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NFL Mock Draft: The Texans, Colts, and Panthers Add Their QBs of the Future

Mock draft season has already arrived. Where should talented passers like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud land? How high should Bijan Robinson go? And who is the best defender in the draft?

Getty Images/Associated Press/Ringer illustration

We’re still very early into the NFL draft process, and the Senior Bowl, the combine, and the league’s free agency free-for-all are sure to shake things up dramatically. But that isn’t going to keep us from taking an early look at what the first round could look like—from quarterback-team pairings to where this year’s class of playmaking receivers might land. Here’s The Ringer’s Mock Draft 1.0.

1. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

Bryce Young will be one of the most polarizing players in this draft. He brings rare playmaking talent and uncanny instincts to the quarterback position, but his small frame—he’s listed at a generous 6 feet, 194 pounds—will almost surely make some teams balk. The Texans take a gamble here by selecting the former Heisman winner, betting that Young’s ingenuity and field vision will far outweigh his lack of size.

2. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos): DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

The Seahawks could go the quarterback route at this spot, but with Geno Smith’s shocking emergence in 2022, they might be better off re-signing the veteran QB and using this pick on a blue-chip defender. That’s exactly what they do here, grabbing an explosive, penetrating interior defensive lineman in Carter. The Bulldogs star gives Seattle’s previously toothless defense the type of game wrecker it desperately needs up front.

3. Chicago Bears: Edge Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

The Bears have plenty of needs on the offensive side of the ball, but they can’t pass on Anderson at this no. 3 spot. A rare blend of explosiveness and length, the two-time Bronko Nagurski Award winner is a pass-rushing talent that Chicago can rebuild its defensive front around.

4. Detroit Lions (from Rams): DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

The Lions offense under head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has far exceeded expectations in 2022, helping make Jared Goff look like a quarterback the team can win with in the short term. With that in mind, Detroit focuses here on building in the trenches. Bresee is a disruptive, physical interior defender who’d complement Alim McNeil and Aidan Hutchinson well on the Lions defensive front.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (from Saints): Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

The Eagles have emphasized the importance of a deep and talented defensive line in recent years, and GM Howie Roseman doesn’t deviate from that philosophy here. With Brandon Graham set to turn 35 this spring, Murphy gives Philly an infusion of youth as an edge rusher. The former Clemson star combines excellent length with top-tier athleticism; he racked up 36.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles in three seasons with the Tigers.

6. Arizona Cardinals: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

There’s little doubt that teams will look at the impact Jets rookie corner Sauce Gardner has made in his first year in the league and hope to recreate that for their defenses in 2023. Ringo is big, physical, fast, and put up excellent numbers at Georgia. In two years as a starter, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound defensive back tallied four interceptions, 14 pass deflections, and 70 tackles. He’d fit in nicely alongside Budda Baker and Byron Murphy Jr. in Arizona’s secondary.

7. Indianapolis Colts: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

The Colts’ seemingly never-ending ride on the quarterback carousel might finally come to a stop with this pick. Over the past few years, Indy has tried to patch the hole left from Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement with the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Sam Ehlinger, and Matt Ryan—but they go the draft route here, rolling the dice on a high-upside but inconsistent prospect in Levis. The 6-3 signal caller will draw comparisons to Josh Allen during the draft process because of his top-tier tools, but he’s not yet a sum of those parts. Can the Colts tap into that potential?

8. Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

If the Raiders want to compete in the AFC West, they’re going to need to make life hell for Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert (and maybe Russell Wilson, if he can revitalize his career). With that in mind, Las Vegas bolsters its pass rush here by grabbing a big, astoundingly powerful edge rusher in Wilson. The former Texas Tech standout uses his length and strength to consistently collapse the pocket and create pressure on the quarterback.

9. Carolina Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

The Panthers’ recent investments into the quarterback position (including trades for Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, and the selection of Matt Corral in the third round of the 2022 draft) shouldn’t stop them from pouncing on Stroud if he falls this far on draft night. The former Buckeyes quarterback has a strong arm and pinpoint accuracy throwing downfield. There are questions about his ability to function out of structure, but he has all the tools to develop into a high-level pocket passer.

10. Atlanta Falcons: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

After sinking top-10 picks into pass-catching weapons over the past two seasons (TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London), the Falcons address the pass defense with this pick, grabbing a big, physical cover corner in Porter. The namesake of the former Steelers linebacker, Porter brings a trench player’s mentality to the secondary, looking to body up opposing receivers to reroute them and disrupt timing. He’d pair nicely with A.J. Terrell in the Falcons’ cornerbacks group.

11. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

With the way that Trevor Lawrence has played over the past few games, it’s becoming more and more clear that the sky’s the limit to what he can do at the helm of the Jags offense. It’d be a nice boost to get Lawrence another ball-winning deep threat on the outside, though, and that’s what Johnston could bring. The Horned Frogs star combines top-tier size with springy, elastic athleticism and the ability to get behind a defense. Johnston has caught 53 passes for 903 yards and five scores in the TCU offense this year and has averaged 18.7 yards per reception over his three-year career there.

12. Houston Texans (from Browns): CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

After securing their quarterback of the future with the top pick, Houston looks back to the defense with its second first-rounder. Smith is a sticky coverage man with good length and the reactive quickness to hang with opposing receivers. He’d pair nicely in the Texans secondary with last year’s no. 3 pick, Derek Stingley Jr.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

The Steelers get their pick of the top tackles at no. 13, opting for Johnson here. The Buckeyes standout brings positional versatility, with experience at guard, but best projects as Pittsburgh’s left tackle of the future. He’s big, long, and reliable on the blindside—and should help in Kenny Pickett’s development while paving the way for the team’s ground game.

14. Green Bay Packers: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Skoronski’s lack of length will be a hotly debated issue during the draft process (he’s expected to measure in with sub-33-inch arms, below some teams’ standard for the tackle position), but his quick footwork and easy movement give him a chance to play on the edge at the next level. The Packers upgrade their offensive line with this pick.

15. Detroit Lions: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

After adding a big-time playmaker to their defensive line with their first of two first-rounders, the Lions boost the back end by selecting a playmaking corner. Gonzalez brings size (listed at 6-2, 201 pounds) and ball skills to the table, and collected four picks and seven pass deflections in 12 games for the Ducks this year. Opposite Jeff Okudah, he’d give the Lions a chance to shore up their issues in the secondary.

16. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

This might feel a bit high for Hyatt, who burst onto the scene in 2022 to tie for the national lead in touchdown catches (15) and win the Biletnikoff Award, but one must never underestimate the NFL’s collective need for speed at the receiver position (and if/when he runs his 40, his stock will only rise). The former Volunteers star is similar in some ways to Will Fuller in that he’ll have to develop a more diverse route tree in the NFL, but he brings high-end, game-breaking speed to threaten defenses vertically. That field-tilting gravity is exactly what’s missing in the Chargers pass-catching corps.

17. Seattle Seahawks: WR Jordan Addison, USC

With their second of two first-round picks, Seattle turns to bolstering their offense. DK Metcalf is the team’s alpha on the outside, but with Tyler Lockett now over 30 years old, the Seahawks need to start developing a reliable third playmaker at receiver—and haven’t seen many signs for hope from 2021 second-rounder Dee Eskridge. The 2021 Biletnikoff winner, Addison combines quickness, body control, and after-the-catch creativity to play both on the outside and in the slot at the next level.

18. New York Jets: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Mekhi Becton, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2020, has played just one game in the past two seasons and his future with the team remains a question mark. Both Duane Brown and George Fant are over 30. The Jets could use some reinforcements on the offensive line, and they get that in Jones. A former five-star prospect, Jones is young (21) and lacks experience (with just one year and change as a starter), but he’s nimble in pass protection and a bruiser in the run game.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Jared Verse, Florida State

With defensive linemen Akeim Hicks, Shaq Barrett, and William Gholston all on the wrong side of 30, the Buccaneers add some youth to the trenches here by grabbing Verse. A transfer to Florida State in 2022 by way of Albany, Verse combines size, athleticism, and power off the edge. He’s tallied 7.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs in 11 games this year for the Seminoles.

20. Tennessee Titans: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

The Titans’ identity remains centered around a smashmouth run game, but the team’s offensive line hasn’t been as strong as it needs to be this season. Torrence can help right the ship: He’s a mountain of a man who can move people at the point of attack and brings surprisingly nimble footwork for a 347-pound human.

21. New England Patriots: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

Josh Uche looks like a rising star pass rusher for the Pats (10 sacks in his last six games), but New England could still stand to add more youth to its pass-rush rotation. Smith is a versatile defender with the athletic skill set to line up in multiple spots to both play the run and rush the passer.

22. Washington Commanders: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

The Commanders could be tempted to take a quarterback here, but should they choose not to, another good route would be to continue to fortify the foundation of the offense. Mayer does just that: He’s a big, physical blocker and adept pass catcher who can make his mark both in the run game and aerial attack. Alongside Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson, Mayer would help provide a soft landing spot for whoever ends up playing QB for the Commanders in 2023.

23. New York Giants: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

Will Levis is going to get a lot of Josh Allen comparisons in the predraft process, but I’d argue Richardson brings more Allen-like parallels than any QB in this class. The redshirt sophomore lacks experience, with just 13 college starts on his resume, and plays with wild inconsistency. But when it comes to physical talent, and the number of “wow” plays he’s capable of producing, Richardson’s upside is through the roof. He’s got prototypical size (at 6-4, 232 pounds), a big arm, and a dual-threat skill set to be a big-time contributor on the ground. He’s just going to need a savvy coach who can mold him into a disciplined signal caller at the next level. Insert: Brian Daboll. With Daniel Jones headed into free agency, New York decides to pivot to a new era.

24. Miami Dolphins (Forfeited)

25. Denver Broncos (from 49ers): LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

An already great defense adds another playmaker. Simpson is a rangy, explosive linebacker with high-end speed who can wear any number of hats in a defense. He’s savvy in coverage, plays like a heat-seeking missile as a blitzer, and hits like a ton of bricks against the run.

26. Baltimore Ravens: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

The Ravens are never too afraid to scoop up high-end talent when the rest of the league lets it slip to them. Robinson might be one of the best players in this entire class, but he could fall into the latter part of the round just based on how the league tends to value the running back position these days. That’s where the Ravens could pounce: The team’s run game (outside of Lamar Jackson) has been a mess of late, featuring a rotating cast of over-the-hill veterans and random no-namers. It’s been great to see J.K. Dobbins back out there over the past week, but his future remains cloudy following his major knee injury. With Robinson in the mix, Baltimore could get back to their familiarly explosive run game.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State

The Bengals add to the defensive line, grabbing a big, highly athletic defensive end in Harrison. The Buckeyes senior is an ascending pass rusher who is still just scratching the surface of his potential. Listed at 6-6 and 272 pounds, he brings a combination of twitchiness and length off the edge to overpower tackles and disrupt the pocket.

28. Dallas Cowboys: CB Clark Phillips III, Utah

The Cowboys have a playmaking star in cornerback Trevon Diggs, but are still looking for the long-term answer on the opposite side of the field. Phillips has twitched up quickness and plays with excellent anticipation, reading the eyes of opposing quarterbacks to jump into passing lanes. He brings the versatility to play both on the outside and over the slot.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

There’s no such thing as too many pass rushers. After grabbing George Karlaftis in the first round last year, the Chiefs double-dip here and select a big, explosive defensive lineman in Anudike-Uzomah. The Kansas State star can line up at multiple spots on the defensive front and shoot gaps to the interior or threaten the edge on the outside. He’s a ferocious pass rusher who has racked up 19.5 sacks and 25.5 TFLs over the past two seasons.

30. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

The Vikings got one of the steals of the first round back in 2020, using the 22nd pick to take Justin Jefferson. They have a chance to work that magic again here by grabbing Smith-Njigba. The super-productive playmaker missed most of the 2022 season with a lingering hamstring injury, but the tape he produced in 2021 (when he posted 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns) shows his potential to be a star in the NFL. With Adam Thielen set to turn 33 next year, the Vikings need to add another pass-catching threat to pair with Jefferson.

31. Buffalo Bills: S Brian Branch, Alabama

The Bills’ safety tandem of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde have long been the glue that holds the team’s secondary together, but both are now over 30 years old. Buffalo adds critical depth at the position by selecting Branch here; the Crimson Tide playmaker is a versatile defensive back with the ability to play both deep and over the slot or blitz on any given play.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

Injuries to C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship have exposed a lack of depth for the Eagles at the safety position this year, and Gardner-Johnson will be heading into free agency in 2023. So Philly looks for reinforcements by selecting Johnson, a rangy, thumping safety with excellent length and the versatility to line up in multiple roles.