We're in it now boys. The All-Star games have been played, the combine is in the bag with risers and fallers aplenty, and now we're looking toward the Pro Days. With all that, here is my first mock for the 2023 Draft; as always I don't try to mock trades and I'm not trying to "guess" what teams will do, I'm trying to match the team and what they do/need with the best available player.
Jalen Carter - IDL - Georgia - Two things about this pick. First, I don't expect Chicago to make this pick. Second, I think that Carter ends up in Chicago anyhow. Carter is pure dynamite, not because he's the most exciting player, but because he can singlehandedly demolish your game plan. Matt Eberflus is just dying to get Carter in uniform because his defensive scheme relies on having that disruptive defensive tackle in the middle. *Edit* - Carter had been arrested for a role in the crash that killed a Georgia recruiting Analyst and a teammate, and injured another teammate. As of 3/2/23 he is already back at the combine and conducting interviews.
Bryce Young - QB - Alabama - The Texans finally have their QB. I know that a lot has been made of Young's size with regard to him potentially being lighter or shorter than expected. Personally, I think too much is being made of it, scouts have done the same thing with Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees so this is nothing new. What Young has done over the last two years is show NFL-caliber arm strength, decision-making, and a great football IQ while running a Pro-style offense.
Tyree Wilson - EDGE - Texas Tech - The first real surprise comes at three with the Cardinals taking Tyree Wilson over 'Bama EDGE Will Anderson Jr. If Wilson comes out of the combine with the type of performance (limited though it will be) I think he will, he will significantly close the gap between himself and Anderson. With the loss of J.J. Watt (Retirement), Wilson will be more likely able to step into that role as a do-it-all End.
C.J. Stroud - QB - Ohio State - I don't know if Indy likes Stroud better than Young, but in this scenario, Young isn't available. Maybe they make the trade to 1 and take Stroud anyhow. Regardless of who the Colts take, they need to get it right. After trading for veteran QBs the last two years and that crumbling around them they need to be able to know who is going to be under center for them for the foreseeable future. I don't like Stroud as much as I do Young, but he's ahead of the other QBs in this draft and it's not close.
Seattle Seahawks (From Denver)
Will Anderson Jr. - EDGE - Alabama - I don't know if Seattle stays at this spot, Carolina might get squirrely and feel they need to trade up to get Kentucky QB Will Levis. If Seattle stays here and Anderson drops to them it's like mana from heaven, they address one of their biggest needs with the (debatably) best EDGE rusher in the draft. On the other hand, if a trade happens, they'll have a shot at a very good EDGE at #9 as well as extra picks to address their IOL and IDL in the second and third rounds.
Detroit Lions (From LA Rams)
Devon Witherspoon - CB - Illinois - the biggest knock I can find against Witherspoon is that he's a little on the light side and "only" 6' tall. After that, it's just pass-breakups and rainbows. 'Spoon in just an all-around great corner, he rarely finds himself out of phase, he locates and rakes as well as anyone in this draft, and he rallies to the ball well. He also has shown the ability to play very well on special teams. Some will wonder if he is capable of playing as an outside corner but teams spend so much time in nickel coverage that I think it will be rare for him to leave the field.
Las Vegas Raiders
Peter Skoronski - OT - Northwestern - There are a lot of directions the Raiders could go with this pick but I think getting their line settled will benefit them the most, not that Skoronski alone will do it, but he will go a long way towards fixing the issue. There are concerns about his length, specifically arm length, and whether he'll be able to deal with the more athletic EDGE players he would be asked to block. I think those are minor when placed against the backdrop of him being a three-year starter after taking over for former-Wildcat-now-Charger Rashawn Slater. He also possesses an excellent football IQ, offers positional flexibility, and his ability to sustain blocks and use his hands effectively is exceptional.
Paris Johnson Jr. - OT - Ohio State - With the interiors of their lines needing the most attention the Falcons could conceivably trade down a half-dozen slots (or more), get more picks and still get the best available player. Since I'm not doing trades we move to secondary needs and quickly it becomes either WR or OT. Johnson Jr. needs to improve his functional strength and his hand usage, but his size is darn near prototypical and his athleticism should shine at his Pro Day WorkoutUltimately.
Will Levis - QB - Kentucky - The Panthers need a QB. Will Levis will need a steady hand to develop him. Frank Reich is the Panthers' new coach. Frank Reich has experience playing and coaching the position (with a Super Bowl ring to top it off). Is it a match made in heaven? Maybe. Levis has all the physical tools but can't seem to put them all together. Some will explain it away as him being on an under-talented Kentucky team with a suspect O-line. Some will say that shouldn't matter. If you're looking for a draft comp, I'd say it's Josh Allen, not today's Josh Allen, but pre-draft 2018 Josh Allen.
Philadelphia Eagles (From New Orleans)
Bryan Bresee - IDL - Clemson - I know I passed on Bresee for the Falcons and I'm taking him for Philly two picks later. I have two reasons for it though. First, in the tape I watched of Bresee, amid the splash plays, I noticed that he has a tendency to quit on plays that are past him or going away from him. I think the Eagles' vets will be unlikely to let him get away with that. The second reason is that, as a DT, Bresee is going to be much better off in a defensive scheme that asks him to penetrate and make plays versus controlling a gap.
Jordan Addison - WR - Southern Cal - At this pick, it simply came down to which would serve the future of the Titans better, the best WR or the third-best offensive tackle? Obviously, I went with the receiver, but in a year where (the now-released) Robert Woods led the Titans with a mere 53Rec and 527 yards, were looking at a position that needs a talent infusion. Addison is that infusion. Coupled with 2022 pick Treylon Burks, Addison should provide a "security blanket"-type receiver for Tannehill, Willis, or whoever is the Titans' QB in a few years. I also considered Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez for this spot.
Houston Texans (From Cleveland)
Myles Murphy - EDGE - Clemson - I was really kind of stuck on this pick. Quentin Johnston, who I think is easily one of the top 2 receivers in this class or OT Broderick Jones who will become Bryce Young's personal bodyguard? Ultimately, I chose to improve the Texans' pass rush as they already have Brandin Cooks and John Metchie III (returning from cancer treatment) to catch the ball and LT Laremy Tunsil to protect Young for now. Murphy should be an instant impact player with his blend of tools, consistent production, and effort.
New York Jets
Broderick Jones - OT - Georgia - Whoever the Jets manage to sign, he's going to expect to be protected and with the real possibility that the Jets may have to replace both 2022 tackles, selecting an OT in this slot is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the top 2 are gone and I think they'll be gone on draft night as well so we're left with a player (Jones) that is being drafted more on potential than production. The good news is that he's a great athlete and should be able to mirror rushers allowing him to shut them down. Unfortunately, he's only started 19 games as a tackle, so, again, all about potential.
New England Patriots
Christian Gonzalez - CB - Oregon - This might be farther than Gonzalez slides on draft night, but you have to look pretty far to find a list that doesn't have Gonzalez as one of the top corners. I really, really wanted to take Quentin Johnston as a replacement for or complement to Jakobi Meyers, but getting in Belichick's head for even a second told me what I already knew, Gonzalez was a bargain too big to be passed on.
Green Bay Packers
Lukas Van Ness - EDGE - Iowa - It's Green bay so we know they're not taking a WR doubly so because it appears they've hit on a pair of future stars in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in 2022. The tight end doesn't offer value at #15 and is an undervalued position in the draft anyhow. Lastly, tackles are gone as far as the high end is concerned unless someone jumps up at the combine. That leaves EDGE as the pick and Van Ness is the best of the secondary group. He's inexperienced (started playing in the 8th grade) but his ability to convert speed to power, his motor combined with his flexibility, and room for improvement mean Van Ness is the pick.
Joey Porter Jr. - CB - Penn State - It almost didn't matter what position if drafted for the Commanders here, they were going to be a better team. With their top two needs (IOL and LB) not offering real value here, I went with Joey Porter. He doesn't wow you with his 2022 stats, mainly because after the season opener, no one challenged him. Regardless of the lack of stats, Porter has the ideal height/weight/speed combo you want to see and plays a premier position. He has great ball skills and showed development in his ability to play press coverage in 2022.
Quentin Johnston - WR - TCU - This feels like a team in a spot where trading down would benefit them, but no trades, so Johnston it is. I know a lot of Steelers fans are disappointed that Joey Porter Jr. isn't "coming home" but I think getting Johnston to pair with George Pickens will make them feel much better in the coming years. Johnston is going to be an explosive playmaker with an elite size/speed combination (He is expected to run a sub-4.4 40 at the combine).
Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR - Ohio State - Since we've already shored up the corner spot for the Lions, let's do the same for their receiving corps. Adding Smith-Njigba to play with sure-handed Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams who spent most of the year recovering from a torn ACL but previously was a big play waiting to happen should be interesting at least and potentially an explosive offense. Though Smith-Njigba sat out most of 2022 with his own injury, he's expected to bring route-running and hands to the party when he gets there.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cam Smith - CB - South Carolina - The Bucs are sailing a leaky ship and it's unlikely they are turning it around in the next year or two. They won a Super Bowl though, so that means that any price paid after the fact was worth it. . .
They're still $58M over the salary cap and getting under will be interesting, to say the least. Smith, though, offers help at a position of need, and with his fluidity and ball skills combined with a competitive nature he should cover at least one position for the foreseeable future.
John Michael Schmitz - IOL - Minnesota - This is another spot I could see being traded, the way this draft has gone has taken the WRs out of play, IDL and IOL aren't offering much value, and neither is LB or SAF. The Seahawks will always do things their own way though and since I can't trade the pick, Schmitz is it. He'll be older for a rookie and his pad level will be something to get coached up but he processes info quickly, has a strong anchor, and his hand placement enables him to win first contact. He's also a former wrestler who brings a competitive mindset and an understanding of leverage (a la Tristan Wirfs) to the position.
Los Angeles Chargers
Bijan Robinson - RB - Texas - In my previous article, I stated that the Chargers needed to improve on both sides of the ball the Chargers needed to pull ahead of the Chiefs in the AFC West. Robinson gives the Chargers the best back in the draft, another big-play weapon for the offense, and that RB1 they've lacked since cutting Melvin Ingram loose. If Brandon Staley chooses to use him as such, he can control the ball and whittle away at the time opponents have on offense, thereby helping his defense.
Jalin Hyatt - WR - Tennessee - Given GM Eric DeCosta's recent remarks about the team's inability to find an All-Pro caliber receiver it feels like they're destined to take another whack at that particular pinata. Hyatt can step right into the role of deep threat in the Ravens' offense while he works on making the adjustment from College to the NFL. His route running is of concern and he's on the slight side, but no one who saw his performance against Alabama (6 REC, 207 yds, 5 TDs) can say he isn't a big play waiting to happen.
Deonte Banks - CB - Maryland - Heading into the Combine Banks was looked at as someone who could turn heads and make his way into the first round. Mission Accomplished. Running a 4.35 second forty and posting an 11'4" broad jump will do that for you. He's a big, physical corner who shows good reactions and athleticism though his injury history and inconsistent technique are reasons for concern. He should be able to step in for free-agent-to-be Patrick Peterson and perform well for the Vikes.
Anton Harrison - OT - Oklahoma - I considered both WR Zay Flowers and TEs Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid here as another weapon for Jacksonville, but in the end keeping Face-of-the-Franchise Trevor Lawrence upright and healthy seemed to be the smarter play. While there are concerns about Harrison's hand placement and consistency, he gets the job done by keeping his QB's jersey clean using his size and length coupled with his mobility and pass-pro instincts.
New York Giants
Nolan Smith - EDGE/LB - Georgia - With the Giants finishing the season near the bottom of the league against the rush (27th) giving them a mobile, athletic, and physical linebacker who can also rush the passer (Giants were 13th with 41 sacks) seems like a good start to returning Big Blue to the playoffs. Smith has his issues- he needs to develop as a pass rusher, improve his hand usage, and he's a bit of a 'Tweener positionally. His positives though, whew! Before the combine, I thought it was 50/50 that Smith would get into the first round, after his performance in Indy though? He's going to move way up, especially if he can give a suitable encore at Georgia's Pro Day.
O'Cyrus Torrence - IOL - Florida - You'll probably start to hear the term "Scheme Specific" when people talk about Torrence leading up to the draft, in his case, it means that he'll need to play in a run-heavy offense that won't be asking for him to extend the pocket time for his QB. I think Dallas is such a fit. Torrence has conditioning issues, which I feel will be addressed by the S&C staff, and his agility and lateral mobility will likely keep him inside at guard. The upside is that he absolutely stops bullrushes in their tracks and opens huge holes in the run game. Use him correctly and you might have a Nate Newton on your hands.
Cody Mauch - IOL/OT - North Dakota State - Similar to what I just said above regarding Torrence, Mauch is going to perform best in a zone-blocking scheme, and guess what? That's just what OL Coach Aaron Kromer runs. Less of a mauler or power guard, Mauch is a wall-off blocker who wins with a combination of balance, toughness, and mobility. He's still listed as an OT, but concerns about his arm length and hand placement in pass-pro have caused most evaluators to view him as an IOL. I think in a pinch he could still play outside, but as a right tackle where he'll face fewer elite pass-rushers.
DJ Turner - CB - Michigan - Turner gives the Bengals an instant upgrade over pending free agent Eli Apple (whose nickname among many Bengals fans was simply "Toast", you can guess why), not just athletically but as a more refined corner even though Apple has been in the league for seven seasons. Turner lacks size and length but as a corner can be described in one word- "sticky". His footwork and ability to turn and run rarely leave him out of phase in coverage.
New Orleans Saints (From DEN/MIA/SF)
Michael Mayer - TE - Notre Dame - Given the recent news of A) Alvin Kamara's battery trial being set for July 31 and B) QB Derek Carr signing with the Saints I was tempted to select RB Jahmyr Gibbs as a stopgap in the (eventual) case that Kamara is suspended for a significant portion of the season. However, Mayer is a complete prospect in the sense that he both catches and blocks well, his position though will push him down the board and have the talking heads asking "Why", they know why.
Jahmyr Gibbs - RB - Alabama - With Miles Sanders likely gone as a free agent, snapping up Gibbs should be a no-brainer. While Gibbs likely won't be an all-the-time 3-down back, his somewhat slight frame shouldn't be a huge concern either, just give him a year with the S&C coaches and he'll put on 10-15 pounds making him more suited for the rigors of the NFL. He's a solid receiver and should be a reliable weapon for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles in their effort to make a return to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs
Keion White - EDGE/DE - Georgia Tech - With the release of Frank Clark after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement, that leaves the Chiefs in the position of needing to replace one of their EDGE rushers and a pretty successful one at that. White is new to the position and so isn't the most refined, he does, however, possess a ton of athleticism and some versatility regarding his position. Given time, I think that White could be a serious health risk for opponents in the AFC West.
I know that at least a few people reading this are thinking to themselves "Where is Anthony Richardson? I know he didn't forget about him."
They're right, I didn't forget about him, I simply think that Richardson isn't worth drafting in the first round.
"But he just killed it at the combine!!" He sure did, I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback perform like that, not even Cam Newton. I'm just not a believer in Richardson for a few reasons.
First, he's only started 13 games in college, which, if you've heard me talk about college QBs, you've likely heard me speak about the 30/36 (games started) thresholds regarding success in the NFL. Do you know who else started 13 games in college? Mitch Trubisky. Yeah. So there's strike one. He's inexperienced and the NFL is no place to try and gain experience.
Next is his performance in college which, was just, well, it could have been better. His completion percentage was bad, not just bad for now, but bad in the sense that you have to go back to 1968 to find a completion % leader who dipped lower than 60% (Gordon Slade 59%). That may sound skewed or like I'm cherry-picking stats, but I'm not, I'm just trying to stress how much he has yet to develop. Comparing him to the other top 5 QBs in this draft isn't any better, Richardson is at least 10 points behind the rest of this class. He's also not the reason his team wins, though I think in the Florida State and Kentucky games you could reasonably point out that he was the reason they lost, he just sort of exists.
Lastly, and this isn't anything to do with Richardson himself, I think that after Lamar Jackson tumbled to the bottom of the first round in 2018 and then showed what he could do in the following seasons, many GMs looked in the mirror and said "Never again." That is a losing proposition. You can't miss your picks at the top end of the draft, certainly not in the top 10, those are your keystones and you need to hit on them unless you're tired of being an NFL GM.
Richardson is intriguing as a prospect, and in a league where about a third of all teams are looking for their next signal-caller, you will have teams interested. But, and I hope that I'm wrong, any team drafting Richardson in the Top 10 will be replacing its head coach and general manager within three years.