Fanspeak Mock Draft 4.19: Follow the rumor mill – Young goes No. 1, Houston passes on a QB and Pittsburgh ends Carter’s slide

NFL Draft News

His accuracy, vision and processing skills are considered “genius level,” and yet he also had more than 3 seconds in the pocket last season.

He’s a natural passer but has average to slightly above-average arm strength.

And he’s a winner who excelled at one of the top programs in the nation, but Alabama’s Bryce Young will be the smallest starting quarterback in the league.

He was measured at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds at the Combine, but media reports say he played closer to 190 pounds. Still, all reports seem to indicate that Young will be Carolina’s pick next week.

And that should scare Carolina fans.

This line in particular in Dane Brugler’s massive draft guide for The Athletic sums up the risks that come with drafting him: “(Young) often welcomes chaos to buy time as a passer, raising the odds of him taking hits.”

Young better hope center Bradley Bozeman can rebound from an injury-filled 2022 season, as the Panthers face Tampa Bay’s Vita Vea twice per year.

The recent smaller QBs have struggled and/or been unable to sustain success beyond one or two outlier seasons. And Young will be smaller than all of them.

Could the shortest QB in the league with average arm strength turn into a franchise signal-caller? Of course. There’s always a first – maybe Young will become the standard-bearer for successful quarterbacks under 6-feet. And if any prospect can break that mold, it’s Young – it’s all his other elite traits that put him in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick despite his measurables.

Then the team has to hope Young gets back up the first time Vea lands on him.

After all, none of those other “elite” traits matter if he’s injured.

That said, the Young-to-Carolina talk is just rumors until the actual pick is made – but it’s not the only one going around lately that’s gaining steam.

This mock draft features three other rumors: Houston passes up on a QB, a fifth QB is selected on Day 1, and Pittsburgh moves up to take arguably the best defensive player in this draft.

Round 1

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

I still think taking Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud makes more sense here, but … as the below tweet seems to indicate, Young-to-Carolina is all but a done deal at this point.

 2. Houston Texans: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire – and media reports suggest Houston might not take a QB at all if Young isn’t available. Sounds crazy, right? Well, consider this tweet from former NFL GM Michael Lombardi, which just about broke the internet earlier this week:

Here’s how Houston may see things: If they think Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud will be at least as good as Chicago’s Justin Fields, then why draft Stroud when they already have a young quarterback on their roster who has put up almost identical passing numbers the past two seasons and has virtually the same record as Fields? Sure, Fields is a far better runner than Mills – but Stroud isn’t a runner, either. Stroud ran for a total of 136 yards at Ohio State; Mills ran for 86 at Stanford.

3. Indianapolis Colts: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

(Trade with Arizona)

If Stroud is still available, expect several teams to inquire about trading up. Stroud may not have Anthony Richardson’s athleticism, but he’s a far more polished and cleaner prospect, so expect Indianapolis to make a strong offer.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

(Trade with Indianapolis)

Six months ago, it would have been inconceivable to mention Wilson as a top-3 candidate, but here we are. The Cardinals have reportedly tried drumming up some trade interest in this pick and remains a candidate to move down in the draft, but that could also mean losing out on a player like Wilson or one of the top CBs. Swapping picks with Indianapolis seems the most-likely scenario. The safest move would be to drop down one spot, which would probably cost the Colts their third-round pick, No. 79 overall. Landing an extra Day 2 pick and drafting a top pass rusher would be a major win for the Cardinals.

5. Seattle Seahawks: G Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

It’s a bit surprising that Skoronski’s name hasn’t been mentioned much as a candidate for Seattle’s first pick. Then again, taking a guard in the top-5 is never going to excite the masses. That said, Seattle has needs along the interior of its offensive line, and Skoronski is the type of prospect who should make at least one Pro Bowl before his rookie contract runs out.

6. Detroit Lions: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

Like Wilson, it was inconceivable that Witherspoon would be the top CB and a top-10 pick six months ago.

7. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Jalen Carter is the better prospect, but positional importance says Gonzalez will have the bigger impact.

8. Atlanta Falcons: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

Desmond Ridder is the team’s quarterback of the future, right? The team may think otherwise if Richardson is still available.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

(Trade with Chicago)

Lot of noise with this pick and potential trade. The thinking is that Pittsburgh is trying to trade up to snag one of the top OTs. Unless that’s just a smokescreen for Carter. SI’s Peter King seems to think Carter is the “perfect fit” for the Steelers. It could be costly, though, as media reports allege Chicago is trying to get back the first pick of the second round it lost in the Chase Claypool trade.

10. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

Adding another star defender from Georgia’s best-in-the-league defense just makes sense.

11. Tennessee Titans: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

This scenario would create a very interesting trade market for untested QBs, as Tennessee (Malik Willis), Carolina (Matt Corral) and Atlanta (Desmond Ridder) all took QBs in the third round last year. Add in San Francisco QB Trey Lance, the No. 3 pick of the 2021 draft who’s reportedly on the trade block.

12. Houston Texans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Houston might get roasted for passing up a QB and winding up with a pass rusher and a receiver with their two top-12 picks, but Anderson and JSN gives the team two weapons who performed at elite levels for top-flight programs. JSN might have been a higher pick had he not sat out most of 2022 with a lingering hamstring issue.

13. New York Jets: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

With the Aaron Rodgers trade dragging on, you still have to assume this is New York’s last chance to snag a starting-caliber rookie tackle in the first round for the next year or two. And rest assured, this pick will be a tackle, whether it’s Johnson or someone else.

14. New England Patriots: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

I still say it would be too hard for New England to pass up on Robinson, the top prospect in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, when running back is one of the Patriots’ biggest needs.

15. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

This pick also feels like a foregone conclusion.

16. Washington Commanders: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Could Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker be the surprise pick here? Maybe, but then what does the team do with Sam Howell, the fifth-rounder from a year ago who the Commanders seem intent on starting this year? And let’s assume Hooker isn’t healthy enough to start until later in the season. What if Howell is playing well — do you bench him in favor or your first-rounder? That seems unlikely, too. Sure, Howell could stink it up and Hooker could then step in once he’s ready to go. But the fact is, if Washington falters next season due to a lack of quality quarterback play, then the Commanders are going to have a shot at drafting one of the top QBs next season — and will probably have a higher pick, too. For now, the team needs a player like Branch in the NFC East, which features some of the best receivers and tight ends in the league.

17. Chicago Bears: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

Don’t be surprised if Georgia tackle Broderick Jones falls a bit – but not out of the first round. Wright, along with last year’s steal of the draft Braxton Jones, and 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom would give the Bears an enviable trio of young, solid offensive tackles.

18. Detroit Lions: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Brock Wright will be very disappointed by this pick.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Tampa needs bodies along the offensive line, and Jones is the best one still available. Jones, though, is built more like a left tackle, currently manned by All-Pro Tristan Wirfs, and all his starts have come at that position. Would the team be willing to move Wirfs back to right tackle, a spot he’s started at before?

20. Seattle Seahawks: C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

It’s hard to envision seeing the team take a player like Lukas Van Ness after recently signing Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to free agent deals. It’s also hard to see Van Ness or Myles Murphy as 3-4 outside linebackers. This might be high for JMS, but Seattle desperately needs a center, and there’s no guarantee JMS, Wisconsin’s Joe Tippman or TCU’s guard/center Steve Avila are sill available in Round 2. So why not take the arguably best center now? Seattle has reportedly met with JMS several times.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

If you’re picking between Addison and Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, the former held a private workout with the team, while the later hasn’t been tied to the team in any media reports.

22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

Who will be throwing passes to Flowers and OBJ in 2024?

23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina

Downs is rising.

We just wanted to write that sentence, more than anything. (But he is an ascending prospect.)

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

Georgia CB Kelee Ringo is often compared to Jacksonville’s Tyson Campbell, but Porter is the better prospect in this draft.

25. New York Giants: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

The speedy Hyatt would immediately step in as New York’s best receiver.

26. New Orleans Saints: QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

(Trade with Dallas)

Is this a reach? You bet. But if Houston doesn’t take a QB on Day 1, then it’s not out of the question for the team to take Hooker or Levis if either player is still available with pick No. 34. Translation: New Orleans may have to trade up a few spots if it wants Hooker. Remember, the Saints could conceivably be a bottom-10 team next season, giving them a shot at one of the top signal-callers in 2024 – hence why it doesn’t make sense to draft a QB beyond Round 2 this year. (Just ask Tennessee, Atlanta and Carolina.)

Hooker, on the other hand, at least gives New Orleans’ hope that it’s nailed down its franchise signal-caller. Remember, if it wasn’t for the ACL tear he suffered late in the season, Hooker might have been a much higher pick. So, even if he winds up taking a redshirt year this year and the team still winds up with a top-10 pick in 2024, New Orleans can still go into next season knowing it has a potential top-10-type talent at QB who’s now fully healthy, allowing the Saints to focus on other areas of need.

Seem like circular logic, considering Washington passed on Hooker 10 picks earlier but also needs a QB? The difference is, the Commanders already have a young QB they’re ready to roll with this year; the Saints do not.

27. Buffalo Bills: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

It’s hard to imagine the Bills taking another player this late who would have as much of an impact as Gibbs. With this pick, Buffalo could conceivably have the most passing yards and rushing yards next season.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

No way Van Ness falls this far, right? The same could be said last year when Jermaine Johnson fell to pick 26 and George Karlaftis fell to pick 30.

29. Dallas Cowboys: G Steve Avila, TCU

Here’s a bold prediction: Dallas will take a QB between Rounds 1 to 3 – and it could be as high as Day 1, as the team has reportedly shown a lot of interest in Hooker. Then again, maybe that’s a ploy to get a team like Houston – if it bypasses QB with its first two picks – or New Orleans – who desperately needs a QB – to give up a pick to move up. By the way, moving down three spots doesn’t net as much as you think it does. According to the Rich Hill Trade Value Model via Drafttek; the Saints would only have to give up a fourth-round pick to move up from 29 to 26. So why take Avila when players like edge Myles Murphy, defensive linemen Mazi Smith and Bryan Bresee and cornerback Deonte Banks are still available? Start with Murphy. At best, he’d be second-string in Dallas, as the team has depth at pass rusher. Smith would step in as an immediate starter, but Dallas has historically shied from taking a DT early in the draft. As for Bresee, the team is already set at the 3-tech; unless Bresee can start and effectively stop the run as a 1-tech, the team needs Smith more than it does Bresee. Then there’s Banks. If he’s visited with the team, then that information has been kept-low key. There could be a reason for that – where does he play? He’s not seen as a slot corner, currently occupied by Jourdan Lewis and Darron Bland, who finished second among all rookies and first on the team last year with 5 INTs. So Banks would have to share playing time with the team’s two All-Pro cornerbacks. Sure, Stephon Gilmore and Trevon Diggs will be free agents next season, but that’s a “next year” problem – you don’t want your first-rounder to play limited snaps his rookie season. That leaves guard, where Avila was picked over the higher-ranked O’Cyrus Torrence of Florida. The reason? Avila can play both guard and center (and, for what it’s worth, current starting center Tyler Biadasz will also be an UFA next season).

30. Philadelphia Eagles: C Joe Tippman, Wisconsin

The Eagles are now on the clock with the Jalen Hurts signing, as their salary cap maneuverability will be limited the moment Hurts’ contract starts. Fortunately, Philadelphia doesn’t really have any glaring holes on its roster, so Tippman would be more of a pick for Jason Kelce’s eventual retirement (maybe after this upcoming season?).

31. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

The athletic Harrison is the highest-remaining tackle and has also taken a pre-draft visit with the Chiefs. He’ll immediately step in as the starting right tackle.

Who’s Left

Los Angeles Rams, second round: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

Miami Dolphins, second round: RB David Achane, Texas A&M

Denver Broncos, third round: OT Carter Warren, Pittsburgh

Cleveland Browns, third round: Edge Tuli Tuipulotu, USC

San Francisco 49ers, third round: CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M


Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for 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.

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