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The end of the NFL regular season is, well, an end. Half the teams in the league will continue toward the ultimate goal, but for half the league, it signifies a fresh start. Free agency, the trade carousel, and ultimately the NFL draft allows teams to remake themselves, like the top two teams in 2022’s draft, the playoff-bound Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions, who came to a tiebreaker away from grabbing the final spot. For those whose seasons have ended, our Kevin Coleman, Christian Williams, and Jeff Bell, hosts of the Footballguys College Football show, are here with a mock draft!
1. Chicago Bears - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The Bears have needs at every position other than quarterback, but their trenches are incredibly bare. A trade makes sense here and is the likely outcome. If they can't get a deal done, an edge defender makes sense. But without a run defense, Jalen Carter provides the best of both worlds. His twitch is rare for a player his size, and the combination of strength and speed makes him dynamic in all facets of the game. The Bears must find answers up the middle, and Carter would be a step in the correct direction.
2. Houston Texans - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio St
The Texans will select a quarterback with this pick, which will come down to Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Many are projecting Young to Houston, but I expect them to lean toward Stroud after the pre-draft process. As a passer, he generally does everything reasonably well. His arm strength may not be elite, but he can throw it to all areas of the field. He can make throws in windows and has the accuracy needed to get it to all levels. He also utilizes multiple arm angles to get the ball out. Unlike Young, he has the size and frame that NFL teams will covet, and his great game against Georgia in the College Football Playoff will elevate his draft stock.
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
The Cardinals look like they will undergo a regime change and a rebuild. The overall roster is aging on both the offensive and defensive lines. With J.J. Watt retiring and Zach Allen set to hit free agency, the Cardinals need to add an edge rusher. Lucky for them, Anderson falls to three, and they can snag one of the best players in the draft. Anderson was one of the most dominant players in college football in 2021 and had a solid 2022 season. He’s one of the best pass rushers in this class and would be an immediate impact player on a Cardinals roster that needs an infusion of talent.
4. Indianapolis Colts - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Since Andrew Luck's retirement, the Colts have attempted patchwork at the quarterback position. They have failed. Bryce Young gives them an athletic option that can play well off Jonathan Taylor. Young possess the intangibles a franchise remaking their image with a new coach craves. After a rotating door of stopgap veteran options, Young is the type of player to renew future hope with the fanbase.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos)- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Seahawks have long valued athleticism and tools in prospects, one of the leading users of metrics like Sparq score in prospecting. Levis is the definition of tools at the quarterback position. He can excel in a controlled offense run by Seattle with the athleticism to strike off boot action created by Ken Walker's strong run presence and the arm to stretch vertically with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. While Geno Smith has been successful, he struggled down the stretch as his completion rating dropped from 72.78% to 63.76%, his interception rate doubled, and his passer rating dropped 20 points over his final five games. At 32, Smith is an effective stopgap who the Seahawks could capitalize on by trading and allowing Levis to play when ready. This pick is a capper on a trade that could not have worked better for Seattle.
6. Detroit Lions (from Rams) - Brian Bresee, DT, Clemson
The Lions could be another quarterback team but found themselves caught amid a run, and Jared Goff has shown enough to provide comfort for the future. This pick ultimately comes down to need. Bresee's college teammate Myles Murphy could offer a future bookend for 2022 top selection Aidan Hutchinson, but the team has recently hit on some deeper picks at edge. Bresee addresses one of the most significant needs as a three-technique who can generate interior pressure in a four-man front but also meet the team's required versatility with frequent transitions to three-man fronts. Bresee was 247's top player overall in the 2020 call and was immediately productive with Clemson. He is an excellent fit on a defense that continues to add young talent.
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Raiders are in the quarterback market following their benching of Derek Carr for the last two games. While a veteran option makes a bit of sense, Anthony Richardson's upside may be too difficult to pass up. Like Levis, Richardson has traits reminiscent of high-level starting quarterbacks. He is a rare athlete with the strongest arm in the class. He's also mechanically inconsistent and a large project. Matchups against Patrick Mahomes II and Justin Herbert comprise 23% of the Raiders' schedule, and they may take a swing at getting their game-changer at the most critical position in football.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
With the top three quarterbacks off the board, Atlanta looks to add to their defensive front with one of the best defensive players in this draft Clemson’s Myles Murphy. The Falcons only have 19 sacks this year and an NFL-worst 37 sacks since the 2021 season. They could also lose Lorenzo Carter in free agency, making adding an edge rusher a top off-season need. Murphy has a rare blend of athleticism and strength. He was one of the most consistent players on Clemson and has the power to win any one-on-one matchup. He could be a building block on this defense for many years.
9. Carolina Panthers - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Expect Carolina to get aggressive and target quarterback selections at the top of the class, barring a solution via trade. But if they sit at the pick, they have to look at adding support to one of the league's weakest wide receiver rooms. Johnston has the size and speed combo teams crave as a prototypical X receiver and complement D.J. Moore well, allowing Moore to work in the slot with Johnston stretching the coverage. Carolina's direction at coach still needs to be discovered. That move could shape this selection, but given the premium on the wide receiver position, selecting many people's top receivers in the draft is a fair consolation to missing a quarterback.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from Saints) - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Eagles have very few weaknesses on their roster. They could look to add a cornerback, but they haven’t taken a first-round cornerback since the 2002 season when they selected Lito Sheppard. This draft is also deep at the position, and they could get value later in the draft. The one position they could look to get younger at is on the defensive line. You need pass rushers in the NFC East, and Wilson possesses high-level traits at the position. He’d give them positional versatility in their defensive scheme and would immediately upgrade their rush defense.
11. Tennessee Titans - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Titans lost seven straight games to conclude 2022. A strip-sack touchdown swung the finale out of their direction, providing a fitting end to a disappointing season. Taylor Lewan has an out in his contract, and when combining a significant injury with his age and the Titans' cap situation, it makes sense to exercise it. Broderick Jones is the highest-upside option at tackle. His movement skills fit the Titans' aggressive mentality, as he has elite traits when getting upfield. He can be inconsistent in pass protection, but at just 21 years old, the Titans can feel confident he'll improve his technique with good coaching.
12. Houston Texans (from Browns) - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio St.
This pick is aggressive based on current draft valuations, but with the Texans' selection of C.J. Stroud to start the draft, also very fun. Houston has to overhaul their skill talent, and Brandin Cooks has lived in trade rumors for the past 18 months. Nico Collins has flashed but is unlikely to be the primary talent in a top-level passing offense. Smith-Njigba's strength lies in working out of the slot, primarily in short to intermediate areas. However, youth is on his side, and he has the athleticism to allow him to grow outside, creating formation versatility. He is a proven safety net for Stroud and would help ease the transition for the new face of the Texans franchise.
13. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio St.
The Jets seem adamant that Zach Wilson is their guy, and even if they look to add a quarterback, they will add someone through a trade. Regardless of who the Jets' quarterback is, they desperately need to upgrade their offensive line. Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker are coming off an injury-plagued season, and George Fant looks like he’ll be hitting the free-agent market. That leaves a big hole on this line which Johnson could fill. He projects to be a tackle and could be a foundational piece on this line for years to come. The Jets will hit a home run if Johnson falls to them.
14. New England Patriots - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The NFL is a passing league, and top-end corners have proven to change the direction of franchises. The Patriots lack a high-end shutdown corner which is an issue in an AFC EAST loaded with receiver talent. Jalen Mills, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, and Jonathan Jones have been fine this season, but the Patriots need someone that can consistently shut down the opposing team’s WR1 options. With Jonathan potentially hitting the free agent market, look for New England to address this position. In this mock, they get one of the most underrated corners in the draft in Cam Smith. Smith possesses underrated speed and has experience playing inside and outside. He’s a physical corner, something the Patriots prioritize, and his ability to contest the catch in 50/50 situations is one of his best traits. Smith would make an immediate impact in that secondary.
15. Green Bay Packers - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Green Bay needs offensive weapons. With the emergence of Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, they could look to add a wide receiver later in the draft, which allows them to grab Mayer, who many consider to be TE1 in the draft class. Robert Tonyan Jr has failed to deliver after returning from his ACL injury, and Mayer would give them a piece that is ready to help them from day one. He is one of the most pro-ready prospects in this class and holds the school's records for a tight end with 180 catches, 2,099 yards, and 18 touchdowns. He will also immediately impact their rushing attack as one of the best-run blockers in the tight end class.
16. Washington Commanders - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn St.
The Commanders were collectively good in coverage in 2022. Still, their excellent pass rush and ability to get pressure from the interior made the defensive backs look much better than they were. Joey Porter Jr. could mend that. Porter Jr., son of NFL great Joey Porter, is a fluid athlete with scheme versatility and excellent technique. At Penn State, Porter thrived in press-man coverage but showed great zone discipline in Cover 3 situations. While cornerback is one of the most challenging positions to transition from college to the NFL level, Porter Jr. looks like a day-one starter, filling a need for the Commanders and giving them another young centerpiece to build around.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Steelers need talent on their offensive line, and Skoronoski steps in as a polished player capable of contributing immediately. Skoronski is a fundamentally sound player who lacks the top-level athleticism to push him as a top-tier left tackle, leaving his NFL position in a questionable state. But the Steelers have successfully utilized first-round choices on guards, so they should be less scared off if that is his ultimate destination. Either way, Skoronski will be a significant upgrade to an offensive line that has been one of the league's worst for multiple seasons.
18. Detroit Lions - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Lions are among the best offensive teams in the NFL, so it makes sense for them to attack the defense with both first-rounders in April. Their secondary is awful, and their lack of talent at the cornerback position outside Jeffrey Okudah is apparent. Christian Gonzalez would be a step in the right direction. Gonzalez is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in the 2023 draft class, standing at 6-foot-2, weighing 200 pounds, and possessing elite speed. Gonzalez's improvement through 2022 indicates that his ceiling is still far away, and his hip fluidity allows him to stay in stride with virtually anyone. Gonzalez would alleviate some pressure from Okudah and bring the Lions up near league-average in cornerback play.
19. Seattle Seahawks - Jordan Addison, WR, USC
After grabbing a quarterback early, the Seahawks double down on rounding out their offensive weaponry. Addison is a player similar to Tyler Lockett, slight in frame but capable of playing both slot and on the perimeter. Seattle has hunted for a third receiver for this offense, using a 2021 2nd-round pick on Dee Eskridge, whose inability to stay available has forced the team to cycle uninspiring veterans through the position. Addison needs to improve his play strength at the NFL level. Still, he can immediately impact substitution packages and develop as the long-term replacement for Lockett. These two picks would give Seattle one of the NFL's most exciting young fantasy offenses.
20. Miami Dolphins - Pick Forfeited
21. New York Giants - Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
A first-round linebacker is always a point of hesitation, but Trenton Simpson's fit in the Giants' defense could be enough to pull the trigger. Simpson is an outstanding athlete. The former five-star should run sub-4.5 seconds in the forty-yard dash, and that speed translates to incredible range on the field. Simpson is a strong pass-rusher, often winning from the edge or on stunts. But his actual value comes as a coverage backer, showing an ability to stick to tight ends and running backs and a good feel for the middle of the field in zone coverage. In the Giants' base 3-4, Simpson could thrive as one of the inside linebackers or kick out to the SAM on passing downs. His game may require an adjustment period, but the upside is immense with Simpson.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Baltimore has traditionally favored large athletes from blue-chip college programs, and Ringo fits the bill. The Ravens struggled in pass defense, ranking 32nd in 2021 and 24th in 2022. Corner Marlon Humphrey is a star, but the team has no proven players under contract outside of him. Ringo is a physical corner, using full advantage of his 6'2" 210-pound frame to redirect receivers. His experience on an elite defensive unit will provide Baltimore with someone who can fill a gap immediately.
23. Dallas Cowboys - Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Brian Branch is one of the best players in the 2023 NFL Draft, so it makes sense that he'd slide into the 20s for the Cowboys to select him. Safety Malik Hooker had a great year, but the Cowboys still lack depth and elite playmakers in their secondary. Branch is a playmaker, assuming the STAR position for the Alabama defense, which allowed him to show off his in-the-box and coverage skills seemingly every other snap. Branch is a physical tackler with range and burst, but his man coverage skills set him apart from other safety prospects in the class. He has the ability of a cornerback to stay in phase, and his feel in zone coverage - especially as a single-high defender - is fantastic. Branch would give the already strong Cowboys defense another weapon.
24. Los Angeles Chargers - Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
The injury history of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen is too concerning to pass up a receiver here. While Joshua Palmer has shown flashes as a backup, he’s been too inconsistent for an offense that needs more weapons. That weapon could be North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs. If you were going to build a perfect slot receiver for the NFL, Downs would be the prototype. He has produced at an elite level the past two seasons with back-to-back seasons with over 1,00 yards and ninety catches. He is an explosive athlete and one of the best route runners from this class that plays in the slot. He has twitchiness, and his speed would immediately make him one of Herbert’s best weapons.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida
The Buccaneers struggled badly with interior pressure in 2022. If Tom Brady remains at quarterback, the team must address that deficiency. The team used a second-round pick on Luke Goedeke, but he struggled badly and was not able to stay in the lineup. Torrence is a mauler in the run game who should be able to step in immediately and solidify the Buccaneers' interior. He can struggle with playing high, a trait he will need to remedy and his athleticism likely keeps him stuck inside. But he is the top guard in the draft and fills the Buccaneers' biggest immediate weakness.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Jaguars have a cornerstone cornerback in Tyson Campbell, but they could use a better and more reliable CB2. That player could be Witherspoon. He’s one of the best playmakers in the draft, and his ball skills are elite. He will also give the Jaguars a versatile weapon that can play on the outside or inside at nickel. Witherspoon and Campbell could be a formidable duo in that division.
27. Minnesota Vikings - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
The fantasy bomb everyone has been waiting on. At first, the Vikings making this move would elicit an adverse reaction, but the pieces line up on closer look. Dalvin Cook's efficiency has begun to tick down, and entering his age 28 season, he has an out in his contract that would allow the Vikings to move on. The team has to look for angles with Justin Jefferson set to break the wide receiver contract market. With Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they need support in the backfield. Robinson is an exceptional talent, capable of dominating backfield carries and winning in the passing game. The Vikings have an opportunity to reset the position, and despite the devaluation of the running back position, this presents value relative to Robinson's consensus draft rankings.
28. Cincinnati Bengals - Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Darnell Washington is essentially a sixth offensive lineman who can also hurdle oncoming tacklers while gaining yards after the catch out in space. He's a rare athlete, mainly because of his unique size (he stands at 6-foot-7). Washington isn't the most consistent pass-catcher in the world, as he often lacks concentration on easy catches. But Washington's blocking ability, combined with the incredible upside he has if he's able to improve his hands, make him a locked-in Top 50 pick. With Michael Mayer off the board for the Bengals, he makes it into the first round.
29. Denver Broncos (from 49ers) - Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Broncos moved Bradley Chubb at the deadline and could use some help on their defensive line if they decide to keep this pick. In a division with Patrick Mahomes II and Justin Herbert, you can’t have enough pass rushers, and Foskey could be a steal this late. He’s an incredible edge rusher and one of the best athletes in this class. He’s also an instinctive player who can make plays all over the field. His awareness and athleticism could give the Broncos another explosive player on the defensive side of the ball.
30. Buffalo Bills - Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Heading into the 2022 season, LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte was considered by many scouts to be a top-10 pick. After an inconsistent season on the field and some questionable moves off of it, he has slipped down draft boards. While there are legitimate question marks about his profile, he would fit in well in this Bills offense alongside Stefon Diggs. Gabriel Davis has been solid, but the breakout isn’t coming. They have struggled to find a consistent option out of the slot, and the only real future asset they have at the position is Khalil Shakir, who struggled to play his way onto the field. Picking Boutte could allow them to restock the position, and if he plays up to his potential could give them their future WR1 in their offense.
31. Philadelphia Eagles - Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
The rich get richer as the Eagles have two first-round picks. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has been a key player since arriving in a trade with the Saints, but safety is still a concern for the team. Johnson is a versatile, physical safety who has played corner in the past. Johnson brings violence to the position not usually seen in a corner background. Johnson profiles more as a box safety capable of playing the nickel back role, though he does possess ball skills from a receiver background that could see him develop as a player capable of playing both high and low.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Nolan Smith tore his pectoral muscle in October, allowing the Chiefs to pounce on his fallen draft stock. Smith likely would go in the Top 10 of the draft without the injury (and still might if other edge rushers have poor pre-draft processes). Smith is a unique combination of bend and strength, even for a smaller guy. He wins with speed, but he's technically sound and consistently sets the edge when defending the run. He's dangerous when allowed to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback, and Georgia coaches rave about his leadership skills. The Chiefs are shallow at the EDGE position, with rookie George Karlaftis flashing spurts of greatness mixed with inconsistencies. Smith and Karlaftis would give them two young pieces to build around as they attempt to continue contending for Super Bowls with Patrick Mahomes II and company.