While mock drafts are obviously a prediction of a specific set of outcomes, each team weighs their options while on the clock. Instead of trying to predict a perfect sequence of events, let’s look at the options for each pick in the first round.
#1 Carolina Panthers (F/CHI)
Option 1: Draft Bryce Young. Young is currently -1400 on DraftKings to be the #1 pick. Adam Schefter said “the ship has sailed” on Houston getting Young at 2. Peter Schrager and Dane Brugler have Young going 1 in their mocks released this week.
Option 2: Draft C.J. Stroud. Stroud was the betting favorite when the trade happened. It’s theoretically possible they still take him.
Option 3: Coerce Houston into trading up. If Houston only has eyes for Young and the Panthers are comfortable with both Bryce and C.J., then Carolina can try to get #33 from the Texans to swap the first and second picks.
#2 Houston Texans
Option 1: Draft the quarterback Carolina doesn’t take. If Young is here at 2 Houston will sprint the card in. They could still decide to just take Stroud, but there’s too much reporting on them passing for it to just be ignored.
Option 2: Trade Down. Nick Casserio didn’t say the Texans were open for business at 2 but he did say they’re open to listening. If he really doesn’t want Stroud (or anyone quarterback at 2) he’d extract the most value out of this pick by trading down. He’d likely (or at least should) prioritize getting picks next year for potential ammo if they don’t win the tankathon for Caleb.
Option 3: Draft Will Anderson Jr. I am simply not buying the idea Tyree Wilson could go ahead of Anderson. Besides, Casserio has made a concerted effort to build up this roster with high character guys ever since his arrival, and to quote Nick Saban; “He’s the kind of person that’s not satisfied with where he is. I love working with this guy, because he sets a great example for everybody else on the team.”
#3 Arizona Cardinals
Option 1: Trade Down. The Cardinals are admittedly open for business here and it seems their preference is to move down and stock pile picks.
Option 2: Draft an edge rusher Once again, I am not buying Tyree Wilson going ahead of Anderson. Nothing is a certainty, but it would make absolutely no sense. However, if Anderson is gone and Arizona can’t move off the pick, Wilson becomes an option.
Option 3: Draft their favorite corner. If the first two picks are Bryce and Anderson, and they can’t move down, Arizona may pivot from taking a rusher to bringing in a cover corner.
#4 Indianapolis Colts
Option 1: Sit here and take whatever quarterback falls to them. I have no idea how much of this is just posturing, but Chris Ballard does seem, at minimum, very skeptical to spend the draft capital to move up for a quarterback. He didn’t pull the trigger on a deal for the first pick, and they may very well be entirely comfortable with all 4 quarterbacks and plan to just wait this out.
Option 2: Trade up to 3 to select their preferred quarterback. Maybe Ballard’s reluctance is quelled if Stroud gets to 3 as he views Levis and Richardson as too risky to bet the rest of his career on. Maybe Bryce and C.J. go 1-2 and Ballard, Steichen, and Irsay all agree one of Levis and Richardson is clearly better.
Option 3: Trade Down. It’s hard to envision Indianapolis sticking here and drafting not a quarterback. I guess maybe if Anderson gets here. If Ballard can’t get a deal he thinks is worth falling back for, I suppose it’s possible he takes the best non-quarterback on the board. But Chris is no stranger to wheeling and dealing, and if someone below him wants a quarterback, or Jalen Carter, Ballard will happily take the extra picks.
#5 Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN)
Option 1: Draft Anthony Richardson. I’ve seen and read enough from the Seahawks beat that the team truly loves Richardson. Carroll and Schneider openly admitted to the world they have to consider taking advantage of the opportunity picking this high because they don’t ever plan to be here again.
Option 2: Draft Jalen Carter. This would not be the first time the Seahawks brought in a “character concern.” I don’t think Carter’s arrest is going to scare off Seattle, and this does fit the concept of “we’re never picking this high again we need to take advantage” and Carter is a #1 overall level talent.
Option 3: Draft Tyree Wilson. The other thing Seattle has been open about is that they want to improve their defensive front seven.
Obviously a lot changes if Anderson were to fall for some reason.
#6 Detroit Lions (F/LAR)
Option 1: Draft Jalen Carter. I do think the Lions will have enough faith in the culture they’ve built to bring in Carter. Adding him to Hutchinson would just be ridiculous.
Option 2: Draft their favorite edge rusher. This might be Wilson (or Anderson) or bust, but I could see them liking Myles Murphy as well. Consensus seems to be this is a lock to be a corner, but I’m not so sure. From Mock Draft 3.0:
So far in Brad Holmes’ tenure, he has used 5 of his 8 picks in the first three rounds on the trenches. Tighten it to the first two rounds and it’s 4 out of 5. Now, it’s only been two drafts so you can reasonably argue the sample is too small and it’s somewhat circumstantial, but I think Holmes just operates this way.
Brad Holmes recently talked about making a monster of a position — like the DL rooms he had with the Rams. He’s not afraid to add to a position that’s already a strength. We saw that in 2021 with Penei Sewell.
Option 3: Draft their favorite corner. Don’t know how much you need me to explain the general consensus to you.
Bonus Option 4: Trade up or down. In Mock Draft 2.0 I had the Lions trading down with the Eagles, who came up for Carter. Brad Holmes seems to be open to dealing, so if he has a bunch of players with equal grades here and someone offers more picks to drop down a few spots, he could pull the trigger. It’s also entirely possible that, armed with two second rounders, Detroit is the team that trades with Arizona, except they’d be going up for Will Anderson, not a quarterback.
Bonus Option 5: Draft a quarterback. I don’t think Detroit is going to do this, but it’d be malpractice to not mention it as a possibility.
#7 Las Vegas Raiders
Option 1: Draft their favorite corner. There’s a good chance Vegas will have their pick of all corners here and this defense desperately needs upgrades in the secondary.
Option 2: Draft Jalen Carter. They had a meeting with Carter, and if Mark Davis is his father’s son, he’ll look right past any off field concerns and insist his team doesn’t pass on such a talent.
Option 3: Draft a quarterback. This includes a potential trade up. This doesn’t make much sense to me given how much money they gave Jimmy. I don’t think Jimmy is going to prevent the team from taking a quarterback if they like someone enough, but this roster needs a lot of help.
#8 Atlanta Falcons
Option 1: Draft their favorite edge rusher. If Tyree Wilson gets here the team is likely going to sprint to the podium. If Wilson is gone they could turn to Myles Murphy or Nolan Smith.
Option 2: Draft their favorite corner: It’s still possible that all corners are available here, but if one of Witherspoon or Gonzalez is (quite likely) they may view him as too good to pass up, despite the current trio of Terrell-Hayward-Okudah.
Option 3: Draft Bijan Robinson. Way back in January, I put Bijan to the Falcons in Mock Draft 1.0. Since then, the Falcons have signed, or traded for, approximately 6 billion defensive players. Many of which are not guaranteed long term solutions, but edge is by far this draft’s deepest position, and there’s only 1 Bijan Robinson. Also, fun fact, Robinson is now the favorite to be selected 8th overall.
you have my attention/interest pic.twitter.com/2hd2lR6Slb
— Eric Eager 📊🏈 (@ericeager_) April 17, 2023
Bonus Option 4: Draft Jalen Carter. I don’t think Carter gets here, but his draft range seems to be every team from 5-10. You’d think if any team in the NFL has the inside scoop of what happened that night in Georgia, it’d be Atlanta.
#9 Chicago Bears (F/CAR)
Option 1: Draft Jalen Carter. I don’t think Carter gets here, but I’ve read enough places that Chicago will not pass on Carter to believe this is his true floor (sorry Philly).
Option 2: Draft their favorite offensive tackle. The most popular team-position pairing in Mocks, sans Carolina taking a quarterback. It’s possible, if not very likely, the Bears will have their choice of all offensive tackles once on the clock.
Option 3: Draft one of Wilson/Witherspoon/Gonzalez. I doubt Wilson gets to 9, but you never know. If for some reason the Bears are so smitten with not an offensive tackle that they look to another position, it’ll be one of these three (this doesn’t include Carter).
#10 Philadelphia Eagles (F/NO)
Option 1: Draft Jalen Carter. As stated above, I think Carter’s real floor is the Bears at 9, but if for whatever reason he gets to 10 the Eagles are going to pounce.
Option 2: Trade (up or down, more likely down). In mock draft 2.0 I had the Eagles moving up to 6 to get their hands on Carter. If Howie does move up, it will be for him. However, the Eagles are going to move down from one of 10 or 30, if not both. They’re short handed on picks this year and after their pick at 94, they don’t pick again until 219. I think the most likely trade partners if Philly does move down are the Jets at 13 if they get antsy and want to lock up one of the Big 3 offensive tackles, the Steelers at 17 if they want to lock up one of the Big 3 tackles, or the Titans/Texans at 11/12 if a quarterback gets here that one of them desperately wants (there is a lot of smoke around Houston liking Levis and targeting him at 12/in a trade up if they do pass on Stroud).
Option 3: Draft a lineman, likely a defensive lineman. When in doubt, project Howie to address the trenches.
Bonus Rant: If the Eagles take Bijan at 10 I’ll eat my hat. The closet thing Howie has ever done to spending premium resources (either picks or money) on a running back is taking Miles Sanders in the second round. It’s the only time since he’s been with the Eagles (he came aboard in 2010) that he’s spent higher than a 3rd round pick on a running back, and he has never shelled out a big money deal for an extension or in free agency.
#11 Tennessee Titans
Option 1: Sit here and draft a quarterback that falls. This basically means roll the dice on Richardson or Levis getting to 11 and then pulling the trigger.
Option 2: Trade up for a quarterback. The Texans aren’t going to help their division foes get a quarterback, so the Titans’ trade up range is basically 3-10, if they’re willing.
Option 3: Take an offensive tackle. One of the Big 3 figures to still be available here (it’s possible they’re all gone but then someone that really shouldn’t be here would be) and the position is a huge need.
#12 Houston Texans (F/CLE)
If Houston passes on a quarterback at 2:
Option 1: Draft Levis or Richardson if they fall here. If they really think no one but Bryce is worthy of the 2nd pick and they end up with Anderson at 2 and a quarterback they feel is equal to who they would have reached on at 2, then this organization will be doing backflips.
Option 2: Trade up to get Levis or Richardson. Again, if this “Houston loves Levis” thing is true they can take Anderson at 2 and then jump up to 5-7.
Option 3: Continue bolstering the defense: It could be a corner to pair with Stingley, a pass rusher to pair with Anderson, or maybe they just love Kancey.
Bonus Option 4: Trade this pick for a 2024 first to stock pile ammo in case they need to trade up for Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
If Houston takes a quarterback at 2:
Option 1: Bolster the defense. It could be a corner to pair with Stingley, a pass rusher, or maybe they just love Kancey. I’d lean edge defender in the scenario where Houston does not take Anderson at 2.
Option 2: Draft a wide receiver to pair with the quarterback. The league is reportedly not nearly as enthralled with this receiver class as the public, but man, if the Texans do take Stroud it’d be awfully tempting to take Smith-Njigba here, especially after the recent success league wide of pairing QB-WR college teammates (Burrow-Chase, Tua-Waddle, Hurts-Smith (sorta)).
Option 3: Draft a Big 3 OT if one is available. Tytus Howard is in the last year of his deal and Casserio didn’t draft him. Pairing someone with Tunsil long-term to protect their quarterback investment is just wise business.
#13 New York Jets
For the record, I do not believe this pick will end up in the Rodgers trade.
Option 1: Draft a Big 3 offensive tackle. They’d probably be looking at whichever one is left.
Option 2: Trade up to secure a Big 3 offensive tackle. Philly, maybe Atlanta?
Option 3: Cry if an OT isn’t available. Just kidding.
Actual Option 3: Reach for Darnell Wright. I think it’s possible the Jets would look to trade down if Wright ends up the target, but with New England (14), Washington (16), and Pittsburgh (17) right behind them and all needing an offensive tackle, New York doesn’t want to risk losing Wright too so they just take him.
Bonus Option 4: Trade Down. See above.
Bonus Option 5: Draft the best defender. If the value lines up, the tackles are gone and there’s not a trade offer worth moving down.
#14 New England Patriots
Option 1: Trade Down. I mean, this is Bill Belichick after all. The Patriots are light on picks this year for rounds 1-3, relative to their standard. I don’t think the board shapes up as perfectly for New England at 14 as everyone else does, so they’ll likely look to move down as their first priority.
Option 2: Draft an offensive tackle. If one of the Big 3 makes it, it’s likely the Patriots pull the trigger. New England also desperately, specifically, needs a right tackle, and you only have to go back to last year for an example of Belichick reaching on an offensive lineman in the first round that he loved (this is a Darnell Wright subtweet).
Option 3: Draft an interior defensive lineman. By far the position Belichick has drafted the most in the first round during his New England tenure is interior defensive lineman. He’s tapped the position 5 times, and no other position exceeds 2. Now, obviously this is circumstantial and we’re talking about 5/18 picks, but Belichick likes guys that can bring pressure up the middle. Yes he has Barmore, but he took Dominique Easley off a torn ACL and I could see him taking a chance on Bryan Bresee.
Bonus Option 4: Draft Brian Branch. I had this pairing in Mock Draft 1.0 and may end up using it for my final version. Slot corner/safety is not a need for the Patriots, but I keep coming back to an assignment sound, versatile defensive back coached by Nick Saban. Is Belichick really passing?
Bonus Option 5: Draft a corner in the first round for the first time ever. Everyone is putting a corner (mostly Porter Jr.) in ink to the Patriots. Sure, they need his size but first off, they run three deep at corner, but also, Belichick has never drafted a corner in the first round during his New England tenure. That same thing was true about wide receiver until 2019, so never say never, but the Patriots taking a corner in round one is no where near the lock people think it is.
#15 Green Bay Packers
Option 1: Draft a tight end. Whether it’s Mayer or Kincaid, Green Bay may look at given Love a security blanket.
Option 2: Draft an edge defender. Gary is coming off a torn ACL and Smith could be a cap casualty in 2024.
Option 3: Draft Brian Branch. Safety is a big need and Branch is the only safety in this class worth a first, maybe even a second.
#16 Washington Commanders
Option 1: Draft a corner. A huge need and there figures to be one worth this draft slot available.
Option 2: Draft an offensive tackle. One of the Big 3 could fall, or perhaps they just pull the trigger on Wright, Harrison, or Jones.
Option 3: Draft Bijan Robinson. In my past two mocks I’ve had Bijan here and since the first time I made the pairing three big industry names have also connected these dots (including Brugler’s 4/17 mock).
#17 Pittsburgh Steelers
Option 1: Draft a corner. A huge need and there figures to be one worth this draft slot available.
Option 2: Draft an offensive tackle. One of the Big 3 could fall, or perhaps they just pull the trigger on Wright, Harrison, or Jones.
Option 3: Trade up to secure one of the Big 3 offensive tackles. Pittsburgh is so desperate at the position, if they love someone enough, and they truly believe he will protect Pickett and open lanes for Harris, they’ll get aggrssive.
#18 Detroit Lions
Option 1: Draft a corner. If they go edge rusher at 6, corner will be a prime target here.
Option 2: Draft an edge rusher. If they go corner at 6, edge rusher will be a prime target here.
Option 3: Draft Calijah Kancey. If the Lions don’t end up with Carter, Brad Holmes, who was instrumental in the Rams drafting Donald, may see too many similarities with Donald to pass on Kancey.
#19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Option 1: Draft an offensive tackle. If there’s someone here the team likes enough, they’ll pull the trigger.
Option 2: Draft an edge rusher. Again, if there’s someone they like enough, they’ll pull the trigger.
Option 3: Catch a falling quarterback. If Levis is magically here, or slides far enough, they could get aggressive.
#20 Seattle Seahawks
Option 1: Draft a defensive front 7 player. If they go quarterback at 5, a front 7 player here is nearly a lock. Even if they take Carter, they could look to add a pass rusher still.
Option 2: Draft a corner. Seattle absolutely nailed two 5th round corners last year, but if they love someone here enough it won’t stop them from adding to the group.
Option 3: Draft a receiver. Someone to play in the slot with Metcalf and Lockett out wide.
Bonus Option 4: Trade Down. I mean, it is John Schneider after all. Trading down in the first is what he does.
#21 Los Angeles Chargers
Option 1: Draft a receiver. The team needs speed and both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen have checkered pasts staying healthy.
Option 2: Draft a tight end. I think specifically if Mayer is available it’d be him. Maybe Kincaid.
Option 3: Draft a pass rusher. This draft is loaded with pass rushing talent. With the Herbert extension looming, how long can Los Angeles afford to pay both Bosa and Mack?
Bonus Option 4: Draft a run stuffer. If they believe there is a defensive tackle here worthy of the pick that can upgrade their run defense, they’ll do it.
#22 Baltimore Ravens
Option 1: Trade Down. Baltimore is without a second rounder this year and will likely look to move down from this selection to recoup some draft capital.
Option 2: Draft a receiver. They’re trying to convince Lamar to stay but the job’s not finished.
Option 3: Draft a corner. The biggest defensive need and the value could align.
#23 Minnesota Vikings
Option 1: Trade Down. The Vikings are also without a second and will likely look to move down to recoup capital with their analytically inclined GM.
Option 2: Draft a corner. This defense, especially secondary, needs help.
Option 3: Draft a receiver. Thielen is gone.
#24 Jacksonville Jaguars
Option 1: Draft a defensive back, likely a corner. If Branch is gone there won’t be a safety worth the pick. The jaguars need help in the secondary.
Option 2: Draft an offensive lineman. In Peter Schrager’s mock he said the Jags will go secondary or offensive line, which makes sense.
Option 3: Draft someone who is falling due to injuries: The Baalke special.
#25 New York Giants
Option 1: Draft a wide receiver. They paid Jones and need to upgrade his weapons.
Option 2: Draft a corner. This corner group needs new talent.
Option 3: Draft Kancey or Bresee. There’s going to come a day where the team cannot afford to pay both Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams.
#26 Dallas Cowboys
Option 1: Draft a defensive tackle. This is a more shallow position group in the draft so if the team really likes Kancey/Bresee/Smith they could grab them here then look elsewhere later.
Option 2: Draft a tight end. One of the four tight ends everyone is swooning over should be available here so if Dallas wants to they can pull the trigger.
Option 3: Draft an offensive lineman. Tyron Smith is a Hall of Famer but he’s 32, is technically entering the last year of his contract, and has missed significant time due to injuries in two of the past three seasons. They drafted Tyler Smith to play guard before eventually kicking outside, but if they draft a tackle and Smith continues to flourish at guard, they can just leave Smith at guard. Or perhaps they think they can upgrade on Steele and then just let him walk this offseason. Or they draft a guard to prepare for Smith moving outside to tackle in 2024.
#27 Buffalo Bills
Option 1: Draft a receiver. The playoff loss exposed how unreliable the non-Diggs options are on this team.
Option 2: Draft an edge rusher. The playoff loss exposed how different this defense is without Von Miller.
Option 3: Draft a corner. They just took one in the first round last year, but the AFC is war. For the next 15 years Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Herbert and Lawrence will be dueling one another in the playoffs. Each of their respective teams cannot have enough corners.
#28 Cincinnati Bengals
Option 1: Draft Brian Branch. The free agency loss of Bates is huge and there’s only one Week 1 starting safety in this class.
Option 2: Draft a corner. See Bills above.
Option 3: Draft a tight end. Maybe they think Irv Smith Jr. is the solution, but that seems rather unlikely.
Bonus Option 4: Draft an offensive tackle. I don’t really believe they’re going to do this but if they’re worried about Collins’ health that changes the equation.
#29 New Orleans Saints (F/DEN/MIA/SF)
Option 1: Draft a defensive tackle. All of their defensive tackles seemingly defected in free agency. Kancey/Bresee/Smith/Adebawore are all options here.
Option 2: Draft a linebacker. The Saints might be looking at their pick of the litter at linebacker.
Option 3: Draft an interior offensive lineman. Most likely all guards and centers will be available here. You pony’d up for Carr, make sure you protect him.
Bonus Option 4: Draft a receiver. The Saints would be wise to treat Michael Thomas as a complete unknown and try to pair Olave with someone for the long term.
#30 Philadelphia Eagles
Option 1: Trade Down. Again, the Eagles are short on picks by their standards and are likely to trade down from 10, 30, or both.
Option 2: Draft the defensive trenches. I mean, it’s Howie Roseman.
Option 3: Draft an offensive lineman. Kelce won’t play forever, Jurgens is basically an unknown, Lane Johnson will eventually retire.
Bonus Option 4: Draft Brian Branch if he is miraculously here. They lost CGJ in free agency.
#31 Kansas City Chiefs
Option 1: Trade up. Last year I said the Chiefs would trade up (with the Patriots at 22) because they had 14 picks and weren’t going to fit 14 rookies on a Super Bowl caliber roster. Well, they did trade up (with the Patriots at 22!). They have 11 picks this year. Baltimore and Minnesota are prime suspects to trade down at picks 22 and 23, respectively.
Option 2: Draft an edge rusher. They need more than last year’s first rounder George Karlaftis.
Option 3: Draft a receiver. The Chiefs, like the Packers, showed us last year that even with two first round picks and a need at receiver, they won’t force it. It’s not impossible, but they’re not going to go out of their way to reach on someone.
Bonus Option 4: Draft a corner. See Bills and Bengals above.