When Josh Allen came out of Wyoming, he was brutalized by the draft cult on Twitter, who viewed him as a wildly inaccurate quarterback who couldn't become a quality NFL starter. That hate carried over to his early days with the Buffalo Bills, with many hoping to validate their pre-draft analysis.
They were wrong. Allen is now a star quarterback.
I bring the Allen story up because it's relevant today as the same scenario is playing out for Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. He has taken a beating in the pre-draft process in terms of the draft cult. But the reality is NFL people like Levis a lot more than they've let on.
So do I.
Levis is my top-ranked quarterback in this class. Alabama's Bryce Young is the best right now, but I just couldn't draft a quarterback that small first overall. So for this what-they-should-do mock, I have the Carolina Panthers taking Levis first overall.
Go ahead, kill me like you've blistered Levis and back in the day blistered Allen, who I loved.
In 2021, when watching the star-studded Georgia defense on tape, I saw Levis have an impressive game against them while getting beat up. He kept getting up, hit after hit, and made some impressive throws.
He also had Kentucky in the top 10 that year. Think about that. Kentucky?
Fast forward to last season. Levis didn't play as well as expected. There were reasons. He had a terrible new offense with a coordinator who was fired after one year. He had a bad line, no receivers and he played hurt the entire season, taking pain injections for a variety of injuries that probably should have kept him on the sidelines.
So the projected jump in his play didn't happen. But a closer look at the reasons why show how understandable it was that it happened. Levis didn't have a chance.
That isn't to say he doesn't have flaws. He does. He sometimes locks on too long to his receivers and needs to speed up the processing. But I still think a lot of that has to do with the offensive scheme from last season as well as the many shots he took while playing injured.
When Allen came out of Wyoming, his completion percentage was the crux of the hate. He had a 56.2 career completion percentage, which is bad. But the tape showed many passes being dropped because of his powerful arm and some bad throws because of mechanics that needed fixing, which he did in the NFL.
Levis had troubles because of other issues, but his mechanics weren't great all the time either. They will be fixed. He will be fixed.
That's why I think he should be the top pick. He won't be. Young will be, and that's fine if you are OK with a tiny quarterback. I am not. That's why Levis would be the first pick in my what-they-should-do mock.
I was right on Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, but wrong on Christian Ponder, Christian Hackenberg and some others. So do with this what you want. But I would take Will Levis first overall.
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From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
Round 1 - Pick 2
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
Bryce Young is the best passer in this class, an accurate quarterback who has a great feel for the game. But I wouldn't draft him first overall because of his size. He's so little that there is some talk he weighed under 180 at times at Alabama.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
Carter is the best defensive player in this class, and I don't think it's close. He can do for a defense what Chris Jones does for the Chiefs. Yes, the off-field issues are a concern, but that doesn't mean a guy can't change when he gets in with professional football players.
Round 1 - Pick 4
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
They are said to be high on Levis, but he goes first here. I think they would pass on Anthony Richardson to take Stroud, a prototypical pocket passer, who can be ready to play right away, which is something general manager Chris Ballard might need to save his job. They can't wait for Richardson.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Florida • 6'4" / 244 lbs
Seattle can wait for Richardson to sit and learn since they have Geno Smith. Richardson might have the most upside of any quarterback in this draft. But he has a lot of flaws that need to be fixed. That takes time. Seattle could give that to him.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Oregon • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The tall corner from Oregon is the best cover player in this draft. The Lions signed two free agent corners, but Emmanuel Mosley is coming off a torn ACL. Gonzalez could start right away, and this pick means they wouldn't be gun shy when it comes to corners after Jeff Okudah didn't work out.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Illinois • 6'0" / 185 lbs
He is a feisty corner who throws his body around. But he isn't big, which some scouts are concerned about because of the way he plays. The Raiders need a cover player, so they pass on an offensive lineman to take Witherspoon here.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 275 lbs
I think he's the edge player with the most upside. He does have foot injury it's that is concerning, but if he's checked out medically, he will be force as an NFL player. He is a traits pick that I think will pay off in a big way.
From Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
The Bears need to improve their pass rush and Anderson would do that. In this mock he falls some because I just don't see the twitchy explosive play that you get from guys like Von Miller. He will be a good edge player, but not a perennial 15-sack guy.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
The Eagles might consider a back here like Bijan Robinson, but I would never take a back this high. So they opt for a pass rusher to supplement what they have. Veteran Brandon Graham is on a one-year deal and he's older, so this would be a replacement pick for when he's gone. Smith needs to add weight, but he could be a situational guy for a year.
Round 1 - Pick 11
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
USC • 5'11" / 175 lbs
After taking Bryce Young earlier in this draft, the Texans can take a receiver to help him in the passing game. Addison is the best receiver in this class. He's thin like DeVonta Smith, but he can make plays with his smooth route running.
From New York Jets
Round 1 - Pick 13
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
The Packers moved up to No. 13 in the Aaron Rodgers trade. Jordan Love will be the starter for the first time this season and that will put a lot of pressure on him in the passing game. The best thing for a young quarterback is to have a security blanket in a good pass-catching tight end. Mayer would give that to Love. They could also consider a defensive edge player here.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Jones might have the most upside of all the tackles in this class. He is a smooth tackle who can move in space and excels getting to the second level. He could step in and solve the left tackle spot for the Patriots, a position of need. I think he could also play guard down the road.
From Green Bay Packers
Round 1 - Pick 15
Ohio State • 6'6" / 313 lbs
The Jets now have Aaron Rodgers, so why not add another talented offensive lineman to help protect him? They had a ton of injuries on their line last year, but Johnson can step in and play left tackle or even guard.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Mississippi State • 6'0" / 180 lbs
Forbes is a thin corner, but he held up in the SEC and made a lot of plays. He will add weight to his frame, so I don't think that will be an issue. He is a smooth cover player, and Washington could use help on the corner.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
They have some age creeping in on their defensive line and we know how much that unit is a part of their success on defense. Bresee has a ton of talent, even if injury and other issues didn't let him show it all the time.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Utah • 6'4" / 240 lbs
I would consider a defensive tackle here, but I think they can get that in the second round. Kincaid will give them a player who can cause matchup problems for a defense. They traded T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings last year, so why not add another tight end to replace him? They have some young guys they like, but Kincaid would be a threat in their offense.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Round 1 - Pick 20
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 272 lbs
The Seahawks opted for a quarterback with their first pick in this round, so now they come back and get a defensive lineman who can help amp up their pass rush. They were solid rushing the passer last season, but in their glory days they were dominant up front. Van Ness can really help that group. They could also consider an interior defender here.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Mazi Smith DL
Michigan • 6'3" / 337 lbs
Why is it that the Chargers, no matter who they sign or draft, can't stop the run? It's killed this team in recent years. So taking Smith can help alleviate that issue. He is a power player who will hold up in a big way against the run.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Ohio State • 6'0" / 197 lbs
I know they signed Odell Beckham Jr., but he is coming off his second torn ACL and he's turning 31. So it makes sense in the new offense to add a a receiver. Smith-Njigba is viewed as mostly a slot receiver, but I think he can do so much more.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Zay Flowers WR
Boston College • 5'9" / 182 lbs
Adam Thielen is gone, which means more double teams than ever for Justin Jefferson if they don't get him help. That's why taking a player like Flowers makes sense. He is a talented receiver who would step in and give the Vikings a nice trio with Jefferson and K.J. Osborn.
Round 1 - Pick 24
O'Cyrus Torrence IOL
Florida • 6'5" / 347 lbs
The Jaguars need an upgrade at left guard and Torrence would give them one of the biggest lines in the league. He could also move to right tackle in 2024 if they don't bring back left tackle Cam Robinson (contract) and moved right tackle Walker Little to the left side.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Pittsburgh • 6'1" / 281 lbs
He isn't a big player inside, but he can rush the passer. If the Cowboys can get pass rush inside to go with their outside rushers, that unit will be that much better on third down. Kancey has an explosive first step.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Iowa • 6'5" / 243 lbs
With Tremaine Edmonds gone to the Bears in free agency, they can take a linebacker who can run and cover and hit. Campbell is a first-round talent. He is all over the field. For the Bills, he would team with Matt Milano to give them a nice 1-2 punch.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
The Bengals have a good, young corner in Cam Taylor-Britt, but Chidobe Awuzie is coming off a torn ACL and Eli Apple is an unsigned free agent. They could take Porter, who has good size and excels in man coverage. The Bengals could take a front-seven player, but Porter makes sense here.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Myles Murphy EDGE
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
They lost Marcus Davenport in free agency and Cam Jordan is getting up in years. They need to upgrade their pass rush and Murphy has the tools to do that. They would also consider a power player inside here, but can get that in the second round.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
With this deep, talented team, it's OK to pick a back this low in the first round. Robinson will go higher than this in the real draft, but it makes sense here for Philly, even if I don't like picking backs in the first round. This kid has a ton of talent and would be a playmaker in their offense.