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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Andrew Erickson (4.0)

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Andrew Erickson (4.0)

NFL Free Agency has come and gone, which means NFL rookie mock draft season is FULL GO. And the calendar turning to April means NFL Mock Draft 4.0 is LIVE.

Teams’ needs have changed drastically with all the transactions in free agency, impacting how they approach the top prospects in the draft. Some teams that looked to be in the market for certain positions among the 2023 NFL rookie class may be going in a different direction than a few weeks back.

Hence, I’ve created the 2023 NFL Draft Needs For All 32 NFL Teams Post-Free Agency — as my guide to align this latest mock draft with what NFL teams will do when they are on the clock.

Let’s dive in.

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*As noted, this mock draft is based on what I think will happen, not necessarily what I would do in each team’s position.*

2023 NFL Draft Guide: Prospect Rankings & Player Profiles

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Andrew Erickson (4.0)

1. Carolina Panthers: C.J. Stroud (QB – Ohio State)

The Panthers trade up to get their young franchise quarterback. C.J. Stroud is just 21 years old and finished the 2022 college football season second in both passing TDs (41) and yards per attempt (9.4). In two years as a starter at Ohio State, Stroud totaled 85 passing TDs and just 12 interceptions. The former Buckeye showcased his precision and accurate arm during the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, putting him firmly in the QB1 conversation. He boasts prototypical size at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds as the best pocket passer in the class. Per PFF, Stroud’s 26.7% of perfectly-placed passes lead all FBS QBs since 2021. Stroud checks all the boxes that new Panthers head coach Frank Reich values the most.

2. Houston Texans: Bryce Young (QB – Alabama)

The Houston Texans showed us last draft season the kind of players they want to target. Among their first six selections in the first four rounds, five came from the SEC, including two players from Alabama. The front office has done their homework on the Crimson Tide, pushing me toward Bryce Young as their future franchise QB. They liked what they saw from John Metchie (selecting him in the second round of last year’s draft) when he caught passes from Young during his tenure with Alabama from 2020-2021. Young followed up his 2021 Heisman Trophy campaign as PFF’s highest-graded passer in the nation (91.3) in 2022. His 94.2 PFF passing grade at the intermediate level (10-19 yards downfield) also ranked first.

Young didn’t throw at the NFL Combine but measured in at 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds. Getting over the 200-pound threshold was huge for Young, whose biggest flaw is his small stature. But his accuracy – second in catchable target rate (87%) and on-target percentage per Sports Info Solutions (77%) — will gel perfectly under new Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik.

Slowik spent the past two seasons as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator/specialist. The offense ranked inside the top 10 in completion rate and fifth in yards after the catch.

Slowik’s brother Steve Slowik is also a scout for the 49ers and played an integral role in the team, drafting Brock Purdy with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Like Young, Purdy displayed top-tier accuracy at the collegiate level. Among the 2022 quarterback draft class, he ranked first in completion rate (72%), first in catchable ball percentage (88%), and second in on-target percentage (79%). At worst, Young can do what Purdy did last season for the 49ers while also offering a much higher ceiling based on his playmaking ability.

3. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Richardson (QB – Florida) (Trade with Arizona Cardinals)

If you look at the current betting markets, quarterback Anthony Richardson is the favorite for the No. 3 overall pick. Ergo, this pick has a strong chance to be traded with the Arizona Cardinals set at quarterback with Kyler Murray. The team is looking to trade down for additional assets. And wouldn’t it make all the sense in the world for the new general manager Monti Ossenfort to make a splash move by trading with his old team (Tennesse Titans), who have the second shortest odds (+300) to take Richardson despite currently holding the No. 3 pick?

The Titans were on board with trading up for Malik Willis last season in the 3rd round, so there’s a sense in the building that quarterback is an area of need – especially with Ryan Tannehill on the last year of his contract. New Titans GM Ran Carthon also has ties back to the University of Florida, where he played in his college ball.

And just imagine opposing defenses trying to stop two Derrick Henry-level athletes. Madness.

I’d also imagine Willis could be part of the trade package to the Cardinals, considering the Titans aren’t exactly high on his prospects after a disappointing rookie season. The team signed Josh Dobbs off the street at the end of the season to help win games instead of the Liberty quarterback. Also, ex-Titans GM Jon Robinson said in an interview after Willis was selected in last year’s draft that he was their pick because he was the best player available, not necessarily because he was “their” guy. And if anything from last year is apparent, Willis is not head coach Mike Vrabel’s “guy.”

Arizona also has major question marks at quarterback. They re-signed David Blough, but both Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy are coming off injuries. Willis’ rushing upside could be the perfect replacement and stop-gap for the Cardinals while Murray comes back from injury. New head coach Jonathan Gannon knows the upside and damage that mobile QBs can deliver from his two seasons spent watching Jalen Hurts in Philly.

4. Indianapolis Colts: Will Anderson Jr. (DE – Alabama)

Hired in 2017, Chris Ballard was once regarded as one of the league’s sharpest executives because of his exemplary drafting and roster-building approach. But the shine has worn off with the team’s inability to find a long-term answer at the quarterback position.

Still, he understands the harmony required when debating a player’s fit versus the best player available. Therefore, I expect Ballard to address the team’s flagrant lack of pass rush with an edge defender in the 2023 NFL Draft after forging the position in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not including last season, Ballard has drafted pass rushers with Day 2 picks in every prior draft except 2020.

They keep their strategy simple and draft the best pass rusher in the class, with Will Anderson Jr. Anderson finished fourth overall in total pressures in 2022 (third in the class with 4.1 pressures per game) while lining up primarily outside the tackle.

5. Seattle Seahawks: Tyree Wilson (DE – Texas Tech)

The Seattle Seahawks offense looks set on paper, with Geno Smith reprising his role as the team’s starting quarterback. Though the defense needs help. They need to inject more youth into their defensive front.

Tyree Wilson from Texas Tech makes sense for Seattle in the draft. The edge rusher finished eighth in pass-rush win rate on true pass sets and first in pressures per game (4.4) among his 2023 draft class. The 6-foot-6, 271-pound edge rusher did not test at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine but will test during a private workout in mid-April for teams. The expectation is that he will test off the charts, so the time is now to buy on Wilson’s odds to be the first defensive player drafted (+800 on DraftKings Sportsbook, +1000 FanDuel).

6. Detroit Lions: Devon Witherspoon (CB – Illinois)

Detroit was slaughtered in their secondary, even though former first-rounder Jeffery Okudah had his best season to date. They need to shore up their secondary, and they started that process with the addition of CB Cam Sutton in free agency. It’s possible he puts them out of the cornerback market at the top of the draft. They also signed Emmanuel Moseley to a one-year deal after he tore his ACL. Before his injury, the four-year pro ranked top 10 in forced incompletion rate and passer rating generated when targeted (63.5).

Still, they could select a cornerback high in the draft, like Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon. Detroit hit on drafting safety Kerby Joseph from the same college program in the third round of last year’s draft, as Joseph was named First-Team All-Rookie by several publications.

Per PFF, Witherspoon forced the second-most incompletions and played the second-most man coverage snaps last season.

Detroit finished third in man coverage snaps under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn last season.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez (CB – Oregon)

With Jimmy Garoppolo settled in at quarterback (for now), Las Vegas should shift their draft focus to their defense, which ranked 31st in pass defense DVOA in 2022. They have multiple cornerbacks on expired contracts — Anthony Averett, Rock Ya-Sin, Sidney Jones (Bengals) — and need to add to the position. It was smart for them to bring back Brandon Facyson on a two-year deal and sign safety Marcus Epps from the Eagles. But it’s not enough.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez could be a great option in the draft. He can tackle — he earned the 12th-lowest missed-tackle rate in class at 4.9% — and make plays on the ball.

And Gonzalez has hardly hit his peak since a 2022 breakout campaign; he still has yet to turn 21.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Lukas Van Ness (EDGE – Iowa)

Death, taxes, and the Falcons’ sheer lack of a pass rush. Atlanta finished last in pressure rate (14.6%) in 2022. They need to spark the pass rush with a draft prospect. They added Kaden Elliss from the Saints in FA, who finished fifth in pressures among linebackers. They also signed 36-year-old DL Calais Campbell, but they need more pressure — and that comes in the form of Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness.

LVN’s 37 pressures on true pass sets ranked fourth in the FBS in 2022. And his true pressure rate — Sports Info Solutions’ pressure rate that isolates straight dropbacks, which are more likely to be similar across situations — tied Jalen Carter for the highest mark in the class at 16%.

He also impressed all 32 teams during the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Per PlayerProfiler.com, Van Ness tested in the 92nd percentile in the 40-yard dash, achieving a 96th-percentile speed score at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds. He’s got Travon Walker (last year’s No. 1 overall pick) freakiness with shades of current New Orleans Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan to his disruptive game.

It would make sense for the Falcons to target a Jordan-esque player, considering their new defensive coordinator, Ryan Nielsen, spent the last six years coaching the Saints’ defensive line.

9. Chicago Bears: Broderick Jones (OT – Georgia)

Getting Justin Fields an offensive line is essential. Right tackle Riley Reiff was signed by the Patriots, and the Bears don’t have any reliable in-house options between Larry Borom and Alex Leatherwood as plug-in starters. Nate Davis can play guard, but tackle is still a question mark. Hence, the selection of Broderick Jones.

Jones allowed zero sacks last season at left tackle as PFF’s sixth-highest-graded pass blocker in the 2023 draft class. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound lineman also ran the fastest 40-yard dash among tackles at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine (4.97, 93rd percentile).

Jones also fits the archetype of tackle prospect that new GM Ryan Poles may tend to draft toward. Last year’s fifth-round draft selection, Braxton Jones, is best comparable to Georgia tackle Broderick Jones. Braxton Jones started all 17 games for the Bears at left tackle last season. He ran his 40-yard dash at 4.97 (93rd percentile) and 10-yard split at 1.74 (80th percentile).

Another close comparison to Broderick Jones is Ikem Ekwonu, whose highlight tape was filled with him mauling guys in the run game. He was also the first OL selected last season. Currently, Broderick Jones is +450 to be the first OL selected on DraftKings Sportsbook (+500 FanDuel). His draft position prop is listed at 13.5, with juice toward the under at -140.

10. Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Carter (DT – Georgia)

The rich get richer. Jalen Carter falls to No. 10 overall amid his red flags due to a legal situation and lackluster testing. But with two first-round picks and pulse on the Georgia defense from Jordan Davis/Nakobe Dean, Philly acts greedy while others are fearful.

The former Bulldog graded out as PFF’s third-highest-graded defensive tackle in 2023. His run-stop percentage ranked second-best in the nation. He is the best player available and also fills a need along an Eagles’ defensive line that looks different in 2023 due to losses in free agency.

11. Arizona Cardinals: Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU) (Trade with Tennesse Titans)

Although there’s a strong chance that the Cardinals take a cornerback here after trading down, I think the Cardinals just opt for offensive weaponry in the form of WR Quentin Johnston.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound behemoth totaled 1,067 receiving yards, finishing fifth in his draft class with an elite 3.05 yards per route run. Johnston was a menace with the ball in his hands, finishing seventh in his draft class in yards after the catch per reception (8.9, 19 forced missed tackles). His forced missed tackle rate (38%) ranks first in the class per Sports Info Solutions.

As a true freshman at 19 years old, Johnston broke out with a 21% dominator rating in 2020 as the team’s leading receiver, averaging 22.1 yards per reception – fifth best in the FBS. He will make life much easier for Murray as an explosive playmaker that can fill the void left potentially by DeAndre Hopkins (rumored to be a cut candidate).

Both of Johnston’s jumps at the NFL Scouting Combine were in the 93rd percentile or better. And at TCU’s pro day, Johnston ran a sub-4.50 40-yard dash, generating a very high RAS score.

His overall boom-or-bust profile also mimics similar WRs like N’Keal Harry and/or Treylon Burks, who Ossenfort oversaw his team’s draft in the 1st round. He also saw firsthand how impactful an elite yards after catch (YAC) receiver (A.J. Brown) can be for an entire passing offense.

I like the longshot odds of Arizona landing Quentin Johnston in a trade-down scenario at +4500 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook.

12. Houston Texans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)

Houston got their quarterback of the future with the second overall pick. And now they double down on offense to build around their young signal-caller with the selection of Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Smith-Njigba led the nation in yards per route run (4.01) at just 19 years old in 2021 despite playing alongside two future first-round picks in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. The Ohio State Buckeye also finished third in the FBS in receiving yards (1,595) and ranked first in PFF receiving grade (91.9) in 2021.

At the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Smith-Njigba measured in at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds. He did not run the 40-yard dash or perform well in the jumps, but he flashed his short-area quickness with the best time in the 3-cone drill at 6.57 seconds (96th percentile) and 3.93 in the short shuttle (97th percentile).

Texans GM Nick Caserio has shown his hand to pushing up prospects that test well in the 3-cone drill, making JSN a perfect fit in Houston. The Ohio State product can also deliver after the catch — a much-needed attribute in the new Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik.

Recall, Slowik spent the past two seasons as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator/specialist. The offense ranked inside the top 10 in completion rate and fifth in yards after the catch. I’d imagine that among the skill players the Texans draft, there will be a heavy emphasis on YAC-ability.

13. New York Jets: Peter Skoronski (OT – Northwestern)

The Jets will “hopefully and eventually” upgrade their quarterback (paging Aaron Rodgers, hello darkness, my old friend), making this selection easy, with offensive tackle being an area of need due to some expiring contracts and underwhelming incumbents. The team also finished as PFF’s third-worst-graded pass-blocking unit in 2022.

Northwestern’s left tackle Peter Skoronski finished as PFF’s No. 1-graded pass blocker in 2022.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

14. New England Patriots: Darnell Wright (OT – Tennessee)

Addressing the offensive line is likely what the Patriots will do at some point in the draft, even as the team back-filled right tackle snaps between Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon. Yodny Cajuste was re-signed. New England signed 11-year veteran tackle Riley Reiff and former Denver Bronco Calvin Anderson in free agency. But with Reiff’s age and Trent Brown entering a contract year, they could really use a staple future franchise tackle.

Darnell Wright was a four-year starter (42 games) at Tennessee and performed extremely well during his senior year. He finished fourth in his class in PFF pass-blocking efficiency and performed admirably versus a fierce Alabama pass-rush unit led by Will Anderson. And per Sports Info Solutions, Wright finished with the second-lowest blown block percentage in the class (0.7%).

Wright should be a plug-and-play option as the team’s right tackle in Year 1 and for the foreseeable future.

15. Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer (TE – Notre Dame)

The Packers haven’t used a single first-round pick on a skill-position player since drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005. That goes well beyond the tenure of Brian Gutekunst, who has been the team’s GM since the start of 2018.

Even so, it’s flabbergasting that Green Bay never surrounded Rodgers with elite offensive weaponry. And nothing would be more ironic than for the team to select one in 2023 after jettisoning Rodgers to the New York Jets.

Because it’s not like Gutekunst has been anti-drafting skill players. He has drafted plenty of wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends over the past four drafts – including three WRs last season – but few have turned into productive pros.

The Packers’ general manager is willing to add weapons; I’m hoping they can address their glaring weakness at tight end early in the draft. They only have one legitimate tight end under contract entering the season (Josiah Deguara). Weapons need to be added, with Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard not returning.

The move they can make to improve this offense comes in the form of Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer.

He graded out as PFF’s highest-graded tight end in the country, leading the FBS in receiving TDs and yards per route run (2.44). Mayer was also PFF’s fifth-highest-graded run-blocking tight end. The Fighting Irish tight end finished his college career with 180 receptions for 2,099 receiving yards and 18 receiving touchdowns. This past season he caught 5.6 passes per game as the team’s featured weapon.

16. Washington Commanders: Joey Porter (CB – Penn State)

Washington’s defensive line is loaded. And it’s because the front office has flooded that area of the field with first-rounders. But that has hurt the secondary, which has been the weakest part of the defense over the last two seasons. Washington injects their pass defense with Joey Porter Jr., son of former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. The Penn State cornerback was a pass-breakup machine in 2022, posting college football’s second-highest forced incompletion rate (41%).

Per Sports Info Solutions, Porter’s also boasted his classes’ highest hands-on-ball percentage (2.9%).

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Paris Johnson  (OT – Ohio State)

Former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert routinely passed on the tackle position in Round 1 because they’ve had such a great line in recent years. That’s no longer the case.

But there’s reason to believe this could be the year that bucks the trend for Pittsburgh avoiding offensive linemen in Round 1. Colbert stepped down as the team’s GM after the 2022 NFL Draft, being replaced in-house by Omar Khan. Khan has been with the Steelers since 2001, and last served as the Vice President of Football & Business Administration from 2016 to 2022.

It’s worth noting that the team was aggressive in improving the interior offensive line during the free-agency period, perhaps a foreshadowing of what’s yet to come in the draft in the form of a future franchise tackle. They’ve met with potential first-round tackle Paris Johnson Jr., and that’s why he is the selection at No. 17.

In Johnson’s first season as a left tackle in 2022, the 6-foot-6, 313-pound OT finished as a consensus All-American with zero holding penalties to boot.

18. Detroit Lions: Calijah Kancey (DT – Pittsburgh)

The Detroit Lions addressed their secondary with the No. 6 pick, but their defense still needs improvement. More ankle-biters up front to wreak havoc on opposing offenses can help.

Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey fits the bill of a future Lions draft pick. He posted the nation’s highest pass-rush grade among interior defenders in 2022 (92.4) with 47 total pressures (seventh), eight sacks (tied for second), and ranked first in PFF’s PRP rate that combines sacks, hits, and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer. His pressure rate from the interior bested both Jalen Carter and Lukas Van Ness.

Kancey earned the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year award for his efforts. It was the first time since Aaron Donald won the award in 2013 that it was awarded to a Pittsburgh Panther. The former Panther is undersized at 6-foot-1, 281 pounds (similar to Donald, who was scouted by current Lions general manager Brad Holmes), but he more than makes up for it with elite athleticism. He ran the 40 in 4.67 seconds (99th percentile). Per FantasyPros’ own Bo McBrayer, that was the fastest 40 time for any player over 280 pounds since 2003.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Nolan Smith (DE – Georgia)

On the defensive line, Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Giants), Akiem Hicks, and William Gholston are no longer on the roster.

The Buccaneers will look drastically different on defense in 2023, with so much overhaul needed to last year’s squad. They start rebuilding with NFL Combine workout warrior and edge defender Nolan Smith.

Smith tested in the 99th percentile in the 40-yard dash and 10-yard split, running a blazing 4.39 at 238 pounds. He also jumped 41.5 inches in the vertical (98th percentile) and jumped 128 inches in the broad (95th percentile). Before his injury in 2022 (Weeks 1-7), Smith led the Bulldogs in pressures, hurries, and PFF defensive grade.

20. Seattle Seahawks: Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)

Geno Smith was one of the better QBs passing from 11 personnel in 2022, ranking 10th in yards per attempt (7.2), seventh in TD-INT ratio, and sixth in passer rating. But Seattle ran it at the seventh-lowest rate without any worthwhile third-receiving option

That changes with the addition of No.3 WR Zay Flowers.

Boston College’s Zay Flowers has spent previous offseasons training with Smith (and Antonio Brown) and is expected to be selected in the first round. Per Sports Info Solutions, Flowers led his class in yards after the catch per game (42.5).

His closest comparable, per Mockdraftable.com, is Seahawks 2021 second-rounder D’Wayne Eskridge. Eskridge has caught 17 passes for 122 yards since being drafted two years ago. Woof.

Flowers’ draft prop position per DraftKings Sportsbook is at 24.5 with juice toward the under (-210).

21. Los Angles Chargers: Bijan Robinson (RB – Texas)

The Chargers drafted running back Isaiah Spiller last season in the fourth round, but they remain the betting favorites at some sportsbooks to land Bijan Robinson amid the Austin Ekeler trade rumors. If he is there at 21, I wouldn’t be shocked if they pulled the trigger. Telesco traded up for Melvin Gordon 15th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and the team has been dying for a legitimate in-between-the-tackle rusher of Robinson’s talent. Even if the team doesn’t trade Ekeler, both he and Joshua Kelley are free agents at the end of the season. Robinson’s rookie deal as the 21st pick provides the Chargers with a cost-controlled elite offensive weapon so they can allocate resources for Justin Herbert‘s long-term extension.

B-Rob finished the 2022 college season as PFF’s second-highest-graded rusher in the FBS, tallying 18 rushing TDs and 1,575 rushing yards en route to a 37% dominator rating in his final year as a Longhorn. He forced 104 missed tackles (40% broken tackle rate) – a metric that has shown to be super predictive of success rushing at the NFL level.

22. Baltimore Ravens: Myles Murphy (DE – Clemson)

The 6-foot-5, 268-pound pass rusher didn’t test at the NFL Combine — opting to wait for the private workout in April — but he possesses above-average athleticism.

Myles Murphy should be able to provide a spark to Baltimore’s pass rush.

The defensive end spot is one of the Ravens’ glaring needs, as they ranked as a bottom-10 pressure unit.

Justin Houston led the team with 12 sacks and is going to be a free agent at age 34. Jason Pierre-Paul is also a free agent and is 34 years old. JPP played the second-most snaps as a pass rusher and most as a run defender among the Ravens’ defensive ends. Calais Campbell was also released and signed with the Falcons.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Will Levis (QB – Kentucky)

At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, Kentucky’s Will Levis offers an Andrew Luck/Dak Prescott-type build paired with mobility/rushing to extend drives. When a healthy Levis played in an NFL-style offense under former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen in 2021, the Kentucky product finished as PFF’s 10th-highest-graded QB in the Power Five. Levis also rushed for nearly 40 yards per game, which is close to the rushing marks set by Joe Burrow and Josh Allen during their respective college tenures. Levis is a name that fantasy managers should be keen on in Superflex formats.

The reason he makes sense landing in Minnesota is twofold. Kirk Cousins‘ guaranteed money will be gone after this season. And Levis’ experience and success in Coen’s offensive system would be a great fit in Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell‘s offense — considering both of their resumes tie back to the Los Angeles Rams/Sean McVay.

GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s analytics-driven background also suggests that Minnesota will be in the conversation to select a rookie quarterback, with how advantageous it can be to have one for salary-cap and team-building purposes.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dawand Jones (OT – Ohio State)

Jags GM Trent Baalke has a strong reputation and tangible drafting record of gravitating toward long-arm players.

Just some food for thought that Jacksonville may opt for guys with long arms as they did last season with the first overall pick, Travon Walker.

And nobody fits the “Baalke-type” among the offensive line than Ohio State’s Dawand Jones. The Buckeyes starting right tackle boasts mammoth-sized arms and wingspan in the 98th percentile measuring in at 6-foot-8 and a whopping 374 pounds. Per Sports Info Solutions, Jones tied for the first in the class in the lowest blown block percentage (0.8%).

Jones will compete with third-year pro and former 2021 second-rounder Walker Little to be the next man up at right tackle to replace Jawaan Taylor.

Draft Wizard

25. New York Giants: Jordan Addison (WR – USC)

Entering the offseason, the Giants simply lacked the juice at the wide receiver position to take them over the top in the NFC. They needed to feature more weapons around quarterback Daniel Jones for him to continue improving.

The team re-signed both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton while acquiring Darren Waller/Parris Campbell in trades/free agency. So far, they have done well putting weapons around Jones. But they don’t stop there. They add USC’s Jordan Addison to the mix to become Big Blue’s newest No. 1 wide receiver.

Addison transferred to USC for his junior year after winning the Biletnikoff Award at Pittsburgh in 2021. He led the Trojans with 59 catches for 875 yards and eight receiving TDs (79 targets). But more importantly, the 6-foot, 175-pound wide receiver proved that he could play more outside after spending most of his time in the slot at Pittsburgh.

 

26. Dallas Cowboys: Deonte Banks (CB – Maryland)

Since 2010, the Cowboys have drafted five cornerbacks (two first-rounders and three second-rounders) with meaningful draft capital: Trevon Diggs, Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Morris Claiborne and Kelvin Joseph.

After defensive backs, it’s been a lot of pass rushers, offensive linemen, and wide receivers that Big D has targeted in recent drafts with draft capital in the first three rounds.

Those tendencies were exactly how Dallas addressed the 2022 Draft by selecting OT Tyler Smith, EDGE Sam Williams and WR Jalen Tolbert. Jones and Co. hit the needs from the get-go.

Considering the team’s current top needs — WR, CB, OL and RB –, they can similarly approach the 2023 NFL Draft. Their list of 2024 free agents includes OT Tyron Smith, RB Tony Pollard, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Jourdan Lewis, OT Terence Steele, CB Trevon Diggs and S Jayron Kearse.

With Jones being no stranger to investing high draft capital into defensive backs, a perimeter cornerback in the draft like Maryland’s Deonte Banks makes sense. The former Bulldog has the size at 6-foot, 197 pounds that is coveted in Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme that finished top-10 in man coverage percentage last season.

27. Buffalo Bills: Will McDonald IV (EDGE – Iowa State)

As one of the most complete teams in the league, Buffalo has a variety of ways they could approach the 27th overall pick.

Addressing the needs at WR, OL, or EDGE will most likely be Buffalo’s approach in Round 1, and the choice will be dictated by who is the best player available. After forgoing the defensive line last year in the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Buffalo head back in that direction with Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV.

After all, the Bills’ pressure rate fell dramatically after the team lost Von Miller due to injury. They generated just a 5.1% pressure rate – a mark that would have ranked 31st compared to season-long standings.

McDonald boasts a 90th-percentile arm length and a 98th-percentile broad jump (132 inches). His body type helped him tremendously as a pure edge rusher, earning him accolades as PFF’s third-highest-graded pass rusher on true pass sets in 2022.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Brian Branch (S – Alabama)

The Bengals went heavy drafting secondary assets last season — Daxton Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt and Tycen Anderson — and Tobin has drafted two cornerbacks in the first round before (William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard).

I could easily see the Bengals going back in that direction after losing defensive backs Vonn Bell (Carolina), Jessie Bates (Atlanta), Eli Apple, and Tre Flowers. Bell, Bates, and Apple were three of the top four players in terms of playing time for DBs last season (they combined for 1,100-plus snaps).

Therefore the selection is safety Brian Branch, who offers coverage skills that align with FA veteran acquisition and thumping safety Nick Scott.

Branch has experience playing the nickel/slot — second-most slot snaps among college safeties in 2022 — and is a fierce tackler. Per PFF, Branch has missed just four tackles on 170 attempts (2.3%) against the stiffest competition the SEC has to offer.

29. New Orleans Saints: Hendon Hooker (QB – Tennessee)

Hendon Hookers’ draft stock has been on the constant rise. He’s generated first-round interest from multiple teams, including the New Orleans Saints, after finishing first in yards per attempt in his class last season (9.5). With the expectation that he can fully recover from his torn ACL sitting behind Derek Carr, Hooker can become the Saints’ full-time starter with them free of any guaranteed money in Carr’s contract after the 2024 season.

I also want to note that it might not be the Saints that make this selection here because I could easily see a trade with a team to get back into the first round that hasn’t drafted a quarterback yet, like the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks or Detroit Lions. Perhaps New Orleans’ “interest” in Hooker is just a smoke screen to get a team to trade up for him at their benefit.

The total number of QBs to be drafted is currently set at 4.5, with +125 toward the over on DraftKings Sportsbook. Hooker going in Round 1 is the surprise from draft night that has me betting the over.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: O’Cyrus Torrence (OG – Florida)

On the Eagles’ offensive line, guard Isaac Seumalo is now in Pittsburgh. Seumalo inked a three-year deal with the Steelers. His former backup, Andre Dillard, signed a starter-level deal with the Titans. Cam Jurgens could be a candidate to fill the void at guard with Jason Kelce coming back at center.

But either way, the Eagles could use more depth along their interior, with Kelce a candidate to retire at the end of the season and Jack Driscoll set to be a free agent as well.

Since 2019, Roseman has drafted an offensive lineman in the first four rounds in every single draft. Three of which have been a second-round selection or higher.

The Eagles get rich (again) and draft Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence as the No. 1 guard in the 2023 draft class. He finished 2022 as the highest-graded guard in the nation in his first season as a Gator after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Anton Harrison (OT – Oklahoma)

Kansas City was wise to reinvest into the tackle position with their top two starting tackles — Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wiley — signing with new teams. Wiley signed with the Washington Commanders, re-joining Eric Bieniemy. Meanwhile, the Bengals signed Brown to a monster four-year, $84 million contract to bolster their OL.

The Chiefs addressed the need in free agency by inking former Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor to a four-year, $80 million deal. The plan is to play Taylor at left tackle, even though he has not played there at the NFL or college level. Therefore, I wouldn’t completely rule out the Chiefs taking another stab at a left tackle if the right guy falls to them in the draft, like Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison.

Harrison has played left tackle for the Sooners for three straight seasons, capped off by a great 2022 campaign where he allowed zero QB hits on 447 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF.

Brett Veach knows how important OL play is in the Chiefs’ offense and can’t afford to not build depth. Last season marked the third consecutive season the team drafted an offensive lineman in the first five rounds since 2017 (Darian Kinnard). Even if it doesn’t look like a “need,” bolstering OL is never going to be looked down upon in KC.

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