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Gaffney's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

As of right now, the annual NFL Draft is a little over two months out, but the scouting combine and the countless number of Pro Days will be here before you know it. Not to mention the opening of the new league year and free agency, which is the table setter for the draft in terms of the direction teams will go in downtown Kansas City. This year's class has no shortage of defensive studs like Will Anderson, Jalen Carter, and Tyree Wilson, but some great offensive talents like Bijan Robinson, Bryce Young, and Jordan Addison. 60-plus days out, here's how I have the opening three rounds shaking out.

Mock Draft Guidelines:

- Picks are a hybrid of A) What I would do. And B) What I think the team in question would do.

-Self-imposed maximum of 15 total trades (14 trades executed here). -All trade values are loosely dictated by Rich Hill Trade Value Chart and/or prior trades. (Future picks are worth round slot + 32 per chart explanation for '24, +64 for '25) - All trade values will be displayed in () with full numbers only. - Third-round compensatory picks based on OverTheCap projection and selections will be *’s regardless of if the pick is traded or not.

RAGE System for reference as it is briefly mentioned (we’ve evolved passed the phrase ‘tanking’ as a society):

R – ender Roster Uncompetitive

A – nger Fanbase for Short Term

G – ain Draft Capital

E – mpower Roster with Elite Talent

Round 1


Bears Receive: Picks 2, 33, and 73 in 2023, and 2024 first, third (via Cleveland Browns), and fourth-round picks (1181) Texans Receive: Picks 1 and 64 in 2023 (1080)

Pick 1) Houston Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Typically, you wouldn’t want to give up this much to jump up one spot, but this is what happens when you ruin a perfectly good RAGE with literal seconds to go in the season. The good news for Houston is that the Indianapolis Colts don’t have the war chest of picks they do, nor do the Carolina Panthers, but if they put Brian Burns on the board with some picks, that would be very enticing for the Bears if you ask me. Or if Jim Irsay goes full Mike Ditka which I wouldn’t rule out, but I digress.

The only major knock on Bryce Young is that he’s going to need to bulk up a tad by the time next season rolls around, which tells you a lot if that’s the only concern. I’ve come to like him over the last several months, perhaps even longer, for mostly the same reasons I was a fan of Justin Fields at Ohio State, not to say they are the same guy, however. But no spot is too big for Young, he has a great feel for what’s going on around him, is a natural leader, and simply makes things happen. Young is a certifiable franchise guy, no reason he shouldn’t be the leader in the clubhouse to be the first quarterback off the board.

Depending on what Houston does to shore up their offensive front, I think Young and new Texans’ OC Bobby Slowik can do some good work together. This would also reunite Young with John Metchie, which was a potent connection in the 2021 college season.

*TRADE* Bears Receive: Brian Burns, Picks 9 and 132 in 2023, and a 2024 first and second-round pick (1011)

*- Value for Burns loosely based on trades for Khalil Mack (to Bears, 365) and Jared Allen (421) (Not a perfect precedent but they're there)

Panthers Receive: Picks 2 and 73 in 2023, and 2024 first-round pick (via Cleveland Browns) (913)

Pick 2) Carolina Panthers (via Houston via Chicago) – CJ Stroud, QB (Ohio State)

Assuming that Matt Rhule did indeed have the final say over personnel moves in his tenure, this will be Scott Fitterer’s first shot at heading a Panthers draft since leaving Seattle. Neither Sam Darnold nor Baker Mayfield turned out as Carolina had hoped, and Matt Corral didn’t make it out of the preseason due to a season-ending injury. Not to mention that with Frank Reich in the fold now, he could want his own guy to work with. Giving up Burns is tough, but to get a signal caller like Stroud, that’s the cost of doing business.

While I believe Stroud is a clear 1B/No. 2 to Young, the fact he’s bigger than his Alabama counterpart should get some teams excited. The Ohio State product has a solid arm and release, and the ball simply gets out quickly. Accuracy is also a big part of Stroud's game, he can make just about any throw with pinpoint precision. He was a 70 percent completion percentage guy in 2021 as well, although that isn’t the be-all-end-all in determining accuracy, that’s pretty good. Reich is probably one of the better people to hook Stroud up with in all honesty, not to mention Josh McCown and Jim Caldwell now also. Simply an elite offensive staff. On a final note, Stroud was absolute nails against Georgia in the Peach Bowl.

Pick 3) Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson, EDGE (Alabama)

With JJ Watt retiring and Zach Allen likely poised for a big payday, the front seven for the Cardinals could look entirely different next season. Not many better, if any, pass rusher prospects have entered the league since Von Miller than Anderson, who’s put up nearly 35 sacks in three seasons at Bama.

An elite first step? Anderson has you covered. Power and Relentless? Absolutely. And how about some elite football IQ, Anderson checks off that box as well. He’s been touted as the best player in this class for well over a year now and that isn’t by accident.

There’s absolutely some stuff he can improve on, but Anderson will bring a ton to the table right off the bat. One knock on him from friend of the program Brady Podloski on Anderson is that he didn’t set up many pass rush moves for plays down the road, but that feels fixable. Although Anderson might be the best edge prospect since Miller, I wouldn’t exactly compare the two. This could be the Patriots fan in me talking, but I saw flashes of Matt Judon just going back recently and looking at some 2022 stuff, mostly from the stunts Bama had Anderson run. Felt mirror-image-ish a few times. Either way, this is an easy slam-dunk pick for Rich Gannon and Monti Ossenfort.

Pick 4) Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB (Kentucky)

Mark this selection down under the “Not what I would do, but what I think they’ll do” tab. If for nothing else, Will Levis is a ‘traits’ guy, and Chris Ballard LOVES himself some traits guys, his words not mine by the way. I wasn’t super impressed with his 2022 stuff from around the midway point last year, but there were some outside factors that didn’t help him out, mainly an offensive coordinator change. In any case, some areas that concern me with Levis are pocket presence/awareness, ball security (22 picks in two seasons at Kentucky), and general inconsistency.

Now, here’s where Levis stands out, as hyperbolic as both terms have become, he does have great arm strength and talent. He also can give you production on the ground as well. Between his two years at Kentucky, he had 179 carries and 11 touchdowns (as a side note, sacks counting as rush attempts in College Football is categorically insane). While I’m not currently 100 percent sold on the Kentucky product, there is surely some front-office personnel around the league that are, and I have a hunch that Ballard is in that group. If he believes that Levis is ‘the guy’, he’s probably going to be a Colt.

Also as a side note, Levis is an admitted ‘Mayonnaise in his Coffee’ guy, on the record with the video to prove it. Video here, but this devious, nefarious, and quite frankly abhorrent behavior is Not Safe for Work, so you’ve been warned.

Pick 5) Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos) – Jalen Carter, IDL (Georgia)

Next up are the two teams that embraced the RAGE system and are rewarded with a top 10 pick each…via the teams they sold off to. Jon Schneider crushed the draft a season ago and gets off to a great start here with Carter, who is at the absolute worst the second-best player in this draft. Simply put, he’s a freak athlete for an interior defender, who’s a monster against the run, and has some pass-rush skill, although he’s still a bit raw in that department, if only slightly. Some of his highlights are just downright silly.

It’s also worth noting that Carter missed just shy of a month last season with an MCL injury, and 2022 was his only season as a full-time starter. Despite this, he was often called the best player on that insane 2021 Georgia team, and you can see why. I think Will Anderson is the best prospect in this class, but Carter's game is going to translate the best at the NFL level in year one of anyone here.

Pick 6) Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – Anthony Richardson, QB (Florida)

Hard to say if Detroit ultimately goes quarterback this year, but I’ll pose this question. Do you think Jared Goff can give the Lions what he did this season from Thanksgiving onwards every week for the remainder of his deal? To me, that answer is probably not. Even if he does, Richardson doesn’t necessarily need to start right away. I had him going to Detroit in my midseason mock late last year, and I feel even better about the Florida prospect now than I did back around Week 9.

A lot has been said about Richardson being a ‘high ceiling, low floor prospect’, to which I’ll say this. His ceiling is certainly high, but I don’t think his floor is as low as you may think, even if that means he may not start his rookie year. Detroit obviously has the luxury to take some time to bring him up to speed, a great thing considering Ben Johnson is back for at least another year.

Now Richardson has some stuff he needs to improve on, mainly accuracy, although he was plagued by receiver drops more than usual. But where he excels is with his raw size and athleticism, throwing on the run, and his excellent pocket presence. He’s also going to only turn 22 this May which is another plus. Richardson is the fourth QB off the board here, but he’s easily my No. 3 guy in this class.

Pick 7) Las Vegas Raiders – Devon Witherspoon, CB (Illinois)

Even if there was a signal caller available, I have a feeling the Raiders will ride it out with Jarrett Stidham, or bring in a veteran QB once free agency opens, Jimmy Garoppolo perhaps? Tackle makes some sense here, but corner makes even more sense considering the Raiders were one of five teams to allow 4000-plus passing yards in 2022. Not to mention the fact that they came away with just six interceptions all season, tied for worst in the league.

Over the last several months, my top corner in this draft has changed from Kelee Ringo to Christian Gonzalez over time. Now that distinction falls to Witherspoon, who was as good as any cornerback in college football over the last five years in 2022. Despite being 6’0 and around 185 lbs, he's a very physical corner demonstrated quite clearly with this hit against Indiana, but is elite in coverage. To put some numbers to that, he was PFF’s highest-graded corner in all of college football, and he gave up only one (1) American football catch in press coverage. The Raiders will need a bit more to shore up the secondary, but Witherspoon would be a hell of a start.

*TRADE* Falcons Receive: Picks 17, 49 in 2023, and a 2024 third-round pick (445)

Steelers Receive: Pick 8, and a 2024 fourth-round pick (420)

Pick 8) Pittsburgh Steelers (via Atlanta Falcons) – Paris Johnson Jr, OT (Ohio State)

Pittsburgh’s offensive line was surprisingly much better than anticipated this season, but they’re not at the level they were in the mid/late 2010s by any means. Johnson as it stands is my No. 2 tackle prospect, but his profile and experience stand out compared to his peers, with full seasons at both left tackle and right guard. Considering he’s 6’6 and over 300 pounds, it’s not a shock to say his best fit is on the outside in the NFL.

Johnson is a complete menace and people mover in the run game and occasionally can even play through the whistle Michael Oher in the Blindside style. Love the effort but I imagine that will get coached out of him the moment he steps into his new team’s building. Johnson also didn’t give up many sacks at Ohio State, but there’s some stuff that he can naturally improve on. But especially for the run game, this would be a gigantic pickup for Najee Harris and friends, not to mention Kenny Pickett, who saw nearly 10 sacks allowed from left tackle Dan Moore.

Pick 9) Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers) – Myles Murphy, EDGE (Clemson)

After multiple trade downs in this scenario in which they also acquire Brian Burns, the Bears could go from one of worst pass rush situations in the league to an above-average situation in a matter of an hour in real-time. I think the debate on if the Bears should go with Myles Murphy or Tyree Wilson here is a fascinating one. I came away impressed with both in different areas, but I feel that Murphy’s base as a pass rusher can get him the nod here.

While Wilson is an athletic monster, Murphy isn’t too far off, standing at 6’5 and around 275 lbs. His burst and first step off the line of scrimmage are both very good but has some concerns about finishing plays. He’s never had more than seven sacks in a season so that does track. However, getting up with Brian Burns in this scenario is as good as it gets. Being able to watch an elite finisher every day at practice and pick his brain in the meeting room is invaluable. Additionally, Murphy is an elite edge-setter, close to on level with Wilson in the film I’ve seen.

Pick 10) Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints) – Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon)

I think you could make the argument that the Eagles can do whatever they want here, especially their top needs of cornerback, running back, and edge depth (Howie Roseman LOVES his defensive front picks in round one). With James Bradberry in line for what’s likely his last big payday, I can envision both parties going their separate ways.

Gonzalez was my top corner for the last several weeks simply due to his athletic profile and man coverage ability, both press and off the line. His ball production was a concern going into the 2022 tilt, as he has zero picks in three seasons at Colorado. Gonzalez did however rack up four interceptions in his lone season at Oregon. The biggest issue with him is that he will definitely need to bulk up a tad, being listed at around 200 lbs. Outside of that, he could line up opposite Darius Slay on day one.

Pick 11) Tennessee Titans – Jordan Addison, WR (USC)

I’m going to say something controversial here…the Titans need receiver help. I know, very shocking stuff to hear, crucify me if you must. To effectively fill the void left in the wake of AJ Brown, they take a receiver in Addison, who reminds me a great deal of his running mate DeVonta Smith. Before moving to USC, he won the Biletnikoff award at Pitt with a 100-catch 1593-yard 17 TD season. Although his numbers took a dip out west since he missed about a month with an ankle injury, he shored up some drop issues that he had at Pitt.

As far as what else Addison brings to the table, is some crisp route running/elite footwork, and while he doesn’t have speed like say Tyquan Thornton from a year ago, he’s fast enough to get by at every level. Now, Addison’s height isn’t a concern, but there is zero chance he is going to stick at 175 lbs moving forward, even if that ends up hurting his top-end speed. Regardless of who’s under center for Tennessee, Addison should be a reliable target wherever he lines up. Worth noting that Addison also has 20 career carries, and can line up in the backfield as a receiver, which makes him a fun piece on the proverbial chess board for new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly.

Pick 12) Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) – Tyree Wilson, EDGE (Texas Tech)

Depending on how the Texans can develop Wilson in this scenario, this could be one of the top steals of this first round. We’ve talked about him a tad before with the Murphy pick, but the Texas Tech product fits into the ‘Madden Create-A-Player mold. 6’6, 275 pounds, freakishly long arms, and may possibly end up running a 40 in the 4.7-4.8 range.

Wilson is certainly raw as a pure pass rusher, but the flashes you see are worth the price of admission. Selecting him would mean you are on board with the raw upside and are willing to go through the growing pains as it relates to rushing the passer. Look at Jacksonville and Travon Walker for example. He wasn’t a prolific QB hunter as a rookie, but you saw enough to feel good after a season. This would most likely be a similar situation, where the finished product could take a bit, but with a high reward potential. He's going to be a popular name, even more than he is now after the combine so get on the train while you can.

*TRADE* Jets Receive: Aaron Rodgers (???) Packers Receive: Picks 13 and 74 (400)

Pick 13) Green Bay Packers (via New York Jets) – Michael Mayer, TE (Notre Dame)

Ironic that the pick Green Bay uses in lieu of trading Aaron Rodgers is used to bring in an offensive skill guy. I will say this, I don’t think Mayer is the top tight end in this class, but I am certain that he will be the first of his peers selected in April. The biggest reason is simply had a ton of opportunities to show off in the passing game. In his three seasons in South Bend, Mayer was the team leader in catches in all three years and put up back-to-back seasons of over 800 yards and 16 total touchdowns in his final two campaigns.

Mayer isn’t an elite physical specimen, but he’s a solid enough blocker and isn’t just strictly an in-line guy. He also doesn’t have the biggest frame or catch radius in the world which is a knock, but he makes it work in the passing game with some good mits. An offensive skill group that’s built around him, Christian Watson, and Romeo Doubs, along with the Packers’ running attack of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion would be a great situation for Jordan Love as a first-year starter.

*TRADE* Patriots Receive: Picks 23 and 119 in 2023, and a 2024 first and third-round pick (393) Vikings Receive: Picks 14 and 117 in 2023, and a 2024 fourth-round pick (362)

Pick 14) Minnesota Vikings (via New England Patriots) – Joey Porter Jr, CB (Penn State)

Just on a quick note for any Vikings fans that may stumble upon this, you’re going to love Brian Flores. Arguably one of my favorite Patriots assistant coaches ever. But he’s stepping into a mess of a secondary, and 100 percent needs to get one of these blue chip corners to shore things up. The future first is tough to part with, but due to the Hockenson trade, that’s the best path to get ahead of some corner-needy teams coming up shortly. Plus Bill Belichick is always visibly foaming at the mouth to trade down so this is a win-win.

The best thing Porter brings to the table has to be his arms/wingspan, bigger than a cassowary or an ostrich perhaps? When I took some time to watch some tape last year, there was a ton of off coverage, so I never got a good chance to see his touted physicality and press man skills. However many months later, I can confirm the second-generation talent is as good as advertised. My biggest concern still is that he remains a bit too grabby in coverage, which will get him in trouble in the NFL. Granted, that can get coached out of him, and Flores is a good guy to help him out there. Porter also has a track and field background, and that athleticism certainly shows up on the field. Not a burner but has NFL-caliber speed on the outside.

Pick 15) Green Bay Packers – Brian Branch, SAF (Alabama)

Ok, NOW here’s the surest thing of the first round, Brain Gutekunst taking a defender. In fairness, Safety was a bit of an issue for the Packers this season, and they have the opportunity to part ways with Adrian Amos, so a guy like Branch makes a ton of sense. Mainly because I can envision him slotting into that role and doing mostly everything he did, although Branch doesn’t have much experience playing deep. At Alabama, he fit into the STAR role, which for those unfamiliar is the nickel back role for Nick Saban. Here’s how he explains it, going back to the days with Bill Belichick in Cleveland.

“The Star really is the Sam, so [Belichick] wanted an s-word for that position. When you put six guys in the game, whether it’s a sub linebacker or a sixth defensive back, we had nickel, dime, dollar. Different money terms. You can be a really good Star and not have the long speed to be a good corner,” he said. “Long speed being that if a guy runs a takeoff on you, you have to run and not get out run when the ball is in the air.
“If you have really good quickness and cover ability, the slot guy (receiver) has a hard time beating you in that position, because he’s closer to the safeties, he’s closer to the middle of the field. So a good tackler, a good blitzer, a good cover guy on a slot player, which is different than a good cover guy on an outside player.”

With that explanation out of the way, Branch is the single best tackling defensive back in this class bar none. That makes him a naturally good defender in and around the line of scrimmage against the pass and run. In coverage, he shouldn’t have too much trouble in the slot at the next level, but Branch doesn’t have much experience playing deep. I think he can/could though. Outside of that and needing to bulk up, this is an easy pick for Green Bay.

Pick 16) Washington Commanders – Peter Skoronski, OT (Northwestern)

The ‘Manders offensive front left a lot to be desired this season after losing both Brandon Scherff and Erik Flowers last offseason. They allowed the seventh most sacks in the league with 48, and in turn, were partially responsible for the team ranking bottom five in yards per carry. Although I could envision Washington trading down and taking a Darron Payne replacement at the end of the round if they plan is to start Sam Howell, this offensive front isn’t going to cut it.

Skoronski may be the best lineman in this class depending on who you talk to, which is why he’s the second tackle off the board. However, I believe I’m lower on him than others, as well as the league. The big concern with the Northwestern product is his size/frame. Skornonski is 6’4 but doesn’t have the mass or wingspan of your prototypical NFL tackle.

Could he play left tackle with that said? Yes, but it will ultimately depend on how whatever team drafts him feels. For Washington though, they can put him just about anywhere but center quite frankly. Despite his natural limitations, Skoronksi is good with his hands and processes things well. I also came away impressed with the bulk of run-blocking reps I recently saw, more than his pass-pro reps. My guess is that the Commanders would throw him out at either right tackle or left guard, depending on how free agency shakes out.

Pick 17) Atlanta Falcons (via Pittsburgh Steelers) – Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia)

The Falcons trading down nearly 10 spots and still getting a guy they could have understandably picked at No. 8 is a dream scenario. Jones is currently my favorite tackle in this draft, and it’s simply because he’s a bully. His Twitter film clip rabbit hole is a blast if you have the time, especially his run game film. Lack of starting experience compared to his peers and some rawness could hurt Jones, but this is someone who looks the part of an NFL left tackle. Jones has some real power in his hands and lower half, not to mention the fact that has the athleticism you’re looking for as well.

One negative that came up often is that Jones can play with his head down a ton, to the point where it’s concerning. Easily the rawest part of his game, but you can tell this is a guy who can flat-out play at the NFL level, even if he isn’t a complete product yet. I wouldn’t be shocked if he becomes the consensus No. 1 tackle once the combine passes, I absolutely love what I see here. Put Jake Matthews on the right side and don’t even think twice about it (Kaleb McGary is going to be a Chicago Bear, I’m 85% certain).

Pick 18) Detroit Lions – Kelee Ringo, CB (Georgia)

Over the last month and a half, Ringo went from being a consensus top-five prospect to being out of the first round in some cases. For now, I'm sticking on the ship. An iffy 2022 hurt him a bit, but he has the athletic upside (track background), SEC/big game experience, and physicality that NFL teams should be intrigued in. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that his hip fluidity isn’t the greatest which hinders him in coverage occasionally. But I think his strengths outweigh his weaknesses, and he’d be fun working alongside Jeff Okudah.

Pick 19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Nolan Smith, EDGE (Georgia)

First and foremost, the Buccaneers will be joining the RAGE train sooner or later. They’re in cap hell, Tom Brady is gone, and have some huge holes currently present or set to open up in free agency. Anyting and everything must go, and they need to rebuild from the ashes, starting in the trenches. Outside of the fact that Smith is just months removed from a pectoral muscle tear, he’s comfortably a top-five edge guy in this class. High motor against the pass and run, is a legit leader/high character person (highest vote-getter in team captain voting in 2022) and is simply a violent football player in the best way.

Smith’s best trait just might be his lateral movement. Some plays popped up where he would pick up TFLs after ducking inside on a tackle and going back across the line, against Oregon was one specifically. He doesn’t have the best hands ability ever, but he can definitely get individual wins at the point of attack still. This is another player whose stock could skyrocket after the combine. Not a freak like Murphy or Wilson, but Smith is a quality first-round caliber defender.

Pick 20) Seattle Seahawks – Keion White, EDGE (Georgia Tech)

This is a pick that feels right up the Seahawks' alley. A raw but toolsy edge rusher with NFL-caliber speed and athleticism. Starting out his college career at Old Dominion, and not even on defense for that matter (tight end), White transferred to GT in 2020 but missed nearly all his second season due to an offseason injury. Putting up a full season of work in 2022, he racked up 7.5 sacks and received Third-Team All-ACC honors.

Another reason why I think this is a perfect Schnieder/Carrol pick is that White is probably going to test really well at the combine. His power speed and athleticism are evident, and he even made Bruce Feldman’s annual College Football freaks list coming in a No. 20. While he’s still relatively new to the position and needs refinement, he fits the bill of an NFL edge rusher to a T. Plus his most recent season of play showed he can be a contributor in the sack column.

Pick 21) Los Angeles Chargers – Dawand Jones, OT (Ohio State)

Tom Telesco is going to be doing some cap space shenanigans to get out of a 19-million-dollar hole, and that could potentially mean cutting/trading Keenan Allen. Meanwhile, starting right tackle Trey Pipkins is about a month away from free agency at the moment, and Los Angeles could be interested in starting over. The good news for them is that there’s a 6’8 natural right tackle, with a near 90 INCH WINGSPAN (7.5 feet), that is still on the board in the form of Jones. Is he the biggest bird perhaps???

Having that much natural leverage on either side of the line is a borderline cheat code, and Jones uses every bit of it to his advantage. Most recently, his Senior Bowl performance reached comical levels when he threw Notre Dame edge rusher Isaiah Foskey out of the club. Naturally, though, his size limits him in the speed and agility game, but the trade-off is that he’s a borderline 99th-percentile guy in literally every other measurable category. Guys like Jones don’t grow on trees and the Chargers would be wise to bring him aboard.

Pick 22) Baltimore Ravens – Zay Flowers, WR (Boston College)

Eric De Costa borderline exclusively takes guys in the draft that I like at an increasingly infuriating clip (David Ojabo, Tyler Linderbaum, Isaiah Likely, Jaylin Armor Davis), and it’s only natural he takes my favorite receiver at 22. I’ve seen from folks like Brett Koleman and others who have either directly or indirectly compared Flowers to…Antonio Brown (From an on-field standpoint!!!). While I don’t think it’s a perfect one-to-one comp, you can certainly see some similarities between him and Flowers.

The four areas I’d say there’s some definitive overlap are size/build, deep ball tracking, route running/footwork, and electricity after the catch. Now drops were an issue for Flowers a tad, although remedied slightly in his final season at BC, and he never had quality quarterback play outside of 2020, which led to some high throw drops. Flowers is also one of many skill guys in this draft that will need to bulk up a bit going into the league. He’s listed as around 180 lbs currently for reference. Outside of that, this is the exact kind of guy the Ravens need at wideout, regardless of if Lamar Jackson is back or not.

*TRADE* Patriots Receive: Pick 27, 91, and 139 (275) Bills Receive: Picks 23 and 119 (269)

Pick 23) Buffalo Bills (via Minnesota Vikings via New England Patriots) – Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)

I’m personally overruling anything else I think Brandon Beane would do here. The Bills need a legit running back and badly at that, positional value be dammed. Josh Allen doubling up as your top passer and runner is a recipe for disaster and Buffalo can’t let it go on. As for why they trade up here, Jerry Jones somehow, someway, has the final say on the Cowboys roster still, and I’m 100 percent convinced he would take him at 25 with zero hesitation.

Save for some mild at best injury concerns (dislocated elbow in 2021, very minor back issues in 2020) there are not many knocks on the Longhorn Bellcow to speak of. He’s been described as the best runner to enter the league since Saquon Barkley and it’s easy to see why. He’s as explosive as anyone out of the backfield coming into the league in the last decade and is a quality receiving option out of the backfield. On talent alone, there are not 10 better players than Robinson in this entire draft. He’d be a game-changer for the Bills on day one.

Pick 24) Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Smith, CB (South Carolina)

If you’re a team in the market for a physical in-your-face corner with a knack for the ball like the Jags, then Cam Smith may be your kind of guy. What jumps out right away with him is his ability to attack the catch point of a receiver, he’s as good as any corner in this class in that regard. Additionally, he may potentially slip due to his size profile compared to guys like Gonzalez and Porter, but it doesn’t hinder him at all. And again, he has an elite knack for the ball that can translate to any defensive scheme. The two most recent games I’ve seen of his (vs Clemson and Vanderbilt in 2021) were incredible showcases and I think his stock has a good chance to improve as we get closer to draft day.

Pick 25) New York Giants – Trenton Simpson, LB (Clemson)

I’m sure receiver will be a popular option for Big Blue after they just let go of Sterling Shepard, but they absolutely need a field general on defense, and Simpson is someone who can fit that bill. This is a true triple-threat player, who can rush the passer, stop the run, and defend the pass, each to a degree that should translate well at the next level. As should his ability to line up on the edge, and even in the slot as well. Simpson also has some freaky sideline-to-sideline speed that shows up on tape. Not a sexy pick compared to say JSN here, but this is a guy that Wink Martindale would love to have.

Pick 26) Dallas Cowboys – Quentin Johnston, WR (TCU)

There’s a plus chance that Dallas loses two of its five top passing yard-getters in Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard, but wide receiver outside of CeeDee Lamb leaves a bit to be desired. With that said there’s a lot to like about Johnston, but some fair criticisms of his game, which is why he’s only going now. Aside from his size, the best thing the TCU product brings to the table is his YAC ability. Johnston is a nightmare to deal with in the open field with his elite size and speed combo but is a solid route runner as well despite running a relatively limited tree as well. Johnston also has a lethal spin move in the open field that is his go-to, and it works just about every time.

My biggest concern with Johnston is that his play against tight coverage and contest catch ability is nowhere near where you’d want it to be for a receiver like him. Drops were also an issue in 2022 but close to a non-issue the year prior. Two other things that hurt him are his release package at the line, and the fact he was put on a milk carton by Kelee Ringo in the National Championship game some weeks ago. I think he’s still a first-round talent, I just think I’m lower on him than most. Making him the No. 2 to Lamb would be a good situation for him.

Pick 27) New England Patriots (via Buffalo Bills)– Darnell Washington, TE (Georgia)

Flowers, who the Patriots previously just missed out on would have been an intriguing option for the Patriots, but there’s an even more intriguing option for them here at 27. New OC Bill O’Brien is a noted fan of mismatches, and what better mismatch is there than a 6’7, 275 lb tight end who fittingly wears No. 0, because there’s no one like Darnell Washington in this draft. Let’s start with the critiques because there are only a few. Washington isn’t a naturally gifted route runner, but as you’ll soon see, isn’t as big a red flag as it would appear. He also never served as the premier or even secondary target for the Bulldogs in his three seasons. In fairness, he also played with some elite pass catchers like George Pickens and Brock Bowers.

Now despite not being a premier receiving threat, Washington does have good hands and has the ability to be a force in the 50/50 ball and YAC department. And although he’s mainly an inline guy, Washington could go on the boundary or in the slot and serve as an insane mismatch against cornerbacks or safety. There was a play last fall against Missouri where he made contact with a defender mid-catch, and said defender was borderline out of the picture frame five yards downfield. This also goes without saying, Washington is a red zone nightmare as well. And did I mention that he can hurdle defenders yet?

Perhaps more impressive than that is Washington’s blocking ability, which I dare say is Gronk-like. He frequently rag-dolled SEC defenders and is horrifying out in space helping in the run game. That alone will get him on the field right away in the NFL. The Patriots do have two pricey tight ends now, but they can make a big cap-saving move by parting with either Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith this offseason. To bring in a monster like Washington? 100 percent worth it. Also a mild spoiler, I 100 percent expect New England to trade for a wideout instead of drafting one.

Pick 28) Cincinnati Bengals – Emmanuel Forbes, CB (Mississippi State)

The Bengals have several options here, and I don’t think they can go wrong. With Eli Apple and Tre Flowers going to the open market, they should make it a point to try and get a cornerback in this draft. Forbes could be considered a reach at 28, but he’s an elite ballhawk, perhaps the best in this entire class. He has an absurd 14 career picks, six pick-sixes, and 22 pass breakups in his career at Mississippi State.

Forbes, much like Cam Smith, isn’t the biggest corner, but he plays bigger than he is. A couple of concerns are that his tackling isn’t the soundest. Mississippi State brought him on a few corner blitzes, and he whiffed on all of them for example. With that said, Forbes is a willing tackler in all phases. Also, I think Forbes is capable of being too aggressive at times, although nothing I’ve seen has led to him getting burnt. Even so, if he can give you the ball production he did in college, I think you’ll take the good with the bad.

Pick 29) New Orleans Saints (via Denver Broncos via San Francisco 49ers) – Calijah Kancey, IDL (Pitt)

Currently a crisp 55 million dollars over the cap, the Saints are going to have to probably part ways with some high-priced veterans. How’s that Taysom Hill contract looking right now? Anyway, the Saints have the opportunity to address their biggest defensive weakness (run defense) and add to their strength (pass rush) all at once with Kancey here.

What he lacks in the ideal size for an interior defender he makes up for with natural talent and technique, as well as being able to be a multi-technique guy. He has great hands, elite short-area agility, and aggressiveness that shows up against the pass and run. Primarily an interior defender, Pitt did throw him out on the edge, even as a wide-nine every now and then. This would be a steal for the Saints this late in the first.

*TRADE* Eagles Receive: Pick 37 and 83 (214) Seahawks Receive: Pick 30 and a 2024 fourth-round pick (206)

Pick 30) Seattle Seahawks (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)

Surprise. Jon Schneider jumps up eight picks to get that fifth-year option for his new prospective franchise QB in Hooker. Despite his unfortunate ACL tear last season, he wouldn’t be in a rush to start right away in Seattle which is great for him. I have no reason to believe that Geno Smith will be anywhere but with the Seahawks this upcoming season, so Hooker can get up to speed at his own pace.

Hooker is as accurate as any quarterback in this class, both in completion percentage and on the eye test. Arm talent doesn’t wow you with him, but he does all the little things very well. Although he is flat-footed a bit too much in the pocket, Hooker is a threat to run and does a great job of letting blocks develop in front of him, as well as just being hard to bring down.

Outside of the flat-footed-ness, there are two major red flags with the Tennessee product. One we already mentioned with the ACL tear, but the second is that he turned 25 years old just over a month ago. That could very well have him in the second, maybe even third round for some teams, but I think the Seahawks can try to bet big with Hooker. If not for the ACL tear, he probably wins the 2022 Heisman trophy easily. Even then, Stetson Bennett being a finalist over him was disgusting behavior.

Pick 31) Kansas City Chiefs – BJ Ojulari, EDGE (LSU)

The Chiefs have a chance to save upwards of 20 million dollars against the cap by cutting Frank Clark, an almost must-do with the Chiefs barely escaping the red. Now first things first, if the last name here sounds familiar, it should. BJ’s older brother Azeez was a second-round pick by the Giants in 2021 and had an awesome rookie year before missing a ton of games with an ankle issue. Safe to say that pass-rushing skill runs in the family because BJ is a speed demon off the edge and it shows.

He has a deep bag of tricks to use in the pass rush department and is a handful to stop if he gets a step on you. Ojulari is, however, a suspect run defender, and needs to spend some time in that area to be an every-down player. But right out of the gate, a NASCAR package with him and George Karlafitis would be a blast to watch.

Round 2 Trade Values:

Rams (165), Patriots (166). Falcons (152), Chiefs (135). Buccaneers (140), Lions (121)

Round 3 Trade Values:

Broncos (93), Raiders (88). Giants (60), Bears (49). Cowboys (57), Browns (52). Patriots (71), 49ers (73).

Main Image via Getty Images/James Gilbert


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