FINAL Fanspeak Mock Draft 4.26: Draft day is here! Who will make a splashy move tonight?

NFL Draft News

The “best” quarterback is also short, as in, historically short for his position.

The “best” defensive tackle and arguably the best defensive player in the draft had one of the worst leadups to the draft in recent memory.

The “best” pass rusher? Lacks ideal size, gets penalized a lot, misses too many tackles and ran a good-not-great 4.6 40. Or maybe you’re talking about the other “best” pass rusher, who’s never had more than 7.0 sacks in a season and whose medicals may be a cause for concern.

And don’t forget the “best” offensive tackle, whose measurables likely makes him the “best” guard. Or the “best” passer at the Combine; he’s now being downgraded over what’s essentially a video game. Then there’s the “best” athlete in the draft, a quarterback who could go as high as No. 1 to Carolina or fall completely out of the first round.

The “best” tight end ran a 4.7 40, which may make the other TE the new “best.” That player has yet to work out due to multiple injuries suffered last season.

There’s also debate over who the “best” cornerback is. What’s not debatable? The CB in this draft who was the “best” at returning INTs back for TDs. He’ll be one of the thinnest players in the league.

There’s also debate over the “best” center. Problem is, there’s only two of them ranked among the top 50 players in the final Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, so if you don’t get one of them early, then you better hope your team doesn’t need to come out of this draft with a solid starting rookie center.

Sure, there’s a “best” safety; he ran a 4.58 40 and is considered a slot corner by many teams.

There’s always a “best” linebacker, right? There are three candidates to choose from this year, and it’s possible, if not probable, that none of them are picked in the first round.

But there is one “best” player in this draft who comes with no warts, no tragic backstory and no red flags with perfect measurables and elite vision, power and speed.

In fact, many draft analysts consider this player to be the “best” player in the entire draft, regardless of position.

And yet, that player, Texas running back Bijan Robinson, could conceivably fall out of the first round altogether.

Yep, it’s gonna be that kind of draft, starting tonight.

Round 1

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

Young is one of the more interesting prospects in recent memory. He’s got top-of-the-draft intangibles mixed with free agent measurables. Young measured in at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds at the Combine but allegedly played around 190. One scout told Go Long’s Bob McGinnis that Young weighed 169 pounds in the BCS Championship Game against Georgia. But if Carolina can keep Young upright – and the Panthers have a better O-Line than most teams with the No. 1 overall pick – then the diminutive signal-caller has a chance to be special, with some analysts comparing him to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

2. Minnesota Vikings: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

(Trade with Houston)

The more we think about this crazy trade – which would require Minnesota to swap this year’s pick plus give up two more future firsts and either next year’s second or two third-rounders – the more we think this rumor has legs to it. Current starter Kirk Cousins will be 35 next season and is in the final year of his contract. Minnesota, meanwhile, suddenly finds itself in a division that no longer includes a Hall of Fame quarterback, so the Vikings have as good a shot as any at leading the division for the next several seasons – as long as the team continues to have good QB play. In theory, taking Levis and letting him sit behind Cousins for a year could make that happen, as there wouldn’t necessarily be a transition year (or two) after Cousins is gone when the team has a playoff roster but no starting QB.

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

(Trade with Arizona)

Who leaked the S2 scores? More importantly, why were the scores leaked? The theory is that a team or agent – who has something to gain by leaking those scores – is the source. If a team preferred Stroud over Young, Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson, then leaking the S2 scores would, theoretically, push Stroud down draft boards. Likewise, if an agent wanted to give his player a bit of a last-minute rankings boost, then that information would certainly help Young, Levis and Richardson. Either way, most analysts believe Stroud’s floor is No. 7 to Las Vegas, meaning, he probably won’t fall very far – if he falls at all.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

(Trade with Indianapolis)

Arizona gives up a fourth but picks up a high-second by swapping picks with Indianapolis – and the Cardinals still get the player they wanted all along.

5. Seattle Seahawks: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

This will be a very interesting pick. Rumors the past several weeks have Georgia’s Jalen Carter as the pick here – and that makes sense, as Seattle needs to upgrade its defensive line. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is also rumored to be after Carter, so the Eagles would have to jump to No. 4 to assure themselves of securing the Georgia star. Then word started to spread days before the draft that Seattle instead has its eyes set on Richardson, one of the most amazing, but raw, QB prospects in recent memory. Like the Minnesota rumors, this makes sense. Starter Geno Smith was a longtime backup before having a career year at age 32, which led to a new three-year, $75 million deal. But the contract is structured in such a way that Seattle can get out of it after the upcoming season. Something else to consider: Maybe, just maybe, head coach Pete Carroll is pretty good at identifying, then coaching, quarterbacks. Consider some of the QBs Carroll has coached since 2001: Matt Cassell, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley at USC, then one year of Matt Hasselbeck, then Russell Wilson two years later at Seattle until Wilson’s backup, Smith, took over last season. The fact that Carroll’s USC QBs had disappointing careers underscores the point: What did any of them do after leaving Carroll? The same can be said of Wilson, who struggled after being traded last season to Denver. So if Carroll can make Leinart and Sanchez first-rounders and can turn an undersized third-round pick into a Super Bowl champion, think of what he could potentially due with Richardson.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

(Trade with Detroit)

The only reason Philadelphia would give up a second-round pick to move up four spots is because Pittsburgh is also rumored to be interested in trading up for Carter. Granted, Texas RB Bijan Robinson would no doubt have an unbelievable rookie year for the Eagles and would likely be the leading candidate for Rooke of the Year. And Carter would likely play behind former teammate Jordan Davis and Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox. That said, you can find really good RBs anywhere in the draft – but you won’t find a defensive tackle nearly as dominant as Carter. Plus, Cox isn’t expected to last much longer in the league.

7. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

There’s been a lot of chatter of Las Vegas moving up in the draft to snag one of the top four QBs. They’re gone in this scenario, but that would mean the price tag to move up would have been costly. If you’re the Raiders and just signed QB Jimmy Garoppolo, why would you give up a lot of draft assets to take another quarterback – especially with so many other needs?

8. Atlanta Falcons: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

The Wilson-overtaking-Anderson talk is hard to believe following this Walter Football Hot Press report on the foot injury Wilson suffered last November. The Texas Tech pass rusher underwent surgery a few weeks later, then removed hardware from the surgically repaired foot in another procedure in late March. However, a director of player personnel of a top-10 team told Walter Football that his team had dropped Wilson from their board, adding that he didn’t think the injury was addressed successfully and that his team’s doctors said they’d want to re-do the surgery. The source described the X-ray of Wilson’s foot as looking like “Frankenstein. It’s all mangled.” So, hard pass, right? Not necessarily in Atlanta, who made USC receiver Drake London the No. 8 overall pick last year despite fracturing his right ankle late in the season, preventing him from participating in any pre-draft drills. London went on to play all 17 games last season, starting 15, catching 72 passes for 866 yards and 4 touchdowns.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

(Trade with Chicago)

Just because Pittsburgh missed out on Carter doesn’t mean this trade with Chicago still doesn’t have legs, as the Steelers are allegedly hot on the OT market and Johnson’s stock has steadily risen in recent days.

10. Detroit Lions: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

(Trade with Philadelphia)

The funny thing is, Detroit probably would have taken Witherspoon or Gonzalez had it stayed at 6, but now the Lions pick up an extra second, giving them three second-round picks, and still come away with one of the best cornerbacks.

11. Tennessee Titans: G Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Tennessee desperately needs to upgrade its receiver position, so JSN is super tempting here. But adding pieces to the OL is also a big need and Skoronski is the cleaner prospect when compared to the Ohio State receiver. Newly-signed Andre Dillard, a former first-round pick, has played 330-plus snaps twice in his career and was moved to guard by the end of his tenure with Philadelphia. Daniel Brunskill has mostly been a part-time starter the past four seasons for San Francisco. He’s currently penciled in as Tennessee’s left guard. And right guard is currently manned by 2021 second-rounder Dillon Radunz, whose 280 snaps last season were a career-high but his 40.3 PFF grade was a career-low. He’s started five games in his career. The point is, Tennessee could use an upgrade or two along the OL, and Skoronski could start at all three positions for the Titans.

12. Houston Texans: Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

Houston takes its chances that third-year QB Davis Mills will continue to improve – for what it’s worth, he has better passing numbers than 2021 No. 11 overall pick Justin Fields – rather than forcing things after the QB they allegedly like, Alabama’s Young, went No. 1.

13. Green Bay Packers: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

Green Bay needs a tight end and another receiver to kick off the Jordan Love era, but first they need to find a way to keep him protected, as another injury-filled season among the team’s offensive lineman could spell doom for the Packers’ new starting QB. Wright would presumably start at right tackle over Yosh Nijman.

14. New England Patriots: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Both starting tackles are over 30 and are unrestricted free agents next season. Better to address half of the problem now with the last of the top-tier tackles.

15. New York Jets: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

The team is in dire need of a tackle – especially after trading for a quarterback who will be 40 by year’s end – but with the top OTs all off the board, expect the Jets to pivot to Smith- Njigba, another player they’ve been tied to, according to ESPN. JSN put up better numbers in 2021 at Ohio State than last year’s star rookie wideout, Garrett Wilson.

16. Washington Commanders: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

Don’t be shocked – the speedy-but-rail-thin Forbes is a late-riser, and Washington needs help in its secondary. Forbes returned an NCAA record 6 of 9 interceptions for a TD in his career.

17. Chicago Bears: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

(Trade with Chicago)

This would be a fun pick just to see Bears fans freak out. That said, Robinson fills a definite need, and when combined with Fields, Chicago would probably lead the league in rushing yards for the foreseeable future. That said, the team still needs to address the offensive line and has been rumored to like Tennessee’s Wright. So why force it if the top remaining OL are gone? Picking up Pittsburgh’s pick at 49 matches up value-wise, but maybe the Bears can get back the top pick of the second round, which the team gave up in the Chase Claypool trade. Either way, Chicago would still have options to take an OT on Day 2.

18. Detroit Lions: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

As YardBarker recently pointed out, the reason the team traded former first-round TE T.J. Hockenson is because of his struggles as a blocker. That doesn’t mean the Lions aren’t in the market for a tight end.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Most mock drafts have Tampa Bay taking a pass rusher, cornerback or an offensive lineman – or a QB, if one of the top four slides this far. But Kincaid might be too tempting to pass up, even though the team liked the production it got out of last year’s pair of rookie TEs, fourth-rounder Cade Otton and sixth-rounder Ko Kieft. He’d also provide a security blanket for Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask.

20. Seattle Seahawks: G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

Anthony Richardson would be the prospect everyone talks about, but it’s the guard Torrence who will receive the most snaps, as he fills an immediate need and is arguably the best true guard in this draft.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

Running back is a sneaky need for the Chargers with Austin Ekeler’s future uncertain. Los Angeles is a common landing spot for Texas’ Robinson in many mock drafts; with Robinson out of the picture, Gibbs is the next-best at the position, with many comparing him to New Orlean’s Alvin Kamara.

23. Baltimore Ravens: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

Baltimore breathed a collective sigh of relief that Flowers made it past the Chargers.

25. Houston Texans: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson

(Trade with Minnesota)

The 12th pick is considered the ceiling for Bresee, so to get both Van Ness and the Clemson defensive tackle would be a coup for the Texans, as their defensive line transformation may take priority over a quarterback. Besides, Minnesota would have had to give up a ton of draft assets to move up this high, so if Mills falters in his third year, Houston has plenty of ammunition to move up to snag one of next year’s top signal-callers.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

This is a best-case scenario for the Jaguars, as they’ve made their intentions known that they want to come out of this draft with at least one starting cornerback to pair with 2021 second-rounder Tyson Campbell. Pass rusher Nolan Smith is another option here.

25. New York Giants: WR Jordan Addison, USC

The Addison-to-New York talk is getting louder, as the USC receiver said Wednesday that he’s been in contact with the Giants “a lot” during the pre-draft process.

26. New Orleans: QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

(Trade with Dallas)

This is literally a worst-case scenario for Dallas. The top two guards are off the board. The top two running backs and tight ends are also gone. But Hooker was still on the clock; hence, the trade down with New Orleans. The Saints get their QB, and the Cowboys pick up an extra fourth.

27. Buffalo Bills: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Without a good offensive tackle option here, Buffalo could look at receiver or defensive tackle with this pick, but Branch is by far the most polished remaining player. On the surface, this pick seems like a luxury with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as the starting safeties, Damar Hamlin hoping to return and former Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp recently signing a one-year contract. That said, all four might not be on the team beyond next season, as Hyde and Rapp will be UFAs in 2024 and Poyer in 2025. That could be why Buffalo recently hosted Branch for one of its private visits.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

Porter’s slide finally ends, as Cincinnati opts for the last of the top-tier corners over the best of the second-tier offensive tackles or tight ends.

29. Dallas Cowboys: G Steve Avila, TCU

(Trade with New Orleans)

Georgia TE Darnell Washington, Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt and Avila are among the available players who were among the team’s 30 pre-draft visitors, and all would fill needs. Defensive tackle Mazi Smith of Michigan should be a consideration here, too, although the Cowboys’ pre-draft meetings seem to indicate the team isn’t looking at defensive tackle early in the draft. Of those four, Avila might be the most boring pick – and, to be clear, this would be a bit of a reach – but he’s the cleanest pick for Dallas. Washington has had some injury concerns, questions about his run blocking and is still a work in progress as a pass catcher. The speedy Hyatt has been called a “one-trick pony” who lacks route development. And the Cowboys haven’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since drafting Russell Maryland with the No. 1 pick in 1991, so you can probably scratch Smith’s name of the list, too. Avila, though, provides positional versatility, as he could start right away at left guard or could be an option next season when center Tyler Biadasz becomes an unrestricted free agent. That said, Avila – who played at nearby South Grand Prairie High School and is from Arlington, where the team is actually located – likely needs to lose weight, but he is a fast-rising prospect. Keep in mind, too, that a July 20 Walter Football Hot Press report by Charlie Campbell said the preseason grades of NFL advance scouts had just one offensive lineman rated in the top-20: Avila. On a fun note, the left side of the Dallas O-Line also includes LT Tyler Smith, last year’s first-round pick who went to nearby North Crowley High School.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

Getting Smith this late in the draft would be quite the coup de grâce for the rest of the NFC East, as the best defense in the league just keeps adding star defensive players from the best defense in college football the past two seasons.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Keion White, Georgia Tech

You can tell who the league is hearing is going to go in the first round by the list of players they invite to attend the first round of the draft. For example, TCU receiver Quentin Johnston was not invited, and, sure enough, his stock has been dropping in recent weeks. The fast-rising White, though, was the most intriguing name to make the list of invites, as he was generally seen as a toolsy, but Day 2, type of prospect until recently. White certainly fills a need on the other side of 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis, as free agent signee Charles Omenihu had 4.5 sacks last season for San Francisco.

Round 2

  1. Pittsburgh: CB Clark Phillips III, Utah

  2. Houston: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

  3. Arizona: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

  4. Arizona (from IND): WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

  5. LA Rams: OT Tyler Steen, Alabama

  6. Seattle: C Joe Tippman, Wisconsin

  7. Las Vegas:C John Michael-Schmitz, Minnesota

  8. Carolina: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina

  9. New Orleans: TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

  10. Tennessee: WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss

  11. Green Bay: Georgia TE Darnell Washington

  12. NY Jets: OT Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse

  13. Atlanta: DL Mazi Smith, Michigan

  14. Green Bay: DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

  15. New England: CB Julius Brents, Kansas State

  16. Washington: TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa

  17. Detroit: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

  18. Chicago (from PIT): OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

  19. Tampa Bay: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

  20. Miami: RB David Achane, Texas A&M

  21. Chicago: Edge Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

  22. LA Chargers: TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

  23. Detroit: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas

  24. Jacksonville: DL Gervon Dexter, Florida

  25. NY Giants: CB DJ Turner, Michigan

  26. Dallas: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

  27. Buffalo: LB Jack Campbell, Iowa

  28. Cincinnati: RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

  29. Chicago: CB Darius Rush, South Carolina

  30. Detroit (from PHI): WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati

  31. Kansas City: OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State


Who’s Left

Denver Broncos, third round: OL Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion

Cleveland Browns, third round: LB Daiyan Henley, Washington State

San Francisco 49ers, third round:  LB Dorian Williams, Tulane


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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