Two weeks from today, the NFL Draft should be closing up shop in downtown Kansas City, and as of now Pro Days are beginning to wind down and team Top 30 visits are heating up. A lot has happened since I did my first three-round mock, including the Chicago Bears dealing the first overall pick to Carolina for a king's ransom. Now Frank Reich and his All-Star staff are guaranteed their pick of this class' top signal callers, but now have a big need at wide receiver after parting with DJ Moore.
Meanwhile, at the combine and the Pro Days that directly followed up, no shortage of players have been able to boost their stock (Nolan Smith, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, etc), with some doing the exact opposite, Jalen Carter most notably for a multitude of reasons. But with the picture of how things may go getting a bit clearer, I felt this was a good time to see where things stand with this class compared to late Feburary.
Mock Draft Guidelines:
- Picks are a mix of what I would do and what I believe the team would do.
- Self-imposed maximum of Nine Round One trades, Five Round Two trades, and Three Round Three trades, with a total maximum of 15 trades between all rounds (simply to mix things up).
- No trades for active players with the exception of Aaron Rodgers (see above).
- Prospect meetings with teams are a notable factor in selections, but not an outright necessity. - 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). - All trade values will be displayed in ().
- Less in-depth analysis with certain Round One players (more so a disclaimer, simply to keep things moving).
- Comp Picks in Third Round will be *'d.
Pick 1) Carolina Panthers (via Chicago Bears) – Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)
So, the last time I had a chance to check since the Panthers trade, C.J. Stroud was comfortably the odds-on favorite to go off the board first. Very recently, that has flipped to Young taking over that spot. Either way, I think Young should go No. 1 barring anything outside of the Panthers feeling that Anthony Richardson’s upside is too good to pass up.
Although his RAS numbers weren’t spectacular after the combine and Alabama’s Pro Day, Young ended up around what we expected. Besides he was never touted for his size to begin with. By the time this is out, the Panthers should also have met with him once again after doing so the night before Alabama’s Pro Day as well. Safe to say the Panthers brass are fans one way or another.
Pick 2) Houston Texans – Anthony Richardson, QB (Florida)
Not a massive surprise, but the Texans have done some heavy due diligence on the remaining quarterbacks on the board, meeting with Stroud and Richardson three times each specifically. I’m going to argue for Richardson here over Stroud and here’s why. Based on how the Texans are constructed as of this moment, they most likely won’t be in the playoff hunt. However, I think there’s enough in place to where you can give Richardson a smooth transition into the league regardless of if he’s starting off the bat or not. Time is in no way shape or form an issue for them, and the upside with Richardson is through the roof to begin with. And although I would still like to see another piece, maybe two, added to the offensive front, I trust this Texans coaching staff for better or worse, big DeMeco Ryans fan.
*TRADE* Eagles Receive: Pick 3, and a 2024 fourth-round pick (514) Cardinals Receive: Picks 10 and 30 in 2023, and a 2024 third-round pick (606)
Pick 3) Philadelphia Eagles (via Arizona Cardinals) – Will Anderson, EDGE (Alabama)
Rumor and innuendo would suggest that Arizona is dead set on moving back out of the top three and although I personally wouldn’t, let’s roll with the hypothetical. I’ve seen the Raiders as a popular trade partner recently and that’s not without merit given the New England connection in both front offices. I think the Eagles have every reason to be aggressive here though and should push for this move, specifically to grab Will Anderson. Although Philly’s pass rush was great last year, they also lost Javon Hargrave, but kept Brandon Graham, although I don’t think you can bank on a double-digit sack season again given he just turned 35.
Not to mention most of all, the Eagles' pass rush was completely shut down in the Super Bowl by Kansas City, a large reason they lost that game. Although Philly hasn’t reportedly met with Anderson just yet as far as I've seen, that could be a sign that they feel good about him going into the draft, much akin to North Carolina wideout Josh Downs. A bit of an overpay on the value chart, but this could be another Howie Roseman masterclass down the line if Anderson pans out, and considering he's still my top player in this draft, I think things will work out just fine.
Pick 4) Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB (Kentucky)
Said this in 1.0, but Chris Ballard salivates over traits guys and Levis is right up his alley by default. I personally am still not sold on him, but I’m convinced they are. So are those in the league according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, with Matt Miller claiming that Indy has Levis graded higher than Richardson. The pocket presence/feel concerns me, among other things, but picking Levis means you are convinced that you can unlock his full potential, and that's a hefty gamble for a GM who may or may not be on the hot seat and has whiffed on his last two moves at quarterback.
And once again, Levis is an admitted ‘Mayonnaise in his Coffee’ guy, on the record with the video to prove it. Not only that, but it has recently come to my attention that he eats ROTTEN BANANA PEELS? Deranged behavior, would be off my draft board completely.
Pick 5) Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos) – CJ Stroud, QB (Ohio State)
The Seahawks are in a great spot right now where they don't need to make this pick per se, but I don't think you can pass up Stroud in this spot if your Jon Schnieder. The Ohio State signal-caller is the No. 3 quarterback in this class at the absolute worst, and even though he wouldn't start in Seattle on day one, he's not going to turn 22 years old until October. They can do what Green Bay did with Jordan Love, except make the switch when it's time instead of three years too late. Definitely makes it an easier decision for Seattle as well when Stroud has plus NFL-level accuracy before he ever takes a professional snap.
As far as if Stroud has met with the Seahawks' brass this spring, the answer would be yes. He even took a group selfie with the boys once things wrapped up. That meeting could just be a smokescreen, but I do believe Seattle takes a quarterback at some point on either Thursday or Friday of this draft. Not a pick for 2023 at five which does hurt a little, but again, don't think you can pass up here especially when you have another first-rounder to use this year as well.
Pick 6) Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon)
If Detroit effectively giving up on Jeff Okudah (A++ trade for the Falcons by the way) isn't the clearest sign they are going cornerback at either 6 or 18 then I don't know what is. Picking up Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley were great moves, but the Lions lack size now on the boundary, and they have some options to address that here. Devon Witherspoon is my top corner in this class, but Gonzalez has a clear advantage in the size/length department and that's why he gets the nod here. Doesn't have the shutdown potential of his Illinois counterpart, but Gonzalez has a good knack for the ball and has some elite athleticism. If not for a relatively average bench press, he probably puts up a perfect RAS score.
Pick 7) Las Vegas Raiders – Devon Witherspoon, CB (Illinois)
Raiders could do several things here with the way that the board has fallen. As for why no Jalen Carter here, I think that pick would be a tough sell in Las Vegas after everything that happened with Henry Ruggs. Nevertheless, they are slated to visit with him in any event. Instead, Dave Zeigler goes with the next biggest need and that's an outside shutdown corner, and there's no eraser better in this class than Witherspoon. He is not the specimen that Gonzalez or even Joey Porter Jr is, but he is an elite cover corner with some serious potential. Plays physical as hell too which is also awesome.
Pick 8) Atlanta Falcons - Tyree Wilson, EDGE (Texas Tech)
Much to my surprise, the Falcons sneaky had one of the league's best free agency periods this year. Brought in a good chunk of quality vets like Jessie Bates and Calais Campbell, and locked up both Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary on new deals. Not to mention picking up Okudah for pennies on the dollar around noon on Tuesday. Pass rush is still an area where I'd like to see Atlanta beef it up. Kaden Elliss was a solid depth move, but seven of his eight career sacks coming in a contract year doesn't scream starting edge rusher on a new team to me.
There's been legitimate momentum for Wilson to go even higher than Anderson in a few weeks, and while I wouldn't rule that out, I'd lean Anderson > Wilson for the time being. Also worth noting is that due to a foot issue, he did not participate in Texas Tech's pro day last month, and will instead run his own workout soon here. He may be on the Travon Walker trajectory but this is a worthwhile move for Atlanta if you ask me.
Pick 9) Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers) - Jalen Carter, IDL (Georgia)
Now this could be considered the absolute best-case scenario for the Bears, but there's a multitude of reasons why Carter has lasted this long. I would have a tough time selling myself on him at this point without any further pre-draft meetings, but the Bears have done just that. Not only would the Bears get a top-two talent in this class seven spots after the fact, but Carter fills a gigantic need for Chicago, even after a strong free agency period. Need a body up front to eat up some space for the two-star linebackers you just signed. Carter's pass-rush acumen is simply a bonus at that point, even though he's very good in both areas. You just have to feel 100 percent certain as an organization/front office to make this pick though after his brutal Pro Day showing and his incident after the National Title Game.
Pick 10) Arizona Cardinals (via Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints) - Nolan Smith, EDGE (Georgia)
After losing not one, but two of their top pass rushers, the Cardinals would be wise to get themselves a new quarterback hunter with one of their two new first-round picks. Smith is a guy who I've become a big fan of the closer we get to the draft. In spite of a pec tear taking him out for a chunk of his final season as a Bulldog, Smith had done enough to show that he is a relentless football player with a top fuel drag car motor. Also doesn't hurt that he put on one of the single best NFL combine performances I've ever seen, featured by a 99th percentile 40-yard dash time of 4.38, and a 98th percentile vertical of 41.5 inches. Johnathan Gannon would be doing cartwheels over getting a guy like this. Game-wrecking potential.
*TRADE* Steelers Receive: Picks 11 and 72 (425) Titans Receive: Picks 17, 80, 120, and a 2024 second-round pick (431)
Pick 11) Pittsburgh Steelers (via Tennessee Titans) - Paris Johnson Jr, OT (Ohio State)
The biggest fan of the lack of tackles off the board is one Omar Khan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With this trade, he kicks off what could be a busy party at the position as we get closer to the selections in the teens. Johnson doesn't have the height or weight of his freakish Ohio State counterpart Dawand Jones, but he makes up for it with a more polished resume coming into the league. He should be Kenny Pickett's blindside man on day one no questions asked. Pairing him on the left side with Issac Seamulo would be quite the improvement over the last couple of years for the Steelers.
Pick 12) Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) - Myles Murphy, EDGE (Clemson)
Had Murphy not still been on the board, this pick would have been Broderick Jones out of Georgia. Given the Texans' pass rush deficiencies and the undeniable freak athlete right in front of them here, they can hold off until round two for offensive line reinforcements. As far as his hand size, which is the smallest among edge rushers in combine history at 8.5 inches, that never hindered him on tape. Great bend, high motor, and moves fast for a guy his size.
*TRADE* Packers Receive: Picks 13 and a 2024 second-round pick (399) Jets Receive: Most Sane Conspiracy Enjoyer (???)
Pick 13) Green Bay Packers (via New York Jets) - Keion White, EDGE (Georgia Tech)
If the Packers love themselves one thing it's NFL prospects with high RAS scores. They also seem to be into doing their own thing in terms of how they organize their draft board, which is exactly why I think the make a slight reach here and get White, whom they've reportedly met with on a top 30 visit. Technically a bit of a tweener between a pure EDGE and IDL, but as the former, his 9.55 RAS score would rank fourth in this class. Having a guy with that kind of versatility up front would be big for Green Bay, especially given that they will likely be without Rashan Gary for a chunk of the season.
*TRADE* Commanders Receive: Pick 14 (325) Patriots Receive: Picks 16 and 97 (344)
Pick 14) Washington Commanders (via New England Patriots) - Darnell Wright, OT (Tennessee)
I'll scream it from the mountaintops until draft day, Darnell Wright against Alabama is the best single-game prospect tape I've watched in at least a year. He genuinely had Will Anderson in hell and there's maybe no one else alive who can say that. He recently visited Washinton on a top-30 visit and would be a plug-and-play guy at left tackle on day one. Commanders would save over 10 million dollars by cutting Charles Leno Jr (post-June 1 designation) as well. As for why they would jump a team seemingly not in the tackle market, I would assume at this point some other teams may get jumpy if a guy they like is right there for the taking, and New England is always available to trade down.
Pick 15) Green Bay Packers - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR (Ohio State)
Back to Green Bay and the RAS obsession, JSN has the best score of the group of wideouts considered as first-round caliber, and again Brian Gutekunst trusts the scores no matter what. I had personally cooled off on the Ohio State wideout recently, but an impressive pro day pulled me all the way back in on him. Additionally, there's word out there that JSN may be the only wideout in this entire draft who is viewed with a first-round grade. Can't speak to that, but after his pro day, he should be going in the top 30 no matter what. One final note on the RAS scores, I stumbled upon an interesting comp based on JSN's testing numbers, CeeDee Lamb.
Pick 16) New England Patriots (via Washington Commanders) - Zay Flowers, WR (Boston College)
As you can clearly see, I don't buy the 'one first-round grade receiver' news. The Patriots have been very much in on Flowers since they had him on their Shrine Bowl squad back in January, and I'm of the belief that if he is there when New England is up in the first round, he's probably going to be a Patriot (If not my gut says cornerback. Joey Porter Jr specifically). Not exactly going to blow you away as a raw athlete, but Flowers is a playmaker at heart. Great route runner, electric after the catch, and plays bigger than someone who's 5'9. Don't, think they would have had him visit with Bill O'Brien earlier this month to "learn the offense" if their interest wasn't genuine. I also definitely see some light (keyword) shades of Antonio Brown here, but one comparison that I also agree with happens to be Julien Edelman. Could do an overlay with the two running red zone zigs/whips and see zero difference.
Pick 17) Tennesee Titans (via Pittsburgh Steelers) - Peter Skoronski, OT/IOL (Northwestern)
The more I think about it, I don't think the Titans will go wideout in round one two years straight, even though they probably should. I wouldn't rule out tight end here either, or quarterback depending on how they feel about Malik Willis, but my guess is Ran Carthon goes with a "non-sexy" pick to begin his tenure as Titans GM. Not the most shocking news, but Skoronski did not measure well as a pure NFL tackle. His height, arm length, and wingspan all rank < the 10th percentile which takes him out of the running to be a left tackle in most situations. The good news about this fit is that Tennessee should have zero issues kicking him to the right side with the Andre Dillard signing in mind, or potentially at one of the guard spots.
Pick 18) Detroit Lions - Calijah Kancey, IDL (Pitt)
Might not be the final piece to completely bring the Lions' defense into the forefront of the NFC, but it would be one hell of a move to get Kancey. He's undersized for sure, but has some elite speed for the position and has the ability to create a ton of havoc against the pass right up the gut. Would also be interested to see if whoever drafts Kancey attempts to move him to the edge. His RAS score is in the high eight range there, but I absolutely think he can cut it as an interior defender no matter what.
Chiefs Receive: Pick 19 (278) Buccaneers Receive: Picks 31, 62, 134, and a 2024 third-round pick (309)
Pick 19) Kansas City Chiefs (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers) - Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia)
Not only do I think this is a move the Chiefs would do, but it's also absolutely a move that I would do in a heartbeat as well. Jones remains my favorite tackle in this class for his ability as a run blocker. I also believe that he would fit in beautifully at right tackle opposite Jawaan Taylor, and make Kansas City's offensive line a consensus top-10 unit in the league going into the year. A bit of an overpay on their end here, but it would be enough, I think, to entice Tampa Bay to drop a dozen spots.
Pick 20) Seattle Seahawks - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE (Iowa)
One prospect that I simply haven't been able to buy into yet for several reasons is Van Ness. Is he worthy of a first-round pick? I would say so, but if he's a top 20 guy he's in that bottom group of five. What I do like about the Iowa product is that he has the ability to line up all over the defensive front, something that Seattle needs. Van Ness also plays with a great motor, and that especially shows up against the run. What I am heavily skeptical about him however is he does not have much of a bag as a pass rusher, simply in terms of moves, he can use to get by offensive linemen. Despite this, he had a very respectable career at Iowa using his raw power. I'm still skeptical about Van Ness at the moment, but Seattle is one of a handful of teams I can see him fitting well with.
Pick 21) Los Angeles Chargers - Michael Mayer, TE (Notre Dame)
Not only do I not think Mayer is the top tight end in this class, I now don't think he's the second best. Regardless, my gut feeling of believing he'll be the first tight end off the board is unwavering, and he falls to a team and GM in Tom Telesco, who LOVES himself some Notre Dame guys. Tight-end production hasn't been anything to write home about since Hunter Henry left, and Mayer would be a quality contributor to what's already a loaded skill group out in Los Angeles.
Pick 22) Baltimore Ravens - Joey Porter Jr, CB (Penn State)
Something about the son of a Pittsburgh Steelers legend going to their arch-rival and filling a massive need is very poetic. The Ravens' pass defense was one of the worst in football a year ago, and that was in spite of them being aggressive adding to their secondary both on the open market and in the draft. Ironically enough, a comparison that I've seen for Porter Jr more and more as we get closer to draft week is his would-be running mate Marlon Humphrey. Both were about the same size before entering the league, but Porter has some of the biggest arms the position has ever seen. A bit grabby at times, but I've liked him a bit more every time I've seen him.
Bills Receive: Pick 23 (245) Vikings Receive: Picks 27 and 91 (260)
Pick 23) Buffalo Bills (via Minnesota Vikings) - Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)
Ole' Man Jerry is gonna take Robinson at 25 if he's there and there's nothing you can do to convince me otherwise. Brandon Beene having to give up a three to move up only four spots may sting, but the Bills need a legit bell-cow back to truly compete for a Super Bowl. Robinson is one such back, and one that the Bills have been interested in for some time now. Take away all positional value, and this is probably the No. 3 player in this class off the board, Robinson is that good. Solid move here as well for the Vikings with most of the top corners now off the board.
Pick 24) Jacksonville Jaguars - Brian Branch, CB/SAF (Alabama)
This would be killing two birds with one stone for the Jaguars. Branch fits in as a starting nickelback on day one, and also has the ability to give Jacksonville some solid reps in the box. Based on his 40-yard dash times, I don't think he has the range to play center field or on the boundary with any level of regularity, but his short speed shows up. Assuming he can bulk up just a tad he should be an exceptional box/slot defender considering he's the best tackler out of every DB in this class as is.
Pick 25) New York Giants - John Michael Schmitz, IOL (Minnesota)
Perhaps a slight reach for Big Blue, but I don't think JMS is going to be available when the Giants pick next at 57, and this isn't such an unbelievable reach that it would be considered a bad selection. A little bit on the older side recently turning 24, but Michael Schmitz put up an excellent season on his way out of Minnesota, racking up First-Team Big10 and All-American honors at center. Nothing here screams freak athlete with the measurables and testing numbers, but JMS does his job very well.
Pick 26) Dallas Cowboys - Dalton Kincaid, TE (Utah)
After undoing the damage of dumping away Amari Cooper for pennies on the dollar by bringing in Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jones finds his Dalton Schultz replacement right away in Kincaid, who recently just got the all-clear from his doctors after back surgery. Seeing that this is the first time I've gotten a really good look at Kincaid, I can say that I'm a fan of what I saw in his 2022 production before he got hurt.
Kincaid reminds me a ton of Mike Gesicki, only the Utah product is much better after the catch and feels like a better athlete. In any case, this is a guy who can line up out wide, in the slot, and coming across the offensive backfield. He's not going to blow you away as a blocker but that's not why he's a top-30 pick here. Kincaid has great hands and body control when going up to get the ball and it shows up frequently. Not my top tight end, but he's comfortably No. 2 with the draft just weeks out. I wouldn't be horribly concerned with the back injury either as long as you can get a look at the medicals.
Pick 27) Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo Bills) - Cam Smith, CB (South Carolina)
Things worked out quite well for the Vikes here with Smith still on the board. South Carolina has had some good DBs come into the league and it doesn't appear that he is an aberration to that trend. Not a big corner, just a hair under 6'1 and only weighing in at 180 pounds pre-draft, but he doesn't play like it at all. This is a guy I can see Brian Flores salivating over assuming this goes down, the last notable South Carolina cornerback he worked with wasn't too bad either.
Pick 28) Cincinnati Bengals - Jahmyr Gibbs, RB (Alabama)
My logic with this pick is actually quite simple. There's an out in Joe Mixon's contract where the Bengals would save 10 million dollars against the cap (post-June 1 designation), and Mixon shouldn't accept a pay cut given what he's making. In short, I would cut bait and get one of the most dynamic running backs to come into the league in some time in the form of Gibbs. After transferring to Alabama from Georgia Tech, he instantly became the Tide's best pass catcher and runner. I wouldn't call comparisons to Alvin Kamara unwarranted here, Gibbs is simply that good and would make Mixon expendable the second he walks in the door.
Pick 29) New Orleans Saints (via Denver Broncos via Miami Dolphins via San Fransisco 49ers) - B.J. Ojulari, EDGE (LSU)
The Saints lost a bit of their pass rush production specifically the Falcons, and Cam Jordan is entering the final year of his deal (which has a casual four void years attached to it). Luckily they don't go too far from home here, picking up Ojulari. This is your prototypical speed rusher by every definition, not a big guy, but Ojulari has some great burst and bend off the line. Probably would like him to have some extra power to his game, but make him Jordan's understudy for a year or two and you may have something big on your hands if you're New Orleans.
Panthers Receive: Picks 30 and 213 (199) Cardinals Receive: Picks 39, 114, and a 2024 second-round pick (211)
Pick 30) Carolina Panthers (via Arizona Cardinals via Philadelphia Eagles) - Jordan Addison, WR (USC)
Panthers, not taking any chances here, hop nine spots to get their newest offensive weapon on that coveted fifth-year option. Addison shouldn't go this low in my estimation, just kind of how the board shook out. Although he didn't test as well as I had hoped, on top of his pro day getting impacted via inclement weather, the former Biletnikoff winner is a legit talent. More of a fan of what he did at Pitt rather than USC, but this is a guy who can attack every level of the defense no questions asked.
Pick 31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Kansas City Chiefs) - Dawand Jones, OT (Ohio State)
While Bucs' GM Jason Licht has been on record saying he isn't afraid to go with a signal caller this draft, he may be able to skate by round one without selecting one. Especially now that both Shaq Mason and Donavan Smith are out of the equation for the 2020 Super Bowl Champions, the call should be made to resecure the bookend spots up front for the time being. Jones would give Tampa the flexibility to move Tristan Wirfs over to left tackle where his All-Pro caliber play will likely carry with him. In terms of natural build, it's easy to compare Jones to a guy like Trent Brown. Comically tall even for a tackle, with a wingspan bigger than a cassowary or an ostrich. Not a finished product yet, but this is a guy you can work with given what's there.
An interesting tidbit however came out regarding Jones out of the Pittsburgh Steelers camp on Thursday. Their brass was reportedly upset over Jones effectively only running one day of the Senior Bowl, then not much else at the combine or Ohio State's Pro Day. Would have to wonder what other teams around the league feel like at this point with that in mind.
Trade Values: Las Vegas (160), New England (157), Detroit (123), Miami (121), Pittsburgh (120), Chicago (118)
Trade Values: Denver (75), Indianapolis (75), Seattle (66), Las Vegas (63), Jacksonville (74), San Francisco (69)
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