C.J. Stroud Goes First in 2023 NFL Mock Draft Version 0.5

Ohio State Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud
Ohio State Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 18 - In this Walkthrough playable-beta, Issue Zero, 2023 kickoff first-round mock draft:

  • Will Levis of Kentucky, Anthony Richardson of Florida, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, and Bryce Young of Alabama all find new jobs. But in that (alphabetical) order?
  • Justin Herbert gets his Tyreek Hill surrogate, but it might not be whom you think.
  • Not being able to mock a wide receiver to the Green Bay Packers in the first round sparks an existential crisis.
  • Texas running back Bijan Robinson musters his way into the conversation.

And much more!

But first, some quick notes:

  1. The draft order is based on standings entering Week 18. When teams were tied or their rankings would be determined by playoff results, I guessed. That's right: guessed. It's January 5, folks. Let's not overcomplicate things.
  2. It's early in the Walkthrough scouting process: no Senior Bowl, scouting combine, interviews, or deep data dives. I haven't even fine-combed the film yet on many of these prospects. That's why the scouting notes are very broad at this point.
  3. That said, I take both player analysis and team analysis seriously. It's the slash-fanfic element of mock drafts that Walkthrough likes to mock. Will Anderson is a great edge rusher. Many teams need an edge rusher. Insisting that Anderson will be drafted by this-or-that team, or get taken ahead of a cornerback or quarterback, is just an academic exercise. Especially on January 5, when we don't even know who will be coaching or GM'ing half of the teams in the top 10. So laugh or groan along with the gags, but rest assured that I am not goofing on the prospects.

Let's roll.

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

The Prospect: Stroud is a well-built, ultra-precise passer with a quick release and good-enough mobility. He suffers from the standard Ohio State quarterback prospect conundrum: it's hard to evaluate a quarterback who spent his entire collegiate career in a nearly ideal environment.

The Texans Situation: OK, fellas, you took two years off to get your heads together. Now it's time to trade the sweatpants for khakis and RTO. That starts with getting real at quarterback.

No, wait: for the Texans, returning to the real world must start with the front office and coaching staff. Frankly, we have no idea who is really calling the shots in Houston and whether their next coach will be DeMeco Ryans, Josh McCown, or Cal McNair's favorite stuffed teddy bear. That's why we selected Stroud over Bryce Young: when in doubt, assume a conservative general manager like Nick Caserio and/or an unestablished coach will pick the safer quarterback, from a traits standpoint.

Walkthrough prefers Young to Stroud, but Walkthrough has disagreed with the Texans organization about nearly everything for the last four years or so. And look where it got them!

2. Chicago Bears: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

The Prospect: Carter is a "Planet Theory" athlete with tremendous agility at 300 pounds, outstanding upper body strength and hand technique, and a careening style that makes him effective everywhere from nose tackle to the edge.

Carter's only weaknesses are an inconsistent get-off at the snap and a habit of losing his balance when trying to transform himself into a guided missile. There are also whispers about his work ethic, which are probably being amplified by teams that hope he slips from the top five.

The Bears Situation: The Bears rank 32nd in defensive DVOA, which is very un-Bears like, and need a foundational piece.

There is no wide receiver worthy of the second overall pick, and Walkthrough doesn't trust the team that traded a second-round pick for Chase Claypool to trade down for extra picks without hurting themselves.

3. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

The Prospect: Kyler Murray's body and talent; Joe Burrow's intangibles.

The Seahawks Situation: Even Geno Smith superfans must admit that Smith cooled off in the second half of the season and would likely doom the team to perpetual wild-card purgatory if given the full-time starting job. Smith would make an outstanding bridge quarterback, however, and Young is a lot like the pre-ego-supernova version of Russell Wilson.

C.J. Stroud would also make a fine selection here. The only factors which might spoil the Seahawks party would be a Broncos win and a Cardinals loss.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, ER, Alabama

The Prospect: A relentless penetrator with an explosive burst to the ballcarrier and rare ability to knife inside his blocker. Anderson is a little light at 240 pounds, but he is well built and contributes to the run game with his inside moves and willingness to pursue from the back side.

The Cardinals Situation: As the NFL's most unrepentant drama junkies, the Cardinals could easily sow chaos by drafting Young or Stroud and dangling injured Kyler Murray in the wind Baker Mayfield-style. The Cardinals also cannot help themselves when it comes to collecting skill position talent and could reach for someone such as Zay Flowers or Quentin Johnston to stuff into their wide receiver room.

Selecting Anderson, a defender with a natural position (as opposed to some slot cornerback who is actually a tiny linebacker who is actually a USFL special-teamer) would be well out of character for the Cardinals. But it's not totally clear who will be running the organization in about three weeks, and roleplaying as Steve Keim and Kliff Kinsgbury is a great way to turn an entire mock draft into gibberish before escaping the top five.

5. Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

The Prospect: Levis is a well-built, plus-armed rapid-riser on draft boards.

Walkthrough gets a creepy Mitchell Trubisky vibe from Levis: he benefits from lots of scripted underneath throws, sprays some passes into traffic, and runs just well enough to lower his shoulder for extra yardage and fumble. But we're still in the early stages of our draft prep, and Trubisky was drafted second overall.

The Colts Situation: Sheer optics dictate that the Colts draft a quarterback. Even if they were inclined to toss someone such as Derek Carr into the Matt Ryan/Carson Wentz/Philip Rivers woodchipper, no established veteran with options is likely to play for the Colts after Ryan's multiple benchings were mishandled. They also need a supposedly ready-to-play quarterback: good luck selling fans (or Jim Irsay) on Anthony Richardson getting mentored by Taylor Heinicke.

So here's Levis, the consolation prize that the scouting establishment is talking itself into. When you wait until Christmas Eve to get your wife a present, she ends up with a scented candle from Walgreens. And when you wait a half-decade to replace Andrew Luck, it looks like this.

6. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams): Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

The Prospect: Bresee is an interior-gap defender with a quick first step and strong/active hands. He can be a Javon Hargrave-like disruptor along the defensive line, particularly on passing downs, though his health history bears monitoring: Bresee missed most of 2021 with an ACL tear and was hospitalized with a kidney infection for part of 2022.

The Lions Situation: Combine Bresee, Aidan Hutchinson, and fast-rising star James Houston and the Lions could have a top-five pass rush in 2023.

7. Carolina Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

The Prospect: Start with near-Josh Allen level raw tools. Add Jalen Hurts' upward trajectory as a passer and decision-maker. Sprinkle in some Justin Fields-esque concerns about his NFL readiness (someday, the Bears organization will be NFL ready) and what do you get? Perhaps the perfect Cam Newton surrogate.

The Panthers Situation: Depending on who ends up as their head coach, the Panthers may be the ideal location for a rookie quarterback thanks to their developing offensive line, DJ Moore, and a defense good enough to win if the offense can muster 22 points. Richardson could enjoy some success while learning on the fly. This is a potential win-win.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Myles Murphy, ER, Clemson

The Prospect: A stunning athlete for his size (6-foot-5, 276 pounds) with a mauler-brawler pass rush style and a purring motor. Murphy will set the combine on fire when he runs the 40. His only pass-rush technique right now is "GRRR…," but he wins the race to the corner and can extend his arms to toss blockers aside.

The Falcons Situation: The Falcons rank 32nd in adjusted sack rate. They ranked 32nd in adjusted sack rate in 2021. They haven't finished higher than 20th since 2016.

The Falcons are also positively addicted to toolsy, unrefined edge-rush prospects. One of these days, they'll hit on one.

9. Las Vegas Raiders: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

The Prospect: Ringo is an ultra-athletic 6-foot-2 press corner with fluid hips, the speed to stick with most non-Tyreek level receivers, and what look like great instincts in zone coverage. Ringo spent a lot of snaps watching his teammates take care of business in 48-7 romps, making it hard to gauge whether he's a top-five talent or just a top-15 talent.

The Raiders Situation: Josh McDaniels just wasted lots of Mark Davis' hard-inherited money; one year of Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby's primes; perhaps the final useful years of the careers of Darren Waller, Chandler Jones, and Derek Carr; and 12 calendar months on a pointless non-contending, non-rebuilding, wallpaper-replacement exercise. Who knows what a McDaniels/Dave Ziegler draft even looks like? Who knows how the Raiders will replace Carr? It's not even clear how close Davis is to his credit limit.

What's certain is that the Raiders pass defense ranks 32nd in DVOA and desperately needs a talent infusion in the secondary. So here's a bundle of traits with lots of big-game experience from a great program. Don't squander him, Josh.

10. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns): Jared Verse, ER, Florida State

The Prospect: A transfer from University of Albany last season, Verse recorded 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and a blocked field goal in his lone FBS season. He's a traits monster with an emerging set of moves.

The Texans Situation: They need everything. We're just auto-drafting the best available athlete here.

The Browns could have grabbed a much-needed WR2 or strengthened their secondary with this pick. Oh well, ol' what's-his-name can clearly elevate the Browns without help. (Narrator: what's-his-name looked nothing like a quarterback who could elevate his team in the second half of 2022.)

11. Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

The Prospect: Smooth, almost balletic defender who was targeted just 41 times (with four interceptions) in over 400 coverage snaps. Gonzalez shifts into third gear effortlessly in his first few strides (making him a dangerous blitzer/kick blocker) and has outstanding body control when tracking the ball.

Gonzalez is not as much of a Marvel action figure as Joey Porter Jr. or Kelee Ringo, and he late-bloomed at Oregon after two less impressive seasons at Colorado, but he may be the best cover corner in this class.

The Commanders Situation: Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste would make great second and third cornerbacks for a team with a cornerback capable of matchup up with CeeDee Lamb or A.J. Brown.

Note that the Raiders represent the likely event horizon for first-round quarterbacks, and the Commanders have no chance of finishing ahead of them. So the Commanders will keep adding pieces on defense and the skill positions and hope the rest works itself out. They're like a Colts tribute band, but without the charm.

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

The Prospect: An exceptional athlete who slid over from guard to left tackle in 2022, Johnson has typewriter feet and great lateral agility, and he finishes his blocks with a wallop. Inconsistent footwork and a huggy habit of getting his arms around his defender may slow his rise to an NFL starting job, but Johnson has Pro Bowl traits.

The Jets Situation: Are we done with the whole George Fant is bad everywhere else but is actually AWESOME at left tackle storyline? If so, good: Johnson is a real left tackle prospect. If not, fine: the Jets need to rebuild their entire offensive line for Tom Brady Derek Carr Kyler Murray Brock Purdy Chris Streveler Jimmy Garoppolo next year, and Johnson should be just fine at right guard or tackle.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints): Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

The Prospect: Smith is sticky in man coverage, alert in zone coverage, active (if not all that physical) against runs and screens, can track deep passes like a receiver. He has lots of big-game experience as a three-year regular for the Gamecocks, and I love him. Smith allowed just 13 completions on 36 targets in 2022 as opponents tried their best to avoid him.

The Eagles Situation: James Bradberry is a free agent in 2023 and will make a fine addition to the Lions secondary. Smith is a price-controlled replacement with upside.

14. Tennessee Titans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

The Prospect: Smith-Njigba often upstaged Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave while going 95-1,606-9 in 2021, but a hamstring injury limited him to just five games in 2022. At his best, Smith-Njigba combines near-Wilson slipperiness upon his release with not-quite-Olave open-field speed, plus a willingness to make plays over the middle and knack for working back to help a scrambling quarterback.

Some whisper-mongers think he was dogging it in 2022 to stay healthy for the draft. As mentioned earlier, whisper-mongers are often more interested in getting a player's draft stock to fall than legitimately worried about his character. (Also, many pass along third-hand speculation as hard, straight-from-an-insider facts.)

The Titans Situation: Robert Woods is 30 years old going on 40, Treylon Burks was a disappointment as a rookie, and targeting Nick Westbrook-Ikhine 49 times in a season is a plea for help. Smith-Njigba can be the go-to underneath receiver that Malik Willis (let's pretend for now) needs in 2023, allowing Burks to grow into a role as a boundary threat.

Smith-Njigba is low on media draft boards right now because he played so sparingly in 2022. Watch him move up as the draft approaches.

15. Miami Dolphins: VACATED

The Dolphins lost this pick due to tampering when Stephen Ross tried to build the ultimate Sean Payton-Tom Brady stack in 2019.

When assembling a mock draft in 2023, it's crucial to write VOID or VACATED in big letters because it cheeses off Dolphins fans by reminding them that their organization is a poop show. Hey Vince, can we get the word VACATED in some huge font here?



16. New England Patriots: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

The Prospect: Skoronski is a fireplug-shaped drive-blocking dive-bar bouncer with quick, smooth footwork. He lacks the size, arm length, and quickness of a prototypical left tackle, but he more than held his own against Big 10 competition, and he's always eager to 86 an opponent while the whistle is echoing. An upgraded version of Trevor Penning.

The Patriots Situation: The Patriots need speed at wide receiver, but it's almost cruel to mock them one in the first round, given their track record. Trent Brown was a penalty factory in 2022, and Isaiah Wynn is a free agent coming off a disappointing year.

The Hogs themselves would not be able to help the Patriots offense if Bill Belichick doesn't replace Matt Patricia and Joe Judge with qualified professionals, but an ornery young offensive tackle certainly won't hurt.

17. Detroit Lions: Joey Porter, Jr., CB, Penn State

The Prospect: The son of the former Steelers and Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker, Porter is 6-foot-2, well built, and has extend-o-arms and great route recognition and play diagnostic skills. Slow feet in his first five steps and grabby man-coverage style are minor concerns. Porter fits best in a system which emphasizes Cover-3.

The Lions Situation: Remember that the Lions will enter 2023 with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams at wide receiver. Brock Wright and James Mitchell look like quality prospects at tight end. So let's just keep loading up their defense.

What about Jared Goff? What about him? He's a better option than Mac Jones and whomever the Titans throw out there in 2023 (it won't be Malik Willis). If the Lions can build a 50-sack, 20-turnover defense to go with their offensive line, Goff will be just fine. And if the Lions grab a quarterback with the Rams pick? Also fine.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

The Prospect: Johnston is a king-sized screens-and-bombs threat who had mammoth midseason games against Kansas (14-206-1) and Oklahoma State (8-180-1). Johnston isn't a refined route-runner but can make tough catches in a crowd, track deep balls, and string together moves after a quick screen for YAC. More of a Treylon Burks than a Deebo Samuel, though shiftier than Burks.

The Seahawks Situation: We just mocked Bryce Young to the Seahawks; now let's give him a receiver to grow up with.

The Seahawks have lacked a true threat as a third wide receiver since the days of Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Golden Tate. (No, Jermaine Kearse was not a "threat." And Percy Harvin was never healthy.) Johnston fits snuggly as a "big slot" option between Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and can grow into a role as Lockett's replacement.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyree Wilson, ER, Texas Tech

The Prospect: Wilson is built like a member of the Justice League and defeats blockers with a battery of rip and swim moves. He's a little high-cut and not twitchy at all, but he wins with tremendous upper-body strength, and he picks up sacks with his second move and lots of tackles in pursuit.

The Steelers Situation: They're the Steelers. They draft edge rushers in the first round. It's what they do. They could use an upgrade on the offensive line, reinforcements at wide receiver, more talent in the secondary. They will draft a toolsy edge rusher. The end.

20. Green Bay Packers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

The Prospect: Jones is a former five-star recruit who saw some time at left tackle for the Bulldogs in 2021, then took over the position full-time when Jamaree Salyer was drafted last year.

A high school basketball star, Jones was still growing into his frame and mastering his fundamentals in 2021 but has filled out in the 310-pound range and was charged with just 13 blown blocks in over 700 snaps by Sports Info Solutions.

The Packers Situation: It's refreshing to no longer feel the need to troll Packers fans by mocking a wide receiver for them in the first round. But what should I offer instead? It's been so many years of trolling. I … I don't know how to proceed. I feel so empty.

(Takes lonesome walk in the woods.)

OK, I'm back. Relying on David Bakhtiari to stay healthy becomes a worse idea every year. Zach Tom looks like a starting tackle of the future, but the Packers will need two of them soon. Jones is still growing into his role, and the best time to draft a tackle is the year before you absolutely have to.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

The Prospect: A walking highlight reel coming off a 1,580-yard season in 2022, Robinson possesses every move on the PS5 controller, including an almost teleportational jump cut. He strings those moves together well in traffic, finishes his runs with authority, can run away from defenders in the open field, and has the hands to cause mayhem as an outlet receiver. An upright style and inconsistent vision are concerns, but Robinson has the tools to turn 5-yard gains into 50-yarders.

The Buccaneers Situation: Sometimes I mock a running back to a team in the first round and ask myself why I would do such a thing.

Is it for the clicks? OF COURSE IT IS FOR THE CLICKS. The only reason to write a mock draft is for the clicks. Anyone who claims to write mock drafts because they think it's important journalism or enjoy the genre as a form of personal expression is a sociopath.

But there are other reasons to mock a running back to a team in the first round. It's a great way to shame a general manager for past bad decisions or, in this case, a coaching staff for being over-reliant on a grinding, predictable rushing attack. The Buccaneers need to replace Leonard Fournette and his 3.5 yards per rush. Am I being sarcastic? I am not even sure!

A running back also makes a fine placeholder in the later rounds of a mock draft. Hmm, I really want to save Jordan Addison for the Giants; let's toss some fluff in here.

It's also more fun to spotlight an exciting player like Robinson than another offensive tackle or cornerback. These mock drafts can be tiresome to read AND write if we cannot stop for a moment and shout: "Look! A tuddie!"

And it's not like running backs never get selected in the first round, or that it's always an awful idea, especially late in the round when contenders may be seeking short-term marginal upgrades.

Finally, mocking a running back is a way to spotlight the fact that it's impossible to tell what the future really holds for a team like the Buccaneers. Tom Brady probably won't return, though he might. The Buccaneers may be plunged into rebuilding mode, or they may sign Derek Carr, or trade this pick for Trey Lance. Anything from Win Now to Tank for 2026 is on the table.

If the Buccaneers do stay the Brady course, Robinson makes sense as a bell cow who does the things Fournette is supposed to do. And with that, Walkthrough has accomplished many missions with one selection!

22. Jacksonville Jaguars: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

The Prospect: A metahuman with Gronk-like characteristics, Washington is a 6-foot-7 thumper as a lead blocker with gliding speed on pass routes, capable hands, and CGI-worthy YAC potential.

Washington caught just 44 career passes, but watch him rocket up draft boards as teams get a closer look at his measurables and realize what a tight end with Washington's traits can do for an offense.

The Jaguars Situation: From the general manager who drafted Travon Walker, here's another low-stats/all-traits athletic jaw-dropper from Georgia!

Evan Engram set Jaguars receptions and yardage records for a tight end in 2022, but he is both a free agent and very recognizably still Evan Engram (five drops). Washington can become Trevor Lawrence's best friend in the red zone, Travis Etienne's best friend on sweeps, and Doug Pederson's favorite new toy when he wants to pound the ball against nickel defenses or exploit a mismatch against base.

The Jaguars could also address their back seven here. But Washington is going to be a mid-first-round pick, even if he hasn't started appearing on mock drafts just yet.

23. New York Giants: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

The Prospect: Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as Kenny Pickett's favorite target at Pitt in 2021 before taking the transporter beam to USC to catch 59 passes in 2022. He's a lean YAC jitterbug on screens and shallow "shake" routes who is also smooth at the top of his stem on posts/digs/outs. Addison looks like a cross between DeVonta Smith Lite and a skinnier Jahan Dotson.

The Giants Situation: Darius Slayton and Wan'Dale Robinson would make a fine WR3 and WR4 on a true contender. The Giants need a go-to WR1, and a ready-to-play one would be helpful now that they have skipped over their rebuilding phase. Addison can step in right away and give Daniel Jones (yep, he's probably sticking around) the reliable all-purpose target he has never really had.

24. Los Angeles Chargers: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

The Prospect: There is only one Tyreek Hill. But Flowers has some Tyreek-like traits: the ability to go from 0-to-90 in a heartbeat, outstanding over-the-shoulder ball-tracking ability, a knack for what-the-f*ck-just-happened highlights. Size (and the issues that come from being smallish) is Flowers' only weakness. Flowers could end up in the top 10 if he leaves a vapor trail during his combine 40.

The Chargers Situation: You may prefer Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt or USC's Jordan Addison here. That's cool: we still don't even have official measurements and times for these guys yet. But Justin Herbert needs someone to unclog Joe Lombardi's offense and ease Keenan Allen into more of a possession role. Flowers is a player who can freeze the whole secondary by going in motion and turn a jet sweep into a touchdown when he's not taking the safeties into the parking lot. Lombardi will love him. Herbert will love him. Everyone will love him.

25. Baltimore Ravens: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

The Prospect: Forbes intercepted 14 career passes for the Bulldogs, six of them (an NCAA record) for touchdowns. He's long-limbed and as toolsy as grandpa's shed. Some of Forbes' picks came on fluke plays (tipped balls, scramble-and-pray bombs), but he also has a wide receiver's hands and breaks quickly on a bad throw.

The Ravens Situation: They need a receiver desperately, so of course the Ravens will draft a cornerback to replace free agent Marcus Peters. Forbes has "best available athlete" vibes and an SEC pedigree: two Ravens essentials. A Peters-like knack for big plays also helps.

Wide receivers? Devin Duvernay and Rashod Bateman will be healthy someday.

26. Minnesota Vikings: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M

The Prospect: Johnson is a versatile safety with an explosive burst on plays in front of him. He's a sound open-field tackler who will fill the gap and prevent 7-yard runs from becoming 47-yard touchdowns. He handles zone coverage well and jumps underneath routes well enough to handle slot-man duties.

Johnson can get pushed around by offensive linemen when he's in the box, but otherwise he looks like a capable plug-'n'-play NFL starter.

The Vikings Situation: Harrison Smith is still playing well. But he's older than Harrison Ford, costs the cap-strapped Vikings $12 million next year, and … oh no, don't do it, Vikings! Don't do the same thing you always do…

(Time-displaced news flash from six weeks from now: Vikings convert Harrison Smith's base salary to a bonus to free cap space and keep their "championship-caliber" nucleus intact for another decade.)

OK, fine. Johnson can play free safety and learn from Smith for a year.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M

The Prospect: Jones is 6-foot-2, has long arms, plays the run and screen game physically, and does a fine job arriving at the same time as the ball in underneath coverage. He gave up four touchdowns in 2021 but was less mistake-prone in 2022. A solid prospect as a matchup corner against bigger receivers and/or as a Cover-2 type.

The Bengals Situation: Do you see what just happened? The Vikings just drafted Antonio Johnson one spot ahead of the Bengals! That prevents me from writing a blurb like, "Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell are free agents, Johnson can replace one of them, blah-blah-blah."

Heck, I could even have just switched the draft order so the Bengals picked first! Only Walkthrough is scatterbrained honest enough to avoid taking the easy way out and dig deeper into each team's needs.

The Bengals cycled through lots of cornerbacks this season, some of whom are free agents in 2023. Re-signing Bates and/or Bell makes more sense than retaining Eli Apple or Tre Flowers. But if Bates heads to Detroit (that's right: ALL defensive free agents are heading to Detroit), then pencil Johnson in here, assuming he lasts this long.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

The Prospect: Sanders is a tall, leanish linebacker/edge rusher hybrid who recorded 9.5 sacks for the Razorbacks in 2022. He often played off the ball but was most effective thumping off the edge, though at 230 pounds he's not an ideal fit there. Sanders is more of a Zaven Collins than a Micah Parsons, and the team that drafts him must make sure that "versatility" doesn't mean "he has no real position."

The Cowboys Situation: Sanders has Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch traits, and he plays for Arkansas. It's not about what the Cowboys need but what Jerrah craves. It's a wonder anyone is mocking anyone else to them.

29. Denver Broncos (from San Francisco 49ers via Miami Dolphins) Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor

The Prospect: Imagine if Vita Vea ate Jordan Davis. That's what Ika looks like at his best: immense, powerful, and stunningly nimble in short areas and when using surprising swim moves to disengage from blockers. Ika is a 370-pounder who will always require some playing time management, but he projects as an absolute wrecking ball for 40 snaps per game.

The Broncos Situation: Dire. Very dire. Here's a large man. Perhaps he can help.

30. Buffalo Bills: O'Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida

The Prospect: Torrence is a ginormous 350-pounder who transferred to Gainesville from Louisiana-Lafayette for his final college season. Torrence is a bulldozer in the running game and showed an emerging capability to pick up blitzes and stunts in his final season. He battled Jalen Carter to something close to a draw in the Florida-Georgia game.

Torrence is a lunger who can get beaten with speed, and he's strictly a guard, but he possesses the tools to be a long-time NFL starter.

The Bills Situation: Left guard Rodger Saffold is a 34-year-old free agent and has been a liability this season. The Bills offensive line could use a refresh, as could their running game.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland

The Prospect: Duncan is a huge dude with a base wide enough for a shopping complex, excellent movement skills, and a smooth backpedal. His technique is inconsistent—defenders can knife inside him or get under his pads and bend him backwards—but when he's doing everything right Duncan looks like Tristan Wirfs. The ideal left tackle for a team which does not need a left tackle right away.

The Chiefs Situation: Orlando Brown had a disappointing year at left tackle and is a perennial contract headache. Duncan may not be ready to start right away, but Andy Reid has never been shy about high-upside selections at tackle.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Andre Carter II, ER, Army

The Prospect: Carter is 6-foot-7, has the wingspan of a cropduster, possesses rare acceleration off the edge, and is absolutely relentless in pursuit. Carter recorded 15.5 sacks in 2021 but just 3.5 (2.5 in one game against UTSA) in 2022, in part due to injuries.

Carter is strictly a take-the-onramp edge who rarely flashes secondary moves, and even midmajor blockers were starting to figure him out a bit. But Carter will dominate the combine and has the traits to become a dozen-sack-per-year contributor with a little NFL coaching.

Assuming he gets a military deferment (a safe bet now), Carter will be Army's first first-round pick since Glenn Davis and Tex Coulter in 1947.

The Eagles Situation: Hmm, better check on that military deferment. Let me just click on C-SPAN and see what our federal government is up to…

(Two days and 30 bags of microwave popcorn later…)

Whew. One year in Washington and Carson Wentz has somehow infected Congress! Anyway, the bill that will allow Carter to play in the NFL passed before this week's festivities.

Carter is a developmental prospect, but the Eagles have the luxury of grooming him as a wave defender and Brandon Graham's eventual replacement. Why settle for 68 sacks when you can go for 70?

And no, I didn't place the Eagles last to suggest they would win the Super Bowl, but to hold off any suggestions of homerism by giving them a better draft position. No matter how we slice it, the Eagles have two first-round picks, which means they will end up with two excellent prospects. Or one prospect and a star player, if Howie Roseman pulls another A.J. Brown trade. Or one prospect and the next six Saints drafts, if Roseman feels like stealing Mickey Loomis' allowance again. You get the idea.

Stay tuned for more Walkthrough draft coverage in a few weeks when I head to Mobile, Alabama, for my second decade of Senior Bowl coverage! (And more of Walkthrough's regular coverage on Monday, etc.)


31 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2023, 6:08pm

#1 by IlluminatusUIUC // Jan 05, 2023 - 11:55am

Andrew Waller

Come on now, I assumed getting it wrong in the last column was due to publishing near midnight on a holiday weekend, but this is twice in a week.

Points: 2

#2 by BigRichie // Jan 05, 2023 - 12:19pm

Just what safeties don't get pushed around by offensive linemen??

Points: 1

#3 by Pat // Jan 05, 2023 - 12:58pm

No matter how we slice it, the Eagles have two first-round picks, which means they will end up with two excellent prospects. Or one prospect and a star player, if Howie Roseman pulls another A.J. Brown trade. Or one prospect and the next six Saints drafts, if Roseman feels like stealing Mickey Loomis' allowance again. You get the idea.

It better damn well be two prospects, they can't really afford to punt things a year. It was dicey enough doing it last year. Eagles picks this year (CB + edge) are like, the easiest needs I can imagine in the NFL, what with them losing 3/4 of their starting secondary and 42% of their sack production next year.

Dear God, that sounds worse every time I say it.

At least no one's mocking a first-round linebacker to them this year. That was just hilarious.

Points: 0

#4 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 05, 2023 - 1:31pm

especially late in the round when contenders may be seeking short-term marginal upgrades.

Really? Travis E, Najee, CEH, etc. 

Points: 0

#5 by DGL // Jan 05, 2023 - 1:52pm

They're the Steelers. They draft edge rushers in the first round. It's what they do.

Not since 2017, and only three times in the Kevin Colbert era (since 2000): Watt, Bud Dupree, and Jarvis Jones.  Heyward and Evander Hood were drafted as 3-4 DEs.


Points: 2

#6 by MilkmanDanimal // Jan 05, 2023 - 2:11pm

In a not-particularly HAWT TAKE, nooooooooooooo on your first-round RB to the Bucs.  Besides the obvious whole "first-round RB" thing, Rachaad White has shown a bit of promise, and finding options like a good coverage linebacker (presuming Lavonte leaves), a pass rusher for depth, or, maybe, an OT that could commit fewer holding penalties than Donovan Smith would be, you know, nice.

Points: 1

#7 by Akim // Jan 05, 2023 - 3:35pm

"They're the Steelers. They draft edge rushers in the first round. It's what they do." 
They also have a new GM running the draft for the first time in twenty years, and he wasn't tutored by the last guy.  Also, Highsmith's very good when he's got Watt on the other side.
It'll be OL.  If not, DB, ILB, or interior defensive lineman.  Not an edge.  

Points: 3

#8 by reddwarf // Jan 05, 2023 - 4:24pm

If Denver takes anyone but the best available offensive lineman in the first round, it's a failure.  The starters aren't very good and the backups have been abysmal.  If they are going to get ANYTHING out of Wilson at this point it has to start with a better run game and better pass protection.

Points: 1

#9 by riri // Jan 05, 2023 - 4:28pm

Really doubt the Vikings are taking a safety when they took Lewis Cine last year and have two other capable young players in Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus. At any rate, replacing Harrison Smith is not at the top of their to-do list. Adam Thielen is cooked and the offense lacks a reliable WR2 (KJ Osborn isn't nearly consistent enough, nor is TJ Hockenson). But moreover, Kirk Cousins turns 35 this offseason and they need to find his successor ASAP. I know, not that easy with the 26th pick. But even a dart throw at another CB (surely, one of them will be a hit!) would be better than a safety

Points: 1

#10 by Egtuna // Jan 05, 2023 - 5:10pm

Under Jerry Jones, the Cowboys have drafted TWO players from Arkansas since 1989. Felix Jones in 2008 and John Ridgeway last year (cut before the season), So out of 93 Arkansas players drafted since 1989, the Cowboys have taken 2. Philly's taken 3 in the same span. 

So many false Jerry narratives that people forget to focus on the real ones that are infinitely more troubling than his alleged meddling or (false) propensity to draft Arkansas players.

Points: 2

#11 by big10freak // Jan 05, 2023 - 7:30pm

Yosh Nijman is a restricted free agent so it's pretty likely GB keeps him.  He's done a solid job at right tackle.  So Tom can be the swing tackle in 2023 if needed.  And I am pretty sure there is language in Jenkins contract that he gets raises if moved to left tackle.  I know he struggled at right tackle early this season but that was coming off the injury.  His lateral agility looks much improved.  In 2021 Jenkins looked more than capable at LT


With I think 10 o-linemen under contract for 2023 I think o-line is way down the list for GB.


In no particular order GB could use a multi dimensional tight end versus the Frankenstein approach currently employed (this guy blocks, this guy runs routes, this guy gets yelled at by 12, etc), safety, d-line, edge rush (always) and running back (don't know how they hold onto A Jones though he is consistent as ever)


Anyway, just thought this might be useful info

Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 05, 2023 - 7:33pm

Sprinkle in some Justin Fields-esque concerns about his NFL readiness 

Richardson at 7? Are you insane?

Richardson throws less well in the NCAA than Fields does in the NFL. Fields was a really good college passer. Richardson was a really good thrower for a running back.

Points: 5

#13 by KnowGuruz // Jan 05, 2023 - 7:43pm

No doubt. I realize Tanier is a funny guy. But this cat knows very little about actual football.

Points: 0

#26 by Kaepernicus // Jan 06, 2023 - 4:01pm

Richardson might have the worst mechanics of a first round QB prospect since Jake Locker. It will take 3 years on a scout team to fix what I have seen. His arm is incredibly strong though and he has great big play rushing ability. If he and Levis flame out as top 10 picks I think the scouting Josh Allen over-correction era will finally come to an end. After watching these 4 QBs in college it is wild how much better Stroud and Young are than the rest of them. If a QB needy team misses those 2 guys they should just go BPA and take a flier on one of the other guys on day 2/3. If they fail again they get a chance at Caleb Williams next year. Williams would be the 1st overall pick if he were eligible this year.

Points: 0

#14 by theslothook // Jan 06, 2023 - 12:50am

Is it not at least a consideration for the Bears to consider taking a QB, especially if somehow amazingly the Texans decide not go to with one? 

Fields is light years ahead of where he was a year ago, but even then, his play has been up and down and at the very least, a QB that dependent on his legs would make me nervous about his long term future.


Points: 1

#15 by matto.ericson // Jan 06, 2023 - 2:27am

No, it’s not a consideration.

The Bears need almost everything except a new QB.  Zero chance they take another QB before round 5.

Points: 0

#19 by Tracy // Jan 06, 2023 - 10:28am

KC, BUF, PHI, CIN, CLE, LAC, JAX, BAL, and DAL.Those are the teams that have a settled qb situation over a five-year time horizon (barring unforeseeable events). ARI, SF and MIN probably feel good about their guys, too; but every other team should be looking for either an upgrade or viable succession plan at qb. If qb is not even a consideration for the Bears at #2, then they're foolish.

Points: 0

#28 by ursula van meter // Jan 07, 2023 - 11:47am

Ravens very much do not have a settled QB situation. If they do not come to a contract agreement with Jackson this off season, and that contract will not resemble a Deshawn Watson all guaranteed deal, it isn't at all guaranteed that they will just tag him and move on to next year where the process happens again.

Points: 1

#30 by ArcLight // Jan 11, 2023 - 6:06pm

The Bears should draft a QB because there are no assurances Fields will become a solid QB.

Draft a QB and let them compete and trade the loser.

Better to have 2 shots at a franchise QB than some extra players and no QBs

Points: 0

#16 by BlueStarDude // Jan 06, 2023 - 9:57am

Aaron — can you please get rid of this stupid thumbs up / thumbs down thing? It shouldn't but it really bothers me. Why in god's name did someone give this comment a down vote. There's nothing offensive about it. It's not stupid. WTF makes someone think it's worth downvoting? Because they disagree with the opinion? Jesus.

Points: 0

#17 by big10freak // Jan 06, 2023 - 10:01am

First, I agree the 'like/dislike' feature is disappointing.  Not a good look for FO

Second, I upvoted to offset the downvote to ease your angst.  Not trying to be snarky.  Just trying to help

Points: 0

#18 by Eddo // Jan 06, 2023 - 10:13am

I don't think we need up/downvoting here (an ignore poster function, though? I'm in!) - but the idea is that yes, you are supposed to vote based on your agreement with the comment.  If a comment is offensive, you should be reporting it.

Points: 0

#22 by BlueStarDude // Jan 06, 2023 - 3:29pm

I guess I am old. What's the point? Why would I (or anyone) care how many people agree/disagree with someone else's comment? 

Points: 1

#24 by Eddo // Jan 06, 2023 - 3:54pm

It's really more for forums, like Reddit, where you might have hundreds or even thousands of comments on a post, so that you can see them in order of how popular they are.  I don't think it's important on a site like FO, where maybe one or two articles a year go past 200 comments.

Points: 0

#21 by theslothook // Jan 06, 2023 - 12:22pm

I appreciate the defense. I also agree, the upvoting downvoting quickly devolves into a kind of group think whereas I love to read posts that posit questions that run counter to my thinking OR highlight something i haven't considered.

Points: 0

#31 by ArcLight // Jan 11, 2023 - 6:08pm

On reddit people will give down votes if they disagree, or even if someone asks a question or doesn't enthusiastically agree with the crowd.

It's childish.

That feature should be removed here



Points: 0

#20 by serutan // Jan 06, 2023 - 12:20pm

I like how Mike disguised his playoff prediction column as a mock draft.

Points: 0

#29 by t.d. // Jan 07, 2023 - 4:57pm

Never thought I was watching a first round quarterback when watching Richardson, and am frankly shocked he's projected in this neighborhood;  Josh Allen had questionable accuracy throwing to guys who'd never receive interest from a major division I program, much less an NFL practice squad, and still made plenty of eye-popping tight window throws;  Richardson has been throwing to NFL guys (he's been around long enough to have thrown a bit to 1st rounders Toney and Pitts, and wasn't any more accurate then, albeit presumably as a freshman);  think I'd rather have Malik Willis tbh, and definitely Kenny Pickett

Points: 0

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