Nate's NFL Mock Draft 2.0
1. Carolina Panthers via Chicago Bears - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State - The Carolina Panthers gave the Bears two first round selections (including number nine in this year’s draft,) two second round selections and D.J. Moore to move up from nine to first in this year’s draft. Obviously they did so to get their choice of quarterback. With names such as Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis available, the Bears opt for Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. A big, physical pocket passer is what Panthers’ head coach Frank Reich prefers and that is Stroud. He’s 6’3” and 214 pounds. He also recently put on a show at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. He was the single most accurate quarterback in attendance and showed off his arm strength. He put his arm on display as he feathered multiple 60-plus-yard deep balls. It’s already the consensus that Stroud will be the selection here.
2. Houston Texans - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama - The Texans aren’t too concerned that the Panthers leap-frogged them in the draft order because they’ll be able to get the quarterback they want in Alabama’s Bryce Young. The going concern is Young’s 5’ 10” and 204 pound frame, making him an injury risk. However, he still plays the quarterback position better than anyone in this draft. He comes with arguably the highest football IQ of the quarterbacks in this draft as well, something that cannot be taught. His accuracy and ball placement too is the best in this class. Young has the ability to extend the play with his legs, improvising on the move. Not only can he use his legs to improvise, the high football IQ too allows him to improvise with his arm. He’s poised in the pocket for someone of his size. Rolling out or scrambling is not his first option, which again, comes with the high football IQ.
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama - The Arizona Cardinals did a bit of work to improve its offensive line via free agency, helping arguably the team’s biggest need. Now they get a chance to take the best overall player in this draft and arguably the most pro-ready prospect this draft has to offer in Will Anderson Jr. to help their porous defense. Anderson is an impactful every-down edge rusher. He racked up over 200 pressures in three seasons at Alabama, playing in the SEC, the closest thing college football has to the NFL. Not only is Anderson phenomenal at getting to the quarterback, he’s a high level run defender as well. This all comes with elite athleticism. There simply isn’t anything to not love about Anderson Jr.
4. Indianapolis Colts - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky - With C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young off the board, the Colts get their choice of Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Levis fits the Colts’ style a bit more. Levis has the prototypical build of an NFL quarterback at 6’3” and 232 pounds. His arm talent is unmatched in this draft. Although one of the rawest talents in this draft, he comes with the highest ceiling of any of the other quarterbacks. Think back to Josh Allen a few years ago. Extreme arm talent but rather raw. That’s what Levis offers. It’ll take some work and adjustments with his throwing motion, but something you can’t teach is the arm talent he brings. I keep bringing up Allen when talking about Levis but it’s hard to ignore. He’ll need some time to develop but he’s one that can play through the development.
5. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech - The Seahawks rewarded journeyman quarterback Geno Smith with a three-year, $75,000,000 contract with $40,000,000 guaranteed after leading the team to the playoffs a year ago. With that being said, quarterback seems to be out of the question. Although Will Anderson Jr. is the most pro-ready player and edge presence in this draft, Wilson is the most athletic of the edge options. Arm length is important when it comes to edge rushers and Wilson officially measured in at 86-inches, or 7-2”. This comes on a 6’6” 271 pound frame. Wilson is simply physically dominant. With that super long and lengthy frame, he comes with elite power for the position as well. He’s versatile with his frame as well. You don’t find players built like Wilson often. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’s even taken over Anderson Jr. this year.
6. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams - Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia - Jalen Carter is far and away the best prospect in this draft. He just comes with some pending legal issues. The issues stem from charges of racing and reckless driving related to a fatal crash that killed two program members. He took a plea bargain to avoid jail time. He’s going to fall in the draft due to this but with such extreme talent, he won’t fall too far and the NFL will overlook these issues. His tape is as good as it gets and is the best defensive tackle prospect since fellow Alabama product Quinnen Williams, who was taken third overall in the 2019 draft by the Jets. He’ll be able to plug into any system and be an instant impact. The Lions could walk away with the best overall prospect and talent in this draft at pick six.
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida - The Raiders did go out and sign former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a three year $72,750,000 contract with $45,000,000 guaranteed. That shouldn’t stop them from drafting one of the best talents in this draft. Richardson is as raw as it gets but does come with elite arm talent and athleticism, two things that cannot be taught. Having Garoppolo under contract didn’t stop the 49ers from drafting Trey Lance third overall two years ago. Richardson will need time to sit, learn and develop in the NFL and that’s what the Raiders will have the luxury to do. Yes there are instant needs the Raiders need to address, but they simply can’t pass up on the chance at getting Richardson. Richardson has rare arm strength and we know how much this organization values arm strength. There’s a very good chance someone will trade up to leap the Raiders for Richardson but if he’s there at seven, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Las Vegas select him.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois - The Falcons’ could use help in many positions but what they lack is a true lockdown cornerback. A.J. Terrell has been serviceable for the team since they took him with the 16th pick in the 2020 draft. They currently run Casey Hayward opposite Terrell and Hayward is 33 years-old. They need to address the position sooner rather than later and getting the best corner prospect in the draft at eight would be a win. Witherspoon comes into the NFL with the best ball skills of any of the corner prospects. He is well experienced and has been successful in man coverage during his college career. He’s also a sure tackler. He won’t miss too many one-on-ones. He doesn’t have the same elite athleticism or build as some of the other prospects in this draft but when it comes to solely playing the position, there is no one better than Witherspoon.
9. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern - The Bears are picking ninth overall after trading the first overall selection to the Carolina Panthers. Despite moving back nine spots, they get a chance to take the best prospect in arguably their most important position of need. There was some growing concern that Skoronski would be best suited as a guard in the NFL but after measuring in at 6’4” and 313 pounds with 32 ¼ inch arms, he’s well suited to play tackle at the next level. Skoronski had one of the highest graded offensive line years of all time. He displayed his explosiveness at the NFL Draft Combine with a 34.5-inch vertical and 9-foot-7 broad jump. The Bears have their quarterback of the future in place and acquired him a big time weapon in the same trade that landed them this pick. It’s now time that the team protects their quarterback.
10. Philadelphia Eagles - Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh - The Eagles saw interior defensive lineman Javon Hargrave leave for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency, leaving a gaping hole in the center of their defensive line. They get the chance to snag one of the draft’s biggest risers with the first of two first round selections here. Kancey is drawing Aaron Donald comparisons and not just because they went to the same college. He broke Donald’s NFL Draft Combine’s 40-yard dash record for a defensive lineman with a time of 4.67. Like Donald, Kancey too is undersized by NFL standards for the position at 6’1” and 281 pounds. He has shorter than ideal arms at 31 inches as well. Although the measurements don’t meet the eye, his play on tape does. He is nearly impossible to block.
11. Tennessee Titans - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State - The Titans have done a great job in improving its offensive line with bringing in Andre Dillard and Daniel Brunskill. With that being said, they can invest in another position of need; wide receiver. Jaxon Smith-Njiba may not be the best receiver in this class but he’s what the Titans need. Opposed to the build of Quentin Williams, Smith-Njiba is a speedster who runs routes extremely well and has the ability to get open. He didn’t run the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine but did post numbers such as 6.57-second three-cone and 3.93-second short shuttle which were both the best of receivers in attendance. With the big bodied Treylon Burks already on the roster, adding a shifty and speedy Smith-Njiba would be ideal.
12. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa - The Texans already acquired their quarterback of the future with the second overall pick in Bryce Young in this mock and now get to add a fantastic defensive piece. Van Ness gets a bit overshadowed in this draft with the elite talents of Will Anderson Jr. and Tyree Wilson but he is no consolation prize. Van Ness is an athletic freak in his own sense as he put that on display at the NFL Draft Combine. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.58 seconds at 272 pounds. His hands also measured in at 11 inches which will do wonders in block shedding at the NFL level. He has the ideal build and length of an NFL edge rusher as well at 6-foot-5.
13. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State - The New York Jets have been active in free agency adding skill position weapons to their roster in anticipation of Aaron Rodgers joining the team. Now, their biggest position of need is their offensive line. They may be getting the draft’s best offensive tackle at 13. Paris Johnson Jr. is three inches taller than Peter Skoronski and has much longer arms. Since 2000 only 19 tackles have measured in with arms over 36 inches in the pre-draft process and one of them is Johnson Jr. He uses those arms with elite coordination, recoverability and controlled aggression. He too has elite athleticism for his size. He comes with an excellent baseline and the highest ceiling of any tackle prospect in this draft.
14. New England Patriots - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia - Nolan Smith just seems like a Patriots’ guy. A bit overshadowed due to his size. He measured in at 6’2” and 238 pounds at the combine. Although undersized, he had himself an all-time combine performance. He appeared to be more of a wide receiver in an edge rusher’s body. Smith ran a 4.39 40 yard dash and recorded a 41.5-inch vertical. He also leaped 10-foot-8 in the broad jump. Smith also was one of the most physical players in all of college football a year ago. He too is just as good against the run as he is against the pass. This may be a little early for him but if we’ve learned anything from the Patriots, they’re not afraid to draft their guy early on.
15. Green Bay Packers - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU - The Packers are in an odd position. They’ll likely be moving Aaron Rodgers prior to the start of next year and transitioning to Jordan Love. What they need to do is provide Love with some weapons and what a weapon they can acquire here. Johnston is the best receiver in this class, so getting him as the second receiver off the board at 15 would be ideal. Johnston is a very good route runner for a guy of his size at 6”3” and 208 pounds. He comes with great speed as well for his size and can move more like a slot receiver than simply a jump ball specialist. Johnston posted a 40.5-inch vertical and an 11-foot-2 broad jump at the NFL Draft Combine. He’s simply a specimen.
16. Washington Commanders - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon - Christian Gonzalez is simply an athletic freak. At the NFL Draft Combine he posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical and an 11-foot-1 broad jump. He has great length for the position as well and a high football IQ to have the instincts needed to be a CB1 in the NFL. There’s a very solid chance Gonzalez is well gone by the time the Commanders pick at 16 so if he’s there, they’ll be happy campers. With the numbers he posted, he could very well be off the board in the top 10.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Joey Porter Jr., Penn State, CB - Is there a more fitting landing spot for Joey Porter Jr. than Pittsburgh where his father spent eight years of his decorated career? I think not. The Steelers let Cam Sutton leave and brought in the 32-year-old Patrick Peterson. This is still a very porous secondary so getting Porter Jr. would help drastically. The best tool Porter Jr. offers is his length. At 6’2” he comes with 34-inch arms. He’s ideal for press coverage in the NFL. He posted a 4.46 40-yard dash which is more than enough. He also has excellent ball skills at the catch point and has shown significant development during his last year at Penn State. Porter Jr. has the tools to be great in the NFL.
18. Detroit Lions - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame - The Detroit Lions have been working diligently to improve its poor defense via free agency. They brought in names such as Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Mosley, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Alex Anzalone. They used the first of their two first round selections in this mock draft in Jalen Carter and now can give some attention to their offense. Mayer posted a 4.7 40-yard time at the NFL Draft Combine. His speed is not going to be a weapon but posted the same time at the Combine as T.J. Hockenson did who was selected by the Lions in the top ten in 2019. He still has a skill set that will easily translate into the NFL. Mayer has great ball skills and contested-catch ability. He’ll be a mismatch target in the middle of the field and offer another option for Jared Goff. He too is a competent blocker. He has great in-line blocking skills that will allow for impact in both the run and pass game.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brian Branch, S, Alabama - Brian Branch posted a 4.58 40-yard time at the NFL Draft Combine which isn’t anything special but more than enough to cover the slot. Branch has a very high football IQ, again, something that cannot be taught. He’s a very versatile defender who can move around the defensive side of the ball with ease. He’s also very good in the run game as a high-level tackler. He simply doesn’t miss in the open field. He’s far-and-away the best safety in this year’s draft and for a team with the biggest need in that position, taking Branch here makes a lot of sense.
20. Seattle Seahawks - Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson - The Seahawks use both of their first round selections to solidify their defensive line. With already taking Tyree Wilson, the Seahawks get a chance to get the athletic freak that is Bryan Bresee. Bresee ran a 4.86 40-yard dash with a 1.71-second 10-yard split. That speed with a 6’5” and 298 frame is moving. With that type of speed and explosiveness, he’s going to be an impactful pass-rusher from the interior defensive line. With Wilson on the edge and Bresee demanding attention in the middle, the Seahawks could put together one of the better young one-two-punches the NFL has to offer.
21. Los Angeles Chargers - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia - The Chargers are in need of some offensive line help in a big way. Broderick Jones has a “svelte” build opposed to the “chunkier” options in this class. He has incredible athleticism for a tackle. He too comes with a “finisher” mentality. Jones may have the highest upside and potential for the position in this draft as well. The size is there at 6’5” and 311 pounds.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College - The Ravens have yet to ink Lamar Jackson to a new contract leaving his status in Baltimore up in the air. Either way, no matter who is the quarterback in Baltimore moving forward, the receiving corps is one of the worst in the league. Flowers has been working to fill out his frame and he’s done well. Although just 5’9”, the way he’s filed out makes the size a non-issue. He posted a 4.42 40-yard dash time and a 10-foot-7 broad jump. Adding Flowers to the likes of Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay would help this poor group.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland - This is one of the overall best cornerback groups we’ve seen in some time. Banks joins the group of super-freak corner prospects. He may have been one of the biggest winners of the NFL Draft Combine as he displayed his 4.35 40-yard dash speed. He also posted numbers such as a 42-inch vertical and 10-foot-4 broad jump. The Vikings lost Patrick Peterson and brought in Byron Murphy but still need help in the secondary. Banks is a surefire first round prospect after his stellar combine.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma - The Jaguars lost Jawaan Taylor via free agency, leaving a vacancy on its offensive line. Anton Harrison is not an elite athlete but does offer some of the best pass protection skills that will transition into the NFL. Harrison is also built ideally to be an NFL tackle. His 6’4” and 315 pound frame comes with 34 ⅛” inch arms. The length is there to succeed at the next level and that is part of why he is such a gifted pass protector. With Trevor Lawrence’s development, the team needs to invest in protecting their franchise quarterback.
25. New York Giants - Jordan Addison, WR, USC - The Giants are in desperate need of some receiver help. With a current projection of Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell and Wan’Dale Robinson set to lead the corps during the season, that just isn’t going to do. With three receivers off the board the Giants aren’t getting someone they’d like to see drop to them. Addison didn’t have a bad combine but he didn’t do himself any favors. He did post a 4.49 40-yard dash, 34 inch vertical and a 10-foot-2 broad jump. Those numbers are average to below-average. However, Addison is still a very good route runner and has a sense of shiftiness to him. He’s able to get separation consistently at all levels. He does so with a crafty release package and work at the top of his routes. Although his combine wasn’t the best, I still think Addison is very good.
26. Dallas Cowboys - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys parted ways with longtime running back Ezekiel Elliott, opening the door for them to bring in Bijan Robinson. They do have Tony Pollard still but they’ve proven to have a successful backfield pairing the last couple of seasons with Elliott and Pollard. That’s what they are able to do with Robinson. Robinson’s rare and freakish qualities are not able to be captured via combine drills but he still posted a 4.46 40-yard dash with a 1.52-second split, a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4 broad jump. For a running back of 215 pounds, those are dynamic numbers.
27. Buffalo Bills - Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State - Tremaine Edmunds has left town, leaving a void in the middle of Buffalo’s defense. Henley is a wide receiver turned linebacker. He posted a 4.54 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, proving that the receiver athleticism is still there. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and is competent in pass coverage. His best trait is arguably his first step with the explosiveness he possesses. Although new to the position and a bit of a “tweener” he hits with a purpose. He still has a long way to develop as he’s new to the position but he’s already made drastic strides. He’s the best linebacker in this draft and reaching such a level in such a short period of time shows what kind of ceiling he has.
28. Cincinnati Bengals - O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida - The Bengals have done a great job in quickly developing their offensive line from two seasons ago. What was once one of the worst in the league is quickly becoming one of the better ones. They added Orlando Brown via free agency and now have the chance to add another talent in the draft’s best guard in O’Cyrus Torrence. Torrence is very dominant in the run game due to his physicality at the point of attack. He’s no one trick pony either as he’s an anchor in pass protection. His combine numbers are a bit worrisome and he isn’t the best of athletes. I still think he’s a very good prospect and has the size at 6’5”, 315 pounds to be a quality guard in the NFL.
29. New Orleans Saints via San Francisco 49ers - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson - The Saints lost Kaden Elliss in free agency and need to find his replacement. With Derek Carr in town and a slew of offensive weapons already, the team can focus on addressing its defensive troubles. We didn’t get to see much of Murphy at the NFL Draft Combine outside of the bench press. However, he’s still being billed as one of the biggest freaks in this draft, which is saying a lot with the talent this draft has to offer. Tape suggests that he will develop just fine into the NFL, even if he didn’t test in Indy.
30. Philadelphia Eagles - Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama - With a second first round selection the Eagles have the luxury to reach a little bit to find their running back of the future. Miles Sanders has left the organization and the team has done as much as bringing in Rashaad Penny to replace him. Penny is talented but not what the Eagles need in their offensive that relies heavily on running backs. Gibbs is arguably the best receiving back in this draft. Sanders has not been as heavily involved in the passing game this past season but in past seasons has been a big part of the team’s passing attack. Gibbs is a very explosive runner with high athleticism and elusiveness. He’ll fit right into this Eagles’ offense.
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina - The Chiefs have lost both Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman this off-season, leaving behind a decrepit receiving corp. It’s not like Patrick Mahomes can’t make any receiver work, but he still needs some talent catching the football. Downs comes with 4.48 40-yard speed which is plenty fast enough to be Mahomes’ new slot target. He is on the smaller side at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds but that’s fine for someone in the slot. Downs is a dynamic and explosive athlete who had a high-production career at North Carolina. He put together back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in college with 101 and 94 receptions respectively. The strongest part of his game may be the run after the catch which will be a nightmare for opposing defenses with Mahomes throwing him the football.