Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Bears-Panthers trade sent shockwaves through the top 10, while the Buccaneers land an edge rusher with elite physical tools at number 19Scott Smith
The truth is, we had a different mock draft concept on tap for this week, one that got at the heart of how confident Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I were or were not in our various predictions in previous mocks, and why that was the case. And then the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers dropped a depth charge into the usually placid waters of a Friday evening and...well, plans change.
The Bears made their much anticipated move of trading out of the top overall spot, and probably a little sooner than most expected. Carolina gave them an offer they couldn't ignore, sending over their second-round pick this year (no. 61 overall), a first-round pick in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2025 to move from the ninth pick into the driver's seat. Oh, and D.J. Moore. The Bears also get standout wide receiver D.J. Moore, which is essentially another first-round pick.
Obviously, this changes everything, rendering the approximately 50,000 mock drafts on the internet from before Friday irrelevant, including our own. It also demands an immediate and fresh look on how things might fall out now. So that's what we're doing this week instead. It's my third attempt and our fifth overall.
Before we get started, let me give you the details of two mock trades I made along the way.
1. Atlanta trades up from eighth to fifth with Seattle. In 2012, the Jaguars traded up from seventh to fifth with the Buccaneers and gave up a fourth. This is one more spot for Seattle to move down and in this case the team moving up is definitely going for a quarterback and might be fighting off other potential traders, so it costs a little more - a fourth this year and a third next year. Atlanta has two fourth-round picks (nos. 110 and 113) and gives up the higher one, which it got from Tennessee in the Julio Jones trade.
2. Seattle moves up from 20th to 13th, trading with the Jets. I didn't find a perfectly analogous 20-to-13 trade as an example in the last couple decades, but there are plenty that are similar and this kind of move usually costs somewhere around a third or a fourth. So Seattle gives up the fourth it just got from Atlanta in the earlier trade and their third next year.
Now on to the picks.
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The Panthers made some noise that they would listen to offers to move back down, but I'm betting that's only to entice the Texans to give up some capital for a 1-2 swap. That would mean the Panthers have two quarterbacks they'd be happy with, but the most likely scenario is they stay put and hone in on their top choice, which is Stroud, who put on a clinic of pinpoint accuracy at the Combine. Stroud may have some untapped movement skills, as well.
2. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
The Texans don't take the Panthers' bait, perfectly willing to sit tight and take the heady Young, who would be the easy first pick if he were 6-3 instead of 5-10. Young is creative, poised, mobile and has great field vision.
3. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama
The Cardinals get some calls here from teams interested in the next quarterback but don't get a deal enticing to move off the top defensive player available. The Cardinals had a big need for edge rushing juice, and that was before they released Markus Golden. Anderson has a lightning-quick get-off but also a full arsenal of pass-rush moves, plus the closing burst and long arms that will convert pressures into sacks.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
The Colts didn't try to force a move up to three with both Levis and Anthony Richardson available, but when they end up with a choice of both they go with the player they think is closer to starting in the NFL. Levis certainly looks the part at 6-4 and 229 pounds with a cannon arm he can unleash even on the run. The Colts are banking that his struggles in his final year at Kentucky were the product of nagging injuries.
5. Atlanta Falcons (from Denver through Seattle): QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
The selection of Desmond Ridder in the third round a year ago doesn't stop the Falcons from making the bold move here and getting the quarterback who may have the highest ceiling of any in this class. And Ridder can still go into 2023 as the starter while the team works on getting the very inexperienced but supremely talented Richardson ready for the NFL. For the first time ever, four quarterbacks go in the top five picks.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Amid all the chaos caused by the Bears' trade, the Lions stay put with the same player we gave them in each of our last two mock drafts. Gonzalez cemented his status as the top corner in the draft by putting together the best Combine performance at his position. With Jeff Okudah emerging in 2022, the Lions could end up with one of the NFL's best cornerback duos. As Patrick Surtain and Sauce Gardner have shown over the past two seasons, rookie corners can make a big impact right away. (That said, the Lions' reported signing of Cam Sutton could make this pick obsolete quickly).
7. Las Vegas Raiders: T Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
The Raiders are a popular pick to make the move I predicted by Atlanta, and maybe that will be the case but for now I'm sticking with my theory that they will sign a veteran and work instead on improving the offense around him (and reports on Monday were that veteran would be Jimmy Garopollo). They could always go back into the rookie QB market next year. Skoronski should be able to stick at tackle despite his "short" arms, but the Raiders could use help inside too if that becomes the eventual move.
8. Seattle Seahawks (from Atlanta): DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Carter falls out of the top five over concerns about the reckless driving and racing charges brought on him in relation to the tragic fatal accident of another car in Athens Georgia in January, but he doesn't fall far. The Seahawks' most pressing concern are along the front line, both on the outside and in the interior, and while Tyree Wilson is enticing their should be more edge-rushing options available later. Carter's burst at the snap will be trouble for opposing guards and he uses his hands well to maneuver around blockers.
9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina): T Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Fifth-rounder Braxton Jones held his own at left tackle last year but right tackle Riley Reiff is an unrestricted free agent and may have just been a one-year rental. Jones could slight to the right to make room for Johnson on the left side. The 6-6, 313-pound Johnson is athletic and blocks well on the move, and he has room to add mass and strength to his frame. The Bears got the number-one receiver they needed in the trade with Carolina and now do even more to give Justin Fields the surroundings he needs to flourish.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
It's going to be tough to bring James Bradberry back with all of the Eagles' pending free agents and Bradberry's likely high price tag. The Eagles turn to the draft as a way to replace him instead, nabbing the Penn State corner who plays with a very physical style and has an NFL pedigree. Philadelphia played a lot of man coverage in 2022, thanks to a great four-man rush and the talents of Bradberry and Darius Slay, and Porter is stronger in man than in zone.
11. Tennessee Titans: T Broderick Jones, Georgia
The Titans replace the departed Taylor Lewan with the top remaining tackle on the board. Jones only made 19 starts in college and still has some work to do on both his technique and his frame, but he showed off his nimble feet and short-area quickness at the Combine and has a lot of room to grow.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
It's a surprise to see Wilson last to this pick, and while the Texans would love to get their new young quarterback a prime receiving weapon they also need edge-rush help. Wilson, who some scouts see as being a competitor to Anderson for the top pick among edge rushers, has it all as a front-line defender - power, length, speed, burst, lateral quickness - and could develop quickly into a menace on the edge.
13. Seattle (from N.Y. Jets): EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
The Jets were hoping to grab a top offensive tackle here, but when Jones went to the Titans they scramble to find a trade partner to move down, believing they could tap into the next level of blockers farther down the round. It's unlike the Seahawks to move down but Murphy is enticing and they gained some move-around capital from their earlier trade. This is a dream scenario for Seattle, coming away with the pair of Carter and Murphy, and only at the additional cost of next year's third.
14. New England Patriots: S Brian Branch, Alabama
We've know made this pairing for the Patriots three mocks in a row, which means it's almost certain not to happen. But Branch is an intelligent defender who can play safety or nickel corner and the Patriots are looking to replace the retiring Devin McCourty.
15. Green Bay Packers: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The Packers finally drop a first-round pick on a receiver as they make the likely transition to Jordan Love under center. Green Bay added size and speed to their receiving corps last year with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, and now they get a supremely smooth route-running technician who pulls the whole group together. He can work out of the slot and he knows how to get open and pick up yards after the catch. In terms of short-area quickness, he was the best receiver at the Combine.
16. Washington Commanders: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
The Commanders have a couple other positional needs that are at least as pressing at cornerback, but this is where the value is at this point in the draft and the team lacks a number-one corner. Witherspoon is best in zone coverage but is a ball hawk who could turn into a big-time playmaker at the NFL level.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
We have a run on cornerbacks! Banks has seen his stock rise in recent weeks, and he helped himself at the Combine with elite testing numbers that include a 4.35 40, a 42-inch vertical leap, an 11-4 broad jump and a 1.49 10-yard split on his 40. He has the tools to excel in any scheme and the type of change-of-direction skills needed to be an elite cornerback.
18. Detroit Lions: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Brianna made this pick for Detroit in her last mock and I liked it so much I'm stealing it here. Yes, Detroit ranked fourth in offense (fifth in scoring) and 32nd in defense (30th in scoring), so it's obvious where they need the most help. But, come on! They already got an elite corner with the sixth-overall pick; let's have some fun and add an explosive rushing attack to a talented pass-catching corps. Robinson could be a top-five back in the NFL, and quickly.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
Smith may not make it this far after his electrifying performance at the Combine, which included a stunning 4.39 40 with a 1.52-second 10-yard split. Smith is undersized for an edge but that hasn't stopped him from being an effective run defender, so he doesn't profile as just a third-down specialist on the NFL level. The Buccaneers will be getting Shaq Barrett back from his Achilles injury but Head Coach Todd Bowles has emphasized that his defense needs much more pressure off the edges to complement Vita Vea's work on the inside.
20. N.Y. Jets (from Seattle): T Darnell Wright, Tennessee
The Jets trade down works out well here. They knew there was depth at the next tier of tackles, and is turned out there were no more taken between where they were and this spot, so they can still choose from the likes of Wright, Anton Harrison and Dawand Jones. They go with the huge (6-5, 333) and powerful Wright, who would probably play right tackle, which is definitely an area of need. Due to injuries, the Jets gave significant OT tackles to eight different players last year and could use a shot of youthful stability.
NA. Miami Dolphins: FORFEITED
21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Addison didn't blow the doors off the Combine but he has plenty of functional speed and outstanding acceleration. The Chargers need speed more than anything in their pass-catching group but they also need insurance for the possibility of Keenan Allen and/or Mike Williams missing time, as has been an issue in recent seasons. Addison shows good footwork and the ability to gain separation at any level of the field.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The lack of an early run on a receiving group that is hard to stratify works out well for the Ravens, who have that position as their clear biggest need. The 6-3, 208-pound Johnston has an intriguing size-speed combination and NFL.com sets his NFL comp as Alshon Jeffery. Johnston's long strides make him a deep threat in the Mike Evans type of mold, and that could open up the big-play passing game for Lamar Jackson or whomever is under center for the Ravens.
23. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
More than almost any other prospect, Van Ness has been all over the mock draft boards due to his elite testing numbers balanced by the fact that he didn't even start at Iowa and hasn't yet developed a wide range of pass rush moves. But he was productive in his time on the field and he already plays with a lot of power both as a pass-rusher and a run defender.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
The Jaguars put the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram after his 73-catch season in 2022, but that shouldn't stop them from grabbing the enormous Washington, as well. Engram is essentially a large receiver who doesn't bring much as a blocker. Meanwhile, the 6-7, 265-pound Washington can be a bully as an inline blocker but he's also an interesting option as a pass-catcher. He's not the most dynamic runner but he has good hands, adjusts to the ball well in traffic and is, obviously, tough to bring down. Two-TE sets with Engram and Washington could be troublesome for opponents.
25. New York Giants: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
It went down to the 11th hour, but the Giants managed to keep both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley with a lucrative new deal and a franchise tag, respectively. Now they need to go to work on a receiving corps that was led by Richie James in 2023, and that means more than re-signing Sterling Shepard. Flowers isn't big, but he's electric out of the slot and if the Giants continue to focus on Jones getting rid of the ball quickly he could immediately become one of their most important weapons.
26. Dallas Cowboys: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
The Cowboys used their franchise tag on running back Tony Pollard, not Dalton Schultz, and there's a good chance the veteran tight end will be on the move in free agency. Mayer may be the closest thing this draft has to a true two-way Y tight end who will develop into a plus blocker and a productive pass-catcher.
27. Buffalo Bills: G O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida
In my last two mock drafts I couldn't resist nabbing Bijan Robinson here, but this time around Robinson is off the board so the Bills make a less sexy but more sensible pick at a position of need. Roger Saffold may or may not be re-signed but either way he's 35 years old. The Bills have their shot at the first true interior lineman off the board here and they take it, giving Josh Allen some help up front.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Hayden Hurst is a free agent who should attract a decent amount of attention on the market and the Bengals' depth chart at tight end behind him is mostly bare. Kincaid is the most dynamic pass-catcher among this year's top-heavy group of tight end prospects, and that would make for a scary addition to Joe Burrow's array of targets, joining Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Yikes.
29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco through Miami and Denver): DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
The Saints are doing their annual gymnastics to get under the cap but it appears they will lose the underrated David Onyemata plus Shy Tuttle in free agency, with both staying in the division. The Saints thus need help in the trenches on defense and Bresee is athletic and powerful, able to take on double teams or shoot a gap up the middle. Formerly the top overall recruit in the 2020 class, Bresee lost time due to injuries at Clemson but had 3.5 sacks last year.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
The Eagles' long list of potential free agent losses up front is well-documented, and while Brandon Graham has already chosen to stay there are still four defensive tackles who could hit the market on Wednesday. The Eagles reload in the trenches, as they are wont to do, with an undersized but quick Kancey, who ran a blistering 4.67 40 at the Combine. Kancey has an explosive first step that allows him to shoot gaps along with length and change-of-direction skills to track down the QB once he invades the backfield.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Keion White, Georgia Tech
Frank Clark won't be back and the Chiefs need to keep Chris Johnson on the inside where he is most dominant, so they use a late-round pick on an edge rusher for the second year in a row. White is still a developmental prospect who doesn't have much in the way of pass-rush moves yet, but he hustles and has good short-area quickness.