The crazy thing about going to the Super Bowl is how short your offseason is. The game ends, everybody celebrates or mourns, and next thing you know it’s time for the Combine, free agency and the draft before you’ve even caught your breath.
So even though the wounds from Glendale are still fresh, it is Mock Draft time, and this one is a no-trades mock, with the exception of the first pick, since it just felt stupid to have the Bears select when it seems so likely they’ll unload the pick.
1. Colts (from Bears): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Shane Steichen knows as well as anybody what drafting a elite young quarterback can mean for a franchise, so the Colts ship this year’s and next year’s 1st-round picks along with this year’s 2nd-round pick and a late-round pick or two to even things out and move up from No. 4 to No. 1 and snag their franchise QB. The Colts finally get their quarterback, the Bears get a motherlode of picks to build around Justin Fields, and everybody’s happy.
2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Six years after they took Deshaun Watson with the 12thpick and three years after he last played for them, the Texans once again try for a franchise quarterback, this time with the two-time Heisman finalist. Here’s everything you need to know about the Texans’ quarterback history: Matt Schaub is the winningest QB in franchise history. By far. The 6-3, 220-pound Stroud had 85 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in two years in Columbus while completing 69 percent of his passes and throwing for over 8,000 yards. DeMeco Ryans gets his guy.
3. Cards: Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama
Jonathan Gannon’s Eagles got to the Super Bowl largely on the strength of their defensive line and deep group of edge rushers, and he gets a terrific one in Anderson, who had 34 ½ sacks the last three years and a ridiculous 58 ½ tackles for loss – both by far the most in the BCS during the last three seasons. The Cards haven’t taken an edge rusher this high since Andre Wadsworth in 1998. That was a disaster. This will go better.
4. Bears (from Colts): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Carter could wind up as the best defensive player in the draft. The guy is a flat-out beast, and it’s a shame he’s not working out at the Combine because that would have been a historic display. Then again, he really doesn’t need to. Carter, the latest in a long line of recent Georgia defensive 1st-round picks (Roquan Smith, Deandre Baker, Eric Stokes, Lewis Cine, Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker), is a game wrecker both against the run and rushing the quarterback. Don’t be shocked if Gannon goes Carter instead of Anderson.
5. Seahawks: Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson
The run on defensive linemen continues with the Seahawks addressing a defense that’s ranked 26th, 22nd, 28th and 26th the last four years. Murphy is one of those guys who can line up anywhere on the d-line and make an impact. What he lacks in polish he makes up for in sheer strength and effort. He’ll make an impact as a rookie and keep getting better.
6. Lions: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Lions get a stud corner as they try to fix a defense that’s ranked among the bottom four in the NFL the last four years and was last this past season. And we’ll try to get the Eagles an elite corner as well.
7. Raiders: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Found a home at Kentucky after spending two years at Penn State. Although his numbers weren’t spectacular this past season, that had more to do with the lack of talent around him than any decline in his performance. Levis has good size and a strong arm and he also already has a good feel for the NFL passing game after working this year with Wildcats offensive coordinator and QBs coach Rich Scangarello, who was on Doug Pederson’s Eagles staff in 2020.
8. Falcons: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
NFL teams are going to love Johnson’s positional versatility, but he’ll be a left tackle in the NFL and already has the type of refined technique as well as strength, size and athleticism that NFL teams are looking for. This is the third straight year the Falcons have a top-10 pick, and while that isn’t a good place to be from a football standpoint, it has given the Falcons a chance to rebuild the roster after five straight losing seasons. Kyle Pitts and Drake London are a good start. Johnson should help as well.
9. Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Since Cam Newton’s last good season in 2017, the Panthers have tried to win with Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield with five straight losing seasons and seven straight seasons without a playoff win to show for it. It’s time to start over, and Richardson gives new head coach Frank Reich the type of young quarterback he loves to build around. Richardson has a huge arm, great size, terrific mobility, a quick release – plenty there for Reich to work with.
10. Eagles: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Eagles haven’t drafted a corner in the first round since Lito Sheppard 21 years ago, but there’s plenty to love about Witherspoon, even though he’s a tad under-sized at 6-0, 180. He’s incredibly smart and instinctive, has terrific ball skills and most importantly has that aggressive edge that Eagles fans will love. He’s a big hitter and unafraid of contact. Think a young Troy Vincent. Even if by some miracle Howie Roseman is able to re-sign James Bradberry, the Eagles still need to think about getting younger at corner. Darius Slay is 32 and only signed for one more year, and Bradberry will be 30 this summer. The Eagles, who haven’t drafted an Illinois player since receiver Mike Bellamy in the second round in 1990, haven’t taken a corner in the first three rounds since 2017 (Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas) and haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl defensive back in more than 20 years. That’s crazy. It’s time. It’s past time. The Eagles take Witherspoon and all of Philly thanks the Saints. And Howie.
11. Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Last time the Titans took an offensive lineman in the first round it was Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson in 2020. He played three snaps in his entire NFL career and for a variety of reasons is no longer in the NFL. They’ll try again with elite tackle prospect Peter Skoronski, who is a plug-and-play starter and will probably begin his career at guard but will grow into a tackle at some point in the not-so-distant future.
12. Texans: Quentin Johnston, WR, Texas Christian
I know what you’re thinking … 1st-round WR from TCU? I know, I know, but you can’t hold Jalen Reagor against Quentin Johnson, a terrific prospect with tremendous size (6-4, 195) who averaged 19.0 yards per catch over the last three years, 2nd-highest in the BCS during that span (behind Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims.) We already have the Texans taking C.J. Stroud at No. 2, and what’s the biggest thing a young star QB needs to grow with? A young star receiver. Johnston, with his game-breaking ability, has all the tools to become that guy for Stroud.
13. Jets: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
Branch, the third Alabama player taken so far, adds some juice to the Jets’ defense with his versatility and physicality. He’s a tough, aggressive, intelligent combo slot corner and box safety who’s an elite tackler and terrific in coverage. He’s a ballhawk, a savvy blitzer and has enough tools in his toolbox that he can be an every-down player as a rookie.
14. Patriots: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
After allowing 41 sacks this year, the Patriots need to work on that offensive line, and Jones fits the bill. Jones stands 6-4, 320 pounds and has tremendous athleticism, moves really well for a huge dude and has a rare combination of power and flexibility that will serve him well against both massive defensive ends and speedy edge rushers. The one concern with Jones is his lack of experience. He started a few games late in 2021 but is essentially a one-year starter so he’s got some work to do as far as technique and polish. But physically, he’s already a monster.
15. Packers: Tyree Wilson, DL, Texas Tech
Only four teams had fewer sacks this year than the Packers, and Wilson, a transfer from Texas A&M, is a versatile player at 6-6, 275, who can play inside or out but is at his best lining up inside, where he is a beast against the run and can use his power to pressure the quarterback. He might never be exclusively an edge rusher, but he can impact the game from anywhere on the field and has an astronomical ceiling.
16. Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Commanders haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl defensive back in 16 years – since safety LaRon Landry in the first round in 2007. It’s been a couple years longer since their last Pro Bowl corner, 2005 1st-round pick Carlos Rogers. Some analysts believe Gonzalez will wind up as the best corner in this draft, and if the Eagles and Commanders both go cornerback in the first round it will be fun to compare them in the coming years. My money’s on whoever Howie picks.
17. Steelers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Had that monster 2021 season playing with Kenny Pickett at Pitt in 2021 before resurfacing last year at USC, and even though his numbers dropped significantly – 100 catches down to 59, 1,593 yards down to 875, 17 TDs down to eight, in part because of an ankle injury – this is still an elite prospect. Addison has refined route running ability, terrific hands and a real skill once the ball is in his hands to pick up yards with his speed or through traffic. Reuniting with Pickett will be huge for both of them.
18. Lions: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
One of only two players in the entire BCS – and the only tight end – with at least 130 catches, 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two years, Mayer is an NFL-ready tight end who’s got the whole package – great hands, outstanding size at 6-4, 250, disciplined route-running ability, terrific body control on bad balls and terrific blocking skill. With T.J. Hockenson unloaded to the Vikings, Mayer will come in and be TE1 from Day 1. Did you know the Lions have never had a tight end with 800 yards? Mayer should get close as a rookie.
19. Buccaneers: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
While Porter, Witherspoon and Gonzalez have gotten most of the attention in this deep cornerback class, Banks might be the most underrated corner prospect in the group. He’s got nice size at 6-2, 205 pounds, and is technically sound, which he needs because he doesn’t have elite speed. The Bucs haven’t drafted a corner in the first round since Aqib Talib 15 years ago, and the smart, steady Banks should be a nice fit in a Todd Bowles defense.
20. Seahawks: Keion White, Edge, Georgia Tech
More of a long-range project than a plug-and-play starter, but the ceiling is high for White, who began his college football career as as tight end at Old Dominion before finding a home as a defensive lineman at Georgia Tech. White has unusual size for a modern-era edge rusher at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds. White is the kind of guy who is going to wow people at the Combine with his physical traits.
21. Dolphins: Forfeited
22. Chargers: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
Had a monster breakthrough season with 67 catches for 1,267 yards and a BCS-high 15 touchdowns (five against Alabama) with an 18.9 average – 2nd-highest in the BCS among receivers with at least 50 catches (behind Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims), all of which earned him the Biletnikoff Award for the top receiver in college football. Hyatt stands 6-0, 185, and will have some adjusting to do in the NFL after playing in Josh Heupel’s high-octane spread offense. That’s why the Combine will be huge for Hyatt. As long as he shows the NFL traits he’s expected to, he’ll be a coveted player.
23. Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Fourth year in Chestnut Hill paid off for Flowers, who had a big senior season with 78-for-1,077 and 12 touchdowns playing without an elite quarterback and as the only real weapon on offense. Playing on a bad team that never won more than six games in his four seasons and hasn’t had a WR drafted since one-time Eagle Kelvin Martin in the fourth round in 1987, Flowers was a big-time under-the-radar guy. But once pro days and the combine start, he’ll be hard to miss. He has game breaking speed, a rare ability to track the deep ball and unlimited upside. The Ravens didn’t have a WR with 500 yards this year, and Flowers will give Lamar Jackson – or whoever the Ravens’ QB is – an exciting big-play target.
24. Vikings: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
If you can find an SEC cornerback who had success against all the high-powered receivers in the conference you definitely have an NFL prospect. Smith is a physical, productive d-back who can play inside or outside and is confident and unafraid of even the best receivers he goes up against. The Vikings ranked 31st in pass defense last year, allowing 266 yards per game. Smith gives the defense an instant playmaker either outside or in the slot.
25. Jaguars: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
Doug Pederson comes from the Andy Reid and Howie Roseman school of building through the lines, and while Torrence might not serve an immediate need, protecting Trevor Lawrence should be at the top of the Jaguars’ list of priorities, and the 6-5, 350-pound Torrence can take his rookie year to work on his technique and then become a starting guard in Year 2.
26. Giants: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
The Giants drafted Daniel Bellinger in the fourth round last year after losing Evan Engram to the Jaguars, but especially if they’re moving forward with Daniel Jones they’ll need a big-time reliable tight end, and Kincaid gives them exactly that. He’s a sure-handed receiver and a quality blocker who came to football late after growing up as a big-time basketball player. He only caught one pass his first year at Utah and 36 his second year but last year he blossomed with 70-for-890 and eight TDs, and although he’s already a polished player he’s got lots of upside. He’ll immediately become the focus of the Giants’ offense.
27. Cowboys: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Beyond the obvious – Smith-Njigba grew up in Dallas and played in high school playoff games at AT&T Stadium – he’s one of the most talented receivers in the draft, with his value likely being hurt by a serious hamstring injury that limited him to three games (and five catches) this past season. But remember, in 2021 Smith was Ohio State’s leading receiver, with 500 more yards than either Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave. His 1,606 yards were third-most in the BCS (behind Jerreth Sterns of Western Kentucky and Deven Thompkins of Utah State) and if Smith-Njigba can show the hammy isn’t a long-term concern, someone is going to get an elite WR late in the first round.
28. Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I’m firmly in the “never-take-a-running-back-in-the-first-round” camp, but this makes sense for a lot of reasons. When you play in Buffalo and the conditions are such a big part of the game, you expect the running attack to be a big part of your offense, especially in big late-season games. And when you pick at No. 27, those “no RBs” type of rules are relaxed a little. But mainly because Robinson is such a rare talent, a smart, versatile, explosive weapon. Robinson had over 4,000 scrimmage yards the last three years and is one of the best receiving backs in the BCS as well as a monster runner. This past year, he won the Doak Walker Award after picking up 1,580 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns, over 300 receiving yards and a 6.1 rushing average. Good blocker, too. Seems like a Sean McDermott kind of player.
29. Bengals: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Harrison is a polished lineman who’s hoping to continue a tradition that’s seen the Sooners produce a bunch of elite NFL offensive tackles (Trent Williams, Orlando Brown, Lane Johnson). Harrison made a big jump in 2022 both mentally and physically and at 6-5, 315 pounds, looks the part of an NFL tackle. The Bengals allowed 44 sacks last year – 11th-most in the league – and over the last two years Joe Burrow has been sacked 92 times – more than any other quarterback. Jonah Williams was a 1st-round pick just four years ago, but the Bengals need to upgrade left tackle, and Harrison is a good fit.
30. Saints: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
What the Saints really need is a quarterback, but they’re not really in position to take a chance on a late 1st-round QB so the next-most pressing need is offensive weapons for whatever veteran QB the Saints bring in. Chris Olave had an impressive rookie year with 72-for-1,042, but the Saints still need more weapons. They didn’t have any other WRs with 500 yards last year, Downs can come in and contribute immediately out of the slot. Now, at 5-10, 170 pounds, he doesn’t have great size, but he makes up for it with explosion, terrific hands and an ability to make contested catches in traffic.
31. Eagles: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State
Howie could easily wind up trading this pick – hard to imagine him picking twice in the first round without a trade – but if he does select a player at 30 after taking a corner at 10 you know it’s going to be either an offensive or defensive lineman, and since there really isn’t an o-lineman that makes sense here, I have him going with an edge rusher, and Anudike-Uzomah is a good one. We all saw how important pass rush was to the Eagles’ success this year, and even with Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat under contract, the 2022 season proved that a rotation of elite edge rushers is huge. The 6-3, 250-pound Anudike-Uzomah is a pass-rush force with all the measurables to go with a nasty edge and a tireless motor. Anudike-Uzomah had 26 ½ tackles for loss and 20 ½ sacks over the last two years and also forced eight fumbles, second-most over the last two seasons in the BCS. Even if Brandon Graham comes back for one more year, getting a young pass rusher into the mix is huge. Anudike-Uzomah gives the Eagles immediate ability to get to the quarterback in a season where they’re going to lose a good chunk of their front seven.
32. Chiefs: B.J. Ojulari, Edge, LSU
Ojulari, younger brother of Giants’ Azeez Ojulari, was a productive player in college with 12 ½ sacks and 20 ½ tackles for loss the last two years. He’s got a wide assortment of pass rush moves, he’s a high-effort guy and a terrific athlete who can drop back in coverage and make plays in the open field. What he doesn’t have is size at 6-3, 245, and that’s something he’ll have to work on to hold up against the run.