The 2023 NFL Draft is set to begin in just a few hours and is shaping up to be one of the most chaotic drafts in recent history and potentially NFL history. With possibly five QBs coming off the board on night one, and several teams rumored to be looking to move around the draft (more than I can remember in recent drafts) this year's edition of the NFL Draft could be one for the ages. Although I won't be predicting any trades in this mock, there will certainly be trades throughout the first round tonight. In this mock, I'll be looking at each pick and trying to best predict whom each team will select based on draft rumors from the league and positional needs. There are only 31 picks in the first round this year due to Miami being stripped of their first-round pick for previous tampering. With the stage being set, here is The Sports Branch's official 2023 Mock Draft.
1) Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Carolina didn’t send D.J. Moore and a slew of draft picks to Chicago to not draft a Quarterback. The only question over the last few months has been, which QB the Panthers will take? For quite some time the debate seemed to be between Alabama’s Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, but it now sounds like Stroud is out of the picture. I’ll go with the no-brainer selection and the consensus number-one QB, Bryce Young. Many have questioned the size of the former Heisman Trophy winner (5’10”, 204), but his skills and ability to dissect defenses make up for the “lack” of height and weight. Insiders and members of the media are all-in on the Panthers selecting Young and rightfully so. New Head Coach Frank Reich said in a press conference this week that he and General Manager Scott Fitterer have reached a “consensus” on which QB they’ll be selecting, but they have not yet informed the specific prospect that the Panthers will be selecting them. If the first pick somehow ends up being someone other than Young, the draft chaos will be starting earlier than expected tonight.
2) Houston Texans: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
Recent draft rumors from Houston are going against everything we thought the Texans would do with the second pick. Reports have suggested that the Texans are comfortable with passing on the top QBs, and they’re favoring one of the top pass-rushers in the class, Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson. The draft is full of “smokescreens” each year so that other organizations can’t get a leg up on others, and this could be one of those situations. However, I’m going to believe the hype for now. If Houston’s decision aligns with the rumors, I think it’ll be Texas Tech’s, Tyree Wilson. Wilson is regarded by some as having the “highest ceiling” and the best overall defensive player in the draft, even though his final college season was cut short due to a foot injury. Wilson has drawn comparisons to Nick Bosa, who played for DeMeco Ryans when Ryans was the Defensive Coordinator for San Francisco.
3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, OLB, Alabama
With one of the top pass-rushers off the board and the Cardinals not in need of a QB, it makes sense for them to go with the next-best pass-rusher available, and potentially the best in the class. Anderson has been arguably the most dominant player in college football the last three years (27.5 sacks combined in the last 2 seasons) and is my favorite prospect in this draft. Anderson would instantly boost Arizona’s pass rush and has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro. Arizona lost their top two sack leaders from last year's team as J.J. Watt retired, and Zach Allen signed with the Broncos in free agency, so they’re in desperate need of help on the defensive line. There are also several other options in play for Arizona. There has been plenty of conversation about this pick being traded to a QB-needy team and it feels like Arizona is the team most likely to move back come draft time. With one of the less-talented rosters in the league, a move back to stay within the top-ten, while also acquiring more picks would be huge for the organization. There’s also been a lot of noise recently revolving around the Cardinals and Paris Johnson Jr. Reports have said that Kyler Murray has been vouching for the Offensive Tackle and the team is interested as well. Johnson is my top Offensive Tackle in the class, but those around the league agree that pick three would be very high for him. Regardless of what the Cardinals do, it sounds like they’ll be addressing the line of scrimmage, no matter if they trade back or not.
4) Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Finally, a second QB is off the board, but it’s not the QB we thought of all along. The Colts have been enamored with Will Levis since the NFL Combine and look as if they’re all in on the Kentucky prospect. There are mixed reviews on Levis throughout the league. Some scouts and front offices seem to love him, while others are not big fans of him. Levis was stellar in 2021 for the Wildcats, but after losing several receivers and linemen around him, he struggled in 2022, which has effectively hurt his stock (somewhat). Levis is considered to be the most “pro-ready” Quarterback in this class and has gotten a lot of praise due to his arm strength and underrated ability as a runner. He’ll have to cut down on his interceptions at the next level, but the Colts have faith in him to do just that. If they select Levis, Indianapolis will be able to put an end to the painful cycle of signing older and “more experienced” QBs to lead the team that they’ve chosen to endure in recent years.
5) Seattle Seahawks (Via: DEN): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Stroud makes the third Quarterback in the top five, which is more than a realistic possibility. Stroud’s stock has declined recently as his “S2 cognitive test” score was leaked and is alleged to be a disappointing 18%, far lower than the other QBs. The S2 test is still relatively new to the draft process and it “scientifically measures an athlete's game-speed cognitive abilities down to a millisecond level” (World Sports Network). Regardless of if the test score was accurate or not, the noise around Stroud is that he is expected to slide down the draft slightly. Although the Seahawks just gave Geno Smith a new contract after a career year, Smith is 33 years old and his contract gets more and more expensive after each year. Stroud is viewed by many (including myself) as the QB2 in this class and Seattle could set themselves up for life after Geno with this pick. Stroud could sit behind Smith for a year and then become the full-time starter in his second season. This is another interesting pick to watch as Seattle also really likes Georgia’s Jalen Carter, and Florida QB Anthony Richardson. If Stroud is not available or they choose not to select him, one of those two mentioned players is likely to have their name called here.
6) Detroit Lions (Via: LAR): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Detroit would love it if the draft played out this way up until their pick. Many have Carter as the top prospect in the class and consider him a generational talent in his position. There’s been a plethora of concerns due to off-the-field issues with Carter, but the talent and potential are too good to pass up. A young tandem of Aidan Hutchinson and Jalen Carter would haunt opposing NFC North offenses for years to come. Detroit needs more help getting to the QB, but their run defense is an even bigger need. The Lions allowed 146.5 rush yards per game a season ago, ranking 29th in the league, they also gave up over five yards per carry in 2022, which ranked 30th in the NFL (TeamRankings.com). If the Lions don’t select Carter, they’re likely to take someone at the Cornerback position, a name to watch for is Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon.
7) Las Vegas Raiders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Speaking of Devon Witherspoon, I have the Raiders taking the Illinois prospect, who's viewed as the consensus top corner in this draft. The Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo this off-season but were still aggressive in trying to trade up for one of the top QBs. After ultimately failing to do so, people within the league expect them to take a corner with this pick. Witherspoon is a physical shut-down corner that would come in and be the best corner on this roster right away. The Raiders had one of the weakest secondaries in the league in 2022, allowing over 250 passing yards per game (StatMuse). If they choose to go another direction than Witherspoon, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez is a name to watch for.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I’m not usually an advocate for drafting Running Backs in round one, especially this high, but the buzz surrounding Robinson and Atlanta is impossible to ignore. Atlanta has been notorious for selecting the “best player available” since General Manager Terry Fontenot took over, and they very well could view Robinson as just that. 2022 Fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier was a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie, but Robinson is arguably the best RB prospect since Saquon Barkley and offers a different explosiveness than Allgeier. The Texas product totaled 41 touchdowns in his three seasons in Austin and had two seasons with over 1,200 rushing yards. Robinson has been cemented as a top-ten prospect by most who cover the NFL, but because of differing opinions on how teams value his position, it can also be tough to find a spot for him in mocks. If the pick isn’t Bijan Robinson, Georgia’s Nolan Smith, and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez are players to watch.
9) Chicago Bears (Via CAR): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Chicago has found their franchise QB in Justin Fields, and after receiving a massive haul including several future picks and Wide Receiver D.J. Moore, they look to be trending in the right direction. However, they now need to shift their focus to protecting the future of their franchise by boosting the offensive line. Fields was tied with Russell Wilson for being the most sacked QB last season (55)(StatMuse). With all of the top linemen available here, Chicago will have their pick of who they like. Paris Johnson is the top Tackle in the draft in my eyes, and the eyes of those around the league. He played Guard and Tackle at Ohio State so if needed he can move around the offensive line. While playing tackle last season he gave up only two sacks. Johnson stands at a massive 6’6” and 313 pounds but moves very well for his size as both a pass and run blocker. However, Johnson could go as early as the third overall pick as Arizona is very interested in him. If Johnson is off the board or the Bears elect to elsewhere with this pick, I could see Chicago targeting Peter Skoronski or a prospect along the defensive line.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (Via: NO): Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
The defending NFC Champs were able to secure a top-ten selection after a previous trade with New Orleans. With several glaring holes on their defense because of the many free-agent departures this offseason, Philadelphia could go in many different directions with this pick. Some have predicted Bijan Robinson or one of the top offensive or defensive linemen in this class. Philadelphia and Howie Roseman have selected players along the line of scrimmage in the first round of several of the last few drafts, and I think the pattern will remain here. The UGA prospect has drawn several comparisons to current Eagle, Haason Reddick. Smith would’ve been even more highly regarded if it weren’t for a pectoral injury that ended his season, but he’s currently expected to be a top-ten or fifteen pick. Smith possesses great speed and teams have also fallen in love with his leadership skills. With Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, both nearing the end of their careers, stacking depth on the defensive line will make the transition to life after those two great players much easier.
11) Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern
Tennessee is very involved in the Quarterback conversation with this draft. However, after reportedly already being out on 2022 selection Malik Willis, I don’t think the Titans will want to select another project QB in Anthony Richardson. Instead, I think they’ll go with arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft, Peter Skoronski. Tennessee parted ways with long-time starter Taylor Lewan this offseason, and although they brought in former first-rounder Andre Dillard, they could still use some upgrades up-front. Skoronski can be a day-one starter at either Tackle or Guard and would be a huge help to creating holes in the run game for Derrick Henry. With Ryan Tannehill entering the final year of his contract, there’s a strong possibility that the Titans choose a Quarterback. If it’s not offensive line or QB for Mike Vrabel’s team, receiver is very much in-play. Draft rumors have also suggested that Tennessee has done extensive work to trade up and could be the team most likely to make a deal to get higher in the draft.
12) Houston Texans (Via: CLE): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
After not selecting a QB at pick number two, the Texans can sit back and watch one fall to them at pick twelve. It’s no secret that Houston needs a QB after dealing with subpar play from Davis Mills in 2022. Richardson has been one of the most interesting prospects in this class, and potentially in the history of the draft. Richardson started only thirteen games at Florida and was very up-and-down as a passer, but his athletic ability and explosiveness are off the charts. Richardson had a jaw-dropping combine performance and further proved the fact that he has all the “physical tools” as they’re referred to, to be an elite player at the next level. His speed, talent as a runner, and ability to extend plays with his legs are what draw so many teams to him. Richardson is still raw with some of his passing abilities and mechanics as a QB, but if a team is willing to be patient and develop him, he can become a star in the league.
13) Green Bay Packers (Via: NJY): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay has officially come to a close as he was traded to the New York Jets earlier this week. The trade resulted in the two teams swapping picks in the first round this year, and an exchange of future draft assets for both franchises. The keys will now be handed over to Jordan Love, who sat behind Rodgers for several years. Green Bay also lost Allen Lazard to the Jets in the off-season, Robert Tonyan signed with the division-rival Chicago Bears, and Randall Cobb remains unsigned. If the Packers are going to give Love a fair chance, they have to get more talent at Wide Receiver; Christian Watson and Romeo Doubbs are great players but two second-year receivers won’t get it done. The Packers will finally break the cycle of refusing to select receivers in the first round (they haven't done so since 2002) and will take the consensus number-one receiver in the class. Smith-Njigba missed nearly the entirety of the 2022 season due to an injury but is fully healthy now and is the most explosive receiving threat in this class. He would step in and arguably be the team’s Wide Receiver one as a rookie and would be a reliable option for Jordan Love for years. The hype around JSN is real, as several teams are rumored to be looking to trade up and select the former Buckeye. If you need a glimpse at his potential, go watch his breakout performance in the 2022 Rose Bowl against Utah.
14) New England Patriots: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez could go as early as the top ten, but with how top-heavy some of the other positions in this class are, I think he could see a slide to the middle of round one. The Patriots were around the middle of the pack last year, allowing 237 passing yards per game (StatMuse). Regarded as one of the top-two corners in the draft, Gonzalez has great speed and finished the 2022 season with four interceptions for the Ducks. The Patriots need more talent and depth in the secondary, especially after losing J.C. Jackson in free agency in 2022, who was a ball-hawk for the team for several years. If Gonzalez and Corner in general isn’t the pick, offensive line or Wide Receiver could be where the Patriots look. But when it comes to Bill Belichick and the NFL Draft, you never know what the Patriots will do, so prepare to be surprised.
15) New York Jets (Via: GB): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Jets were able to finally get a deal done and pull off the biggest trade of the offseason by acquiring Aaron Rodgers. The addition of Rodgers under center cements them as Super Bowl contenders, but they have to be able to protect him. With former first-rounder Mekhi Becton almost missing the entirety of the last two seasons and Duane Brown being 37, this team is in dire need of help at either tackle spot. Luckily for them, Jones is still on the board and is one of the top tackles in the class. Jones was only a one-year starter at Georgia, but his ceiling is very high. Jones has great speed and moves extremely well for a lineman and is a violent blocker. Jones gave up zero sacks last season and could be a day-one starter for a team that allowed 42 sacks in 2022. (StatMuse)
16) Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Washington looks like they’ll be sticking with Sam Howell at QB for the upcoming season, unless they trade up for a Quarterback. If they decide to stay home at pick sixteen, then they’ll look to fill one of their needs either in the secondary, on the offensive line, or at Linebacker. With the top linemen already selected, and no Linebackers expected to be taken in round one, I have Washington adding another corner opposite of Kendall Fuller. Porter Jr is physical like fellow prospect Devon Witherspoon and although the interception numbers won’t jump out at you, he does a great job of using his long arms to break up passes (17 in his Penn State career). The Commanders had one of the better secondaries in the league last season, but could use more depth and talent at corner; the departure of Safety Bobby McCain in free agency hurts as well.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Pittsburgh found their QB of the future in the first round last year by selecting Kenny Pickett, but now they have to build around him. They already have a solid receiving group that is also relatively young and have 25-year-old Najee Harris at Running Back. Pickett was only sacked 27 times last season (StatMuse) but they struggled to run the ball at times, as Najee Harris saw his yards per game decrease by ten yards in 2022 (StatMuse). The Steelers could use more help on the offensive line, and Wright is the last of the top tackles left in round one. Wright is looked at by some as the best tackle in the draft, giving up only one sack last season for the Volunteers. If you have any questions about Wright’s abilities, go check out his performance against projected top-three pick Will Anderson and Alabama last season, he was dominant against the Tide. It is also rumored that Pittsburgh is looking into moving up to pick nine or eleven to guarantee their chances at getting one of the top offensive tackles this year.
18) Detroit Lions: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Detroit made a blockbuster trade during the middle of the 2022 season, sending Pro-Bowl Tight End T.J. Hockenson to division-rival Minnesota. The Lions had an explosive offense last season but could use more weapons for Jared Goff. Amon-Ra St. Brown was a star for them in 2022, but outside of his production, they struggled to help Jared Goff with viable receivers. Even worse for the Lions, D.J. Chark signed with Carolina in free agency, and 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams is suspended for the first six games of 2023 for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. With Kincaid available and viewed as the best vertical threat at Tight End in this class, the Lions pounce on the chance to add him to their offense. Kincaid can instantly start for Detroit and would be a reliable option for Goff. Not to mention, he’s not a bad replacement for T.J. Hockenson. Several other positions and prospects are in play here for the Lions, but how they attack this pick will be determined heavily by where they go with the sixth pick.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Tom Brady has retired once again (for good this time we think) but being stuck this far down the board doesn’t give Tampa much of a chance to draft his successor in round one. The team also is excited about the potential of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask for 2023. But with several needs, especially on the line of scrimmage, Tampa opts to go Defensive Tackle here with Kancey. The offensive line is the bigger need, but with the best tackles already taken, I don’t think Tampa would elect to go with Michael Mayer and fill a less-important need at Tight End. Kancey’s name has been mentioned around the league a lot since the NFL Combine and he’s now expected to be chosen in the top 20 of the first round. Tampa could certainly add more talent to their defensive front that’s been heavily dependent on Linebackers and Defensive Tackle Vita Vea to make plays. Kancey would take the pressure off Vea and the rest of the front seven. Kancey is a little undersized for a defensive tackle, but his quickness is remarkable. Tampa has been eerily quiet with their plans for night one, so it’ll be interesting to see which direction they go.
20) Seattle Seahawks: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
After securing their future franchise QB at pick five, Seattle comes back to the defense with their second pick of round one. Murphy at one point in the pre-draft process was looked at as one of the top pass rushers, but his stock has fallen slightly. Seattle had one of the weaker defenses in the league in 2022, which is not normal for a Pete Carroll-coached team. Murphy would work great with off-season acquisition Dre’Mont Jones who can play both edge and Defensive Tackle. Bringing in Murphy would allow Seattle to shift Jones to the interior and disrupt opposing rushing offenses, which were very successful against the Seahawks in 2022, while Murphy works on the outside getting after the Quarterback. Murphy’s overall balance should entice Pete Carroll and the staff as he has a great blend of speed (4.51 40-yard dash) and power. League insiders have also reported that sources close to the team are very interested in the Clemson product, but their first pick at number five will dictate how they approach pick twenty.
21) Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams continue to struggle with staying healthy, and it’s hurt the Chargers the last two seasons. Both have missed a handful of games and in Allen’s case, he just turned 30 and isn’t getting any younger. The Chargers need to prepare for the reality that one of those two receivers will miss a few games each year for the foreseeable future. Addison is a top-three receiver in the draft and is a former Biletnikoff winner while playing for Pitt. During his time at USC, he developed a special connection with Heisman winner Caleb Williams. Addison’s route-running and speed are arguably his biggest strengths, even though some may be tempted to look away because of his size. Addison would be a great weapon for Justin Herbert out of the slot regardless of if Keenan Allen is in the lineup or not. The Chargers could also look at defensive backs with this selection as J.C. Jackson has been inconsistent and struggled to remain healthy since joining the team.
22) Baltimore Ravens: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Lamar Jackson saga continues to loom over this team, but maybe the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. has improved the relationship between Lamar and the team. Although the Ravens need more receivers to help Lamar, they haven’t had much success with drafting wideouts in round one in recent years, and don’t seem like they’ll select one this year. Instead, I think they’ll look at the defense and specifically the secondary. The team has yet to bring back long-time starter Marcus Peters and could use some help across from star player Marlon Humphrey. The dominant defense of Baltimore has always been a cornerstone of the franchise and Banks would fit the Ravens perfectly. Banks has game-changing speed (4.35 40-yard dash) and is great in man coverage even though his interception totals won’t blow you away. Some even have Banks ranked higher than corners like Joey Porter Jr in this class. If Baltimore looks elsewhere, I fully expect the pick to be a receiver.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Minnesota said goodbye to long-time Viking Adam Theilen in the offseason after a somewhat underwhelming 2022 season and is now looking at K.J. Osborn and Jalen Raegor as their wideouts alongside superstar Justin Jefferson. The Vikings do still have an elite Tight End in T.J. Hockenson however, but they need more help on the outside. Johnston is a big-bodied receiver that also possesses incredible speed and was the go-to guy for the Horned Frogs last season. Johnston does well at making contested catches and is dangerous after the catch. There are concerns about his route running–which is common for bigger receivers–as well as his inconsistencies with his hands; this makes Johnston one of the tougher receivers to find a spot for in the draft, also due to the differing opinions on where he’ll be selected. But I believe that he’ll benefit heavily from being lined up with the best receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson and he’ll be able to grow his game.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
Jacksonville has had success in drafting pass-rushers in the first round recently with Josh Allen and last year’s number-one pick Travon Walker. I think they’ll go right back to that strategy and take Van Ness, whom some have as a top-ten pick. Van Ness can move all over the defensive line and plays with a different element of power to his game in comparison to Allen and Walker. The Jaguars could also look to add a corner or Safety here, but with very few first-round level players remaining at those spots I think they’ll decide to add depth up-front. Offensive Tackle could also be a possibility. It was announced early this morning that starting Offensive Tackle Cam Robinson is facing a multi-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Depending on how long Robinson is suspended, this could alter Jacksonville’s draft strategy.
25) New York Giants: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Forbes is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft because his production was incredible for Mississippi State, but people are concerned about his frame. At 6 '0'' and only 166 pounds, Forbes’ play outweighs his size concerns. While playing three years for the Bulldogs, he totaled fourteen interceptions and returned six of them for touchdowns, two stats that have teams and scouts very excited. New York is rumored to be looking at Wide Receiver and Cornerback with this pick but with the plethora of off-season additions at receiver and the trade for Darren Waller, I think they’ll look to add more talent and youth in the secondary. It also seems like the Giants won’t be bringing back current starter Adoree’ Jackson, which will leave a hole at the Cornerback Position after the 2023 season. They’ll be able to get ahead of his potential departure with this pick.
26) Dallas Cowboys: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
After losing Dalton Schultz in free agency the Cowboys need a reliable Tight End for Dak Prescott, and Mayer is exactly that. Mayer and Kincaid are the consensus top-two Tight Ends with both being slotted as the best at the position at times by different people around the league and the media. Kincaid has been favored as a receiving threat, but Mayer is regarded as a more polished run-blocker. Mayer was still a great receiver for Notre Dame, finishing his career as their all-time leader in receptions and boasting two All-American selections on his resume. If Dallas doesn’t select a Tight End in round one, the defensive line could be the pick.
27) Buffalo Bills: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Buffalo is heavily looking at trading back from this pick to acquire more draft assets, but in a mock where I’m not predicting trades, I think they’ll take one of the top receivers. Buffalo is in the mix for DeAndre Hopkins, but they should prepare for a reality in which they’re unable to trade for him. Outside of Stefon Diggs, the Bills could use a consistent number two wideout. Gabe Davis has shown flashes of being a great compliment alongside Diggs, but some of his inconsistencies in production on a week-to-week basis are concerning. Davis is also entering the final year of his contract. Flowers is a dynamic playmaker both in the slot and on the outside and his big-play ability would be a perfect fit for the Bills. Flowers would alleviate some of the pressure from Diggs and would be a benefit to Gabe Davis’ potential to make big plays as a deep threat like he’s done so far in his career. If the Bills decide to not draft a receiver, a trade back or selecting a defensive lineman seems imminent.
28) Cincinnati Bengals: Will McDonald IV, DE, Iowa State
The Bengals were a few key plays away from going right back to the Super Bowl, but they find themselves here at pick twenty-nine. They very well could draft a defensive back, as they lost star Safety Jessie Bates, Safety Vonn Bell, and a few other members of the secondary. But with most of the round-one defensive backs taken, I think they’ll look at another spot on the defensive line. Trey Hendrickson has been great since joining the team, but they need more production from their pass rush and defensive front as a whole. McDonald would benefit from being able to play behind Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard and would give the Bengals great depth and more youth up-front. The Bengals have several different needs, so they could go in many different directions here. Tight End, defensive back, and even Defensive Tackle specifically are all possibilities here.
29) New Orleans Saints (Via: SF/MIA/DEN): Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson Speaking of Defensive Tackles, I have the Saints picking up help on the interior here with Bresee. New Orleans lost key members of their defensive line in free agency and Cam Jordan who’s had an incredible career for them, is 33 years old and will be 34 by the beginning of the season. The Saints should be looking up-front with one, or both of their first two picks. Bresee was one of the higher-ranked prospects before the 2022 season but has slid down draft boards. I think New Orleans would be willing to spend a late first-round pick on him to fill arguably their biggest need. It’s hard to pencil in the correct prospects at this stage of round one, but I strongly believe the Saints will take either an offensive or defensive lineman.
30) Philadelphia Eagles: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
The Eagles are back on the clock here after securing Nolan Smith at pick ten, and I think they stay on defense with their second pick of round one. As previously stated, Philadelphia lost several key pieces of their defense which helped lead them to the Super Bowl, including their top two Safeties. The Eagles were able to bring back both Darius Slay and James Bradberry at corner, but as a result were unable to retain star player Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who was tied for first in the league in 2022 with six interceptions. They did bring in Terrell Edmunds from Pittsburgh in free agency, but they still are somewhat weak at the position and want a Pro-Bowl caliber player in the back end of their defense. Branch can be just that. He can move all along the defense at the next level as he did with ease for Alabama. He’s the best Safety in the draft, but can also play Cornerback and moved to several different spots at his original Safety position for the Tide. His versatility and instincts alone make him a first-round level player and an instant difference-maker in the “City of Brotherly Love.” I could also see Branch being taken much higher considering he looks like the only Safety worth being drafted in round one and many teams are infatuated with him.
31) Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State
To finish out the first round, the defending Super Bowl champions are on the clock. Kansas City is another team that is heavily expected to move up in the draft or move out of the first round as a whole. They’re also in the mix for DeAndre Hopkins as they desperately need more talent at Wide Receiver. The team was already thin at the position before their Super Bowl-winning season, but after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency they’re in an even tougher spot. However, with no first-round receivers left, I think Andy Reid and the Chiefs pivot to the defense. Kansas City was great up-front in 2022 as Chris Jones was a dominant force on the interior as usual (15.5 sacks, 4th most in the NFL) and rookie George Karlaftis came along towards the end of the season. But Kansas City released Frank Clark who played a massive role in both of their runs to becoming Super Bowl champions. The team also hasn’t re-signed Carlos Dunlap and likely won’t bring him back at all. The Chiefs could use more depth on the defensive front and that’s what they get here with Anudike-Uzomah. Although I have the Chiefs selecting Anudike-Uzomah I have a strong feeling they may trade up and try to grab Zay Flowers. As I said, the team needs receivers and the Chiefs have been connected to Flowers throughout recent parts of the pre-draft process. Flowers even worked out with QB Patrick Mahomes and other NFL players recently in Mahomes’ home state of Texas.
*All stats were received from ESPN Stats & Info. Department, StatMuse.com, and TeamRankings.com