NFL Mock Draft: Could this be how round 1 plays out?

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Eagles jalen carter
FILE – Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) is sacked by Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) and linebacker Quay Walker (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 in Athens, Ga. Considered the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, Carter has the talent to be selected among the top five. If he drops, it’ll be because of character concerns. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

We are simply counting down the hours until the NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night.

The NFL Draft might be my favorite off-the-field sporting event of all time, and there is nothing better than a good ol’ mock draft to pass the time before your favorite team is on the clock.

In today’s Mock Draft, I am going to be giving a full 1-31 of the NFL draft. This mock will be a little different than others that you have read, so stay tuned for Draft craziness.

With that being said, the Carolina Panthers are now on the clock,

1.01 Bryce Young QB – Carolina

The Panthers traded a haul with the Chicago Bears to get the first overall pick.

Carolina and new Head Coach Frank Reich wanted the chance to get their guy and despite the numerous stories going around over the last couple weeks, I believe the Panthers traded up to select Bryce Young.

The quarterback from Alabama is my top-ranked QB in this class for this years NFL Draft. The biggest negative about Bryce has been his size, which as we all know, is out of his control. When I look at quarterbacks I like to judge them on what they can control.

Young was a touchdown machine in college and while he was playing with many NFL-caliber athletes, he also played one of the tougher schedules in college football. Playing in the SEC and against teams such as Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU has given Bryce a chance to play on the biggest stage in college football. While he might not have won the Natty and didn’t bring home the SEC Title the past two years, his play shined, which is why I am going with Bryce to Carolina.

1.02 Will Anderson EDGE – Houston

The NFL Draft is unpredictable and I think the Houston Texans are going to throw the first wrench in everyone’s plans.

Houston hired first-time Head Coach DeMeco Ryans to take over this past off-season. Ryans is a former NFL linebacker and is coming from San Francisco as their former defensive coordinator.

The Texans’ roster is void of talent and their defense is especially barren. While you can clearly make the argument that they need a quarterback at number 2, I am going with the best defensive player instead.

DeMeco is going to want to make his presence felt in the AFC South. A strong defense is going to help him compete in his first season as a head coach in the NFL. Drafting Will Anderson, who has been considered one of the best prospects in college football the last two seasons, is a great choice.

Plugging in Anderson will give Houston a starter on day 1 and an anchor to their defense. Similar to Von Miller and Denver back in 2011, building around a premier pass rusher in the NFL can be the start of a dynamic defense.

1.03 Tyree Wilson EDGE – Arizona

With the Texans not taking a QB, you could argue that the Cardinals should move the 3rd overall pick. A quarterback needy team would overpay to move up into this slot and Arizona would then be able to slide back and make a solid pick.

In this instance, however, I think the Cardinals stay put.

The name Tyree Wilson has been shooting up draft boards since the NFL Combine in early March. The Texas Tech star is being considered as the best defensive player in some NFL circles and his buzz projects him as a top 10 pick on Thursday.

Jonathon Gannon left Philadelphia as their Defensive Coordinator to take the head coaching job in Arizona. With star safety Budda Baker wanting out and future Hall of Famer JJ Watt retiring, Gannon is going to need a new face for this defense.

1.04 CJ Stroud QB – Indianapolis

The Colts should be absolutely thrilled that CJ Stroud is sitting there with the fourth pick.

My second-ranked quarterback in this NFL Draft has been getting a lot of negative attention over the last week. Controversy with his alleged score on the S2 Cognitive test, has made people question is CJ will last in the NFL.

The only real response that I can give to that is to tell people to rewatch the College Football Playoff and how Stroud played against the Georgia Bulldogs. He led Ohio State to 41 points against the now back-to-back National Champions and was a field goal away from winning the game.

Stroud did benefit from playing in the BIG 10, where his competition was fairly weak, but he proved in the biggest game of his career that he could go toe to toe with the best college football had to offer. I think new head coach Shane Steichen is the perfect fit for CJ and they will be a formidable duo in the AFC South going forward.

1.05 Jalen Carter IDL – Seattle

Jalen Carter might have gone first overall to Chicago had there not been some off-the-field question marks.

The defensive tackle from Georgia was the soul of the best defense in college football and Carter was the star attraction on a defense that consisted of multiple NFL hopefuls. Jalen is getting comparisons to Warren Sapp and Aaron Donald, two of the best to ever lace up a pair of cleats in the NFL.

The off-the-field issues and controversies are going to hurt his draft stock, but he will be a top 5 pick. I can easily see Pete Carroll looking past these issues and believing in the culture he has created in Seattle.

For Carroll and the Seahawks, they are benefitting once more from the Russell Wilson trade and basically getting a free luxury pick. If Carter can translate his performances from college into the NFL, he will quickly become one of the best in the game.

Pairing with him Dremont Jones in the middle of that defensive line will wreak havoc for opposing offensive lines. Building from the trenches has always been considered to be a successful practice, and I think the Seahawks follow that advice with Jalen Carter.

1.06 Devon Witherspoon CB – Detroit

The Lions are sitting here with plenty of options.

They could move the pick and gain draft capital, they could stand pat and select a player who can start right away, or they could take a QB and stash him behind Jared Goff.

I think that for a team that was one game away from the playoffs last season, the Lions should make a move to take an impact player. Taking Devon Witherspoon not only fits a need but also takes one of the best players off the board at #6.

Detroit can start Devon right away. The team dealt away former first-round pick Jeff Okudah earlier this off-season and needs to upgrade at the corner position. They could wait until pick 18 to address the spot, but I think Devon Witherspoon is the best corner in this draft.

Taking the best player available and fitting a need was a no-brainer here for Detroit.

1.07 Peter Skoronski OT – Las Vegas

Like Detroit, the Raiders are in a spot of power here at the 7th pick.

2 of the top 4 quarterbacks remain on the board, and teams will be licking their chops to make a move up to grab a QB.

While the Raiders could draft either Anthony Richardon or Will Levis in this spot, I don’t expect them to. After signing Jimmy Garoppolo earlier in this off-season, I believe that Josh McDaniels wants to run his offense through his former Patriot partner.

The Raiders have needed to upgrade their offensive line and adding a Swiss army knife like Peter Skoronski could be that addition. The Northwestern tackle projects as a guard in the NFL, but his ability to play anywhere on the offensive line could give the Raiders the depth they are looking for in this draft.

1.08 Will Levis QB – Atlanta

The Falcons have been rumored to be a potential trade partner early in this draft.

After failing to land Deshaun Watson last off-season, the Falcons turned to Marcus Mariota and draft pick Desmond Ridder to play under center in 2022-23. While the team was competitive, they have not yet found their solution at QB.

Enter Will Levis.

Falling to pick 8, the Falcons should be ecstatic that their next franchise QB is sitting there for the taking. While I think Levis has all the physical traits that you look for in a quarterback, his stepback during his senior season at Kentucky does him no favors.

If head coach Arthur Smith can mold the young QB, the Falcons could compete this season for the NFC South. Levis would have to beat out Desmond Ridder for the job, but even if he doesn’t, I’d expect him to take over the moment things go awry for the second-year QB out of Cincinnati.

1.09 Paris Johnson OT – Chicago

In my opinion, the Chicago Bears had an excellent off-season.

Adding plenty of NFL-caliber talent to both sides of the ball was just the start for Chicago. By moving out of the number 1 overall pick, they showed their faith in Justin Fields to be their guy moving forward.

While the Bears could definitely upgrade their defense here, I like Paris Johnson out of Ohio State.

Johnson can become the Bears’ starting left tackle and protect Justin Fields, who ran for his life last season. Keeping Fields in the pocket and healthy starts with a better line. The best way to improve that line would be to add Paris Johnson with the 9th overall pick.

1.10 Anthony Richardson QB – Tampa Bay (TRADE)

The first trade of the NFL Draft comes from Howie Roseman and the Eagles, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs lost Tom Brady to retirement this off-season and the franchise signed Baker Mayfield to be the stopgap until they find their next franchise guy.

With Anthony Richardson sitting on the board, the Bucs move up, and take a guy they believe can be a game-changing talent.

Richardson himself has said that he knows he still needs to grow as a QB. Many view him as a player who would benefit from red-shirting his rookie season. With Baker under center, the Buccaneers won’t have to rush Anthony and can allow him to learn the game as the season progresses.

1.11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR – Titans

The Ohio State Buckeyes are dominating this first round of the NFL Draft.

The third player from OSU to be taken in the first round will be Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the best wide receiver in this year’s draft.

JSN dealt with an injury in his final season in college and missed mostly the entire season. The young wide receiver did shine however in his previous seasons with Ohio State and his talent is undeniable. His talent will help transcend an offense and the offense that he can make the most impact on is the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans are a mess right now. Rumors of Derrick Henry being shopped and reports that the team is losing faith in Malik Willis are just two of the stories surrounding the franchise heading into the draft.

While Ryan Tannehill is still their starter, he is going to need weapons if he wants to compete. After trading AJ Brown to the Eagles, the Titans have become very weak at the position. Adding Jaxon Smith-Njigba to pair with Treylon Burks, could be a really nice pairing for the Titans as they try and regroup.

1.12 Christian Gonzalez CB – Houston

The Houston Texans are back on the clock and they once again go defense.

After drafting standout corner Derek Stingley Jr from LSU last year at pick 3, the Texans add another potential star corner to the mix.

Christian Gonzalez had a very impressive season with the Ducks this past year. Raking up 4 interceptions and 7 pass deflections, one could argue that Christian will be the first corner taken this year.

The Texans make the move to add another dynamic player to their defense and allow DeMeco Ryans to build.

1.13 Nolan Smith EDGE – Philadelphia (TRADE)

The Eagles moved back from pick 10 to pick 19 in their trade with the Buccaneers in this mock draft. They decide to move back up in a deal with the Green Bay Packers to select Nolan Smith, a pass rusher from Georgia.

GM Howie Roseman loves to make moves, especially on draft day and I see a scenario where he moves all around the board on Thursday.

Roseman said in a press conference last week that he will draft the best players on the board, instead of trying to fill a hole. He used the word “unique” when asked about taking a player at number 10. Nolan Smith is a unique player, given the circumstances.

Smith ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and despite his size, was a game wrecker at Georgia. The Eagles already have a stout pass-rushing group but adding a player like Smith could really add another threat to a defense that leads the NFL in sacks.

1.14 Lukas Van Ness EDGE – New England

I have a sneaky feeling like Nolan Smith might’ve gone to the Patriots here if he were available.

With Smith going to Philly, I think the Patriots settle for the next-best pass rusher in Lukas Van Ness.

Van Ness just feels like a Patriot. This is a team that does not cater to the typical draft standards and will take a player whenever they feel like it. If they land Lukas, at least they are drafting a player with a first-round grade. Last year’s pick of Cole Strange was well… strange.

Van Ness fits a need for New England and can earn his way to a starting gig before the year begins.

1.15 Darnell Wright OT – New York Jets

Aaron Rodgers is officially a Jet.

Following in the footstep of Brett Favre, the four-time MVP is taking his talents to a loaded AFC conference.

The best way to maximize Aaron Rodgers in New York will be to give him time in the pocket. With weapons like Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and Allan Lazard, A-Rod might just win the division for the Jets this season. (Bold prediction for 2023, Jets beat out the Bills and Dolphins to be AFC East champs)

Protecting Rodgers will be priority number one. The Jets have invested a lot into their line over the past few years but you can never have enough good offensive linemen. Grabbing Darnell Wright, who had a tremendous year for Tennesee, is a safe and smart pick here for GM Joe Douglass, who has established himself well in the NFL Draft.

1.16 Joey Porter CB – Washington

The Commanders are such an interesting team and that is often for all the wrong reasons.

While we await the sale of the team to be finalized, the Commanders front office still has to try and get this team back into the playoffs.

Washington needs to find a quarterback if they want to be competitive going forward. At this stage in the draft, I do not expect them to pull the trigger on Hendon Hooker out of Tennessee, so QB is out of the question.

Taking the best player available could be the play here, which is why I have the Commanders taking Joey Porter Jr, out of Penn State. Porter had an excellent Junior season at Penn State and I think he is going to be a really good NFL player.

Washington would be smart to add a guy who can shut down the threats of the NFC East, which include AJ Brown, Ceedee Lamb, and Devonta Smith.

1.17 Broderick Jones, OT – Pittsburgh

The Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs last year after giving the reigns to Kenny Pickett.

The young QB from Pitt played well in his rookie season and the Steelers are hoping for growth in 2023. I believe that the best way for their young play caller to take the next step is to give him protection.

Broderick Jones is coming off a strong season with the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs. Jones projects to be able to play left or right tackle, where the Steelers could upgrade from. They added Isaac Seumalo this off-season to play left guard, so strengthening the left side of their line could be a huge play for Pittsburgh.

1.18 Calijah Kancey IDL – Detroit

The Detroit Lions are back on the clock at pick 18 and look to double down on defense. After taking Devon Witherspoon with the 6th pick, Detroit decides to build the trenches and take Calijah Kancey.

The defensive tackle from Pitt has been talked about for many teams and his name could be called at any point on Night 1 of the draft. If Jalen Carter was not in this class, you could argue that Kancey would be the first DT taken.

It was not too long ago that Detroit had Ndamukong Suh terrorizing offensive lines. Calijah Kancey can usher in a new era of bully ball for the Lions and join Aidan Hutchinson on a dominant defensive line.

1.19 Dalton Kincaid TE – Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers are now on the clock after moving back with the Eagles in a mock draft trade. Green Bay was originally going to pick 15th in this draft, but after the real life deal with the Jets and the made-up trade with the Eagles, they add some draft capital and still land their guy.

The Packers need to get weapons on offense. After refusing to draft a wide receiver in the first round in the Aaron Rodgers era, it had been shown that the Pack didn’t like to spend their early picks on skill players.

For the Jordan Love era, the Packers can kick things off with a bang. Selecting Dalton Kincaid, who is my top-ranked tight end in this year’s draft, can certainly add some impact to a young offense. Kincaid is the best receiving tight end in this class. He projects to be a Travis Kelce/Dallas Goedert type, as opposed to a George Kittle, who blocks just as much as he runs routes.

Giving Love a target in his first full year as a starter in the NFL could go a long way and I think Green Bay should make this pick here at 19.

1.20 Myles Murphy EDGE – Seattle

The Seattle Seahawks are back on the clock and they are selecting EDGE Myles Murphy from Clemson. The hawks are making this selection with their own pick, after making the playoffs last season with Geno Smith. Seattle has committed to the veteran QB, but thanks to an already stout offensive group, the Seahawks can upgrade their defense again.

After taking Jalen Carter at pick 5, I have Seattle taking Murphy, one of the top pass rushers in this class. Building up a strong defense and getting back to the days of the Legion of Boom can be a recipe for success for Pete Caroll and Seattle.

This pick is great value for the Seahawks and with this pick, their investment into the defensive line this off-season will be complete.

1.21 Jordan Addison WR – Los Angeles Chargers

The next wide receiver to go off the board here is Jordan Addison to the Los Angeles Chargers.

The offensive talent for the Chargers is starting to get a little old and banged up. Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have missed significant amounts of games over the last couple of seasons and Austin Ekeler has requested a trade.

With Justin Herbert expecting to get a new contract soon, the Chargers need to try and find young and cheap talent to surround him. Taking Addison, who shined at both Pitt and USC, can fill that need.

Joining Joshua Palmer, who had a breakout season in 2022, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams, Jordan can deepen an already powerful offense and allow Justin Herbert to take the next step.

1.22 Zay Flowers WR – Baltimore

Back-to-back wide receivers go off the board as the Ravens select Zay Flowers from Boston College.

The Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr just a few weeks ago and I expect that Lamar was calling the shots with regards to that signing. Jackson is trying to play hardball with the Ravens and basically telling the team to get him talent on offense.

Flowers has been projected to be a slot receiver in the NFL. Joining Rashad Bateman and OBJ, who will thrive on the outside, gives Baltimore the best WR group of Lamar Jackson’s career. This isn’t even mentioning All-Pro tight end, Mark Andrews.

I like Zay going to the Ravens with this pick. They need to upgrade at the position and he is more of a fit with their offense than Quentin Johnston, who could also come off the board in this range of picks.

1.23 Deonte Banks CB – Minnesota

I personally expect the Vikings to try and trade out of the first round.

Minnesota feels to me like they are in a really weird place. After last season’s success blew up in a home playoff loss to the Giants, the Vikings are just lingering in the NFC. Rumors of the team parting ways with Dalvin Cook, show that there isn’t a true direction that the team is heading towards.

The Vikings could certainly upgrade their secondary, which was one of the worst in football last season. Adding a standout corner could be a great choice and with Deonte Banks on the board, I have him sliding to Minnesota at pick 23.

1.24 Michael Mayer TE – Jacksonville

How about the Jags man?

Making a run for the division and having one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time was certainly a great ride last season. Trevor Lawerence really started to look like the franchise QB that Jacksonville selected in the 2021 Draft.

The Jaguars picked first in the draft last year, selecting Trayon Walker with that pick. While Walker played well, he still has some improvements to make to live up to the #1 Pick buzz.

Jacksonville would benefit from taking the best player on their big board once their pick comes at 24. If I were the Jags, I would select Tight End Michael Mayer from Notre Dame.

Mayer is ranked as the best tight end on many scouts and draft expert’s boards. He is the best all-around tight end when you factor in his blocking ability. He could become an instant threat in Doug Pederson’s offense and can be a dynamic 1-2 punch with Evan Engram.

1.25 Quentin Johnston WR – New York Giants

As referenced earlier, Quentin Johnston will be a first-round selection. I have him slotting in at #25 and joining the New York Giants.

Johnston was a machine at TCU this season. He was one of the many reasons why the Horned Frogs were able to make it to the National Title game. He quickly became Max Duggan’s favorite target and was the vocal point of the TCU offense.

The Giants have a huge need at wide receiver. I can see Quentin filling the role that Kenny Golladay was supposed to when New York signed him a few seasons ago.

Giving their newly paid quarterback Daniel Jones a big target on the outside should only help the growth of the Giants’ offense under Head Coach Brain Daboll.

1.26 Bijan Robinson RB – Dallas

Sorry Eagles fans, but Bijan is staying in the Lone Star state.

The Texas running back will be the first back to come off the board and he will replace Zeke Elliot in Dallas.

Robinson is a star and whatever team drafts him will be getting a big-time player the moment he arrives. He can form a really strong duo with Tony Pollard, who will be coming off an injury from last season’s Divisional Round.

Bijan might not be the biggest need for Dallas, but they have shown that they will take players who they believe can become stars, rather than draft to fill a hole.

The young running back will torch the National Football League and he is my pick to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

1.27 O’Cyrus Torrence G – Buffalo

The Bills will also be disappointed to see Bijan Robinson come off the board right before they pick.

Buffalo could really use a running back in this draft, but it is a fair assumption that they might use a mid-round selection to draft one. Without Robinson on the board, I think the Bills will upgrade their offensive line.

O’Cyrus Torrence has been labeled as the best pure guard in this class. He can be an instant plug-and-play at both Left and Right Guard and will help keep Josh Allen healthy this season. He can also be an important piece who blocks for a running back who is selected down the line.

1.28 Brian Branch S – Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off another great season and a second straight trip to the AFC Championship.

Cincy lost both Von Bell and Jessie Bates this off-season and will need to replace two very talented members of their secondary. Luckily for the Bengals however, Brian Branch is sitting on the board when they make their first pick.

Branch is the best safety in this class and has the ability to play in all sorts of roles at the NFL level. He can do it all, and his versatility will give Cincinnati plenty of options this upcoming season.

Brian Branch is a clear fit and fills a huge need for the Bengals. I would love this pick if I were Bengals fans.

1.29 Hendon Hooker QB – Houston

TRADE!

The New Orleans Saints decide to move out of the first round, and they are eager to do so when the Houston Texans come calling.

Houston moves up in this mock draft to select Hendon Hooker, QB, out of Tennessee.

While the Texans could’ve gone QB at the second pick or even pick 12, taking the best defensive talent was the way to go. They could’ve also waited until the second round to take Hendon, but the 5th year option that comes with a first-round pick was too enticing to pass up.

Davis Mills is certainly not the answer at QB, and I am not sure if Hendon Hooker is either. But this move would not cost the Texans much, and it gives them another option in their offense.

1.30 Jahmyr Gibbs RB – Philadelphia

The Eagles get their running back, but it is not Bijan Robinson.

Jahmyr Gibbs is certainly no slouch, and I believe that he could be the 1B to Bijan’s 1A in this class.

The star running back was dominant in his final season with Alabama. The Tide always has a dynamic running back, and Gibbs fits that mold. By going to the right team, I believe he can be a great back in the NFL, and that is why I have him going to the Eagles

Given the strength of the Eagles’ offense and the best offensive line in football, Gibbs can easily become a threat for the Birds. He will become a fantasy machine in his rookie year and will quickly overtake Rashad Penny for the starting job.

1.31 Bryan Bresee IDL – Kansas City

With the final pick of the first round, I have Clemson’s Brian Bresee going to the Kansas City Chiefs.

After winning a Super Bowl, it is safe to say the Chiefs don’t have many “needs.” This is why the Chiefs can afford to take the best player available.

Bryan Bresee had a lot of buzz heading into the season and, in early mocks, was projected to be a top-15 pick. Following the combine and pro day, his stock has fallen a bit, but that does not take away from his efforts at Clemson.

While he might not have stolen the show at Clemson, Bresee is, by all accounts, a strong player in every aspect of his game. He will fit right in as a rotational piece in KC as a rookie and has a chance to learn from one of the best in Chris Jones.

AP Photo/Butch Dill