2023 NFL Mock Draft Odds, Picks: Will Levis Falls; Tyree Wilson, Devon Witherspoon Rise
Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Levis.
In a special collaboration with Action Network, you’ll find the debut version of Nick Guarisco’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft below.
Guarisco (@FantasyLawGuy on Twitter) ranked in the top six in mock draft accuracy from 2019-2021 at NFL Mock Draft Database, which grades the accuracy of mock drafts industry-wide, including longtime draft analysts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
In his second Action Network NFL mock draft, Guarisco moved one of the top-four quarterbacks out of the top 10 and created potential betting value at the top of the board in terms of defensive players.
Check out Guarisco’s selections for all 32 NFL teams below.
2023 NFL Mock Draft
Click on a team for further analysis of Nick Guarisco’s NFL Mock Draft.
|1||Panthers||C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State|
|2||Texans||Bryce Young, QB, Alabama|
|3||Cardinals||Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech|
|4||Colts||Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida|
|5||Seahawks||Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama|
|6||Lions||Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois|
|7||Raiders||Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon|
|8||Falcons||Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas|
|9||Bears||Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia|
|10||Eagles||Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern|
|11||Titans||Will Levis, QB, Kentucky|
|12||Texans||Nolan Smith, DE, Georgia|
|13||Jets||Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State|
|14||Patriots||Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State|
|15||Packers||Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa|
|16||Commanders||Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia|
|17||Steelers||Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson|
|18||Lions||Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt|
|19||Buccaneers||Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee|
|20||Seahawks||Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State|
|21||Chargers||Brian Branch, S, Alabama|
|22||Ravens||Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia|
|23||Vikings||Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU|
|24||Jaguars||Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland|
|25||Giants||Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College|
|26||Cowboys||Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame|
|27||Bills||Jordan Addison, WR, USC|
|28||Bengals||Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah|
|29||Saints||Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan|
|30||Eagles||Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson|
|31||Chiefs||Will McDonald, DE, Iowa State|
|*The Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick.|
2023 NFL Draft Predictions
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Short List: C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young
Team Needs: QB, WR, DE
After serving up significant draft capital and WR D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears to get the No. 1 pick, the Panthers are a near lock to select their favorite franchise quarterback. The bold move comes after years of subpar quarterback play, of which aggressive owner David Tepper has grown tired.
Interestingly, C.J. Stroud’s odds to be the No. 1 pick quickly moved in the betting market prior to the announcement of the trade. Once the trade was announced, Stroud became the new favorite to be the top selection.
Local beat writers have shared beliefs that Carolina is targeting either Stroud or Bryce Young. Moreover, fans are connecting the dots that lead to Stroud. Coach Frank Reich’s quote about what he looks for in a quarterback seems to match Stroud’s strengths. Furthermore, Reich’s history of starting QBs with “prototypical” size is at least notable, considering Young’s small stature.
An emphasis on accuracy seems to rule out Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. It also doesn’t seem like Tepper is willing to be even more patient than he has on these high-ceiling prospects to develop.
Recently, the Panthers basically sent their entire staff to the Pro Days of Stroud and Young, dining privately with both. Offensive coordinator Josh McCown’s effusive praise for Stroud is also worth noting seeing the commentary came prior to getting hired in Carolina.
Best Bets: Stroud is -300 on FanDuel for a reason, although many experts believe there’s more uncertainty.
2. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Short List: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud
Team Needs: QB, WR, DE, C
Based on what I’m hearing and reading, it seems like Young will be Houston’s pick here, assuming he is available. I believe the Texans will see Young’s potential deficiencies mitigated because Houston plays at least 10 games each year indoors.
I also think the Texans, amid a full rebrand of the team, need a “face of the franchise” to build both the team and the fan support around. There are also connections between the team’s front office with Nick Saban, who coached Young.
Lance Zierlein, who is very plugged into the Texans, seems to believe that Young is who the team covets most, even if Stroud is available.
The Texans pick again at Pick 12.
Best Bets: If Young is available, he’s very likely the guy.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
Short List: Will Anderson Jr., Tyree Wilson, Christian Gonzalez… Trade Down: Devon Witherspoon, Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski
Team Needs: Defensive line (D-line), interior offensive line (iOL), CB
This feels like a trade-down scenario for two reasons.
First, at No. 3, the Cardinals sit in a sweet spot for QB-needy teams like the Colts, Raiders or Titans. Second, Arizona has a plethora of needs and could use the extra picks in their rebuilding process.
Perhaps the Cardinals’ greatest need lies along the defensive line. The team lost its best three linemen (DE Markus Golden, DTs J.J. Watt and Zach Allen) on a defense that already struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. New head coach Jonathan Gannon comes from an Eagles team that prioritized a strong pass rush, which was evidenced by the fact the 2022 Eagles were the first team in NFL history to have four players with at least 10 sacks.
Arizona is in a prime spot to grab either Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson, two players who, according to Daniel Jeremiah, NFL teams reportedly have very closely graded on their boards.
Although it’s too early to predict a trade-down scenario in a mock draft, I could foresee Arizona moving down to grab either an offensive lineman or a cornerback. The Cardinals offensive line starters made 44 of 85 possible starts (32nd) last season, and lost several bodies on the interior offensive line (Hudson, Price, Harlow, Pugh, Ford, and Garcia), all of whom made starts at either LG or C. Josh Jones is a FA in 2024.
Prioritizing Kyler Murray’s health (coming off the ACL) is paramount considering the three-year trend of him starting out spry and either fading or getting hurt down the stretch. However, it is worth noting that Arizona has signed some reinforcements (G/C Hjalte Froholdt, T Dennis Daley) recently.
Cornerback is a glaring need and has been for years. The team lost top corner Byron Murphy and talent is needed. Gannon’s Eagles also had two prolific CBs. Thus, while it may be appetizing to stay put and draft a great defensive lineman, a trade down scenario where the Cardinals move back a few spots to target cornerbacks Christian Gonzalez or Devon Witherspoon should not surprise. Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) prudently pointed out that Gonzalez played far more zone coverage snaps than Witherspoon last season, and the Cardinals ranked 26th in man coverage snap rate in 2022, which makes me inclined to believe Arizona may prioritize Gonzalez’s skillset.
It is also worth noting that the Cardinals GM/HC did not attend the Alabama Pro Day for Will Anderson Jr.
Best Bets: D-line is a need, but extra capital is too. Therefore, a trade down scenario where the Cardinals move back a few spots to target Tyree Wilson or Christian Gonzalez could be the play.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Short List: Anthony Richardson, Will Levis
Team Needs: QB, CB, LB
It’s still early, but if the draft begins as it is currently expected, the Colts will be left with deciding between Anthony Richardson or Will Levis as the team’s franchise quarterback. Both are seen as high-ceiling prospects with great traits, although also some flaws that may take a minute to be refined.
It has become apparent that NFL teams are more enamored with Levis than fans, chalking up his underwhelming 2022 season to battling injuries, among other things. I could see either being the pick.
However, my current lean toward Richardson here is based on new coach Shane Steichen. The former Eagles offensive coordinator played a role in developing Jalen Hurts as a passer, which would be the hope for Richardson, who has the potential to be a lethal, dual-threat QB.
Although Richardson is a massive gamble for a first-year head coach, Steichen may have a comfort level here that few other coaches would. It helps that owner Jim Irsay may also want to swing for the fences.
Best Bets: The Colts are likely to select a quarterback. At this point, it’s more likely Anthony Richardson over Will Levis.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): Will Anderson, Jr., DE, Alabama
Short List: Will Anderson Jr., Tyree Wilson, Jalen Carter
Team Needs: DE, iOL, WR, DT
“There’s a difference here… But the guys up front really make a difference. [Arik] Armstead is unbelievably talented. He’s a problem every snap. [Nick] Bosa is a problem every snap; we breathe a sigh of relief when he has to take a break so we can go ahead and get after it. These guys make enough stuff happen and they demand so much focus in the opposition’s game plan and the approach because they’re going to do something to you if you don’t. That’s a big difference than what we have.”
This candid Pete Carrol quote following a blowout playoff loss to the 49ers speaks to the team’s desire to acquire an impact defensive lineman. Fortunately, Seattle is in a nice spot here to do just that. If a QB-needy team trades with Arizona to move up to No. 3, the first four picks should be quarterbacks, allowing Anderson, who many believe is the best overall player in this draft class, to slide to No. 5.
At worst, Tyree Wilson is a high-ceiling player who several teams have rated equally or even higher than Anderson, according to Jeremiah). The Seahawks have shown some tendencies toward drafting traits over production anyway.
There have been rumors about Seattle taking advantage of this early selection to take a quarterback. However, Carroll and the Seahawks may believe that the team is good enough to compete now in a weak NFC with the help of two first-round picks.
Best Bets: The Seahawks are likely to address the defensive line, selecting either Anderson or Wilson.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Short List: Will Anderson Jr., Tyree Wilson, Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez
Team Needs: D-line, CB, OG, TE
Similar to Seattle, the fact that Detroit has two first-round picks has led some to believe drafting a quarterback of the future is in play. The top-four quarterback prospects in this draft class potentially not being available may make the decision easier. However, the Lions may be using this pick on a defender regardless, given the struggles over the years on that side of the ball, coupled with the fact that the offense progressed significantly last season. Thus, the expectation should be that the Lions go defense with this pick, particularly a player who impacts pass defense.
The defensive line is far from settled. There are several quality depth pieces at both DE and DT but not many high end starters (if any) outside of Aidan Hutchinson, though the team is excited about young DE James Houston. The recent signings of DBs Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Mosely, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson may move the needle toward a pass rusher, but the right one has to be available. And I’m not sure the Lions see one worthy of the sixth overall pick if Anderson and Wilson are not available.
I disagree with the notion that the recent additions at defensive back precludes the Lions from selecting their favorite cornerback in the draft; it’s actually quite possible, if not probable, that Moseley, Gardner-Johnson and Jeff Okudah are all free agents by next offseason.
Devon Witherspoon is getting a lot of buzz, but Gonzalez remains the betting favorite to be the first defensive back selected. Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) astutely noted that Witherspoon played far more man coverage snaps than Gonazlez, and the Lions ranked third in man coverage snaps last season.
Best Bets: The expectation should be that the Lions go defense with this pick, particularly a player who impacts pass defense. Defensive end is a greater need than cornerback, but Gonzalez and Witherspoon could be in play if both Anderson and Wilson are off the board.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Short List: Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, Tyree Wilson, Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Jalen Carter
Team Needs: QB, DT, CB, TE, O-line
Signing Jimmy Garoppolo should not prevent the Raiders from taking a quarterback at No. 7 (or earlier); rather, the move should encourage it.
Garoppolo is the perfect bridge quarterback due to his familiarity with Josh McDaniels, and also because he’ll likely only last the perfect amount of games before he inevitably gets hurt midway through the season. That would allow a raw, developing rookie QB to take the reins.
There seemed to be some buzz at the NFL Combine about Will Levis being a good fit for McDaniels’ offense. The former Kentucky standout also met with the Raiders privately before his Pro Day.
If the Las Vegas doesn’t love Levis or if team leap frogs them like the Titans or Commanders, the Raiders will look to shore up an extremely patchy defense.
Cornerback and defensive tackle are major concerns, but it’s too early to draft the latter unless the team deems DT Jalen Carter (character red flags) worthy of this selection. CBs Gonzalez and Witherspoon are options here if quarterback is not.
The right guard and right tackle spots could stand to be upgraded, but this spot seems rich for an offensive lineman in this class, especially considering the major problems on defense.
Best Bets: It’s looking like the Raiders will first have to decide whether Will Levis is their franchise QB. If not, the pick should be a defender. DE Tyree Wilson and either cornerback make the most sense here.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Short List: Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Bijan Robinson, Nolan Smith, Lukas Van Ness
Team Needs: QB, DE, WR, CB
The current regime seems to be valuing safety (floor) and character from its high-end draft picks and appears in no rush to grab its franchise quarterback until the rest of the team is built well enough around them.
Accordingly, I do not foresee Atlanta making an aggressive play for a quarterback (yet). If one falls here, it could be a different story; however, this front office seems methodical and patient. Perhaps the team wants to give Desmond Ridder a shot so that they can evaluate him.
In any case, the Falcons have spent some money in free agency to fill some of the roster’s many holes. The two largest gaps that remain are unquestionably at pass rusher and wide receiver. Atlanta has nothing behind Drake London and newly acquired Mack Hollins, but considering that this receiver class is weak, and also accounting the fact that Atlanta spent its last two top-10 selections on pass catchers, the team should not be expected to address WR here.
For the second straight year, the Falcons finished last or near last in almost every statistic that measures the ability to pressure, hit, or sack opposing quarterbacks. The question then becomes whether Atlanta loves a pass rusher (other than Anderson and Wilson) enough to select here. If they do not, cornerbacks Witherspoon or Gonzalez are probable candidates. Atlanta has reportedly done extensive homework on this corner class, and it could be another situation where the team selects a DE in Round 2, which was their approach last year.
Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) sharply pointed out that Gonzalez played far more zone coverage snaps than Witherspoon last season, and the Falcons ranked 27th in man coverage snap rate; thus, it can be inferred that Falcons may prefer Gonzalez if even the choice.
RB Bijan Robinson is also a wild card here. In his annual conference call with the media, Jeremiah mentioned that most teams consider Robinson an elite prospect, and he alluded to Robinson potentially going in the top 10. Positional value was put aside when this regime had no issues with taking a tight end with the fourth overall pick two years ago (the highest one has ever been selected).
Also, head coach Arthur Smith comes from Tennessee, where he designed the offense around Derrick Henry. Tyler Allgeier played well down the stretch last season, but it’s doubtful Atlanta sees Allgeier as a legitimate reason to pass on a generational talent. That being said, it would make sense for the Falcons to trade down into the teens, where they should still be able to secure Robinson, a cornerback or a pass rusher.
Best Bets: Assuming Anderson and Wilson are not available, the Falcons could sit tight and draft Gonzalez or Witherspoon. If all four players are gone, a trade down or Bijan Robinson (or both) should be the move.
9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Short List: Jalen Carter, Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon
Team Needs: D-line, OT, CB
The Bears moved back to No. 9 and added WR D.J. Moore. Thus, it seems unlikely now that Chicago will take a WR, considering the recent investments in Moore Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool (oops).
The defensive line is a major area of concern, particularly defensive tackle with Justin Jones’s contract expiring next offseason and only Andrew Billings worthy of noting on the depth chart. While Jalen Carter makes a ton of sense — on paper — to fill those gaps, it’s hard to predict how fall he will slide due to character concerns. No one should be surprised if the Bears nab Carter up here or if he slides further.
Cornerbacks Witherspoon and Gonzalez should be in play, but both may be gone by this point. Chicago selected Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon in the second round of recent drafts, but help is needed behind (or in front of) them.
Again, this is another team in this range that needs a pass rusher, but it’s tough to project which one behind the top two is worthy of a top-10 selection. Offensive line is also a consideration, but the Bears return all five starters and added guard Nate Davis.
A lot of the team’s struggles on the O-Line were due to injuries (the starting unit made 63 of 85 possible starts) and Fields’s propensity to hold on to the ball too long. However, an offensive tackle could provide aid. Thus, Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr. are absolutely options here to play right tackle.
Best Bets: Finding a right tackle is the primary objective. Either of the top two cornerbacks would be nice. Carter will be enticing.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Short List: Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., Jalen Carter
Team Needs: LB, DT, iOL
The Eagles have major needs at defensive tackle (losing Javan Hargrave, Linval Joseph and Ndamoukong Suh, with Fletcher Cox a free agent in 2024) and middle linebacker (with both starters having departed). Despite losing both starting safeties, this is less of a concern now that the team has signed Justin Evans and Terrell Edmunds.
The value is not there at any of those three defensive positions, though, unless the team wishes to take a massive risk on Jalen Carter or safety Brian Branch, which seems rich for Howie Roseman taking a safety at No. 10.
Obviously, cornerbacks Witherspoon and Gonzalez would be strongly in play, even after the team re-signed CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry and signed Greedy Williams. Slay and Williams are on 1-year deals.
Philadelphia has historically prioritized the trenches early in drafts. RG Isaac Seumalo is a free agent, and this is probably going to be center Jason Kelce’s last season, though C Cam Jurgens is penciled in to be his successor. Moreover, the Eagles cannot realistically expect their starters to make 95 of 100 possible starts (third most).
This is all worth mentioning because No. 10 is looking like a nice spot to select one of the top-rated offensive linemen. The early consensus of contenders for this appear to be among Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski and Broderick Jones. Both Skoronski and Johnson could start at guard immediately and have the versatility to shift to right tackle if needed. (We have seen how different the Eagles’ offense looks when Lane Johnson is out.) The Athletic featured a staggering stat stating that since 2016, the Eagles are 61-29-1 with Johnson in the lineup and 10-22 without him.
Lastly, it is worth noting that the Eagles met privately with RB Bijan Robinson. Perhaps the extra first-round pick could afford them an opportunity for a luxury position/player of sorts. For now, I see Robinson in play only if CBs Gonzalez and Witherspoon and OLs Johnson and Skoronski are off the board.
Best Bets: This appears to be a sweet spot to retool the offensive line for a team that historically values the trenches, so Johnson and Skoronski should be targets.
11. Tennessee Titans: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Short List: Will Levis, Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski
Team Needs: WR, O-line, QB, CB, LB
Interestingly, the Titans could be a sleeper team to make an aggressive trade up for a quarterback. It may not be a coincidence that the team has reportedly been listening to offers about RB Derrick Henry and DT Jeffery Simmons, who could be parts of a package deal.
The Titans were also rumored to be one of the team’s looking to trade up with Chicago when the Bears had the first pick. Perhaps they loved Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, and now this is moot. However, the team could pull the trigger if Anthony Richardson or Will Levis slide. It is worth noting that Tennessee was one of three teams to meet with Levis privately the night before his Pro Day.
Regardless, this appears to be Ryan Tannehill’s final season in Tennessee, and it was evident how far away the team believes Malik Willis is from starting, having benched him late in the season for Josh Dobbs.
Assuming the team stays put, addressing the O-line, D-line or cornerback appears likely. The Titans starting offensive linemen made only 57 of 85 possible starts (27th), and the unit lost starters LT Taylor Lewan, RG Nate Davis, and C Ben Jones in free agency. Is the team really expecting Andre Dillard, Dillon Radunz and Daniel Brunskill to replace them?
Additionally, Tennessee’s pass defense has been a liability (unlike its dominant run defense), in part due to cornerback play; Caleb Farley is not reliable, Terrance Mitchell is a free agent and Kristian Fulton is entering the final year of his contract. Sean Murphy-Bunting was signed, but he is on a one-year deal. It doesn’t help that a few reserve safeties are free agents too.
There were pass rush issues last season, but the Titans may believe that signing Arden Key and Harold Landry’s return from injury may help. Finally, it’s too early to address Tennessee’s other big needs at WR and LB.
Best Bets: Perhaps Tennessee’s attempt to patch up the pass defense with Key and Murphy-Bunting, among other things, signal a plan to find a quarterback of the future (Will Levis?). Otherwise, the offensive line must be upgraded with either top OL in Skoronski or Johnson.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): Nolan Smith, DE, Georgia
Short List: Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., Lukas Van Ness, Nolan Smith
Team Needs: WR, DE, CB, C
Working under the assumption that a quarterback is selected with Houston’s first pick (No. 2), Houston pretty much has a blank canvas to work with here and can take somewhat of a “Best Player Available” (BPA) approach.
The Texans addressed the offensive line by reaching for OG Kenyon Green near this spot last year and re-signing LT Laremy Tunsil this year. This looks like a nice spot for O-line, though, so it’s worth mentioning that RT Tytus Howard is entering the final year of his contract. It does not help that RG Shaq Mason and C Scott Quessenberry are too. Consequently, if a top OL prospect falls, it’s possible Houston doubles down on O-line in back-to-back years in order to protect its new QB investment.
Another thing that could help a Young quarterback is a wide receiver, but the team may not be thrilled with this year’s receiver class, especially at No. 12.
On defense, all positions are open for business. However, we can likely eliminate LB, S, and DT at No. 12 for various reasons. Consequently, we are left with pass rushers or cornerbacks.
Yes, the Texans drafted Derek Stingley Jr. with the third pick in last year’s draft. Nevertheless, CBs Steven Nelson, Desmond King and Tavierre Thomas are free agents in 2024. At defensive end, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Rasheem Green and Mario Addison are no longer with the team. In addition, Jonathan Greenard, Jerry Hughes and Chase Winovich are free agents next offseason.
Best Bets: The complete lack of certainty in the future for Houston’s pass rush should draw the team toward fixing this. Houston is a team that can afford to be patient while a raw player like Lukas Van Ness or Nolan Smith develops.
13. New York Jets: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Short List: Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., Broderick Jones, Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, Lukas Van Ness
Team Needs: OT, C, DT
At this point, it’s unclear whether the Jets or the Packers will be picking here (re: Aaron Rodgers trade). If No. 13 is indeed New York’s, smart money would be on the team taking an offensive lineman here, especially if Aaron Rodgers is on the team. The Jets’ starting unit made only 60 of 85 possible starts (26th) last season, which doesn’t include Mekhi Becton as a starter. Becton sadly would be risky to rely on. He was one of several tackles that finished last season on injured reserve.
Moreover, starting C Connor McGovern and RT George Fant are free agents this offseason, while LT Duane Brown is a free agent next offseason. Luckily, No. 13 may be a nice spot to take one of the top three offensive line prospects (Skoronski, Johnson and Broderick Jones).
The Jets have a few other needs, particularly DT alongside Quinnen Williams. Head coach Robert Saleh’s affinity for a strong defensive line rotation keeps the position in play if the team has confidence in some combination of Becton and Max Mitchell to man the right tackle spot.
Best Bets: Look for the best available offensive lineman here if the Jets keep this pick, though we cannot be quick to rule out improving the defensive line.
14. New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Short List: Joey Porter Jr.
Team Needs: WR, CB, OT, TE
Wide receiver has to be considered the team’s weakest position. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor have departed. Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker are set to be free agents next offseason, as are TEs Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, which leaves only JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton as pass catchers signed through 2024.
Accordingly, No. 14 could be the ceiling for great tight end prospects such as Dalton Kincaid or Michael Mayer, particularly if the Patriots are not enamored with this year’s wide receiver class. The Patriots have not prioritized the WR position high in the draft, and Bill Belichick does not have a successful history when he does.
For those reasons, drafting an offensive tackle may be wiser. RT Isaiah Wynn is a free agent and LT Trent Brown is a free agent in 2024, as is LG Michael Onwenu is too. It’s unclear whether Calvin Anderson, Riley Reiff or Conor McDermott are viewed as long-term starters, though one may start at RT this season.
The Patriots had little trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but the secondary was not as strong. None of the team’s corners are studs, and the team must replace the enormous shoes of S Devin McCourty, who retired. S Kyle Duggar is a free agent in 2024.
All of this makes a cornerback like Joey Porter Jr. even more valuable. The connection between Nick Saban and Bill Belichick is also worth noting, as Belichick could value the versatility of Alabama safety Brian Branch. Belichick is not afraid to reach for a fit.
Best Bets: Concerns at offensive tackle and in the secondary should override wide receiver in this spot.
15. Green Bay Packers: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
Short List: Lukas Van Ness, Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer
Team Needs: TE, S, WR, DE
This is an extremely strong tight end class, which is ideal for a team losing two starters in Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis. Even Green Bay’s third TE, Josiah Deguara, is a free agent next offseason. The cupboard is bare, making Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer possibilities.
The preference depends on how much the Packers prioritize athleticism and receiving ability or traditional in-line blocking. Perhaps enhancing the need for receiving prowess is the lack of wide receivers behind Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs now that Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are gone.
Losing veterans like DT Jarran Reed, DT Dean Lowry and S Adrian Amos is tough on a defense, but the Packers likely planned for this seeing as they drafted DT Devonte Wyatt with the second of their two first-round picks last year. Both of those first rounders last year were spent on defense, which makes me lean offense with this pick, regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love is the quarterback.
However, the Packers may have to stick true to the board, which may yield a defender as the best player available. In that circumstance, I would be remiss not to mention the need at safety following Amos’ departure and due to the fact that Darnell Savage, whose play has declined, is entering the final year of his contract. The class’s top safety, Brian Branch, does not meet the athletic thresholds that the Packers tend to prioritize, though.
Another defensive option is taking an athletic pass rusher, such as Lukas Van Ness, seeing as Rashan Gary is coming off a torn ACL and is entering a contract year, while Preston Smith had a down year in 2022.
Best Bets: The Packers have major needs at TE and WR, but will they believe No. 15 is too early to address them? An athletic pass rusher will be tempting.
16. Washington Commanders: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Short List: Joey Porter Jr., Bijan Robinson, Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright. (Trade Down: Dawand Jones, O’Cyrus Torrence, Dalton Kincaid.)
Team Needs: QB, CB, O-line, TE
Washington’s defense held its own despite missing Chase Young for most of the year. Cornerback was probably the most imperfect spot defensively, and it would not be surprising to see the Commanders tackle that by selecting Joey Porter Jr.
However, I must admit that I believe the team will want to go offense with this pick if the board allows, not only because that’s where the problems lay last season but also because of the hiring of OC Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy already brought in one of his former players, RT Andrew Wylie, to upgrade the offensive line. This O-line lacks stars, but it does have depth. The Commanders have already met with OTs Dawand Jones and Darnell Wright, OG O’Cyrus Torrence, and C John Michael Schmitz. Clearly, O-Line is largely in play in the early rounds.
I also propose Washington as a dark horse for offensive weapon like RB Bijan Robinson for several reasons. We have an established history of GM Martin Mayhew drafting RBs relatively high; we know Ron Rivera is old school with running backs; and we know Rivera has soured on Antonio Gibson, whose contract expires next offseason).
If Robinson is not available, perhaps TE Dalton Kincaid, who Bieniemy could see as his up-and-coming Travis Kelce, could be a target in a possible trade-down scenario. Finally, clearly the team needs a quarterback. However, it looks like the plan is to roll with Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell this season before settling on a future plan next offseason.
Best Bets: I believe Plan A is Bijan Robinson, while Plan B is trading down into the 20s before selecting either an offensive lineman, tight end, or cornerback.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
Short List: Joey Porter Jr., Broderick Jones, Nolan Smith, Lukas Van Ness, Myles Murphy, Dawand Jones
Team Needs: DE, OT, CB, WR
The Steelers recently added veteran CB Patrick Peterson to replace Cam Sutton. Long-term solutions are still needed at corner, making Joey Porter Jr. an especially attractive option if available, obviously when taking into account the Steelers’ connection to Porter’s father. Pittsburgh has met with quite a few defensive back prospects who could go around this pick, including Deonte Banks, Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, and Brian Branch.
Upgrading the pass rush also seems necessary, as the Steelers’ defensive strategy last season seemed to revolve around T.J. Watt, which was clear based on the defense’s tragic demise when Watt missed games last season. Some Watt injury insurance could be worth purchasing, making Lukas Van Ness, Myles Murphy, Nolan Smith and even Will McDonald legitimate options.
The Steelers need a wide receiver behind George Pickens and Diontae Johnson, but the Steelers have historically preferred to wait on that position.
The team has been very active early in free agency, overhauling the interior offensive line. However, either offensive tackle spot could be upgraded too. The offense was abysmal last season, and the team will want to do whatever it takes to put Kenny Pickett in a position to succeed.
The Steelers have already visited with several O-Line prospects, such as OG Peter Skoronski, OG Broderick Jones, OT Dawand Jones, C John Michael Schmitz and OG O’Cyrus Torrence.
Best Bets: Offensive tackle and defensive end seem like the best bets here, with cornerback coming in third.
18. Detroit Lions: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt
Short List: Calijah Kancey, Myles Murphy, Lukas Van Ness, Nolan Smith, Will McDonald
Team Needs: D-line, CB, OG, TE
See No. 6 above for details on the Lions’ considerations. Here, the comparisons of Kancey to DT Aaron Donald may be difficult to ignore for GM Brad Holmes, who saw Donald dominate weekly with the Rams.
Best Bets: Depending on what Detroit does at No. 6, this pick should affect the team’s pass defense.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee
Short List: Will Levis, Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright, Brian Branch
Team Needs: QB, O-line, CB, S, LB
The Buccaneers have done a good job of filling in some of the gaps along a defensive line that had numerous free agents this offseason. However, the secondary badly needs bodies because the contracts of CBs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Dee Delaney and safeties Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal all expired.
Additionally, the Bucs were this close to drafting S Lewis Cine in Round 1 last year. They were on the phone with him and told him he was going to be the pick before they moved back to take DT Logan Hall in Round 2. For the record, I’m not still bitter for having mocked Cine to the Bucs in the first round last April. (That’s a lie. I definitely am.)
Nevertheless, there is a clear need at safety, and the Bucs were clearly considering going with a defensive back in the first last year. Furthermore, S Antonie Winfield Jr. is a free agent in 2024.
Tampa Bay had major issues along the O-Line last season, which was predictable considering the turnover in the unit before the season even began. Injuries did not help; the team’s starting five linemen to begin the season made only 55-of-90 possible starts (30th). Now, the unit has lost RG Shaq Mason and LT Donovan Smith is a free agent. All of this puts Tampa Bay in the market for a tackle like Darnell Wright or Anton Harrison.
Of course, we cannot simply ignore the roster’s greatest deficiency: quarterback. We should not rule out a maneuver to grab Will Levis if he were to fall. Even Hendon Hooker could be an option in Round 2.
Best Bets: Major holes exist along the offensive line and throughout the secondary. Neither are as important as the need at quarterback, but both seem to be better bets.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Short List: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Will McDonald, Calijah Kancey, O’Cyrus Torrence, John Michael Schmitz
Team Needs: D-line, iOL, WR
There is a need at wide receiver behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. With those two on the outside, Smith-Njigba is an excellent fit in the slot and would form a prolific trio. A strong case can be made for Jordan Addison due to Pete Carroll’s connections to USC.
Best Bets: Assuming the Seahawks draft a defensive end at Pick 5, the team would benefit from either a defensive tackle, interior offensive lineman or a slot wide receiver.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Short List: Bijan Robinson, Joey Porter Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, Brian Branch, Calijah Kancey
Team Needs: DT, LG, CB, RB, WR
There are a number of different directions the Chargers could go. First, the team has not prioritized run defense in years, so a defensive tackle could help in run support. There are also some secondary concerns after S Nasir Adderley retired, CB J.C. Jackson got benched for poor play, plus CB Michael Davis is a free agent in 2024.
On offense, this could be Bijan Robinson’s floor due to the team’s recent negotiations with Austin Ekeler supposedly falling through. The Chargers also had quite a few injuries to wide receivers last season, which was one thing that held Justin Herbert back. TE Gerald Everett is entering the final year of his contract as well. Finally, the left guard spot is open after Matt Feiler departed in free agency.
Though the Chargers’ run blocking was weak by many metrics, it is hard to imagine them taking an offensive lineman in the first round for the third consecutive year.
Best Bets: Defensive line and secondary concerns are paramount, though a sprinkle of youth in the pass-catching department (WR or TE) could also be a route to take.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Short List: Joey Porter Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Kelee Ringo, Deonte Banks, Cam Smith, Will McDonald
Team Needs: CB, WR, EDGE, OG
The three positions that Baltimore should be targeting with this pick are cornerbacks, wide receivers and pass rushers. Offensive guard is a need as a well with Ben Powers departing in free agency and Kevin Zeitler set to be a free agent in 2024. However, this position is more likely to be addressed later in the draft.
There is nothing behind Marlon Humphrey at cornerback now that Marcus Peters is a free agent. The Ravens reportedly showed interest in acquiring CB Darius Slay before the Eagles re-signed him. There also isn’t much at receiver behind Rashod Bateman, who has battled injuries and has not shown much, now that Demarcus Robinson is a free agent. Furthermore, Devin Duvernay and James Poche are free agents in 2024.
At edge, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul are free agents, leaving just Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh.
Best Bets: Baltimore should be targeting corners (Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, Deonte Banks), wide receivers (Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston) and pass rushers.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Short List: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Kelee Ringo, Deonte Banks, Cam Smith
Team Needs: WR, CB
With Adam Thielen gone to Carolina, the lack of wide receiver depth behind Justin Jefferson is glaring. Making matters worse is the fact K.J. Osborn is a free agent in 2024. The Vikings could show more interest in outside receivers like Quentin Johnston or Zay Flowers, considering Jefferson’s prowess in the slot.
If the Vikings don’t have a receiver they love in Round 1, the team should look to take a defender. Their cornerback depth is particularly barren following the losses of Chandon Sullivan, Patrick Peterson and Cam Dantzler within the last year. The team signed Byron Murphy, but the jury is still out on CB Andrew Booth and S Lewis Cine, each of whom only appeared in two games. Perhaps the recent investments at DB in last year’s draft will encourage a wide receiver in the first.
Finally, it must be mentioned that Kirk Cousins is entering the last year of his contract, making Minnesota a dark horse for a quarterback.
Best Bets: The Vikings sit in a position where there should be several viable options at cornerback and wide receiver.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Short List: Kelee Ringo, Deonte Banks, Cam Smith, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith, Will McDonald, Darnell Wright, Anton Harrison
Team Needs: CB, O-line, D-line
Although the Jaguars selected Travon Walker first overall in last year’s draft, there are reasons to prioritize the defensive line again. Dawuane Smoot is a free agent and Arden Key signed with the Titans, and Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson are entering the final year of their contracts. GM Trent Baalke seems to favor D-Line prospects with high-end athletic traits, so players like DTs Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee and Mazi Smith may entice.
Reinforcements are also needed at cornerback behind starters Darious Williams and Tyson Campbell. Luckily, the Jaguars are in a prime spot to draft a cornerback (Deonte Banks, Cam Smith or Kelee Ringo).
Offensively, RT Jawaan Taylor departed, which may move Walker Little to a starting position, but left guard and center could use upgrades. The Jaguars could also select a tackle and move Little to left guard.
Best Bets: Cornerbacks 4-6 (Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith and Deonte Banks) in this draft class should appeal to the Jaguars, as should athletic pass rushers and offensive linemen.
25. New York Giants: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Short List: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Kelee Ringo, Deonte Banks, Cam Smith
Team Needs: WR, DE, CB, iOL
The Giants re-signed Darius Slayton and added Parris Campbell to the receiver room. The team also added TE Darren Waller. Getting back Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson will help the Giants in the slot. Despite all of this, New York should still be in the market to add an outside receiver.
Quentin Johnston and Zay Flowers lined up outside far more often than Jordan Addison and Jalin Hyatt, per Anthony Amico (@amicsta). Though, I expect Jaxon Smith-Njigba to be the team’s pick of the litter. Center and left guard are also offensive positions that could be improved.
Defensively, cornerback is certainly a concern. Fabian Moreau is a free agent, and Adoree Jackson, Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes are free agents in 2024. The team drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari recently, but Oshane Ximines is a free agent, and Jihad Ward’s contract expires in 2024.
Best Bets: There are a number of directions the Giants could go here, but wide receiver and cornerback are the safest bets.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Short List: Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith
Team Needs: TE, DT, CB, LG
The trade for Brandin Cooks erases the immediate need for a wide receiver, but a solid tight end to replace Dalton Schultz could help. Mike McCarthy has praised his defense recently, and he also mentioned that he wants to get back to running the ball more often.
My bet is this pick affects the running game, whether it’s a tight end who can block or a left guard. It should surprise no one if the Cowboys double down on offensive linemen in back-to-back years, as RTs Terence Steele and Tyron Smith are free agents in 2024, and Zack Martin turns 33 this season.
If Dallas chooses to add defense, then defensive tackle is probably the best spot to address.
Best Bets: A tight end to replace Dalton Schultz and an injection of youth to the offensive line could help. Defensively, defensive tackle and cornerback should be preferred.
27. Buffalo Bills: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Short List: Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison, Jalin Hyatt, O’Cyrus Torrence, Jack Campbell, Adetomiwa Adebawore
Team Needs: DT, WR, LB
Although the offense struggled after Josh Allen’s midseason injury, smart money should be on the Bills taking a defender with this pick based on the unit’s fall off. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones are all free agents in 2024, leaving little at the position after this season. LB Tremaine Edmunds departed to Chicago, but it’s unclear whether there is a linebacker (re: Jack Campbell, who may have a connection in the building) worth Round 1 consideration.
Meanwhile, with Gabriel Davis failing to make the leap that some expected last season and with his contract expiring next offseason, the Bills could be open to drafting a wide receiver. Buffalo has depth pieces, but it’s probably best that Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield stay role players. If something were to happen to Stefon Diggs, this pass-catching group would be in trouble.
The Bills have also been linked to DeAndre Hopkins, signaling an upgrade is desired. Accordingly, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison and Jalin Hyatt may be quality options. For what it’s worth, the Bills also met with TEs Michael Mayer and Darnell Washington at the NFL Combine.
Best Bets: Right now, either a pass catcher or a defensive tackle make the most sense.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Short List: Brian Branch, Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, Darnell Wright, Anton Harrison, Dawand Jones, Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, Deonte Banks, Darnell Washington
Team Needs: TE, S, RT, CB, RB
Tight end will be popularly mocked here, not just because Hayden Hurst departed in free agency, but also because Mitchell Wilcox is a free agent and Devin Asiasi will be one in 2024. In sum, bodies are needed at the position, and this is an outstanding tight end class, with potentially three tight ends going between picks 15-31.
The secondary needs aid as well. It does not look as though the team is bringing back CB Eli Apple. Chidobe Awuzie is a free agent in 2024. At safety, the Bengals lost starters Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates II in free agency. The Bengals foresaw this and drafted Dax Hill in Round 1 last year, but he has not proved worthy of starting just yet, and there’s little behind him. Brian Branch could last until this pick, as could CBs Cam Smith, Deonte Banks or Kelee Ringo.
Cincinnati continues to work on its offensive line, most recently paying big money to OT Orlando Brown to play left tackle. OT Jonah Williams has requested a trade as a result. RT La’el Collins may or may not be on the team by the time the draft ends. Consequently, right tackle may well be unmanned. Darnell Wright, Anton Harrison or Dawand Jones could fill the gap.
Best Bets: The good news for the Bengals is that the board seems to set up well for finding a quality player at one of their three most pressing needs: tight end, defensive back or right tackle.
29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco via Miami and Denver): Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
Short List: Myles Murphy, Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith, Adetomiwa Adebawore, Will McDonald
Team Needs: DT, DE, OG, WR
Entering into this offseason, the Saints had only one defensive linemen who played 100+ snaps last season signed through 2024: DE Payton Turner. That’s because DEs Tanoh Kpassagnon and Marcus Davenport, and DTs David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle and Kentavius Street are currently free agents, while DEs Cam Jordan and Carl Granderson and DT Malcolm Roach are free agents next year.
The Saints added DTs Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders recently, but this is clearly not enough. Although DT is a bigger need on paper (perhaps Bryan Bresee or Mazi Smith could plug in here), it would not be surprising to see the Saints draft a defensive end. Will McDonald could be the best DE available.
Arguments can be made for selecting an offensive guard because LG Andrus Peat is consistently inadequate and RG Cesar Ruiz has one year remaining on his contract. A similar case can be made for wide receiver due to the constaint uncertainty surrounding Michael Thomas.
Best Bets: Offensive guard and wide receiver may be in play. However, the sharpest bet is the Saints taking a defensive lineman.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Short List: Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith, Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, Deonte Banks, Anton Harrison, Dawand Jones, Will McDonald, Adetomiwa Adebawore
Team Needs: LB, DT, S, iOL
See Pick 10 above for details on the Eagles’ considerations.
If the Eagles take an offensive lineman at Pick 10, I see them targeting either a defensive tackle like Bryan Bresee or Mazi Smith, or a cornerback like Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, or Deonte Banks, considering Darius Slay and newly acquired Greedy Williams are free agents next offseason.
Best Bets: The Eagles love to build through the trenches. As key contributors age, one solid reinforcing lineman is needed on each side of the ball.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Will McDonald, DE, Iowa State
Short List: Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison, Jalin Hyatt, Anton Harrison, Dawand Jones, Calijah Kancey, Bryan Bresee, Mazi Smith, Will McDonald, Adetomiwa Adebawore
Team Needs: RT, WR, DT
The Chiefs believe their found their solution at left tackle to replace Orlando Brown Jr. in Jawaan Taylor. However, the vacancy at right tackle still remains. OTs Dawand Jones or Anton Harrison are strong possibilities.
If the Chiefs had high expectations for Skyler Moore and Kadarius Toney, they did not show it last year. Patrick Mahomes can clearly excel without great wide receivers, but more capable bodies are needed as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardment departed via free agency, while Justin Watson remains a free agent. The team will study Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers and Jalin Hyatt for this pick.
Defensive tackle is another big-time need with Chris Jones’s contract expiring next offseason.
Best Bets: Right tackle, wide receiver, and defensive line are positions worth considering, but it’s difficult to predict who will be available at this point. Andy Reid may lean toward a trench player.
Other First Round Possibilities
- Cam Smith (CB – South Carolina)
- Anton Harrison (OT – Oklahoma)
- O’Cyrus Torrence (OG – Florida)
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