It is officially draft week! There are rumors flying everywhere and no one knows what to believe. It is a wild, chaotic and exciting time of year.
Each year, I put together a predictive mock draft, outlining what I believe will happen on draft day. This is very different from what I would do if I were picking for these teams. Some of this is based on what I have read from league insiders and team reporters and some of it is my own prediction based on where it seems like players are ranked and how teams typically value certain positions.
I also decided to project a couple of trades.
Las Vegas trades 1.7, 4.144 and a 2024 1st to Arizona for 1.3
Seahawks trades 1.20, 3.83 to Washington for 1.16, 6.193
Reminder, the first round is only 31 picks this year because the Dolphins were penalized their first-round selection for tampering. With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock!
1. Carolina Panthers via Chicago Bears – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This one feels like a foregone conclusion. Young is listed at -1000 or shorter odds at pretty much every sportsbook in the country. He also canceled his final few private workouts and visits. I think Frank Reich and Scott Fitterer will feel good about turning in the card.
2. Houston Texans – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Well if Bryce Young feels like an obvious choice, then the Texans’ pick is the exact opposite. At this point, we have seen four different players favored to go at the No. 2 spot. In the end, I think Houston recognizes this is a multi-year rebuild. Will Anderson is the best player available and will give new head coach DeMeco Ryans a major building block on defense.
3. Las Vegas Raiders via Arizona Cardinals – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
If Houston does go with anything other than quarterback, the phone lines will light up for the Cardinals. I think trading down with the Raiders is a great situation that allows Arizona to stay in the top 10 while picking up meaningful draft capital to rebuild. For Las Vegas, Stroud gives the team a long-term answer at quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo is an injury-prone stopgap, but he would allow Stroud to start when he is ready.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The rumor mill continues to point to the Colts loving Levis. With Young and Stroud off the board, I think Shane Steichen and Chris Ballard are in love with Levis’ arm strength and mobility. This is not the move I would make, but I am buying the buzz around this fit.
5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Despite the off-the-field concerns with Carter stemming from his arrest in March, I still expect him to be selected high in the 2023 draft. Seattle has a massive need at defensive tackle. If there is a team that I’m not worried about handling a player with some red flags, it would be the Seahawks with Pete Carroll at the helm.
6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Devon Weatherspoon, CB, Illinois
Another popular pick in most mock drafts, the Lions are in the midst of a massive overhaul of their secondary. Detroit signed a pair of veterans and traded away 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah. I think Weatherspoon would complete the make over. He is disciplined, dynamic and reliable, all things Dan Campbell will love right away.
7. Arizona Cardinals via Las Vegas Raiders – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
This is a nice scenario for the Cardinals. Moving down and adding additional draft capital while still landing one of the top edge rushers in the class feels like a big win. Wilson could end up going much higher than this, but it would not shock me to see him “slide” to the back half of the top 10. He has a lot of fans in NFL front offices.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
The Falcons should not look too far for this one. Smith missed the end of the 2022 season with a torn pectoral muscle, but dominated the combine. Atlanta desperately needs pass rushing help. He is a toolsy player with a ton of upside and I think Terry Fontenot will take the local product in hopes of developing him into a star.
9. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers – Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Chicago could go a number of directions, but I think the offensive line is going to be the priority. Skoronski has position flexibility and is well-regarded in NFL circles. I don’t think Ryan Poles will be deterred by his shorter-than-average arms.
10. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Eagles are tough to pin down. I would not rule out Howie Roseman building in the trenches, but I think he understands that he is going to need to plan for the future at cornerback. Gonzalez is a talented cover man who needs to get a bit stronger, but much like Philly did with Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean a year ago, it could take Gonzalez a year before needing him to start.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Could a team trade up for Richardson? Absolutely, but I think there are plenty of question marks around the former Florida star. He is the most dynamic quarterback prospect since Lamar Jackson, but he is inexperienced and unpolished. Given the outlook for Ryan Tannehill past this season, I think the Titans will view this as a great opportunity to get their quarterback of the future. He could sit for a year, before taking over in 2024.
12. Houston Texans via Cleveland – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Texans could take Hendon Hooker here, but I think the front office realizes it needs someone capable of catching the ball. After trading away Brandin Cooks, there is very little proven pass-catching talent on the Texans roster. Smith-Njigba is coming off an injury-riddled season, but was arguably the best receiver on the 2021 Ohio State offense that featured Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. He would give the Texans a No. 1 target for whoever they eventually tab as their franchise quarterback.
13. New York Jets – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Assuming the Jets eventually end up with Aaron Rodgers, New York needs to protect him. As of now, left tackle is a huge question mark. It feels like a safe bet that the Jets will take the best offensive tackle on the board. In this case, it would be Johnson, who spent the year starting at left tackle after playing right guard in 2021.
14. New England Patriots – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Bill Belichick is never an easy general manager to pin down. The Patriots could go corner, wide receiver or offensive tackle. I think Jones will be the pick given how the board has fallen so far. Trent Brown is in the final year of his contract, so Jones could be the 2024 starter at left tackle and potentially compete for the starting right tackle spot in 2023.
15. Green Bay Packers – Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
At long last, the Packers could draft a pass-catcher. Kincaid has shot up draft boards over the past few months. He is a polished prospect who can contribute from Day 1. With Robert Tonyan gone and Mercedes Lewis out of a contract, this would fill a huge need for Green Bay.
16. Seattle Seahawks via Washington Commanders – Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Seattle has a ton of draft capital from the Russell Wilson trade. I think they could cash in a couple of chips to move up for a player they really like. Rumor is that the Commanders are taking calls for the 16th pick. Feels like a good match. In this case, the Seahawks can leapfrog the Lions and Buccaneers to grab Van Ness. He is a bit unrefined, never starting for Iowa because Kirk Ferentz always starts seniors, but he is an athletic, ascending talent.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
ESPN Steelers Reporter Brooke Pryor recently said Porter reminds her of Najee Harris in 2021. Everyone knew Pittsburgh wanted Harris and he fell right into their laps. Porter could be in the same position. He is a long-arm corner who would fill a big need for the Steelers after losing Cameron Sutton.
18. Detroit Lions – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
I fully expect the Lions to double dip on defense in the first round. Murphy is an athletic edge rusher who could rotate into Detroit’s pass rushing sets. Adding him to a group that already includes Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston would be a dream scenario for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Donovan Smith retired and now Tristan Wirfs is sliding over to left tackle, which means the Buccaneers have a clear need at right tackle. The buzz is that Wright has a ton of fans around the league and should go in the top 25. He could compete with Matt Feiler, who signed with Tampa in free agency, for the starting right tackle job from Day 1.
20. Washington Commanders via Seattle Seahawks – Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
The Commanders have repeatedly said they feel comfortable with Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett. I’m not so sure I believe that. Especially if Hooker is on the board at this point. Trading down and landing Hooker would be a huge win for Washington. He won’t be ready to start right away as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL, but he could be the long-term answer at the position.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Someone has to stop the slide for Robinson. With Austin Ekeler likely on the move, Los Angeles will need a new starting option in the backfield. Robinson would take a ton of pressure off Justin Herbert while giving him another pass-catching option. He would also be much cheaper than paying Ekeler long term.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Ravens are more than comfortable spending premium draft picks at cornerback. Banks has drawn comparisons to long-time Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey. In this scenario, Banks would start opposite Humphrey, giving Baltimore an exciting, young tandem on the outside.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Yes, the Vikings could draft another corner. Despite investing a ton of draft picks at the position in recent years, Minnesota is still unsettled at cornerback. Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler both departed during the offseason. Forbes is a bit undersized, he weighed in at 166 pounds at the combine, but he is a playmaker. He had six defensive touchdowns and 14 interceptions in college career.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
With the top five corners off the board, Jacksonville will have to pivot. Evan Engram is back again, but he is on the franchise tag. There is also not much behind him that inspires confidence. Michael Mayer is a well-rounded prospect with good production. He and Engram would be an exciting tandem this season while providing Jacksonville with a long-term option if Engram is gone in 2024.
25. New York Giants – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Offensive playmakers have been the focus this offseason for the Giants. Adding Darren Waller was a good start. Drafting Flowers would go a long way as well. He is a bit undersized at 5’9″, 182 pounds, but he has good hands and a ton of collegiate production. I fully expect New York to go receiver in this spot, especially with so many cornerbacks already off the board.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Steve Avila, G, TCU
This is a move I have been hearing more and more in recent days. Avila is a battle-tested guard who has gone up against good competition. He more than held his own against Georgia in the national championship game. Connor McGovern signed with Buffalo this offseason. Adding Avila would allow Tyler Smith to play right tackle or even left tackle if Tyron Smith deals with any more injuries.
27. Buffalo Bills – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The Bills are going to load up for another deep playoff run. Gabe Davis will be in a contract year in 2023 as well. Bringing in Addison would give Buffalo an elite slot receiver with the ability to play on the outside as well. Josh Allen would be out of excuses with that trio to throw to.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Brian Branch, S, Alabama
This is a good meeting of need and value for Cincinnati. Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates both departed in free agency this offseason. Daxton Hill can hold down one spot, but another safety is needed. Branch did not have a great combine, but he has some quality tape and offers nice versatility.
29. New Orleans Saints via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos – Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
The Saints tend to have a slightly different draft board than most others. They also value pass rushers in a big way. I could see Mickey Loomis falling in love with Hall, who had 15.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Auburn. With Marcus Davenport leaving in free agency, this is where I see the Saints going.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
The Eagles love to build in the trenches. Even after selecting Jordan Davis last year, Kancey could be a good fit. Fletcher Cox signed a one-year deal to return to the team and Javon Hargrave left for San Francisco. Kancey is a bit undersized, but he brings a ton of pass-rush ability to the table. Philly has valued interior pass rush in the past. I could see them prioritizing that once again.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The Chiefs showed last year that they were more than capable of replacing Tyreek Hill’s production. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster played a large role in that and he is now in New England. Once again Kansas City needs more options for Patrick Mahomes. Landing Johnston would be a huge help. He is a big-body target with good open-field speed. He would add another element to this Chiefs offense.
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