Two weeks ago I wrote up a projection of the Bears season, predicting a 7-10 finish. Afterwards, I was thinking; why not project the whole league- so I did, using nothing but my own opinions. Then I saw the website I was using produced a draft order and I knew what my next article was going to be- a Too Early First Round Mock.
Since the 2022 Draft ended, I have been trying to familiarize myself with the next crop of college players. Such is the life of a Bears fan with little hope for our success this year. Now, using my own scouting and my knowledge of team’s drafting habits, roster weaknesses, and contract situations, I am unveiling a full league first round mock, with explanations for each pick. This Draft has 3 QBs in the top 5, 2 first round running backs, and one of the best Front 7 groups in years. Let me know what you think.
- Panthers- CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Panthers will be starting over at coach and QB. I prefer Stroud and think he may be the beneficiary of some anti- Bryce narratives.
- Falcons- Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
I believe in Desmond Ridder. I think he may show something whenever the Falcons sub him in and let them turn their attention to the extremely talented defensive portion of the draft. The Falcons run a very classic attacking 3-4, but DC Dean Pees has not been given a pass rusher of Anderson’s ability in which to effectively execute it.
- Jaguars- Jalen Carter, iDL, Georgia
Jaguars improve from back to back first overalls to a third overall, and continue to build their defense after infamously putting big money into their offense. Carter is position and scheme versatile, and may remind new DC Mike Caldwell of Ndamukong Suh.
- Giants- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Giants will be in the market for a quarterback they can mold to their new system- and perhaps Brian Daboll overlooks Bryce Young for a big armed and athletically gifted yet inaccurate and unaware project. Sound familiar?
- Lions- Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Lions need an elite QB to win- why not gamble on a Heisman winner and pair him with his number 1 target last year? Plus, if there’s smoke to the Kyler Murray rumors, why not draft a similar player for much cheaper?
- Seahawks- Keelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
A classic Seahawks corner build. They are very light on outside corner depth and could use a guy with elite size and speed, both of which are lacking in their department, like Ringo. They have another rpick later if they wish to address QB, but there’s no top 10 talent on the board.
- Eagles (via NO)- Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Brandon Graham will be 35 in 2023 and Derek Barnett is not in the long-term future. Howie prefers premium positions on draft day and prefers power on the edge in base downs.
- Texans- Brian Bresee, iDL, Clemson
If Lovie’s Tampa 2 derived offense is going to succeed, it needs to win on the D Line. While the Texans could consider QB, them picking at 8 indicates another stellar season from Davis Mills. Instead, they get a game changing 3-T to take control of a room that’s failed to pan out.
- Jets- Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
The Jets have to remain committed to Zach Wilson. That is unfortunate, because outside of him this roster is impressive. Expect Robert Saleh to keep building up his defense- positions targeted here may be DT, S, or LB. Noah Sewell is the best prospect at any of these three spots, and he can slide in to what CJ Moseley does now, freeing up CJ’s cap space. Expect this to be Carter or Bresee if they’re available.
- Commanders- Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Washington gets their yearly Bama player at their biggest position of need. Fuller and Jackson are aging and theirs little help behind them. Ricks is a great fit in their 4-3 press man.
- Bears- Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State
The Bears could go a lot of directions here. All WRs and OTs are still on the board and they desperately need both. At the end of the day, I think ex OL Poles rocks line, in part because the high ranked receivers as of now are all more Z’s and slots than the big X the Bears are missing. Johnson needs to show it in season- he struggled playing out of position at guard but has the athleticism and strength to pop at tackle in all phases of the game. He also played with Justin for one year already, starting at guard as a true freshman in the College Football Playoff. In this scenario, either Borom or Jenkins could slide inside to guard as needed, and then we’ll be able to address receiver on Day 2 (with Quentin Johnson or AT Perry perhaps).
- Texans (via CLE)- Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
While someone like Myles Murphy was barely unavailable at 8, the Texans can finish their defensive line revamp with a plus athlete and plus technician like Isaiah Foskey. Opposite Jon Greenard and paired with. Bresee, this D Line can be a force in a division without a truly great O-Line (Colts currently have rookie left tackle).
- Dolphins- Bijan Robinson, HB, Texas
The first of 2 first round RBs. In a different era, Bijan would be a top 5 pick. He is a Saquon level running back prospect and has just the acceleration, agility, power, and receiving versatility to make an immediate impact in Mike McDaniel’s run first system.
- Vikings- Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Adam Thielen’s time left in Minnesota may be shorter than you think, and they’ve long sought a third receiver to play slot- why not take the #1 college receiver in the country, a QBs best friend who can keep Kirk productive over the short and intermediate parts of the field and support whoever comes after him?
- Steelers- Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
A powerful offensive lineman who can stand to put on some weight, Skoronski completes Pittsburgh’s retooling of the line in the image of their new personnel- downhill blocking for Najee, exemplary mirroring and awareness to allow Pickett to stay upright when his paranoia kicks in.
- Raiders- Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Smith took over for Jaycee Horn with no drop off. He’s a tough, aggressive outside corner with good technique and attitude who also has experience inside despite his length. He should fit right into the silver and black in terms of need and temperament- like Eli Ricks, who if they were in range for they’d also take a look at.
- Bengals- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Having invested big free agent money into their defense but without any glowering holes on offense, the Bengals look to keep helping Joe Burrow by giving him an extremely high floor tight end, which Burrow has never had.
- Seahawks (via DEN)- Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami (FL)
Told you the Seahawks QB pick was coming. Van Dyke hasn’t played a whole lot of college ball, but he looked solid in his time. Can use his legs and has a good sense of spacing and his progressions. He can be a higher floor Drew Lock at worst, and a franchise QB if the strong Seahawks run game gives him an easier runway.
- Cardinals- BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
With JJ Watt’s age pushing him inside more and more frequently, the Cardinals are completely bereft on the edge. While many expected them to fix that this year, they didn’t. Hence, the best pure rusher left on the board, who should have no roadblocks to playing time.
- Eagles- Jahmyr Gibbs, HB, Alabama
Remember what I said about Howie values high position values? Throw all that out now. If Miles Sanders doesn’t get that second contract, the HB position here is wide open. In comes our second first round running back- if Bijan is a Saquon, Gibbs is a McCaffrey: excellent speed and receiving back who can shake or sidestep tackles equally easily.
- Colts- Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The Colts have to go all in on Matt Ryan for this and next year. With Parris Campbell likely to be gone after this year, there’s a hole at Z and slot (Alec Pierce will make an odd Z). Why not fill it with last year’s Biletnikoff winner, who may be pushed more inside at USC and in the NFL?
- Packers- Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Nolan Smith has all of the physical tools in the world- he’s just yet to convert them into elite pass rush production. Sounds like Rashan Gary to me, and there’ll soon be an opening in lieu of Preston Smith. Also, Packers go back to the Georgia defense.
- Titans- Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Simpson can do a little bit of everything- if he were to really click at one task, he could convert that into first round status. Thus, he could feasibly replace any of the Titans current linebacker room, who all have different roles and short leashes.
- Patriots- Henry To’oto’o, LB, Alabama
The Patriots barely touched a weakened linebacker room. Ja’Whaun Bentley is a run-down only player, and rookie Cam McGrone needs to flash while reclamation cases Mack Wilson, Jahlani Tavai and Raekwon McMillan need to prove they still have NFL starter talent in them. To’oto’o brings both much needed leadership and much needed speed to this group.
- Cowboys- Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Yes, yes, the Cowboys just extended Michael Gallup and still have Ceedee Lamb for at least 2023 and 2024. Yes, they just drafted Jalen Tolbert. But! This is Jerry. Boutte is a certified star who will draw excitement due to his game breaking speed that he’s already demonstrated against SEC competition. That’s what will matter most in Dallas. His college career has been restricted by recurring injuries, which may drop his draft stock. If he can play a full college season, he’s a top 10 player. If he can’t… he may find himself falling to Day 2.
- Lions (via LAR)- Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
The Lions need to shore up the corner room something bad. Outside, Jeff Okudah hasn’t found his footing and Amani Oruwariye is no one’s idea of a number 1. However, they are particularly bereft in the slot- Clark Phillips is a physical player in the box and a great athlete in man coverage. Get a quality starter here and worry about the rest down the line.
- Chiefs- Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Sure, the Chiefs just took Trent McDuffie. But in this man-centric team, he will play inside in a hybrid safety role (think Tyrann Mathieu). Their outside corners for 2023 are L’Jarius Sneed, who played best in the slot his rookie year, and Josh Williams, an unproven 2023 rookie. Porter can slide right into the mix there and tap his family name for lockdown man coverage.
- Chargers- Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
The Chargers have really laid into their offensive line with their first round picks, and I have them going right back to the well here. Their right tackle situation is bad, and the roster is elevating enough to not require immediate intervention elsewhere. An all-pro o-line on rookie contracts can help Herbert and the Chargers when he hits extension-time.
- Dolphins (via SF)- Jarrett Patterson, C, Notre Dame
This is the other piece of the puzzle for implementing McDaniel’s outside zone- the line. The Dolphins defense is relatively young and seems to be ascendant. The Dolphins have taken this to heart in this offseason already, investing considerable money in two new starters at guard and tackle; now they finish the job at center.
- Bills- Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
As of this writing Jordan Poyer is not under contract for 2023. While he will be 32 on Draft Day next year, his wear and tear is less than to be expected due to his having been a backup for his first 4 NFL years. Even if he stays, the safety room in Buffalo is getting up there in age at both spots. Joseph is a ball hawking converted corner (like Micah Hyde) whose shown the instincts and versatility to lineup all over the secondary- he can easily fill in the moment either of this teams stalwart safety duo moves on.
- Buccaneers- Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
Tom’s playing contract is not guaranteed next year- and he has a cushy booth job waiting for him. Could this be a last dance scenario? I think it may be likely. If he were to go, the Bucs would be caught with Kyle Trask starting- and I don’t think they would like that plan too much. McKee is a similar player to Trask except better in all the ways Trask is sufficient- a large, sturdy, elder presence with a strong arm, he has a better shot of sufficiently filling the big guy’s shoes.
- Ravens- Dontay Demus, WR, Maryland
The Ravens receiver room is weak, to say the least. I earnestly expect them to sign Odell for this year once he finishes rehab, but they need a player for the future. I considered TCU’s Quentin Johnson and Demus’s teammate Rakim Jarrett, but ultimately thought Demus best for what they need right now- an agile big body that can compete for Lamar in the red zone- he hasn’t really had a target like that at receiver yet.
Then I did a Bears specific 7-round mock draft, where I treated the Bears needs as being in this order (obviously, free agency will change a lot of this): OL, WR, DT, DE, LB, TE.
I was lucky enough to draft nearly in order of projected need. Boutte, as stated in his blurb above, has game breaking speed, crisp routes, and remarkable power after the catch. If he can prove healthy, he’s a top 10 cinch. Harrison, also a first round pick in my mock, was a lone bright spot on an in and out Oklahoma line, but he’s stood up well in pass pro. Davis is an attacking nose tackle on Clemson’s vicious D-Line, and Hall has some strength at the POA to play DE. Campbell likely won’t be available in the late 4th like this, but he plays a multi-faceted game and should push Nick Morrow for reps. Kmet may not be retained, so Ben Sims fleshes out the tight end room.