Mike Tanier’s Final Three-Round Mock Draft


NFL Draft – In this final Football Outsiders three-round 2023 NFL mock draft…

  • Texas running back Bijan Robinson lands with a playoff-caliber team. But which one?
  • Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud slips, because NFL owners are nincompoops. But how far?
  • The New York Jets finally trade for Aaron Rodgers. But how much do they give up?
  • The Dallas Cowboys add some flora to the Hanging Gardens of Jerryworld. Is that hint too obvious?

And much, much more.

Yes, we’re going three rounds here, with some speculative trades in the mix. And yes, this mock draft reflects the shift in wagering lines which indicates that the Houston Texans are likely to draft Will Levis. That’s the Texans’ problem. Rewriting about 20 picks on Sunday morning in response to the news was my problem.

Carolina Panthers

1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
39. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
93. Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State

Bryce Young was the -1600 favorite to be the first overall pick at press time, and there now appears to be zero chance that the Texans try to blow the Panthers out of the water to move up. Rumor has it that Young aced the new “Wonderlic in a Scooby-Doo villain mask” test, tipping the top-pick scales in his favor once and for all.

This new test—which I refuse to even link to, lest it receive an extra iota of credibility—is much better versed in high-performance sports-science gobbledygook than the wood-paneled Wonderlic. Furthermore, pushing the “guys like Brock Purdy are CRUSHING it” angle earned much more complicity from agents and reporters for its glorified marketing scheme than the old Wonderlic strategy of sandbagging players. But of course, by Friday the sandbagging we all knew was coming had returned.

Anyway, if David Tepper really needed his quarterback to beat some pumped-up version of MathBlaster to be convinced that Young had the mental makeup to overcome his lack of verticality, the Panthers may be in for decades of bumpy rides.

Josh Downs slips in this mock because one or two of this year’s skinny-mini receivers is bound to slip. He comes aboard as Young’s vertical threat once DJ Chark gets hurt. Tucker Kraft is an FCS guy coming off a 2022 injury, but he’s toolsy and a better blocker than your average small-school tight end.

Defense? Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn can play three positions each!

Houston Texans

2. Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
12. Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
33. Bryan Young, ER, Tennessee
65. Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State
73. Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

Someone whose last name is “McNair” determined before the combine that Bryce Young rules and every other quarterback drools. That led Nick Caserio, fresh out of patience after two years of taking orders from a youth pastor, to make a few 508 area-code phone calls, just to ask how things were going. But hey, everyone worked things out! Or maybe Caserio is just keeping up appearances through the draft in the name of professionalism and courtesy before he leaves skidmarks in the Texans parking lot. Who can tell?

Anyway, the Texans apparently have now talked themselves into making the worst draft decision of the last 25 years or so by selecting Will Levis over C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, or about 40 other guys. No one can stop them, but the least we can do is allow Caserio and DeMeco Ryans to proceed through the rest of this mock with a little dignity.

Peter Skoronski is a fine value with the 12th pick who can move inside to guard to clean up the Texans interior line. Luke Wypler, who really stood out the third to sixth time I watched Ohio State film to break down the quarterback the Texans should be drafting, can solve a problem at center. Tennessee’s Bryan Young upgrades an edge rush currently built around vintage Caserio reclamation projects (Jerry Hughes, Chase Winovich). Noah Sewell is a big thumping middle linebacker who looked heavy and sluggish last year. DeMeco Ryans could help him tap his potential.

It’s a fine haul overall except for the franchise-crippling unforced error at the top.

Indianapolis Colts

3. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
79. Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, WR, Houston

Colts fans: I am not your enemy. I don’t get my thrills from trolling your bad quarterback decisions; I just play the card that the team deals. So this mock has the Colts seeing through the C.J. Stroud smokescreen we’re currently enveloped within, trading up (at the price of their second-round pick, to keep things simple) to make sure they keep the Titans or Raiders away from their guy, and turning a Texans mistake into a long-term quarterback solution.

Will it happen? It is hard to tell. Chris Ballard appears to be the kind of guy impressed by shiny new standardized-testing snake oil. Jim Irsay is highly susceptible to “someone didn’t return Peyton’s text once” gossip. But Shane Steichen could convince them with his Nick Sirianni-inspired rhetorical skills: “C.J. Stroud, brah. Brah? BRAH!”

Parris Campbell no longer occupies prime real estate on the Colts roster or in fans’ hopes/daydreams, and while Isaiah McKenzie is penciled into the slot niche in the offensive ecosystem, Tank Dell could develop into a very useful hybrid of DeVonta Smith and Percy Harvin.

Arizona Cardinals

4. Will Anderson, ER, Alabama
34. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
35. Joe Tippman, C, Wisconsin
66. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, ER, Kansas
81. Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
96. Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

With the sale of the Washington franchise working its way through the NFL’s financial digestive tract, the Cardinals are turning into the Desert Commanders, and owner Michael Bidwill is ascending to the throne of Sand Snyder. As such, it was tempting to roleplay the Cardinals as a dysfunctional lot of intemperate, hot-tempered soap-opera characters, complete with actual quotes from their leaked office memos.

Instead, here’s a solid, by-the-books mock that could help the Cardinals get back on their feet, complete with a trade with the Colts to acquire an extra second-round pick.

Anderson is the best available athlete for a team whose entire front seven is essentially a blank slate. Darnell Wright and Joe Tippman clean up the situation on the offensive line, where general manager Monti Ossenfort was forced to re-sign lots of unreliable veterans just to keep the whole unit from being gutted in free agency.

Darnell Wright slipped in this mock; I think he’s a top-20 pick, but he’s all over the place on the boards I consulted. If he’s not available at the top of the second round, someone like Anton Harrison will be.

I wrote up a brief Felix Anudike-Uzomah scouting report on Tumblr; he’s a high-upside defender worth taking a swing on during a rebuild. Ricks is a long, lean off-coverage corner and former five-star recruit who has faded a bit since a standout freshman season for LSU (before a transfer) in 2020: another high-ceiling defender for a team that needs a talent infusion.

Where did that 81st overall pick come from? Keep reading.

Seattle Seahawks

5. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
20. Jordan Addison, WR, USC
37. Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt
52. Will McDonald IV, ER, Iowa State
83. Blake Freeland, OT, BYU

There is no way the Seahawks can avoid earning A++ draft grades next week, especially now that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have left their outsmart-the-cosmos tendencies behind them. So even though I went with a meme-like approach to this mock, it’s still a rather awesome haul.

Yes, Christian Gonzalez is a tall, ultra-confident Pac-12 guy like Richard Sherman. Yawn. Will McDonald was an out-of-position edge playing head-up on the right tackle in college like Bruce Irvin. Got it. Blake Freeland is a tall developmental tackle of the type the Seahawks used to draft too early when they needed immediate starters. Ha-ha. Jordan Addison is a better-than-his-measurements variation on Tyler Lockett or Doug Baldwin. Got it, buddy: you can stop now. No wait, don’t stop! These are excellent prospects and fine system fits! Keep going! The Seahawks are fun now!

Detroit Lions

6. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
10. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
48. Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

This Lions mock predates the Jameson Williams suspension, and adjusting on the fly would have required too much meatball surgery. Still, the Lions are unlikely to reach for a wide receiver early: Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes do their own thing and have been patient with their plan.

The Lions acquired three defensive backs before trading Jeff Okudah, so cornerback really isn’t a pressing need. But Joey Porter Jr. is a Campbell type of guy and a potential long-term solution on a unit full of veterans on short contracts.

The Lions then trade up with the Eagles in this mock to draft Bijan Robinson because, well, it’s plausible, and if you think the idea of Robinson running behind the Lions offensive line sounds cool, you better believe that Campbell does too.

The concept of Dan Campbell drafting Jack Campbell was just too good to pass up. The Lions could use a 249-pound thumper to beef up their run defense (Alex Anzalone is highly replaceable), and Campbell needs someone on the roster he can call “son.”

Where are the rest of the Lions’ draft picks? One went to the Eagles to get Bijan. The other went to the Cardinals to acquire a fellow named DeAndre Hopkins. Dare to dream, Lions fans. You earned it.

Tennessee Titans

7. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
72. Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland

Richardson slides a bit in our mock due to the Texans McNair befuddlement/Caserio rebellion. Ran Carthon sees his chance to obtain a real ultra-toolsy quarterback-of-the-future in our make-believe multiverse—sorry, Malik Willis, but it’s just not happening—and trades the Titans’ second-round pick (and more) for a ripcord on the Ryan Tannehill era.

The Titans need offensive line upgrades, and Duncan is the gifted-but-frustrating best available athlete at 72nd overall.

The Titans have many other needs, but they’re better off taking a big swing for Richardson than trying to address them all.

Atlanta Falcons

8. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
44. B.J. Ojulari, ER, LSU
75. Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

The alarm clock in Arthur Smith’s brain went off at the start of free agency. It’s Year 3 of his administration: time for him and Terry Fontenot to adjust the sliders from 7-10 to 10-7, lest Arthur Blank start to wonder what is taking so long.

The Falcons added a blue chip (Jessie Bates), addressed their never-ending sack drought (Calais Campbell, Bud Dupree) and spent some money just to make their free-agent haul bigger and more impressive (Mack Hollins, Jonnu Smith, Taylor Heinicke). The Falcons are now in an arms race with the Saints to win the Sun Belt Conference at all costs. Some of their moves appear a little short-sighted, but they should keep the Smith/Fontenot braintrust employed for another year or two. That’s always the point.

Anyway, Witherspoon is too good to pass up with the eighth pick, even for a team that traded for Jeff Okudah. Campbell is a one-year rental, Dupree a one-year wonder from before the pandemic, and B.J. Ojulari the type of pure speed rusher the Falcons have long found addictive. Marvin Mims is speed and YAC capability for the team that’s about to discover that Hollins’ best position has always been punt gunner.

Chicago Bears

9. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
53. Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
61. Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
64. Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska

Thanks to a busy offseason for Ryan Poles, the Bears now have a certified NFL-caliber roster. That doesn’t mean they have a good roster, just that Justin Fields won’t spend the whole season in a bullet hell video game. Poles can still safely select the Best Available Athlete in every round and know that he is upgrading a unit still in need of upgrades.

There’s poetry to stopping the Jalen Carter slide here. The Bears used to have the first overall pick, and Carter spent much of calendar year 2022 looking like a potential first overall pick.

Julius Brents is a Walkthrough Senior Bowl favorite. He can reach the cookie jar on the top shelf without standing on his tippy-toes, mixes it up with his receivers, and shakes off mistakes quickly, and I liked his no-nonsense personality when I spoke to him.

Mazi Smith is nearly as horizontal as Brents is vertical, and he has some first-round traits despite 0.5 career sacks. Trey Palmer adds pure speed, another return option, and toughness in traffic to a receiving corps which still lacks quality depth.

Overall: this draft class represents a high-upside complement to the Bears’ substantial veteran haul. Not a bad offseason’s work!

Philadelphia Eagles

They traded down in the Lions segment. We’ll get to them. I don’t mind angry emails from readers who think I skipped the Eagles because they skimmed, but I am trying to avoid angry doorbell ringings.

Las Vegas Raiders

11. Tyree Wilson, ER, Texas Tech
38. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
41. D.J. Turner, CB, Michigan
70. Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
100. Kayshoun Boutte, WR, LSU

Tyree Wilson has arms that extend all the way to heaven and the upside to punish teams severely for double-teaming Maxx Crosby. After that, the trick to creating a dramatically satisfying and deadly accurate Raiders mock draft is to just select a bunch of Patriots surrogates for Josh McDaniels to tinker with.

Dawand Jones can be McDaniels’ Marcus Cannon replacement. Big, pro-ready Henry To’oTo’o is the next Dont’a Hightower, right down to his ability to confound autocorrect. Kayshoun Boutte satisfies McDaniels’ craving for a talented disappointment at wide receiver. D.J. Turner? No one ever claimed the Patriots had bad taste in cornerbacks.

Raiders ribbing aside, this would be a fine class. The problem is that nothing the Raiders can do in the draft will help them gain ground in the AFC so long as they keep noodling at quarterback.

Green Bay Packers

13. Nolan Smith, ER, Georgia
43. Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
45. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
78. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama

The conceit of our mock is that the Packers coax the Jets into switching places in the first round and parting with one of their second-round picks in exchange for Aaron Rodgers; any other compensation is beyond our scope, but moving up two spots feels like a fun little grace note, and the perfect antidote to weeks of increasingly bonkers Jets fan theories. (The Packers should give US a first-round pick for solving their cap problem!)

Nolan Smith shows up all over media draft boards, but after Travon Walker went first overall last year, it’s unlikely that NFL teams are eager to leap on a Georgia defender with unimpressive stats who tests through the roof.

Anton Harrison adds options at tackle as the Packers brace for David Bakhtiari’s eventual retirement/deterioration/injury. Deonte Banks and Jordan Battle are safe “when in doubt, beef up the secondary” picks on Day 3.

I was going to add a running back, just for clicks. But seriously, they’re all good, and the Packers can stock up on Day 3 if they want. Here: Chase Brown, Illinois, fourth round. Happy?

New England Patriots

14. Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
46. Tuli Tuipulotu, ER, USC
76. Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

No one knows what Bill Belichick wants anymore, especially not Bill Belichick. He appears to have reached the age where he prefers familiarity—relatable!—So let’s help him fall asleep in his wild-card also-ran Barcalounger in front of Black Sheep Squadron reruns with a few comfort items.

Brian Branch comes with old pal Nick Saban’s seal of approval and some McCourty-like traits. Tuli Tuipulotu weighed “just” 266 pounds at the combine but appeared to play in the 280 range; Belichick always finds a role for big, versatile defensive ends. Zack Kuntz is a 6-foot-7 former high-school hurdler who satisfies the Patriots craving for a small-school project; Kuntz is destined to block two field goals in a victory over the Jets, causing a wormhole to open up behind Aaron Rodgers’ eyeballs.

This is a strong mock draft class, and it could keep the Patriots hovering around nine wins indefinitely while they rehabilitate old assistant coaches and dither over C-tier quarterbacks. Hooray?

New York Jets

15. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
42. Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

A standard-issue starting-caliber left tackle to finally solve that problem, an ultra-talented (if not very productive) tight end … oh yeah, and Aaron Rodgers, of course, for the price of a second-round pick and some chump change.

As mentioned earlier, I have a feeling Darnell Wright will end up the first left tackle off the board, not Johnson or the others. I am just not certain enough of that to etch it in the indelible granite obelisk that is a mock draft. Feel free to swap out Wright for Paris Johnson Jr. here if you prefer.

Washington Commanders

16. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
47. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
97. Olusegun Oluwatimi, C, Michigan

The new boss has arrived: everyone look busy! The Ron Rivera Administration must buy itself a year or two of job security by making the Sam Howell evaluation/Jacoby Brissett tutelage look like a plausible long-term plan. That requires steering into the sacks-and-YAC concept and aiming for wild-card glory. (Forget tanking for Caleb Williams: the Commanders have too much talent on the defensive line and at the skill positions to truly bottom out.)

Drew Sanders is the Luke Kuechly surrogate Rivera has not-so-secretly craved since he arrived in Washington. Jahmyr Gibbs and Brian Robinson give the Commanders a Tide-tastic backfield, with Gibbs acting as a less mistake-prone change-up back than Antonio Gibson. Olusegun Oluwatimi is a center I liked at the Senior Bowl.

Throw in a healthy Chase Young (if such a thing exists) and you get a team that will be a tough out if they can muster some paint-by-numbers quarterback play.

Los Angeles Chargers

17. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, USC
86. Keondre Coburn, DT, Texas

The original plan here was to have the Chargers trade up for Zay Flowers, because mocking Flowers to Justin Herbert goes beyond clickbait all the way to clickcrack. But Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a better all-around receiver and the ideal fit for a quarterback in need of a young dozen-target-per-game heir apparent to Keenen Allen, not someone who might max out as a gadget specialist.

The Chargers lost their second-round pick in this trade scenario. Keondre Coburn is a mammoth defender and an ascending prospect at a position of constant need for the Chargers.

Philadelphia Eagles

18. Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
30. Clark Phillips, CB, Utah
55. Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
62. Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
94. Christopher Smith, S, Georgia

It would not be an Eagles mock draft without some hypothetical Howie Wowie wheeling-dealing. If I didn’t mock Bijan Robinson to the Eagles OR have them trading down to add to their stockpile, there’s little chance I would make it out of my driveway alive this week.

Bryan Bresee and Jordan Davis can keep Howie Roseman from calling in the Ndamukong Suh Brigade to save the run defense this year. Clark Phillips could shine as a nickel cornerback, while Christopher Smith is a future starter at free safety for a defense that increasingly has Georgia on its mind.

Cedric Tillman is a well-built possession receiver coming off an injury-nerfed 2022 season, while Devon Achane is a Bijan-solation prize and system fit who can soak up Miles Sanders’ workload. Both add a little diversity to an offense that’s thin at the skill positions.

Does this look like a Super Bowl runner-up reloading for another run to you? Because that’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

19. Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
50. Isaiah Foskey, ER, Notre Dame
82. Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

Adding Hendon Hooker to Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask, while tempting, would likely result in a triple TKO: three quarterbacks in their mid-20s stealing developmental/reclamation reps from one another is a bad idea. So the Bucs go the Best Available Athlete route in this mock.

Jason Licht likes speedy linebackers and will be looking for a Devin White/Lavonte David replacement. Trenton Simpson can run like White but handle his assignments like David. Isaiah Foskey is a well-built, high-character edge. Rice is another Licht binkie: the tall contested-catch guy on the boundary. All three could be quality starters when the Bucs are ready to get serious again.

Pittsburgh Steelers

21. Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
32. Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech
49. Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
54. Sydney Brown, S, Illinois
80. Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

Smith may be a little high here; it’s really hard to sort out this year’s A- tier of tall-skinny-tough-grabby cornerback prospects. Smith looks like a Steelers cornerback, though, because he makes plays in front of him in off coverage so well.

I must have been subconsciously guilty about the Smith semi-reach, because the Steelers load up on my binkies for the rest of this mock. Keion White is overaged but has the skill set of an ideal Cam Heyward heir apparent. Siaki Ika is a Jordan Davis-like prospect in my book and a natural nose tackle for a team that still has a need for such things. Sydney Brown is a mighty-mite with off-the-charts character whom fans will fall in love with if they are not already smitten with White.

Speaking of fan crushes, Steelers fans reflexively turn on their skill-position stars at the first whiff of disappointment (Antonio Brown will do that to a fanbase), so sturdy-and-versatile Zach Charbonnet will be a welcome—and logical, from a depth-chart perspective—alternative to Najee Harris.

Baltimore Ravens

22. Myles Murphy, ER, Clemson
86. Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green

About 90% of the Ravens roster is either coming off an injury, unestablished, a mild disappointment, a newcomer who arrives with questions, or a quarterback holding his breath at the dinner table until mom replaces the franchise-tag spinach with 250 million scoops of ice cream.

Edge rusher appears to be a need (old-timers Justin Houston, Calais Campbell, and Jason Pierre-Paul have left a void), and Myles Murphy is the sort of well-built major-program defender the Ravens like to select in the first round.

Karl Brooks is an intriguing, wrecking-ball-shaped edge/tackle tweener who can add depth to a depleted unit.

Mock drafts aren’t where the hot-stove league action lies for the Ravens anyway, unless you are still writing Colts-Lamar Jackson trade fanfic, and we aren’t quite that desperate to trade our dignity for clicks just yet.

Minnesota Vikings

23. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
87. Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State

Kelee Ringo is all over the place on media draft boards; I have seen him with Day 3 projections! Did he fail some glorified real estate exam? Was he taking the Drunken DoorDash Challenge with Stetson Bennett in January? No, he committed a lot of penalties. College cornerbacks hold constantly, folks. Nearly all of them must be coached to not hand-check 20 times per deep route. Ringo isn’t as fluid as Christian Gonzalez or as technical as Devon Witherspoon, but he’s a first-round pick, and Brian Flores’ defense needs a jolt of pure youth and athleticism.

Daiyan Henley doesn’t provide much “youth:” he began his college career as a wide receiver at Nevada in 2017. But the Vikings would not know what to do with a young linebacker, anyway. Henley provides speed, a nose for the football, and hunger. Flores will adore him.

Jacksonville Jaguars

24. O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
56. JL Skinner, S, Boise State
88. Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

Trent Baalke has earned a temporary reprieve from criticism by identifying Trevor Lawrence as a good quarterback (prescience!) and spending a zillion dollars surrounding him with B-tier playmakers. So we’re going with a by-the-book mock for Jaguars.

O’Cyrus Torrence is a safe pick to bulwark the interior offensive line. JL Skinner is the kind of fun-to-watch straight-line space defender who either becomes his coordinator’s favorite multitool or proves nearly worthless; I lean toward the former, and Baalke likes that sort of prospect.

Evan Engram is due for an extension, but there is little depth behind him, and Doug Pederson likes a good 12-personnel package. LaPorta was the centerpiece of the Hawkeyes passing game, is big, and tested well at the combine. I don’t love his film, but he’s a worth a third-round look.

Buffalo Bills

25. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
91. Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford

The draftniks who feed the mock draft simulators I use to help stay organized during these exercises see Washington as a jumbo-sized athlete with so-so blocking/receiving technique, so they bury him as the fourth or fifth tight end in the class. Many coaches and GMs, however, will see Washington as a player who instantly confounds the defense’s plans when he takes the field in 12 personnel. And if that team in 12 personnel also has a dual-threat quarterback? Boy howdy, good luck hiding defensive mismatches that account for the run, pass, RPO, and zone-read threats. Washington is a Bijan Robinson/Zay Flowers level force multiplier for an offense, just in a different way.

We have the Bills trading up for Washington so they can get past the Bengals, who would love a mismatch tight end who doesn’t need many targets, and the Cowboys, who need a tight end and love shiny objects. The Bills lose their second-round pick in this scenario. Kyu Blu Kelly is a Senior Bowl standout selected on the when-in-doubt-add-a-cornerback principle.

Dallas Cowboys

26. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
58. Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
90. Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M

Cowboys mock drafts are never about needs, but about Jones family desires and, of course, the sweet, sweet clicks that come from matching a coveted skill-position prospect to a huge fanbase.

Slot receiver is a need for the Cowboys, anyway. Sure, Brandin Cooks is now riding shotgun for CeeDee Lamb, but Michael Gallup is unreliable, Noah Brown is in Houston, and things were so bad last year that T.Y. Hilton wandered off the street at age “I kinda like Matt Ryan’s Spotify playlist” and instantly became WR2 late in the year. Zay Flowers really could be the player who takes the Cowboys offense over the top as a screens-and-reverses role player. Will Flowers last this long? DraftKings set his draft position over-under at 22.5 last week, so it’s certainly possible.

Cody Mauch is hanging around middle-to-late Day 2 on media boards now that some helium has escaped his looks-like-an-NPC-dwarf-from-a-roleplaying game scouting report. He’s a fine value at 58th overall and passes the “Jerrah has heard of him” test.

Jaylon Jones is a step-slow 6-foot-2 bruiser who could play a matchup role in a deep secondary.

New York Giants

27. Quentin Johnson, WR, TCU
57. Steve Avila, G, TCU
59. Adetomiwa Adebawore, ER, Northwestern
89. Chandler Zavala, G, Syracuse

After Brandon Beane calls Joe Schoen on their best-buddy burner phones and the Giants trade down in our little mock, Schoen engages in a little light fan service by adding Quentin Johnson to be the deep threat Kenny Golladay could never be.

Next, the Giants double-dip at guard, which you can either interpret as a sign of their commitment to beefing up their interior line or mock draft simulator user error. Both Steve Avila and Chandler Zavala are outstanding values at their draft positions; you can read some of my thoughts on Zavala here.

Adetomiwa Adebawore is also an excellent value where I have the Giants selecting him. He’s the kind of big, long-armed defender teams draft in the first round, even though his tape is a mixed bag. (He was often misused as a 5-technique, hand-in-the-dirt end). If he is snatched up, it just means someone like Derrick Hall will be there for the Giants to take in the middle of the second round, with or without a mock trade.

Cincinnati Bengals

28. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
60. Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
92. Nick Hampton, ER, Appalachian State

The Bengals would be an ideal landing spot for Bijan Robinson or Darnell Washington. Someone is going to yell Damn the Analytics, Full Speed Ahead! sometime between picks 8 and 18 and select Bijan, however, and the Bengals probably won’t be nimble enough to trade themselves into range. The Bills jump ahead of the Bengals in this mock for Washington because the Bills have a larger fanbase and I want clicks they have a knack for bold, Von Miller-esque, one-player-away moves.

Michael Mayer is one heck of a consolation prize for Bijan and Bigfoot: he blocks well enough to contribute in a limited-target role, and Bengals fans who remember Tyler Eifert understand the virtues of a central-casting Notre Dame tight end.

Emmanuel Forbes is a light-as-a-feather, tough-as-trigonometry interception machine to bolster the cornerback depth. Nick Hampton is small but twitchy, frenetic, and relentless. He’ll probably max out as a role player, but chasing down Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen as a blitz-package defender in a playoff game is certainly a role.

New Orleans Saints

29. Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
40. Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
71. John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

The Saints did a fine job this offseason pivoting from “delusional organization in hellacious debt” to “overpriced potential powerhouse of the NFL’s Sun Belt Conference.” Mickey Loomis, like any good conniving brother-in-law, has managed to battle revolving debt to a draw using techniques like convincing Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston to rip up their old contracts. It’s like filing for bankruptcy on the down-low!

Anyway, Derek Carr needs some Thomas injury insurance. Juwan Johnson was a revelation last year, but Dalton Kincaid can provide options and beef up the two-tight end package. Hyatt is another small receiver who slips in this mock because of an anticipated run on cornerbacks and top-tier linebackers. He can fit neatly in the slot behind Thomas and Chris Olave.

Erik McCoy is under contract through 2027, but the Saints were forced to slide their guards to center when he was hurt last year. John Michael Schmitz can back McCoy up and perhaps push him: after all, a long-term contract with the Saints doesn’t necessarily mean a long-range commitment anymore.

Kansas City Chiefs

31. Lukas Van Ness, ER, Iowa
63. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
95. Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse

PK Flash! PK Fire! Lukas “Hercules” Van Ness is the kind of smash bro Steve Spagnuolo loves along the defensive line: an end/tackle hybrid who can move inside or out, depending on the package. Van Ness is a lot like George Karlaftis, right down to the late start to their football careers, but Spags can never have too many versatile defensive linemen.

Antonio Johnson is another aggressive safety/slot corner to add to an impressive young secondary locked in a constant AFC passing-game arms race. Jawaan Taylor is a temporary replacement for Orlando Brown on the offensive line.

Andy Reid likes to have developmental tackles in his pipeline, and Matthew Bergeron can join Darian Kinnard and Prince Tega Wanogho (an UDFA I liked a few years ago) in the queue.

Los Angeles Rams

36. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
69. Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
77. Rejzohn Wright, CB, Oregon State

The Rams have turned their draft beach house into a “draft lab” in a particularly sweaty offseason rebranding effort. It sounds a little bit like my efforts to woo the ladies in high school and college as an ever-so-charming physics lab partner offering no-fuss A grades, lighthearted banter, and age-/era-appropriate pushiness. Those efforts failed, because few young women think of their lab partners as potential love interests and even fewer thought of me as one. But Sean McVay should have no problem pulling as a knockoff Tony Stark so long as he retains his good looks and Elon Musk keeps suffering very public erectile dysfunction.

(And no, McVay really has no reason to try to “pull” anything but advertisers. Just play along.)

So, a funny thing happened to this Rams segment. Walkthrough’s three-round mock drafts are assembled with the help of mock draft simulators. I usually run through three or four of them using various sim engines, then carefully cut ‘n’ paste the results into a document once I am happy with the results. This year, I did just that for 31 NFL teams, forgetting about the Rams draft, just as they did for a few years. Whoopsie!

Now, YOU try reassembling one team’s mock draft without disturbing the other 31, especially when that team had no first-round pick to use as an obvious guidepost. It’s tricky! The likelihood that some top-50 pick falls through the cracks as a result is incredibly high. I could have played this off—oh, didn’t you hear, Devon Witherspoon performed poorly on the Blunderwic Cognitive Assessment!—or I could err on the side of honesty. And here we are.

Fortunately, the Texans/Will Levis tomfoolery created an opportunity to suture off this Rams segment. Initially, I had the Texans drafting Hendon Hooker at the top of the second round, which would be roughly 12 billion times smarter than drafting Levis second overall. In this new scenario, Hooker slides to the Rams as Matthew Stafford’s eventual replacement. It’s highly plausible, as Hooker would be the best available athlete here, and square-peg quarterback prospects (see Jackson, Lamar) sometimes slide into the 30s in draft position.

Broderick Jones is a top-50 pick who slips a little too far through the cracks here. Was he originally my Rams pick 36th overall? Bite your tongue. Rejzohn Wright, by contrast, earned a lot of pre-Senior Bowl buzz but fell off the draftnik radar due to a minor injury. His tape is tasty, as are his charting stats.

OK, Fine: replace Jones with Wanya Morris or some other Day 2 lineman. This is still a pretty strong start to the Rams’ pre-rebuilding era.

Miami Dolphins

51. Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
84. Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State

The Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick, of course, for reasons long ago forgotten by all of society. (It was for trying to tamper with Tom Brady, something they’re still into.) Further turbo-charging their offense makes as much sense as any other second-round strategy, and speedy/tiny/tough Tyjae Spears would instantly leap to the front of a Raheem Mostert/Jeff Wilson running back rotation while becoming this year’s Bernard Pierce-style fantasy darling.

Jammie Robinson is a hustle-and-heart nickel safety for a team which stacked itself up well at cornerback.

Denver Broncos

67. Andre Carter, ER, Army
68. Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

Uh-oh. Looks like someone on the Broncos org chart took the term “war room” literally.

But really, is this draft so bad? McKee is a better disaster management plan than Jarrett Stidham if Russell Wilson remains on the astral plane. Carter could be special after some time in an NFL weight room instead of out on the proving ground. Military deferment issues? If they crop up again, Aunt Condi will make sure those disappear.

Cleveland Browns

74. Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU
98. Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State

Boring but believable.

San Francisco 49ers

99. Steven Jones, CB, Appalachian State
101. Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia
102. Drake Thomas, LB, NC State

I just flooded the 49ers with some of my favorites with all of their compensatory picks.

Steven Jones is 42 years old (24, actually) but returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 2021 and led the Sun Belt Conference with 14 passes defensed in 2022. He goes from first to third gear in a hurry, giving him both the burst to make plays in front of him and outstanding recovery skills downfield. McIntosh is your typical speedy Kyle Shanahan midround running back: pure burst through the hole will make him dangerous in an offense which creates lots of holes. Drake Thomas times poorly and has stubby arms, but there are times when he looks like London Fletcher on film. Thomas is a sleeper who could start out as a special teams ace; the others could be regulars on offense and defense.

Not a bad way for a contender with no early-round picks to wrap things up.

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