2023 NFL Mini Mock Draft: Bears trade down from No. 1

It has been a long time since I have done a mock draft. With the first 18 picks of the draft officially set, I figured this would be a perfect time to dive back in. I will go through and project all 31 first-round selections soon, (remember the Dolphins forfeited their first round pick for tampering), but I wanted to run through all the picks we already know first. Let’s kick this off with a big trade.

Indianapolis trades 1.4, 2.36, 2024 1st to Chicago for 1.1, 4.103

It seems like a lot, but that’s the price you have to pay to land a franchise quarterback. It’s the only deal I’ve made in this mini mock, so let’s see how the first 18 picks could turn out.

1. Indianapolis Colts via Chicago Bears (3-14) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Bears earning the No. 1 pick opens the door for a really interesting offseason of wondering what they will do with the pick. Chicago could certainly stay put and take the top player on their board. However, this team is more than just one player away and this still puts them in a position to get a talented difference maker while adding more draft capital. For the Colts, they have had a revolving door at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. Bryce Young would end that carousel. He is undersized, but there are few players who play with the poise the Alabama quarterback brings to the table. He is incredibly consistent and has a great arm. The Colts would finally get their franchise signal caller.

2. Houston Texans (3-13-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
It is hard to fault the Texans for playing for the win, but it could cost them the top quarterback on the board. C.J. Stroud is a hell of a consolation prize. The Ohio State quarterback dominated in 2021 and followed it up with another strong campaign in 2022. He answered a ton of questions scouts had with his performance against Georgia, even in a loss. The question will be how he handles playing without a world class receiving corps. Or will he? Remember the Texans have another first-round pick courtesy of the Deshaun Watson trade.

3. Arizona Cardinals (4-13) – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Exit J.J. Watt. Enter Will Anderson Jr. Make no mistake, Anderson will not replace the void left by the future Hall of Famer, if for no other reason than Watt outweighs him by roughly 40 pounds. Anderson would be an outside linebacker in that Cardinals defense. And he has the potential to be a game-changing player. He is one of the most productive edge rushers we have seen in recent memory, racking up sacks and tackles for loss like it was nobody’s business for the Tide. Adding an elite pass rusher like Anderson would go a long way to turning around this Cardinals defense that ranked 24th in sacks this season.

4. Chicago Bears via Indianapolis Colts (4-13) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
This is a great scenario for the Bears. Jalen Carter would fill a massive need for Chicago’s defense and is arguably the most talented player in this draft. He is my No. 1 prospect right now, but the gap between him and Anderson is tiny. Putting Carter into a 4-3 scheme would be a great way to maximize his skill set. He does a great job collapsing the pocket and shedding blocks. With that Bears defense in for a major rebuild, Carter would be a fantastic player for Matt Eberflus to build around.

5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (5-12) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Through one year, Seattle seemingly crushed the 2022 NFL draft and won the Russell Wilson trade. The Seahawks rebuilt their offensive line and added a dynamic running back in Kenneth Walker III. However, Seattle still has some room for improvement on their defensive front seven. Bryan Bresee would be a great fit as a 3-tech defensive end for Pete Carroll and company. He has the size and strength to control the line of scrimmage and the speed to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. Putting him on a defensive line featuring Poona Ford and Shelby Harris, who could be a potential cap casualty, would create an exciting unit.

6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (5-12) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
It was a very successful season for the Lions, who wound up right on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2016. With a pair of first-round picks this year, Detroit is in a real position to push themselves over the edge in 2023. Myles Murphy is a dynamic edge rusher who seems to just be scratching the surface of his potential as a pass rusher. His first step and power to battle with offensive tackles off the edge are impressive. He needs to improve his pass rush planning, but playing under Aaron Glenn and across from Aidan Hutchinson should help unlock his potential.

7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
This is going to be a very interesting offseason for the Raiders. Derek Carr’s future is currently up in the air and whatever Las Vegas decides to do with their long-time quarterback will dictate every move they make after that. The likelihood is, Carr will be playing elsewhere next year, which opens up a clear need for a quarterback. There is a chance the Raiders would go after a veteran option, but being in a position to draft a young quarterback is not one I think this front office will pass up. Will Levis is a bit raw, but has some fantastic traits and tools for Josh McDaniels to work with. I think long term, he could be a really solid player for the Raiders and brings a ton of upside to the position.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10) – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Falcons have been searching for pass rushing help for what feels like a decade. Atlanta finished the 2022 season ranked second to last in sacks, tallying just one more than Chicago. While the Falcons have invested in some young options like Arnold Ebeketie and DeAngelo Malone, they need to have someone lead the charge. That could be Tyree Wilson. He is a better run defender than pass rusher at this point, but he had solid production, posting seven sacks each of the past two seasons. I like him best as a 5-technique defensive end, but I think he has the range to be an outside linebacker, especially if he is allowed to play in a more attacking role.

9. Carolina Panthers (7-10) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Carolina finds itself out of a position to draft a quarterback and perhaps willing to give Sam Darnold one more year to bridge the gap to whoever the long-term answer winds up being for this franchise. While the Panthers have some intriguing young talent on the roster, most of it is on the defensive side of the ball. They need another playmaker on offense, particularly after trading away Christian McCaffrey at the deadline this year. Enter Quentin Johnston, who is bound to make any quarterback better with his catch radius and yards after the catch ability. His 6’4″ frame and breakaway speed make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams and a unique chess piece for whoever winds up running this Panthers offense next season.

10. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (7-10) – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
It is rare for a team to finish with the No. 1 seed in their conference and a top-10 pick, but that’s where the Eagles find themselves. I would consider selecting an offensive tackle here with Lane Johnson getting older, but Darius Slay is 32 and James Bradberry is a free agent after this season. Both could be back, but the Eagles need to address the position for the long term. Joey Porter Jr. has incredible length that allows him to disrupt passing lanes and break up throws all over the field. He had an impressive season for Penn State and is in the mix to be the first corner selected this year. I will be very interested to see how he runs at the combine, but I love his frame and length.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-10) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Seven straight losses saw the Titans go from a contender in the AFC to picking just outside the top 10. Tennessee fired Jon Robinson midseason and now will look to retool this roster for another run at winning the division. Adding Peter Skoronski feels like a good place to start. He turned a lot of heads with his play at Northwestern this season and will be right in the mix to be the first tackle selected come draft time. He would fill a major need for the Titans and hopefully allow the team to maximize whatever time they have left with Derrick Henry in his prime.

12. Houston Texans via Cleveland (7-10) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I teased this move during the first Texans pick, but pairing C.J. Stroud with one of his former targets in college feels like a really good way to get him acclimated to the NFL. Jaxon Smith-Njigba will have a number of injury questions to answer after missing pretty much the entire 2022 college season due to a hamstring issue. However, we saw him light it up a season ago when at full strength, leading a Buckeyes team that featured Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Marvin Harrison Jr. in receiving yards and touchdowns. He is a reliable playmaker who can line up in the slot or out wide. Houston desperately needs receiver help as well, so this feels like an obvious move.

13. New York Jets (7-10) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Jets feel like they are a quarterback away from competing with the best in the AFC. They knocked off the Bills this season and seemed poised to snap their league-leading 12-season playoff drought. Instead, the offense went from average to anemic down the stretch and New York failed to score a touchdown in its final three games. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s future is uncertain at the moment as is the outlook for the Jets at quarterback. I imagine the team will opt for a veteran rather than rolling the dice on Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. If that is the case, Joe Douglas needs to ensure whoever is throwing passes has time to do so. Paris Johnson Jr. could step in at either tackle or guard from Day 1 and provide some much-needed stability. He has the experience and versatility to be invaluable to this New York offense.

14. New England Patriots (8-9) – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Mac Jones took a clear step backward this season. The blame for that could belong to a number of factors ranging from questionable coaching to a lack of weapons. Don’t overlook the impact of poor protection either. New England finished the season 17th in pass block win rate as Jones had the 12th-highest sack rate in the league. For a quarterback that struggles with mobility, pass protection is crucial. Broderick Jones should help resolve some of the protection issues. He is slated to suit up for Georgia again in the National Championship Game. He has started every game at left tackle for the Dawgs this year after starting the final four games of the regular season in 2021. He has faced elite competition and more than held his own. He could start at right tackle next season for New England or even left tackle if Trent Brown is a cap casualty.

15. Green Bay Packers (8-9) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons. Plain and simple. They invested a good amount of draft capital at receiver this past year with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs and you could still argue for more. However, I think tight end is a clear spot to upgrade here, especially with the top one in this class on the board. Mayer is well-rounded and brings the prototypical size to the table at 6’4″, 250 lbs. His production was elite as far as college tight ends go. He topped 2,000 yards in his career and hauled in 18 touchdown catches. Adding him will improve the running game as well. I really like this move for Green Bay.

16. Washington Commanders (8-9) – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
What should the Commanders do at quarterback? Carson Wentz is as good as gone. Taylor Heinicke has not been consistent enough to win the job. Sam Howell showed a little something against the Cowboys, but not enough to dissuade the Commanders from selecting someone else. Especially if that someone else has the upside of Anthony Richardson. The former Florida quarterback has absurd athleticism and one of the strongest arms we have seen recently. However, he is very raw and will need to improve his passing mechanics and footwork if he is going to succeed at the next level. Washington can rely on Heinicke to bridge the gap until Richardson is ready.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8) – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Mike Tomlin very nearly dragged this team into the playoffs. While he came up short, he showed that the Steelers are closer to competing than we originally thought. Pittsburgh has some clear holes though and with the top three tackles off the board, I think corner is a good move. Christian Gonzalez is a long, rangy corner who bounced back after a rough start to the year and impressed scouts with his play in the Pac-12. They won’t need him to cover for too long either, just long enough for T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith or Cam Heyward to get home.

18. Detroit Lions (9-8) – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The Lions defensive makeover continues, this time on the backend with a tall corner. Smith measures at 6’0″ and is coming off a 2nd-team All-SEC season with South Carolina. He has some solid numbers in his career with 6 interceptions and 18 pass breakups. I’m excited to watch more of him in this draft cycle. He could create a very fun tandem with Jeff Okudah in that Detroit secondary. The Lions defense played better down the stretch, but this team would have been in the postseason if it was not giving up 30 or more points per game to open the season.

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NFL Draft Daily: Comparing my Way-Too-Early 2022 Mock Draft to the actual NFL Draft

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 353 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

It’s that time of year where we start the very early look at next year’s draft class. We get caught up in the appeal and excitement of what could be. I’m guilty of it. I just published my Way-Too-Early 2023 Mock Draft this past Monday.

However, I wanted to do something a little different. I want to compare my Way-Too-Early mock from last year to the actual draft. I think it is really interesting to compare expectations for teams and players to what actually happened in the past year. Hopefully, there are a few lessons I can learn in the process as well that will help me better identify prospects that are true first-round players.

There are some major takeaways here for sure. One, I thought this quarterback class was going to be good a year ago. Meanwhile, Travon Walker was not even on my radar. Good reminder to everyone that so much can change over the next year as we start to look ahead to 2023.

As a reminder, I did not set the draft order last year. It was the reverse Super Bowl odds at the time from William Hill with strength of schedule used as a tiebreaker. You can check out the mock for reference, but I listed all of the projected picks here as well. Let’s go back in time and take a look at how I did with my projections.

1. Way-too-early prediction: Houston Texans – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Transferred to South Carolina
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Ah yes. May 2021. Back when we thought this was going to be a good quarterback class. Rattler was a Heisman candidate at Oklahoma and seemed poised to become the latest quarterback under Lincoln Riley to go No. 1 overall. Instead, he lost his job midseason to Caleb Williams and ultimately transferred to USC. I did not include him in my way-too-early mock for 2023, so he definitely has a ways to go to rebuild his draft stock. As for the Texans, they ended up picking just a couple spots later, but seem to have their quarterback to develop in Davis Mills.

2. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
What happened to the player: Drafted 144th overall by the Commanders
Actual Selection: Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
This didn’t pan out too well either. Howell entered the year as one of the top quarterback prospects, but uneven play and a drop in production without his top weapons caused him to tumble all the way to the fifth round. I still think he fell further than he should have, but there is no question he is a bit of a project. That being said, as I talked about on my podcast last week, I think Howell could wind up being the Commanders starter in 2023. Turns out that William Hill was spot on with their odds. Detroit did in fact pick second and they still need a quarterback. It will be a big focus in the 2023 draft for the Lions.

3. Way-too-early prediction: Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
What happened to the player: Drafted 3rd overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Hang on, I’m going to play the lottery real quick. I can’t pat myself on the back too much, but Stingley entered the year as likely the No. 1 overall prospect. At worst, he was No. 2 behind Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was an elite prospect, but injury struggles seemed to be pushing him down draft boards. A fantastic pro day somehow rebuilt his draft stock to the point where he went back to being a top-five pick. The fact that the Bengals were slated to take him third overall is laughable now. Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl behind stellar seasons from Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and an underrated defense. Cincy could still use some corner help, but obviously was nowhere close to being able to snag Stingley.

4. Way too-early prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 7th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another one that I feel pretty good about, Neal wound up going just a few spots later to the Giants on draft day. I still maintain that the Jaguars would have done well to take Neal and move on from Cam Robinson, but I digress. Neal delivered on the hype in his 2021 season, making the move to left tackle look fairly easy. As it turns out, Jacksonville was even worse than this, with the Urban Meyer experiment failing miserably. Now we will have to wait and see if the Jags can avoid becoming the first team to ever draft No. 1 overall three years in a row.

5. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
What happened to the player: Drafted 5th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Right city, right draft slot, just wrong team on this one. The Jets ended up picking one selection earlier, in the end passing on Thibodeaux in favor of Ahmad Gardner. The Giants seem pretty happy with that. Thibodeaux came into the year as one of the best prospects in the draft. In fact, he was the top player at that point. He didn’t quite live up to the expectation, but he put together more than enough good tape to justify going in the top five.

6. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
What happened to the player: Transferred to Pittsburgh
Actual selection: Carolina Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
To quote myself from 2021: “If the Giants are picking this high, Daniel Jones’ days in New York are likely numbered.” Well after the team declined his fifth-year option, it sure seems like that is the case. However, the Giants opted not to take a quarterback in this class. Slovis wasn’t available anyway, because he didn’t enter the draft. This is a good reminder to not always bet that a player that flashed as a freshman will be able to sustain that. Slovis has come nowhere close to matching his 2019 production. He threw 30 touchdowns that year. He threw 28 in the next two combined. His completion percentage has also dropped each of the past two seasons. He can still turn things around, especially moving to a Pittsburgh program that just lost Kenny Pickett, but he has an uphill climb.

7. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What happened to the player: Drafted 23rd overall by the Bills
Actual selection: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Give the Eagles some credit for way outperforming this projected draft slot. Philly was one of the surprises of the season as Jalen Hurts and company ended up reaching the playoffs. As it turned out, the Eagles ended up passing on Elam twice in the first round, before he finally landed with Buffalo. I think Elam was a bit overhyped in the offseason, but he was clearly still talented enough to go in the first round.

8. Way-too-early prediction: Las Vegas Raiders – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 84th overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Reviewing this is I think a microcosm for Texas A&M this past year: they were good, but not as great as we expected. Leal fits that description. He had a solid season, but fell well short of the expectations I had for him entering the year. He ended up going in the third round to the Steelers, which feels like a really good spot for him to develop. Meanwhile, the Raiders, much like the Eagles, shocked everyone by making the playoffs. I still don’t really know how, given how much of a mess the organization was all season.

9. Way-too-early prediction: Carolina Panthers – Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
As it turns out, I had the Panthers targeting the right position here, just the wrong player. Oh and they ended up picking even earlier than this. Zion Nelson’s draft hype never really materialized in high level play. He was forced into the starting lineup as a freshman in 2019 and struggled mightily. He has improved since then, but I am excited to see what Mario Cristobal and his staff can do to aid his development. He definitely made the right call in returning to school.

10. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 75th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I remember watching Christian Harris in 2020 and thinking “that guy plays linebacker?” He was built like an early 2000s safety, flying around the field and making plays. Unfortunately, flying around the field is what he does best. Harris struggles reading his keys and positioning himself to make players. He is athletic enough to compensate for that sometimes, but it hinders his game. I had him as a late-second-round prospect by draft day, but he slid into the third. As for the Bears, they wasted most of Justin Fields’ rookie season and might end up wasting his second year as well if they cannot put more talent around him.

11. Way-too-early prediction: Atlanta Falcons – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Washington Commanders – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
This was an example of assuming that Ohio State’s next five-star edge rusher up was going to continue on the trend of dominating when it was their turn. Nick Bosa did it in 2018. Chase Young did it in 2019. Harrison didn’t quite match those guys. He only posted two sacks in his junior season, showing a lack of true pass rushing polish that his predecessors had. He will have a chance to rewrite the scouting report on him during his senior season, but he will need to step up big time if he hopes to crack the first round. This ended up being pretty close to where the Falcons picked as well and they could still use edge rushing help, along with a lot of other things.

12. Way-too-early prediction: Washington Commanders – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
What happened to the player: Drafted 74th overall by the Falcons
Actual selection: Detroit Lions via Minnesota Vikings – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Desmond Ridder had some late first-round hype around him heading into the 2021 draft, but decided to return to school. It didn’t quite workout as he would’ve wanted. It wasn’t that Ridder didn’t play well, it’s that NFL teams had a chance to really pick apart his game. He was not accurate enough to warrant going in the first round. He is a bit of a project at this stage, but there is still plenty to like about his game. One pick off for Washington’s original draft slot is pretty impressive by the folks at William Hill. Trading for Carson Wentz meant they didn’t have to get overly aggressive in drafting a quarterback. They wound up taking Sam Howell on Day 3 as well to give them a player to develop.

13. Way-too-early prediction: Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
What happened to the player: Drafted 14th overall by the Ravens
Actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I ended up being just one pick off from where Hamilton was ultimately drafted. The Notre Dame safety slid to the Ravens after not running well at the combine. I was probably a bit lower on him than most in the early stages last season just because I am skeptical of taking safeties too high. Still it was a bit of a surprise to see him fall to the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Vikings were also just one slot off from their original selection before trading out with the Lions.

14. Way-too-early prediction: Arizona Cardinals – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
What happened to the player: Drafted 61st overall by the 49ers
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Arizona still struggled down the stretch, but got over the hump and made it to the postseason. The Cardinals got bounced in the first round, but it was progress. On the other hand Jackson entered the year with the expectation that he would take the next step in his development during a full season. He posted 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman, but never quite matched those numbers again. He projects well as a situational rusher for the 49ers.

15. Way-too-early prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
What happened to the player: Drafted 9th overall by the Seahawks
Actual selection: Houston Texans via Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
I ended up being six spots off where Cross ended up being selected. I think this would’ve been better value for him, as I didn’t quite have him in my top 10. Still, Cross ended up being one of the most experienced pass blockers to ever come out of the college ranks. He still has some fine-tuning in that department and is a relative unknown as a run blocker, but he checks every box from a physical perspective. On the Steelers’ side of things, they probably could have used some reinforcements along the offensive line. They outperformed expectations and actually reached the postseason.

16. Way-too-early prediction: Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 11th overall by the Saints
Actual selection: Washington Commanders via New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Well a receiver did end up going with the 16th overall pick. I just chose the wrong Big Ten school. I also find it hard to believe that this is the first receiver I had projected to come off the board. Not because Olave was undeserving, but because this ended up being a really good receiver class. Anyway, Olave ended up going five picks earlier as the third receiver to be selected. I’m sure Chargers fans would have loved him, but they never got the chance.

17. Way-too-early prediction: Tennessee Titans – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 52nd overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
This one was undoubtedly all about projection. Pickens had just undergone ACL surgery when I wrote my way-too-early predictions for 2022. I assumed that his upside and physical attributes would be enough to keep him in the first round. Not quite as he went 35 selections later, so I guess I was about a round off on him. The Titans did end up drafting a receiver, but it was to replace A.J. Brown, not add around him like I had anticipated.

18. Way-too-early prediction: New England Patriots – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles
Actual selection: Tennessee Titans via Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Woof this one was bad. Jobe was expected to be the next great Alabama corner, but he ended up going undrafted. It’s hard for me to understand exactly why he fell that far. He has measurables to play outside corner in the NFL, even if he did struggle a bit during his senior year. Not running at the combine makes me believe that there were some concerns about his speed and quickness. Still, most expected him to go in the fourth round. It was definitely a bit of a shock no one took a chance on him. Looking at the Patriots, they did need cornerback help and they still could probably use a bit more.

19. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 13th overall by the Eagles
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I wish I could’ve bet on this one way back then. Not that I would have because why on Earth would I have ever believed I would get this right, but the odds for Jordan Davis being selected by the Eagles a year later likely would have been incredible, assuming any sportsbook would have been willing to give them to me. Philly traded up a couple spots on draft day to land him. He will be the long-term replacement for Fletcher Cox. The Eagles did originally own the 19th pick, but flipped it to the Saints as part of a pre draft trade. Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who were expected to make the playoffs this past year, struggled out of the gate and never fully recovered.

20. Way-too-early prediction: Dallas Cowboys – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Transferred to LSU
Actual selection: Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
This was a swing and a miss. I actually heard from a bunch of Buckeye fans immediately after publishing last year that Sevyn Banks was being overhyped. Once I dove a little deeper into the film, I realized they were right. I got caught up in scouting the helmet, not the player on this one. I wasn’t alone. Banks was a popular inclusion in way-too-early mocks this time last year. He only played four games in 2021 and will now attempt to rebuild his draft stock at LSU. For the Cowboys, this was not too far off from where they ended up finishing even playing in the weakest division in the league.

21. Way-too-early prediction: New Orleans Saints – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 10th overall by the Jets
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs via New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
So the Saints did wind up selecting a first-round receiver from Ohio State. I just didn’t have them taking the right one. Not that Wilson was even on the board when New Orleans ultimately picked at No. 11. He put together a fantastic junior season and pushed himself into the top ten. Personally, I’m thrilled he landed with the Jets. As far as expectations for the Saints, this was not too far off. They came close to the playoffs despite dealing with major injuries across their roster.

22. Way-too-early prediction: Indianapolis Colts – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 238th overall by the Raiders
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
In retrospect, this pick should have belonged to the Eagles. I fully expected Carson Wentz to meet the requirements to convey the Colts’ first-round pick. Simply an oversight on my part. Let’s talk about Indy though, because it definitely needed a new left tackle. The Colts brought in Eric Fisher as a stop-gap solution, and more recently drafted Bernhard Raimann to compete for the starting spot. As it turns out, Munford was not a great choice to fill that void. He ended up kicking inside to play guard during his senior season and fell to the seventh round. His versatility is undervalued and I think he will stick around the league for a while.

23. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 15th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Buffalo Bills via Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What a fall for the Seahawks. Seattle suffered through a lost season with Russell Wilson missing time due to injury only to ultimately trade him to the Broncos. Their own first-round pick, which belonged to the Jets as part of the Jamal Adams trade, became the 10th selection. Let’s just say I’m not complaining as a Jets fan. New York could have used a player like Green, but it is hard to fault Joe Douglas for how he handled the draft. The offensive lineman from Texas A&M ended up being gone by this point anyway.

24. Way-too-early prediction: Denver Broncos – Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Drafted 108th overall by the Browns
Actual selection: Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
I was shocked by this in 2021 and I still can’t believe it now. William Hill had the Broncos at 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this time last year. That makes more sense with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but Drew Lock? Not really sure what happened there. Either way, Denver did need some help along the front seven and Winfrey seemed to be an ascending player. He actually did put together a much more impressive senior campaign with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks but ended up sliding all the way to the fourth round. He could wind up being a very productive player in Cleveland.

25. Way-too-early prediction: Cleveland Browns – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
What happened to the player: Drafted 2nd overall by the Lions
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Speaking of the Browns, this is where they were expected to pick after a sensational 2020 season. That fell apart quickly as Baker Mayfield got hurt and the team seemingly never recovered. Then there is Hutchinson, who ended up soaring up draft boards thanks to a phenomenal senior season. He finished as the runner up for the Heisman and will now get to play the role of hometown hero with the Lions.

26. Way-too-early prediction: Green Bay Packers – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 44th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Tennessee Titans – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I should really know better by now. The Packers don’t draft receivers in the first round! In their defense, I think that was the right call this year after six of them went in the top 18 picks. I wonder if John Metchie might have worked his way into the first round had he not torn his ACL in the SEC title game against Georgia. He became Bryce Young’s go-to receiver this past season, catching 96 passes for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed is legitimate as well. The Texans might end up with a steal in the second round.

27. Way-too-early prediction: Baltimore Ravens – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee
What happened to the player: Drafted 199th overall by the Panthers
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Injuries derailed the Ravens season, which was actually my rationale for mocking them to take Mays before the year even happened. Keeping Lamar Jackson healthy will be priority number one for Baltimore and likely a large part of the thinking into drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. Mays ended up sliding all the way to the sixth round. He is a former five star recruit with experience at just about every position on the offensive line. I was definitely a bit too high on him entering the year, but he should have gone earlier than the sixth round in my opinion.

28. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
What happened to the player: Drafted 18th overall by the Titans
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
There have been a few prospects that I projected to make the jump in 2021 that fell short of expectations. That was not the case with Burks. He took a huge step forward with over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in a fantastic campaign. He was a bit inconsistent and posted some questionable times at the combine, but clearly the Titans felt like he was going to be a worthy replacement for A.J. Brown. Looking at who this pick originally belonged to, William Hill was pretty close with the Rams. Matt Stafford and Von Miller just pushed them over the top.

29. Way-too-early prediction: Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
What happened to the player: Drafted 27th overall by the Jaguars
Actual selection: New England Patriots via Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Cole Stange, G, Chattanooga
Well William Hill was spot on for this one. This ended up being the 49ers pick, even if it did change hands several times before the selection was ever made. Lloyd was one of my favorite prospects heading into the 2022 draft cycle. That didn’t change at all and it turns out I just missed out on where he would go in the first round. I think there are big things to come from him in Jacksonville.

30. Way-too-early prediction: Buffalo Bills – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
My second prediction that went horribly wrong. Wydermyer joins Josh Jobe among my first-round hopefuls that went undrafted. Wydermyer looked like the latest athlete to learn how to play tight end. His tape showed quickness and burst that made him seem like a player just scratching the surface of his potential. Then he actually went on to put up worse numbers in 2021 despite having two more games. He skipped running at the combine and then posted some horrible times at his pro day. I don’t exactly know what to make of him at this point, but this was a huge miss for me. Ironically, he did sign with the Bills.

31. Way-too-early prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
What happened to the player: Drafted 30th overall by the Chiefs
Actual selection: Cincinnati Bengals – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Another one where I was off by just one pick. Karlaftis enters the draft much like he entered his final college season, a developing player who has been unable to replicate his freshman year success. He managed to stay healthy in 2021, but his production did not bounce back all the way to his 2019 campaign. Still, he is an enticing prospect with his burst off the line and ability to disrupt plays. He needs to become a bit more disciplined in the run game, but there is clear upside. Tampa always loves grabbing edge rushers to develop. I think Karlaftis would have been a good fit there, but the Bucs traded out of the first round and he was gone by the time they were up again.

32. Way-too-early prediction: Kansas City Chiefs – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
What happened to the player: Drafted 42nd overall by the Vikings
Actual selection: Minnesota Vikings via Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
I still wonder if Booth had been healthy enough to run at the combine if he would have pushed his way into the first round. He had a strong career at Clemson and did not go much later than this when the draft actually rolled around. Minnesota will be hoping he can finally put an end to the revolving door they have had at cornerback. The Chiefs came up just short of a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, blowing a lead that prompted them to trade up for some cornerback help in Trent McDuffie.

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Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Four quarterbacks feature while Alabama, Clemson and Georgia dominate the first round

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 360 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

The 2022 draft is in the books, which means it is time to start wildly speculating about the 2023 draft class. Full disclosure, I have not done much film study on any of these players yet. I’ve watched maybe one game of each of them, if not just watched some highlights or saw them play during the 2021 season. Most of this will change dramatically in the coming months, but it is a fun introduction to the prospects that will make up the 2023 draft class.

With that in mind, I did not create the draft order. These odds are the latest from DraftKings and tiebreakers were determined by strength of schedule in 2022.

1. Houston Texans (200-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
I would like to formally apologize to Davis Mills. I believe the Texans will be better than this in 2022. But if Houston has the No. 1 pick, it will be tough to pass on Stroud. After a slow start to the 2021 season, Stroud found his groove with 44 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He has good size at 6’3″ and an NFL-level arm.

2. Atlanta Falcons (150-1) – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Atlanta could pull the trigger on Bryce Young here, but instead, I think they will grab his Alabama teammate who should have won the Heisman in 2021. Anderson was nearly unstoppable this past season, posting 17.5 sacks. Had he been eligible, he would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. Positional value pushes him to the second spot here, but make no mistake, he enters the year as the No. 1 overall prospect.

3. New York Jets (150-1) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
I truly hope the Jets are not picking in the top five again. If they do, Carter would be an excellent target. After picking up Jermaine Johnson II in the 2022 draft, New York can round out their front four with Carter. He is supremely athletic and disruptive. He will be a major catalyst for Georgia’s defense this season.

4. Detroit Lions (150-1) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This is the best case scenario for the Lions as the 2021 Heisman winner falls into their laps. This would reunite him with one of his favorite targets in Jameson Williams. Young is a very polished player with a great arm and solid mobility. His biggest test will be continuing to perform without his top two targets, (Williams and John Metchie). We saw him struggle without them against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (130-1) – Jackson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I don’t care that you just paid Christian Kirk a ridiculous amount of money. Smith-Njigba is a game-changing player with incredible ball skills. He dominated playing out of the slot for Ohio State and often looked like the best receiver on a team that just produced two first-round selections at the position. His monster game in the Rose Bowl points to what he could look like as the featured target for C.J. Stroud.

6. Seattle Seahawks (100-1) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
Seattle chose to pass on the quarterback position in this draft class, opting instead to rebuild its offensive line and restock its defense. Now, the Seahawks can grab a quarterback to grow with. Van Dyke turned some heads this past season at Miami. He took over the starting job a couple games into the season and finished strong. This pick is about projection that he will take the next step in his development, notably, increasing his completion percentage.

7. Carolina Panthers (100-1) – Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Carolina could go a couple directions here, including quarterback, but I think they will give Matt Corral another year to prove himself, especially with three quarterbacks off the board already. Instead, they go with the best player available in Smith. He flies around in that Georgia defense. We will get a chance to see him take on a much larger role with Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean now in the NFL.

8. Chicago Bears (100-1) – Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh
If Justin Fields is going to be successful, he is going to need weapons to work with. Chicago did grab Velus Jones Jr. in the third round, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Addison here. One of the most productive players in college football a year ago and Kenny Pickett’s favorite target, there are rumors Addison could go link up with Caleb Williams at USC for his junior season.

9. New York Giants (100-1) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
If the Giants are picking in the top ten, I think this pick will be spent on a quarterback. New York ignored the position in the 2022 draft and declined Daniel Jones’ 5th-year option. Levis put together an impressive year at Kentucky. He will need to cut down interceptions, but he is a good athlete, shows good pocket presence and has a compact throwing motion. Plus, he plays in a pro-style offense.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (65-1) – Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Pittsburgh still needs help in the secondary after not drafting a single corner in the 2022 draft. Ricks enters the year as my top corner. He essentially spent the past two seasons as LSU’s No. 1 corner with Derek Stingley Jr. out. Now, he will join Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa before likely making the jump to the NFL.

Editor’s note: Eli Ricks was arrested Sunday evening for speeding and possession of marijuana.

11. Washington Commanders (65-1) – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Another SEC corner, Ringo will get a chance to show he can be the top option with Derion Kendrick now in the NFL. Ringo is big at 6’2″ and a good athlete. He showed his playmaking ability with a 79-yard pick-six of Bryce Young in the National Championship Game. For the Commanders, he would give them a No. 1 corner, especially with William Jackson looking like a potential cap casualty after the season.

12. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (50-1) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Sure, the Eagles still have Dallas Goedert, but after trading away Zach Ertz this past year, there is not much at the position other than Goedert. Bringing in Mayer allows the Eagles to go back to running two tight end sets and gives Jalen Hurts another weapon. Mayer is a very well-rounded prospect and seems in good position to be the first tight end drafted in 2023.

13. Minnesota Vikings (45-1) – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Adam Theilen turns 32 this year and struggled with injuries in 2021. Minnesota might have other needs here, but grabbing another LSU receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson feels like a great investment. It seems even smarter when you look at the cost of keeping top-end receivers these days. Boutte had 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.

14. New England Patriots (40-1) – Malachi Moore, CB, Alabama
New England lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and has yet to take any meaningful steps to replace him. Malachi Moore had a good year, with three interceptions as he stepped into a bigger role for the Tide defense. He has good size and skills, but needs to show he can be a true No. 1 corner this season. It will help sharing a defensive backfield with Eli Ricks.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (35-1) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Bresee is a former No. 1 recruit who has dazzled in the limited playtime he has gotten at Clemson. It is not because he is not talented enough either, he just missed the final nine games of the Tigers’ season due to injury in 2021. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant defensive players in college football. He would give the Raiders an incredibly talented front four, which they will need playing the AFC West.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (35-1) – Tony Grimes, CB, UNC
The Eagles had a good 2022 draft, but did not find any corners to reshape the secondary. Grimes is a tall corner with good coverage skills. He has good make up speed and uses his hands well to break up passes. He has room to grow, but he looks like an NFL corner.

17. Miami Dolphins (30-1) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Bring back the first-round running backs! Robinson enters the year as a Heisman candidate after a strong sophomore campaign. He is thick at 6’0″, 214 pounds and perhaps most importantly, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has 41 catches across his first two college seasons. Miami desperately needs an upgrade in the backfield.

18. Tennessee Titans (28-1) – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
This is a name that you should get to know. Mesidor flashed some real promise at West Virginia before transferring to Miami for the 2022 season. He has a sweet spin move and a high motor that makes him incredibly difficult to keep out of the backfield. Tennessee could add him to an already very talented defensive front.

19. Arizona Cardinals (25-1) – Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
The Cardinals revamped their offense with Hollywood Brown and Trey McBride. Now, they need to continue investing in their defense. Budda Baker is a great player, but Arizona could use another safety. Joseph has nine interceptions over the past two seasons and brings great size to the position. Now he will get a chance to showcase that talent at Notre Dame after three seasons with Northwestern.

20. Baltimore Ravens (22-1) – Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson needs some more weapons. The Ravens have a ton of depth at receiver, but not enough quality starting options. Mims could help change that. He is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic in space and catches the ball well away from his body. I like him as a replacement for Hollywood Brown with even more upside.

21. Indianapolis Colts (22-1) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Indianapolis quietly had a good draft, but I’m not so sure Bernhard Raimann is the surefire answer at left tackle. If he is, then this definitely won’t be a need in 2023. Until then, I believe the Colts need to invest in the offensive line. Johnson could be the best tackle from a slightly underwhelming class, at least at first glance.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (18-1) – Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Cincinnati struck gold with Chidobe Awuzie in free agency last year, but they still need some more help in the secondary. Phillips is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic. He flashed his playmaking potential in the Rose Bowl, forcing a fumble of Jackson Smith-Njigba and intercepting C.J. Stroud. He also showed that he has some work to do to solidify himself as a first-round player.

23. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (17-1) – Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson
Houston continues to go with the best player available. At this stage, that is Davis. He had a bit of an underwhelming season missing four games due to injury as well. If he can get healthy and return to the form he showed as a freshman (nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) then he will earn his spot in the first round.

24. Dallas Cowboys (17-1) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Another Clemson defender. Murphy took the next step in his development as a sophomore, posting eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has great size at 6’5″, 275 pounds. Dallas needs someone to play across from DeMarcus Lawrence.

25. Los Angeles Chargers (16-1) – Trenton Simpson, EDGE, Clemson
In case you weren’t aware, Clemson has a really good defense this year. Simpson is well built and incredibly versatile. He has an explosive first step off the line and a nose for the football. He is capable of dropping into coverage as well. Brandon Staley would love getting his hands on him.

26. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (16-1) – Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
Bobby Wagner is gone and Seattle does not have a clear replacement on the roster right now. To’oTo’o was one of the best linebackers in college football this past year and made a bit of a surprising decision to return to school. He looked sharp in his first season with Alabama after transferring from Tennessee.

27. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (14-1) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Miami should continue to prioritize surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talent. Skoronski has a big frame that he needs to continue to grow into. If Liam Eichenberg does not lock down the starting spot at right tackle, Skoronski could be his replacement.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (10-1) – Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
Detroit entered the 2022 draft needing some safety help. Perhaps third-round pick Kerby Joseph will be able to fill the void. If not, then Catalon could be a logical choice here. He earned some first-round buzz this past season before deciding to return to school.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Kansas City added Skyy Moore in the second round, who is a speedy, slightly undersized receiver. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely won’t be around long. The Chiefs could also use a bit more size at receiver too, which is where Johnston comes in. He is 6’4″ and excels at making contested catches. He is a run after the catch threat as well with his relentless running style.

30. Green Bay Packers (10-1) – Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Hopefully, Robert Tonyan will be back to full strength after missing most of 2021 due to injury. Either way, he is on a one-year deal and the Packers do not have much behind him in terms of tight end depth. Latu is a big-body target at 6’5″ and moves very well in space. He can be flexed out to give Aaron Rodgers, or whoever is quarterbacking Green Bay, another weapon to throw to.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-1) – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
There are a number of directions I could see the Buccaneers going. So much is unknown about Tom Brady’s future. Let’s assume Tampa does not need to address the quarterback spot for right now. Lavonte David is essentially a free-agent after the year is over, so perhaps the Bucs would seek out his replacement, Sewell, brother of Lions tackle Penei Sewell, plays downhill and seeks out contact. He should be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (13-2) – Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
Let’s squeeze another running back in here. If you are looking for an explosive, do-it-all playmaker, look no further. Achane is a bit undersized, but that only matters if you can catch him. He would give the Bills a really dynamic element in the run game and short passing game with his game-breaking speed.

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Browns acquire Deshaun Watson in a shocking, questionable move

What in the world??? There has never been a week in the NFL like this before and there might never be a week like it ever again. The greatest quarterback of all time unretired just 40 days after hanging up his cleats. Then, the Broncos sent a huge haul to Seattle to land Russell Wilson as their new quarterback. Aaron Rodgers then signed the richest contract in NFL history on an annual salary basis to stay with the Packers. A couple of blockbuster trades saw Khalil Mack join the Chargers and Davante Adams land in Las Vegas. Oh, and Carson Wentz is in Washington now. To cap off this whirlwind of a week, the Browns traded three first-round picks as part of a package to land Deshaun Watson. Simply stunning.

Watson now has the most guaranteed money in NFL history. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Watson sweepstakes have been long and complicated. Watson announced that he wanted to be traded last year, but the Texans showed no signs of agreeing. It appeared to set up a standoff between team and player until the news about Watson’s off-the-field actions broke. He sat out all of 2021 as the investigation into allegations of sexual assault took place. Interestingly, the NFL never put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list despite the ongoing situation. On March 11, just one week before Watson was ultimately traded, a grand jury declined to indict the then Texans quarterback on charges stemming from lawsuits filed by 22 women alleging harassment and sexual assault. That opened the floodgates for a return to the field.

Now, Watson is still facing 22 civil lawsuits and will likely be disciplined by the league. This situation is far from being resolved. Clearly the Browns, whether right or wrong, felt comfortable bringing Watson into the fold. While there is a lot of football implications to discuss with this move, it is really important not to lose sight of the significance of these allegations and what it will mean if it comes out that Watson is in fact a sex offender. As of now, we don’t know if he is one way or the other. I hope the legal system leads to justice, but I also know that too often, that isn’t the case.

What’s more, this past week alone has been truly bizarre. From reports out of the Browns front office stating they want “an adult” at quarterback to reports that Watson had informed Cleveland he would not play for them, this saga is astounding. For the Browns, it is hard to imagine how acquiring a player in the midst of a sexual assault scandal gives you an adult at the position. For Watson, I can understand the about face when there is $230 million in GUARANTEED money on the table. Still, it is staggering that the Browns would be willing to do this given Watson’s deplorable off-the-field behavior and the pending consequences.

There is no easy way to transition to the football side of things, but this does greatly impact the NFL as a whole. Baker Mayfield will now certainly be the subject of trade offers. I wrote about where he could land yesterday. Plus, the draft just became way more interesting.

It appears like the Texans will give Davis Mills the opportunity to start at quarterback this season. With two too-15 selections, Houston can now fill some of the major holes on its offense, namely on the offensive line and at receiver. This also gives the Texans all the draft capital needed in order to move up for the top prospect in next year’s draft or to acquire a veteran via trade if Mills does not look like the long-term answer. In short, Houston actually seems poised to properly rebuild.

On Cleveland’s side of things, they will hope to recoup a few draft picks in exchange for Mayfield. Even after acquiring Amari Cooper, the Browns need another receiver. Plus, they have an opening at center after releasing J.C. Tretter. They have way less premium draft capital to address those positions, but the Browns should be able to attract whatever remaining free agents they want after this move. That is, assuming players don’t have an issue with Watson.

From a football perspective, there is no doubt the Browns got better. Cleveland just better hope it is ready to handle the media firestorm that is bound to follow this decision. There will be intense scrutiny and criticism of the Browns and Watson each step of the way. Forget whatever media attention Mayfield drew, Cleveland now has a target on its back.

NFL Draft Daily: Should teams consider waiting on quarterbacks in 2022?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I cannot remember a time where this many teams had a need at quarterback at the same time in the NFL. The list of teams that could potentially have a new starter or spend a premium draft pick on a quarterback is long. The Steelers, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Eagles, Giants, Broncos, Texans, Lions, Seahawks and Washington are all facing questions about the future at the position. Maybe even the Raiders and Vikings belong in that conversation. Some have aging veterans to replace, some have recent draft picks that have not worked out and some have disgruntled stars who could be on the move.

Ben Roethlisberger is expected to retire at the end of the season. (Wikimedia Commons)

That puts a ton of focus on the upcoming NFL draft. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst quarterback classes in some time. That doesn’t mean none of these quarterbacks will be good. In fact, there is a surprising amount of depth to this quarterback class. However, there are no slam dunk picks in this draft class as of right now. Maybe someone will separate themselves during the pre-draft process, but we don’t have a Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence or Kyler Murray level prospect. Honestly, none of them even come close.

So that begs the question, should teams punt on this year’s quarterback class? There is not a one-size fits all answer, even though I am tempted to just say yes. For a team like the Lions, using the first-round pick they have from the Rams on a quarterback could make some sense, especially if it is someone like Malik Willis, who definitely needs some time on the bench to develop, but brings rare physical traits. Jared Goff is still under contract for 2022 and that team is nowhere near competing for a wildcard spot, much less a title. Taking Willis or grabbing someone like Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder at the top of the second round should not prevent Detroit from taking a top quarterback prospect if they end up in the top five again next season. Suddenly, those other players become valuable trade chips. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen both netted second-round picks and they both looked awful leading up to that point.

On the other hand, for teams like the Texans or Giants. I don’t like the idea of drafting a quarterback in this class. Reaching to take Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett in the first round does not raise that team’s ceiling all that much. At this point, I would rather spend another year with Davis Mills or Daniel Jones while continuing to amass talent around the quarterback position.

Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass since the start of November. (Wikimedia Commons)

And this is the real crux of why I think it makes sense to wait on a quarterback: situation matters. Mac Jones is thriving in New England right now and may even win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Does that mean he is a better quarterback than Trevor Lawrence or that the Jaguars should have taken him No. 1 overall? Probably not. I have a feeling Lawrence would be crushing it in New England as well. The Patriots have a top-flight defense, the best coaching staff in the league and a strong running game to help Jones. Lawrence has none of those things in Jacksonville.

At this point, for teams that are not ready to challenge for division titles and playoff spots, it just doesn’t make sense to grab a quarterback and figure everything else out later. If one of the quarterbacks in this class slides to the Steelers and goes on to have a great career, will people point out that other teams could have drafted him? Yes, absolutely. However, it is incredibly unlikely that these players would find the same success because the support cast around them is so much worse.

The Giants will have to decide this offseason if they want to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option. (Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s use the Giants as an example. Fans are fed up with Daniel Jones, and for good reason. He has not shown much progress since his rookie season and is frustratingly inconsistent. However, if you put Corral behind that offensive line next season and expect him to fare much better, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. New York has never been able to surround Jones with the right talent to succeed. Even when the front office has spent big, it has been on injury-prone stars who cannot stay on the field. At full strength, the Giants offense should be great, but we rarely ever see Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley on the field together. And even when they are, Jones rarely has enough time to get them the ball. Not to mention Jones has not had the best coaching in his career either.

If you’ve read this site long enough, you know I am a big proponent of investing in the offensive line. It is the key to being a successful football team. So if I am the Giants, Steelers, Texans, Panthers or Washington, I am investing in the offensive line in this draft class and waiting until 2023 to find my long-term answer at quarterback. Plus, veteran options like Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be available to help bridge the gap. I would rather wait until 2023, when players like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud will headline the draft class. What’s more, this is a great draft for offensive linemen and defensive talent. Teams will regret reaching for quarterbacks and missing out on those elite prospects.

Rookie quarterbacks are one of the hottest commodities in all sports, especially first-rounders. When you have a young quarterback on a controlled salary, you create a five-year window where you can compete for a title and spend whatever money is needed to build a successful roster around that player. I would rather spend the money and draft capital ahead of time to create a situation where a rookie quarterback is capable of thriving. For those who are going to say any team built like that would be too good to draft a top quarterback, may I remind you that the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, the Texans traded up for Deshaun Watson, the Ravens traded back into the first round to grab Lamar Jackson at No. 32 and that Mac Jones fell into the Patriots’ laps at No. 15. You don’t always need to tank to find your quarterback of the future.

In short, I think it is time the NFL changes its roster-building technique. Teams who are consistently successful draft the best players available and find value in veteran contracts when it comes to free agency. New England went 7-9 before turning things around with a 9-4 record so far and that was after losing the greatest quarterback of all time. Mike Tomlin has not had a losing season in his tenure as the Steelers head coach. Even if he does have one this year, Pittsburgh should still be in the mix to reach the playoffs in 2022 because the rest of the roster is still pretty talented, with the exception of the offensive line. Even the Saints, who have started three different quarterbacks this season due to injury, are only one game under .500. They have a really strong core, a good coaching staff and a front-office who, mostly, invests well in the draft.

I’m not saying that teams should stop drafting quarterbacks in the first-round, but let’s not force it when it isn’t there. This isn’t a good quarterback class. It pales in comparison to the 2021 group, but most would. I am looking forward to ranking all the quarterbacks from recent class when I am done grading this current group. I think that will be really eye-opening regarding its relative strength.

Until then, just build in the trenches and everything will be fine.

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