The draft is here. We made it. Congratulations everyone.
#1 Carolina Panthers (F/CHI) – QB Bryce Young, Alabama
“All that’s left is for Roger Goodell to announce Bryce Young” – Ian Rapoport (or something like that).
#2 Houston Texans – Edge Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
The entire league is reportedly in the dark on what Houston is going to do. Apparently no one knows. It’s certainly possible they end up settling on a quarterback, but there seems to be too much smoke around them passing on Stroud (or whoever) for it to not be fire. Lance Zierlein was the first on this, and he’s as plugged into Houston as anyone. Last year I ignored the late reports shifting the third pick to Stingley because I just thought I knew better. Not this year.
Except I do know better that this will be Anderson instead of Wilson. I’ve seen the theory as to why Wilson will win out (more closely resembles Bosa, better scheme fit) and I think it’s hog wash. I’d like to believe both DeMeco Ryans and Nick Casserio are going to see Anderson is just clearly the better prospect and take him. As I pointed out in my Three Options for Every First Round Pick article, Casserio has made a concerted effort to focus on character guys ever since taking over. And Saban, who knows Ryans quite well, has this to say about Anderson:
“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 – Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
I don’t think the Cardinals will end up trading this pick, obviously. Of course they might, and they clearly prefer to, but let’s think this through. The Colts didn’t get aggressive trying to move up to 1, and it seems plausible, if not likely, they’re ok with just selecting a quarterback that’s available at 4. I can see a world where if Stroud is available at 3 they’ll send two thirds just to secure him, but I think they’re comfortable just taking Levis should it come to that.
And do the Colts even need to move up? I don’t think Seattle, Detroit, or Las Vegas is going to trade up to 3 for a quarterback. Maybe Detroit gets aggressive if Anderson does make it to the Cardinals pick. After that you’re looking at the Titans (who apparently want to move DOWN, not up) at 11 and the Texans again at 12 as those that might come up for a quarterback. Going from 11 or 12 to 3 will costs three first rounders, and mega trades like that just don’t happen while teams are actually on the clock.
Anyway, with Anderson gone, Arizona turns it attention to Wilson. I’ve heard to whispers lately they really like Gonzalez and that Kyler is campaigning for Paris Johnson, but both Gannon and Ossenfort strike me as two that will prefer Wilson. The Eagles’s defense for years has been built upon a deep stable of pass rushers while Wilson’s frame, length, and hard edge setting ability is what the Patriots organization has coveted for the last 20+ years.
#4 Indianapolis Colts – QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Honestly, if Stroud does make it here then Ballard really nailed this. He didn’t want to rush into trading for the first pick before doing his homework on all the quarterbacks, and to still get Stroud to just fall into his lap at 4 would be incredible. There’s not much else to say about this pick, it’s going to be a quarterback, it’s just a matter of which one.
#5 Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
At the end of the day, I think Seattle is going to do it. Carroll and Schneider openly talked about needing to investigate taking advantage of drafting this high, since they rarely do so, and taking a quarterback if it makes sense. And for as tempting as Carter will be (and I think Carter will be the pick here if Richardson is gone, I don’t think they’ll take Levis), I don’t think the Seahawks are going to pass on this opportunity. The team reportedly loves him too much, they have Geno – who has said he’d do nothing but help any rookie the team might draft – to play while Richardson is developed in the background, and if all goes according to plan Seattle will never have the opportunity at a quarterback prospect as talented as Richardson.
#6 Detroit Lions (F/LAR) – DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
Detroit has done their homework on Carter and, obviously this is a blatant guess, but I think they’re going to be comfortable with adding him to the culture they’ve spent the past two years cultivating under Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes. I’ve said before that while Carter’s technical floor is Philadelphia at 10, it’s really at 9 because the Bears won’t pass. And while I do believe his true floor is Chicago, I think it’s kind of Detroit now. Adding a #1 overall type talent to this roster is the exact move that could push a team on the cusp of the playoffs over the edge. Plus, Peter Schrager has this to say:
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) April 24, 2023
#7 Las Vegas Raiders – CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
I’ve always had Christian Gonzalez here so if this last minute switch costs me a pick I’m going to be pissed, but it seems as if most teams have Witherspoon as their top rated corner. I can’t remember who said it but I read that for one prominent draft analyst he’d be surprised if Witherspoon got out of the top 6, and here are Albert Breer’s two biggest takeaways from his own Monday Column:
Two guys I think the NFL is higher on than all the people pumping up two mock drafts per day …
1) Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon.
2) Ohio State OT Paris Johnson.
Either could go as high as 3, and I see both as pretty locked in to go inside the Top 10. More in here 👇👇 https://t.co/ZyoYgh7BTD
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 24, 2023
#8 Atlanta Falcons – RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
AND WE’RE BACK BABY!! It was yours truly that first put Bijan to Atlanta back in January and now it looks like we’re headed in that direction. The Falcons have acquired players at nearly every defensive position, and while not all of them are long-term solutions, it does provide flexibility for this pick. Bijan is the betting favorite to be the 8th pick and Peter King has this in his mock draft.
Like I pointed out in my Three Options article, though, is a team looking to secure one of the offensive tackles could trade up here, and Atlanta is looking to move down. If the Titans (11), Texans (12), Packers (13), or Jets (15) want to get up to 8 Atlanta could go for it thinking they’ll still get Robinson later.
#9 Chicago Bears (F/CAR) – OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
I was already going to make this my final projection for the Bears ever since that PowerPoint slide was released that said they value length at offensive tackle. But then you add in what Breer said above about Paris not getting out of the top 10 and various reports that Chicago does in fact love Johnson and assuming a. Carter is gone and b. Johnson is available, this feels like it’s going to happen.
Eagles Receive: #17, #49
Steelers Receive: #10
#10 Pittsburgh Steelers (F/PHI/NO) – OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
As I’ve been harping on, Philadelphia is short on picks this year in comparison to their usual stock pile, and Howie is likely to trade down from either 10, 31, or both in an effort to accumulate more selections. Don’t worry, Albert Breer then reported that in his Monday column, confirming my prognosticating.
Oh, you know what else Breer confirmed that I’ve been saying? That Pittsburgh could very well trade up for an offensive tackle. “And if it’s an offensive linemen, well, that could be after a trade up. The Steelers are one of the few teams that have explored a move up the board, and I’ve heard it’s with the idea of getting a tackle to put in front of Kenny Pickett.”
The Steelers, meanwhile, have an extra second rounder from the Roquan Smith trade, which happens to be the first pick of the second round. In this trade, they send the later of their two seconds to move up, and then field trade offers in-between the conclusion of Round 1 and opening of Round 2 in an effort to recoup the draft capital they gave up in this trade. If no worthy offer presents itself, or someone unexpectedly falls, then they’ll just stick at 32 and pick.
Pittsburgh doesn’t just have a need at offensive tackle, they’re desperate. There’s a clear Big 3 offensive tackles in this draft, and after Chicago takes one at 9 there’s only two left with the Titans, Texans, Jets, Patriots and Commanders all picking before the Steelers with some level of need at offensive tackle themselves. If Pittsburgh wants to know what it has in Pickett, and get Harris back on track, they’ll go get one of the three.
#11 Tennessee Titans – CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
The Titans have a new GM so there isn’t much of a track record to go off of here. But there is the reporting that teams see 8 premium non-quarterbacks in this draft (Anderson, Wilson, Carter, Paris, Skoronski, Witherspoon, Gonzalez, and Bijan) and I think they’ll all go in the top 12, save for maybe Bijan. I don’t think the Titans are going to take a quarterback, especially when they’re seeing if they can trade down when calling other teams. The team signed Patrick Peterson in free agency but he’s not a long-term solution and there’s not much behind him on the depth chart. Tennessee just stays put and takes the last of the Premium 8.
#12 Houston Texans (F/CLE) – QB Will Levis, Kentucky
A good chunk of me doesn’t like this projection. I don’t know why Levis has become the betting favorite for the 2nd pick, but he has. I’ve read elsewhere the team does like him. It’s weird to me a team would risk losing a quarterback they like by not just selecting him earlier, but it has happened before (i.e. Lamar in 2018, Brady Quinn in 2007).
New regimes mean new quarterbacks and with DeMeco Ryans and Will Levis the Texans are officially resetting the franchise and moving past the Watson era.
#13 Green Bay Packers (F/NJY) – TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
I know the Packers wanted to extract the most value they could from the Jets, but I feel like swapping 13-15 was a mini move to help a potential jump further up the board. The Packers primary targets (Mayer, Kincaid, Nolan Smith, Brian Branch) should be available at 15, so maybe they have their sights set bigger and want one of the Premium 8.
Anyway, back when Green Bay was picking at 15, more and more momentum seemed to be this would end up a tight end. The Packers need to support Jordan Love and Mayer has a clean projection to the pros and can contribute as a safety valve and blocker.
#14 New England Patriots – OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
The Patriots don’t draft for need but the value of the board and a huge hole on the roster are lining up here. If Mac is to develop and succeed he needs to stay protected. Also, this pick would probably cause the entire Jets War Room to through their laptops against the wall, so, Belichick will definitely do it.
(I hate myself for not projecting Brian Branch here and when it happens I’m going to hate myself more)
#15 New York Jets (F/GB) – OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
I’ve been wondering if Johnson, Skoronski, and Jones were unavailable at the Jets pick would they just say “fuck it” and take Wright, and I’m starting to believe that answer is truly “yes.” This team is so desperate to fix their offensive tackle mess, and it basically is the only weakness on the roster now with Rodgers on board. Wright figures to at least be a plug-and-play quality run blocker, and for a team that went all in for a two year Super Bowl window, they need immediate impact and to fix their offensive tackle situation.
#16 Washington Commanders – CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Apparently the NFL as a whole isn’t as high on Porter as the media as they don’t think he plays as big as his size. However, the mix of value and need here is a perfect storm and I think Washington would be very happy to end up with Porter in the first round.
#17 Philadelphia Eagles (F/DET) – Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
This is just the most Howie pick. First off, it’s a player in the trenches. Second, Van Ness has a ton of upside but there’s a lot of learning he needs to do. He likely won’t be a full-time player immediately for whoever it is that drafts him. Fear not! Van Ness can rotate with, and learn from, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and Haasan Reddick before stepping into a larger role next year when Graham may no longer be on the roster.
#18 Detroit Lions – CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
I thought corner was a need for the Lions before the Okudah trade and now here we are. Witherspoon is a strong candidate at 6 so if Detroit does go another direction earlier, corner will be a big target here. Something about this just feels too easy though and I don’t like it.
A random surprise name I’d watch out for is Dalton Kincaid. I don’t think the Lions are going to go on tilt and draft a receiver here, but they may have been looking at Day 2 tight ends, and now with Williams suspension may want to bring in Kincaid’s juice.
#19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia
Tampa needs more juice out of their pass rush and Nolan Smith is one of the most absurd athletes to ever attend the combine.
#20 Seattle Seahawks – Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
Pete Carroll was very honest after their playoff loss that Seattle needs to be better in the front 7. If they don’t go quarterback at 5 then a defensive lineman (Carter, Anderson, Wilson) is very likely to be the pick. The Seahawks also love freak athletes and here are Murphy’s workout numbers compared to Travon Walker, with Murphy’s presented first, then Walker’s:
40: 4.52 – 4.51
10-split: 1.55u – 1.54
Short Shuttle: 4.35 – 4.32
3-Cone: 7.20 – 6.89
Vertical: 31″ – 35.5″
Murphy didn’t do the broad jump while Walker’s was outstanding. Again, these aren’t a perfect match as Walker is more explosive and his 3-cone is significantly better, but there’s a lot of similarities. Walker is also longer with bigger hands, but still, these numbers give Murphy an elite RAS of his own.
:#21 Los Angeles Chargers – WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
Michael Mayer is a popular pick here and it makes sense, but with how deep this class is at tight end the Chargers may opt for the speed they need at receiver if Flowers is available. Yes, all the receivers are still on the board and I have Los Angeles taking Flowers. Telesco has shown over the years he’s not afraid to go off script, and among the Big 4 receivers Flowers is the one that brings the most juice.
Ravens Receive: #33, #73
Texans Receive: #22
#22 Houston Texans (F/BAL) – WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Ravens are without a second rounder and are likely to look to trade down to accumulate some extra picks.
Teams that draft a quarterback in the first round historically spend their next premium draft pick on either a receiving option or offensive lineman. Johnston is the best bet at a true X receiver in the draft. Houston may look to do this even if they pass on a quarterback at both 2 and 12 as receiver is a big need, they may have Johnston (or whoever is available) as WR1, and Caleb Williams and Drake Maye must be in this team’s long-term plans.
Vikings Receive: #31, #95, #122
Chiefs Receive: #23
#23 Kansas City Chiefs (F/MIN) – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Like the Ravens, Minnesota is without a second rounder this year and and given Kwesi’s penchant for analytics I suspect he will look to move down from 23 to accumulate more picks.
Last year I predicted the Chiefs would trade up in the first round, specifically with the Patriots, because they had 12 total selections and there’s no way they were fitting 12 rookies on a Super Bowl caliber roster. Well this year the Chiefs have 10 picks and, once again, there’s no way they’re fitting 10 rookies on a Super Caliber roster.
Oh, and guess what? The Chiefs DID trade up last year with the Patriots. Let me know when you’re on my level.
Won’t be holding my breath.
Anyway, the trade details from last year are the Chiefs sent 29, 94, and 121 for 21, which is nearly identical to what this trade would be.
We know the Chiefs can use help at receiver and Smith-Njigba could easily go much higher than this. This will be the “how did the league allow this?” moment of the draft if it comes to fruition.
#24 Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
In each of the past two drafts Trent Baalke has over-drafted a freak athlete out of Georgia. Despite reaching on Tyson Campbell, Campbell has developed into a quality player and profiled similarly to Ringo. The jury is still out on Walker but the point is Baalke’s affinity for freak athlete’s is no secret. While Ringo never produced the best tape at Georgia despite his gifts, I don’t think Baalke will be able to pass on those gifts, especially given the need at the position.
#25 New York Giants – DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Both Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams are free agents in 2024 and I’m not sure keeping both is overly plausible given how the interior defensive lineman market has exploded. Kancey can be a pass rushing specialist in 2023 before becoming a starter in 2024.
#26 Dallas Cowboys – TE Dalton Kincaid. Utah
Replace one Dalton with another!
#27 Buffalo Bills – WR Jordan Addison, USC
The Bills playoff loss really exposed two things; the lack of reliable receivers not named Diggs, and the defense apparently just falls apart without Von Miller. Jordan Addison is such an easy plug-and-play option he makes too much sense for a team chasing a Super Bowl.
#28 Cincinnati Bengals – RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
I hate projecting this, I really do, but too many people believe Gibbs is going to go first round that I feel obligated to find a spot. 2023 figures to be Mixon’s last year on the roster, and even in the meantime, Gibbs can provide an explosive receiving weapon out of the backfield that this offense is currently lacking.
#29 New Orleans Saints (F/DEN/MIA/SF) – DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
The entire Saints’ defensive interior defected in free agency and I believe Smith is going to sneak into the first round.
#30 Philadelphia Eagles – S Brian Branch, Alabama
Branch is an easy projection as a CGJ replacement moonlighting as a slot corner.
#31 Minnesota Vikings (F/KC) – CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Forbes sneaks into the first despite his 166 pound frame. He’s an absolute ball magnet and the Vikings desperately need help at corner.
#32 Pittsburgh Steelers (F/CHI) – CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
I do find it likely the Steelers would trade down from this spot if they do move up in the first, but I’d rather just project their pick as opposed to another trade, and they desperately need a corner.
#33 Baltimore Ravens (F/HOU) – WR Josh Downs, North Carolina
Receiver seems to be a target at 22 still.
#34 Arizona Cardinals – DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
An absolute steal.
#35 Indianapolis Colts – OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Torrence is a people mover.
#36 Los Angeles Rams – OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
Outside of quarterback, and maybe even including, the Rams could draft any position here. But given Stafford’s age and health history the team needs to invest in protection.
#37 Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
The Seahawks have a type in the second round (other than Metcalf). Paul Richardson was 6’0″ 180 pounds and ran a 4.4 flat. Tyler Lockett was 5’10” 182 and ran a 4.4 flat, and D’Wayne Eskridge was 5’9″ 190 and ran a 4.4 flat. Jalin Hyatt is 6’0″ 180 and ran a 4.4 flat. In college Hyatt basically just ran go-routes from the slot which he can easily do with Metcalf and Lockett out wide. I honestly could see them pulling the trigger on this at 37.
#38 Las Vegas – G/C Steve Avila, TCU
If Jimmy is to succeed Vegas needs to draft some interior upgrades.
#39 Carolina Panthers – Edge Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
They need an upgrade opposite Burns.
#40 New Orleans Saints – Edge B.J. Ojulari, LSU
New Orleans opts for some home cooking.
#41 Tennessee Titans – OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Titans draft an Ohio State tackle, just not at 11 for a change.
#42 Packers (F/NYJ/CLE) – Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
Gary is coming off an ACL and 2023 may be Smith’s last season on the team.
#43 New York Jets – TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Douglas is done fucking around. Washington can be a 6th offensive lineman and then step up as a receiver when Tyler Conklin and/or C.J. Uzomah are cap casualties next year.
#44 Atlanta Falcons – DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
The Falcons had the worst pass rush in the league last year and whether Adebawore lines up inside or as an edge defender he’ll bring juice the team currently lacks.
#45 Green Bay Packers – WR Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Big bodied target for Love.
#46 New England Patriots – DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
Belichick could covet Benton’s interior pressure.
#47 Washington Commanders – OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland
Local product to protect 2023 MVP Sam Howell.
#48 Detroit Lions – TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
#49 Philadelphia Eagles (F/PIT) – C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
Jason Kelce cannot play forever.
#50 Tampa Bay – TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa
Baker, Trask, Caleb, get whoever it is a weapon at TE.
#51 Miami Dolphins – C/G Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
Given Tippman’s athleticism and movement skills I like the idea of him in McDaniel’s offense.
#52 Seattle Seahawks – CB Julius Brents, Kansas State
Brents’ length seems destined for Seattle.
#53 Chicago Bears (F/BAL) – TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
I don’t know whether or not Poles is going to pay Kmet after 2023, but even if he does the name of the game is get Fields weapons.
#54 Los Angeles Chargers – DT Siaki Ika, Baylor
The Chargers must address their run defense.
#55 Detroit Lions (F/MIN) – WR Rashee Rice, SMU
Rice adds a big bodied compliment to Jameson’s speed and Amon-Ra in the slot.
#56 Jacksonville Jaguars – C Luke Wypler, Ohio State
Protecting Lawrence needs to be a priority.
#57 New York Giants – CB Tyrique Stevenson, Miami
The Giants desperately need corner help.
#58 Dallas Cowboys – RB Zach Charbonet, UCLA
Dallas seems intent on getting a running mate for Pollard and Charbonet is a change of pace.
#59 Buffalo Bills – LB Trent Simpson, Clemson
Edmonds left in free agency and Simpson has the athletic traits that lead to the Edmunds selection in the first place.
#60 Cincinnati Bengals – CB Darius Rush, South Carolina
The Bengals need to draft corner help.
#61 Chicago Bears (F/CAR/SF) – CB D.J. Turner, Michigan
The Bears also need to draft corner help.
#62 Philadelphia Eagles – CB Clark Phillips III, Utah
And the Eagles decide to draft a slot corner (even though Branch kind of is one).
#63 Kansas City Chiefs – Edge Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
A replacement for Frank Clark.