Below you will find our seventh mock draft of this offseason here on Buccaneers.com but it's going to look substantially different from the first six. And that's by design.
How does Tyree Wilson fall all the way to pick 13, when he's widely considered a top-seven talent? Why are the Colts not taking a quarterback? And how did Washington get one of those QBs instead in the middle of the round? Where in the world is Deonte Banks?
One of the great things about doing periodic mock drafts is trying out some new scenarios and seeing where they lead. In that regard, it's not completely unlike what actual NFL team decision-makers do in the lead up to the annual draft. They game out a number of possibilities in order to be ready for whatever scenario presents itself when they go on the clock.
This week, I'm drafting based on a premise that absolutely forces me to take a fresh look at every team's possible options in the first round. Here's that premise: I am forbidden from giving a team any player that we have already matched it with in any of our first six mock drafts. For instance, even though I'm in the camp that things the Panthers will take Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the first pick after trading up, I can't make that prediction in this draft because we've had the Panthers taking Stroud already. Fortunately, there was another really good option for Carolina.
The same is not true for the Colts, who pick fourth and are almost certain to come away with a new passer in real life. Unfortunately, our previous mocks have already paired them with all four of the top-rated quarterbacks, so they have to go in another direction in this exercise. As for Banks, I fully expect him to be drafted in the first round, but every time I was ready to match him with a team I discovered that he was on their can't-draft list. I never found a landing spot for him.
The big winners are the Raiders and Commanders, who didn't have to move and still landed two of those four aforementioned stud quarterbacks. Also the Jets, who got Wilson well below where he is usually mocked. Oh, and as you'll see below, things worked out pretty well for the Buccaneers, too.
Since this premise is already complicated enough, I'm not going to predict any additional trades on top of the ones that have already happened in real life. Sorry, Indy. Oh, and if a team had two picks in the round, I'm not prohibiting every previously picked player from both selections. For instance, the Lions have five guys they can't take at number six and a different five guys they can't take at number 18. Okay? Let's get started.
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago): QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Previous picks: Will Levis (2), C.J. Stroud (3), Anthony Richardson
In our previous mocks, we usually had to engineer a bit of a trade up for the Panthers to get them into QB range, but fortunately we never paired them with Young, the Alabama star. This prediction might have the best chance of coming true when the real draft rolls around next month, as plenty of pundits believe the Panthers will eventually alight on Young over Stroud. The Panthers say they have "conviction" on several of these QB prospects, and it's quite possible they haven't decided yet.
2. Houston Texans: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Previous picks: Bryce Young (4), Will Levis, C.J. Stroud
Another "whew" moment for me as I put together that previous picks list above. We've given Houston a quarterback every single time over the past six weeks, but never specifically Richardson. Again, as much as most draft analysts think the Texans are most likely to go with Stroud or Young, it's well within the realm of possibility that they wind up in love with Richardson's sky-high potential and are willing to take the time to get him NFL-ready.
3. Arizona Cardinals: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Previous picks: Jalen Carter, Will Anderson (4), Tyree Wilson
This one was kind of tough. The Cardinals need a ton of defensive help, and particularly up front, but with Anderson, Wilson and Carter unavailable it's hard to find another edge or DT that they would take this high. Myles Murphy has been falling down the mocks and while Nolan Smith and Lukas Van Ness seem to be on the rise, I think the Cardinals instead go with the top corner available. Fortunately, that's also a position of great need in Arizona.
4. Indianapolis Colts: T Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Previous picks: C.J. Stroud (2), Bryce Young (2), Will Levis, Anthony Richardson
This is the one disaster scenario created by the premise. Brianna and I have collectively been too wishy-washy with our Colt-QB mashups over the past six weeks and now all four are off the board for Indianapolis here. Maybe it's time to place a call to Lamar Jackson's agent (i.e. Lamar Jackson) and take a huge swing. Anyway, if the Colts were not in the QB market this year they would probably be honing in on a tackle early, so that's what they do here with the polished, ready-to-start Johnson.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
Previous picks: Myles Murphy (2), Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson (2), Jalen Carter
There are a lot of mock drafters out there who are more bullish on Van Ness than I am, though I don't think I've seen him go this high anywhere else. For Seattle, their primary need is so obviously at edge rush that I think if they were confronted with this scenario they would either trade down (not happening here) or perhaps reach a little bit for the next one on their board.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama
Previous picks: Devon Witherspoon, Tyree Wilson, Christian Gonzalez (3), Jalen Carter
This works out well for the Lions, in part because Brianna and I have really honed in on the cornerback spot for them in recent mocks. That was before Detroit signed former Steelers corner Cam Sutton and former 49ers corner Emmanuel Moseley. They also still have 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah. So instead of adding yet another corner, the Lions grab the highly-rated Anderson and pair him with last year's first-round pick, Aidan Hutchinson, to form a fearsome rush off the edge.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Previous picks: Peter Skoronski (3), Devon Witherspoon, Paris Johnson, Will Levis
The Panthers, Texans and Colts were all barred from taking Stroud, so he falls here to the very fortunate Las Vegas Raiders. Yes, the Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starter, but it's a deal they can get out of after a year or two if need be. Las Vegas didn't necessarily go into the draft targeting a quarterback but simply can't pass on the opportunity to add a prospect as promising as Stroud.
8. Atlanta Falcons: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Previous picks: Tyree Wilson, Paris Johnson, Myles Murphy (2), Anthony Richardson, Will Levis
The Falcons somehow managed to re-sign Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, so their O-Line is set. Tyree Wilson would be a great get here for a team that has had so much trouble producing pressure on the quarterback in recent years but, alas, he's on the no-go list. So the Falcons get the best value here with Witherspoon, who can eventually replace the 34-year-old Casey Hayward opposite young star A.J. Terrell.
9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina): T Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Previous picks: Will Anderson, Jalen Carter (3), Paris Johnson (2)
There were a lot of good options for the Bears here because in four of our previous six mocks they were picking first and thus were looking at a different tier of prospect. They need offensive linemen badly, and while they previously landed Paris Johnson in our last two mocks, this time they send an Uber over to nearby Northwestern to pick up Skoronski and escort him right into their starting lineup at left tackle or one of the two guard spots.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Previous picks: Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr. (4), Myles Murphy
This is interesting matchup in that I could see it happening in the real draft, without these artificial restrictions. Carter's off-field issues could easily cause him to fall down the board a bit, but probably not too far. In 1995, the Eagles traded two second-round picks to the Buccaneers (and got back a third) in order to move up from #12 to #7 and take Combine star Mike Mamula. The Bucs went back five spots and then nabbed future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who also slipped down the board due to off-field reports that eventually proved irrelevant. This time, it's the Eagles who let the falling DT with star potential come to them.
11. Tennessee Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Previous picks: Paris Johnson, Peter Skoronski (3), Broderick Jones, Jordan Addison
Brianna was the first to give the Titans a receiver last week after we had primarily focused on offensive tackle in previous mocks, and I like it (especially because Tennessee is barred from taking the top three tackles here). However, while she went with Jordan Addison, I think Smith-Njigba is going to be the first receiver off the board after his masterful performance at the Combine added weight to his 2021 tape.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
Previous picks: Quentin Johnston (2), WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (2), Jordan Addison, Tyree Wilson
Smith's stock is rising even faster than that of Van Ness, and he cracks the top dozen here as the Texans give DeMeco Ryans' defense a shot in the arm with this extremely explosive edge rusher. Houston lost the underrated Ogbo Okoronkwo to Cleveland and I don't think taking a one-year flyer on Chase Winovich solves the pass-rush issue. We've often had Houston land on a receiver here to pair with their new corner, but this time they get help on the other side of the ball.
13. New York Jets: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Previous picks: Broderick Jones (3), Anthony Richardson, Paris Johnson, Darnell Wright
We've gone offensive tackle almost exclusively for the Jets in previous mocks, and if Skoronski was still on the board they could have nabbed him. Instead, rather than start the second-tier run on tackles they find a landing spot for one of the top two edge rushers in this draft, who fell in this exercise through no fault of his own. There's enough tackle depth to get one in the second round, and it's not like the Jets are absolutely loaded at edge rusher.
14. New England Patriots: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
Previous picks: Trenton Simpson, Broderick Jones, Brian Branch (3), Christian Gonzalez
Brian Branch has been our favorite pick at this spot for the Patriots but he's on the no-go list. It's true that New England has never drafted a receiver higher than 32nd in the Bill Belichick era, but the franchise has broken from tradition several times since the departure of Tom Brady, such as in its free agency spending spree in 2021. Here they do so again after losing Jakobi Meyers in free agency and signing JuJu Smith-Schuster.
15. Green Bay Packers: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Previous picks: Brian Branch (2), Quentin Johnston, Michael Mayer (2), Jaxon Smith-Njigba
The Packers have been typically quiet in free agency, but they did lose Allen Lazard to the Jets, meaning their receiver depth chart basically consists of second-year men Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Both showed promise in 2022, but that's not enough for Jordan Love, who is expected to take over for Aaron Rodgers when a trade with the Jets is finally consummated.
16. Washington Commanders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Previous picks: O'Cyrus Torrence (2), Anthony Richardson, Broderick Jones, Devon Witherspoon, Joey Porter Jr.
After the Raiders lucked into Stroud with the seventh pick, the Commanders looked at the rest of the team's in front of him and knew they had a shot at Levis lasting this long. The Falcons couldn't take him and the Bears, Eagles, Texans, Jets, Patriots and Packers weren't in the market. Maaaaybe, Tennessee, but in this case I passed at number 11. The Commanders did sign Jacoby Brissett, but this just makes him a perfect veteran bridge, giving the somewhat unpolished Levis time to mature into the starting role.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Previous picks: Bryan Bresee, Kelee Ringo, Devon Witherspoon (2), Lukas Van Ness, Deonte Banks
It's surprising that we've never paired up Porter Jr. with his dad's old team, but that was mostly because he's been off the board before pick 17. The Steelers lost Cam Sutton in free agency, and even after adding wily veteran Patrick Peterson they could still use some youthful talent at cornerback.
18. Detroit Lions: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Previous picks: Anthony Richardson, Bryan Bresee, Trenton Simpson, Bijan Robinson (2), Nolan Smith
The Lions traded T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings at midseason in 2022, and I challenge you to name a single tight end on their roster right now. The Lions' offense has been humming since the latter stages of 2021 and they are set at receiver, they seem enamored of Jared Goff and they just added David Montgomery to the backfield. Add in a do-everything tight end who can play all three downs and this thing could go to another level.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T Broderick Jones, Georgia
Previous picks: Joey Porter Jr., Christian Gonzalez, Emmanuel Forbes, Devon Witherspoon, Nolan Smith, Brian Branch
Lots and lots of cornerbacks for the Buccaneers in the early-stage mock drafts, but with the return of Jamel Dean and the departure of Donovan Smith, the tide has turned and offensive tackle is now the most common choice at this spot. However, this is the first time that Jones has fallen this far, and he likely won't without the specific restrictions we have in place. If the Bucs did land Jones, they could install him right away at left tackle and put the potential Tristan Wirfs switch on ice for now.
20. Seattle Seahawks: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
Previous picks: Lukas Van Ness (2), Bryan Bresee (3), Myles Murphy
Seattle got an edge rusher at number five and they signed both Dre'Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to man the 3-4 end spots, so their defensive front is suddenly not as barren as it looked a few weeks ago. That allows me to go in a different direction here and give the newly-re-signed Geno Smith another weapon. Yes, the Seahawks already have a great receiver tandem in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, but Flowers works primarily out of the slot, making him a perfect fit with those two.
NA. Miami Dolphins: FORFEITED
21. Los Angeles Chargers: S Brian Branch
Previous picks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Bijan Robinson (2), Jalin Hyatt (2), Jordan Addison
I'd like a receiver here, especially one with a lot of speed, but the Chargers can't take Hyatt and four others are already off the board. Do they reach for, say, a Josh Downs, or do they benefit from the fact that the top safety is still available, later than you'll see in most mock drafts? The latter, I reckon. The Chargers could pair the cerebral Branch with Derwin James at the back end of the secondary or play him in the slot, where they also have a need. There will be a receiver available to them in the second round.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Previous picks: Jordan Addison (2), Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston (3)
I'd rather see the Ravens get a bigger receiver like Johnston, but that's not an option here and the Ravens desperately need help at the position. They get back the speed they lost when they traded away Hollywood Brown.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Previous picks: Keion White (2), Cam Smith, Nolan Smith, Lukas Van Ness (2)
The Vikings are trying to fix a once-proud defense that has really bottomed out the last three years. They've already signed Dalvin Tomlinson and Marcus Davenport but they continue to remake the front here with an interior rusher who has a lot of upside.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: T Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Previous picks: Michael Mayer (2), O'Cyrus Torrence, Luke Musgrave, Darnell Washington (2)
The Jaguars have to replace right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who signed with the Chiefs to play left tackle on their line. Are they satisfied with letting 2021 second-round pick Walker Little step into that spot? Perhaps. But this particular draft provides another option in Wright, who would be ready to step right into the starting lineup.
25. New York Giants: G O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Previous picks: Zay Flowers (3), Cam Smith, Deonte Banks, Jalin Hyatt
A run on receivers didn't work out all that well for the Giants, and they are prohibited from taking Cam Smith or Deonte Banks, which would have been a really nice solution at this spot. So instead they take the first true guard off the board, which really hits a position of need. New York has invested recent high first-round picks in their tackle position (Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal) but their guards were a mess last year. The Giants cycled through a number of uninspiring options at left guard and saw 2022 addition Mark Glowinski really struggled at right guard. Torrence would have no problem cracking the starting lineup.
26. Dallas Cowboys: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Previous picks: Drew Sanders (3), Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid
Tight end has become a trendy option for the Cowboys at this pick after Dalton Schultz took the six-hour drive down to Houston. And it make sense. Dallas was the recipient in the most recent version of the NFL's biannual Brandin Cooks trade, giving Dak Prescott a deep threat. I might prefer the better receiving chops of Dalton Kincaid here, but he's on the Cowboys' no-go list. So we go with the unicorn at the position, the 6-7 Georgia product who is like a sixth offensive lineman but also has some sick receiving skills to tap into.
27. Buffalo Bills: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
Previous picks: Bijan Robinson (2), Jordan Addison, Jahmyr Gibbs, O'Cyrus Torrence (2)
When Bijan Robinson has made it this far in previous mocks I've enjoyed giving him to the Bills to create the league's newest killer Big Three in Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Robinson. Alas, the Bills are told to keep their hands off the Texas back this time, so they go in another direction and try to make up for the loss of Tremaine Edmunds in free agency. Edmunds really broke out in 2022, particularly in terms of pass coverage. The Bills really struggled in pass defense in the handful of games that Edmunds missed last year. They need to find a replacement who can handle himself in coverage, and that's what Simpson is.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: T Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Previous picks: Emmanuel Forbes, Deonte Banks, Michael Mayer, Darnell Washington, Dalton Kincaid, Luke Musgrave
So the Bengals surprised everyone by signing Orlando Brown after the Chiefs declined to franchise tag him and making it clear Brown would play left tackle. The Bengals already had a left tackle in 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams, but apparently felt they needed an upgrade. Will Williams just flip to the right side and replace La'el Collins. Not if he gets his wish and is traded. Put it all together and the Bengals could use a new right tackle. Fortunately, Jones is sitting right there in front of them, and at 6-8 and 360 pounds he's hard to miss.
29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco through Miami and Denver): RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Previous picks: Nolan Smith (2), Lukas Van Ness, O'Cyrus Torrence, Bryan Bresee, Zay Flowers
Oh man, do I hate this. If I wasn't already on pick 29 and thus heavily invested in this exercise, I might call the whole thing off. I do NOT want Robinson landing in the Big Easy. It wouldn't be fair. The Saints seem to continually bounce from one franchise back into another the way the Packers do with quarterbacks. We've mostly had the Saints trying to address a defensive front that was savaged in free agency, but there isn't a great option here. Robinson would either form a ridiculous one-two punch with Alvin Kamara or take over completely if Kamara's legal issues lead to missed time.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
Previous picks: Siaki Ika, Keion White, Calijah Kancey (4)
As expected, the Eagles took some hits in free agency – most notably DL Javon Hargrave – but overall they had to be pleased to bring back James Bradberry, Darius Slay (who briefly appeared to be on the trade block), Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. That said, both T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White cashed in in free agency after combining for 25 starts at the off-ball linebacker spots in Philly last year. Nakobe Dean, a 2022 third-round pick, presumably graduates into one of those open spots but the Eagles could still use another playmaker for the middle of their defense. Sanders can be that guy and a pass-rusher on occasion if the Eagles find it harder to mount their usual four-man rush without Hargrave.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Previous picks: Will McDonald, Emmanuel Forbes, Nolan Smith, B.J. Ojulari, Keion White, Darnell Wright
We've been all over the board with this pick in our first six mocks. The Chiefs join the Bucs and Bengals as the only teams that have had six different players mocked to them in those previous efforts. Here's number seven, as the edge rush options have either dried out or been blocked by the list above. With this selection, the Chiefs can terrorize opposing lines in the middle with the pairing of Kancey and Chris Jones, making life easier for 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis and recent UFA addition Charles Omenihu