Let’s do a “this just makes sense” mock draft.
What does that entail?
Maybe a pick is made because it’s an obvious team need. Or maybe it’s because a player has extensive meetings with a respective team. Some picks will be made due to the team’s past tendencies. History and even family ties will play a part.
You know, the type of draft where you see a player and the team that picked them and say, “Oh yeah, I can see that. That makes sense.”
No trades in this mock draft – just picks that make the most sense.
Just one caveat: Jalen Carter, one of the top-five best players in this draft regardless of position, falls out of the first round in this mock.
The 6-foot-3, 323-pound Georgia defensive tackle has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks. And in Sports Illustrated’s latest Football Morning in America column, Peter King said he thinks Carter can slide out of the top-10 if Seattle, a team that hasn’t shied away from taking players with alleged character concerns before (Malik McDowell comes to mind), doesn’t take him at No. 5.
Then came this nugget from Detroit coach Dan Campbell.
Dan Campbell on Jalen Carter:
“We talked to a teammate of his the other day and, man, he told us some things we didn’t know. That nobody probably would’ve known. It was like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.'”
Asked if it was good or bad:
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) March 28, 2023
That quote – fair or intentional, or not – could be the proverbial final straw for Carter as a first rounder. But if he somehow drops to Day 2, he won’t last long. As King said in his column, “Talent shrinks big issues.”
1. Carolina Panthers: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Forget the obvious Cam Newton comparisons. Just go by what the head coach says – it sure seems like Frank Reich would love to have Richardson as the team’s next signal-caller.
Frank Reich telling reporters what he’s seen in Florida QB Anthony Richardson, who will hold his pro day on Thursday: “He’s an exciting player. Even before the combine, watching his tape, there are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top of the draft pick.’’
— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) March 28, 2023
2. Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
It’s believed that Houston will take whoever is left out of Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young; what if both are still on the board? Take the one with the favorable measurables.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
No player in the NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus mock draft has a higher popularity percentage of going to a team than Anderson’s 94 percent. Confused? That means more than 9 in 10 mock drafts have Anderson going to Arizona.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
If Stroud is available, then this is a much tougher pick.
5. Seattle Seahawks: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
So how can an undersized defensive tackle with arms that are said to be too short for the position be a “make sense” pick? That’s easy. It’s Seattle. Agree with their sometimes crazy-sounding picks or not, it often works out for the Seahawks. Defensive tackle is one of the Seattle’s top draft priorities, and Kancey has drawn comparisons to Aaron Donald – and not just because of the two Pitt stars’ similar stature. Kancey has been one of the most productive DTs in college the past couple of seasons, finishing with an incredible 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
6. Detroit Lions: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Although defensive tackle is one of Detroit’s biggest needs, it’s hard to see the team taking Carter after Campbell’s recent comments (although the Georgia defensive lineman is reportedly scheduled for a pre-draft visit). And the team has made some free agent additions at cornerback, so that’s no longer a big draft need. But tight end remains one of the Lions’ biggest weaknesses, and there’s a growing feeling that the top one’s could go off the draft board earlier than expected. Mayer might not be the most exciting pick this high in the draft, but he looks like a future 10-year veteran.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
To be clear, Las Vegas has a ton of money invested at defensive end with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. But Wilson is easily the highest-rated prospect here and would likely take over for Jones after this season, when the veteran becomes a likely cap casualty. Will Levis of Kentucky, though, remains the most popular pick here, according to NFL Mock Draft Database, but Wilson is a “play-now” player while Levis is someone you hope doesn’t play at all as a rookie after the Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo.
8, Atlanta Falcons: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
Murphy didn’t do much at the Combine reportedly due to a hamstring issue, but he’s performing in front of teams on April 4. Watch Murphy’s draft stock rise afterward.
9. Chicago Bears: G Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
This is one of those picks that’s already been discussed and mock so often that it already feels like it’s a done deal. Chicago needs a right tackle, and Skoronski is the best tackle or guard in this draft.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Texas running back Bijan Robinson may be the popular pick at this spot – and running back is a big team need, as Kenneth Gainwell is the only back signed beyond next season. But Philadelphia also lost both starting safeties to free agency and replaced them by signing two players on one-year contracts. Robinson may be the best running back, but the team can find other good RBs, as this draft is particularly deep at the position. But the safety position is just the opposite, as it lacks elite talent other than Branch.
11. Tennessee Titans: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
There’s been a lot of chatter of Tennessee taking a tackle with this pick. However, if that were to happen, which player does the team sit: the first-rounder, the 2022 third-round rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere (who started 16 games last season) or former first-rounder Andre Dillard (who the team just signed to a three-year, $29 million). It’s not a premium position, but tight end seems like the much bigger team need.
12. Houston Texans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Brandin Cooks is gone, and JSN’s stock is rising.
13. New York Jets: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Georgia’s Broderick Jones is the popular pick; Johnson is the cleaner pick.
14. New England Patriots: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
The team struck gold last season with a pair of solid cornerbacks, giving New England three good ones when you include recently re-signed Jonathan Jones. But none are taller than 5-foot-11, and two of the three are best suited in the slot.
15. Green Bay Packers: TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
The head coach has already said fans should temper expectations regarding probable new-starting QB Jordan Love. Fair enough. Musgrave gives Love an easy target at a position the team desperately needs to upgrade.
16. Washington Commanders: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
But this was supposed to be a “oh, that makes sense” draft, right? Why not take Levis here? First, take a look at the players the team has met with, either formally or informally, via HogsHaven. Does this mean OL is the higher priority? It sure seems like it. Cornerback is a need, too, but this is a deep year at the position – not so much at tackle. As for skipping out on Levis, Washington seems committed to giving second-year QB Sam Howell a real shot at winning the starting job this season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
You almost have to make this pick here.
18. Detroit Lions: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Turns out, Detroit was smart for passing up DL with its first pick, as the top three are off the board by the Lions’ second first-round pick. Bresee fills a major need for the Lions. Time will tell if a Mayer-Bresee pairing is more successful than what could have been a Carter-Darnell Washington duo.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis’ fall finally ends. The Fanspeak draft simulator On The Clock often projects Levis to fall to Tampa Bay using the Rigdon big board, regardless of setting. And the move makes a ton of sense – the Levis-to-Tampa pick is trending.
20. Seattle Seahawks: C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
Seattle fans may howl over a Seattle’s two first round picks – a defensive lineman and a center?! – but check back 10 years later when both players are still on the team and have a few Pro Bowls between them. Besides, Seattle’s interior needs help – don’t be surprised if the team takes a guard on Day 2.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia
Receiver is a popular pick at this spot, and Jalin Hyatt is a tempting pick here, as he would add an element of speed the team doesn’t have out of its starting three receivers. And the team has a new offensive coordinator who loves to pass. Finally, receiver isn’t a deep position. But Khalil Mack hasn’t had double-digit sacks since 2018, and Joey Bosa has missed 29 games due to injuries throughout his career, including 12 last season. Bosa’s absence last season exposed how thin the Chargers were at pass rusher. Need a receiver? Take one on Day 2; but you won’t find a faster or more explosive pass rusher this late in the draft, even if Smith is undersized.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Baltimore’s receiving group was rated as one of the worst last season, and it hasn’t helped that 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman has missed 14 out of a possible 33 games due to injuries.
23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
This just seems like a match made-in-heaven.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
There’s a reason why Ringo is commonly compared to former Georgia CB Tyson Campbell.
25. New York Giants: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Bijan Robinson would be more tempting here had the team not already franchise-tagged Saquon Barkley. But cornerback is arguably the team’s biggest need after receiver,
26. Dallas Cowboys: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
OK, this is a bit annoying. Seeing the highly-talented Robinson – the No. 1 prospect in the Fanspeak-Rigdon big board – fall to Dallas in so many other mock drafts is just groan-worthy. Until it happens. That said, there are several reasons why this is a real possibility. Start with four quarterbacks, cornerbacks, pass rushers and offensive linemen all going in the first round. Three cornerbacks and three tight ends are also off the board. It’s not a great season to draft an offensive lineman or receiver – all reasons those positions could be gone early, even if a player’s ranking is just outside of the first round. Conversely, this is a deep year for cornerbacks and a top-heavy draft for tight ends. The talent at the CB and TE positions drops off significantly around late Round 2, early Round 3, so expect the top players to be snatched up quickly. What you wind up with is, sigh … what everyone thinks is going to happen with Robinson falling to Dallas.
27. Buffalo Bills: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Landing Addison this late in the draft would be a coup for Buffalo, much like Robinson would be for Dallas.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
With Jonah Williams asking for a trade and the team cutting ties with La’el Collins, right tackle suddenly becomes a huge priority. Huge is a great way to describe Jones.
29. New Orleans Saints: Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
It’s shocking to see Van Ness fall this far, but according to NFL Mock Draft Database, he’s their second-most likely selection – so maybe it’s not as crazy as it seems.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
Linebacker is the bigger need, but Banks is the highest-ranked remaining player. Philadelphia will bring its starting CBs back for at least one more season, but James Bradberry will be 30 next season and Slay will be 32. Banks is the future for the Eagles.
31. Kansas City: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
How does Kansas City keep cobbling together a new OT tandem while so much of the rest of the league struggles to find one good starting tackle? Wright should start alongside his former Vol teammate, Trey Smith. (BTW, check out how incredible the 2020 Tennessee OL was!)
Los Angeles Rams, second round: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
Miami Dolphins, second round: RB Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Denver Broncos, third round: OT Tyler Steen, Alabama
Cleveland Browns, third round: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State
San Francisco 49ers, third round: WR Charlie Jones, Purdue
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. His big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft. Message him on Twitter to receive $3 off your new Ultimate GM subscription.