Last week, ambitious NFL trades were incorporated into the mock draft projection but scenarios involving the exchange of a first-round selection have seemingly been shot down over the past week. In this week's thought exercise, we explore various strategies that each team may deploy next April.
Each NFL team has its own idea of what a perfect draft looks like and no strategy is identical. Some teams have sights set on a quarterback. Some teams are looking to replace veterans for financial reasons. Some teams set out to select the best player available. Some teams are drafting for need. The context is what is captivating for fans of the NFL Draft and that is why it is important to provide those explanations for selections each week.
The draft order below was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds, but in reverse order. These are your team's betting odds of winning a Lombardi Trophy this season. Miami's selection at No. 20 overall was forfeited.
Without further ado, let's kick this off!
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • Jr • 6'3" / 218 lbs
Davis Mills is not a bad quarterback but the franchise can not pass up the opportunity to take a player capable of elevating the team's Super Bowl potential. Stroud will have to buck the trend of Ohio State quarterbacks underperforming in the NFL but his size, age and arm talent make him the best option.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • Sr • 6'3" / 232 lbs
Detroit would be faced with a choice between Alabama's Bryce Young and Levis. Personnel advisor John Dorsey has no problem with taking an undersized quarterback because he did that with Baker Mayfield. Young is a more slender player. General manager Brad Holmes was on board when Los Angeles selected Jared Goff No. 1 overall so he may favor a bigger, strong-armed quarterback in the NFC North.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • Jr • 6'4" / 243 lbs
Recent developments with Justin Fields lead one to believe that the team is going to ride it out with him a little longer and that has them looking elsewhere. Without a long-term edge rusher in the fold, unless Dominique Robinson becomes that player, Chicago selects Anderson to pressure the opposing quarterback. His talent should put a secondary in which the Bears have invested significant resources opportunities to make plays.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Ideally, Carolina will hold one of those top three picks as a way to control their own destiny at quarterback. By moving on from Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, the Panthers reset the salary cap clock while potentially adding a franchise player at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • Jr • 6'3" / 300 lbs
With all of the top quarterbacks off the board, it removes the uncomfortable discussion that might have happened should one be available. It is really early and there has not been enough time to fairly evaluate Kenny Pickett but the conversation has to at least take place. Carter is the best player available and the Steelers would be wise to turn in the card rather than considering a potentially more important position like offensive tackle.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Northwestern • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi have been the two best players along that Washington offensive line. They could use an upgrade along the interior offensive line in the absence of Brandon Scherff. Skoronski was labeled as a center coming out of high school but has been playing offensive tackle for the Wildcats. Interior offensive linemen are not often taken this early but it has worked out with Quenton Nelson and Scherff.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • Jr • 6'5" / 275 lbs
I like the development of Arnold Ebiketie in recent weeks but there is an opportunity to add talent opposite him. Murphy is the best player on the board and that has to be the primary objective for Atlanta at this stage.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 8
Texas A&M • Jr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Philadelphia is faced with the decision to pay Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or allow him to test the open market. The decision will have to be made prior to the 2023 NFL Draft but the selection of Johnson would help their long-term salary cap structure.
Round 1 - Pick 9
TCU • Jr • 6'4" / 215 lbs
Johnston provides some much needed size to the wide receiver room with Zay Jones and Christian Kirk already establishing roles. The defense has been a focus but they need to go all in to support Trevor Lawrence.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Florida • Soph • 6'4" / 232 lbs
Indianapolis has been a turnstile for veteran quarterbacks and it feels as though they may have reached their breaking point with that strategy. Richardson is far from a finished product but consider the time the Colts have wasted cycling through players at the position. By giving Richardson time, there is at least the hope that he becomes a long-term answer rather than a BandAid.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 11
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Ohio State • Jr • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Looking around the NFL, a handful of teams have seen the value of adding pass catchers familiar with the quarterback whether that be Devonta Smith and Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa. Unlike the other situations, Houston is able to make it happen in the same off-season.
Round 1 - Pick 13
LSU • Jr • 6'0" / 205 lbs
Geno Smith may have a little tread left on the tires but they could look to upgrade his pass catcher group. Tyler Lockett realistically has a year or two left on his current contract so Boutte represents a strong third-option in the present and an eventual replacement down the road.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 210 lbs
If Ringo is still available at this stage of the first round, it makes a lot of sense for Arizona. They need more high-end talent at the position and the Bulldog checks all of the height, weight and speed boxes. Zero cornerbacks have differentiated themselves from the rest so that explains Ringo being available.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Penn State • Soph • 6'6" / 308 lbs
New York has outperformed expectations thus far but the off-season fears of the offensive tackle position have come to fruition. Fashanu is a young player that has shown tremendous upside. The Jets have options along their offensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Ohio State • Jr • 6'6" / 310 lbs
One would have to actively attempt to avoid all of the public discourse between left tackle Isaiah Wynn and the Patriots not to hear it. Johnson would slide into that left tackle role and hopefully occupy it for a decade-plus.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Texas • Jr • 6'0" / 220 lbs
Tennessee could theoretically move on from Derrick Henry after the season but Robinson is the best running back to come out in awhile. The Titans would be able to keep him fresh as a rookie and retain their identity as a run-heavy team well into the future.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Eli Ricks CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Ricks has had to earn his role in Tuscaloosa but looked good in doing so the past few opportunities. He has shown man coverage potential dating back to his true freshman season and that is exactly what the Giants need in Wink Martindale's defensive scheme.
Round 1 - Pick 21
USC • Jr • 6'0" / 175 lbs
Leading up to the draft, I made a point to explain that the selection of one wide receiver early was not going to be enough to mask the loss of Davante Adams. Aaron Rodgers and Adams had a special connection and a single player was not going to be able to replicate that. The Rodgers era is dwindling and Green Bay needs to strike while the iron is hot.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 22
Jahmyr Gibbs RB
Alabama • Jr • 5'11" / 200 lbs
Swift will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023. He has missed ten total games, including three this year, over two-plus years. Gibbs is explosive hitting holes and a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Notre Dame • Jr • 6'4" / 265 lbs
The Chargers have battled injuries everywhere, including wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. They have lacked a tight end capable of drawing attention from those players. Mayer is not going to test off the charts but he uses his body well to create separation and is physical at the catch point.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Oregon • Soph • 6'2" / 201 lbs
Tampa Bay has addressed the defensive line in the first round the last few years. They toss some coin to the secondary with the selection of Gonzalez, who gives them a long, physical presence.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Round 1 - Pick 27
Felix Anudike-Uzomah EDGE
Kansas State • Jr • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Anudike-Uzomah is a strong player at the point of attack with a developed pass rush plan. Baltimore has taken chances on the physically gifted pass rushers but those players are afforded more time to develop alongside a player with a high floor like Anudike-Uzomah.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 28
Georgia • Soph • 6'4" / 310 lbs
Miami was tired of going into a regular season with concerns at the left tackle position so they paid a hefty price to sign Terron Armstead. It feels as though Miami has cultivated a successful offense and the only thing standing in the way is a strong offensive line. Right tackle remains an issue and Jones is a strong player that will be physically imposing.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Josh Downs WR
North Carolina • Jr • 5'10" / 175 lbs
Adam Thielen is not going to play forever. Justin Jefferson is so good that Minnesota may not honestly need another pass catcher to complement him because he does such a good job of getting open but Downs brings speed to the table and is good at creating opportunities for himself.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Maryland • Sr • 6'6" / 320 lbs
Kansas City has to clarify its left tackle situation long-term and right tackle is also a work in progress. Duncan can slide into one of those roles regardless of what happens with Orlando Brown Jr.
Round 1- Pick 31
Florida • Jr • 6'5" / 347 lbs
Philadelphia has done such a good job of adding talent to the roster but the day to pay always comes. If Jalen Hurts is the answer at quarterback then they will have to pay him soon. Will they pay Miles Sanders? Will they pay Chauncey Gardner-Johnson? Will they pay Isaac Seumalo? General manager Howie Roseman knew this day would come and he has been preparing for it by stocking up on draft assets.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Brian Branch CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 193 lbs
Branch has a very versatile skillset that allows him to fulfill a variety of roles in Alabama's defense. The exposure would help him transition to a similar role with Buffalo, who has gone all in and will have to make some difficult financial decisions sooner rather than later.