Bowl season is upon us and with it presents another opportunity for potential prospects to improve their draftability.
Ironically, there will be players who withdraw from post-season bowl competition while hoping to improve their draft positioning. Avoiding injury and focusing on training for the NFL combine are among the top reasons why more prominent collegians decide to not play in post season games year after year.
This is the beginning of the slow grind toward the NFL combine and college pro days, so players must be as proactive as they can to better position themselves. As a result, it will be interesting to see how much our mock draft changes over the upcoming months.
NFL Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.com.
1. Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Questions persist about Young’s physical stature and possible durability issues as a quarterback in the NFL. Although he lacks prototypical size to play at the next level (6-foot, 194 pounds), Young perfoms at an elevated level when executing gameplans. A phenomenal decision maker who delivers clutch moments full of accurate passes and timely results, Young’s 75 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions indicate how effective he could be as a NFL quarterback.
2. Bears: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Anderson is the type of generational athlete that could transform an entire organization’s fortunes and Chicago desperately needs an upgrade of talent on its lackluster roster. Chances are the front office will trade down to acquire more draft capital and subsequently more prospects, but should Chicago keep the second pick Anderson could be an extraordinary playmaker for the Bears.
3. Seahawks (via DEN): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Several weeks ago, the Seahawks were trending upwards with six wins and a first place position in the NFC West division. Starting quarterback Geno Smith’s play vaulted him into early MVP consideration and made him an odds-on favorite to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Since then, Seattle has lost four of five games (7-7) and Smith’s play over that span hasn’t looked as effective or productive. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and Stroud’s untapped upside may be available with a top three pick.
4. Lions (via LAR): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The Lions’ improvement on defense coincides with the team’s increase in victories and their late season push toward the playoffs. During the first 10 games of the year, Detroit surrendered 28.2 points per contest while only averaging 25 points per game. Over the last four matchups, Detroit reduced opponent scoring to 20.5 per contest while winning three of its last four affairs. Adding a game wrecking playmaker like Carter could only enhance an already improving defense.
5. Cardinals: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Murphy keeps things simple, beating opponents with explosive surges that force them into playing on their heels. With an ability to strike fast that helps in out-leveraging blockers, Murphy’s strength allows him to forcefully redirect his opponents. Murphy can rush from either side and creates enough havoc to keep offenses off schedule and in a continuous state of flux.
6. Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Colts fell far from their 2022 preseason expectations and find themselves reassessing their team trajectory and assests. Over the past several years, the Colts chose to hinge their fortunes on the arms of Hall of Fame caliber passers, or discarded veterans with something to prove. If Levis is available by this pick, expect the Colts to try a different tact and possibly select a promising quarterback with above-average athleticism and untapped potential.
7. Falcons: Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
If only the Falcons’ star interior defensive lineman, Grady Jarrett, had help alongside him when pressuring offensive lines. Should the stars align, Jarrett, a former Clemson Tiger, may get help from one of his alma mater’s current NFL hopefuls in Bresee. A lean interior defensive talent (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), Bresee demonstrates an unusual ability to get “skinny” between double teams and create chaos behind the line of scrimmage.
8. Panthers: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Wilson is the type of irritatingly effective edge rusher that opposing teams hate battling, but is also the kind of versatile athlete emblematic of Carolina’s defensive style of play. Wilson can either set the edge or maneuver beyond it, causing disruption and chaotic uncertainty in offensive backfields. Playing the opposite end from Carolina’s best edge rusher Brian Burns, Wilson could significantly contribute to formulating a formidable one-two pass rushing tandem for the Panthers.
9. Eagles (via NO): Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Philadelphia is stacked at every position and in some areas are two deep with talented reserves. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles trade down for additional picks in this upcoming draft and the next. Since it’s a passing league, accumulating elite defensive backs is always a winning strategy. Ringo consistently grades out as the top corner for this upcoming draft class — with explosive acceleration and speed (4.35 40-time) it’s easy to see why he projects so highly.
10. Raiders: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
A sound technician with exceptional upper body strength, Skoronski plays with a nastiness that discourages defenders ill-equipped to handle his power. Arguably the best offensive lineman in this draft class, Skoronski routinely produces top notch performances on a weekly basis and is established as a respected pro prospect who flashes day one starting potential. According to PFF, Skoronski is the highest rated pass blocker (92.4) in the nation.
11. Jaguars: Paris Johnson, OL, Ohio State
A natural athlete with easy lateral fluidity in and out of his sets, Johnson projects as a NFL left tackle. An intelligent player who executes blocks well into the second level of defenses, Johnson is the type of agile blocker required in today’s more open offensive style of play. Johnson’s enviable blend of size, length, strength and awareness showcases a high ceiling worthy of a day one selection.
12: Texans (via CLE): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Johnston is a legit aerial weapon with long striding acceleration, above-average leaping ability and an impressive catching radius. As a boundary receiver, Johnston possesses NFL caliber size (6-foot-4, 212 pounds) and speed (4.4 40-time) that should threaten opposing teams’ coverage schemes. A career average of 18.7 yards per reception makes Johnston the type of deep threat NFL evaluators spend time convincing general managers to draft.
13. Steelers: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The son of former NFL star linebacker Joey Porter (Steelers/Dolphins/Cardinals), Junior has a unique opportunity to make Penn State history. If selected on day one of the draft, he’ll be the first corner back from Penn State ever taken in the NFL’s initial round. Were he taken by the Steelers, Porter could begin his professional career at the same place where his father starred. If pedigree and histrionics are indicators of potential greatness, then Porter will be a highly sought after draft prospect.
14. Packers: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
Johnson is a dynamic 6-foot-3, 200 pound, long limbed enforcer in the defensive backfield. Johnson can blitz the quarterback, cover any type of receiver and make bone-jarring tackles in run support. while making quick decisions and commitment with measured abandon and ferocity that energizes his teammates. Like a coiled cobra, Johnson strikes without mercy or guilt.
15. Seahawks: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
Foskey possesses the speed to threaten the edge and the arm length to out-leverage most blockers. A long strider, Foskey’s explosive burst enhances his ability to cover ground extremely quickly, pressurizing blockers onto their heels and making them less effective. The Seahawks are eerily recreating their formula that spawned the famed “Legion of Boom” defense, which engineered consecutive Super Bowl appearances (48 and 49).
16. Patriots: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Smith performs on the field like a typical New England Patriot defender, playing with savvy aggressiveness and honed instincts. Assessing with patience and confidence, Smith is never in a hurry and almost always is in position to affect a favorable outcome for his team. His closing speed and length allows Smith to effectively contest receivers at varying catch angles. Smith is an intriguing prospect with skills attuned for NFL competition.
17. Jets: Broderick Jones, OL, Georgia
New York’s current left tackle, Mekhi Becton, became a member of the Jets in the 2020 draft and has played in only 15 of a possible 47 regular season games since. It is an uncertainty that the talented Becton can remain injury free, so taking Jones mid-first round could provide security against another Becton injury. Jones sets up quickly in pass coverage and demonstrates just enough nasty during run block assignments to justify a day one selection.
18. Lions: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez plays with a confident certitude that compliments his athleticism with an ability to pivot cleanly, which showcases an acceleration that gains immediate upfield access when challenging pass catchers. This long-limbed defender competes tenaciously for 50/50 jump balls, with an astounding 42 inch vertical that challenges any catch radius.
19. Buccaneers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Aside from four-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans, the Bucs’ receiving corps is either aging or constantly dealing with injury and missed games. Addison is an exceptional route runner who can shift gears while making precise cuts that create organic separation from defenders. Displaying uncommon body control, Addison gracefully makes difficult catches appear effortless.
20. Titans: Jaylin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
From relative obscurity, Jalin Hyatt, a 6-foot and 185 pound junior, ascended the collegiate receiver ranks to win this season’s coveted Biletnikoff Award. Hyatt posseses phenomenal speed and make-you-miss agility, consistently frustrating defenders’ attempts to stop him in the open field. Hyatt’s ability to accelerate and deaccelerate makes him dangerous either from the slot position or as a boundary receiver. The Titans desperately require a downfield threat to help their over-used and under-supported running attack.
21. Commanders: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Physically, there are several easy comparisons for Richardson to former NFL MVP and Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton. Both players competed in the SEC (ironically, Newton’s initial college team was the Florida Gators) and they have both demonstrated uncommon athleticism, speed, power and agility for men their size. Richardson’s limitless upside mirrors Newton’s entry into the NFL; and if Washington drafts him, he’ll have a chance to develop under head coach Ron Rivera, too.
22 .Chargers: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Simpson is a do-it-all defender with elite athleticism and a versatile toolbox which allows him to dominate games. He’s a special player with the ability to blitz off the edge, shed blocks to stuff ball carriers, or glide into space and eliminate underneath passing lanes. Efficiently, over his last 25 games played, Simpson tabulated 137 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
23. Dolphins: FORFEITED
The Miami Dolphins forfeited one of their two first-round picks (plus a third-round pick in 2024) for tampering surrounding Tom Brady.
24. Giants: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Phillips is a sturdy, compact boundary corner with excellent anticipation skills, who plays bigger than his average size would indicate. More quick than fast as a coverage defender, Phillips wins through disciplined positioning and next level awareness. On the season, Phillips’ ubiquitous playmaking skills accounted for six interceptions, of which two were returned for scores, along with six defended passes in just 12 games.
25. Ravens: Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Verse’s aggressive and productive play has catapulted him onto draft boards late this season, much like last year’s Seminoles’ standout, Jermaine Johnson II. Last season, Johnson “materialized” from obscurity to become the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first round pick of the Jets. This year Verse developed into an edge rushing problem for offenses, tallying 14.5 tackles for loss and seven and a half sacks.
26. Broncos (via SF): Anton Harrison, OL, Oklahoma
Last week the Broncos surrendered three sacks to J.J. Watt, an aging veteran whose best days are behind him. Currently, the offensive line is a source for anguish this season, giving up a league-worst 51 sacks. Adding salt to Denver’s offensive misery is an impotent scoring attack that’s produced only eight rushing touchdowns and 13 passing scores to date (both rank 28th in the NFL). Harrison gravitates to punishing defenders on run plays, but is adept at pass blocking from either tackle position.
27. Cowboys: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Having recorded a bench press of 425 pounds, Sewell easily transitions weight room strength to on the field productivity. Powerful and rangy, Sewell is an athletically instinctive playmaker at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds. Over the past 26 games, Sewell amassed 170 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss, with eight passes defended and two interceptions. The Cowboys could definitely use a versatile run-stuffing deterrent like Sewell, especially if Dallas declines to re-sign free agent linebackers Anthony Barr and Leighton Vander Esch.
28. Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The tight end position may be the last area needing a slight talent upgrade on Cincinnati’s offense. Mayer is more quick than fast, but is capable of moving past defenders with an initial burst and a savvy enough to gain downfield separation. Mayer is also an excellent blocker whose active hands and balanced footwork present problems for defenders seeking a way into the backfield.
29. Chiefs: Gervon Dexter, DL, Florida
Dexter’s impressive natural strength and solid base help him maintain leverage against linemen at the point of attack. The ability to quickly shed blockers makes him problematic for plays headed in his vicinity. Extremely athletic considering his size and length (6-foot-6, 313 pounds), Dexter’s flexibility will endear him to coordinators dreaming of where to align this scheme-friendly defender.
30. Vikings: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon finished second in the Big Ten conference with 14 passes defended and added three interceptions on the season. His closing speed, high football I.Q. and concept visualization skills makes Witherspoon an intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators. The Vikings will eventually need to replace all-pro veteran Patrick Peterson, so why not start sooner than later by possibly drafting Witherspoon.
31. Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Having led the nation in yards from scrimmage (1,894), NFL scouts are impressed with Robinson’s entire repertoire as a complete running back. Aside from his instinctive running style and next level burst past flailing defenders, evaluators rave about his pass protection skill set and willingness to block. Yes, Robinson is an adept pass catcher and accomplished runner, but it’ll be his pass blocking that could make him a day one starter.
32. Eagles: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Branch boasts a legitimate 40-time of 4.4 seconds with complimentary lateral quickness. A physical player, Branch’s tightly muscled core and strong lower body create significant torque when driving through opponents on his tackles. Over the past 25 contests, Branch tallied 143 total tackles with 15.5 tackles for loss and 16 passes defended. Branch is truly one of the best back end, hybrid defensive prospects in the upcoming draft.
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