Martin McConnell’s Preseason 2023 NFL Mock Draft

25. Indianapolis Colts- Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Matt Ryan after this coming season, but I’d imagine he won’t have all that much left in the tank. Either way, the Colts have a roster that is ready now. At 22 years old already, Tanner McKee is ready for NFL action right now. Or, at least, he will be ready by the time this season is over. I don’t think McKee would normally be a first-round pick, but this feels so perfect situationally that I think there’s some value in projecting him here. McKee completes a roster that, while he is on his rookie contract, can compete for championships.

26. Dallas Cowboys- Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

The Cowboys’ defense is a completely different beast than it was just two years ago, and I mean that as the utmost compliment. Now, they’ll add Alabama’s Eli Ricks to that group. A defensive back that was coached and refined by Nick Saban? You practically can’t go wrong. I would describe Ricks as “snappy” in coverage, quickly shutting a receiver’s water off, just moments after deliberately making it look like his man was open. That’s a translatable skill if you can do it fast enough. Not to mention Ricks is a longer cornerback at 6’2, which can help with that close-out move in a game of inches. It’s beautiful stuff.

27. Cincinnati Bengals- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

The Bengals’ defensive line isn’t the best, but I think they can live with that. What I doubt they can live without, though, is a nice tight end security blanket for Joe Burrow to throw to. The Bengals lost C.J. Uzomah to the Jets this offseason, and after how much usage he saw in 2021 (49 receptions for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns) I doubt their offensive attack will be quite the same this coming season. Michael Mayer can easily remedy that. He’s my top tight end in this class for a reason, and will make for a supremely explosive weapon for Burrow at the tight end spot.

28. Detroit Lions- Brian Branch, S, Alabama

I cannot express to you with words how much Dan Campbell is going to love Brian Branch. Branch is an absolute weight room freak, squatting 565 pounds and power-cleaning 335 pounds. He moves like a car where the gas pedal has been duct taped to the floor, and hits like that same car when he gets his hands on ball carriers. Branch plays with the mentality of Troy Polamalu. That’s really all I need to say. I doubt that Campbell and the Lions will be able to resist that, because I know I couldn’t.

29. Green Bay Packers- Andrew Vorhees, OG, USC

Much like last year, all the good pass-catchers are gone by the time the Packers pick. And thus, the “Packers won’t pick a first-round receiver” meme continues. Andrew Vorhees is a fantastic consolation prize in that case, considering how much he’ll aid Green Bay in the run game. Vorhees is like watching a snow plow on run plays. He stacks defenders, moving them out of the way with ease, to blow open holes in the run game. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are going to love this guy, and he’s going to show his love back to them by cracking some skulls on the interior offensive line.

30. Kansas City Chiefs- B.J. Ojulari, DE, LSU

Frank Clark’s about to hit the wrong side of 30 years old, and Mike Danna is… not great, so the Chiefs need a defensive end to pair with George Karlaftis as their next generation on the defensive line. B.J. Ojulari, the younger brother of current Giant Azeez Ojulari, fits that mold perfectly. First of all, Ojulari is the grandson of a Nigerian prince, so that’s awesome. He’s also pretty good at football. Ojulari is a pass-rushing specialist, with terrific get-up-and-go when the ball is snapped. Speed kills, and it pairs nicely with Karlaftis’s hulk-smash approach to every single play. Thunder and lightning, just like it should be.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Cooper Beebe, OG, Kansas State

Cooper Beebe is one of my personal favorite players in this class. The Buccaneers need to repair their offensive line somehow, and Beebe is a great start to filling the holes left by Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, and Ali Marpet. Beebe can’t do it all by himself, but his play style can set the tone for what the Bucs want their offensive line to be. Defenders find themselves bouncing off of Beebe, and then find themselves sitting on the ground. I love it.

32. Buffalo Bills- Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

Looking at the roster right now, Buffalo’s tackle situation is just plain bad. Their bookends who are supposed to be protecting Josh Allen are Dion Dawkins and David Quessenberry. I know that having Allen basically heals all, but he can’t cover for the entire offense on every play. Paris Johnson Jr. can be the answer at left tackle if he continues developing with the Buckeyes. I don’t love his game right now, but I think of what he can be and I simply have to put this guy in the first round. NFL teams will more than likely feel the same.


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