I still want the Polling widget back, dammit.
Okay, here's the rules: I make extremely bad guesses at how the other teams are going to draft this April in the First Round, the big night of where teams take a 50-50 shot that the guy they pick won't be a bust (alas, the odds favor busting). I try to draft rationally by need, but more often than not the owners and GMs DO NOT, so at least by the eleventh overall pick most mock drafts are worthless.
That said, here's what I got by current draft order, by need, and by likely bust uh candidate:
NFL 2023 Rookie Draft First Round
1 Carolina Panthers (from Chicago)
NEEDS: To Netflix and Chill (seriously, everything)
That the Panthers traded up early in the off-season signaled the team's intent to draft a franchise QB to fill that need, even with various higher needs across the roster. With roughly four names sitting atop the draft board for QBs - Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson - it becomes a question of which one Carolina thinks can start Day One with the fewest miscues. While a lot of the mock draft scouting has Young at the top, he's more of a scrambler than a deep thrower and not as accurate as he needs to be. Stroud fits some of the better attributes of a QB - can throw deep, better accuracy, and a coolness under pressure - that a rebuilding franchise can trust.
Panthers select: QB CJ Stroud, Ohio St.
2 Houston Texans
NEEDS: Instant Karma that only TWO First Rounders can provide (seriously, everything)
The Texans are a team STILL in rebuild mode since the debacle with DeShaun Watson, and while ANY draft pick helps they're likely going with QB early (especially because the dropoff in talent in the QB pool is steep once you get past Hendon Hooker). They have the advantage of another First reasonably close to this pick, so they can gamble here with getting Young.
Texans select: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
3 Arizona Cardinals
NEEDS: I have absolutely no idea and thus don't care (seriously, Defensive Line, OLB/Edge, TE)
The Cards were a team on the verge of Super Bowl greatness last off-season, but collapsed in a wave of injuries, bad coaching decisions, and the realization they were overrated the previous year. The defense was where a lot of problems emerged on-field, so getting front-line help of any kind helps them. This is where the top-rated Edge rusher slides to them early.
Cardinals select: DE (Edge) Will Anderson Jr, Alabama
4 Indianapolis Colts
NEEDS: A more forgiving God because they will soon have the dumbest worst owner in the NFL once Synder is gone (seriously, QB)
The AFC South was wide open last season and the Colts were expected to take it, but oops they misfired on veteran QB acquisition Matt Ryan and the whole team fell apart. There's noticeable gaps everywhere but honest-to-God the ONLY pick they can make in the First Round is taking a QB. It becomes a question if they go with the more reliable but less-flashy Levis out of Kentucky, or gamble on raw talent Richardson from UF. Knowing the impatience of the owner, they're going with flashy.
Colts select: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
5 Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)
NEEDS: A return of Grunge music to the Top 10 music rankings. I'm sick of pop songs. (seriously, LB, Safety, WR)
Seahawks are a team that can jump in a lot of directions and be a real wild card throwing everyone's mock boards askew. Having an extra First pick can allow for indulgences, to where some mock experts think they'll go with QB for long-term development behind surprise comeback kid Geno Smith. They did struggle defensively last season, so taking care of that need makes the most sense. It'll just get crazy over who they actually pick.
Seahawks select: Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
6 Detroit Lions (from LA Rams)
NEEDS: More kneecaps on which to feast. (seriously, CB, DT, OL)
Lions made a surprise run at the end of last season to where they're a favorite to challenge for the NFC North division, and getting better on defense would get them there. Getting an interior DL guy - a DT who can be a brick wall against the run AND create pressure - is what most of the scouts are looking at.
Lions select: DT Jalen Carter Jr, Georgia
7 Las Vegas Raiders
NEEDS: The patience of a Zen Master, because the owner and fanbase don't have any left. (seriously, OT, WR, CB)
The flailing habits of the Raiders team - so often on the brink of greatness with Carr at QB, but giving up on that halfway through last season - have them rebuilding yet again with Jimmy G at QB and a lot of needs everywhere. Solidifying an aged-out O-line would ensure keeping the QB healthy, so drafting the best-possible Left Tackle is the only sane move they can make. (but never expect the Raiders to draft sane)
Raiders select: OT Paris Johnson Jr, Ohio St.
8 Atlanta Falcons
NEEDS: To surrender now to their 28-3 doom, relocate to San Antonio, and rename themselves. (seriously, OL, OLB/Edge, QB)
The Falcons are talking themselves into sticking with second-year Ridder as their starter, but that means they NEED to get him more line protection up front to give him time to develop more. Both Guard and Tackle are high needs but at this point in the draft you look at Left Tackle. With Johnson already gone they gotta go with the next-best on the board. If they don't go with OT here it's going to be Levis as the last-best QB on the board and then rebuilding around him.
Falcons select: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
9 Chicago Bears (from Carolina)
NEEDS: A better stadium deal along Lake Michigan because moving out to the exurbs is a bad idea. (seriously, OT, DT, CB)
We're going to see a run here on Offensive Tackle because A) the talent pool for OT drops off pretty quickly after the top five guys and B) the Bears REALLY need to keep their franchise QB Justin Fields healthy and getting OT does that a lot.
Bears select: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
10 Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans)
NEEDS: Bastards have two draft picks in the First, damn their needs. (seriously, WR, Safety, RB)
Iggles have a lot of options to build on their Super-Bowl level team, and can indulge getting ANY player ranked high at this spot. Even the need positions can get overlooked if they can add more talent to Cornerback or Edge/outside pass rush. Adding a receiver would boost their passing game, but this is another wild card for the draft that can shift the entire board after this point.
Eagles select: DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
11 Tennessee Titans
NEEDS: To give Derrick Henry his last best shot at an AFC championship game before his knees give out. (seriously, OL, WR, LB)
Titans were another AFC South that regressed at a moment they could have dominated it, and so there's a lot of roster spots in dire need of upgrade if they want to compete now with the veteran talent they have. Any boost to the O-line helps their offense both with passing and running, and that tends to point towards drafting a Tackle. As a Bucs fan looking at the best-possible OT talent leaving the board, I'm starting to dread this draft.
Titans select: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
12 Houston Texans (from Cleveland)
NEEDS: A successful roll of the dice on this second First Rounder that neither pick are busts. (still everything)
Having drafted the QB of the future for the team, Texans could give him either protection or weapons like WR or RB. Problem is, a bad team like the Texans had huge defensive problems to resolve, and getting either pass rush or lock-down CB is the option there. Given the top-rated WR and top-rated CB are on the boards, team could take either one.
Texans select: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
13 New York Jets
NEEDS: To draft smart like they did last season, which was their best draft in 20 years. (seriously, QB, OT, LB)
Deal here is, the Jets are planning to trade for Aaron Rodgers to give them one good year out of a veteran QB to get this team over the debacles of the past 20 years. Drafting a QB only makes sense if the deal with the Packers falls through (odds are, the trade will get done the day before the draft when both teams know what they can get). If they do get Rodgers, he will need O-line protection, and that would take the last good OT off the board until the Second Round (dammit).
Jets select: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
14 New England Patriots
NEEDS: To draft punter and tank the 2023 season because WE STILL HATE YOU, HOODIE. (seriously, OT, WR, TE)
If there's any good news about the Jets taking an OT, it deprives the Pats from making that pick. Whew. It's unlikely Bellichek will draft a QB here to cover for the disappointing Mac Jones, but he's going to need to upgrade that offense with more weapons, and the best WRs are still on the board to where he has his pick of them.
Patriots select: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
15 Green Bay Packers
NEEDS: To hire better soap opera writers. (seriously, OL, WR, QB)
With the impending departure of Rodgers, this will be the Love era and he's going to need all the help he can get. Packers could get help for the interior O-line with best-available Guards still on the board, but they need more help at receiver than ever before.
Packers select: WR Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio St.
16 Washington Commanders
NEEDS: To ensure Snyder sells the team and disappears into a jail cell for the federal criminal violations he's hopefully facing. (seriously, OL, QB, TE)
A new ownership era in DC won't resolve the talent gaps this team is facing, which could have this team drafting best-available-player no matter what. Thing is, new owners LOVE to announce their arrival with getting a franchise QB to build around, and let's face it Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell are not marquee guys. The last remaining top QB of the draft stops sliding here, but it's a question if he's going to enjoy it here.
Commanders select: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
17 Pittsburgh Steelers
NEEDS: Christ, like I need to tell the most stable franchise in league history what to do? (seriously, OT WR, CB)
If there's any team other than Tampa willing to trade up to ensure getting an OT this round, it's the Steelers. They're keen on building around their future guy Pickett, but without a value Tackle at this point they're better off resolving other needs. The team had problems with pass coverage last season, so getting starter-caliber corner help wouldn't be a bad move.
Steelers select: CB Joey Porter Jr, Penn St.
18 Detroit Lions
NEEDS: To knock on wood that their two First Rounder picks pan out. (anything they didn't get at the sixth pick)
Lions took care of their D-line earlier, now they need to look at their pass coverage, with Porter taken just ahead of them now would be a good time to see a run on CBs, which has a decent draft pool (it's arguably deep enough that starters could be found well into the FOURTH Round this year).
Lions select: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NEEDS: Love, affection, and more boats for the next Super Bowl parade. (OT, OLB/Edge, Safety)
The way this draft shook out, the Bucs have to be cursing the fates that none of the top five OTs slid this far. If there's anything good about their situation, it's that other high-value talents at other needs - outside pass rush (Edge), Safety, and even Running Back - did slide to here.
A lot of mock drafts see the Bucs grabbing RB Bijan Robinson, the top RB and arguably a Top Ten overall talent on the board. Given that our remaining RBs on the roster are unproven, it would be tempting if this happened. But the Bucs are looking at a questionable pass rush with an injured Barrett returning and an inconsistent threat in Joe Tyron-Shinoka, so getting a top-tier Edge rusher would work here.
Buccaneers select: OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia
20 Seattle Seahawks
NEEDS: To keep laughing at Denver the whole night long. (anything they didn't get at the fifth pick)
I mentioned earlier the 'Hawks could be a wild card, jumping in any direction early on to mess with the boards. Now, they do need to take care of starter needs and getting either best-available LB or WR would work here.
Seahawks select: WR Jordan Addison, USC
oops Miami Dolphins (forfeited)
NEEDS: Better lawyers to argue their cases before Goodell. (dudes)
21 Los Angeles Chargers
NEEDS: To move back to San Diego and beg forgiveness so that their good karma returns. (seriously, OL, RB, DT)
The Chargers are that team that's always one or two players away from a legitimate Super Bowl run, and it's always a question of which roster spot really needs the fix. I am not sure who they have at running back, and given the lack of OT talent at this spot on the boards, this is where Robinson finds a home.
Chargers select: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
22 Baltimore Ravens
NEEDS: To reform the city police and improve their schools. 20 years after the Wire series, and the Gods still will not save them. (seriously, WR, Guard, QB)
With Lamar Jackson's status up in the air - the team can't trade him, he's stuck with a transition tag that makes him too expensive to sign elsewhere - there's a chance they will gamble on drafting a QB, except there's none of real value at this point (Hooker is next and scouting has him at Second Rounder value). While the team is looking to get Jackson back (if they can talk him out of sitting the season in protest) that would mean getting the man weapons or a better OL. They've needed receiver help for a long time.
Ravens select: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
23 Minnesota Vikings
NEEDS: More rock, less shock. (seriously, CB, WR, DL)
Vikings may have won the NFC North last season but did so on wobbly talent, especially defense. Getting any kind of front-line or backfield help would improve the odds this season. I would argue best-available CB fits here.
Vikings select: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
24 Jacksonville Jaguars
NEEDS: Some wake-up coffee, because this is the latest into draft night the fanbase has ever waited for their first pick. (CB, Safety, DT)
BORTLES! No wait, that was the alternate universe created by the events of the Good Place television series. This time around, they won the AFC South behind an overachieving offense with a defense in dire need of either front-line or corner help. With a run on CBs threatening to start up again, getting the last guy with First Round value is their smart move here.
Jaguars select: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
25 New York Giants
NEEDS: Anything necessary to ensure the Cowboys suffer a 5-12 season. (seriously, WR, OL, CB)
The Gints were a surprise last season where their QB finally played like a First Rounder and the rest of the team rose to the moment. But they still have serious talent problems on offense at receiver and OL. With most of the top-tier receivers off the board, there's a surplus of Guards still available that would improve the pass protection AND running game right away.
Giants select: G O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida
26 Dallas Cowboys
NEEDS: Anything unnecessary to ensure the Cowboys suffer a 5-12 season. (seriously, OT, DT, Safety)
Cowboys didn't deserve to reach the playoffs last season, with a team riddled with injury, bad lapses, and questionable coaching. If they are going to improve on all that, they're looking at multiple needs and a frustrating situation where the draft board isn't helping. OT of any value is long gone, and they do need that. Next-best would be their defensive front, but the fact that the top-rated Safety on the board - the only one with a First Round value - is here could be too tempting for Jerry Jones to ignore.
Cowboys select: S Brian Branch, Alabama
27 Buffalo Bills
NEEDS: Luck. A Lake Erie amount of luck. (seriously, OL, CB, LB)
The Bills are like the only winning team in league history that still evokes a ton of sympathy from the rest of the sporting fanbase (to some degree: Bills fans can still be recklessly gauche and impolite). They're one of those teams - like the Chargers or Vikings - that seem one or two players away from greatness, so it's a question of which need is that weak spot. They need either backfield help or O-Line. The smart move is always OL.
Bills select: G Steve Avila, TCU
28 Cincinnati Bengals
NEEDS: More offensive line help to protect their boy Burrow. (seriously, OT, OL, Safety)
Other than Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, Cincy is a team with dire need to boost their offensive line and likely desperate enough to trade up to do so. Without the move up for either OT or Guard, Bengals have to consider the gap at Safety. Except there's no good Safety value at this point in the draft. Next best Cornerback would help their backfield, that's the only other glaring need left.
Bengals select: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi St.
29 New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco, Miami, and Denver)
NEEDS: As a Bucs fan, I don't give a rat's ass. (seriously, OT, DT, WR)
The Saints resolved a question mark at QB in their trade for Derek Carr, it's now a question of how they're going to protect him. There's not a lot of value at OT at this point and so they may have to trade down more or get best-next need here. This draft doesn't show a lot of value for DT, so there's a good chance the next-best player after Jalen Carter finds a home here.
Saints select: DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
30 Philadelphia Eagles
NEEDS: This isn't fair. They already drafted. (anything they didn't get at the tenth pick)
Sigh. Who did I have them taking earlier? Defensive End for pass rush? Okay fine, let's make this, um, receiver.
Eagles select: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
31 Kansas City Chiefs
NEEDS: A collective ego check. (seriously, OLB/Edge, OL, WR)
They just won the Super Bowl. Screw them.
Chiefs select: Punter Bryce Baringer, Michigan St. (ow stop hitting me, okay OLB Derrick Hall, Auburn)
Comment below, you fiends. Tell me what I got wrong.