No, it’s not too early. And, sure, we’re doing this.
This week, our professional statistician Austin Mock served up his projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams, which suggests we can also piece collectively a (very hypothetical) 2023 NFL Draft order. Time to get a soar on issues.
Using Dane Brugler’s preseason top 50 prospect rankings as a information, Nick Baumgardner and Nate Tice take a spin by way of your entire first spherical and see what comes up.
1. New York Jets: Will Anderson Jr., edge, Alabama
Obviously, Jets coach Robert Saleh would fairly not be selecting No. 1 general after his second season in New York. But Anderson can be a advantageous anesthetic. The Jets have added premium expertise on each side of the ball during the last two draft cycles, together with two first-round defenders this spring: Ahmad Gardner and Jermaine Johnson. Johnson is probably going going to be extra worthwhile within the NFL versus the run than as a go rusher, although it seems New York’s plan with him is to take issues slowly. Gardner, in the meantime, appears extremely snug already.
If Saleh can pair his potential star nook with Anderson, a legit star playmaker within the entrance seven, then the Jets shouldn’t be selecting within the prime 5 come 2024. — Nick Baumgardner
2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Even with the surprisingly competent profession begin from 2021 third-round decide Davis Mills, the Texans ought to perceive the necessity for a difference-maker at QB — Mills nonetheless wants to indicate extra glimpses of being the true man there.
Stroud actually advantages from nice expertise round him at Ohio State, however he maximizes it together with his accuracy and timing on throws. He improved all through the 2021 season, culminating in a fireworks present on the Rose Bowl in opposition to Utah. (Some of which got here in opposition to a Utes operating again, Micah Bernard, who was compelled into enjoying cornerback. But a minimum of Stroud understood the matchup, proper?). Stroud has the power to put throws in any respect three ranges, and the scale and maturity that oozes NFL starter. If he continues to supply and makes use of his athleticism a tad extra as a runner, he can be a simple alternative for the Texans. — Nate Tice
3. Atlanta Falcons: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Atlanta may really feel lots totally different about its quarterback state of affairs in 4 months — rookie Desmond Ridder has performed some good soccer to date this preseason, albeit primarily behind presumed bridge starter Marcus Mariota. The Falcons would love nothing greater than to have Ridder take off so that they wouldn’t have to fret about the place they land in one other QB derby subsequent spring. If that occurs and Atlanta has an opportunity to take arguably the very best defensive lineman on Georgia’s historic 2021 nationwide title protection (you learn that appropriately), then normal supervisor Terry Fontenot can ship on this decide with out blinking. If Ridder struggles, Atlanta might be in nice place to take one other QB swing. — Baumgardner
4. Chicago Bears: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Bears followers will need my head on a stake for choosing one other defensive again as an alternative of a large receiver or offensive lineman to assist QB Justin Fields. But this Bears regime simply must fill its hole-ridden roster with as many constructing blocks as potential, and Ringo is that sort of prospect. He has jaw-dropping traits, and if he continues to develop his sport below Kirby Smart in 2022, then the Bears can be plopping Ringo in a defensive backfield presently occupied by promising rookies Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon. Hey, the Bears would have their day-two picks and probably the most projected cap area within the NFL (almost $92 million) subsequent yr to present Fields some help. We hope. — Tice
5. Seattle Seahawks: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Geno Smith and Drew Lock could have alternatives to cease this from occurring. But straightforward cash proper now says they gained’t be capable to. Frankly, if Smith works out as a succesful starter and is ready to bridge the franchise by way of the event of its subsequent QB, perhaps that works all the higher. Lock must do one thing we’ve by no means seen from him at this stage to alter the maths in his favor.
Like Stroud at Ohio State, Young’s complete school profession has include the advantage of a very stacked roster — together with probably the most constant offensive line state of affairs within the nation. The dimension issues right here (Young is 5-foot-11, 197 kilos) are going to be actual. But Young sees the sphere in addition to any quarterback right here, he makes performs, and he does all of it constantly. — Baumgardner
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
The Jaguars raised the bar of their receiver room this offseason by signing Christian Kirk and Zay Jones to, let’s say, attention-grabbing free-agent offers. But they’re nonetheless trying to find a bonafide No. 1 goal to assist QB Trevor Lawrence. Enter Boutte. The LSU star not solely can create on his personal after the catch, however he’s capable of win in and out. He can create separation beneath together with his burst, and down the sphere with a reasonably refined route tree. The excellent sort of receiver to be a target-eater for Lawrence. — Tice
7. New York Giants: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Let’s get together. It’s prove-it time in New York for Daniel Jones (perhaps past prove-it time; we’ll see) — the Giants declined his fifth-year choice this spring. Like the remainder of the quarterbacks presently enjoying on perceived QB-needy groups, Jones ought to have an opportunity to win a long-term job in 2022. If he outperforms expectations relative to what we’ve seen from him to date, the Giants gained’t possible be drafting within the prime 10. If they’re, they’ll must draft a quarterback.
Levis wants an enormous yr at Kentucky by way of consistency with each his decision-making and general processing abilities. But, bodily, he’s a beast. A particular expertise at 6-4, 230, with the products to do every thing within the NFL. — Baumgardner
8. Detroit Lions: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Under Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes, the Lions have left little to the creativeness about how they wish to construct their roster. And Simpson would simply be one other a part of that rising picture. He is a top-tier athlete in area whereas additionally being versatile in protection as an off-ball linebacker and as a blitzer. He’d be an ideal piece so as to add to a Lions protection that wants gamers for its entrance seven.
Quarterback, after all, might be checked out right here — Jared Goff’s contract turns into very movable after this season. With Stroud, Young and Levis already off the board, although, the Lions may resolve that this decide isn’t the time to tug the set off. — Tice
The Steelers may need their subsequent franchise QB already on the roster in Kenny Pickett. He additionally may not be within the bullpen very lengthy — Mitchell Trubisky hardly has the No. 1 job locked down. Either manner, the subsequent step in that course of for Mike Tomlin and firm might be to additional fortify every thing in entrance of their quarterback.
Skoronski wants an enormous yr in 2022 to cement himself as the highest offensive lineman on this class. Even then, it may not be sufficient to crack the highest 10 — there are size issues; he’s not fairly the athlete Rashawn Slater was, though there are similarities. The excellent news: He appeared dominant in Northwestern’s spectacular season-opening win in opposition to Nebraska final week in Ireland. — Baumgardner
10. Carolina Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
No one likes to churn their quarterbacks just like the Panthers. Whether or not Matt Rhule continues to be the coach in 2023, the Panthers may be within the quarterback market if the Baker Mayfield experiment goes awry. Richardson’s arrow as a prospect might go in any route in 2022 (and I wouldn’t be shocked by any final result) — he’s a bundle of instruments at this level. But if he progresses below new coaches at Florida, he’ll climb quickly up boards. — Tice
11. Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Washington wants an anchor outdoors defensively and Gonzalez — all 6-2, 200 of him — might be simply that. A member of Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, Gonzalez is all fuel and explosion across the ball and in protection. Offensive line may be within the playing cards for Washington right here, however this felt like too promising a match to go up. — Baumgardner
12. Houston Texans (by way of Browns): Nolan Smith, edge, Georgia
Though Lovie Smith’s most popular defensive scheme may not be an ideal match with Nolan Smith, the Georgia defender is simply too good of a soccer participant for the Texans to disregard. Letting Smith pin his ears again and get after the quarterback would assist any protection create strain. He has the bend and size to hurry the passer, in addition to the flexibility to face up and drop into protection, if wanted. A helpful participant with athleticism that any coach would like to have. — Tice
13. Las Vegas Raiders: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
It was a tough go for former Alabama offensive sort out Alex Leatherwood in Las Vegas, and the slide continued through training camp. The Raiders lower Leatherwood on Tuesday, so that they actually may want to have a look at OT subsequent offseason.
Johnson continues to be engaged on transitioning from guard to sort out, and he in all probability initiatives higher on the left facet. Though that might be a tough match with Kolton Miller already enjoying there for Las Vegas, the Raiders may not have any alternative however to deal with a possible gap. — Baumgardner
14. Tennessee Titans: Myles Murphy, edge, Clemson
There was simply not an offensive lineman right here that made sense for the Titans. But the Titans love their bruisers on protection and Murphy is simply the kind of participant who can push the pocket. He would give Tennessee one other promising prospect for its entrance alongside Jeffery Simmons and Teair Tart, and he has the play model to enrich a not too long ago prolonged Harold Landry in pass-rushing conditions. Drafting Murphy additionally would go away the Titans a one-for-one alternative ought to they resolve to maneuver on from Bud Dupree. — Tice
15. New England Patriots: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Instead of reaching for somebody outdoors the highest 100 right here, I made a decision to do the opposite factor Bill Belichick has lengthy appeared keen on: sitting, ready and drafting a top-10 expertise outdoors the highest 10. First, Bresee has to show he’s again after an ACL harm final yr. If he does, there’s no manner he’ll slide this far. — Baumgardner
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I needed to take a lineman. Or a cornerback. I simply actually don’t suppose Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim will be capable to assist themselves right here, even after buying and selling their 2022 first-round decide for Hollywood Brown.
Smith-Nijgba would slot in properly as a robust slot choice for Kyler Murray. Though Smith-Njigba’s No. 17 rating on Dane’s board may shock some due to his excellent play in 2021, the NFL is all about traits. And regardless of his glorious palms and really feel for coverages that undertaking properly right into a productive NFL starter, his lack of overwhelming dimension and pace may damage him within the eyes of some groups. But pairing him with Murray would give Arizona’s quarterback the kind of participant he trusts on each goal. If Smith-Nijgba can present he can win from the skin, it’ll be a bonus on prime of what he’s already capable of do inside. — Tice
17. Philadelphia Eagles: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
Note: This decide was despatched in simply earlier than the Eagles traded for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on Tuesday. But I’m leaving it anyway due to Antonio Johnson’s versatility and long-range potential. Johnson is a kind of prospects on this class that you must squint at proper now to see the complete image, but when/when all of it comes collectively, it might be implausible. He’s a security with nook abilities who may be an enormous nickel.
The Eagles are additionally in an excellent spot right here to go nook. Or they might bundle these picks (Nos. 17 and 19) and go get a QB to exchange Jalen Hurts, if want be. —Baumgardner
19. Philadelphia Eagles (by way of New Orleans): Isaiah Foskey, edge Notre Dame
The Eagles, but once more, could have an excellent alternative to stack high quality defenders on this draft. It’s additionally time for Philadelphia to get youthful on the sting, with the kind of athletes that may examine off multiple field at a time. Foskey is that sort of prospect, at 6-5, 260. He’s quick sufficient (to a level) to run with operating backs and tight ends, in order for you him to. He’s explosive off the nook as a go rusher with nice size and buckets of potential. — Baumgardner
Having already chosen their quarterback of the long run on this mock, the Seahawks proceed to construct their traces by placing a real space-eater in the midst of their protection. Right now, the Seahawks are enjoying 35-year-old Al Woods at nostril sort out, so including the ridiculously gifted Ika can be an injection of youth to assist preserve the backbone of the Seahawks’ protection a power. With the Seattle protection enjoying some taste of a Vic Fangio-style protection, having a keystone participant on the nostril place would make the lives of different defenders — like burgeoning star Jordyn Brooks — simpler. — Tice
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
What a steal this is able to be for Joe Burrow and the Bengals. I’m undecided we are able to say there are 20 higher prospects proper now than Mayer, a terrific younger tight finish (and No. 15 on Dane’s preseason board). This is unquestionably an attention-grabbing group of tight ends, general, however — as is commonly the case on the place — it’s laborious to say this early how excessive the highest guys will land. Everyone in Cincinnati absolutely would love this, although. Mayer is lower from the prototypical your-quarterback’s-best-friend fabric. He does a little bit of every thing nicely. — Baumgardner
22. Minnesota Vikings: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
The Vikings invested within the again finish of their protection throughout the 2022 draft and now have an attention-grabbing mix of youth and veterans on that facet of the ball. Sewell would give them a correct succession plan at linebacker as Eric Kendricks enters his 30s. Sewell is a balanced linebacker with dimension, power and sufficient athleticism to carry up and protection. A 3-down defender who’s a plus in opposition to the run would enable the Vikings’ protection to proceed to play how they need below new coaches. — Tice
23. Miami Dolphins (by way of 49ers): Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Dane famous in his preseason rankings that no operating again has cracked the highest 23 picks over the previous 4 drafts. We didn’t put Robinson right here on function — he’s going to be a tempting decide for a lot of forward of this quantity. A number of that’s going to depend upon how he follows up a terrific sophomore marketing campaign. He’s Mr. Electricity in area. — Baumgardner
24. Los Angeles Chargers: Arik Gilbert, TE, Georgia
Gilbert is all about potential proper now. But the flashes he has proven make his excessive ranking comprehensible, in case he comes anyplace near scratching his ceiling in 2022. He has the power to be a mismatch nightmare for NFL defenses. If Gilbert performs a full season and exhibits extra polish to his sport, then he may not be right here at this spot subsequent April. But his massive body and legit field-stretching potential would make a possible pairing with QB Justin Herbert one thing to be giddy about. At least for followers of non-AFC West groups. — Tice
25. Baltimore Ravens: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
It’s humorous how this stuff shake out, even in a hypothetical sense, as a result of Phillips appears like a Baltimore Raven all the way in which. The Ravens will certainly have a watch on cornerbacks subsequent offseason with Marcus Peters coming into the ultimate yr of his deal. A troublesome nook (albeit an undersized one), Phillips’ finest trait is his fearlessness in protection. He’s a Raven if there ever had been one. — Baumgardner
26. Indianapolis Colts: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Porter is a brilliant and bodily participant who can get slightly too handsy at instances. But his aggressive nature is obvious on tape, and he’s greater than prepared to press, snap after snap. He has the power to play outdoors in man protection or transfer inside, when wanted, which can solely make him extra well liked by NFL evaluators. Porter’s size and soccer IQ would make him an excellent slot in Gus Bradley’s single-high assault that asks its cornerbacks to carry up repeatedly in man or match conditions. — Tice
27. Detroit Lions (by way of Rams): Tyree Wilson, edge, Texas Tech
No quarterback for the Lions at 27, both. If Lions followers are in search of names that might emerge for the 2023 draft, they need to preserve tabs on Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke or Stanford’s Tanner McKee. But Wilson is one other robust, long-framed defensive participant for the Lions so as to add to their entrance seven. He can stack and shed in opposition to offensive tackles to seek out ball carriers whereas additionally having sufficient athleticism and pure instruments to supply upside as a go rusher. — Tice
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Colby Wooden, edge, Auburn
The Bucs continued to revamp their defensive position with their first choice in every of the previous two drafts: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (2021) and Logan Hall (2022). Wooden is extra like Hall in that he’s a flexible defensive participant who can transfer the place wanted, relying on the state of affairs. If it’s not an edge right here, the Buccaneers might add to their defensive backs room or begin linebacker life past Lavonte David. But they’re in an enviable place, so far as roster outlooks go. (Just fake that Tom Brady will play perpetually.) — Tice
29. Dallas Cowboys: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The Cowboys have some very stable palms within the secondary proper now. One manner to verify it stays that manner, as gamers age, is to repeatedly replenish. Smith isn’t a terrific athlete, however he’s an excellent cornerback who is hard to beat — he allowed solely 15 receptions final season. And he’ll preserve getting higher. — Baumgardner
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Nate referred to as me a “sicko” after this one, and why not? But so long as the Chiefs seem close to the underside of the primary spherical and have Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback, discovering a super-fun receiver to pair with their QB goes to be an entertaining draft train. Addison might have numerous enjoyable this yr with Lincoln Riley in Southern California. Another title to observe right here might be Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence, if the Chiefs wish to be extra accountable. — Baumgardner
31. Green Bay Packers: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
In 2020, Branch began three video games at security as a real freshman — for Nick Saban — on a national-title winner. Take a minute to consider all of the depth ’Bama has in its secondary yearly, keep in mind Saban is as near a dwelling oracle because it will get with that place and perceive why Branch’s accomplishment is so spectacular. Branch is a brilliant, savvy soccer participant who’s virtually all the time on time. He in all probability might play both security spot. An ascending expertise. — Baumgardner
32. Buffalo Bills: Layden Robinson, OG, Texas A&M
Our present projection has the Bills profitable all of it this yr (or ending with the highest report, a minimum of). So, congrats, Bills followers!
The offensive line continues to be a little bit of concern in Buffalo — 34-year-old Rodger Saffold is beginning at left guard this yr. GM Brandon Beane might resolve to deal with it within the 2023 draft with Robinson. It’s by no means horny to draft a guard within the first spherical, however QB Josh Allen is particular sufficient to make no matter weapons are round him a number of tiers higher, and the Bills have already got Stefon Diggs and an rising Gabe Davis of their receiver room.
The Bills’ protection is a robust unit, too, however an alternative choice might be to begin in search of a security (or safeties) of the long run subsequent offseason. — Tice
(Top photograph of Will Anderson Jr.: Brett Davis / USA Today)