In what might be a sign of how the 2023 NFL Draft will actually go . . . (but probably not) . . . NFL.com’s Peter Schrager used “what (he’s) hearing from (his) sources around the league” to create a first-round mock draft.
To be clear, this is not what HE would do; it’s what he’s hearing could happen.
Oh, and apparently it’s his first mock draft of the season.
In addition to the Carolina Panthers sending the Chicago Bears a small ransom to move up to #1 overall, and the other trades that have already happened - i.e., the trades that landed the Seahawks at #5, the Lions at #6, the Eagles at #10, and the Saints at #29, these are the other trades that Schrager has going down in Round 1:
The Indianapolis Colts get pick #2.
The Houston Texans gets pick #4 and Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner.
And then . . .
Surprise! That’s the only Day One Draft Day trade.
However, that one simple trade has a reverberating effect across the top of the draft board.
First four picks
Everyone knows that the Panthers traded up to #1 to get their pick of the QBs in this year’s draft. Indy’s move up the board ensures they get dibs on the leftovers.
Equally unsurprisingly, after being unable to get another team to overpay for the 3rd overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals select Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
Note: At this point, casual fans playing along at home start to think they’re omniscient because they have correctly predicted the first three picks (although not all of them would have guessed that it would be Indianapolis taking Stroud at #2).
Houston shakes things up - ever so slightly - by passing on a QB for the second time, and selecting Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson.
12s worldwide rejoice!
With the 5th selection in the 2023 NFL Draft . . .
Do John Schneider and Pete Carroll roll the dice on the uber-athletic quarterback with the sky-high ceiling who has a better chance of being a bust than even a league-average player?
Or do they go with someone who has “character concerns” but could very well be the best player in this year’s draft?
Schrager chooses the quarterback!
His write-up is less a vote for Richardson over Carter and more a simple acknowledgement of the positional value that a quarterback offers to a team with a top-5 pick.
The Seahawks love Geno Smith, and there’s no doubt he’s the man for 2023. But with two picks in the top 20, they can go with a quarterback here — after all, they surely don’t plan on picking in the top five again anytime soon. If another QB-needy team doesn’t leapfrog them, the ‘Hawks can secure a signal-caller for the future. Seattle has time to get Richardson in the room with coordinator Shane Waldron so that he can learn the offense.
The next TWO quarterbacks . . .
Somewhat surprisingly, the Tennessee Titans stay put at #11 in Schrager’s mock draft. Even more surprisingly, they don’t select Will Levis.
I can see Tennessee moving up to get a quarterback like Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud. GM Ran Carthon and coach Mike Vrabel were making the rounds at the pro days for all the top QBs last month. But if the Titans aim to land one at their current draft slot, I’m leaning toward Hooker being their choice over Will Levis, despite Hooker being a 25-year-old coming off a torn ACL. This might shock the world — or, by the time the draft arrives, it might not be that big of a shock at all.
Levis doesn’t have to wonder what’s going on for very long though . . .
If Houston can scoop up a veteran like DeForest Buckner . . . snag Tyree Wilson or Will Anderson and get its QB of the future within the top 12 overall picks? That’d be a good night for GM Nick Caserio and the new coaching staff. Houston is a curious case in this draft, for sure, and after Indianapolis, I don’t have a perfect spot for a Levis. But if you’re the Texans and you don’t go QB at 2, the Kentucky product has to be a real consideration at 12.
So, there we have it . . . FIVE quarterbacks in the first 12 picks.
Seattle’s second R1
After addressing a future offensive need at #5, the Seahawks address the defense at #20 by selecting Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness.
Here are Schrager’s thoughts:
The redshirt sophomore didn’t start at Iowa due to Kirk Ferentz’s seniority-based approach, but he has a high motor and has been a star of the pre-draft workout circuit. Still, Van Ness is a polarizing prospect, as some teams aren’t as high on him as others. It feels like he could go anywhere from No. 6 to the end of the first round.
It’s probably a stretch to think that Van Ness would go in the Top-10 after never starting a game in college, but . . . maybe. I mean, Schrager has the Falcons selecting Georgia EGE Nolan Smith at #8 and who’s to say they might not actually prefer Van Ness?
One more interesting thing . . .
Aside from Seattle’s picks (which are always interesting) and the fact that FIVE quarterbacks come off the board in the first 12 picks, there’s one more really interesting thing about Schrager’s mock draft.
I know the Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since the 1980s. I also know there aren’t many elite players in this class. (Bijan) Robinson is one. Pure and simple.
The Cowboys have an incredibly strong track record when it comes to recent first-round picks: WR CeeDee Lamb and LB Micah Parsons have both made the past two Pro Bowls, while OL Tyler Smith showed plenty of promise in Year 1. After the release of former No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas has room for another back. With Bijan Robinson off the board, Jerry Jones and Co. scoop up the explosive (Jahmyr) Gibbs.
As a 12, I would hate those two picks because it would mean that the Seahawks didn’t get either of the running backs that I covet. But as a fan of the NFL (in general), I would love, love, love to see two RBs selected in the first round, including one in the Top-10.