Staff Writer Vaughn Armour ’25 and Managing Sports Editor Hedi Skali ’25 take on the NFL draft. A coin flip decided that Vaughn would take the odd teams, and Hedi would take the even teams. Each pick was decided on what each team’s general manager should do rather than what we thought they would do, with trades allowed.
Panthers (Bears) #1 — Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Young has been the best quarterback in college football for two years now. Teams will worry about his 5-foot-10 stature and slight frame, but his accuracy and anticipation more than make up for it. Bryce Young consistently made impressive plays at all levels of the field at Alabama, and elevated a lackluster supporting cast this past year. The draft’s best QB goes number one overall.
Texans #2 — C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Many teams need a QB in this draft, so there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the Colts, Titans, or Raiders trading up for the Texans’ pick. However, I think the Texans would be hesitant to give one of their division rivals the opportunity to draft their franchise QB. Stroud is the second-best QB in the draft, and the Texans need to take a swing at a generational talent like him.
Cardinals TRADE #3 overall to Titans for #11, #41 (2nd round) and a 2024 first-round pick Titans (Cardinals) #3 — Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Cardinals have a dismal roster that’s full of holes. No one player will move the needle, so moving back to acquire more bodies makes sense. The Titans get to jump past their division rival at four to take a massive swing at the most important position. Richardson is raw, but his tools are unparalleled. At 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, and logged a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 10-foot 8-inch broad jump. It isn’t hyperbole to say he’s the most athletic quarterback ever. The Titans are taking a swing with this pick, but it’s on a guy with limitless potential.
Colts #4 — Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Colts have made it clear that they are looking for a franchise QB. With three of them off the board, this draft has become a nightmare for the Colts. Still, I think it’s in their best interest to draft Will Levis at the number-four spot. Like Richardson, Levis is a project. He has a strong arm, while also showing signs of incredible speed for his size. Hopefully, the injury-rattled offensive line can make a comeback along with Michael Pittman Jr. to create the perfect environment for Levis’ rookie season.
Seahawks (Broncos) #5 — Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
This is the dream scenario for the Seahawks. Disregarding positional value, Anderson may be the best player in the draft. Getting him at five is incredible value — the Seahawks would sprint the card in.
Lions (Rams) #6 — Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Lions wildly exceeded expectations last year. The offensive line and weapons allowed Jared Goff to have a career year, making them one of the best in the league on that side of the ball. While No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson showed some flashes of his Michigan prowess, their defense was a major weakness. Now, after trading Jeff Okudah, they have no one in the secondary. Witherspoon is the best man cornerback in the draft, and most importantly, his personality brings some much-needed character to this Lions team. It might be a little bit of a reach, but it is a necessary one.
Raiders #7 — Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Jalen Carter is immensely talented, but he has also dealt with legal issues in the lead-up to the draft. Obviously, Hedi and I are not privy to the conversations NFL teams have had with Carter. We can’t speak to his legal status, or his maturity. Carter has canceled all meetings with teams outside of the top ten though, so it seems like teams still value him highly. There is obvious risk in taking the Georgia product, but the Raiders are taking a chance on a Hall of Fame level talent, and one of this draft’s few blue-chip prospects. The Raiders are likely hoping that one of the four Quarterbacks falls to them, but Carter is a great consolation prize.
Falcons #8 — Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Like the Cardinals, the Falcons are an empty roster, but they’ve used this offseason to redefine their defense. Still, they need a defensive end, and Wilson is the best player on the board. This is a pretty easy pick.
Bears (Panthers) #9 — Paris Johnson Jr., LT, Ohio State
As a massive Bears fan, I will admit that the roster is full of holes. We had the worst defensive line in the league last year, a suspect secondary and a below average offensive line. GM Ryan Poles added to the receiver room with DJ Moore and Chase Claypool, so as much as I love Jaxon-Smith Njigba, I doubt he’d be the pick here. Taking a defensive lineman here would be a reach in my opinion, eliminating that option. I heavily considered Christian Gonzalez, but ended up landing on Paris Johnson Jr. He is an athletic and talented tackle prospect that would hopefully secure Justin Fields’ left side for years to come.
Eagles (Saints) #10 — Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
After making it to the Superbowl, it’s hard to find any truly glaring holes in this roster — except running back. Some would suggest this pick would be best suited for an offensive lineman that can solidly reinforce their roster like Peter Skoronski or Darnell Wright, and that the running back position is not important to winning rosters. I think we’ve gone too far with this take. I’d agree that a great running back isn’t essential, but Robinson could take the Eagles offense to a different level. If Siriani has been able to use his stellar offensive line to create an incredible running system that goes through Boston Scott and Miles Sanders there is no doubt that a generational talent like Robinson could propel this team to another Superbowl. With a complete roster, there is no better time to swing for the fences than now.
Cardinals (from Titans) #11 —- Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
In this scenario, the Cardinals add much needed draft capital while still drafting an elite prospect. Gonzalez has the prototypical build every team wants at corner: 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, with a 32-inch wingspan. He’s also a ridiculous athlete, running a 4.38 40 yard dash with a 41.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot 1-inch broad jump. Gonzalez moves smoothly on the field, and can be a player the Cardinals build their defense around. This trade and subsequent pick would be a home run for Arizona.
Texans (Browns) #12 — Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Now, with C.J. Stroud on the team, the Texans will be looking to make a pick for their new defensive-minded head coach, DeMeco Ryans. Murphy’s game isn’t really explosive, but his length and athleticism could be tailored into an incredible pass rusher for the Texans. This feels like a reach, but I really think Murphy is built for coaches like Ryans.
Jets #13 — Peter Skoronski, LT/LG, Northwestern
I’m assuming that the Jets will trade for Aaron Rodgers, as heavily rumored. However, I don’t think this pick will be involved. If the Jets do in fact keep this pick, I think they’ll use it on an offensive lineman to keep Rodgers upright. Skoronski is an incredibly skilled player who has dominated at the college level. In the NFL, he projects as a versatile guy that can play both guard and tackle at a high level. Alijah Vera-Tucker is a solid comparison for Skoronski, and the Jets would love to have another AVT to move around. He would be great insurance for the injury-prone Mekhi Bechton, and would secure one of the five offensive line spots for New York, regardless of which one he lines up at.
Patriots #14 — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
As a Patriots fan, it’s pretty clear that the wide receiver room has been lackluster at least for the past couple of years. Signing Juju will not be enough considering the loss of Jakobi Myers, so why not take the best route runner in the draft? New England fans have been calling for Mac Jones’s head for the past year, without realizing that he has no offensive weapons. Vaughn and I recognized that this isn’t really a standard Belichick pick, but I want to give Mac Jones a chance, and hopefully, JSN will help Jones prove himself.
Packers #15 — Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
This pick may get some hate. This is a deep tight-end class, but I think Kincaid clears the rest of the field in route-running, catch radius, and big-play ability. I would have picked JSN if Hedi hadn’t sniped me, but Kincaid is no slouch. With Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson on the outside and Kincaid attacking the intermediate part of the field, the Packers would have a solid young receiving core for Jordan Love to throw to.
Commanders #16 — Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn St
The Commanders do not have a secondary. It’s that simple. They need a star cornerback, and Joey Porter Jr. can fill that exact role. He’s physical, he’s lengthy, and he’s very skillful in man coverages. While he might get confused when given complex schemes or routes to cover, his intuition as a cornerback is all already there. It feels cruel to take him away from the Steelers (his father’s home), but the Commanders should not pass up the opportunity to draft an excellent CB1.
Steelers #17 — Broderick Jones, RT, Georgia
Although the son of former Steeler Joey Porter went right before them, the Steelers snagged a talented prospect in Broderick Jones. Jones is an athletic and powerful lineman that led Georgia’s elite rushing attack this year. This is lower than Jones typically goes in mock drafts, so the Steelers would be ecstatic to upgrade one of their lackluster tackles with him. He’s a great pass blocker as well, and should give Kenny Pickett more time to throw in his sophomore season.
Lions #18 — Brian Branch, S, Alabama
After securing their secondary with Witherspoon, the Lions have the opportunity to do whatever they want. Still, I think this is yet another opportunity to solidify their defense. There are some uber-athletic guys like Nolan Smith or Mazi Smith, but I think the Lions already have enough explosiveness in Aidan Hutchinson. Taking a safe player like Brian Branch is perfect for Aidan Glenn’s defensive scheme. He has no true weaknesses and is an incredibly smart player who can become a great leader for this Lions defense. He can also work in the slot or as a traditional safety, giving the Lions some much needed versatility.
Buccaneers #19 — Darnell Wright, RT, Tennessee
I debated taking a quarterback here, but Hendon Hooker wasn’t enticing enough for me to pass on Wright. He’s a smooth-moving tackle that has shot up draft boards recently. Wright is battle-tested in the SEC, and even held up well against Will Anderson. The Bucs have an aging roster, but adding Wright would allow them to move All-Pro Tristan Wirfs to right tackle, and give them a promising young tackle duo to build around. Tampa Bay’s future QB will likely be drafted high in 2024 — this would protect him.
Seahawks #20 — Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Seahawks re-signed Geno Smith to a three-year deal, and they already landed the defensive jackpot with Will Anderson. However, they still don’t have a decent third receiver. We already know what D.K. Metcalf can do, and especially what he can do with Tyler Lockett alongside him. Flowers is the exact opposite of Metcalf, he has small hands and short arms but is incredibly slippery especially when operating out of the slot. With top-tier yards after the catch ranking last season, I think Flowers can add some much-needed unpredictability to this Seahawks offense.
Chargers #21 — Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
This is the pick I took the longest to make. There were three distinct ways I could see the Chargers going. Their three best receivers (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer) are all rather slow, so I considered Quentin Johnston to add a vertical component to the offense. I also thought about adding some pressure off the edge with Nolan Smith. In the end, though, I landed on Deonte Banks. The Chargers signed J.C Jackson to a five-year, 82.5-million-dollar contract last offseason, but Jackson played horrifically last season, and then tore his ACL. Banks is insurance for J.C Jackson, but he could also play alongside him. Banks is six feet tall, 197 pounds and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash. The speedy corner is also quite adept in coverage, and has been tested against the likes of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jaxon-Smith Njigba in the Big Ten.
Ravens #22 — Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
I think Cam Smith has been one of the most underrated prospects in this draft. There is no doubt that he is extremely raw, however, his intuition for the ball is unmatched. Unlike a player like Brian Branch, Smith doesn’t play very solid conservative football, but is able to use his anticipatory style to make big plays. His length also allows him to be an excellent man defender, and after the loss of Marcus Peters the Ravens need a CB1 to help run the insane amount of man defense they run.
Vikings #23 — Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
This is a slam dunk pick for the Vikings, as Smith fell much farther than I expect him to on draft night. Smith is an absolute freak athletically, running a 4.39 40 yard dash with a 41.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot 8-inch broad jump. He has been a captain for Georgia, and is consistently described as a relentless worker and an admirable leader. Adding Nolan Smith would be a great step towards turning around the Vikings’ porous defense.
Jaguars #24 — Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
After a pretty horrible start to the season, the Jaguars played exceptionally well in the playoffs under Trevor Lawrence. The generational prospect has been slow to develop but is steadily showing that he can live up to the hype — especially after his insane 27-3 comeback against Justin Herbert and his Chargers. Like the Seahawks, I think the Jaguars would improve a lot by just adding another weapon for Lawrence. Evan Engram already plays more like a wideout, so Mayer can come in and help with the blocking scheme for Etienne while being an NFL-ready pass catcher. I would love to watch this Engram-Mayer two-man game.
Giants #25 — Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
With Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder, the Giants have too many slot receivers. At 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, Quentin Johnston has the body of a prototypical number-one NFL receiver. He is also fast for that size, with a 4.49 unofficial 40-yard-dash. Johnston is still developing as a route runner, but his yards after the catch ability, contested catch prowess and tantalizing upside make him well worth the pick at 25.
Cowboys #26 — Bryan Breese, DT, Clemson
It’s ridiculous that Breese has fallen this far down into the draft and especially into the hands of the Cowboys. Dallas had the best defense in the league last year, and adding more pressure to the defensive interior would help Micah Parson and Demarcus Lawrence do even more damage in the pass rush. Breese is extremely athletic, and plays with an incredible drive to get to the quarterback. Honestly, my only worry is his injury history — he’s torn his ACL and hurt his shoulder in only a year’s time. But he’s proven himself after the injuries, and I think he can be a valuable contributor to this stellar Cowboys defense.
Bills #27 — Jordan Addison, WR, USC
This may be my favorite pick in the mock draft. Addison fell in the pre-draft prospect after weighing in at 173 pounds at the combine. He also ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, which is middling for that size. I think Addison will outperform his draft position though, simply because he’s a great player. Wide receiver performance is primarily driven by skill, and the former Bilitnekoff winner is about as skilled as prospects get. He can separate at all three levels of the field, and is also solid at making contested catches. In Buffalo, he could serve as the number-two option to Stefon Diggs, which would draw attention away from him. The league should be terrified of what Josh Allen could do with a receiving core of Diggs, Addison and Gabriel Davis.
Bengals #28 — Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Again, another talented edge rusher falls down the board into a really great team’s hands. He is incredibly athletic, even being nicknamed “Hercules” by his teammates. With Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson, the Bengals already have a pretty solid pass rush, however, Van Ness can add some much needed depth to the roster. I also think it would be beneficial for him to play under some veterans, allowing him to put on a little weight, and to learn to use his agility a little more skillfully.
Saints (Broncos) #29 — Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
At 6-foot-1, 289 pounds, Kancey will be one of the smaller defensive tackles in the NFL. Because of this, some teams will avoid him. Some teams will fall in love with the explosiveness he plays with though, and how special he could become. A 4.67 40-yard dash is insane for a defensive tackle, and that speed was apparent on the football field. Kancey is a risky pick, but that risk is well worth it at 29.
Eagles #30 — B.J. Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Like the Bengals pick, Ojulari can add some more depth to the Eagles’ pass rush line. Simultaneously, making him play under the Eagles’ vets will allow him to take the time to better his ball-watching issues. Again, there isn’t much to add to the Eagles, but on the off chance that B.J. can become something truly great, this is an excellent pickup.
Chiefs #31 — Anton Harrison, LT, Oklahoma
The Chiefs won the Super Bowl after prioritizing the offensive line instead of paying superstar receiver Tyreek Hill. They’ll continue investing in that unit here with Harrison. Although he needs to get stronger, Harrison is skilled and light on his feet. He would likely step in at right tackle, with Jawaan Taylor moving to left tackle. This would keep the Chiefs’ offensive line elite for their pursuit of another Lombardi trophy.