2023 NFL MOCK DRAFT – Round 1

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sport Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

April 27, 2023

This year’s NFL draft will take place outside of the Union Station Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, home of the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The draft is set to be one full of excitement with many rumors of draft day trade scenarios regarding QB’s and key contention pieces. As usual, teams toward the top of the draft tend to have glaring needs that must be addressed quickly if they hope to be in playoff contention in the coming year. With this Round 1 Mock Draft, I will be showing who I think each team should draft at their respective slots and why they should do so. Below are all 31 of my mock picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.

Teams Without a Pick:

  • Dolphins (Lose first round pick for Tua Tagovailoa malpractice concussion protocol violation)
  • Browns (DeShaun Watson trade)
  • Broncos (Russell Wilson trade)
  • 49’ers (Trey Lance trade)
  • Rams (Matthew Stafford trade)

1st Round Mock

(I won’t include any draft trade predictions)

  1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago)
  • QB Bryce Young (University of Alabama)

After letting Baker Mayfield go to the Rams and Darnold to the 49’ers, the Panthers are no doubt going with a QB with their newly acquired first overall pick. This pick was acquired via a trade with the Bears where Carolina gave Chicago their top WR DJ Moore, their 9th OVL pick, their 61st OVL pick, a 2024 1st round pick, and a 2025 2nd round pick.  It’s safe to say that giving up this much draft capital is surely for a new franchise QB. This pick is ultimately between Bryce Young and C.J Stroud. I ultimately went with Young because despite his shorter stature, he has more running ability and a more accurate arm. The Panthers are slowly building something in Carolina with this pick and newly acquired RB Miles Sanders, especially since they play in the worst division in the NFL, the NFC South.

2. Houston Texans

  • QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)

At the #2 pick I have the Texans picking who I think is a slightly less talented QB than Young in Ohio State’s C.J Stroud. Although the Texans recently drafted Davis Mills out of Stanford, he is clearly not the answer as he has posted just a 33.1 QBR in his 2 years in the league which ranks 29th among NFL QB’s and a 32:26 TD/INT ratio which ranks just 25th. Although Mills may be a solid backup his .178 win percentage will not get it done as a starter. Stroud will be an instant upgrade in his arm strength and running ability. Although his accuracy and turnover ratio isn’t as strong as Young’s, Stroud posted insane passing yard and touchdown numbers at Ohio State that should transfer nicely into the NFL.

3. Arizona Cardinals

  • DE Will Anderson Jr. (ALA)

The Cardinals need some major help on both sides of the line of scrimmage but with D.J Humphries resigning at LT and the fact that they play the 49ers, Seahawks, and Rams offenses twice a year, they may lean toward this year’s consensus top defensive talent, Will Anderson Jr. Anderson will more than make up for the retirement of J.J Watt as he is an agile and versatile defensive end who can play linebacker as well. Anderson will provide the Arizona defensive line with an instant improvement on the tackling and playmaking front.

4. Indianapolis Colts

  • QB Anthony Richardson (University of Florida)

The Colts also need a franchise QB as they have essentially been in a QB carousel ever since former #1 overall pick Andrew Luck retired. Indianapolis was one of the more disappointing teams last year as Johnathon Taylor had an egregiously bad year compared to 2022 and the once top-notch defense struggled. They again got swept by Jacksonville, who actually came away with the division title and a playoff win, something the Colts haven’t done since Peyton Manning played for them. Anthony Richardson should fix at least one of these issues as he has risen up scouts’ ranks with an impressive pro and scout day and has had two great last seasons playing for Florida. He is one of the biggest QB’s in terms of size in this draft at 6’4, 230 and has arguably the best arm accuracy of anyone on the board. The Colts would love to get him at #4.

5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)

  • NT Jalen Carter (University of Georgia)

Surprisingly, it looks like the Seahawks have won the Russell Wilson trade so far. Not only has Wilson been better at coming up with catchphrases than playing football for Denver, but the Seahawks have re-ignited Geno Smith, gained an offensive weapon in TE Noah Fant and now have a top 5 pick in this year’s draft. This pick in my opinion is the easiest for me to predict in the draft as the Seahawks will likely go for a defensive lineman. Tyree Wilson and Jalen Carter are who I believe Seattle have their eyes on with this pick and while their EDGE rush has been brutal in recent years, with the departure of nose tackle Al Woods to free agency, Seattle has only one defensive tackle on their entire roster, Bryan Mone. For this reason, I think they will pick the highly talented Nose Tackle out of Georgia, Jalen Carter. Carter is a quick swim-move type D lineman who should be able to come in and start immediately for the struggling Seattle defensive front. Despite his insane strength and talent, Seattle needs to keep an eye out for his character issues as he has been suspended multiple times in his college career.

6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams)

  • DE Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)

The Detroit Lions were one of the biggest surprises from the 2022 NFL season, turning their “Hard Knocks” offseason buzz and ridicule by the media toward their unfiltered coach Dan Campbell into a successful season. The Lions barely missed the playoffs after a 1-6 start, finishing 2nd in the NFC North, and a half game back from the 7 seed, behind the aforementioned Seahawks. While Goff and the offense scored at ease, the defense (aside from Hutchinson, Rodriguez, and Walker) severely struggled. Detroit solved the Safety issue by bringing pro bowler CJ Gardner-Johnson in from Philly but still have glaring holes at Corner as well as on the edge and interior of the D-Line. Although Carter would be a better fit than Wilson in Detroit as his body-slamming antics against LSU definitely fit the “bite their knee cap” mentality of Dan Campbell, his suspension issues would be a major problem as Detroit already has 4 players suspended this season for gambling violations. With Seattle likely taking Carter a pick earlier, the Lions will settle for Wilson who will give them a ferocious defensive end duo with last year’s 2nd overall pick, Aidan Hutchinson. Wilson is 6’6, 275, giving the Lions much needed length on their EDGE rush. Wilson also created 50 QB pressures this season which is exceptional college production that should translate quickly into the next level. With many quality NT prospects this season the Lions should have no trouble finding one to add depth in the later rounds while stealing one of the top edge rushers in the draft here at #6.

7. Las Vegas Raiders

  • CB Devon Witherspoon (University of Illinois)

While some are predicting Vegas pick Levis or Richardson with the 7th selection to fulfil a long term QB need, I think the more obvious and more immediate glaring need is anywhere on defense, especially at CB. Bringing in veteran Jimmy Garoppolo from SF will do more than suffice at QB as Jimmy G has proven he’s a winner. Despite having phenomenal weapons at San Francisco, he hasn’t had anything like the combo of Josh Jacobs and DaVante Adams, which makes me think the Raiders will be just fine on offense. Because they have to play Mahomes, Herbert and Wilson 6 times in a season, CB should be where they focus. Getting Witherspoon or Gonzales makes sense here at 7. Ultimately I went with Witherspoon out of Illinois because I feel like he is more proven with the Big 10 competition going up against guys like Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr, and Ronnie Bell, but honestly, it could be a toss up between those two CB’s. As a side note, the Raiders have an early second round pick at 38th that they could potentially use to get Hendon Hooker for a long-term QB solution.

8. Atlanta Falcons

  • DE Lukas Van Ness (University of Iowa)

Atlanta is unlikely to take a QB here with Ridder only playing for one season. This was one of the toughest picks for me to make because they have needs in a lot of other areas including interior O-Lineman and D-Lineman, their WR depth is low after last year’s 8th OVL pick Drake London, and their RB room lacks depth. However, I ultimately went with Lukas Van Ness, a Defensive End because their pass rush was one of the worst in the league last season. Van Ness should be an impact player with his pass and rush defensive abilities, especially in one of the weakest QB leagues that includes Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield, and likely the #1 OVL pick as the other three starters. Although I don’t think this is the right pick here, I could also see Atlanta selecting RB Bijan Robinson here at 8 just because he is such a highly talented prospect.

9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina)

  • LT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)

As previously stated, the Bears got a ton of picks as well as D.J Moore from the Panthers for the #1 pick which they surely were not using on a QB with Justin Fields as an emerging star. Because of this, the Bears have landed the 9th pick in the first round which they will most likely use to help protect Justin Fields. The best LT in the draft is close for me between Skoronski, Wright, and Johnson Jr., but I ultimately went with Skoronski out of Northwestern. Like his former teammate, Chargers LT Rashawn Slater, Skoronski is a big but agile tackle who should become a quality starter. The NFC North is one of the worst pass rushing divisions, so adding a good blocker like Skoronski should increase Fields’ ability to get out of the pocket even more in the future.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans)

  • DE Myles Murphy (Clemson)

As the reigning NFC Champs, the Eagles have very few weaknesses. After signing Rashaad Penny and having Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott as quality backup RB’s, I don’t think the Eagles will pick Bijan Robinson this early in the draft, despite being one of only two teams to offer him an official visit. Their D-Line depth is the more pressing issue in my opinion. In terms of their D Line, Fletcher Cox is the only NT who has started in the NFL consistently on Philly’s roster with the highly talented Javon Hargrave gone to San Francisco. They do have an emerging prospect in last year’s first overall, NT Jordan Davis, but they still lack a proven starter on the edge opposite Brandon Graham. Myles Murphy will meet this need as he, along with fellow draft prospect Bryan Breese, anchored one of the best D Lines in the country in terms of rush defense last season at Clemson. At 6’5, Murphy will give the Eagles additional size on their D line that should pair well with the aging pro bowlers Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. Murphy will be able to play as an edge rusher and rotate in at NT to give Fletcher Cox some rest. This addition could be huge to help improve what was already one of the best D Line units in the country last season.

11. Tennessee Titans

  • LT Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State)

The Titans are one of the teams many predict could trade up in the draft to possibly get a QB like Anthony Richardson. If I was to do pre-draft trade predictions, I could see Tennessee trading with Arizona to get their preferred QB. However, although QB Malik Willis didn’t play all that well last season for Tennessee he is only going into his second year. If the Titans don’t trade up to take Richardson, I think they will wait for next year’s stacked draft class and instead draft a LT to help bolster what was arguably the NFL’s worst O Line unit last season. Paris Johnson Jr. would fit perfectly in Vrabel’s run heavy offense as he is a swing tackle who can play either guard position as well in order to maximize Derrick Henry’s talent.

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland)

  • WR Quentin Johnson (Texas Christian University)

Houston’s weak WR room will almost certainly be addressed with their 12th selection via the DeShaun Watson trade. The question will be which WR will they choose as the first to come off the draft board. For me, it depends on who they take 2nd OVL, assuming they take a QB. If they end up taking Young, I could see them getting Stroud’s teammate, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba is the fastest WR in this class and would fit well with Young’s rollout/PA bootleg style of football that he plays. This is because Smith Njigba is gifted at improvising routes after a scramble breakdown, something I think Young does considerably better than Stroud. If they pick Stroud, as I predict, I think Quentin Johnson from TCU is the way to go. Like former Texan, DeAndre Hopkins, Johnson has the ability to catch any ball thrown at the high point in his catch radius. Johnson’s height and sure hands make him a perfect fit for Stroud who currently lacks elite NFL accuracy. Although Smith-Njigba is Stroud’s former teammate and probably a more talented receiver than Johnson, I think Johnson is overall a better fit for the Texans’ situation should they get Stroud at #2.

13. Green Bay Packers (from NYJ)

  • TE Dalton Kincaid (University of Utah)

The blockbuster Aaron Rodgers trade finally allows the Packers to start the Jordan Love era. Unfortunately for Love, the Lions and Vikings are surging and the Packers offensive skill weapons are not what they once were. Adams and Tonyan are gone and after the pick swap with New York, Green Bay should either take an O-Lineman developmental prospect or take a skill player for Love here at 13. Although a Watson, Dobbs, Toure trio isn’t the best WR core out there at the moment, I think TE is where Green Bay goes here as their current starter is Josiah Deguarra, a 4th year player who has just 2 career touchdowns. Dalton Kincaid is in my opinion by far the best receiving Tight End in this draft class as he was Utah’s top receiver last season. Kincaid is both an excellent route runner and blocker who can help Green Bay’s offense from day one.

14. New England Patriots

  • CB Christian Gonzalez (University of Oregon)

The Patriots had one of the best overall defenses, surprisingly, in 2022 with their linebacking duo of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche sending QBs out of the pocket on a regular basis. However, since Stephon Gilmore’s departure to Indianapolis their CB position has been very weak. Jabrill Peppers fills in at RCB when he doesn’t play FS for New England, but even then he is more of a pass rusher, which doesn’t really help New England with one-on-one coverage. Christian Gonzales of Oregon is arguably the #1 CB of the draft so it is a no-brainer to me that New England pick either Witherspoon or Gonzalez with this #14 pick.

15. New York Jets (from Green Bay)

  • LT Darnell Wright (University of Tennessee)

After landing Rodgers from Green Bay and remarkably still attaining a first round pick in this year’s draft, the Jets would happily take an O Lineman here to protect their new face of the franchise. Darnell Wright is a perfect fit here in New York as he is the biggest O lineman projected to go into the first round at 6’5 335, and will have to go up against top notch D Lineman every time he plays an AFC East defense, including the aforementioned Patriots’ linebacking duo, the Bills’ Gregory Rousseau, and Miami’s Bradley Chubb. Wright is in the top tier of O lineman in this year’s draft and just because he is third on that list doesn’t make him any less valuable to New York.

16. Washington Commanders

  • S Brian Branch (University of Alabama)

Washington has, in my opinion, the most interesting pick in this year’s draft because if Vegas and Atlanta pass on QBs then the 4th QB will still be available at Washington’s pick. Will Levis would be a very intriguing prospect with elite arm strength for Washington but I think Washington will pass as they have stated that they have faith in their second year starter out of UNC, Sam Howell. Head coach Ron Rivera told his new Offensive Coordinator, Eric Bienemy, after he was hired that Washington would be “set to roll with second-year QB Sam Howell under center in 2023.” Additionally, because of Washington’s talented offensive skill players and dominant front 7 on their defense, there is speculation that the front office in Washington feels like they are a playoff contender and could eventually try to get a veteran QB via trade. With QB off the table, I believe Washington should turn to their secondary, specifically safety, which struggled mightily as a position group last season. Brian Branch is the consensus best safety of the draft as he is versatile enough to play cornerback, has great route reading ability, and intercepts/pass deflects at a high rate.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • RT Broderick Jones (University of Georgia)

Although I could totally see the Steelers going the defensive back route with this pick due to the underwhelming production Akhello Witherspoon has had over the past few seasons, the addition of veteran Patrick Peterson from Minnesota and Minkah Fitzpatrick’s consistent success creates an overall average to above-average secondary. The Steelers have struggled the most in recent years is protecting the QB with their O-Line, especially from the tackle positions. Ever since Alejandro Villanueva retired, the Steelers have failed to find a left tackle capable of reaching a pro bowl caliber level. With both LT Dan Moore Jr and RT Chukwuma Okorafor now in their 4th and 5th seasons and still underperforming, I think Pittsburgh will take whomever is the best O Line prospect remaining on the board, in this case Broderick Jones. Jones is the second of three Georgia players I have going in the first round and he was a huge reason behind their enormous success these past two seasons. Despite being a sophomore, Jones’ draft stock rose enormously after having a great second season, not only a single sack against the pass rush all season. He may fall this late in the first round of the draft because he is still just 20 years old, but Jones’ talent, ability to play both tackle positions, and raw strength is undeniable and would be too much for Pittsburgh’s struggling O Line to pass up on.

18. Detroit Lions

  • CB Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)

After addressing their biggest need at NT with Jalen Carter, the Lions will most likely either go with a big-bodied WR to go along with the smaller Amon Ra St Brown and Jameson Williams or go with a CB after trading former 3rd overall pick Jeff Okudah to Atlanta in the offseason. If Houston were to pick Smith-Njigba at 12 instead of Johnson, I would have Detroit picking Johnson as he fits what they need for their #3 WR. However, with Houston taking the TCU star, I have Detroit taking Joey Porter Jr out of Penn State. Although there is a clear drop-off in production and speed from the top 2 CBs (Witherspoon and Gonzales) and the rest of the CBs taken in this first round mock, like Witherspoon, Porter Jr. has proven his value against some of the best teams in the country out of the BIG 10 whereas SEC CB Cam Smith and BIG 10 CB Deonte Banks didn’t fare as well against top ranked opponents like Alabama and Michigan. Porter Jr. has elite speed and allowed just 143 reception yards in his 10 games in 2022.  He should be an immediate starter ahead of current starting CB Chase Lucas and will make the Lions secondary pretty scary on the right side with the addition of  C.J Gardner-Johnson from Philly.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Will Levis (University of Kentucky)

With Tennessee passing on a QB earlier in this mock, this leaves the door open for Tampa Bay to take the 4th QB off the board in Kentucky’s Will Levis. Although Tampa just signed Baker Mayfield and lacks O-Line depth, 4 of the top O-Lineman are already off the board and the QB position currently only consists of Mayfield and Kyle Trask. While Trask hasn’t had an opportunity to play, he doesn’t have the raw talent or prospective upside that Levis brings to the table. Why this pick also makes sense is that Levis is a developmental type of QB, like Malik Willis and Trey Lance, who likely will need a year or two under his belt to work on his accuracy. This means Tampa can keep Mayfield under contract while developing Levis’ skills to become their new franchise QB of the future in a division that is near the bottom of the NFL. Levis overall has incredible arm strength and for that reason, the Texans have offered him an official visit for their #2 spot so if he falls to 19, it would be a great situation for the Bucs. What this pick will likely depend on is if the Tennessee Titans are willing to wait until next year’s draft class to pick a QB and stick with second year QB Malik Willis much like Washington will be doing with Sam Howell. If the Titans pick Levis 11th I would expect Tampa to go after either a CB or an interior offensive lineman.

20. Seattle Seahawks

  • LG O’Cyrus Torrence (University of Florida)

With Tampa selecting a QB and not an IOL, Torrence becomes the first interior O-Lineman drafted and he will become a Seahawk. The 6’5 350 pound guard is a perfect fit to help what might be the NFL’s worst Offensive Line outside of Tennessee. The Seahawks started two rookie offensive tackles last season in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas. Although they both performed reasonably well, the offensive line as a whole still gave up the 10th most sacks in the league at 46 and the most sacks in the red zone in the entire NFL. These numbers had less to do with the inexperience of their two rookie tackles however, and more to do with their two guards, Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes, who consistently let Geno Smith get under pressure going up against pro bowl interior defensive lineman in their division like Aaron Donald and Arik Armstead. Because Seattle picked up Evan Brown from Detroit, Torrence would fit in nicely on the LG position, giving Seattle a young but much more quality Offensive Line heading into next season.

21. Los Angeles Chargers

  • NT Bryan Breese (Clemson)

Miles Murphy’s partner in crime at Clemson, Bryan Breese was an absolute star in his own right. Although Breese is over 300 pounds, he is extremely agile and his bench and deadlift numbers at the combine and pro days have drawn comparisons to the likes of the projections that Aaron Donald and Bradley Chubb had going into their respective drafts. While the Chargers are an extremely talented team they have weaknesses in running back depth and on their entirety of the defensive line besides Joey Bosa. Although Austin Ekeler has stated he wants a trade I don’t expect Los Angeles to take Bijan Robinson here as their D-Line has been decimated both by injuries that have exposed their depth and by the release of NT Breiden Fehoko to the Steelers. While Fehoko isn’t necessarily a household name he brought a mental toughness and a sense of physicality to the Chargers that they severely lack with his absence. While Breese may not become a pro bowler anytime soon he will round out this D-Line and help the Chargers attack the star QBs of their loaded AFC West division.

22. Baltimore Ravens

  • WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)

This pick will likely go one of two ways: the Ravens will either pick a CB to replace Marcus Peters or get the WR 1 of the future for Lamar Jackson. Considering they have Marlon Humphrey as one of their CBs and two above average safeties I think the Ravens go with the latter of the two options. Baltimore signed OBJ in the offseason and is currently in contract negotiations with veteran WR DeAndre Hopkins, but even with both of these options they still need someone that Lamar Jackson can turn to as a true number one option for the long term, especially if they want to keep Lamar in Baltimore. Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be just the guy the Ravens would want to acquire as this “true number one” as he is both the fastest deep threat WR in the draft class and has some of the best hands of any WR in the draft class. This would be a dream come true for Baltimore if J.S.N doesn’t get picked by Houston because he has been the most highly graded WR by scouts in this draft class and one of the highest graded WR prospects in the last 5 years, drawing comparisons to Jaylen Waddle, JaMarr Chase, and Justin Jefferson. He would be just the type of WR Baltimore would need to push their offense to the next level in a close race in the AFC North.

23. Minnesota Vikings

  • WR Jordan Addison (University of Southern California)

Minnesota has essentially the same situation as Baltimore (above) in terms of which positions they should be targeting in this year’s draft with CB and WR. Despite having needs on every level of the defense, the CB position is by far the weakest in Minnesota as Mike Hughes (who is now with Atlanta) got traded to Detroit last season. Although I think Minnesota should address this need and there are CBs still available like Deonte Banks or Cam Smith, because of their recent draft history of passing on defensive players until later rounds I think they will address their need at WR (like Baltimore). With long time Viking WR Adam Thielen no longer on the team, their depth at WR is extremely thin behind pro bowler Justin Jefferson. Their number 2 WR is 5’11 deep threat receiver K.J Osborn and their number 3 is Jalen Reagor, one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory after he went to Philly a few picks before Jefferson went to Minnesota. With many top-tier talented WRs still on the board Minnesota is able to get USC prospect Jordan Addison here in the late first round. Jordan Addison was the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner (FBS’s best WR) and caught 25 TDs combined in 2021 and 2022 with Pitt and USC. Addison will surely provide much needed red zone production from a WR not named Justin Jefferson, something they currently lack.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars

  • CB Deonte Banks (University of Maryland)

The 5th DB off the board is also the 3rd from the BIG 10 as Deonte Banks from Maryland goes here to Jacksonville. Jacksonville was by far the most pleasantly surprising team last season as they not only made the playoffs after having the worst record in back-to-back seasons, but they actually won a playoff game and came pretty close to beating the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the divisional round. Although they have more strengths on their team than they’ve had in quite some time, ever since the Jalen Ramsey trade, there has been a gaping hole at CB that remains to be filled. As previously stated in Detroit’s Porter Jr. pick, Banks struggled heavily against highly ranked opponents, including J.S.N and Ohio State as well as against Ronnie Bell and Michigan. However, many scouts attribute these struggles to the defensive scheme Maryland runs where the safeties play more man-to-man and less zone, allowing their CBs to get burnt one-on-one more often than other teams. With this being said, Banks still has enormous upside in the NFL as he has elite speed, running a 4.35 40-yard time in the combine. Banks also has great versatility similar to Brian Branch out of Alabama in the sense that he is a solid pass rusher and can get QB pressures like a nickelback or linebacker.

25. New York Giants

  • WR Zay Flowers (Boston College)

The 4th and final WR I have going in my first round mock draft is Zay Flowers out of BC. Out of all the teams in the NFL I think the New York Giants need a first round WR the most. After the Giants have essentially let both Kadarius Toney and Richie James walk to the Chiefs their WR depth is completely depleted. While the second rookie out of Kentucky, Wan’dale Robinson, was a bright spot last year, posting 23 rec and 1 TD in 6 games, he was injured two separate times and will likely start the year on the IR. Although they have some depth with veterans Jamison Crowder and Darius Slayton, a top 2 duo of Parris Campbell and Isaiah Hodgins is well below average talent wise. Despite Flowers being just 5’9, his deep threat speed game will be an improved version of what Richie James gave them last year. Flowers can also be a quality return man and is undoubtedly the best vertical route runner in this draft class.

26. Dallas Cowboys

  • RB Bijan Robinson (University of Texas)

Here we go… this has been the pick that I have been alluding to this entire mock draft, RB Bijan Robinson. Robinson is a 6’0 220 pound RB from Texas who is built like a FB but can run like a WR. He has by far the most hype and upside of any prospect in this draft but drafting a RB in the first round is always a scary thing to do given their short career spans and short primes. We have seen RBs like David Johnson and Todd Gurley get picked high in the draft and be elite in the league for a few years but then never pan out. However, we have also seen Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey have longer careers and still play in their prime after being drafted high. The Cowboys will be hoping the latter happens as this opportunity would be too good for them to pass up if he fell this far. With Zeke Elliott being released and breakout RB star Tony Pollard being both injured and on the last year of his contract, Robinson would help fill the biggest positional need that Dallas has on offense. Robinson’s combination of speed, strength, catching ability, and power running ability between the tackles make him an all-around threat similar to Derrick Henry. He would be a scary addition to an already potent Dallas offense. In my opinion, the teams Dallas needs to be most worried about snagging Bijan earlier in the draft are Atlanta, Philly, Detroit at #18, and Tampa. I could see Bijan going to either of these four previous destinations because they all lack RB depth and because if they don’t take him they know Dallas as an NFC rival will. Dallas should especially be weary of Philly as they don’t have any real glaring needs on their roster, have an arch rivalry with Dallas, and Robinson himself said on NFL Live that out of all the QB’s in the NFL he would most like to play with Jalen Hurts. Overall, Robinson is my most intriguing prospect of the draft and it will be exciting to see who drafts him.

27. Buffalo Bills

  • LB Drew Sanders (University of Arkansas)

The Bills main goal in this draft should be to bolster their offensive line which lacks quality backups to help protect Josh Allen in the future. But their round one pick will most likely be a LB as they are down a starter with Tremaine Edmunds going to Chicago. Either Drew Sanders or Jack Campbell would be good fits here for Buffalo but I ultimately went with Sanders because he is by far the more versatile of the two options. Sanders was an edge rusher for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide before coming to Arkansas via the portal and so he has full seasons of experience both blitzing the QB and playing in coverage. Sanders was toward the top of the country in sacks with 11 last season because of this versatility. This should transfer into the NFL where positionless nickelbacks are becoming a must in today’s game.

28. Cincinnati Bengals

  • TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)

Although Mixon will likely be out of Cincinnati after this season or possibly by the trade deadline, with Robinson gone I’d find it highly unlikely they’d reach for a RB like Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round. Instead their more immediate need is at TE as Hayden Hurst is now in Carolina. Irv Smith Jr. is a solid TE who has spent his entire 3 year career in Minnesota up to this point but he lacks red zone production, posting just 9 TDs in 3 years and accumulating fewer than 100 receptions combined in his career. Mayer is probably the most experienced player in the draft as he started for 4 years at Notre Dame. Mayer will be able to come in and deliver in the red zone for Cincinnati and be a part of the young homegrown offensive core that the Bengals have built with Chase, Higgins, and Burrow.

29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco through Miami and Denver)

  • DE Nolan Smith (University of Georgia)

Because of a massive pick swap between the Saints and Eagles last season, the Saints #10 pick belongs to Philly. Despite this, New Orleans will still get one of the top D Lineman in this draft very late in the first round in edge rusher Nolan Smith. Smith worked opposite of top 10 projected pick Jalen Carter last season and he put up numbers that rivaled his teammate. In Smith’s 4 years as a Bulldog he had 113 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and one INT, all while never playing a full season due to injuries. It is these injury setbacks that put some pause into GMs when selecting Smith, but his talent, statistical numbers, and agility as a 6’3 240 pound D-Lineman who can play for three downs will make the pick too good to pass up for New Orleans. This is especially the case in New Orleans because DE Carl Granderson has had a rough couple of past years opposite Cam Jordan. Smith would likely start off as a rotational guy but could eventually become a staple piece of the Saints 3-4 style front 7.

30. Philadelphia Eagles

  • CB Cam Smith (University of South Carolina)

After addressing their loss of Javon Hargrave with their #10 pick and with Dallas already picking Bijan Robinson, I have the Eagles taking the second Smith in a row with CB Cam Smith out of South Carolina. With Bradberry and Slay as their current primary corners, the Eagles would use Smith immediately as a rotational third CB. With Gardner Johnson gone in Detroit, Smith would also be helpful at safety as he has been known to be an exceptional zone coverage cornerback which historically translates very well into NFL safeties. This is what happened with Minnesota’s Harrison Smith and the aforementioned Gardner-Johnson who both played CB in college in a zone coverage and have turned into pro bowl safeties in the NFL. Smith is used to high expectations in South Carolina which has become an NFL DB machine lately with Jaycee Horn in Carolina, Stephon Gilmore in Dallas, and Keisean Nixon in Green Bay, so he will be more than up for the high expectations of the Philadelphia Super Bowl caliber defense.

31. Kansas City Chiefs

  • RT Anton Harrison (University of Oklahoma)

With Miami’s pick being forfeited, Kansas City’s 31st overall pick here will be the final pick of the first draft. With the clear top 4 WR’s being selected already, Kansas City’s first selection will go to the 6th O-Lineman taken in this first round, Anton Harrison. Despite Kansas City having one of the most productive offensive lines in the league last year they had to let go of Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie and only added Jawaan Taylor, leaving a wide open spot at right tackle. The clear best right tackle in this draft was Broderick Jones who already went to Pittsburgh in this mock so the Chiefs will get Harrison who is slightly smaller than Jones, although still big, at 6’5 315, Harrison hasn’t gotten much media attention with Oklahoma having an extremely underwhelming year in the BIG 12 but scouts love his ability to block both D-Lineman and Linebackers coming through the guard-tackle gaps. Harrison’s blocking ability on the edge is so good that his QB pressure percentage was the best in the country at a slim 2.01%. This statistic in particular should get the Chiefs excited as they want to do all they can to keep their generational talented QB Patrick Mahomes healthy and on the field.

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