Football fans rejoice! It is that time of year again, where hope is given to even the crappiest of teams (Bears fan here) and it is a chance for your team to draft either the perennial can’t miss stud or that sleeper that went undetected through the other 31 teams onto your roster and will lead you to the Super Bowl this upcoming season. I watch A LOT of football. Almost every pro game and a lot more college football than I probably am supposed to (Sorry I love it!) I especially like watching the smaller schools in the less prominent divisions (MAC, Mountain West, Pac-10?,12?,8?,9?,7? or whatever) so I see many players and although I am not a self-proclaimed expert, I have seen enough to get a pretty good opinion on whether a player is a stud or a dud. Let’s look at 50 points that I deem as must-sees during this draft:
1. I will start off with a very unpopular opinion. Anthony Richardson is the best quarterback in this draft. At 6’4”, 232 lbs., this Sophomore is a beast. I liken him to a better-polished Cam Newton. Newton had a lot of detractors, but he won games, an MVP, and took the Panthers to the Super Bowl. I think that if Richardson refines his passing skills over the next couple of years you will have a Daunte Culpepper 2.0 which will be difficult for the rest of the league to stop. If the Indianapolis Colts don’t take him at number four; I don’t see him slipping past the Seahawks at five or the Raiders at seven.
2. The best football player in this draft is Bijan Robinson. The problem is that he is a running back. If this was the 80s or 90s, Ditka would have not only traded all of his picks this season for him (Remember Ricky Williams, kind of apropos that I am writing this on 4/20) but next season’s as well. Someone is going to get a steal late in the first round. I can see him sliding down all the way to 21 where the Los Angeles Chargers will be in fine position to trade Austin Ekeler at that point.
3. One of the biggest mysteries of this draft is the fall of Jalen Carter. The consensus overall number one at the beginning of this draft hype has been besieged by negative reports following a car racing incident in which a person perished he was involved with. I am not making light about the death of anyone, however, Carter is young and young kids do some dumb things at times. Also, it probably was also indicative of his poor Pro Day performance as well. Dude was feeling remorseful, so he let himself go. I believe in the end he will recover and although the Bears would love to get him at number nine, I don’t think he makes it past the Lions at six (that defense will be off the charts if that happens) or the Raiders at seven.
4. How is it that Quentin Johnston fell from grace? The 6’4,” 215-lb. wideout from TCU has fallen down many draft boards into the second round. He has been surpassed with names like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers and Jordan Addison. While I might be able to see a case for Smith-Njigba, Johnston is better than the rest and if he slips all the way to Kansas City at the end of the first, that could get really scary for the rest of the NFL.
5. Speaking of falling from grace, what is going on with Peter Skoronski, offensive tackle from Northwestern? He at first was going to be the consensus number one tackle that came off the board, however, an issue was raised because his arms were too short. Skoronski is all over everyone’s boards to the Bears. Bears GM Ryan Pace was an offensive lineman, and everyone is saying if Skoronski doesn’t pan out at tackle, he will make a hell of a guard for the next 10-12 years.
6. How about the edge? Will Anderson has been quietly sitting in the shadows and is probably the second-best defensive prospect in the draft. With the fall of Carter, I think Anderson’s value has been elevated to the point where the Texans can’t pass him up and will end up taking him at number two overall.
7. A very intriguing tight end prospect (this year’s draft is filled to the brim with them) is Tucker Kraft, a tight end from South Dakota State. All injuries took a bite out of Kraft last season, but they didn’t stop him from helping lead the Jackrabbits to a NCAA FCS Division I title. At 6’5,” Kraft has been drawing similar comparisons to former Jackrabbit Dallas Goedert. The only knock on Kraft is his blocking, which according to most scouts was good, but it needs to be better. I believe injuries had a significant effect on his prowess, and now that he is healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team like Detroit or Cincinnati take an early shot at him towards the back end of the second round.
8. Christian Gonzalez of Oregon has all the intangibles to become the next great shut-down corner in the NFL. I love his size (6’1”) and his speed (4.38 40-yard dash), but he also has a little meat on the bone as well, weighing in at 197 lbs. Gonzalez is the Swiss Army knife of shutdown corners (cover, tackle and pick). It was difficult for me to see him getting past the Lions at six before they had a great visit with Jalen Carter. Depending on how the rush of quarterbacks go, I can see Gonzalez falling all the way to ten to the Eagles. I like him better than Devon Witherspoon of Illinois and think that he will be the first corner taken. This would be an absolute coup for Philadelphia.
9. Iowa’s Jack Campbell headlines the inside linebacking core of this draft. However, Campbell is only ranked in the low- to mid-40 range as far as prospects go. I think that his fluidity on the field leads to one of biggest detractions; that he lacks suddenness in his movements based on his initial diagnosis. I believe that he will be a steal for a team needing a “Mike”. Look for the Jaguars to possibly move up the board from number 56 in the second round to grab this potential steal.
10. Another interesting prospect is Alabama’s running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Although he has drawing comparisons to Christian McCaffery, the knock on Gibbs is his size and his pass-blocking efficiency. However, it is difficult to ignore the speed that this guy possesses. Gibbs ran a 4.36 40, which was the second-fastest time among running backs. I don’t see Gibbs slipping into the second round. I believe Philadelphia snags him at number 31 with their second pick of the first round. Smith combined with Christian Gonzalez already moves the Eagles up the board as favorites to represent the NFC in consecutive Super Bowls.
11. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis is all over the place in all mock drafts. I have seen him go as high as number two to as low as number 19. The one thing I like about Levis is the critical component that you can’t teach: size. Dude stands at 6’4” and 229 and is somewhat of a gunslinger. The gun-slinging mentality tends to draw comparisons to “Smokin'’” Jay Cutler (my favorite), however I think Levis will tone it down a bit and with the right coaching, is a closer comparison to Ben Roethlisberger. Depending on what the Raiders and Falcons do, I still have Levis being the fourth quarterback taken overall (I have him ranked third) and there is no way he gets past the Tennessee Titans, who will trade up to nine with the Bears to acquire his services.
12. It will be interesting to see what the Arizona Cardinals do with the third overall pick. All the draft pundits are considering it a foregone conclusion that Cardinals of the Desert will trade that pick in order to acquire more draft capital. Although I am not sold on Kyler Murray, there is no way they go quarterback due to the fleecing that Murray performed a season ago. However, another interesting and yet not popular opinion is if they stay at three, they can take Tyree Wilson, the edge rusher out of Texas Tech. I like Wilson because his motor is never-ending. I rate him as a 1-1a with Anderson. I feel any teams drafting these two guys can do no wrong.
13. My favorite player of this draft (despite everyone drafted by Bears) would have to be North Dakota State’s tackle, Cody Mauch. Dude is 6’5” and just a tad over 300 lbs. But it is the missing two front teeth (from childhood basketball) and the long flowing red hair (colors that would make a Santa Ana winds-driven wildfire jealous) that adds to his persona. Besides that, the guy is just a nasty, violent player. I think his make-up is perfect for the New York Jets and I could see the A-A-ron’s taking Mauch with the 42nd overall pick in the second round to protect their eventually self-anointed Prima donna.
14. Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid is the best tight end prospect on the board. I know that all the draft pundits like Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and have him going above Kincaid, but I truly believe one of the reasons is that these guys only see tape of Kincaid because he plays after their bedtime. I like Dalton a lot more than the others and while he may need to add 10-15 lbs. to his svelte 245-lb. frame, I think he is the second coming of Travis Kelce. A lot of draft boards have Mayer going to the Packers after they get rid of the dumpster fire otherwise known as A-A-Ron Rodgers to the Jets. I hope the Packers follow the conservative approach and take Mayer. That would leave Kincaid available for the Lions at number 18 to replace T.J. Hockenson or the Jaguars at number 24. This could be a huge steal for the Jags to snag him.
15. The immediate need for the “Snyder-less” Washington Commanders should be quarterback, however sitting at 16, I think they go and shore up their secondary with a cornerback. I have them taking Illinois defensive back Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon who is just down my board from Christian Gonzalez seems like a solid defensive back who should anchor the Washington secondary for quite a while.
16. If he falls all the way down to 27 (in which I think he will), top linebacker prospect Drew Sanders from Arkansas via Alabama seems like the perfect marriage for the Buffalo Bills. The Bills need to fill the gaping hole at the position following Tremaine Edmunds surprise departure to Chicago. Sanders is not only long and rangy, but also possesses a slide and swim move that could create havoc in the A, B and C gaps if he picks his moments. I know the Bills need a receiver, but I would take Sanders over a Jordan Addison-type they could find later in the draft.
17. Another great potential draft story could be that Michigan State punter, Bryce Baringer, the highest-ranked special teamer on the board. Baringer started punting for the Spartans as a walk-on in 2018. His average of 32.4 yards per punt helped him lose his walk-on status and after becoming the photographer in 2019, was pressed into duty during the 2020 Covid season. In 2021, he increased his average to 48.4 yards per punt and eventually hit the 49 yards per mark in 2022 and became a Ray Guy award finalist. I am not sure which team will grab him, but I will be rooting for him on Saturday during the third day of the draft.
18. The Cincinnati Bengals lost over 50% of their defensive backfield to free agency this off season. I believe they begin to retool by drafting former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacking legend’s son, Joey Porter, Jr. Porter, Jr. has some great length (6’2 ½” with a 34” vertical) and it helps make up for the tic he lacks in speed (4.46 40-yard dash). He should be a great piece to anchor the secondary in Cincinnati for quite a while.
19. I hear that the Pittsburgh Steelers are absolutely in love with Jalen Carter. If, somehow, Carter slides through the trio of Seattle, Detroit and Las Vegas at five, six and seven, respectively, look for the Steelers to work a trade with Bears at nine (Atlanta will go offense at eight in lieu of the hometown star). Word on the street is that Bears GM Ryan Poles wants the extra capital for the meat of this draft (picks 20 through 60). I feel that if the Steelers offer their pick at 17 along with the return of Chicago’s pick at the top of the second round (acquired in the Chase Claypool deal), the Steelers will be able to pair Jalen Carter with T.J. Watt on their defensive front.
20. The Denver Broncos have become the AFC’s version of the Los Angeles Rams, where they don’t have a pick (thanks to the bold move by GM George Paton in trading for Russell Wilson) until the third round (67 and 68 overall). If Paton does not package these to move up into the second, there will be some very intriguing prospects available for him at this time. With 67, I have Denver grabbing a very underrated linebacker from Alabama in Henry To’ oTo’ o. At 68 I have them going edge with the junior out Notre Dame in Isaiah Foskey. However, don’t forget that slot receiver Jerry Jeudy has supposedly been on the block for a while as well. Don’t be surprised if the Broncos trade him to move up into the second round.
21. Mississippi State defensive back Emanuel Forbes is a playmaker. He recorded six pick sixes back in his collegiate career for the Bulldogs. Although standing at 6’1,” Forbes weighs in at 166 lbs. He is wiry and his slenderness helps him get into situations for the ball. This kind of make-up is perfect for the Dallas Cowboys. It gives the ‘Pokes’ a gifted defensive back and a playmaker with some shine. Look for Dallas to grab Forbes at 26.
22. If the Houston Texans decide to wait on a quarterback and at the number two pick either Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson is available on the edge (I would go with the latter just because I am in love with his incessant motor), it will send the entire draft into an upheaval. The question would then be asked, “Where does C.J Stroud end up?” Assuming Carolina sticks with the consensus number one pick Bryce Young and Indianapolis goes with Will Levis at four, I can see Stroud falling right into the lap of Las Vegas. However, I can almost guarantee you that if Houston doesn’t take a quarterback at two, then we are going to see the most insane number of trades in draft history inside the top ten until the “Big Four” (Young, Stroud, Levis and Richardson) are consumed.
23. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is an intriguing option for teams from 10-15. Although I would love for my Bears to draft him at nine to pair him up with former Ohio State teammate Justin Fields, they have much more pressing needs. Look for either the Texans to grab him at 12 or God forbid, if they pass on him, he will make a perfect complement to Jordan Love and the Packers at 15.
24. Following the departure of Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves in a precarious position with their depth chart all around. The Buccaneers sold their souls and now they must begin their rebuild. I see them waiting for next year’s QB class, so why not begin the rebuild with a solid tackle? I think that Georgia’s Broderick Jones fits this bill perfectly if available. However, do not forget that six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman, Gerald McCoy, retired. The Bucs could be in a perfect draft position to select Adetomiwa Adebawore, a player that can play both edge and three-technique, out of Northwestern.
25. Although they did sign Odell Beckham, Jr., I still think that the Baltimore Ravens need a receiver that can stretch the field. Boston College’s Zay Flowers is the perfect complement to that assertion. Flowers is built like Tyreek Hill. He is 5’9,” 182 lbs., but has blazing 4.42 40 speed to stretch opposing defenses.
26. The New York Giants have a decision to make during their first-round selection process. Do they go with many of the talented wide receivers on the board to give Daniel Jones a new weapon or do they begin their overhaul on their interior offensive line? I think they go with the latter and take a shot at TCU guard Steve Avila, who has been shooting up a lot of draft boards recently. Avila who is nimble for a 6’3 ½,” 332-pounder and could help pave the way for Saquon Barkley into a second contract with the G-men.
27. Clemson edge, Myles Murphy, has been often overlooked with both Will Anderson Jr. and Tyree Wilson ranked ahead of him. However, he could slip all the way down the first-round board to New Orleans at 29. That would be one heck of a steal for the Saints who would grab a guy with the quickest first step off the edge in the draft.
28. The Los Angeles Rams do not have a pick until the second round (This might be the scenario until 2037). With the departure of Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins, the obvious need for the squad is to have a shut-down corner. I like South Carolina’s Darius Rush in this scenario. Rush possesses both size and speed like Ramsey (6’ 2,” 198 lbs. and blazing 4.36 40 speed), however he is not too fluid in coverage and appears almost robotic at times. I think the Rams can coach this kid up and eventually make him one of the steals of the draft after taking him in the third round with the 69th overall selection.
29. The Cleveland Browns do not have a pick until the 11th selection of the third round. The Browns need a running back and I think they swing for the fences in drafting Illinois tailback Chase Brown. Brown possesses some elite speed with a 4.43 40-yard dash and is the prototypical size (5’9 ½,” 209 lbs.) of a tailback. Brown was fourth in the nation in rushing last season in a rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference. I think he becomes a sleeper pick in the 2023 NFL Draft for the Cleveland franchise.
30. The Washington Commanders are in an intriguing situation with the 97th overall pick, which is a third round compensatory pick. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is an under-the-radar type of RPO QB that is becoming the norm in the NFL. I believe the Commanders try and solve their quarterbacking situation this year instead of waiting out for the 2024 QB class. Thompson-Robinson has improved immensely under the tutelage of Chip Kelley and a lot of the knocks on him (such as delivery operation and elongated wind-up) can be rectified at the pro level. If I was a Commanders fan (I am not sure why you would be one), I would be salivating at the chance of drafting Thompson-Robinson here.
31. Everyone is sold on Carolina picking Bryce Young first overall. Although I am not enamored with the pick, I understand it. I am more interested in what Carolina does in the second round. Do they find Young a weapon, or do they enhance their linebacking corps? I believe they will get Young a weapon and choose 5’9” wide receiver Josh Downs out of North Carolina. The supremely confident Downs gives Young a Tyreek Hill-type option and can give the Panthers a wrinkle of options in their playbook.
32. I know they don’t have a pick until the third round, but I am hearing of a trade that would literally turn the draft on its respective ear: Trey Lance to the Texans for picks 33, 65 and 73. The 49ers already own 11 picks between 99 and 253. Having 14 picks in the draft might give them the opportunity to move up a bit as well. Also, if the Texans pull off this deal, they trade their second-round pick for an even higher pick next year. If they don’t, they can grab Will Anderson at two and draft Smith-Njigba at 12 to complement their new QB. I have a feeling there is going to be enough wheeling and dealing to make Monty Hall jealous (look him up, kids).
33. Iowa State linebacker Will McDonald is projected all over from the late first round all the way until the middle of the second round. If the 49ers secure the 33rd pick in the projected trade with the Texans, I believe they will take the 6’4,” 239-lb. outside linebacker from Iowa State.
34. The biggest enigma in the entire draft might be what are the Seahawks going to do at number five? Does Pete Carroll take a flyer on Jalen Carter (he has dealt with much worse at USC)? Does he go with Anthony Richardson or even Bijan Robinson? Do they trade out? I have no insight let alone no idea which way they go here. All I know is they could be the second team after the Texans to turn this entire draft on its ear.
35. The best tight end of this draft might not be drafted until the late second round. Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave (he sounds like a country star) had 11 receptions and 169 yards in just two games before being derailed by a knee injury. Musgrave has the best speed and is more agile than any other tight end in the draft. His ability to separate from defensive backs is drawing comparisons to Travis Kelce. This guy has Bill Belichick written all over him. Look for the Patriots to snare Musgrave with pick number 37 in the second round.
36. I love smart players. Players that can use their brains often to compensate for their athletic deficiencies are some of my favorites. Perhaps my favorite player in this draft is wide receiver prospect Andrei Iosivas out of Princeton. Iosivas has all the intangibles with 6’3” size and weighs 203 lbs. while running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the combine. His athletic traits put him in the top five of all receivers in the draft. However, knocks against him are fundamentals that move him down the board to the 17th overall wideout prospect. You can’t teach athleticism, but you can teach fundamentals, and who better to learn these than a guy from an Ivy league institution? Look for the Patriots, Chargers or Rams to take a run at Iosivas late in the fourth round.
37. The Atlanta Falcons make for another interesting team in the top ten. All the pundits have them eschewing Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter if he falls to them. However, a lot of experts have them selecting Bijan Robinson. I see them possibly going the receiver route with Quentin Johnston of TCU. Atlanta brass is set on improving their offense and unless they are throwing some huge smoke signals to ward off teams, that is the way they will probably go.
38. William & Mary’s, Colby Sorsdal, is a 6’6,” 301-lb. specimen that will probably be moved from tackle to guard for his NFL future. Although he moves well laterally, he lacks true power and core strength to resume his NFL career at tackle. I see a natural fit for him and the Miami Dolphins (who need some interior line help) at pick 197 in the sixth round if he makes it that far.
39. Brock Purdy has become the poster boy for “Mr. Irrelevant,” the last player taken in the draft. The player is honored with a variety of different events and a banquet right here in Orange County. I am going to throw my hat in the ring and choose this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant.” With the very last pick of the 2023 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select cornerback Darrell Luter, Jr. out of South Alabama. The long-armed defensive back is quick with 4.46 40-yard speed, however he relies on those long arms too often when it comes to making tackles. Still an intriguing prospect who should have a good time on the Newport Coast early this summer.
40. For the first center taken in the draft, look no further than the Big Ten. The conference boasts the top three center prospects: Luke Wypler (Ohio State), Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin) and John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota). I like Schmitz the most. I like him so much that I project the Bears to draft him with the 53rd overall pick in the second round. Bears GM Ryan Poles did the same sort of thing last year by shoring up deficiencies in the secondary with the additions of Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. This year, he attacks the offensive line by taking Paris Johnson with the ninth pick (if he doesn’t trade down) and Schmitz with pick 53 in the second round.
41. Speaking of second-round draft choices in the NFC Central (and it pains me to say this), but I believe the Packers will continue to add to their wide receiver arsenal by drafting the big-bodied slot receiver from Mississippi State in Jonathon Mingo. Mingo is a big YAC guy who will give opposing slot corners nightmares upon his arrival in the NFC North. After this selection, look for cameras to catch A-A-ron somewhere in Manhattan with his arms in the air saying, “What the hell???”.
42. Another intriguing and appealing scenario in the NFC North with a twist of human interest could take place in Detroit. The Lions have two picks in the second round and need linebacking help. Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell projects somewhere into the second round. Noah is the brother of former first round tackle Penei Sewell, also from Oregon. Do the Lions jump on board to make this family reunion happen? Why, yes, I think they do.
43. When it comes to quarterbacks after the “Big Four” (Young, Stroud, Levis and Richardson), Hendon Hooker is probably the next to go. Depending on what teams do in the early outset of the first round, like the Texans or the Raiders, Hooker could find himself on one of these two teams via a trade by the Raiders or if the Texans forgo C.J. Stroud, they can pick him up early in the second round. Either way, I believe Hooker doesn’t make it past the 33rd overall pick.
44. The Cincinnati Bengals still need to get Joe Burrow some protection. I feel that the with the 92nd pick in the third round they can find a gem in BYU offensive tackle Blake Freeland. Freeland is a giant of a man that stands at 6’8” and weighs 302 lbs. That body type is basically a blank canvas for what a strength and conditioning coach can do. Freeland is also extremely athletic for his size and should be punishing NFL defenders for the next 10-12 seasons.
45. Zach Kuntz makes for another intriguing tight end option down the board in the later rounds. The 6’7,” 257-lb. product from Old Dominion scored the highest of all invited tight ends on athleticism at the combine. However, his hands are not quite there yet, from what you would expect from a big tight end. I still believe that he could become an effective weapon for Trevor Lawrence if the Jaguars take him in the third round with the 88th overall pick.
46. The third ranked running back in this draft is UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet has the combination of elusiveness and power which often defines the prowess of a running back. Buffalo needs a running back of this demeanor and who can catch the ball on the safety valve routes. Charbonnet and Josh Allen are about to become best of friends when the Bills grab him at number 59 in the second round.
47. The Cowboys are searching for a receiver to complement Cee Dee Lamb. I believe that they do not have to look too far as they should set their sights on SMU’s Rasheed Rice. Rice is an athletically gifted wideout who stands at 6’1” and weighs 201 lbs. He runs a 4.51 40-yard and has a 41” vertical. The knock on Rice is that he is lazy route runner, however he is the perfect type of receiver to break off a route to bail out his quarterback when in trouble. I think that the Cowboys and Rice are a match made in heaven.
48. The Arizona Cardinals are looking for a new weapon for quarterback Kyler Murray. Tennessee wideout Cedric Tillman fits the bill. Tillman has roughly the same build as current receiver Deandre Hopkins (6’3,” 213 lbs.), plus he has the speed (4.54 40-yard) to compete with NFL defensive backs. He is a physical receiver who is undaunted in traffic. Plus, he is a prodigy as his father (also named Cedric), who played in the NFL as well. The drafting of Tillman helps ease the pain as Arizona eventually unloads D-Hop for extra picks.
49. Alabama safety Brian Branch finds himself in a precarious position. Although rated as the 17th-best prospect in the draft, his position is not truly one of need until the second round rolls around. There are two, if not three, teams that make perfect sense for him. The first is Green Bay, who can use one of their two picks at either 42 or 43 to take him. Or he might slip down the board to Cincinnati at number 60.
50. Although I rate Anthony Richardson the highest of quarterbacks on the board, that doesn’t mean I necessarily think he will be taken first overall. One intriguing option (that actually scares me) is that the Philadelphia Eagles are sitting fat and happy at 11 and Minnesota GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is not afraid to sling his picks in trades. Look for the possibility of Minnesota adding in a 2024 first-rounder along with their 2023 first-rounder and either a fourth or fifth round pick to move up to 11 to grab Richardson.
Finally, enjoy this little Spring infusion of NFL heaven. Remember this is truly the beginning of the 2023 season. After the draft comes rookie camps and then NFL training camps in the summer. Use this time to break out the jersey and cheer for your squad on who you want them to pick or take on this list I put before you and use it as a chance to completely shred me. Anyways have a fun, enjoyable 2023 NFL Draft.