Fanspeak Mock Draft 11.9: Surprise picks for Atlanta, Washington; Seattle passes on a QB

2023 NFL Draft

As many as seven teams could be interested in drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.

Problem is, only three are widely considered locks for the first round.

Still, the 2023 QB Class is much stronger than last year’s group, so teams that reach for one in the first round – and there will be at least one team that does so – should still get a relatively solid player capable of starting as a rookie.

Overall, a whopping 11 QBs are ranked among the top-100 prospects in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.

Of course, those rankings will change in the coming months, plus it doesn’t account for underclassmen who will wind up staying in school.

But it’s also fair to assume several QBs are still under the radar or simply haven’t started ascending up the rankings yet. Remember, Kenny Pickett wasn’t a first-round lock this time last year, and players like Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray were all still seen as “system QBs” this early into their respective draft seasons.

Regardless, it appears that Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are all but assured of being drafted within the top five picks, if not top three. And Kentucky’s Will Levis is expected to go somewhere in the top 15.

So the intrigue starts after Young and Stroud are drafted. Will a QB-needy team trade up for Levis, even though he’s the clear No. 3 quarterback? And what happens after Levis is gone? Will teams be patient (for a change) and wait until the second- or third-round for a player like Stanford’s Tanner McKee? Or will someone pull the trigger in Round 1 on someone like Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker?

Due to the scarcity of the position, the smart money says more than three QBs will be taken on Day 1. The question is, which teams are desperate enough to over-draft a Tier 2 QB in Round 1?

Here’s the latest mock draft, courtesy of Fanspeak’s On The Clock draft simulator:

1. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

Taking a QB here should make Texans fans nervous until the team can shore up its offensive line. Fortunately, Houston will have another chance to add a RT later in the first round.

2. Carolina Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Analysts say he struggles a bit when under pressure, but that’s rare as Ohio State has NFL talent at every position on offense. And that’s what makes Stroud a tough evaluation — how will he fare under less-than-ideal circumstances?

3. Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

Easy pick here. Perhaps Anderson can buck this trend:

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State

No player has experienced as big of a rise as Penn State‘s Olumuyiwa Fashanu, a redshirt sophomore in his first year as the Nittany Lions’ starting left tackle. The 19-year-old won’t turn 20 until Dec. 9, making him one of the youngest prospects if he declares for the draft. Dan Moore Jr., the team’s fourth-round pick in 2021, is probably a better fit as Pittsburgh’s swing tackle.

5. Detroit Lions: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

Don’t assume Kentucky’s Will Levis will be the pick here if available, as the Lions could get away with a best-player-available approach with this pick, then take a QB with their second first-round pick. A risky move, for sure, but there are plenty of Day 2 QB options as well, more so than in recent years. Georgia’s Jalen Carter would give Detroit one of the youngest, most-formidable DLs in the league for years to come.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

Is RB a glaring need in Philadelphia? No. But the Eagles are so stacked throughout their lineup that they can get away with a luxury pick – and Texas’ Bijan Robinson is more than just a luxury. It’s easy to imagine Robinson leading the league in rushing yards behind Philadelphia’s top-ranked OL.

7. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Myles Murphy, Georgia

Arizona’s dink-and-dunk passing offense is badly in need of a top receiver, but taking one here is a bit of a reach. Instead, the Cardinals do something about their porous defense, which is giving up the seventh-most yards per game and the eight-most passing yards. The team could use a CB to replace struggling 2021 fourth-rounder Marco Wilson, so Penn State’s Joey Porter, South Carolina’s Cam Smith or Georgia’s Kelee Ringo are all options here. Instead, the pick goes to the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Clemson pass rusher Myles Murphy, a rare physical specimen who would presumably replace UFA J.J. Watts.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

Cornerback is a glaring need opposite of rising star Tyson Campbell, the team’s second round pick in 2021 out of Georgia. The Jaguars go with another Bulldog CB in Kelee Ringo, who, at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, is built like a linebacker but also has elite speed.

9. Chicago Bears: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

This is a bit high for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior Quentin Johnston, plus he’s been dealing with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss much of last week’s win over Texas Tech. Another puzzling aspect about Johnston: He’s not producing at the level you would expect out of a first-rounder despite solid QB play and a veteran offensive line. Still, Johnston has been compared to A.J. Green, among others. Here’s what a scout said about Johnston, via Walter Football’s Hot Press report, back in September: “He puts up 20 yards per catch, runs great routes, is super smart, an alpha, and the hardest worker on the team.”

10. Green Bay Packers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

Green Bay finally gets its first-round receiver — but will it still be Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball?

11. Seattle Seahawks: DL Tuli Tuipulotu, USC

If you’re Seattle and your 32-year-old QB is having a career year after serving as a backup most of his career, do you still pull the trigger on the third-best college quarterback who’s struggling this season? Maybe if a QB is still available with Seattle’s second first-round pick, but not this high. Instead, the nod goes to USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, a perfect fit for Seattle’s 3-4 defense. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound junior already has 9 sacks and 15 tackles for loss this season.

12. Detroit Lions: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

Unlike Seattle, Detroit doesn’t have the luxury of sticking with its current starting QB, as former 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff’s future is uncertain, at best. While Will Levis’ numbers are down this season, part of the blame can be attributed to the lack of talent around him. Luckily, he’s going to a team that has a surprisingly solid offensive line and ground game. Keep in mind, too, that teams could trade ahead of the Lions to secure Levis’ services, so the Kentucky QB could go much higher.

13. Houston Texans: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

Houston finally got its new QB; now they start building around him with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson, who would form a nice bookend with LT Laremy Tunsil for the next decade. Who says No. 13 is unlucky?

14. Indianapolis Colts: QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Indianapolis, Atlanta and Washington could all be in the market for a quarterback, and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is the best one remaining – although this is probably too high for him. Still, Hooker has plenty of experience and would help make the Colts one of the deadliest running teams in the league when paired with RB Jonathan Taylor.

15. Atlanta Falcons: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

Unless one of the top three QBs falls to Atlanta, expect the Falcons to run it back with Marcus Mariota and third-round rookie Desmond Ridder next season. Instead, Atlanta has been acquiring unique talents in recent years – and you don’t get much more unique than the 6-foot-8, 360-pound redshirt junior Dawand Jones. Keep in mind, RT Kaleb McGary will be an UFA at the end of the season.

16. Washington Commanders: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

This would be the biggest surprise of the draft, by a wide margin. Florida’s Anthony Richardson has top-of-round-1 athletic traits and measurables but often plays like an undrafted free agent. Currently ranked as the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rigdon big board, this would be a major reach for Washington. Still, what are the Commanders’ options? They’re currently in NFL draft purgatory: a team that desperately needs a new signal-caller but whose records are never low enough to draft an elite one. With all that said, Richardson is the definition of “boom or bust,” as he could turn into Josh Allen 2.0 just as easily as he could fail to finish out his rookie contract. Just remember, Washington: You can’t hit a home run if you never swing the bat.

17. New England Patriots: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

The Deatrich Wise Jr./Davon Godchaux/Lawrence Guy trio has been solid, combining for 82 tackles and 7.5 sacks — even 2021 second-round pick Christian Barmore has struggled to crack the lineup. But Wilson is big enough to play end in a 3-4 and is simply too good of a prospect at too valuable of a position to pass up.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Has RT La’el Collins already worn out his welcome in Cincinnati?

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

Starting CB Jamel Dean, who has a PFF grade of 83.2, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

20. Denver Broncos: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Denver badly needs to fix its offensive line. This may be a bit high for Georgia’s Broderick Jones — and Jones’ doesn’t have ideal measurements for a left tackle — but the OT options get a little shaky outside of Round 1. Jones could also be asked to play guard at the next level.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: TE Michael Mayer

Los Angeles also needs a RT, but with OSU’s Jones already gone, the Chargers add to QB Justin Herbert’s options with the best tight end in the draft.

22. Tennessee Titans: Edge B.J. Ojulari, LSU

This would definitely be a surprise, as the team signed outside linebacker Harold Landry III to a big contract this past offseason, one season after signing free agent Bud Dupree to a big contract. Plus, Denico Autry is is two sacks away from tying his career-high of 9. Furthermore, the left side of Tennessee’s line is a bit of a mess, especially at left tackle, as Dennis Daley has already allowed 4 sacks while filling in for the injured Taylor Lewan, who could be a cap casualty in the offseason. But the B.J. Ojulari pick uses the same logic as the Wilson pick for New England: He’s too good of a player at a premium position to pass up this late in the draft. Ojulari would allow the team to move Autry to defensive end in their 3-4 alignment, where he would replace free-agent-to-be DeMarcus Walker. And it would allow Landry to ease into the lineup after he tore his ACL during practice before the season started. Plus, it’s not a stretch to believe Tennessee can still find a starting OT beyond Day 1: Eleven of the 13 OTs drafted between Rounds 1 to 4 this past string are already starting. That includes seven of eight drafted in Rounds 2 to 4.

23. Seattle Seahawks: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Still no QB? With both Hooker and Richardson gone, Seattle may have to wait another round and instead go with the best player available, Clemson’s Trenton Simpson.

24. Baltimore Ravens: DL Bryan Breese, Clemson

As good as Justin Madubuike has been at defensive end this season for Baltimore’s 3-4 defense, Clemson’s Bryan Breese would conceivably be a big upgrade, as the junior is one of the top defensive players in the draft — meaning, he might not last this long on Day 1.

25. New York Jets: OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland

Is the Mekhi Becton era coming to an end in New York? Becton has played in one game since his stellar 2020 rookie year. Jaelyn Duncan of Maryland held his own last year against Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson – and he’s only gotten better this season.

26. Dallas Cowboys: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

Cornerback is a sneaky need in Dallas, as Anthony Brown will be an UFA and 2021 second-rounder Kelvin Joseph and 2021 third-rounder Nahshon Wright have barely seen the field. The Cowboys also need a potential No. 1 receiver, a guard and a 1-tech, but drafting a player at one of those positions would be a reach at this point in the draft. Smith would be the first CB drafted in Round 1 by Dallas since Mike Jenkins out of South Florida in 2008 and safety/cornerback Byron Jones out of Connecticut in 2015.

27. New York Giants: WR Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Regardless of who’s the QB season next season for New York, the Giants need to upgrade the receiver position. Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba has barely played this season due to a hamstring injury and is likely a slot-only option at the next level, but he would be an immediate upgrade over newly departed Kadarian Toney, the team’s 2021 first-rounder who was recently traded to Kansas City.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

Sure, Kansas City drafted a RB in the first round of the 2020 draft, but former LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has already been replaced in the starting lineup by rookie seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco of Rutgers. Can you imagine what Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs could do in Kansas City? Yikes.

29. Minnesota Vikings: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Minnesota has drafted a cornerback in the first or second round five times since 2015, or five times in the past eight drafts. Former Colorado CB Christian Gonzalez, now with Oregon, would add to that tally if he’s still available.

30. Buffalo Bills: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Damar Hamlin, Buffalo’s sixth-round pick in 2021 out of Pittsburgh, has performed well in place of injured safety Mycah Hyde. But the team’s other starting safety, Jordan Poyer, will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Hyde will be an UFA the following season.

31. Philadelphia Eagles: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

Philadelphia already has one of the deepest teams in the league. Now they’d also have the best secondary. Plus, with Philadelphia’s other pick, the Eagles will have taken the best RB and arguably the best safety in this draft. Good luck, NFC East.

* Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.
** 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.


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