Fanspeak Mock Draft 11.23: QBs, OTs and DL dominate top 10

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Quarterback Lamar Jackson is just the tip of the undrafted free agent iceberg for Baltimore.

The Ravens have several other major free agent decisions looming, including cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller, edge rushers Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul and newly acquired linebacker Roquan Smith, all of whom will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

However, Odafe Oweh, the Raven’s first-rounder in 2021, will likely replace JPP, and 2022 second-round pick David Ojabo was rated as a first-rounder before suffering a torn Achilles. He’s still aiming to play this season.

Therefore, pass rusher probably isn’t a huge priority.

If Peters leaves in free agency, expect CB Jalyn Armour-Davis, the team’s fourth-round pick this past spring, to get the first crack at the job. Otherwise, it’s hard to envision the team taking Cam Phillips III of Utah, who could be the highest-remaining CB left. That’s because Phillips’ size (5-foot-9, 190) may limit him to slot corner.

Further complicating matters: Taking an inside linebacker here could be a reach. However, the team seems likely to extend Davis’ contract after trading away a second- and fifth-round pick to Chicago to acquire him last month.

So, could the team skip defense in the first round? And could this be where Bijan Robinson lands should the talented Texas running back fall?

On the latter, that’s certainly a possibility. Although still only 23, Baltimore RB J.K. Dobbins will miss all of this season after missing all but four games of last season due to injuries.

Still, the team hasn’t selected a running back in the first round since taking Jamal Lewis with the No. 5 overall pick of the 2000 draft. Plus, assuming Jackson re-signs, the team will always rank among the league’s best running teams.

Therefore, Baltimore could try to trade this pick.

Can’t find any reasonable offers? Then USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu would presumably step right in as one of the team’s starting DEs in their 3-4 alignment, as he may be a “tweener” in an even front but is the perfect size for an odd-front. Thus far, Tuipulotu leads the conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19.0).

Wilson is the No. 20 overall prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.

Texas A&M CB Jaylon Jones (No. 30) is another possibility here and would fill in nicely for Peters if the team doesn’t retain the veteran corner. But adding another pass rusher would presumably help the secondary, plus the team could always draft a CB on Day 2.

Here’s the rest of this week’s Fanspeak mock draft:

1. Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

ESPN’s Matt Miller has the Texans taking Alabama’s Bryce Young, while ESPN’s Jordan Reid has the team taking Stroud. It’s really a coin-flip at this point. Given Young’s size at a school-listed 6-foot, 195-pounds (he’ll likely measure smaller at the Combine), the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Stroud might be the better choice due to Houston’s porous offensive line, which has surrendered 28 sacks, tied for eighth-most in the league.

2. Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

If it’s not Young, then it’ll be Stroud.

3. Chicago Bears: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

This is a prime landing spot for any team desperate to trade up for Kentucky’s Will Levis, widely regarded as the third-best signal caller in this draft.

But Chicago can’t trade too far down and still wind up with either Anderson or Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter, as many draft analysts see those two as the best overall prospects in this draft.

In fact, about the only way the team can land one of those two players would be if it swapped picks with Seattle at No. 5 – then hope the Seahawks take Levis and not Anderson or Carter.

Why risk it?

4. Las Vegas Raiders: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

See above.

5. Seattle Seahawks: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

This would be the best of both worlds, as Seattle lands its new QB without giving up any assets. Keep in mind, Geno Smith and backup Drew Lock will be an unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and Smith may have played his way into a bigger contract with another QB-needy team.

As for those who think Levis has played his way out of the first round? Here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had to say:

6. Detroit Lions: CB Joey Porter, Penn State

Porter’s ranking has been all over the place, but he’s CB1 in the Rigdon big board as the 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior has broken up nine passes and allowed just 13 receptions for 123 yards on 28 targets, according to PFF. He’s expected to return this season after missing the first two games of his career due to an appendicitis.

7. Houston Texans: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State

Like Porter, Fashanu has also missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. It’s unknown if Fashanu plans on returning this season, and, as a redshirt sophomore and one of the youngest players in the draft, he could also return to school. One other concern: While it makes sense to pair a rookie first-round QB with a rookie first-round OT, it could spell disaster for Houston for years to come if one – or both – players don’t pan out. Otherwise, the Texans would love to have bookend OTs with Laremy Tunsil manning the left side.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo also likes Johnson or Fashanu as a possibility with this pick, saying, “The Steelers need to target offensive linemen in the early rounds of the draft to build a strong line in front of Kenny Pickett. Don’t rule out the Steelers using multiple picks on linemen in this draft.”

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

This ends a short run on OTs, as Fashanu, Johnson and Skoronski are widely considered the three best in the 2023 draft. Jawaan Taylor, a 2019 second-round pick, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s still young at 25, but the Jaguars have to wonder if it’s time to move on from Taylor, as his highest PFF grade came his rookie year when he finished with a 63.7. His current grade is 57.0, and he’s allowed 4 sacks while committing 4 penalties. Translation: This may be Taylor’s last season in Jacksonville.

10. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

Ask four different analysts who the top CB in the 2023 NFL draft is, and you might get four different answers. PFF lists the 6-foot, 190-pound Smith as its top CB, noting that teams are simply avoiding him this season.

11. Arizona Cardinals: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

The Cardinals are a mess but can still make the playoffs and win the division. That’s because Arizona has more talent on its roster than the team’s 4-7 record implies. One way or another, though, the Cardinals will need to address their secondary in the offseason, as CBs Byron Murphy Jr., Trayvon Mullen and Antonio Hamilton will all be UFAs after the season and 2021 fourth-rounder Marco Wilson continues to struggle with a PFF grade of 49.0.

12: Green Bay Packers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

At first glance, it looks like Christian Watson, the team’s second-round pick this year out of North Dakota State, has had a solid season thus far with 18 receptions for 243 yards and 5 TDs. But, take away the Dallas game, and Watson’s numbers look far more pedestrian. Adding Johnston, the top receiver in the draft, can only help. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound true junior got off to a slow start and hasn’t put up huge numbers despite playing with a draftable QB, Max Duggan, but is still generally seen as the top receiver in the draft.

13. Detroit Lions: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Personal tragedy, a kidney infection and a return from last season’s torn ACL in his left knee can all help explain Bresee’s average statistics this season (12 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss in seven games). Still, if he can clear medicals at the Combine and beyond, then expect Bresee to land somewhere in the top-20 of the draft.

14. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Tyree Wilson

Indianapolis would likely have to trade up if it wants a shot at one of the top-3 QBs; falling short of that, don’t assume the Colts will add an offensive tackle in the first round, either.

Tackle Braden Smith is among the league’s most-penalized players with 7, but he’s otherwise played well with a PFF grade of 70.6. He signed a four-year, $72.4 million contract extension last year, so he’s not going anywhere.

Then there’s Bernhard Raimann, the team’s second of three third-round picks from this past spring’s draft. After a rough start, Raimann has played well in recent weeks while starting at left tackle. He has a PFF grade of 61.5 – impressive for a rookie, especially a Day 2 first-year player.

Instead, guard is the most likely position along the Colts OL that will be upgraded, as RG Matt Pryor will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. However, there’s not a guard worthy of going this high in the draft.

Look for Indianapolis to turn its attention to defense, where pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue is set to join Pryor as an UFA while the cornerback position could use an injection of youth and talent. The highest rated defensive players remaining in the Rigdon big board would both fit: Georgia CB Kelee Ringo (No. 12) and Texas Tech edge Tyree Wilson (No. 13). But the team can survive just fine with another season of the ageless Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore II at CB, so the pick goes to the pass rusher Wilson. A 6-fooot-6, 275-pound senior, Wilson has 27.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks the past two seasons.

One thing to monitor: Wilson suffered a fracture in his foot Nov. 12 against Kansas that will require surgery. He’s out for the rest of the season and has already declared for the draft.

15. Atlanta Falcons: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

The team needs upgrades at tackle and cornerback; however, if Atlanta take the best-remaining CB, then it may have to consider other options at right tackle as the top remaining OTs could be off the board by the middle of the second round.

Still, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt sophomore fits the bill of what Atlanta wants out of its first-rounders: He’s incredibly athletic. Between Ringo and 2020 first-rounder A.J. Terrell, the Falcons would potentially have one of the most talented, young CB duos in the league.

As for questions about how high Ringo could go, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler lists the redshirt sophomore as the top CB in the draft.

16. LA Chargers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Los Angeles has quietly put together one of the better OLs in the league – and they’ve done so by ignoring what conventional wisdom says about undersized offensive tackles. Both Rashawn Slater (out for the year) and sixth-round rookie Jamaree Salyer were said to be better guard prospects at the next level because they didn’t fit the ideal measurements for the position – even though both excelled at tackle in college.

Now add Jones to the mix. Also an undersized tackle prospect at 6-foot-4, 310-pounds, Jones could slide to left guard in place of current starter Matt Feiler, with Salyer moving to right tackle once Slater returns.

17. Washington Commanders: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Yes, it’s another team badly in need of an upgrade at QB and therefore another candidate to move up in the draft. Otherwise, Branch might not be the most exciting prospect, but he’s a safe pick at a position of need. Plus, the Commanders haven’t been shy in recent years about drafting Alabama players.

18. NY Jets: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

There’s already calls for New York to bench QB Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft out of BYU. But taking one here – or moving up in the draft to take one of the top three QBs – is extremely risky. Like some of the other teams above them, the Jets would be better off waiting until Day 2 to draft a QB, especially if some of the underclassmen declare (like Stanford’s Tanner McKee, the No. 41 prospect, or Florida’s Anthony Richardson, the No. 65 prospect). Even that seems unlikely, though, especially if Wilson returns next season.

Instead, look for the Jets to add pieces to its offensive line as injuries continue to pile up this season. Consider the team’s brutal loss to New England as an example, as New York started its third-string right guard and fifth-string right tackle. Say Max Mitchell, the team’s fourth-round rookie out of Louisiana, returns and plays well at RT. And say 2020 first-round OT Mekhi Becton finally plays a full, injury-free year. By still adding pieces to the offensive line (including the interior), the team likely won’t be in this position next season. In other words, it’s a good problem to have.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

With the ageless Julio Jones set to become an UFA at the end of the season, Addison would give the Buccaneers a potent WR trio for QB Tom Brady, although his size (6-foot, 175-pounds) probably limits him to slot receiver.

20. Denver Broncos: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

How did it go so wrong this season? Start with injuries, as Denver leads the league with the most players on injured reserve (15). The OL is a mess. The running game is a shell of itself. And QB Russell Wilson has to be the biggest disappointment thus far after the team traded so many assets to acquire him this past offseason.

All that explains why it doesn’t make sense to take one of the top RBs at this point in the draft – how good can he be with a suspect OL?

Instead, Wright becomes the first big “surprise” in this draft. Up until recently, he battled Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan (No. 40) and Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron (No. 45) as the top “Tier 2” OTs who were all fringe first-rounders, but Duncan and Bergeron recently had eyebrow-raising rough outings against top pass rushers (Bergeron struggled against Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey, while Ohio State’s Zach Harrison gave Duncan fits). The 6-foot-6, 335-pound senior Wright, meanwhile, has put together one of the most solid seasons of any SEC tackle, as he’s played in 779 snaps without giving up a sack and has played eight games without giving up a pressure. Although Wright might be a bit of a reach here, he likely won’t be available very long in the second round.

21. Seattle Seahawks: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas

Seattle has spent considerable resources at the linebacker position in recent years. Outside LBs Darrell Taylor was a 2020 second round pick and has 3 sacks this season; the other starting OLB, Uchenna Nwosu, signed a two-year, $19 million contract in the offseason and leads the team with 7 sacks. And key backup Boye Mafe, a second-round pick this past spring, has 2 sacks.

Inside, 2020 first-rounder Jordyn Brooks leads the team – by a large margin – with 106 tackles, good for second in the league. But Cody Barton, the team’s other starting inside linebacker, will be an UFA at the end of the season. Barton is second on the team with 71 tackles.

Sanders, meanwhile, can play a bit of a Micah Parsons-role for the Seahawks, as the 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior has 8.5 sacks and 12. 5 tackles for loss in his first season since transferring from Alabama, where Sanders was buried on the depth chart. His 96 tackles lead the team and ranks in the top 40 nationally.

22. New England Patriots: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Hunter Henry has had a disappointing season thus far, so the top tight end would make sense here, as it would help improve what has become an anemic offense. A receiver is possible here, too, especially with Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba still available, but he’s been hurt most of the season and doesn’t have ideal measurables; hence, why the pick goes to Mayer.

23. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

Does QB Joe Burrow hold onto the ball too long? Or is the Cincinnati rebuilt OL to blame? It wouldn’t matter with Washington, as he’s a rapidly ascending, 6-foot-8, 270-pound prospect who is exceptionally gifted athletically and maybe the best blocking TE in the draft. Having Washington on the field is like having a sixth offensive lineman.

24. Buffalo Bills: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Last week’s Fanspeak mock draft had Buffalo taking LB Sanders of Arkansas; this week, it’s Clemson’s Simpson. Of course, this changes if the Bills bring back UFA Tremaine Edmunds.

25. Baltimore Ravens: DL Tuli Tuipulotu, USC

26. Tennessee Titans: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Surely the team won’t take a receiver in the first round two years in a row, right? A look at the team’s receiving stats says otherwise.

Rookie Treylon Burks, who has missed four games with a toe injury, is third on the team with 264 yards receiving. That’s just 21 yards behind Nick Westbrook-Ikhine’s 285 yards receiving, while Robert Woods leads the team with 335 yards, tying him for the 77th-most in the league. Collectively, the three combine for 884 yards receiving; Jaylen Waddle, the 2021 first-round pick for Miami, currently ranks fifth in the league with 878 yards receiving.

Ouch.

27. Dallas Cowboys: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

How quickly things change in Dallas.

For much of the season, the thought was that this would likely be the last year Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard would play in Dallas. Elliott’s play had declined in recent years, making him a potential cap casualty, while Pollard rarely received as many touches as Elliott and was about to become an UFA.

Now?

There’s media speculation that Elliott could potentially extend his contract in an effort to lower the dollar amount per year, as he’s remains a steady, albeit unspectacular, presence on offense. And then there’s Pollard, who’s having a career season and is among the best RBs in the league. He currently ranks 11th in the league in rushing (701 yards), while his 5.9 yards per carry average ranks him second among RBs with at least 100 carries.

And Pollard excelled while Elliott missed time with injury. Thus far, the 2019 fourth-rounder from Memphis has a gain of 40 yards or more in five of 10 games this season, and he has three TD catches of 30 yards or more, best among all RBs.

So this probably isn’t the landing spot for Robinson, either, if Dallas re-signs Pollard and brings back Elliott.

Dallas, though, could use another receiver, and this might be the perfect landing spot for the falling JSN. Smith-Njigba has fallen down some draft boards after missing most of the season while nursing a lingering hamstring injury. He also doesn’t have elite measurables at 6-foot, 197 pounds, nor is he expected to run a blazing 40 time.

What Smith-Njigba excels at – and why he remains a first-round possibility – is his special ability to gain yards after the catch. His sophomore numbers were eye-popping – 95 receptions, 1,606 yards, 9 TDs receiving – but they weren’t as impressive as this number: 790. That was his yards-after-catch, the third-most in big Ten history among wide receivers.

Plus, Smith-Njigba is a home town hero after starring at Rockwall High School, about 25 miles west of Dallas.

28. NY Giants: WR Rashee Rice, SMU

The Giants are going to go with the players they’re comfortable with – regardless of draft standing or salary. That’s why 2021 first-round WR Kadarius Toney is now playing for Kansas City and 2021 free agent signing Kenny Golladay is barely playing. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior Rice leads the nation with 1,208 yards receiving on a career-high 83 receptions and career-high-tying 9 TDs (and counting).

29. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State

It seems like the 6-foot-8, 280-pound Harrison is finally putting it all together, as he manhandled Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan last week with 2 sacks, giving him 3 for the season. All of his 5.5 TFLs have come the past five games, too. Utah’s Phillips is another possibility here as Minnesota needs to think about replacing the ageless Patrick Peterson, but, again, Phillips is seen as more of a slot CB.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland

Both of Kansas City’s OTs will be a free agent at the end of the season, so addressing the position early in the draft seems logical. The problem, though, is that all of the Tier 1 offensive tackles have already come off the board – and even two of the Tier 2 tackles have already been drafted in this mock (Wright and Jones).

Still, even if Kansas City re-signs LT Orlando Brown Jr., the Chiefs cannot ignore this position; hence, the reason behind reaching for the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Duncan. With that said, last weekend’s game against Ohio State’s Harrison was an outlier and not necessarily a sign of things to come for Duncan, who has started 40 games for the Terrapins.

He’s athletic and relatively strong but doesn’t have elite length, plus his hands and feet are a work-in-progress. Thus, Duncan is currently viewed by some evaluators as more of a Round 2 or 3 prospect. However, if Kansas City doesn’t jump on a tackle now, then it may be too late to find a potential rookie starter, as the next-highest rated tackle, Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron, is likely gone by the time Kansas City is back on the clock in Round 2.

31. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

It seems like every time Dallas “zigs,” Philadelphia “zags.” As Dallas was building one of the league’s best offensive lines and top ground game, Philadelphia countered by adding resources to its defensive line. Now the roles have reversed and Philadelphia’s line and ground game are considered among the league’s best. Dallas, meanwhile, has built NFL’s most potent pass rush on defense.

How do you counter a fearsome pass rush? With a solid rushing attack.

So this could be where Robinson’s fall ends. His skill set has been compared to Marshall Faulk, according to a scout via Walter Football, and he’s generally seen as the best RB prospect in several years. Plus, Miles Sanders, ninth in the league with 757 yards rushing, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season for Philadelphia.

Counter that, Dallas.

Other:

  • New Orleans Saints, second round: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
  • Los Angeles Rams, second round: OT Blake Freeland, BYU
  • Cleveland Browns, second round: C Luke Wypler, Ohio State
  • Miami Dolphins, second round: Edge Keion White, Georgia Tech
* 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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