He's got an outside shot to be the first West Pointer taken in Round 1 in the NFL's common draft era (since 1967) ... even if a player like Georgia Tech's Keion White is probably an easier evaluation here. But when you're 6-7 and 260 pounds, Carter must be on the radar. His 15½ sacks in 2021 ranked second only to Anderson nationally and earned him a spot on that season's third-team All-American squad. Carter — or, sure, White — could give the champs a nice edge mix with veteran Frank Clark and 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis.
White was another player who had a great week at the Senior Bowl, and NFL teams love his size (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) and his motor. He consistently wins at the line of scrimmage and is good against both the run and getting after the quarterback. He may eventually end up going early on Day 2 but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him slip into the first round.
One of the biggest offseason decisions that the Super Bowl champs are going to have to make is in regard to Orlando Brown Jr. I believe they make the decision to part ways and save money on the cap. This means that they need to address the issue via the draft. In this NFL mock draft, they take Anton Harrison, a player who is a plus athlete and has the upside to step right in and fill that vacancy.
Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. played on the franchise tag last season, and right tackle Andrew Wylie is scheduled to become a free agent next month. The Chiefs are likely to franchise Brown again, if necessary, to extend their window to negotiate a long-term deal. That makes a right tackle prospect like Jones or Tennessee's Darnell Wright a good fit here. Jones is a massive tackle prospect, even when compared to Brown, and has a "rare" 89½" wingspan.
One of the most prolific pass rushers in Big 12 history, McDonald has an explosive burst off the edge. With 34 career sacks, McDonald tied the league record and was a three-time all-Big 12 selection. He has 35-inch arms to go on a 6-4, 241-pound frame, and he uses that length to get separation off the edge. If McDonald sneaks into the first round, he would mark the first Cyclone with that distinction since 1973.
We watched the dominant Philadelphia pass rush go sack free against the Chiefs on Sunday night, which was huge for Kansas City given Patrick Mahomes' ankle injury. That's a testament to the Chiefs' OL, which finished the season with just 26 sacks allowed (third) and the league's top pass block win rate (74.7%). But neither starting offensive tackle -- Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie -- is under contract next season, so Kansas City will have to figure out how to replenish the line. Duncan still has some developing to do, and he struggled against top-tier teams in 2022, allowing six sacks to Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State. But he moves well for a 6-foot-6 prospect and has good anchoring strength.
Chris Jones is essentially the Chiefs' pass rush — Frank Clark must think the season begins in January. McDonald has been highly productive for the Cyclones — he has at least five sacks in four straight seasons and double-digit sacks in two of the last three — despite playing out of position for most of his collegiate career. He's an explosive, instinctive pass rusher, who is already receiving a boost in his draft stock after his impressive performance during Senior Bowl week.
The Jags' top three tight ends are unsigned. Kincaid, an All-Pac-12 player (70 catches, 890 yards, 8 TDs) in 2022, might be better than all of them and would give QB Trevor Lawrence another dangerous weapon for an ascending offense.
Musgrave was getting some late-first/early Day-2 buzz down in Mobile, and while he didn't have a great week, it was certainly easy to see why teams like him. He missed most of '22 with an injury but he's well built, long, and has the athleticism to consistently separate from both safeties and linebackers. His blocking is a work in progress but he'll be a contributor in the passing game from Day 1.
The Jaguars were one of the surprise teams of the 2022 season. With the opportunity to continue to build, I believe that they need to simply continue to add talented players regardless of their position. Cam Smith is a versatile cover that can play man or zone and is very competitive—just the type of player that the Jaguars need to solidify this upward trend as an organization.
Evan Engram set career highs in receptions (73) and yards (766) in his first season with the Jaguars. Both sides want Engram to be back, but will they be able to make it work financially? Based on effective cap space from Over the Cap, the Jaguars are projected to be nearly $23 million over the cap. In terms of being used as a weapon in the passing game, Kincaid is as talented as any tight end in this class.
There's no such thing as giving Trevor Lawrence too many weapons as the Jaguars continue to build after being one of the best stories in the NFL last season. The ever-versatile Mayer is arguably the best tight end in this class and gives Jacksonville both a strong blocker and a dangerous pass catcher. If Evan Engram returns to Jacksonville, the Jags will have an elite one-two punch at the position. But if the Jaguars lose Engram to free agency, Mayer gives them a nice insurance policy.
The Jaguars' pass game took a huge step forward in Trevor Lawrence's second season. The Christian Kirk signing paid off, and Calvin Ridley -- acquired at the deadline -- should be a factor next season once he returns from suspension. But Lawrence probably still needs another pass-catcher, especially because tight end Evan Engram is a free agent and we can't be sure what Ridley will bring after missing more than a year.
Smith-Njigba is a tough evaluation. He caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three TDs in the 2021 season's Rose Bowl, capping off a 1,606-yard campaign. But he had two catches in that game that were longer than his total yardage for the entire 2022 season (43), as a nagging hamstring injury limited him to five catches over three contests. JSN displays soft hands, precise route running and good after-the-catch ability, and he could be a steal for Jacksonville if he falls here.
The Jaguars' defense has had its moments this season, but is still short a few pieces. As a red-shirt sophomore, Ringo's size/speed combination is still developing, but the former five-star recruit will compete to be the first cornerback selected solely based on his talent and potential.
It seems a given the NYJ will acquire a veteran quarterback this spring, so it stands to reason they should bolster an offensive line set to lose starting OT George Fant and C Connor McGovern in free agency. Johnson (6-6, 310 pounds) would assume the left tackle job Mekhi Becton hasn't been healthy (or nimble) enough to hold down. If Becton gets on the field in 2023, slot him for the right side.
Torrence transferred from Louisiana and didn't miss a beat. He was dominant for Florida last fall, he was dominant during Senior Bowl practices, and if history is any guide, he'll be dominant in the NFL, too.
I believe that the Jets are able to acquire Aaron Rodgers via trade. If they do, they know that they have a small window to have an opportunity to win a championship. They need to maximize this by surrounding Rodgers with as much as possible. The Jets appear to be in a good spot at the receiver position, but this offensive line needs to be drastically improved. Dawand Jones is a player that can fill a void at RT.
George Fant will be a free agent, Duane Brown will be 38 years old in August and it's unclear what the Jets will get from Mekhi Becton, who has played only 48 snaps (Week 1, 2021) over the past two seasons combined. Jones is relatively inexperienced, as only a season-plus starter, but he has the length, athleticism and potential to provide long-term stability at left tackle as he continues to grow into his frame and refine his technique.
The Jets desperately need help on the offensive line, and lo and behold, they've got an opportunity to grab one of the best offensive tackles available. The Jets ranked among the worst teams in the NFL in both pass blocking and run blocking, per PFF. Enter Jones, who played in every game of Georgia's back-to-back national championship seasons, starting all 15 games in 2022. The 6-foot-4, 314-pound tackle is just what the Jets need at a position that's been recently held back by injuries and inconsistent play. They've got to fix the offense, and it starts up front.
The Jets' 2022 rookie class produced both the offensive (Garrett Wilson) and defensive (Sauce Gardner) Rookie of the Year. Can GM Joe Douglas hit on a first-rounder again, this time outside the top 10?
The Jets were middle of the pack in sacks allowed (42, 19th) and pass block win rate (57.1%, 21st) last season. But consider that George Fant is hitting free agency, Duane Brown will be 38 years old, Alijah Vera-Tucker is more of a guard and returning from a triceps injury and Mekhi Becton has played one game since his 2020 rookie year. If New York does find a way to bring in Aaron Rodgers or another veteran QB, it will need to protect him. Jones didn't allow a single sack over 15 starts last year, showcasing the ability to stall both speed and power off the edge.
The Jets' best two offensive lineman (Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker) have been hurt and the rest are facing free agency this offseason. Jones doesn't have the experience other prospects possess in this class — he's only started 19 games for the Bulldogs — but his athleticism, intelligence and footwork pops when you watch him.
Jets GM Joe Douglas traded Sam Darnold after watching him for two seasons, and it wouldn't surprise me if he does the same with Zach Wilson, if the fit doesn't improve. (Though it's worth noting that Wilson was Douglas' pick, while Darnold was not.) Richardson's throws don't always hit their targets, but his quick feet allow him to step up and out of the pocket, and he fits balls into tight spaces with easy velocity. His combination of agility and power as a runner is also intriguing. Don't be surprised if he's the best playmaker out of this QB crop four years down the road.
Mayer is more Gronk than Kelce but that's not a bad thing. And in Green Bay he'll get plenty of chances, whether it's with Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, or the QB behind Door No. 3. WR also makes sense here but, well, the Packers last drafted a WR in the first round 21 years ago.
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers need to go separate ways, which means that it is the Jordan Love show. With that being the case, the front office understands that they need to surround Love with as many weapons as possible. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the perfect pairing with the young, explosive vertical threats that the Packers drafted last year.
Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are coming off productive rookie seasons, and Mayer would give Aaron Rodgers (or Jordan Love) another weapon in the passing game. Mayer has an all-around skill set with the ability to play in-line and was the focal point of Notre Dame's passing offense, leading the team in receiving three years in a row.
Forget about a difference maker at tight end or a safety, both needs that must also be addressed. If Green Bay's offensive line doesn't improve, nothing else matters. Yes, the franchise has done well in later rounds with offensive linemen — and the Packers last drafted an offensive lineman in the first round in 2011 — but picking this early gives the Packers a shot at landing a stud tackle for years to come. Injuries to David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins have made it clear just how irreplaceable elite linemen are. Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Packers can't miss on an opportunity to invest in 2024 and beyond by taking Skoronski, who could also turn out to be a reliable guard.
We project a pass-catcher to the Packers in Round 1 year in and year out, and every time the first round rolls around, they go another direction. In fact, Green Bay hasn't drafted a pass-catcher on Day 1 since it took Javon Walker in 2002. But after missing the playoffs and potentially losing Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan to free agency, the Packers' hand might be forced in 2023 -- no matter who is under center. Mayer has a huge catch radius and is a bulldozer after the catch, hauling in 67 balls for 809 yards and nine scores last season. He might be the safest prospect in the entire class thanks to an all-around skill set, and he'd be an instant-impact player for Green Bay.
The further we get outside of the top-10, the harder it will be to pass on Mayer. The Irish pipeline at tight end to the NFL continues to flourish. Mayer isn't as explosive as Kyle Pitts, but his receiving acumen, size (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) and toughness put him just a tick below Pitts as a prospect. Both Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis will be free agents.
Smith-Njigba is just as talented as the three former Ohio State receivers -- Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams -- picked in the top 12 last year. (Williams, of course, played his final year at Alabama.) He has excellent hands and quickness/strength after the catch. If his troublesome hamstring is fully healed, I expect teams to place a high value on him. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the Packers moved up to grab JSN, or one of the top tight ends, to aid whoever their quarterback might be in 2023.
The son of the former Steelers linebacking star of the same name, Porter Jr. is a big (6-2, 194) corner who could plug in nicely for a team that could use quality depth beyond what Kendall Fuller provides.
The Commanders have spent significant draft capital on the front seven over the past couple years and have neglected the back end. It shows. The Commanders' secondary is clearly the weak point of this defense and needs to be upgraded. Drafting Devon Witherspoon is a step in the right direction and helps improve this secondary.
Coach Ron Rivera has recently said, "I know this: We will go into OTAs, minicamp and training camp with Sam Howell more than likely QB1, and we'll see what happens." As much as I didn't expect Howell to last until the fifth round last April, it wouldn't be a shock if the Commanders took a chance on Richardson if he was still available here. Given his size, athletic traits and immense dual-threat upside, Richardson most often draws comparisons to Cam Newton, who won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in Rivera's first season as a head coach. (To be clear, I'm not projecting that Richardson will win OROY, or even start in this scenario, but Rivera should appreciate Richardson's potential.)
The Commanders need cornerback help, and this is a loaded class for that position. Smith is a physical cornerback with good ball skills, recording six interceptions and 18 passes defended for the Gamecocks. He finished ninth in the country in passes defended per game in 2021 and allowed multiple catches just twice in 11 games that year. His speed is good but not great.
A terrific cover corner, Witherspoon allowed just 3.3 yards per attempt thrown his direction this season, second best in the nation, and he picked off three passes. Washington's pass defense improved a bit in 2022, but it still needs a dominant playmaker on the outside opposite Kendall Fuller. And Witherspoon's ball skills would help create some takeaways after the Commanders finished 28th with nine interceptions.
Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz and Sam Howell (he was solid versus the Cowboys in Week 18) likely won't prohibit the Commanders from seeking a quarterback. Especially one that might remind coach Ron Rivera of Cam Newton — not necessarily his fashion sense — his former MVP signal-caller in Carolina. Richardson is the wild-card in this QB class. His range is anywhere from first overall pick — I expect scouts and coaches/coordinators to fall in love with his traits (i.e. ceiling) — to a day two selection.
Skoronski's lack of length could be an issue for NFL teams in the top half of the first round. Washington had great success converting another Big Ten tackle to guard when the team moved former Iowa Hawkeye Brandon Scherff inside. Could be déjà vu all over again, with Skoronski's mobility and power making him an excellent pro lineman no matter where he lines up.
A guy who can play up and down the line, Bresee (6-5, 300 pounds) fits the profile of a Philly first-rounder — and especially in a year when the team's defensive tackle depth will likely be decimated with Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph ticketed for free agency.
Gonzalez, a Colorado transfer, is a big-time athlete who is still growing into the position. He has the size, strength and speed to line up against NFL wide receivers; he just needs to improve in run support.
Ojulari, whose brother played at Georgia and plays for the Giants, had a solid campaign for the Tigers, and he has many of the same explosive qualities that made his brother so hard to block for the Bulldogs. Ojulari could end up being better than Azeez, and that's saying something.
The Eagles came up just short in the Super bowl and played well offensively. The one part of their game that did not perform as well as they would like is their run game. So with this pick, the Eagles chose to improve that by adding one of the best running backs to enter the draft in years. Robinson is a game-changer and the Eagles embrace the fact that they are simply going to have to be able to outscore any opponent to win the Super Bowl.
The Eagles have made it clear to the NFL that they value the defensive line position. This philosophy has proven to work as they had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and made it to the Super Bowl. Last year they drafted one of the biggest defensive linemen in the draft Jordan Davis and this year, I think they draft Calijah Kancey. Kancey is an undersized defensive lineman, but he makes up for it in explosiveness and will have a true impact along the defensive front. Kancey has non-traditional size but I believe he will have a big impact for the Eagles.
Witherspoon has put himself into the CB1 mix, although he's the second off the board in this mock. The three-year starter is a confident, smart and physical cornerback with outstanding ball skills. He finished last season with three interceptions and 14 pass breakups. Given that James Bradberry is scheduled to become a free agent in March, and Darius Slay will be a free agent after next season, cornerback is a position that the NFC champs could address with one of their first-round picks.
White played tight end for Old Dominion in 2018, transitioned to defense in '19 and then ODU didn't play football in '20. He transferred to Georgia Tech for the '21 season and had his most productive season (14 TFLs and 7.5 sacks) in '22. While he's relatively new to the defensive side of the ball, he's extremely athletic for a 280-pound edge defender. Considering the way the Eagles rotate their defensive linemen, Philly would have the benefit of utilizing White in a way that maximizes his development.
Porter started 31 games over the past four years and developed into a shutdown corner. His physicality initially caused him problems in college, but improved in his ability to eliminate penalties while not losing his edge. Porter had 20 pass breakups and 113 tackles during his collegiate career. He grew up in NFL locker rooms and has dissected the game with his dad for as long as the younger Porter can remember. With this selection, he'll become the first Penn State defensive back selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
I really wanted Bijan Robinson, but since no trades are allowed in this mock draft I turned to the linebacker talent pool. Expect Simpson to turn heads at the combine. A member of Feldman's Freaks List, Simpson could be yet another valuable weapon on an Eagles defense that looks to be loaded for years to come.
The loaded Eagles went to the Super Bowl for good reason, and GM Howie Roseman's focus on building out from the trenches proved valuable. But now, they could lose three of their top four defensive linemen in terms of snap counts to free agency, including Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox up the middle. Roseman drafted Jordan Davis in Round 1 last April, and bringing in Bresee to pair with him could shore up an important unit for the team. Bresee has fantastic upper-body strength to slow down opponent run games and work through blockers as an interior pass-rusher.
Philly might have had 14 wins, but it will have a lot of offseason concerns to address, mainly on defense. Joining Hargrave and Cox with expiring contracts are James Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Brandon Graham, Robert Quinn, Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards, Marcus Epps and Isaac Seumalo, so there are a lot of directions to go here. I also still like the idea of Texas' Bijan Robinson in Philadelphia, with Miles Sanders headed to free agency, but it's really, really early for a running back, and the defense is going to have all those holes to plug. Remember, the Eagles also have a second first-rounder.
It has been a while since the Eagles were first on the clock at No. 10, when they took a defensive tackle (Bryan Bresee). Now Philadelphia pivots to the other side of the ball but stays in the trenches. The Eagles have Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata under contract for three more years, but Harrison could provide depth and perhaps help out on the interior, where the team might lose a couple starters this offseason. He walls off defenders and has allowed just two sacks over three seasons. And perhaps more importantly for Philly's offense, he has blown just seven run blocks over that time.
Jalen Hurts had to carry the entire offensive load with his arm and legs in the Super Bowl, while both Miles Sanders and Boston Scott face free agency. Few things are certain at this point, but I'm fairly positive the Doak Walker Award-winning Robinson will be the first running back selected in late April (positional bias will likely keep him from going inside the top-10). He's an all-around threat who is light on his feet considering his size (6-foot, 215 pounds) and features home-run ability.
GM Howie Roseman added former All-Pros Robert Quinn (via trade) and Ndamukong Suh as stop gaps on the defensive line this year. White should be one of the top performers at the combine, where his draft stock will likely soar. A former tight end at Old Dominion, he's still developing his defensive chops, but his combination of size (6-5, 280) and speed doesn't come along every year.
If Miles Sanders finds a new home in free agency, the Eagles could have interest in adding Robinson as a dual-threat weapon in their prolific attack. He slaloms through traffic inside and displays an upfield burst in the open field.
Philadelphia has not picked a defensive back in the first round since 2002 (cornerback Lito Sheppard), but the Eagles could end that drought if Chauncey Gardner-Johnson departs in free agency. Hickman lines up all over the field and brings a physicality to the position that will endear him to Philly fans.
A number of directions they can go following the release of Carr, though the guess here is the Silver and Black will pursue a veteran replacement in free agency. A 28th-ranked defense is also in dire need of help. But with starting RT Jermaine Eluemunor unsigned, Skoronski could upgrade that spot opposite established Kolton Miller but also transition back to the left side down the road.
It's hard to imagine that Jarrett Stidham would be in the team's long-term plans as a starter. And with Derek Carr set to be somewhere else in 2023 -- and Tom Brady officially-for-now retired -- drafting a QB seems to be a high priority. Levis, who definitely looks the part, was plagued by injuries and poor play all fall. That said, NFL teams love how he projects to the next level but he'll be a controversial talking point in the coming months.
The Raiders kick this NFL mock draft off in true Raiders fashion, trading from the seventh pick to the first pick to select their guy, Bryce Young. It has been proven that Josh McDaniels needs a very specific quarterback to run his system and I think Young is that guy. There are simply too many relationships from Nick Saban and Bill Belichick to Bill O'Brien having coached with McDaniels in the past. I think McDaniels will have enough intel to make the selection and feel comfortable about handing the keys over to Young in Las Vegas.
Who will be under center for the Black-and-Silver in Week 1? While that's yet to be determined, we know it won't be Derek Carr. Will Levis or Anthony Richardson could be a possibility here, but it wouldn't surprise me if their Week 1 starter is a veteran not currently on the roster. Skoronski was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Wildcats, who may have otherwise kicked inside due to a lack of arm length. Given that the Raiders have Kolton Miller at left tackle, however, Skoronski would immediately provide an upgrade at one of the other spots along the line.
If an Aaron Rodgers—Davante Adams reunion is a no-go, here's a franchise quarterback who fell into my lap. Yes, there was a ton of talent around Stroud at Ohio State, including a star-studded receiving corps. That detail doesn't diminish the value of his arm talent and production. After putting up 40-plus touchdowns against six interceptions in back-to-back years, it's time for Stroud to start working with another superstar wide receiver.
The Derek Carr era is over, and Tom Brady is no longer an option after he retired this month. Las Vegas will explore other available veterans, but Levis would fit in nicely. He has a huge arm to drive the ball downfield to Davante Adams, and at 232 pounds, he is a strong runner on designed rushes and scrambles. Levis has experience with pro-style concepts, too, and his ceiling is sky high. But can coach Josh McDaniels clean up Levis' turnovers (23 interceptions over the past two years) and maximize his traits? That will be the biggest question for the team that ultimately picks Levis. If the Raiders can iron out those issues, they might have a long-term solve to help them compete in the AFC West with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
The Raiders are a darkhorse in a potential QB derby for this draft — I believe they'll target the position in free agency with Jimmy Garoppolo seeking a fresh start or even potentially try and reunite Davante Adams with Aaron Rodgers through a trade — but regardless of who's under center, the protection will have to improve. Skoronski took over for Rashawn Slater as a true freshman in 2020 and the offense didn't miss a beat. Some scouts may say his size better suits him to play guard, but they also said that about Slater. Either way, he'd be an upgrade for Las Vegas and whoever ends up under center.
If the Raiders sign Jimmy Garoppolo or trade for Aaron Rodgers, they'll spend this pick on an offensive lineman to make their new signal-caller's life easier. Johnson is as tough as they come, excelling at left tackle and right guard during his career at Ohio State.
The Lions have the perfect situation for Richardson as he enters the league. He can sit behind Jared Goff for at least a year and then provide the rewards that come from building a team around a quarterback playing on his rookie contract.
As satisfied as they seem with QB Jared Goff, this might be the Lions' last best chance to take a young quarterback knowing Goff's contract only runs two more seasons. But barring that, Detroit has to alter what was statistically the league's worst defense in 2022. As disappointing as Jeff Okudah and these corners have generally been, Witherspoon makes perfect sense — and his willingness to tackle and mix it up behind the line of scrimmage while taking on runners seem to be a good fit for a Dan Campbell-coached team.
Porter is the prototypical big, physical cornerback who looks like he belongs in the NFL. He can sometimes get a little too handsy downfield, but he checks many of the boxes of what team's look for when drafting DBs. Is this too early for Porter? Maybe ... then again, there is a premium on big, physical cornerbacks; in recent drafts Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II were all taken early in the first round.
Van Ness never started a game at Iowa but that's not the point. The point is that NFL teams love his size, his athleticism, and where his game could be a couple of years from now. Purdue's George Karlaftis went at the end of Round 1 a year ago, and USC's Drake Jackson went a round later; both players were high-upside prospects who exceeded expectations as rookies. Van Ness is in the same conversation but could be the best of the bunch.
The Lions finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the NFL and have clearly placed themselves in the running for the NFC North crown next year. But they need to fix a defense that was one of the worst units in the NFL. They start to fix that by addressing the back end and drafting Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez may be the best athlete of all the corners in this class and has the ability to play lockdown man-to-man coverage. Gonzalez paired with Jeff Okudah should give the Lions a nice young pair moving forward.
It is clear that Dan Campbell has a very specific culture that he is trying to cultivate and Bryan Breese fits that perfectly. Breese is a tough, hard-nosed player that is also extremely talented. The opportunity to draft Breese is a steal for the Lions and also the perfect fit for Campbell and this staff.
Cornerback is arguably the team's biggest need heading into the offseason, even though the Lions used a top-three pick on Jeff Okudah in 2020. Both Amani Oruwariye and Mike Hughes are scheduled to become free agents next month. The brother-in-law of former Lions quarterback David Blough, Gonzalez has elite speed (23.3 mph on GPS, per Bruce Feldman), smooth change-of-direction ability and excellent length. Gonzalez had four interceptions for the Ducks in '22.
Double-dipping with defensive picks in the first round is a distinct possibility for the Lions. While Detroit ranked top five in both total and scoring offense in 2022, it ranked last in total defense and only the Bears (27.2) and Cardinals (26.4) allowed more points per game than the Lions (25.1), who also ranked 28th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric for defense. Rookies Aidan Hutchinson (9.5) and James Houston (eight) combined for 17.5 sacks last season, but Bresee has the quickness and power to be a disruptive three-technique for the Lions.
Illinois led the nation in scoring defense, and Witherspoon and the secondary were the key to the Illini's defensive emergence. Witherspoon always was assigned the opponent's best receiver, no matter if it was field, boundary or slot. According to Pro Football Focus, Witherspoon was targeted 63 times and allowed just 22 catches for 206 yards and no scores. Plus, he can bring the thunder. Witherspoon has the potential to become a shutdown corner and the toughness to further restore the roar in Detroit.
The Lions won eight of their final 10 games but were 28th or worse in the most important defensive categories, including last overall in total defense. With a pair of talented rush ends in Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston, Detroit needs a two-down run stuffer in the worst way. Ika has that ability with his 6-4, 360-pound frame to tie up blockers and quick enough footwork to close gaps.
I think Detroit sticks with Jared Goff and uses this pick on a porous defensive unit. I considered a cornerback, but Murphy has a much higher grade than my CB1 -- and the defense needs support at multiple positions. It couldn't stop anyone last season, allowing a league-high 6.2 yards per play. Adding Murphy's speed off the edge to a group that already includes 2022 first-rounder Aidan Hutchinson and surprise rookie standout James Houston immediately moves the defense forward.
Something else to watch for here: I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit slides down the board, picking up additional draft capital from a team looking to nab a quarterback. The Lions already have a second first-rounder, too.
We mentioned that the Lions might be thinking cornerback at No. 6 (ended up with a defensive end in Murphy), but they get one here with their second first-rounder at the tail end of a mini run at the position. Ringo is the fourth CB to come off the board in five picks. There will be a lot of opinions about his game, but Ringo has a lot of upside. He has speed and length, and he's very good in press coverage. Plus, he hauled in two interceptions in each of his seasons at Georgia. Jeff Okudah has flashed the traits that made him the No. 3 pick in 2020, but even if he takes the next step, Amani Oruwariye is a free agent, leaving the other outside corner spot wide open.
It appears Jared Goff may keep his job. This selection would pair nicely with former top-three pick Jeff Okudah and hopefully address a leaky pass defense for the Lions. Gonzalez has the size (6-2, 200) and physical traits that make most scouts salivate, and the Colorado transfer answered all questions regarding his ball production (four interceptions) in his only season in Eugene. His draft stock could lift off with a dynamic performance at the combine.
Bresee was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 recruiting class. He showed flashes of dominance as a true freshman in 2020, but only played 152 snaps in 2021 before tearing his ACL. It appears he regained his explosiveness and remains one of the most versatile defensive lineman in this class, but his injury history has teams divided. Otherwise, I believe the Lions might consider taking him with the sixth pick.
Usually there's a cornerback who takes a big leap (figuratively and literally) at the NFL Scout Combine -- my guess is that's Gonzalez this year. The Oregon defender's size (6-2, 201) and athleticism will likely impress scouts, who, if they haven't devoured it already, will then turn to the tape where they'll see aggressive play and very good ball skills. Gonzalez could help alleviate some of the pressure on the Lions' previous top-10 corner selection, Jeff Okudah.
Mayer might end up as the second tight end off the board because he is not as quick-twitch as Dalton Kincaid and others at his position. The Lions happily select the Notre Dame standout, though, as his reliability as a pass-catcher and tenacious blocking remind me of Ravens star Mark Andrews.