9. Carolina Panthers- Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
This is a little bit of a reach, but it’s a reach that I completely respect. The Panthers have to do something at the quarterback position before they turn into the Colts and just start signing Carson Wentz, or whoever. Anthony Richardson is going to get Josh Allen comparisons, and while they’re not fully well-deserved, because there’s only one of that guy, they’re at least a little bit well-deserved.
Richardson has no idea what he’s doing out there right now, but there are times in a game where you can see it all click together for him and it’s a terrifying prospect. Carolina needs to hire just the right coach to get Richardson in a position to succeed. Ideally, I’d like to see him go somewhere that’s going to be able to support him a little better (the Giants would be great) but I feel the Panthers know they have a golden opportunity here.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO)- Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
I struggle to find a true hole on Philly’s roster, if I’m being honest. That being said, they could use a nice cornerback to go across from Darius Slay. Enter Christian Gonzalez, the lanky corner from Oregon. Gonzalez came on strong in his final college season, collecting four interceptions for the Ducks on their way to a top-25 ranking and a Holiday Bowl win over North Carolina.
I didn’t want to make a straight luxury pick like Bijan Robinson for the Eagles, and I know they’ll probably go with a trench player like Bryan Bresee anyway. That’s just who Howie Roseman is, but maybe he’ll have a change of heart with such a high pick. Gonzalez would make a great add to the NFC’s top seed.
11. Tennessee Titans- Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
I’d like to start off by saying that I would love Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the wide receiver out of Ohio State here. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mike Vrabel shares in my sentiments. Even so, the Titans have to fix their offensive line before someone gets killed back there. Paris Johnson Jr. is large, fast, smart, and physical. Perfect for Tennessee.
I would much rather have Skoronski here, but he’s long gone in this mock. Johnson has the potential to grow into something truly special, though. Once he learns the NFL game, he has the body type and work ethic to make everything fit together as an NFL tackle. This is a projection, but it’s one that Titans fans have every reason to believe in.
12. Houston Texans (from CLE)- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
To rub salt in my own Browns fan wound, let’s go to the Texans pick from the Watson deal. Houston nabs one of my favorite players in the class here, selecting the buttery-smooth Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State to pair with the Will Levis project. “JSN” isn’t the athlete that Garrett Wilson was coming out of Ohio State, but I’ll take his skillset over Wilson and even Chris Olave, who I loved.
Smith-Njigba’s been battling an ankle injury, which knocked him out for most of his final collegiate season. Even still, I believe in his skills and how they translate to the next level. He will, at worst, be a safety blanket slot receiver for Will Levis in the situation we created earlier. At best? A star.
13. New York Jets- Brian Branch, S, Alabama
I contemplated giving the Jets an offensive lineman here, but there’s no tackles left on the board that I wouldn’t think are a huge reach. We’re just a few picks out of Broderick Jones’s range at No. 13, and so I’m giving the Jets one of my top players on my board.
Brian Branch is awesome, and he’ll be a great fit for Robert Saleh. If you haven’t watched Branch at Alabama, you’re really missing out on one of 2023’s most impactful, instinctive defenders.
14. New England Patriots- Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Formerly of Pitt, Jordan Addison strikes me as a receiver that would be perfect for the Patriots. Bill Belichick never, ever drafts receivers but maybe this will be the year. There’s not quite as much talent in the wide receiver class as before, but I think the talent that’s still on the board at this point really works for the Pats’ system.
Addison could be the exception that proves this Belichickian rule; he’s on the smaller side at 6’0 and 175 pounds, but he “gets it” at the position. He’s strong-handed, lightning-quick, runs great routes, and always keeps fighting. Great pick, I love this kid.
15. Green Bay Packers- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
This is the most obvious pick of the first round, in my humble opinion. Michael Mayer is a complete tight end, he can do everything, run every route, and is a great safety valve for any quarterback. He’s not the greatest athlete in the world, but he can do anything that a pro offense is going to ask of him.
Mayer has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski, much like any tight end who wears No. 87. Is he “Baby Gronk?” I certainly think he has a chance to be. He could get Rookie of the Year votes in an Aaron Rodgers offense, as he’ll be a constant red zone threat. Certainly an exciting option for Green Bay.
16. Washington Commanders- Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
Something makes me think that the NFL doesn’t love Myles Murphy out of Clemson. I don’t know exactly what it is, but if Washington lucks into his services, there’s no way that they pass on him any further.
Murphy is a prototypical defensive end, and has a ton of potential. It’s unlikely, but he could be the better of the two defensive ends between himself and Will Anderson. Murphy suffers a huge fall here, but I don’t think there could really be anything else they go for in this spot. Something about him just feels… off.