The top of this year's draft is heavy with quarterback prospects, with one QB-needy team -- the Panthers -- already trading up to be in position to land a potential face of the franchise. In the four-round mock draft below, I project two trades for passing prospects in the top 10 and another swap for a signal-caller early in Round 2.
Delving more deeply into the draft, however, provides a glimpse into some other positions that offer strong depth. For example, teams will be able to find quality players at cornerback, edge rusher and tight end on each of the first two days of the draft. There will be more quality interior defensive linemen available on Day 2 than we've seen in the past couple of years, as well.
This year's receiver class might not produce as many first-rounders as we've seen from the position in recent years, but I still think there will be WRs picked on Day 2 that become very good NFL starters. There's not as much high-end offensive line talent this year, while teams looking for off-ball linebackers and safeties might find their best value in Round 3 or later.
So, if I have your favorite team waiting until Day 2 to fill a pressing roster need in this mock, keep in mind that I'm taking advantage of where I see value instead of just addressing the most obvious hole in the depth chart.
- The NFL announced in August that the Miami Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick following an investigation into whether the team violated league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.
- Check out NFL+ for live coverage of Florida's pro day beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 30.
New head coach Frank Reich worked with pocket passers in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, from Carson Wentz to Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Wentz again to Matt Ryan. Stroud is an accurate thrower behind the line and strong within the pocket, but he also flashes the mobility to make defenses pay for not spying him in man coverage.
Young brings football intelligence to the field for the Texans, who will appreciate the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner's ability to lead an offense and make plays under pressure. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, Young will stand tall in Houston, finding targets from the pocket and directing traffic downfield when on the move.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH ARIZONA CARDINALS
Colts head coach Shane Steichen helped Jalen Hurts fulfill his potential over the past couple of seasons in Philadelphia -- he has to see that same kind of upside in the freakish Richardson. To prevent getting leapfrogged by another team interested in the former Gator, the Colts give the Cardinals third-round picks in 2023 and '24 as well as a fourth-rounder this year -- similar to the Bears' one-slot swap with the 49ers for the right to draft Mitch Trubisky.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
New head coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis worked well together in Philadelphia, and they very well could see a Haason Reddick-type edge rusher in Anderson. While the All-American's stats dropped to mere-mortal levels in 2022 (17 tackles for loss with 10 sacks against 34.5 and 17.5, respectively, in 2021), his ability to win off the edge is still ripe for development.
The Seahawks pair second-year corner Tariq Woolen with another exceptional athlete in Gonzalez, giving the team its best outside duo since the "Legion of Boom" days. Gonzalez's ball skills are tremendous, and he sticks with any outside receiver lined up on his side.
Carter's pro day performance was far from ideal, but the quick resolution of his legal issues could allay teams' concerns about picking him in the top 10. The Lions need playmakers like Carter on the defensive interior, with 2021 second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike unable to contribute last season because of a back issue that has bothered him since his college days.
The Raiders pass on Will Levis in favor of a powerful, long and agile pass rusher. But, as you'll see in Round 2 of this exercise, Las Vegas moves up to snag quarterback Hendon Hooker. The Raiders send their second-round pick and early-fourth round selection to the Rams for No. 36 overall (moving ahead of the Seahawks, who may have interest in Hooker) and a fifth-rounder in the deal.
Van Ness has a skill set not unlike last year's No. 1 overall pick, Travon Walker. His measurements and athletic test results are similar to Walker's; same story with the Iowa product's versatility to stand up or shift inside, using his length and motor to wreak havoc. If the Falcons are really going multiple under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, Van Ness would be a great fit.
I don't blame teams avoiding running backs in the top 10 because of how many injuries occur at the position -- but the Bears could make an exception for Robinson. His combination of power, speed, shiftiness and receiving ability make him a potential star in the Christian McCaffrey mold. Signing D'Onta Foreman does not take the Bears out of the running for this all-around offensive threat.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Kirk Cousins is entering a contract year, and the Vikings expect to be good enough to keep them out of the running for the top quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. Minnesota might choose to shoot its shot now, getting Levis in a trade with Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round pick this year and 2024 first-rounder. Levis may still find a fan among the teams at the top of the draft because of his arm strength, mobility and competitive fire, but he reminds me of former NFL passer Jay Cutler, who went 11th in 2006. And in some recent drafts, we've seen at least one highly regarded quarterback come off the board in the 10-12 range: Justin Fields (2021), Josh Rosen (2018), Patrick Mahomes (2017) and Deshaun Watson (2017).
Skoronski could compete for the left tackle job, but he also has the strength, mobility and intelligence to slide in at guard (replacing Nate Davis) or center (replacing Ben Jones).
Trading Brandin Cooks leaves the door wide open for the Texans to select the smooth, quick former Biletnikoff Award winner (top college wide receiver). Addison’s game combines some of the traits/skills seen in two receivers selected in the top half of last year's first round, Garrett Wilson (10th to the Jets) and Jahan Dotson (16th to the Commanders). His smooth routes and open-field quickness should allow him to contribute from the slot immediately.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW YORK JETS
For the sake of this mock, I project the Packers and Jets to finally complete an Aaron Rodgers trade, with Green Bay receiving this selection and a conditional 2024 pick in the deal. Johnson possesses the length and power to back up veteran left tackle David Bakhtiari or start at right tackle, allowing Elgton Jenkins to play guard.
Securing the services of Porter brings much-needed height (6-foot-2 1/2), length (34-inch arms) and speed (4.46-second 40-yard dash) to the Patriots’ cornerback room. Being the son of a former Pro Bowl defender probably doesn't hurt his draft stock, either.
Green Bay must consider the top receiver or tight end on the board at this spot. Mayer is a great fit, not only for his excellence as a receiver but also his prowess as a blocker in the running game, which should more of a focus with Jordan Love expected to run the show in 2023.
It is possible the Commanders will use 2021 second-round pick Sam Cosmi at right guard, but I believe new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy would love to see Torrence moving run defenders after watching Trey Smith do just that in Kansas City. In this scenario, Cosmi could take over the important swing tackle position.
The Steelers shouldn’t be concerned about Smith's lack of elite size for the position (6-foot-2 1/4, 238 pounds) because he has the get-off and quick, strong hands to win on the outside. The team could use more help off the edge to push quarterbacks toward star pass rusher T.J. Watt, with Alex Highsmith in the final year of his rookie deal.
The Lions can't ignore Witherspoon’s value here even after making some upgrades in the secondary via free agency.
The Bucs figure to be in the tackle market after the release of Donovan Smith. They could take Jones to step into Smith's left tackle spot or pick Tennessee’s Darnell Wright to play on the right side and shift Tristan Wirfs to the blindside.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
GM Brandon Beane moves up to get the strong and quick-footed Kancey. There’s already social-media chatter about former first-round pick Ed Oliver’s future as he enters a contract year. The team needs another active tackle on the roster to take the reins sooner or later.
If Smith-Njigba is still on the board here, the Chargers should turn the card in for him as quickly as possible. He has the football IQ to contribute as a rookie from the slot or outside, providing crucial depth behind veterans Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer and Mike Williams.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BALTIMORE RAVENS
Opinions are mixed about Hyatt's ability to become a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but the Chiefs' offense will play to his strengths: gliding past defenders in the open field and weaving through traffic to make short passes into long gains. The Ravens dealt second- and fifth-round picks to the Bears for linebacker Roquan Smith last fall, so adding a third- and fourth-rounder from the Chiefs in this trade will help build depth.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Adebawore seems to be the biggest postseason draft riser this year, starring at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine with his elite speed (4.49-second 40-yard dash) for a 282-pounder. The Eagles could ask him to gain a bit more weight to handle inside and outside responsibilities.
I believe the speed and smooth movement Banks displayed at the combine secured a first-round draft slot for him. The Jaguars line him up opposite Tyson Campbell to shut down outside threats.
Signing Bobby Okereke was a nice start for the Giants as they fortify their linebacker corps. Simpson can play in the middle or step outside. He offers excellent quickness and is a tenacious tackler.
The Cowboys have been waiting until the middle rounds to draft tight ends in recent years, but I'm not sure they can pass up this value. Kincaid's body control and open-field agility will be a welcome sight for Dak Prescott's eyes; he should be a nice complement to second-year players Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BUFFALO BILLS
Mauch primarily played tackle for the Bison, but he didn’t have any problem lining up at all five spots on the offensive line during Senior Bowl week. Seattle must improve its interior line, and Mauch's feisty but smart play will allow to him to start as a rookie.
Orlando Brown was signed as the Bengals' new left tackle, which led former first-round pick Jonah Williams to ask for a trade. If that request is granted, Cincinnati could bring in Wright to solidify the right tackle spot.
If Murphy is still available here, the Saints should be happy to add him to their defensive end depth chart with Marcus Davenport gone and Carl Granderson and Cameron Jordan scheduled to hit free agency after the season.
The Eagles did not bring back safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps. Branch is a sound tackler with good instincts versus the run and pass, making him an instant starter for the reigning NFC champions.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Veteran cornerback Marcus Peters, who started 13 games for Baltimore last season, remains a free agent. Smith's size and aggressive play remind me of the three-time Pro Bowler.