Hey guys, I just wanna briefly shoot out a few my thoughts on the first round. I think that this can be helpful in gauging who might be around on day two. 2023 NFL Mock Draft Here are the rules that I have placed upon myself. I do not forecast trades in the mock draft because things will quickly get out of hand. In a highly unpredictable setting, I choose to deal with certainties and not uncertainties. I have made my picks based on whom I think each team will take - not who they should take. I have also taken the liberty to grade the pick based on a multitude of different elements including, but not limited to: fit, value, and need. This being said, do not consider the draft grade necessarily a grade on the player. In order to help you understand my thought process, let’s consider one of the more intriguing draft prospects of the 2023 draft class, Anthony Richardson. I am incredibly high on Richardson, and I genuinely think that the risk is worth the reward. Richardson is the only quarterback that truly demonstrated superstar potential, but he needs time to develop and rushing him onto the field could possibly be a disaster. My dream scenario would be that Seattle drafts him. Pete Carroll is a quarterback whisperer, and Geno Smith shocked the world last season with a top tier showing. If Richardson lands up in Seattle, it would be an A+ pick. My biggest nightmare is that Richardson lands up in Indy. Jim Irsay is an impatient owner who has gone from Phillip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan in the last few seasons. Moreover, Irsay truly went rogue when he hired an interim head coach with no experience in Jeff Saturday. Richardson needs both time and a plan. I honestly would grade this pick as an F if Richardson landed in Indy. The takeaway from this is that the grade is not entirely a reflection of the player. Fit and scheme matter. I think it is important to read the write-up and consider the evaluation and the grade. How to watch the draft – As I was beginning my draft evaluation process, I watched an interview with Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, and they had an interesting conversation. They both agreed that they were having a difficult time grading players, and the trouble stemmed from looking at previous years’ drafts. They would grade a player and look back, and say to themselves that they gave another player in a previous year the same grade, but they liked the player in a previous year much better. The fact of the matter is that this year is a weaker year in terms of talent. Where is the talent? There are corners for days in this draft that are available in all different shapes and sizes. The tight ends are also really strong this year which is sort of a problem in itself. Tight ends, especially early on, are not really a premier position. Travis Kelce is the only tight end in the league that changes the entire dynamic of his team. Additionally, there have been a large handful of early round tight ends that have underwhelmed. I do not see another Kelce in this draft, and taking a tight end early is probably still a reach. What will the smartest guys in the room do? Teams with good GMs and job security will look to trade out of this year’s draft and into next year’s draft. Early on, you might see some of the better GMs move up to grab the few strong players in this draft, but after that, I would expect teams to move down and not up. Why are bad teams bad? Growing up, my dad always told me, “Hope is not a plan.” But when coaches and general managers get desperate, they start to do a lot of hoping. They will overpay in free agency, and they will be aggressive or draft based on need. This summer, I read the book The Dictator’s Handbook, and its central thesis is that leaders do not hold national interests in high regards. Instead, they work to A) get in power and B) stay in power. I really think that the same holds true in front offices. If coaches and GMs know that they are on the hot seat, they are more apt to think in the short-term instead of the long-term interests of the team. There’s no sense in holding onto future picks when you might not be the one making them. I fully expect to see some team acting with desperation merely because it makes sense. 1. Carolina Panthers – Bryce Young, QB Alabama For a while, it seemed like the Panthers mortgaged the farm to move up and select CJ Stroud. But as the weeks have gone by and the draft has approached, it appears that the Panthers have started to overthink the selection and mistakenly take the fourth best quarterback first overall. Taking an undersized quarterback has been en vogue lately, and it truly does reflect the nuances of the quarterback position. I have my doubts about his combine weigh in at 204 lbs. and tend to agree with many that he is probably playing at a sub 190 weight. The problem really is that his size does show. At times, Young demonstrates elite accuracy, but the problem is his arm strength. There are many times in which you see him throw off platform, under duress, or within the grasp and his passes come up short. Most NFL players have the upper body strength to make these throws. Although Bryce Young experienced collegiate success, we are seeing Alabama come in on a down year, and when watching the film, it is pretty clear that Young thrived on a lot of safe screens and slants that all of the top QBs in this class are capable of making. Young’s athleticism is overstated and a lot of his game really does not translate to the pro game. Oftentimes, Young could escape laterally outside the pocket and extend plays for longer periods of time. Edge guys are just too talented in the pros, and plays like these turn out being sacks at the next level. I hate doing pro comparisons, but I envision Young’s career trajectory being similar to Marcus Mariota. D 2. Houston Texans – Will Levis, QB Kentucky Prior to making this pick, I think it is important to provide a simple aside in order to provide a little context. Quite literally, I wonder, “How have we gotten here?” In week 18, Houston had all but locked up the first pick in the draft needing just a loss. Management elected to let a lame duck head coach stick around to finish these season, and Lovie Smith stuck it to the Texans and went for the win leaving the Texans with the second pick in the draft. The story does not end there. In fact, it gets weirder. Rumor on the street is that Houston GM Nick Caserio plans on leaving the Texans after the draft. So, for those of you keeping track at home, the man picking for the Texans will may not be responsible for the picks that he is making and might not truly have allegiance to the Texans. Weird. But wait. It gets weirder. Longtime Texans beat reporter, John McClain and Adam Schefter have both reported that it is not a forgone conclusion that the Texans will draft a quarterback, and Will Anderson might be the pick here. So, just to set the record straight. Davis Mills is not the long-term answer at quarterback. There are viable options available at the second slot, and it is entirely possible that the man making this pick will be in New England next year. Oh, and by the way, it has been reported that the Patriots have tried to trade Mac Jones in the offseason. Nothing to see here. In an absolutely shocking turn of events, the Texans pass on Stroud and select Will Levis. Levis has a wide range of outcomes. He could be Kyle Boller, but I also think that he has the potential to be Justin Herbert and seemingly come out of nowhere. Kentucky had a terrible offensive line last season, and I even tried to cheat and watch him play against Miami of Ohio just to get a read on his accuracy, and he was still under constant pressure. From what I can deduce, he has average accuracy, but does make questionable decisions. He is still a work in progress and needs to develop more football knowledge. It is curious that Levis has jumped Stroud because of his poor performance on the S2 test in which Stroud supposedly scored in the bottom 18th percent because Levis is the one that made far more poor choices on the field. Every year, I tend to bring a nugget or two of knowledge. Here is something to chew on, pun intended. Levis is a quirky guy who has eaten a banana with its peel on and drank coffee with mayonnaise in it. I think that his antics are quirky when Kentucky is really coming into its own as a football program, but does “quirky” become a euphemism for “immaturity” when things are not going right at the NFL level? There have not been a lot of goofy starting quarterbacks in the league. Maybe it’s something. Maybe it’s nothing. I really do like Will Levis, and on my notes, I wrote, “I want this guy,” but this is just an incredible reach. D 3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE Alabama Okay, this is where the draft begins. This pick will almost certainly be traded. There are many quarterback needy teams drafting at the top of the first round that would love to jump the Colts and get their guy. I would expect that ‘Zona gets calls from Detroit, Vegas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Tennessee to land this pick. If the Cardinals really want Anderson, they could probably even negotiate with the Colts to move back one spot and get their guy. Because I do not project trades, the Cardinals wind up taking Will Anderson Jr. out of Alabama. Anderson was highly productive and accumulated 34.5 sacks over the course of his career at Alabama. He is a size/speed guy with a high motor that keeps him in plays. He gets off the line quickly as well. The problem is that I keep hearing that he has freakish qualities akin to Myles Garrett which I read about but never really saw. Watching his film, I thought that he was more of an average 3-4 OLB. Occasionally, I feel pressure to rank guys higher than I believe to be true because of consensuses in the draft community. This is one of those cases. Eventually, I watched his tape versus Tennessee, and I got to see him go against Darnell Wright, a projected first round right tackle. Wright took Anderson’s lunch and validated my opinion on Anderson. I think the Cards get an average OLB with upside at the fourth pick in the draft. B- 4. Indianapolis Colts – CJ Stroud, QB The Ohio State University Some guys have all the luck – pun intended. Jim Irsay drafted Peyton Manning, had him for over a decade, saw him get hurt which caused a disastrous year, and that season led to the Colts getting the first pick in the draft and selecting Andrew Luck. Now, Houston’s mistake has put the Colts in prime position to land CJ Stroud. Unfortunately, Stroud probably will never rise to the ranks of Manning or Luck, but Stroud is probably the safest quarterback prospect in the draft. In my notes, I wrote that “Stroud is more than you think.” He’s more accurate, more athletic, and more polished what scouts may give him credit for. Stroud has a solid arm and can make all the throws. What is most impressive is his ability to throw off platform. Stroud has a nice frame, but needs to work to have a higher release. Watching the tape versus Ohio State’s disappointing loss to Michigan made me even more impressed with him. His film looked great. He did not let the Buckeyes down. The Buckeyes let him down. The elephant in the room is Brian Hartline and the Buckeyes. Hartline has been consistent in helping develop elite WRs at Ohio State, and I am confident that Stroud will have worse receivers in the pros than he did in college. Additionally, Ohio State had a solid offensive line, and Stroud had the benefit of throwing from a clean pocket. Ohio State has had a recent tradition of watching their receivers thrive at the next level and watching their quarterback falter. Stroud bucks the trend and has a ten-year career as an average starter. *Update* - Stroud’s poor performance on the S2 test has seemed to spook teams, and there is fear that his stock could be dropping. A- 5. Seattle Seahawks – Anthony Richardson, QB Florida Anthony Richardson has the highest boom-bust potential that we have seen in recent years. Although not nearly as raw as Malik Willis, Richardson has a lot of work to do before he is a starting QB in the NFL. Fortunately for Richardson, he gets selected by Pete Carroll who has a history of developing quarterbacks. Seattle has a strong nucleus of players, and I don’t envision them drafting this high again anytime soon. Moreover, Carroll was instrumental in resurrecting the career of Geno Smith, and Richardson will be afforded time to develop. Currently, Anthony Richardson is an athlete playing quarterback, and both the good and bad of that shows up. Essentially, at this point, Richardson has terrible footwork, and his passes are erratic. There are moments where you see pinpoint throws coming from off platform positions, and then you will see him just miss guys from a clean pocket. The end result is seeing a guy with a completion percentage of 54.7% which puts him in the company of Kyle Boller, Ryan Leaf, Jim Druckenmiller, and Jake Locker – not good. But here is the thing, it is not 1996. Project guys are going to the NFL and are working. Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts were all projects and are now top NFL signal callers. Richardson was a combine stud demonstrating speed and strength, and an elite frame. His athleticism absolutely translates to the next level as he is a true dual threat who can take physical contact. When watching him, I saw moments where I saw Patrick Mahomes type plays. I think if you have the chance to draft a superstar quarterback even if there is a real chance at busting, you take the chance every time. He is my number one prospect at the quarterback position and even if he busts, he is worth the risk. A+ 6. Detroit Lions –Jalen Carter, DT Georgia This pick amounts to the story that never was. Early on in the draft process, Carter was pegged as worthy of the first overall pick in the draft. Carter has spooked most general managers with a series of red flags leading up to the NFL Draft. Carter was involved in a drag racing incident that left two people dead and lied to the police about his involvement. Carter showed up to workouts out of shape and has refused to meet with teams outside the top ten. Unfortunately for fans of karma, this will not be a case of justice. The talent is not very good in this class, and the juice is probably worth the squeeze in this case. There have been many instances of locker room cancers in the NFL that have destroyed teams from within, but I cannot recall many at the defensive tackle position. Receivers jockeying for the ball, running backs wanting touches, and quarterbacks wanting scheme control usually escalate locker room tension. Much of the issues that plague these positions are not really applicable to interior defensive linemen. Dan Campbell is a no-nonsense type guy and probably believes he can get Carter on the straight and narrow. The Lions are a dark horse Super Bowl contender that is being held back by their defense. Lining Carter up next to Aiden Hutchinson could really be the start of something special. Carter has everything a team could ask for on the inside. He has a massive frame and looks bigger than his measurables would indicate. For a big guy, he is fast, agile, and slippery which helps make his presence felt in nearly every game. B 7. Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Gonzales, CB Oregon The Raiders probably would like to land a top signal caller, but having Jimmy G affords them the ability to not overpay out of desperation. I think that this is a classic case of drafting for your division. Facing the arm talent of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice per year puts a premium on speedy corners. Christian Gonzales is going to be high on a lot of teams’ boards because of his size, speed, and scheme versatility. He also has great leaping ability to maximize his coverage ability. Gonzales could work to highpoint passes which could result in more interceptions. He has a quick burst that can be used to bait quarterbacks. Quarterbacks really did avoid throwing in his direction. A- 8. Atlanta Falcons – Nolan Smith, OLB Georgia The Atlanta Falcons are a bit of a mess. Looking over their roster, it appears that just about every positional group needs upgraded, and they really could go a multitude of different directions. Word is that they like the home town kid for his leadership abilities. I see Smith as more of a 3-4 OLB than an EDGE type guy and various scouts will view him differently. Smith is a bit of an enigma. He looks much smaller than his 6’3’’ 235 lbs. listed frame. He has top end cornerback level speed and shows decent power. I do wonder if his power will show up at the next level as he faces bigger, stronger, and more athletic guys. The biggest question that I have is, “How can a talented guy who has played on historically good defenses never eclipse 3.5 sacks in a season?” This pick worries me. C+ 9. Chicago Bears – Paris Johnson Jr., LT The Ohio State University For the first time, it seems as if the Bears are finally willing to build around Justin Fields. Johnson has a big frame and he can still probably add weight. He has incredibly light feet and is good at moving down field which really could benefit a dual threat QB. He has long arms and is a finisher. He is a reliable protector and plays consistently at a high level. The only real knock I have on Johnson is that defenders have been able to find success when going inside against him, and he needs to work to improve this part of his game. A 10. Philadelphia Eagles – Tyree Wilson, DE Texas Tech. The rich get richer. Wilson is one of my favorite players in the draft, and I would honestly be surprised if he fell this far. If four quarterbacks go early and Nolan Smith, a player I do not view as a top ten talent goes early, top talent could fall. Tyree Wilson has a unique build. He is an incredibly long player that looks taller than his measurements indicate. He truly has freaky athletic ability and can fly off the ball and can easily transition speed to power. His height almost always gets pass protectors out of position. Wilson is active in the running game as well. You can really see him use his long arms to make plays that other players of a similar caliber simply could not make. He does still need to work on his technique and create plans to maximize his freakish abilities. My only concern is that there are so few players that look like him, I wonder if an offensive coordinator could develop a cheat code to use his frame against him A+ 11. Tennessee Titans – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR The Ohio State University The Titans are in a precarious situation because by all outward appearances, they are in in a rebuild, but there is not a definitive path to drafting a quarterback. Moreover, they have trimmed a lot of fat in the offseason and appear willing to trade Derek Henry. Smith-Njigba was another highly productive receiver at Ohio State, and he put up a historic Rose Bowl where he racked up nearly 350 yards receiving. Smith-Njigba is an intelligent receiver who runs solid routes with a plan in mind. He is solid in the blocking game as well. The problem is that I do see real bust potential with Smith-Njigba. He has adequate size and really does not have top end speed. His measurables equate to more of a number two receiver or slot type player. Starting a rebuild with a number two receiver to pair with Treylon Burks makes me a bit queasy. C+ 12. Houston Texans – Myles Murphey, EDGE Clemson I want to call your attention back to the possibility that Nick Caserio might be leaving the Texans after the draft to return to the Patriots. I really do think that this position in the draft represents a real potential for a conflict of interests. The Patriots are on the clock in two picks, and I truly do wonder if the Texans would draft a player that the Patriots covet in this slot. I really do think that the Texans would love to draft a receiver to help improve one of the worst pass catching rooms in the league, but the problem is that this is a weak year for receivers, and even if Jaxon Smith-Njigba was on the board here it would be a reach. I do expect Myles Murphey to go a bit earlier than most experts anticipate for his scheme versatility. At the moment, he is currently a speed guy, but I do think that he could work to add some power to his game. He is a smart player and knows how to funnel running backs into the belly of the beast on defense. B- 13. Green Bay Packers – Michael Mayer, TE Notre Dame Michael Mayer is a guy I can picture being out of the field in zero-degree temperature hauling in passes in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mayer is an old school tight end that looks like he’s from 1989. The Packers may have him rated higher than Dalton Kincaid because of his blocking abilities and versatility to really be able to be used in many different types of blocking schemes. I think that this will only work to enhance the strongest part of the Packer’s offense – their running game. He is a solid receiving threat, and Notre Dame’s offense was really built around Mayer last year. Mayer does a great job of using his massive frame to help him haul in many targets, but did have several drops over the course of the year. Mayer is kind of slow for a tight end and lacks ideal burst off the line causing him to not really a YAC guy. There will be teams that have Dalton Kincaid rated ahead of him, but Mayer is probably a better fit within the system. Generally speaking, I am a best player available guy in terms of drafting. Tight end is a primo position in this year’s draft, but I do have concerns about taking a tight end this early. I have always considered a good tight end to be a luxury position, and Travis Kelce is probably the only tight end in the league that really is a game changer. I do wonder if the Packers would be better off selecting a priority position at this spot in the draft and fill the tight end hole in the second round. B 14. New England Patriots – Devon Witherspoon, CB Illinois I am going to say it. The emperor has no clothes. Ever since Tom Brady has left, the Patriots have had offensive struggles. Simply, put New England has a terrible offense, and they are nowhere near a Super Bowl. They know they messed up by drafting Mac Jones, and I think they would jump at the opportunity to draft one of the top four prospects here. Personally, I would rip the band-aid off and draft Hendon Hooker. I really think the Patriots have been reduced to playing good defense and hoping to win low scoring games. I actually do like the Devon Witherspoon pick and think he will fit perfectly within New England’s scheme. Witherspoon is one of the hardest hitting corners that I have seen in a while, and I think that his physical style of play would be greatly appreciated. Old school coaches will love this guy as he is active in the running game. I do not think that he is as fast as his combine suggest. Oddly, I do not think that he is a great athlete, and I noticed that he does have footwork and balance issues at times. I could eventually see him switching to safety. A- 15. New York Jets – Broderick Jones, LT Georgia As the Jets move back, I do think that they are in real danger of potentially missing out on top offensive line talent, and they could be forced to trade up to secure top snag a top lineman. In this scenario, they do wait and are rewarded for their patience. I do think that the Jets are taking an all-in approach to try and win the Super Bowl, and it is entirely possible that Mechi Becton’s days might be numbered in New York. I am a huge fan of Broderick Jones. He already has a big frame and could easily add more weight. He has some nastiness to his game and wants to hit someone. He moves faster than his combine speed and was put in motion a lot in Georgia. Power is his game, and he never loses battles of strength. Speed rushers seem to be the only type of edge players that have found success against him. A 16. Washington Commanders – Joey Porter Jr., CB Penn State Last year, I had Sam Howell rated as my best quarterback in the draft, and he was taken by the Commanders in the fifth round. Washington has made it clear that he is there starting quarterback by saying that he is definitely their starting quarterback. He is the starting quarterback. But I gotta wonder, is he really the starting quarterback? I do think it is possible that Washington could “come out of nowhere” and trade up to select a quarterback. Ultimately, I think that Washington decides to fortify its secondary by taking Porter. Porter is a long, rangy physical corner that loves to battle receivers in front of him. Porter lacks the top end speed, and when receivers get behind him, it becomes problematic. Porter also has agility issues, and I think speed receivers could be a matchup problem. Porter was raised right by his father Joey Sr. and is a solid tackler. I do think there are better options available here. B 17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Peter Skoronski, T/G Northwestern Pittsburgh has really gotten away from its core DNA and has seen their line as a liability in recent years. There have been lot of talks about Skoronski having the potential to go much earlier in the draft because of his massive frame. I think that a lot of teams have visions of him being a tackle, but I think that his heavy feet makes him more suited for guard. Speed rushers seemed to always have an edge over him. For a big man, I do not see his power being at the level that you would expect. If they are looking for a guard, I think that this will be a much better pick. B- 18. Detroit Lions – Dalton Kincaid, TE Utah The Lions vastly need to improve their defense and really should think hard about drafting a corner here. There is probably some positional bias when your head coach is a former NFL tight end. Dalton Kincaid is more of a receiving tight end and has exceptional quickness and body placement that allows him to run beautiful slant routes. Kincaid is an adequate blocker, and I would like to see him take more control when engaged. He gets spun around fairly easily. While watching his tape, it was eerily similar to watching Zach Ertz. B+ 19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quenton Johnston, WR TCU The Bucs are in a tough spot where they would probably like to get themselves a better option than Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. They probably do have the assets to move up in the draft, but putting together a pick + player(s) type deal is hard to do on draft night and would probably have to be done ahead of time. Tampa is in a position where they will need to make some business decisions shortly. The have a lot of big contracts, and they can’t keep everyone. In the 2024 season, Mike Evans has a very manageable $13 million cap hit; whereas, Chris Godwin is slated to count $27.5 million against the cap and Russell Gage will cost $13 million. $53.5 million for a receiving unit is a bit on the pricey side, and there is a good chance that this will be the last year that this group is together. Johnston is a big bodied receiver that is built like Mike Williams and Chris Godwin, and from a stylistic point, would be able to transition into their roles. Quenton Johnston is one of the strangest prospects that I have seen in recent years. Not only was his play inconsistent, his skillset was inconsistent. I legitimately struggled to determine whether he is fast or slow. The only plausible explanation is that it is an effort issue. Tough coaching could possibly help him out. I also am curious as to why he is not catching more touchdowns in a high-octane offense. In recent years, I have seen a lot of guys built like him, and I like them a lot more as prospects. Maybe, under the right conditions, Johnston could emerge as a number two receiver. D 20. Seattle Seahawks – Kelee Ringo, CB Georgia If you looked just at Kelee Ringo’s measurables, you would think he would be an early first rounder, but a lot of experts do not have him going in the first round. From a physical standpoint, he is exactly what Pete Carroll is looking for. He is 6’2’’ with elite speed and has the physical game play that Carroll craves. Most of the time, he is really good at shadowing people, but when things go wrong, they really go long. He has stiff hips and lacks agility which can lead to him getting burned. I do think Carroll will see value here and gambles on his measurables. C 21. Los Angeles Chargers – Zay Flowers, WR Florida State From everything I have read, it appears as if the Chargers plan on drafting a receiver early in the draft. The Chargers are in a similar situation as the Bucs in terms of receivers. Many people did not expect Keenan Allen to return this year, and he has a cap number of almost $35 million along with Mike William’s cap number of $32.5 million. Unfortunately, this is not a great year for receivers in the draft. Zay Flowers is an undersized receiver that projects as a slot guy at the next level. The thing that Flowers has going for him is that he really does move like an NFL receiver. He has solid speed and agility, but his diminutive size gets him in trouble when engulfed by physical defensive backs. Teams are also going to have to be comfortable with him dropping a lot of passes. I think that more creative coaches will find safer ways to get the ball into his hands with the hope of him making a big play. D+ 22. Baltimore Ravens – Lukas Van Ness, DE Iowa One thing that I love about the draft is storylines and the theater surrounding it. At this point, it appears that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are at an impasse. I almost feel like the Ravens owe it to themselves to draft Hendon Hooker in order to make sure that they have viable options in the event that Lamar Jackson eventually leaves. Paradoxically, drafting Hooker would probably have a similar result as the Packers drafting Jordan Love. Unfortunately for the Ravens, one way or another, they have to tip their hands with this pick and demonstrate to Lamar Jackson and the world what they think about the viability of getting a long-term deal done. I really do not think that the deal that Lamar Jackson believes is out there exists, and the Ravens would match any offer that he gets, and for that reason, I do not think they will draft a quarterback. Right now, I ask you to close your eyes and envision and Iowa Hawkeye lineman. Whatever you pictured in your head is probably remarkably close to what Lukas Van Ness looks like. Van Ness has a mammoth frame and was nicknamed “Hercules” for his incredible strength. Interestingly enough, this is where the positives more or less end. My thoughts after reviewing Van Ness were, “Are we just drafting people because they are big now?” Van Ness has never started a game in Iowa and was on and off the field sporadically. His footwork needs improvement, and he really is a one trick pony that needs to develop more tools to rush the passer. My second thought was that I could see him being the type of guy that the Patriots would draft. Just food for thought. For the record, I cannot believe that this guy is a consensus first round pick. D 23. Minnesota Vikings – Jordan Addison, WR USC Kirk Cousins has done a masterful job of making it nearly impossible to replace Kirk Cousins. It is pretty amazing to see just how much money Cousins has made over the course of his career despite the fact that none of his teams never seem to want him. Again, this could be a place where Hendon Hooker could should be considered. Ultimately, with Minnesota’s relatively successful season, I do think that they are going to try and push forward instead of taking a step backwards while preparing for the long term. The Vikings have already lost Adam Thielen, and it seems like Dalvin Cook could get moved sooner rather than later. The Vikings appear more than happy to run with Alexander Mattison, so it makes sense that they would look to add another pass catcher. Addison has athletic abilities but needs to hone his skills. He has agility but needs to be more consistent; moreover, he needs to work to hit his gears faster. Addison does have the ability to get coveted YAC yardage, but he does not have breakaway speed. He is not really a size/speed guy either. He does have reliable hands and thrives when working the middle of the field. My hypothesis is that Caleb Williams was the real star at USC. C- 24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Deonte Banks, CB Maryland Jacksonville is the next team to partake in the arms race in the AFC. The Jags have built a solid roster and are a dark horse Super Bowl contender. It has been foretold that the path to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through multiple high powered passing teams. I really think that Deonte Banks is a great value here, and I really could see him emerging as a number one corner in the league. Banks is predominantly a man coverage guy with elite speed and a solid frame. He can shadow receivers quite well. I do think that Banks needs to work on his anticipation and understanding of the game, but overall, he is an excellent prospect at this point in the draft. A 25. New York Giants – Emmanuel Forbes, CB Mississippi State What a dicey spot to be in! Daniel Jones is coming off one of his top years as a pro with one of the worst pass catching groups in the league. Jones signed a mega deal in the offseason, and the Giants would love to get a receiver and a cheap rookie deal to improve the passing game. I think that this mock draft scenario is interesting because it will tip New York’s hand to show just how desperate (or not) they are to add a receiver. This is not a good year for receivers, and it would be interesting to see if they would move up to land one of these guys. If DeVonta Smith played cornerback, he would be Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes is fast and skinny with ultra-thin legs. Because he doesn’t carry a lot of weight, he is fast, agile, and able to hit his top speed quickly. Despite being a smaller guy, he is still a pretty solid tackler. Much like Smith, I do not see his size concerns on the field, but I fear that at the next level, they may show up. C+ 26. Dallas Cowboys – Bijan Robinson, RB Texas Jerry Jones loves glitz and glamor, but it has had a tendency to bite him in the rear over his tenure. But sometimes it is the right move to make. I understand that the running back position has clearly been devalued, but anyone saying that is misrepresenting the truth. Like everything in life, context matters. This draft class is a weak class. It just is. One of my favorite things to do when I am bored is to go back and just look at old draft classes on Wikipedia. It color codes pro bowl players, and there are years that are full of busts. Simply drafting any good player would have been a success. Bijan Robinson truly is a generational talent and is my number one prospect in the draft. Robinson is a patient runner that really can do it all. He is powerful with a good size-speed blend. He has the frame to take on additional weight. You can tell he really takes pride in his work and has a sense of nastiness in the pass blocking game. He has elite footwork and vision. He might even have the best hands in the draft. My only knock on him is that sometimes he gets greedy and goes backwards in order to try and bust a play. I honestly cannot fathom him dropping this far, and I think he should go in the top third of the draft. If you see a GM without a need at running back draft this guy, that is a sign that he is a solid GM. A+ 27. Buffalo Bills – Brian Bresee, DT Clemson Josh Allen is so good that he has effectively created problems for himself. The Bills offense is not good, but Josh Allen is elite. Really, beyond Stefon Diggs, the cupboard is pretty bare. The Bills were one pick away from drafting Bijan Robinson and probably would have considered making the move to 25 to beat Dallas to the pick. Breese is a long player with a big frame that will play in the interior. He has the capability of putting on more weight. He is a slippery defender that can move. Bresee is coming off a few injuries and could work to get stronger and have better balance. B 28. Cincinnati Bengals – Darnell Wright, RT Tennessee I love Darnell Wright, and I do not expect him to fall this far. The problem is right tackles are not valued as highly as left tackles, and this could hurt his draft stock. This pick would solve so many problems for Cincinnati because they could facilitate Jonah William’s trade request, recoup a draft pick, and replace him with a true right tackle. This guy is a mountain of a man and has about as much athleticism as you can expect for someone this big. He can move and push to make holes. My favorite part about his game is that he can make it about power. His ability to consistently win against Will Anderson made me confident that he will be a solid starter in the league. I do worry that more freakish athletic guys could challenge him. A+ 29. New Orleans Saints – Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE Northwestern I do think Micky Loomis values pass rushers and was able to hold onto Marcus Davenport as long as possible before the salary cap got the best of him. Abedawore is an interesting prospect. He was a workout warrior. He rolled into the combine at 6’2’’ 282 lbs. and ran a blazing 4.49. He is active in run support and has found some success going inside as a pass rusher, but just does not have the footwork and strength to go outside. He could possibly translate to a defensive tackle at the next level. For someone who has so many measurables, he was unable to record more than five sacks in a year. After watching film on him, I wrote the word “nope” in my notes. D+ 30. Philadelphia Eagles – Calijah Kancey, DT Pittsburgh Anyone who is attending a draft party with friends will encounter “Exception Man.” Exception Man is the fan who declares entire draft rules and schools of thought as null and void because he can name an exception to the rule. As a Miami Dolphins fan, I have been told that every undersized linebacker is the second coming of Zach Thomas. Guess what? They weren’t. The parallel between Calijah Kancey and Aaron Donald is obvious and lazy. Yes, they were both undersized defensive tackles and went to Pitt. That is where the similarities both begin and end. Not only does Calijah Kancey measure in small; he looks small as well. I think the best way to describe him is a middle linebacker playing defensive tackle. Most of the time, he gets engulfed by defenders and is neutralized. Sure, the times he is able to disengage, he has had the speed to close in and make a play quickly. I just think that there are far too many instances in which he is not really impacting the play. I think that his highlights make him out to be something that he isn’t D+ 31. Kansas City Chiefs – Brian Branch, S Alabama Brian Branch is one of those storylines that I will be watching over the course of the NFL draft. He seems like he could be drafted in the first round because he is the best defensive back on a Nick Saban defense. There are analysists that are comparing him to Minkah Fitzpatrick, and I really struggle seeing that on tape. There are respected people in the draft community that say that he is pretty intelligent. To me, he was more of an in-the-box type safety with average tackling ability. The real problem is that Branch is slow and can be exposed on deeper passes against faster wide receivers. I think Branch owes Nick Saban a dinner because I think if he had played for any other coach, he would be a mid-round pick. D+ Big Board 1. Bijan Robinson, RB Texas 2. Jalen Carter, DT Georgia 3. Tyree Wilson, EDGE Texas Tech. 4. Anthony Richardson, QB Florida 5. Paris Johnson Jr., OT The Ohio State University 6. Broderick Jones, OT Georgia 7. Darnell Wright, RT Tennessee 8. Will Anderson, EDGE Alabama 9. Christian Gonzales, CB Oregon 10. CJ Stroud, QB The Ohio State University Top Quarterbacks 1. Anthony Richardson, Florida 2. CJ Stroud, The Ohio State University 3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee 4. Bryce Young, Alabama 5. Will Levis, Kentucky Order in Which the Quarterbacks will be Drafted 1. Bryce Young, Alabama 2. Will Levis, Kentucky 3. CJ Stroud, The Ohio State University 4. Anthony Richardson, Florida 5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee Two Most Overrated Players (True Value in Parenthesis) 1. Lukas Van Ness, DE Iowa (3rd) 2. Brian Branch, Alabama (3rd) 10 years from now, we will say the best player in the draft was Bijan Robinson, RB Texas. 10 years from now, we will say the biggest first round bust was Lukas Van Ness, DE Iowa. The annual hidden gem of the draft is Tyjae Spears., RB Tulane. Odds and Ends Hendon Hooker, QB Tennessee First of all, if you read my entire mock draft, I really do appreciate it. Secondly, you may notice a common theme this year was that I think teams should seriously be considering Hendon Hooker. I think Hendon Hooker is a solid prospect with a live arm and is fairly accurate. There were instances in which he really only read half of the field, but many feel like he is the most intelligent quarterback in the class. In his worst year, he threw five interceptions all season. In the last two years, he has thrown 58 TDs and 5 INTS. He has great athleticism that absolutely translates to the next level. Hooker threw a variety of routes, but does put odd on trajectory on the ball at times. Hooker shined in big games, and he is a big reason that there are goal posts at the bottom of the Tennessee River. The knock on Hooker is that he is 25 years old and is coming off of an injury. There are instances where older quarterbacks have dominated just because they are more developed and experienced, and this certainly is a risk. I do think there are a lot of people worrying too far into the future with Hooker. The idea that he might not have a 15-year career is silly to me. The concept of lowering a prospect’s stock because of concerns that are eight years down the road is a bit over-the-top. Being a GM in the NFL for a decade is incredibly hard to do. Will McDonald IV, EDGE Iowa St. Despite not having Will McDonald go in the first round, I fully expect him to go in the first. I see him more of a 3-4 OLB. He has more of a linebacker build, and he is a player that you need to be careful about what you ask him to do. He is a “you get what you deserve” type of guy. He is a pure speed and bendy player. When going outside, he is fantastic, but he is not powerful enough to attack from the inside. He has a great burst and things can really come together quickly for him. He struggles against guards and needs to work in space. Early on in his career, he might only come on the field during passing downs. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas EDGE Anudike-Uzomah probably won’t go in the first round, but he is a pure attacker in a premium position. He is a speed player and can absolutely dominate, but just like Will McDonald, he lacks power in his game. He does tend to get lazy once his responsibilities end. Darnell Washington, TE Georgia Some creative coach is going to get a huge steal by drafting Washington. If DK Metcalf played tight end, he would be Darnell Washington. Washington has a massive frame and is akin to having an extra offensive lineman on the field. I really do think that some coach will use him as a hybrid. For a big guy, he can move. He ran a 4.64 in the forty-yard dash. When watching him, it felt like he is a real nice guy, and I longed to see meanness in his play. He lacked ideal production in Georgia, but he was probably the second-best tight end on the team. I am confident that his unique skillset will affect the game more than his stat line indicates.