The first week of NFL playoff action is officially in the books, which means we’re one week closer to the predraft process hitting full speed for all 32 teams.
Five more teams locked in their first-round draft slots last weekend with postseason losses, but with this year’s promising class of top quarterback prospects, plenty of those early spots are anything but set in stone this early in the process.
It’s never a surprise when high-upside passers fly up the draft board leading up to the draft, and there are plenty of worthy candidates for that kind of leap this year.
Which teams could be enticed to make a bold move up the board to land one of them? Will it happen at the No. 1 overall pick, and which one will be the target?
Let’s find out:
*NOTE: The Miami Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick in next year’s draft as a result of the NFL’s investigation into tampering violations.
Don’t say it won’t happen, because we’ve seen it way too many times before. I’m not sold on Levis, but it won’t surprise me if a team like the Colts falls in love with his physical tools, toughness, and potential, looking past the flaws and inconsistencies in his play. Indy would have to give the Bears a massive haul to get up here, but to leapfrog a division rival that also needs a quarterback, they might just be willing.
This would be the best possible scenario for the Texans, who lost out on the No. 1 pick with a dramatic win over the Colts, but still end up with the best quarterback in the draft thanks to that same Indy team. Young’s lack of ideal size might concern some teams, but he’s so good at everything else, he should easily be the first passer off the board. If he’s not, he’ll be a steal.
A huge win for the Cardinals, who get the best overall prospect in the entire draft outside of the top two slots. Anderson would have been the easy No. 1 overall pick last year, and with J.J. Watt retiring a year after Chandler Jones left in free agency, Arizona desperately needs his dominant presence to bolster their pass rush.
What a win for the Bears, who move down three spots, load up on additional picks (at least this year’s second-rounder and next year’s first-rounder, likely more), and still land one of this year’s top overall prospects at a huge position of need. Carter is a disruptive force at the point of attack, and would give the Bears an immediate cornerstone around whom they can rebuild their once proud defense.
Whoever ends up taking this head coaching job will need an upgrade at quarterback, and this scenario gives the Panthers the perfect opportunity to move up the board and get their man. Stroud proved himself worthy with a dominant performance against Georgia to finish his impressive college career, making it well worth a second-round pick this year and additional pick in 2024 to land him.
If the Lions don’t want to spend this pick on a future franchise quarterback like Anthony Ricardson, I’m betting they’d prefer to move down a few spots with a team that does. If they can’t, Bresee would make the most sense in terms of matching their biggest needs with the best value available on the board.
The Raiders are obviously moving on from Derek Carr, and while they’re likely to pursue a veteran starter for the short-term, Richardson’s long-term upside might be higher than any other passer in this draft. Sitting behind an experienced starter for a year would be the perfect scenario to help him maximize his rare talent.
This is a great scenario for the Falcons, who desperately need impact players along the defensive front, and get to choose between multiple prospects with a rare blend of size, athleticism, and versatility. Wilson might be a bit less polished than Clemson’s Myles Murphy, but his ceiling also might be just a bit higher, giving him the nod here.
After moving down a few spots and collecting a couple of extra Day 2 picks, the Seahawks still end up with one of the players they likely would have considered at their original slot. Murphy has all the traits that Pete Carroll loves in his edge rushers, and the physicality to slide inside and create mismatches on passing downs against interior blockers.
After landing this year’s top quarterback prospect at No. 2, the Texans jump ahead of a division rival (likely for a mid-round pick) to land the best pass-catcher in this year’s draft. Instead of letting the equally WR-needy Titans have a shot and Johnston (and having to face him twice a year), the Texans give Bryce Young a massive target with tons of length, athleticism and big-play ability.
With Johnston off the board, the Titans shift their focus to the offensive line, which desperately needs help both inside and out. In this scenario, they take the first blocker off the board, landing a battle-tested prospect who has played both tackle spots as well as guard, all with a track record of success against top competition.
A win-win scenario for the Eagles, who add an extra mid-round pick in return for dropping down two spots, and still landing the top prospect at one of their biggest positions of need. Porter is a shutdown artist with ideal size and length, and he plays the game with the same competitiveness and physicality that made his dad a Pro Bowl defender.
Robert Saleh might be tempted to add more talent for his defense here, but the team’s biggest need is at offensive tackle, and Skoronski is just too good a value to pass up here. He’s been among the most consistent blockers in the nation over the past two seasons, with the polish to make an immediate impact from Day 1.
After moving down from their earlier first-rounder, the Seahawks deal a third-round pick to jump up ahead of the Packers for this year’s top tight end prospect. Mayer is a complete player who can be a matchup nightmare in the passing game, and get the job done in the trenches when Seattle’s pounding the rock.
With Mayer off the board, the Packers turn their attention to the defense, where they could use a versatile playmaker in the secondary. Branch has lined up all over the field in Nick Saban’s defense, and can make plays at safety, in the slot, or on the blitz.
This secondary needs a true shutdown artist to take over the No. 1 corner spot, and this gives Washington the perfect chance to do just that. Smith is a stellar cover man with a knack for making big plays whenever the ball comes anywhere near him.
Offensive tackle is a huge need, but not one the Steelers are known for targeting in the first round. That’s not the case when it comes to corners, especially ones from premier college programs that boast the kind of size/length/athleticism combo that Ringo brings to the table.
The run on top corners continues, as the Lions grab an upgrade on the outside with Gonzalez, who has everything from ideal size and length to a knack for making big plays when the ball gets near him.
Patrick Mahomes didn’t need Tyreek Hill to have another MVP season, but free agency could leave the receiver cupboard bare heading into next season. With the Bucs willing to move down after watching three corners come off the board in front of them, the Chiefs are more than willing to send their second-rounder to Tampa Bay in return for jumping ahead of multiple WR-needy teams to grab an explosive playmaker in Addison.
Barely missing out on Addison hurts, but offensive tackle is easily just as high on the needs list as wide receiver for the Pats. Jones is the last tackle on the board who should be a first-round lock, so landing him here after trading back six spots would be a huge win for New England.
Justin Herbert already has a pair of big, physical receivers who can win in contested-catch situations all day long (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams), but he could use one who can separate consistently. Hyatt’s breakout season was fueled by his explosive, big-play ability, which is exactly what this offense needs.
If the Ravens are going to keep deploying such a run-heavy scheme on offense, they might need a new lead back if J.K. Dobbins isn’t able to return to form after multiple injuries. Robinson is a complete, three-down playmaker who could dominate opposing defenses that are focused on slowing down Lamar Jackson.
Another receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson shouldn’t be out of the question, but this defense needs help in the worst way, particularly when it comes to stopping the pass. Witherspoon has been one of the most dominant cover men in the country this season.
This defense has some dynamic edge rushers, but they don’t have that massive, dominant nose tackle to anchor the interior of the defensive front. That’s exactly what Ika would bring to the table, making life miserable for opposing offense who won’t have anywhere to turn, inside or out.
If there’s a worse receiver situation in the NFL right now, I’d love to see it. The Giants desperately need an infusion of talent here, and despite missing most of the 2022 season due to injury, Smith-Njigba’s 2021 tape was impressive enough to warrant first-round consideration.
Trevon Diggs is obviously one of the best corners in the game right now, but the Cowboys need an upgrade on the other side of the field. One of the hottest names in this year’s class heading into the predraft process, Banks has all the tools to be an immediate upgrade for Dallas across from Diggs.
There are some needs on defense, but Cincy’s entire tight end room is basically headed for free agency. Even if Hayden Hurst returns, he’ll be 30 before next season, and was banged up for much of this season. A weapon with Washington’s rare combination of size and athleticism would be extremely dangerous in this offense.
It sounds like Sean Payton will have his pick of many suitors this offseason, and if anyone can save Russell Wilson, he’s probably Denver’s best bet. In return for letting Payton out of his contract, the Saints get the opportunity to land a potential franchise quarterback with limitless upside, getting that all-important fifth-year option by not hoping Hooker falls to them in the second round.
This pick has to be something to help Josh Allen, whether that’s along the offensive line, or at wide receiver. There are plenty of pass-catching options to pick from, but a dominant interior lineman might be harder to find, so Torrence gets the nod to help protect Allen, and improve the ground game.
Lavonte David is headed for free agency, and even if he returns, he’ll be 33 next season. The Bucs also Devin White coming up for a long-term extension, so linebacker could quickly become a huge need. Simpson is a versatile defender with incredible athleticism and instincts who can line up all over the field and make big plays on every down.
I’ve been mocking this pick for a while now, and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon. This offense is already one of the most dominant and entertaining in the league, so adding a versatile weapon like Gibbs would just make it downright unfair.