2023 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Way-Too-Early PredictionsMay 2, 2022
2023 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Way-Too-Early Predictions
The 2022 NFL draft is old news already. The 2023 draft cycle is underway, with Bleacher Report's first projection for the next class.
As the league emerges from another hectic yet productive weekend that included 262 draft picks and hundreds of more undrafted players signed to rosters, the best evaluators already have had one eye toward next year's event in Kansas City.
Some anecdotal evidence could be seen during this year's edition, specifically with the quarterback position.
Everyone understood the incoming quarterback crop was one of the weakest in recent memory. Even those teams with significant needs didn't force their hands and draft a prospect just to take one. Ultimately, Kenny Pickett became the lowest-drafted QB1 since Jim Druckenmiller in 1997. No other quarterback heard their names called until the third round. General managers already know next year's quarterback class should be much different.
Team-building is a multi-year venture. One can't make moves in a vacuum. As such, it's important to start early on evaluations and what may come almost a full year from now.
Of note, Draft Kings' Super Bowl odds determined the current draft order. Coin flips broke any ties, and the slotting had to be adjusted slightly to fit the traditional draft set up (i.e., an even amount of teams from both conferences making the playoffs).
1. Houston Texans: Edge Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
How good is Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. to be considered the top overall prospect despite an intriguing quarterback class? Quite simply, the 20-year-old is a dominant force working off the edge and one of the most productive pass-rushers in recent memory.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner simply takes over games. Anderson led the nation last season with 17.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss. To put the last number into context, he accumulated 11.5 more tackles for loss than any other player in major college football. His 81 quarterback pressures were the most by an edge defender since 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Texans own the No. 1 overall pick, Davis Mills likely didn't develop as the organization hoped. A strong argument could and should be made in favor of a quarterback. In this instance, Anderson is too special of a talent to pass when Houston has another first-round pick to address quarterback.
2. Atlanta Falcons: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback situation today is far more interesting than it was three days ago.
General manager Terry Fontenot chose Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder in the third round of this year's draft. Ridder may have tumbled, but he graded as Bleacher Report's top quarterback prospect.
Ridder could win that job outright from Marcus Mariota and give the Falcons a glimmer of home at the game's most important position. Until that actually happens, Atlanta must operate as if they don't have a long-term solution behind center.
As such, the Falcons jump at the chance to take Ohio State's C.J. Stroud.
Stroud gets the slight nod over the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama's Bryce Young, simply because the former has a bigger frame and more upside as he continues in his development. The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is well-worth this selection after finishing top-five last season in completion percentage (71.9), passing yards (4,435), touchdown passes (44) and quarterback rating (186.6).
3. New York Jets: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
The national champion Georgia Bulldogs set a seven-round draft record this year with 15 prospects selected from one team. The most talented player on their elite defense wasn't even draft eligible.
Defensive linemen Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt all heard their names called among this year's top 28 selections, and deservedly so. Yet Jalen Carter was often the most active and disruptive option when he took the field. The 6'3", 310-pound interior defender outplayed everyone in the National Championship Game. Carter is a wrecking ball along the defensive interior, capable of consistently making plays in the backfield.
The New York Jets did an excellent job building around quarterback Zach Wilson with this year's draft class. Defensively, some work still needs to be done. Sheldon Rankins is a free agent after the 2022 campaign, and Quinnen Williams will be on the final year of his rookie deal.
4. Detroit Lions: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
The Detroit Lions made the smart play by avoiding the quarterback class this year.
General manager Brad Holmes could have made the mistake of jumping on a prospect just so the team had someone in place beyond Jared Goff. But the former No. 1 overall pick is still a viable starter, albeit a lower-tier option. The decision to avoid quarterback altogether allowed the Lions to build around the position while simultaneously drafting culture-changers.
The pieces are now in place with a strong offensive line, a dynamic lead back, a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end and improved wide receivers to plop a talented, young quarterback into the cockpit.
Bryce Young can reunite with Jameson Williams and possibly recreate last season's magic (before the wide receiver suffered a torn ACL in the National Championship Game). Young has a natural feel for the game, though his slight frame (6'0", 194 pounds) will cause concern. Still, the Heisman Trophy winner can give the Lions franchise new life.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Two Ohio State wide receivers heard their names called among the top-11 picks in this year's draft class. Jaxson Smith-Njigba outplayed and outproduced both last season.
Smith-Njigba exploded onto the scene as a sophomore with 1,606 receiving yards, including a staggering 347-yard effort in the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes.
Granted, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson certainly drew their fair share of attention, and the 20-year-old target must now enter the season as the player every single opponent will be trying to stop. Nonetheless, Smith-Njigba has the skill set to handle the burden.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Christian Kirk and Zay Jones to significant free-agent contracts. However, the depth chart is nebulous beyond that point since Marvin Jones Jr. is a free agent after this season, and Laviska Shenault Jr. has reportedly been on the trade block.
The Jaguars should give quarterback Trevor Lawrence as many weapons as possible.
6. Carolina Panthers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
The Carolina Panthers have searched for a new starting quarterback all offseason and still haven't found one. They didn't go all-in during the draft, though Matt Corral could start at some point during his rookie campaign. So, the search continues.
Kentucky's Will Levis brings arguably the class' best combination of size (6'3", 232 pounds), arm talent and functional mobility. The biggest hang-up about his status as a prospect is that he'll turn 24 before his rookie season. In this particular case, the Panthers could probably use a mature player to immediately take over the offense.
The Penn State transfer will present intriguing potential to run a huddle. After all, his previous offensive coordinator, Liam Coen, now serves in the same capacity for the Los Angeles Rams and the quarterback's new play-caller, Rich Scangarello, is a former NFL quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
7. Seattle Seahawks: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
With the top-three quarterbacks already off the board, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in a bit of a bind. Instead of forcing the situation, the franchise will continue to build in the most Pete Carroll way ever. Seattle will concentrate on building up the defense while relying on the run game to define the offense.
Defensive lineman Bryan Bresee chose to attend Clemson as the nation's No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 class. As a freshman, the 6'5", 300-pound interior defender played a part-time role but consistently flashed when he had an opportunity to play. His four sacks tied for the program's third-most ever by freshman defensive tackle, alongside William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
Unfortunately, Bresee suffered a torn ACL last season, so his recovery and development will determine how high he can go in the 2023 NFL draft. He can be a complete game-wrecker if everything comes together this fall.
8. Chicago Bears: WR Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh
The Chicago Bears own the league's worst wide receiver corps.
Aside from Darnell Mooney, opposing defenses won't have to account for any other target. General manager Ryan Poles basically eschewed the position during this year's draft, with Velus Jones Jr. being the lone addition as a third-round selection.
Considering the team's current offensive setup, an investment in the nation's best wide receiver is a logical choice. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, has yet to officially announce whether he'll transfer to USC or stay at Pitt. It doesn't matter. The NFL already has him on the radar and knows what he brings to the table.
Addison caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards as Kenny Pickett's primary target and also tied for the Divsion I lead with 17 touchdown receptions. The main concern at this point is his lean frame. Pitt lists Addison at 175 pounds, though his lack of bulk shouldn't stop him from being a top pick.
9. New York Giants: CB Eli Ricks, Alabama
The New York Giants aren't in a good financial position because of their cornerbacks. James Bradberry could be traded or even released in the coming weeks, so the organization can save anywhere from $10.1-13.5 million, depending on how and when the team unloads the veteran's contract. Meanwhile, Adoree' Jackson's salary-cap charge balloons to $19.5 million in a year.
General manager Joe Schoen hit a home run with his first draft class, particularly the selections of Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal among the initial seven picks. But the team didn't land a strong alternative to what it already features at outside corner.
Eli Ricks excelled as a true freshman in LSU's lineup. The 6'2", 195-pound defensive back even earned second-team All-SEC status after the campaign. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2021, though, then transferred to Alabama. The move should prove beneficial since Nick Saban is one of the very best at developing top-flight secondary talent.
10. Washington Commanders: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
As of now, Carson Wentz is the Washington Commanders' starting quarterback. We'll assume he stays in that position, even though he already wore out his welcome at two previous stops.
Otherwise, the Commanders can concentrate on building around Wentz. The former second overall pick loved targeting tight ends during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, which plays a factor in Notre Dame's Michael Mayer being slotted here.
Yes, Washington already has Logan Thomas on the roster. However, Thomas will be 32 next year with no remaining guaranteed money on his current deal. Furthermore, Mayer has the skill set to be used similarly to one of Wentz's former favorite targets, Zach Ertz. The 6'4", 251-pound Mayer caught 71 passes last season and showed that he could consistently create after the catch.
A lull occurred this year with no first-round tight ends taken. Mayer should change that next year.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Northwestern's Peter Skoronski will endure the same exact treatment fellow Wildcat Rashawn Slater once did.
"His arms aren't long enough to play offensive tackle. He should play guard."
Slater made those proclamations look silly upon his NFL rival. His 6'4" frame and 33-inch arms held up just fine on his way to becoming a second-team All-Pro as a rookie.
Skoronski is built similarity. Northwestern lists their left tackle at 6'4" and 294 pounds. He took over blindside duties as a true freshman when Slater opted out of the 2020 campaign and never looked back. The second-team All-Big Ten performer is a smooth mover with a pretty pass set.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, meanwhile, have Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle for the second straight season. Moore experienced his fair share of ups and downs as a fourth-round rookie. If he doesn't become a steadier presence, the Steelers must find a better option to protect new franchise quarterback Kenny Pickett.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Surprisingly, the Philadelphia Eagles didn't address their secondary during this year's draft. Instead, general manager Howie Roseman prepared for future losses along the defensive line and center with the team's top two picks, Jordan Davis and Cam Jurgens.
Building a strong middle of the field has been a successful formula in the past, but the NFL is a pass-first league with weapons all over the place. The Eagles lack size and length at cornerback opposite Darius Slay.
Georgia's Kelee Ringo can provide both as an impressively built 6'2", 205-pound defensive back. He isn't just a big, physical corner, though. Ringo is a former high school track standout who can turn and run. Everyone will have to see if he'll be as effective this fall now that the Bulldogs' defense isn't quite as loaded, but his traits portend a standout season and a future top draft pick.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
The Minnesota Vikings claim the NFL's scariest pair of edge-rushers. The previous descriptor has as a double meaning.
Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith are good enough to be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation when they're playing at their best. However, their injury histories are unsettling, with Hunter previously needing neck surgery and Smith dealing with a bad back last season.
Even if they're both fully healthy throughout the 2022 campaign, Smith turns 30 later this year, and they have a combined salary-cap hit of $22.8 million in 2023 with no guaranteed salary on the books. The Vikings can invest in a third pass rusher and eventual replacement.
Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey is an ideal system fit for Ed Donatell's defensive scheme. The 6'5", 260-pound defender is long and athletic. He can play from a two- or three-point stance and drop into space. Foskey developed nicely and posted 11 sacks last season, and he should be even better this fall.
14. New England Patriots: LB Noah Sewell, Oregon
Stranger things have happened than the New England Patriots drafting a linebacker in the first round. The organization selected a linebacker in the opening frame twice with Bill Belichick leading the way, even though the position tends to be devalued as the game evolves. Jerod Mayo became the first in 2008.
Mayo is now the Patriots inside linebackers coach. Who better to teach another elite off-ball linebacker in Oregon's Noah Sewell?
Sewell fits a Belichick linebacker to a T. He's a 6'3", 251-pound defender with ultra-aggressive tendencies, versatility and athleticism. Sewell became the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2020. He followed up that effort by accumulating 114 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on his way to being named a first-team All-Pac-12 performer.
Aside from Ja'Whaun Bentley, the Patriots have just a bunch of pieces at linebacker. Sewell can be a defensive centerpiece.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
A collective gasp could be heard when the Las Vegas Raiders chose not to pick up the fifth-year options for all three of their first-round picks from the 2019 draft class. The move signals a failure of epic proportions, at least from an organizational standpoint.
Safety Johnathan Abram is counted among those who didn't earn the extra year. Abram has been a sparkplug and strong run defender, but he has struggled mightily in coverage. With general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels coming from the New England Patriots, they're likely to put a much greater emphasis on the safety position.
Texas A&M's Antonio Johnson brings an intriguing blend of size (6'3", 200 pounds) and skill set. The junior became a full-time starter last season and thrived when asked to cover the slot and play downhill. He and Trevon Moehrig would pair well and give the Raiders the flexibility they will likely seek at the position.
16. Miami Dolphins: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Two arguments will be made why the Miami Dolphins shouldn't take Texas running back Bijan Robinson this early in the draft.
An evergreen argument about not drafting any running back in the first round will enter the chat, of course. A second discourse will center on the system producing great numbers in the run game without the need for a three-down back.
While both points hold weight, this particular situation gives the Dolphins a little more leeway. First, they have no one at note at the position. Second, the team owns a pair of first-round picks. Most importantly, Robinson is a special talent. The 20-year-old isn't just a running back; he can be an offensive weapon if utilized correctly.
Last season, the underclassman simultaneously led the nation's running backs in the highest rate of missed tackles forced and highest passer rating when targeted as a receiver, according to Pro Football Focus. Head coach/offensive guru Mike McDaniel can do a lot of thing things with that type of talent.
17. Tennessee Titans: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
The Tennessee Titans drafted Nicholas Petit-Frere in this year's third round as the possible long-term solution at left tackle and should be developed as Taylor Lewan's potential replacement. Lewan turns 31 later this year, his salary-cap charge is $14.8 million next year with no guaranteed money left on the deal, and the veteran hasn't played particularly well as of late.
The Titans can bring in Petit-Frere's collegiate teammate, Ohio State's Dawand Jones, and have a plan to address both tackle spots.
Jones is a massive road-grader (6'8", 360 pounds) at right tackle. He'll need to clean up his pass protection to firmly establish himself as a first-round talent, but just being marginal in this area is good enough since pass-rushers are forced to circumnavigate his expansive wingspan.
If improvement in Jones' game does occur, the Titans could have a solution for both offensive tackles.
18. Baltimore Ravens: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Quarterback Lamar Jackson didn't seem too thrilled about the Baltimore Ravens trading Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals and then adding nothing to his current crop of wide receivers.
To be fair, the Ravens still have last year's first-round pick, Rashod Bateman, on the roster. Also, the team's tight end-centric offense added Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely.
Still, the Ravens receivers aren't dynamic. They can be with an addition like LSU's Kayshon Boutte.
A season-ending ankle injury derailed Boutte's 2021 campaign. The 6'0", 205-pound Boutte still managed nine touchdown receptions in only six games. Going into last season, the LSU receiver led all returning Power Five receivers with an average of 7.6 yards after the catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle.
A healthy season could very well place Boutte in the same conversation as Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison—both of whom are top-10 picks in this projection.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman believes strongly in building through the trenches, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
This offseason, the Eagles already signed Haason Reddick to boost the pass rush and drafted the gargantuan Jordan Davis with the team's first selection. Some change is expected after this season since Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are entering the last years of their current deals.
Graham has been a stalwart, but he's 34. With a second first-round pick, Roseman can reinvest in his defensive front and add another premium talent to play alongside Reddick, Josh Sweat and possibly Derek Barnett, who can be released after this season and the team saves $7 million.
Clemson's Myles Murphy is a better run defender than pure edge-rusher at this point. The 6'5", 275-pound defender accumulated 25 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. If Murphy continues to build on his progression against as a pass-rusher, he could develop into one of the class' elite prospects.
20. Arizona Cardinals: OT Andrew Vorhees, USC
The spotlight on USC Trojans football will be blindingly bright this fall after the university (and its boosters) lured Lincoln Riley and possibly wide receiver Jordan Addison to the Golden State.
The extra attention should help quality players, like left tackle Andrew Vorhees, get more attention.
Vorhees originally started at left guard before bumping out to blindside duties during the last four games of the 2021 campaign. The 6'6", 325-pound upperclassman excelled playing on an island and will now get the chance to put a full season together at left tackle and solidify himself as a top prospect.
For the Arizona Cardinals, Vorhees' experience working inside or outside is extremely beneficial since left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Justin Pugh are scheduled to be free agents after this season. One way or the other, Vorhees can help protect quarterback Kyler Murray.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
The Indianapolis Colts slowly went about their business this offseason and checked off box after box when it came to potential problem areas.
The trade for Yannick Ngakoue served as the starting point. The Colts knew they had to improve upon last year's 32 sacks, which tied for ninth-worst in the league. Plus, the wide-9 is an important position in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's scheme as he takes over for Matt Eberflus. Obviously, Ngakoue knows the system and Bradley after the two previously worked together with the Las Vegas Raiders.
But Ngakou is a free agent after this year, and even if he re-signs, another talented pass-rusher is never a bad thing.
Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah experienced a breakout season as a sophomore. The 6'4", 253-pound underclassman managed 11 sacks (with two more reversed by the NCAA) and tied for first in the country with six forced fumbles. He has the perfect build and play-style to fit right into the Colts' new defensive scheme.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: DL Gervon Dexter, Florida
This year's Cincinnati Bengals draft class provided a glimpse into two areas of the organization's thinking.
First, the Bengals aren't going to be in the same position they were last season when Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp easily sliced and diced the team's secondary during the Super Bowl—hence three draft picks to address the back line.
Second, director of player personnel Duke Tobin approached this year's event with a long-term plan since Jessie Bates III, Vonn Bell and Eli Apple are free agents after this season.
The same plan of attack can be taken in next year's draft when D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou are scheduled to be free agents after the '23 campaign.
Florida's Gervon Dexter is a 6'6", 313-pound defensive tackle with three-down potential. The former 5-star recruit has the length and quickness to affect both opposing run and passing games. He's already an adept pass-rusher, particularly when working over the center.
23. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): QB Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
With the first overall pick, the Houston Texans chose the class' best overall player in Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. They won't pass on a quarterback prospect for a second time.
The selection of Miami's Tyler Van Dyke is a bit of a projection. The third-year sophomore won the ACC Rookie of the Year award in 2021 after not opening the season as the Hurricanes' starting quarterback. An injury to D'Eriq King led to Van Dyke's ascension up the depth chart, and the underclassman took full advantage with 2,931 passing yards and a 25-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 10 games.
Once Miami hit the meat of its ACC schedule, Van Dyke performed particularly well by averaging 365.7 passing yards per game, including 426 yards in a shootout victory over the Pitt Panthers and this year's QB1, Kenny Pickett. Miami won five of their last six contests.
A full season as a starter with continued production at the previous levels will cause Van Dyke's draft stock to skyrocket.
24. Dallas Cowboys: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
South Carolina's Cam Smith was one of the nation's best outside corners in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash, Smith allowed only 15 catches. The 6'0", 185-pound defensive back, meanwhile, broke up 11 passes and snagged three interceptions.
The Gamecocks experimented with Smith playing nickel during spring practice, and he thrived in the role.
"Cam has a great personality. I think sometimes Cam got bored out there on the outside. Now he's in the slot at nickel and in the action every single play," head coach Shane Beamer told reporters. "There's a reason he was named the most outstanding player of the spring tonight by our staff along with Zacch Pickens. That's the kind of spring he had."
The Dallas Cowboys should be in the market for a top corner prospect since Anthony Brown and C.J. Goodwin are free agents after this season.
25. Los Angeles Chargers: S Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame
The Los Angeles Chargers may be forced to make a decision next offseason. Both Derwin James and Nasir Adderley are free agents after this year. The Chargers will likely give James a big contract extension. They may not for Adderley. With that thought in mind, safety jumps to the forefront.
What both bring the field is a special type of versatility. Notre Dame's Brandon Joseph claims the same.
Coincidentally, the Northwestern transfer replaces Kyle Hamilton, who was often compared to James during the predraft process, in the Fighting Irish lineup. It certainly isn't a step down since the 2020 unanimous first-team All-American can play single-high safety, cover the slot or play down in the box.
Alongside James, Joseph can be a ball-hawking running mate who will allow the Chargers defensive staff and head coach Brandon Staley to remain creative with their coverage calls.
26. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
DK Metcalf is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Raise your hand if you believe he'll want to stay with the Seattle Seahawks after Russell Wilson's departure and no real starting quarterback on the roster.
Anyone? Anyone at all?
The Seahawks could place the franchise tag on the star wide receiver. At that point, the team could trade him like so many other elite targets this offseason or he could walk a year later. Either way, the Seahawks better cover their bases.
Oklahoma's Marvin Mims is the exact opposite of Metcalf physically. The 5'11", 177-pound target is a downfield weapon, though. Mims averaged 19.1 yards per catch through his first two seasons. At 22.0 yards per reception last year, the 2020 second-team All-Big 12 performer ranked second among wide receivers with 30 or more catches.
More of a featured role this fall should allow Mims to pop big numbers.
27. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): IOL Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame
The Miami Dolphins invested plenty into the offensive line during Brian Flores' time with the organization. Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg can still be starters. But Austin Jackson has been a first-round failure and Solomon Kindley isn't in the conversation anymore.
On top of those issues, center has never been adequately addressed. Notre Dame's Jarrett Patterson solves the problem.
Once upon a time, Alex Mack flourished in Kyle Shanahan's system with the Cleveland Browns. Mack followed Shanahan to the Atlanta Falcons and then the San Francisco 49ers. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is a Shanahan protege and looking for his version of Mack.
Patterson is similarly built (6'4", 307 pounds), a team captain and experienced making calls at the line of scrimmage with 34 career starts before he even begins his final season on campus. He can be the spearhead the system requires at center.
28. Green Bay Packers: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina
The idea of a first-round wide receiver may be anathema to Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, but the organization may lose Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard in one fell swoop since all three are free agents after this year.
Plenty will be expected of Christian Watson after the team traded up in the second round for his services. Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure might turn out to be good players. Right now, they're nothing more than Day 3 draft picks.
North Carolina's Josh Downs was one of six FBS wide receivers with 100 or more catches last season. Four of those are now signed to NFL contracts (or will be shortly). The sixth is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner (Jordan Addison). Downs may not be a bigger target like the Packers prefer, but his ability to work in space and create after the catch should be a welcome addition alongside Watson.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
Paris Johnson Jr. joined the Ohio State Buckeyes as a 5-star recruit and the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle prospect in the 2020 class. He's played guard early in his career, though. He'll make the transition back to left tackle this fall.
"We recruited him as a tackle," Ohio State head coach Ryan Day told reporters. "We also felt like he was a tackle, but to his credit, he wanted to get on the field last year. And [he] really learned a lot playing last year at guard. Just pad level, understanding calls, it's really going to pay dividends for him down the road."
A year at left tackle should provide Johnson with an opportunity to establish himself as a first-round talent.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, they don't have a long-term contract with current left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and Lucas Niang remains a question mark on the other side.
30. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
The Detroit Lions selected defensive prospects with a certain mentality during the 2022 draft. Dare we say those who will bite kneecaps?
All joking aside, Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal are culture-changers. They were leaders within their locker rooms and great on-field examples of how to play the game.
Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., meanwhile, brings a certain level of toughness and skill worthy of his name. Porter is a 6'2", 196-pounder defensive back who has been taught the right way to play football by his All-Pro father. The younger Porter will stick his nose into the action and won't concede a single inch.
Cornerback could be a serious issue in Detroit after this season, because Amani Oruwariye and Mike Hughes are free agents. Also, no one knows exactly what to expect with Jeff Okudah after a disastrous rookie campaign and last year's season-ending torn Achilles tendon.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Jordan Battle, Alabama
At this point, everyone should just assume that Tom Brady plans to play forever and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't need to worry about a quarterback anytime soon.
With quarterback off the books (for now), the Bucs can turn their attention to the defense where, surprisingly, the team didn't address safety in this year's draft.
Jordan Whitehead signed a free-agent deal with the New York Jets this offseason, and the Bucs didn't adequately replace him.
Alabama's Jordan Battle is...um...battle-tested from his two years as a starter in Nick Saban's defense. Even as a true freshman in 2019, the 2021 first-team All-SEC performer played in all 13 games with four starts. Considering how much pressure Saban places on his secondary and the standard of which its held, Battle's long-term contributions say a lot about him as a player and how he can contribute in the NFL.
32. Buffalo Bills: IOL T.J. Bass, Oregon
Early in Josh Allen's career, the Buffalo Bills made sure to throw numbers at the offensive line in attempt to improve upon one of the league's worst units. It worked to some degree. But the team has reached the point where some changeover will likely occur.
Rodger Saffold and Cody Ford aren't under contract beyond this season. If the Bills are selecting at the end of the first round, things went very well for the franchise. But general manager Brandon Beane can't overlook the emphasis on properly protecting Allen.
Oregon's T.J. Bass is a mauler who's going to displace defenders all game. He plays with a wide base and good pad level with the strength to obliterate those across from him. The Ducks have the 6'5", 318-pound blocker playing left tackle, though. He's a natural guard after starting his career along the interior.