Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft

Alex BallentineJuly 11, 2022

Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft

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    NFL draft season might not be at the forefront of the news cycle right now, but it's a yearlong affair.

    Most of the attention is on the beginning of training camp season right now, but there are folks in the scouting departments for all teams who already have their eyes on the 2023 draft class.

    Next year's class is shaping up to be quite different from 2022. The league gave a resounding lukewarm reception to the quarterback class. The Steelers pick of Kenny Pickett at No. 20 in the first round is the latest a QB has been picked since 1997.

    The anticipation for next year's draft could see much more buzz at the league's most important position.

    Mock drafts this time of year are rarely accurate. But it's a worthwhile exercise to see who is worth keeping an eye on in the college ranks as well as what a team could look like in a year.

    The order for the draft was determined by DraftKings Sportsbook's Super Bowl odds. Slight tweaks were made to account for an even number of NFC and AFC teams making the playoffs.

1. Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

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    The Texans clearly value Davis Mills to give him a shot at being their franchise quarterback. But if they're picking No. 1 overall, it's pretty clear that it wouldn't work out.

    Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. would be a consideration here, but the opportunity to grab a potentially franchise-altering quarterback is too good to pass up.

    Stroud ticks all the boxes as a quarterback prospect. The 6'3", 215-pound QB can throw to all areas of the field; his improvement throughout the season as a redshirt freshman projects well for his ability to learn a system and develop.

    He was the catalyst of Ohio State's high-octane offense to the tune of 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing over 71 percent of his passes.

    If he can put up the same numbers while losing Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jeremy Ruckert to the NFL, he's a no-brainer to be at the top of the draft.

2. Atlanta Falcons: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

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    Desmond Ridder shouldn't be discounted as a possible solution at quarterback for the Falcons. He was the No. 1-rated quarterback on the Bleacher Report big board but fell to Atlanta in the third round.

    Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Bearcats standout, he may have just one year to make an impression. If the Falcons find themselves picking this early in the 2023 draft with both C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young set to headline the class, it will be hard for them to pass up the opportunity.

    The only knock on Young has is his less-than-ideal size at 6'0", 194 pounds. Everything else is there, though. He was dominant against the blitz and on intermediate routes, two characteristics that bode well for success in the NFL.

    His command of the offense, ability to throw to all areas of the field and use his athleticism to create throwing lanes was elite. If he can build on his first campaign as a starter, he has the opportunity to be special.

3. Detroit Lions: Edge Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

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    If this scenario plays out, then general manager Brad Holmes will be faced with a classic tough decision: take the best player available or reach for a quarterback.

    With both Stroud and Young off the board, the Lions would be reaching for any passer. Instead, the most dominant defender emphasized through winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy would be the obvious choice. No defensive player in college football had a bigger impact on games than Will Anderson Jr. this season.

    That includes the 2021 Heisman runner-up and Lions' top draft pick Aidan Hutchinson.

    Anderson was nearly impossible to block last season. He racked up 101 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. He's the kind of defender who demands offenses game-plan around him.

    The Lions could create a devastating duo by pairing him with Hutchinson.

4. Chicago Bears: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes are laying claim to being Wide Receiver U lately. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson were both top-20 picks in the draft this spring; Jaxon Smith-Njigba has an opportunity to go higher than both of them.

    Wide receiver has become a premium position. Given the trade capital teams gave up to get an elite receiver and the contracts that have been handed out to the stars at the position, seen with Tyreek Hill's four-year, $120 million contract, it's a worthwhile investment to take one this early.

    That's especially true for the Bears, who are going to need to start surrounding Justin Fields with top-level talent if they are to find out what he can do.

    Wilson and Olave had great final seasons with Ohio State, but neither led the Buckeyes in receiving. That was Smith-Njigba, who was Stroud's go-to receiver with 95 catches, 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns.

    He's a smooth route-runner with elite run-after-catch ability and a perfect complement to the deep speed of Darnell Mooney.

5. Seattle Seahawks: QB Tyler Van Dyke, Miami

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    The Seattle Seahawks are seemingly content going into the 2022 season with Drew Lock and Geno Smith battling it out to be the team's starting quarterback.

    That's a pretty good indication they have a close eye on the quarterback class of 2023.

    The battle to become the No. 3 quarterback in this class will be interesting. Will Levis, Spencer Rattler, Tanner McKee and Tyler Van Dyke are all names to keep an eye on. All have shown flashes, but they all have things to prove this season.

    In this scenario, the Seahawks prefer the immense arm talent of Van Dyke. The Hurricanes passer took over from injured D'Eriq King and never gave the job up. He has the ability to throw to all areas of the field with velocity.

    From the time he took the starting job, he led the ACC in big-time throws, per Pro Football Focus.

    His ability to drive the ball downfield successfully, with a 62.3 completion percentage, makes him an ideal quarterback for DK Metcalf who is young enough to still be in his prime if the Seahawks are able to identify and develop a franchise quarterback.

6. New York Jets: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

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    Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded coach. He rose to prominence with the San Francisco 49ers, where they had dominant defensive lines that included Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa.

    If the Jets have the opportunity to add Jalen Carter at the top of the draft, Saleh should jump at the opportunity to build an elite defensive line in New York.

    The Jets already have Quinnen Williams and drafted a first-round edge prospect in Jermaine Johnson. Carter could be the future superstar that puts them over the top.

    National Football Scouting—the organization that runs the NFL combine—handed out early rankings for the top 25 players in the 2023 draft class to NFL teams. Carter was the first name on the list, per Albert Breer of MMQB.

    The 6'3", 310-pounder led all interior defenders in PFF pass-rush grade as a sophomore. He was a standout on a defensive line that produced three first-round picks this season in Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars have already shown a pretty serious commitment to putting talent around Trevor Lawrence in Year 2 of the quarterback's rookie contract.

    They made big investments in Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Marvin Jones Jr. and Evan Engram in free agency, spending $117 million. It gives Lawrence more weaponry than he had last season, but it still doesn't give him a bona fide No. 1 receiver.

    Kirk might step into that role, but he's better off as a second option.

    That's where Kayshon Boutte could be of service. The 6'0", 205-pound receiver is physical enough to bully smaller corners and fast enough to run by bigger ones. He finds the soft spots in zones when working the intermediate areas of the field.

    The only concern with Boutte is his health at this point. He has had two surgeries to repair his ankle after only playing in six games last season.

    This projection is based on the receiver getting back on the field and not losing a step in 2022.

8. Carolina Panthers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

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    The Carolina Panthers just made a move for Baker Mayfield, but they aren't tied down to the Browns quarterback.

    After giving up a conditional fifth-round pick and paying just $5 million of his salary, the relationship between Mayfield and the Panthers could be short-lived, especially only being under contract through the 2022 season.

    If the Panthers are picking this low, it's safe to wonder if Matt Rhule will still be the coach after winning just 10 games in his first two seasons. The Panthers could be in for a reset, which would mean starting their search over in their need for a quarterback with a high-ceiling rookie.

    Levis fits that bill. The 6'3", 232-pound quarterback has ideal size and athleticism to play in the league today.

    He has things he needs to clean up. He only had three games in which he didn't throw an interception. His mobility and ability to make off-platform throws are a strength that just needs to be reined in.

    If he can show development in his second season as a starter, he will be a top-10-caliber prospect. The Panthers aren't likely to be bad enough to pick in the top three, so they should have a close eye on quarterbacks like Levis.

9. New York Giants: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

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    The New York Giants' first draft under new general manager Joe Schoen was big in beefing up the Giants roster. Kayvon Thibodeaux could wind up being the best pass-rusher, while Evan Neal is an elite tackle prospect.

    In the next one, they should be looking to add some talent on the back end.

    The Giants could be in the market to replace Daniel Jones through the draft, but in this scenario, adding a potential shutdown corner in Kelee Ringo is the move.

    The 6'2", 205-pound corner has everything NFL teams want in that position. Teams are going to love his combination of size and speed. The pick-six to seal the National Championship Game is the kind of playmaking the Giants are lacking in the secondary.

    Ringo's speed allowed him to catch as many deep targets against him as opposing receivers, per PFF.

    After parting ways with James Bradberry this offseason, Big Blue would love what he brings to the table across from Adoree' Jackson.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers are a franchise synonymous with a dominant front seven.

    The sudden retirement of 29-year-old Stephon Tuitt paired with an aging Cameron Heyward leaves them with the need to make investments up front. T.J. Watt is an elite defender, but he'll need a supporting cast to help him hunt quarterbacks in the long term.

    If Bryan Bresee falls all the way to them, the Steelers should rush his card up to the podium.

    The 6'5", 300-pound defensive lineman has been a versatile weapon in Clemson's defensive scheme. He's lined up everywhere from head-up on the center to the inside shoulder of the tackle.

    The former No. 1 recruit put up good numbers as a freshman, registering four sacks. However, a shoulder injury limited him to four games in 2021.

    Bresee needs to continue to show development as a pass-rusher to maximize his draft stock. But the talent is clearly there for him to emerge as a top-10 pick.

11. Washington Commanders: CB Eli Ricks, Alabama

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    The Washington Commanders were one of just five teams that surrendered a passer rating of higher than 100 in 2021.

    Carson Wentz might not be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he's the most talented passer Washington has had in a while, with a 62.4 completion percentage. They've also given him just about everything he needs to succeed.

    Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi are fine tackles. Terry McLaurin just signed a contract extension, while Jahan Dotson is a promising rookie.

    But the Commanders won't take the next step as a franchise without a more talented secondary.

    Eli Ricks would help with that. The 6'2", 194-pound corner made an impact with LSU as a freshman in 2020. He registered four picks and five passes defended, including two pick-sixes.

    Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ended his 2021 campaign prematurely. He has since transferred to Alabama, where Nick Saban has shown a knack for developing defensive backs.

12. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jordan Addison, USC

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    The latest contract extension for Kirk Cousins essentially guarantees that he'll be the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings through 2023.

    So while the Vikes could be in the market for a quarterback in next year's draft, it's unlikely they are bad enough to land one of the top options.

    Instead, they should make a pick that makes it a more appealing place for a quarterback to come down the line.

    In this case, that means targeting one of college football's top receivers in Jordan Addison. If you watched any Kenny Pickett clips, there's a good chance you noticed Addison. He was instrumental in the quarterback's 2021 breakout season with 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns.

    Those are reminiscent of the numbers Justin Jefferson put up in his final season at LSU (111 catches, 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns).

    That first-round pick worked out pretty well for the Vikings. Pairing him with Addison would ensure the Vikings maintain a dynamic duo at receiver as Adam Thielen continues to age.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

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    The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. At some point, they'll need to find a successor to Lane Johnson if that's going to continue.

    Johnson is still one of the best right tackles in the game, but he's 32 years old, and 2023 represents the last year on his contract when the Eagles don't have an out.

    Howie Roseman showed his propensity to plan ahead by taking Cam Jurgens in the second round of this year's draft. He's the heir apparent at center when Jason Kelce retires.

    He could make a similar play by targeting Ohio State's Paris Johnson Jr. The lineman was excellent at guard for the Buckeyes and will test himself at left tackle this season.

    His ability to play inside could come in handy as he could slide into the right guard position for his first year before going back out to tackle when Johnson decides to hang up his cleats.

14. New England Patriots: CB Noah Daniels, TCU

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    The New England Patriots proved two things with their 2022 draft: They don't care about anyone's board but their own, and they weigh athleticism heavily in their evaluations.

    Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton were not widely seen as first- and second-round picks, but the Patriots took them in those rounds after great athletic testing.

    That's why it shouldn't be surprising if they take a prospect like Noah Daniels higher than most will have him ranked.

    Daniels is one of the few players on Bruce Feldman's Freaks List for The Athletic who didn't end up declaring for the 2021 draft. The TCU cover man warranted a spot on the list with a reported 4.27-second 40-yard dash as well as a 405-pound bench press and 400-pound clean.

    He's a player that's going to dominate the combine when the time comes. The biggest question is whether he can stay healthy with a knee injury hampering his 2021 season.

    Daniels has struggled to stay on the field with various injuries, but he's been excellent when he's able to play. He's given up just 18 catches for 293 yards on 38 targets, per PFF.

    This would be a huge risk given his health, but it addresses a need the Patriots have after J.C. Jackson went to Los Angeles this offseason.

15. Miami Dolphins: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

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    Peter Skoronski took over for Rashawn Slater at left tackle for Northwestern as a freshman. Fortunately for the Wildcats, he was good enough to step right into Big Ten competition, earning second-team all-conference honors.

    Skoronski is a similar player to Slater. They both are shorter than usual for the tackle position. Skoronski is listed at 6'4", 294 pounds but, like Slater, makes up for his lack of ideal size with smooth movement and a propensity for violently engaging defenders.

    The junior brings that physicality in the run game but has the agility and coordination to expertly stay in front of pass-rushers.

    That's something the Dolphins could use. Bringing in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams were good steps toward improving an offensive line that was dreadful last season. They gave up 159 total pressures, and the ground game averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.

    Adding an elite prospect like Skoronski would help take the unit from bad to average to good in 2023.

16. Las Vegas Raiders: DL Jaquelin Roy, LSU

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    The Las Vegas Raiders have a dangerous duo of outside pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby. What they are missing is a defender who commands double-teams on the interior.

    Jaquelin Roy could be that inside presence.

    Roy has only played a part-time role at LSU to this point, but through two seasons of his career, only Arden Key and Devin White have posted higher pass-rushing grades since PFF started keeping track.

    The 6'3", 295-pounder combines a lightning-quick first step with good hand usage to challenge interior linemen.

    If Roy is going to cement his status as a first-round prospect worthy of a first-half selection, he will have to grow into a bigger role. Thus far, he's a small-sample darling, but the traits jump off the tape.

    The Raiders should be familiar with that tape. They took fellow LSU defensive lineman Neil Farrell Jr. with a fourth-round selection this year, but Roy has a much bigger upside.

17. Tennessee Titans: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

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    Mike Vrabel has created a culture with the Tennessee Titans as a tough, physical football team.

    While many teams pay lip service to the idea, the Titans have backed it up with their resources. Harold Landry III earned a five-year $87.5 million contract with his breakout 2021 campaign.

    Landry made the kind of impact the Titans were hoping to get out of Bud Dupree when they signed him to a similar contract in 2021 free agency. Instead, he only delivered three sacks in 11 games.

    The Titans have an out in his contract that would allow them to walk away from the deal and only incur $10.9 million in dead cap.

    The opportunity to draft Myles Murphy would give them the chance to exercise that option and maintain the kind of hard-nosed approach to the front seven they like.

    Murphy is an elite run defender, and his best move is a pure bull rush that he uses to beat up opposing linemen. The 6'5", 273-pound edge defender would be a great culture fit that also happens to fill a need.

18. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

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    Whether the Houston Texans decide to replace Davis Mills or not, they should still be looking to upgrade their offensive line in the 2023 draft.

    They took an interior offensive lineman with the first of three first-round picks they got from the Deshaun Watson trade in Kenyon Green. In 2023, they should be looking at the top tackle prospects.

    Laremy Tunsil is still a good left tackle, but he turns 29 in 2023 and the Texans have an out in his contract.

    Even if Tunsil is part of the long-term plan they could use an upgrade at right tackle. Tytus Howard figures to be the starter there despite ranking 72nd among 82 guards graded by PFF last season.

    Anton Harrison has proved to be one of the best tackles in the Big 12. He was a consistent presence at left tackle for the Sooners and has the length at 6'5", 309 pounds you'd like to see in an NFL tackle.

    Regardless of who is at quarterback, Harrison would make the Texans offense better.

19. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

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    The Arizona Cardinals' defensive front was dealt a major blow with the departure of Chandler Jones. The 32-year-old has been a linchpin of the Cardinals defense for most of the last six seasons, including 10.5 sacks in 2021.

    The Cardinals double-dipped in this draft with the selections of Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas in the third round. While those two could undoubtedly turn out to be good players, the team could still use a blue-chip prospect.

    Not only did the Cardinals lose Jones, but J.J. Watt and Markus Golden are both over 30 years old.

    Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah could be that player. He's the preseason defensive player of the year in the Big 12 after amassing 11 sacks and 14.5 tackles for last season.

    At 6'3", 251 pounds he has the frame to play outside linebacker. He's among the best benders in the class and showcases speed to get around even the most agile tackles in the conference.

    The Cardinals could use that kind of talent to restock their defensive front.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

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    With the future of the offensive line secured, the Eagles can pivot to the secondary with their second pick.

    Pairing James Bradberry with Darius Slay this offseason gives Philadelphia a good pair of veterans on the perimeter. The team could still stand to upgrade at safety, though.

    Antonio Johnson is a versatile defender and perfect for a modern defense. At Texas A&M he has primarily lined up in the slot as a nickel. The 6'3", 200-pound defensive back is big and physical enough to help in the run game and athletic enough to cover slot receivers, running backs and tight ends.

    The Eagles are once again going to rely on Anthony Harris, but he's 30 years old and playing on a small one-year contract.

    Johnson's versatility and athleticism would give the Eagles secondary an added dimension and a building block for the future.

21. Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

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    The Indianapolis Colts have essentially been a veteran quarterback carousel since Andrew Luck's retirement in 2018. It's about time they make an actual investment in finding a young quarterback.

    The trade for Matt Ryan essentially guarantees he will be on the roster for the next two seasons. His $35.2 million cap hit in 2023 is fully guaranteed in what will be his age-38 season.

    That essentially gives the Colts two years to find a young quarterback they believe in.

    It also guarantees if they take a quarterback in the 2023 draft, they will have a year to allow him to learn the system and how to be a pro.

    That's the kind of scenario that could be perfect for Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.

    At this point, there's a lot of projection for Richardson. He's 6'4", 235 pounds and runs the ball with force on designed runs. Essentially, he's a fullback with a cannon arm.

    He's going to have to learn how to hone those tools into being an efficient quarterback. Splitting time with Emory Jones, Richardson threw six touchdowns to five interceptions and completed just 59 percent of his passes.

    Jones transferred to Arizona State, paving the way for Richardson to take over as the starter and prove he belongs in the Round 1 conversation.

22. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Noah Sewell, Oregon

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    Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals offense gets a lot of credit for the franchise's turnaround in 2021. However, the front office has shown that it understands the value of building a strong defense as well.

    If Burrow continues his ascent, the Bengals are going to be dangerous for the foreseeable future. How good the defense is will determine the team's ceiling as they try to navigate the postseason with several explosive offenses in the AFC.

    Director of player personnel Duke Tobin showed he understands this by taking defensive backs (Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt) with the team's first two picks this year.

    Here, they continue those efforts by taking the top linebacker in the draft. The Bengals were questioned for passing on Noah Sewell's older brother Penei when they took Ja'Marr Chase.

    This time, the value of taking a Sewell would be too good to pass up. The Samoan was all over the field for the Ducks in 2021, racking up 114 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, five passes defended and an interception.

    That kind of versatility is what the Bengals need to match up with the offenses they will routinely see in the playoffs.

23. Baltimore Ravens: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

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    Theoretically, the Baltimore Ravens have one of the best cornerback duos in the league in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters.

    The 25-year-old Humphrey has earned one All-Pro nod (2019), two Pro Bowl appearances (2019 and 2020) and allowed just a 53.6 percent completion rate in 2021. Peters is a three-time All-Pro selection (2015, 2016 and 2019) and one of the best corners in the league when healthy.

    However, he is coming off a torn ACL that cost him his entire 2021 season. Peters has just one year left on his contract and will be 30 years old by the time he starts a new one.

    If the Ravens want to continue enjoying the perks of having lockdown corners, they may have to turn to the draft. Cam Smith has certainly looked like one playing for South Carolina.

    Smith has a similar build to Peters at 6'0", 185 pounds and he's similarly annoying to opposing receivers. He uses great technique to shut down opposing receivers and only gave up 184 yards across 11 games, per PFF.

24. Dallas Cowboys: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

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    Micah Parsons is on track to becoming a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. So the Cowboys know better than anyone what kind of impact an elite linebacker who can rush the passer can make.

    Now, they get the opportunity to create one of the best linebacking duos in the league for years to come.

    Trenton Simpson isn't quite the same level as Parsons, but the 6'3", 224-pound linebacker is still a weapon to be deployed in multiple roles.

    He looks comfortable in space and is often asked to drop back in coverage within Clemson's system. He also sports an incredibly quick first step and is adept at bending the edge as a blitzer, racking up six sacks last season.

    The Cowboys signed Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year, $2 million contract, meaning they aren't committed to the veteran moving forward.

    Simpson and Parsons would be bad news for opposing offenses.

25. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): Edge Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

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    In this scenario, the Seattle Seahawks grab their future quarterback with a top-10 selection. So with their additional first-rounder from the Russell Wilson trade, they should continue to beef up their roster.

    The Seahawks committed to building their team from the lines out in the 2022 draft. They took two offensive tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas who could be long-term starters while grabbing a pass-rushing specialist in Boye Mafe in the second round.

    That's a smart way to go about a rebuild, and Isaiah Foskey would only raise the ceiling of the defense as a whole.

    Like Mafe, Foskey was noted on Bruce Feldman's 2021 Freaks List for his athletic prowess. He reportedly hit 20.8 miles per hour at 6'5", 257 pounds. The defensive end lived up to the hype with 11 sacks.

    The Seahawks have two promising pass-rushers in Darrell Taylor and Mafe. Adding Foskey would give them a trio that would challenge offensive lines for years.

26. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

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    The first-round running back is an exceedingly rare bird in the NFL draft, but Bijan Robinson has a good case to be the exception in 2023.

    The 6'0", 213-pound bruiser boasts a great blend of size and speed with the size you'd want from a lead back to hold up to the rigors of an NFL schedule.

    Robinson could sit out the 2022 season and still be considered one of the top backs available. He's already shown everything you'd want to see in a running back prospect.

    Since 2020, Robinson leads the Big 12 in forced missed tackles (108) and yards after contact (1,299), per PFF. He's shown enough pass-catching chops to be a factor in both facets of the game. Through two seasons at Texas, he has caught 41 passes for 491 yards and six touchdowns.

    The Dolphins have had a hole at running back for many years now. Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel should work out well in Mike McDaniel's system. But adding Bijan Robinson to an offensive core that includes Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki would be downright explosive.

27. Los Angeles Chargers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

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    This might be a little low for Michael Mayer. The 6'4", 249-pound tight end has been an integral part of Notre Dame's passing attack and has top-15 potential.

    However, Mayer's athleticism does not jump off the page. There's no questioning his production. He put up 71 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

    The last three tight ends to go in the first round were Kyle Pitts, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. All three tested as elite athletes in the predraft process in addition to their collegiate production.

    Mayer is more of a powerful tight end who provides a big-bodied target but has less upside after the catch.

    That would make him a fine pickup for a Los Angeles Chargers offense that will continue to need targets for Justin Herbert. Gerald Everett is on a two-year deal, but the 28-year-old isn't good enough to pass up on Mayer at this point in the draft.

28. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): QB Tanner McKee, Stanford

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    Tanner McKee's statistics aren't likely to make a huge impression. Andrew Luck was one of the best quarterback prospects of the last 20 years and he still didn't put up gaudy numbers within the Stanford Cardinal offense.

    That doesn't mean McKee doesn't have a shot at getting into the first-round conversation, though.

    His ability to run the Stanford offense combined with his arm talent caught the eye of opposing coaches.

    “The quarterback is as good of a quarterback as we’ve seen, not only this year, in years past,” then-Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told reporters when preparing to play Stanford. “He is a guy who has complete control of the offense. He is quick and efficient with his reads. Tremendous arm. Accurate."

    McKee is reminiscent of fellow Stanford quarterback and current Texans quarterback Davis Mills. The 2021 second-round draftee was relatively overlooked because of his numbers at Stanford but ended up putting up better numbers than every other rookie outside of Mac Jones.

    If you re-drafted the 2021 class, Mills would go much higher. NFL teams won't make the same mistake with McKee. The Lions would be happy to snag him as the replacement for Jared Goff in this scenario.

29. Green Bay Packers: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

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    Edge-rusher will not be a pressing need for the Green Bay Packers in 2023. Then again, it wasn't a pressing need when they drafted Rashan Gary in 2019.

    Outside of the Jordan Love pick in 2020, the last 11 first-round picks for the Packers were spent on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of Quay Walker, they were all either defensive linemen, edge-rushers or defensive backs.

    Drafting for need isn't necessarily high on the priority list for the organization.

    So if a player as talented as Nolan Smith drops to them at this point, they are going to take him even if Gary and Preston Smith are still on the roster.

    At 6'3", 235 pounds, Smith is smaller than most at his position, but he's athletic enough to drop into pass coverage as a true outside linebacker and is surprisingly strong against the run despite the limitations.

    Smith only posted 3.5 sacks, but it was tough to put up eye-popping numbers among the several elite prospects the Georgia defense had last season. The Packers took two Bulldogs in the 2022 draft in Walker and Devonte Wyatt; they'd be fortunate to get a shot at another.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Blake Freeland, BYU

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    The Kansas City Chiefs have poured resources into their offensive line since watching Patrick Mahomes run for his life at Super Bowl LV.

    They made a big trade for Orlando Brown Jr., signed Joe Thuney and used a second-round pick on Creed Humphrey. That selection might have been the most valuable as Humphrey has played at an elite level and will be on his rookie contract for three more years.

    If the Chiefs are going to protect Mahomes for the foreseeable future and still be able to afford some veterans to help them contend, they will have to continue to draft offensive linemen.

    That means the eventual replacement for Lucas Niang at right tackle should be found through the draft.

    Picking up 6'8", 305-pounder Blake Freeland could be the solution. The senior has experience on both the right and left side, so if the Chiefs can't come to a long-term agreement with Brown, he would be a candidate to play on the blind side.

    More likely is the scenario in which Freeland goes back to the right. Either way, he's an elite pass-blocker. He only gave up five pressures all of last season, per PFF.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Jordan Battle, Alabama

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done a good job of balancing proven veterans with rising young players in building a Super Bowl contender during the Tom Brady era.

    For instance, when Jordan Whitehead left in free agency this year, the team didn't use the draft to try to find a replacement right away. The secondary will utilize a combination of Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal and Mike Edwards to fill out its safety rotation.

    However, with a new set of draft picks in 2023, the hole left behind by Whitehead will likely be on the shopping list.

    As Antoine Winfield Jr. gets closer to the end of his rookie contract, they would benefit to find him a running mate on the back end who won't cost much. Alabama's Jordan Battle would be a good fit who is likely to understand being on a team with high demands and expectations.

    Battle has been a starter for two years under Nick Saban and will look to push himself further up draft boards in his third.

32. Buffalo Bills: T/G Andrew Vorhees, USC

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    Life is good for the Buffalo Bills right now. Josh Allen has ascended as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, they added Von Miller to an already stacked defense, and Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder are a strong receiver corps.

    The only thing that can derail a team like that is poor offensive line play.

    The Bills ranked 20th in PFF's preseason rankings. Allen's mobility and durability allow the team a wider margin of error in this area, but if the Bengals and Chiefs have taught us anything over the last two years, it's that a weak offensive line can catch up to you eventually.

    Utilizing some draft capital on a player like Andrew Vorhees can certainly help.

    The USC protector has experience playing both guard and tackle. So if Spencer Brown figures things out at right tackle, Vorhees could become a starting guard right away or bump out to tackle if Brown doesn't develop in 2022.


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