Fanspeak Mock Draft 12/13: What if NFL teams didn’t worry about drafting for need in the 1st rd?
What if every draft pick was a luxury pick?
That only happens when a team feels like it has its proverbial bases covered at every position. That likely means it has above-average veterans or promising, young backups at every position. You almost don’t want to draft certain positions because you’re just not sure how much playing time that player would get.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Savvy teams build through the draft – you can tell how good a team is at drafting by the number of drafted players it re-signs to multiple contracts. Then, teams plug holes with smart free agent signings, but not necessarily flashy names.
Trades? You’ve got those, too – but only when they make sense. Again, savvy teams never over-spend on trades, as it almost always comes back to haunt them. Those teams tend to hang onto their first-round picks, too, although there are exceptions.
Right now, several teams have seemingly done everything right in terms of team-building. Those teams include Philadelphia, Miami, Buffalo, Baltimore, Kansas City and San Francisco. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all are playoff teams as of this moment.
The way these teams have built their rosters allows them to go into the draft and take the best player available.
Minnesota can’t say that. The Vikings have holes in the secondary and offensive line and have a 34-year-old quarterback and a 32-year-old No. 2 receiver. Cincinnati has won five consecutive games and a young, star QB, but the team needs help in the secondary and they need a tight end and another pass rusher.
However, if those teams can fill those holes through free agency, then they could conceivably go into the 2023 draft and pick up the best player available – regardless of the depth at that position on their team.
Here’s what a draft in which every team took the best player available (within reason, of course) would look like.
1. Houston Texans: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Right off the bat with an eye-roller of a pick, right? But if you want to talk about pure athleticism and potential, then Richardson is your guy as the top three QBs generally come with some troubling issues. Is this pick likely? Absolutely not. Just remember, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold went nos. 1 and 3 overall in 2018, while Josh Allen fell to Buffalo with pick No. 7. Like Richardson, Allen was thought to be an incredibly athletic talent who lacked refinement and accuracy.
2. Seattle Seahawks (from Den): DL Jalen Carter
The team can bypass QB if it can re-sign Geno Stone.
3. Chicago Bears: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
Chicago has a recent habit of collecting, then trading, Pro Bowl pass rushers.
4. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): Bryce Young, Alabama
Jared Goff is signed through 2025; maybe he can run things again for a year to let Young watch and learn.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO): RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Just what one of the best rushing offenses and offensive line needs: the best RB in the draft.
6. Arizona Cardinals: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Kyler Murray has had an incredibly tumultuous season – and that was before the season-ending ACL tear. But Murray still has trade value, and there are plenty of QB-needy teams outside of the top-10 that may be willing to trade for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 draft.
7. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
He’s the best remaining player in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, and he’s an incredible talent.
8, Las Vegas Raiders: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
Need, meet best-player-available.
9. Carolina Panthers: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
The Panthers have quietly put together a pretty good roster that still needs a few big pieces to be competitive, namely QB. Robinson would be a great start.
10. Atlanta Falcons: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The team would be taking a big risk with this pick, as JSN doesn’t have ideal size and missed most of the season with lingering hamstring issues. Plus, the team drafted a receiver in the first round in the spring. But, JSN would give new-QB Desmond Ridder a reliable slot option, and there are still many draft analysts who think the Buckeyes receiver is the best in the draft.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
QB Trevor Lawrence is starting to figure things out – and now the defense is starting to round into form. Could be a scary team in 2023.
13. Houston Texans (from Cle.): Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
What do you give the team that lacks talent almost everywhere? The best player available!
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
14. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
NFC North teams better fortify their secondaries, because the Packers are starting to accumulate young pass-catchers.
15. Detroit Lions: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Detroit is on a hot streak but desperately needs to improve its defense.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
Los Angeles doesn’t reach very often; an OL could be in play here, too.
17. Seattle Seahawks: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
OK, forget what we said about re-signing Stone. What?! Will friggin’ Levis is still available at pick No. 17? Seattle would through a parade.
18. N.Y. Jets: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
LT Mekhi Becton has played one game in two years.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Even if QB Tom Brady was, say, 15 years younger, the team would still want to protect its most important asset.
20. Tennessee Titans: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Washington would help the run game and keep QB Ryan Tannehill upright, as he’s essentially an OT out there who can catch the ball.
21. New England Patriots: DL Siaki Ika, Baylor
Bill Belichick’s drafts his next Vince Wilfork.
22. Washington Commanders: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Washington lacks dynamic talent on offense.
23. NY Giants: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
Flowers has rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks.
24. Denver Broncos (from SF): Edge Jared Verse, Florida State
Baron Browning, rookie Nik Bonitto, free agent signing Randy Gregory and Jonathon Cooper have combined for 9 sacks this season.
25. Baltimore Ravens: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Porter enters the draft with 1 career INT – none this year.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
As mentioned above, the Bengals could use help in its secondary.
27. Dallas Cowboys: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
Dallas has six – six – OTs. A closer look, though, reveals that it’s a potential weak spot. The starting LT is expected to make his season debut this weekend after missing every game thus far with an injury, while the RT just went down with an ACL tear. The 41-year-old backup likely won’t return next season, while another backup, a rookie, is out for the year with shoulder surgery. That leaves Tyler Smith, the team’s first round pick this year who started out as the team’s starting LG, and 2021 fourth-rounder Josh Ball, who might not make next year’s roster. Keep Smith at LT? The team’s LG will be an UFA at the end of the season. Translation: Jones gives the team options it doesn’t currently have – and he could play left guard.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jaylin Hyatt, Tennessee
Oh great, QB Patrick Mahomes just got a speed-burner as a new toy. Good luck, AFC West.
29. Minnesota Vikings: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Branch might be the safest pick in the draft, should lead the team in tackles next season.
30. Buffalo Bills: Edge B.J. Ojulari, LSU
With the injury to Von Miller, the Bills are about to find out that a team can never have enough pass rushers.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
LB might be the Eagles only “need,” although that’s debatable after the team invested a third-round pick in the position in two out of the last three drafts.
Los Angeles Rams, second round: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
New Orleans Saints, second round: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
Cleveland Browns, second round: CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
Miami Dolphins, second round: RB Zach Evans, Ole Miss
San Francisco, third round: WR Charlie Jones, Purdue
** Miami lost its first-round pick due to tampering charges.
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.