We're officially single-digit days away from the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri). Time to take my first crack at mocking the first round.
REMINDER: As always, this isn't what I would do -- it's what I'm hearing from my sources around the league.
NOTE: 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.
Teams I've spoken with compare him more often to a point guard than a quarterback, and that's OK. He's going to have the collective voices of head coach Frank Reich, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell and veteran QB Andy Dalton in his ear. Young's small stature is a legit red flag to some evaluators; I still think he's the pick at No. 1. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is a natural leader who can be the face of a franchise.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH HOUSTON TEXANS
Would Indianapolis trade DeForest Buckner and the No. 4 overall pick to move up two spots? I think Houston would have to listen if it's offered. Remember, new Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans was with Buckner for three seasons in San Francisco, and "DeFo" just restructured his contract. If Buckner is not included in the trade, how about adding a second- or third-round pick instead? It's also worth noting that Stroud is represented by the same agent as Deshaun Watson; I wonder if this could play any role in the selection of the Ohio State quarterback, based on the acrimonious way Watson's time with the Texans ended.
I will say this, and you can print it and scream it from the mountaintops: I'm sure Arizona would love to trade back; I just don't know if there's a team looking to trade up to land Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. Will Anderson Jr. is a safe and smart pick for a team that needs talent at just about every position.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
After trading out of No. 2, Houston passes on a QB again and continues to build up the defense. Wilson has an 86-inch wingspan and grew up in Texas. Had a foot injury not prevented this gifted edge rusher from competing in the NFL Scouting Combine (or during Texas Tech's pro day), everyone would have been buzzing about him for the last month and change.
The Seahawks love Geno Smith, and there's no doubt he's the man for 2023. But with two picks in the top 20, they can go with a quarterback here -- after all, they surely don't plan on picking in the top five again anytime soon. If another QB-needy team doesn't leapfrog them, the 'Hawks can secure a signal-caller for the future. Seattle has time to get Richardson in the room with coordinator Shane Waldron so that he can learn the offense.
Skoronski is a steady, reliable guy who can play multiple spots on a Raiders' offensive line that desperately needs some help. He's smart as a whip, and Josh McDaniels and Co. have long valued above-the-neck qualities.
This strong, smart, speedy corner out of Oregon (via Colorado) is a gamer. The Bears have so many needs, and snagging a top cover man with the ninth overall choice makes them better tomorrow. He could go before Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon.
I know the Eagles haven't drafted a running back in the first round since the 1980s. I also know there aren't many elite players in this class. Robinson is one. Pure and simple.
I can see Tennessee moving up to get a quarterback like Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud. GM Ran Carthon and coach Mike Vrabel were making the rounds at the pro days for all the top QBs last month. But if the Titans aim to land one at their current draft slot, I’m leaning toward Hooker being their choice over Will Levis, despite Hooker being a 25-year-old coming off a torn ACL. This might shock the world -- or, by the time the draft arrives, it might not be that big of a shock at all.
If Houston can scoop up a veteran like DeForest Buckner (in the prospective trade spelled out above) or a future pick by trading out of No. 2, snag Tyree Wilson or Will Anderson and get its QB of the future within the top 12 overall picks? That'd be a good night for GM Nick Caserio and the new coaching staff. Houston is a curious case in this draft, for sure, and after Indianapolis, I don't have a perfect spot for a Levis. But if you're the Texans and you don't go QB at 2, the Kentucky product has to be a real consideration at 12.
I am not sure if Aaron Rodgers will be the Jets' quarterback by the time they are on the clock, but either way, I don't see this pick going to Green Bay. I do see the Jets addressing the offensive line, one of the team's biggest needs after injuries riddled the unit a year ago. Teams appear to be split on whether Jones, Peter Skoronski or Paris Johnson Jr. will be the first O-lineman taken.
Witherspoon is a top talent and could be off the board within the first eight overall picks. I have him remaining available here ... and the Patriots pouncing. New England could also go with a WR -- and in the scenario I'm sketching out with this mock, they're all still on the board, too.
The wideout class is weird this year in that there's no apparent slam-dunk No. 1, and the scouting and coaching communities don't seem overly enthusiastic about any of the prospects as clear-cut blue-chip players. To each his own. I'll put JSN as the first WR taken, but that's no sure thing. Green Bay snagging a receiver now -- with Aaron Rodgers (presumably) leaving the building, after years of the Packers neglecting the position in the first round -- would be humorous. Oh, the irony.
When healthy, Kincaid can do it all. He flourished at Utah, and though not a punishing blocker in the run game, he can hang there, too. He told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz at Utah's pro day in March that he was cleared to begin working out and expected to be cleared for full contact by May. He should go first of the tight ends. Washington's new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, knows a thing or two about utilizing the position, given his history in Kansas City.
The Steelers like plucking prospects from Ohio State. Johnson is a versatile pass protector who can play right away and shouldn't escape the top 20. I have Pittsburgh passing on Joey Porter's son, which just doesn't feel right. Oh well.
The Lions loaded up on DB talent in free agency, but they could still be in the market for a top corner prospect if they pass on Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon at No. 6. Porter can hang with both of those other cats and could still be on the board when Detroit comes back on the clock at No. 18. Tough mentality -- a real Aaron Glenn/Dan Campbell type of guy.
Banks has enjoyed a really nice pre-draft period, working out at an extremely high level and interviewing well with NFL teams. The Buccaneers brought back Jamel Dean but lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to the Titans. Tampa Bay has many needs. It would be interesting if Will Levis and/or Hendon Hooker were still on the board at this point, which is certainly possible in the real thing.
The redshirt sophomore didn't start at Iowa due to Kirk Ferentz's seniority-based approach, but he has a high motor and has been a star of the pre-draft workout circuit. Still, Van Ness is a polarizing prospect, as some teams aren't as high on him as others. It feels like he could go anywhere from No. 6 to the end of the first round.
Another offensive weapon for Justin Herbert. Mayer is a fine all-around tight end prospect. He's not as explosive as, say, Kyle Pitts, but he's still a highly regarded pass catcher. Not to mention, he can pass block and loves to road grade in the run game. Bottom line: The Notre Dame product can play right away in an NFL offense.
Wright's a likely first-rounder, though NFL teams seem a little mixed on the mauling tackle. There's no questioning his dominant performance in Tennessee's thrilling win over Alabama last October, when Wright erased ballyhooed edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. In this simulation, the Ravens grab the 6-5, 333-pounder and figure he'll be a key piece of the team's future, whether Lamar Jackson is or not.
I know of at least one team that has Addison as its top-rated wide receiver. With Adam Thielen now in Carolina, this pairing makes sense. That said, Minnesota can go a variety of ways here. With Kirk Cousins in the last year of his contract, quarterback could be an option, but the Vikings might have to aggressively jump up the board in order to get their man at that position.
I think it's offensive lineman or defensive back here for the Jaguars. Branch was the slot corner for Alabama, but he could play all over Jacksonville's secondary.
The Cowboys have an incredibly strong track record when it comes to recent first-round picks: WR CeeDee Lamb and LB Micah Parsons have both made the past two Pro Bowls, while OL Tyler Smith showed plenty of promise in Year 1. After the release of former No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas has room for another back. With Bijan Robinson off the board, Jerry Jones and Co. scoop up the explosive Gibbs.
The Bengals signed Irv Smith Jr. in free agency and have high hopes for him, but it's a one-year prove-it deal following an injury-riddled 2022 campaign. Washington would be another weapon for the offense -- and the big man can block, too. Three tight ends in the first round? Weird draft, I know.
In a receiver class that's short on size, Mingo is a physical presence (6-2, 220 pounds) who tested well in Indianapolis (4.46 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical leap, 22 bench reps). Mingo is not as polished as some other wideouts in this class, and not every scout is a fan, but many in the coaching community seem to love him. New Orleans late in Round 1 feels right.
The Eagles are always on the hunt for trench talent, and Nick Sirianni has a strong link to Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, his former college teammate at Mount Union. McDonald is a first-round talent.
The Chiefs made it work with what they had at wideout last year and envision big production from some young pass catchers going forward. But if Johnston's still available at No. 31, I could see Brett Veach pouncing on a big, physical wideout with moves.