any team with CB Joey Porter Jr. (32nd), DT Keeanu Benton (49th) and TE Darnell Washington (93rd).
A look at the 16 biggest drops in overall optimism from pre-draft to post-draft.
Jaguars drive backwards despite the strong draught
Quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality—at least in the eyes of Jacksonville fans.
Jaguars fans saw the largest drop in their pre-draft and post-draft rating, down 0.57 points, despite general manager Trent Baalke using two first-round tradedowns to bring three picks into the mix.
Jacksonville finished the 2023 draft with an absurd 13 picks and still had a choice in the first round, picking OT Anton Harrison 27th overall and earning a B grade from Kiper. But that wasn’t good enough for the Jags fans, who might be a little spoiled when their team finally has good Super Bowl odds to boast of at most of the top sports betting sites.
One of the biggest negative surprises in the poll was the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions, whose optimism among fans dropped an average of 0.47 points. Chiefs fans have seen their team master the draft over the past few years, but the reigning champion had a somewhat monotonous draft — and that didn’t sit well with fans.
Despite the rise, Denver fans are on the brink
Denver fans’ hopes of this year’s draft were dashed when the Broncos made a mega trade against underperforming quarterback Russell Wilson last season.
That made it unlikely the Broncos could do enough in the draft to garner much favor — so it’s no surprise that Denver fans were the least enthusiastic of all fans, with an average score of 5.34 for the their team’s draft performance.
That put them level with Cleveland Browns fans, who disagree with the pundits about their franchise’s draft and are on course for an identical 5.34 post-draft record.
The Atlanta Falcons were second-worst with an average score of 5.63, a grade no doubt influenced by the decision to pick running back Bijan Robinson eighth overall. Robinson has significant potential, albeit in a position where the Falcons were already deep.
Minnesota Vikings fans are fourth most dissatisfied with a 5.79, despite bringing in vaunted wide receiver Jordian Addison to praise Justin Jefferson on offense.
To round out the five most disaffected fan bases, San Francisco 49ers fans seem to disagree with their franchise’s bizarre decision to use kicker Jake Moody in the third round.
Methodology: We surveyed 3,000 NFL fans in the US and Canada and asked them to rate their optimism rating (out of 10) for their NFL team’s lineup.
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