Yearly, there’s at the very least one shock choose within the first spherical.
Certain, groups like Dallas and New England can say Tyler Smith and Cole Unusual had first-round grades in their very own respective draft boards.
Overlook the truth that Smith ought to make most rookie first groups – the overall consensus on the time was that each groups reached after they drafted these gamers within the first spherical.
However what if groups took a collective strategy to their huge boards and didn’t attain within the first spherical?
Begin with Chicago. It’s all been assumed that the Bears will take Will Anderson, an outdoor linebacker from Alabama, or Jalen Carter, a defensive sort out from Georgia.
That’s assuming the workforce doesn’t commerce out of the primary general choose.
However why isn’t Texas working again Bijan Robinson in consideration for the No. 1 general choose?
The 6-foot, 215-pound true junior rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 TDs this season. He additionally had 19 receptions for 314 yards and two extra TDs. That offers him a three-year line of three,410-33 dashing and 60-805-8 receiving. Robinson has additionally been ranked as the highest prospect within the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon huge board for greater than a month.
And but, the highest draft specialists virtually universally peg Robinson as a candidate to drop late into the primary spherical.
The Draft Community and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler have Robinson going to Philadelphia with the ultimate choose of the draft. As Brugler says, “There simply aren’t too many clear touchdown spots (for Robinson) throughout the prime 30 picks.”
The newest mock draft from Professional Soccer Community has Robinson falling to the third-to-last choose of the spherical, whereas Mel Kiper of ESPN has him lasting to choose No. 26.
The very best choose? That might be No. 18, the place Professional Soccer Focus’ Michael Renner has Robinson slotted. After all, that mock was revealed Jan. 9 – Robinson could possibly be decrease within the subsequent PFF mock draft.
And but, the entire distinguished draft analysts additionally agree on one thing else about Robinson: He’s one in every of, if not the highest prospect within the draft.
The highest QBs all include warts; so does Anderson and Carter. Robinson, although, is extensively considered one of the best RB prospect in a number of years.
One thing else to think about: The AFC is shaping out to be a pass-heavy convention loaded with elite, under-28, still-ascending expertise at quarterback.
However, the NFC has been trending towards the working recreation lately. Take this season for instance of the development: 4 of the highest 5, seven of the highest 10 and 10 of the highest 15 dashing groups hail from the NFC.
Now have a look at these two developments from the lens of this weekend’s convention championship video games. The AFC recreation options two of the highest QBs within the league: Kansas Metropolis and Patrick Mahomes vs. Cincinnati and Joe Burrow. Then there’s the NFC championship: Philadelphia completed fifth and San Francisco completed seventh in dashing yards. The AFC recreation options two first-round QBs; the NFC recreation encompasses a QB taken within the second spherical and a rookie QB who was “Mr. Irrelevant” after being chosen with the ultimate choose of the draft.
By the way, the workforce that completed first in dashing yards was Chicago, by a large margin. The Bears had 3,014 yards dashing and 18 TDs whereas averaging 5.4 yards per carry. However that was largely because of the play of second-year QB Justin Fields, who led all quarterbacks this season with 1,143 yards dashing and eight TDs.
Working backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, although, weren’t far behind Fields. Montgomery rushed for 801 yards and 5 TDs, though he additionally averaged simply 4.0 YPC. Herbert rushed for 731 yards and 4 TDs.
Not dangerous, proper?
Montgomery, although, is about to change into an unrestricted free agent – and neither participant is as dynamic of a playmaker as Robinson.
Two extra stats to make Robinson’s case: 58 and 23. Fifty-eight is the variety of sacks Chicago allowed, fourth-most within the league (and one away from tying for third-most), and 23 is the place the workforce ranked amongst time of possession.
Subsequently, it’s logical to imagine that including a dynamic RB might help with each of these points.
After all, that’s unlikely to occur. But when the Bears don’t snag Robinson within the first, then they received’t get an opportunity on the prime of the second after the workforce traded the choose to Pittsburgh.
So, once more, it begs the query: Why attain for a participant when one of the best participant within the draft is on the market?
Right here’s what a draft like that may seem like: no trades, only a bunch of groups letting the proverbial chips fall the place they might.
So, other than the Robinson choose, there’s no huge surprises. In actual fact, though it wasn’t intentional, the highest 31 ranked gamers within the Rigdon huge board all went within the first spherical of this mock.
1. Chicago Bears: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Scouts have been fawning throughout Robinson in a Nov. 18 Walter Soccer Sizzling Press report, with some evaluating him to Marshall Faulk.
2. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Younger, Alabama
A no brainer: Houston wants assist virtually in every single place, together with quarterback. It’s additionally not a giant attain. Apart from, Houston nonetheless has a choose within the first spherical if it nonetheless desires to handle its cross rush.
3. Arizona Cardinals: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
You at all times take a cross rusher over a defensive sort out, proper? Not on this case. Carter would fill in properly for the retired J.J. Watt as a defensive finish in Arizona’s 3-4 protection, plus the Cardinals have invested closely lately on the exterior linebacker place.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Indianapolis must be cautious with this choose: Within the AFC South, Houston is rebuilding and Tennessee is trending down. Jacksonville, although, seems on its means up behind future star QB Trevor Lawrence. Swing and miss on a QB right here, and the Colts will fall even additional behind the Jaguars. So why not take a premiere cross rusher as a substitute? Ben Banogu and Yannick Ngakoue are unrestricted free brokers. Nonetheless, don’t be stunned if the choose is Wilson over Alabama’s Will Anderson, because the latter is a bit undersized as a 4-3 defensive finish. Apart from, if the Colts end with a top-5 choose in 2024, then they stand an opportunity at drafting both Caleb Williams of USC or Drake Maye of North Carolina – and lots of draft specialists think about these two higher prospects than any from the 2023 class. Lastly, Wilson has been rising up draft boards – Walter Soccer reviews that some scouts choose him over Anderson.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
Count on Seattle to re-sign QB Geno Smith moderately than taking an opportunity on a sign caller on this draft.
6. Detroit Lions (from LAR): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Indianapolis and Seattle may say “cross” to Stroud or Kentucky’s Will Levis, however Detroit probably wouldn’t. That’s as a result of, if all goes to plan, the Lions received’t have one other shot at a top-10 QB within the draft for a few years. Plus, that is one of the best of each worlds: Jared Goff is signed via 2024, permitting the workforce to take it gradual with Stroud (or Levis).
7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
You don’t do away with a QB like Derek Carr and never come away from the draft with a QB within the first spherical. Don’t be stunned if Las Vegas makes an attempt to commerce up – even when it indicators a free agent like Tom Brady.
8. Atlanta Falcons: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
If this choose comes right down to Clemson cross rusher Myles Murphy vs. Ohio State’s Johnson, then give the nod to the Buckeye offensive lineman. Even when the workforce re-signs left sort out Kaleb McGary, who’s an UFA, the left guard spot was a black gap this previous season for the Falcons, and Johnson can play each positions.
9. Carolina Panthers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Carolina bypassed Justin Fields in 2021 as a result of the workforce wasn’t 100% positive the QB would flip into an elite signal-caller. Sensible transfer? Perhaps, perhaps not, however the Fields-led Bears have gone 9-25 the previous two season, in comparison with the Panthers, who’ve gone 12-22 with a carousel of QBs. The QB-friendly Mayer is without doubt one of the most secure picks within the draft.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO): S Brian Department, Alabama
The NFL’s top-rated protection can have a tough time re-signing all its UFAs within the offseason, together with security Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, one in every of eight defensive starters set to hit free company.
11. Tennessee Titans: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
There are many causes for Tennessee to bypass sort out within the first spherical. For starters, the workforce wants extra out of its receivers after a tough rookie season from first-rounder Treylon Burks. In the meantime, left sort out Taylor Lewan continues to be underneath contract and is predicted to return from a knee damage that induced him to overlook a lot of the season. And the Titans have invested closely on the sort out place lately, drafting three within the first spherical since 2014 and 6 general throughout the identical interval. However Lewan is a camp minimize candidate, and backup Dennis Daley is unrestricted.
12. Houston Texans (from CLE): Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
Certain, Houston may use one other offensive lineman to pair with its new QB, however bear in mind: no reaching. Apart from, Murphy is a freak of an athlete and performs a premium place.
13. NY Jets: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Whereas the Jets may use extra items alongside its offensive line, taking the next-best sort out right here could be a little bit of a attain. Bresee makes an excessive amount of sense, particularly with Sheldon Rankins about to change into an UFA. Now think about a Bresee-Quinnen Williams DT pairing, and it’s straightforward to see why this could possibly be the choose.
14. New England Patriots: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
Who do you’ve ranked greater, the highest CB or the highest WR? As a result of New England must improve each positions – and has the prospect to draft one of the best gamers at two positions of want.
15. Inexperienced Bay Packers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
16. Washington Commanders: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
A fast look at Washington’s first-round QBs over the previous 30 years is miserable: Heath Shuler (1994), Patrick Ramsey (2002), Jason Campbell (2005), Robert Griffin III (2012) and Dwayne Haskins (2019). However, nearly as good as fifth-round rookie Sam Howell seemed in his one and solely recreation this season, the common season finale in opposition to Dallas, Richardson is the far superior athlete.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Whereas the Steelers desperately have to improve their offensive line – Georgia’s Broderick Jones could possibly be the choose right here — passing on the youthful Porter may trigger followers to riot.
18. Detroit Lions: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
It wouldn’t take a lot to improve the Lions’ secondary.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
No matter whether or not Tom Brady returns or if the Kyle Trask period is about to start out, the workforce must improve its offensive line.
20. Seattle Seahawks: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Assume former USC coach Pete Carroll received’t pound the desk for Addison? A DK Metcalf–Tyler Lockett-Jordan Addison receiver trio may appear to be a luxurious, particularly whenever you think about rookie RB Kenneth Walker III. Plus, it’s a bit stunning to see Clemson edge Myles Murphy nonetheless accessible, though some distinguished draft analysts now checklist Texas Tech’s Wilson because the second-best cross rusher. However as thrilling as a Will Anderson-Myles Murphy duo sounds, neither one in every of them are prone to have as huge of an impression their rookie 12 months as Addison, just because it usually takes cross rushers just a few years earlier than they begin hitting double-digit sacks. However it could be enjoyable to consider …
21. LA Chargers: WR Jaxson Smith-Nijgba, Ohio State
The playoff loss to Jacksonville reveals that the Chargers want extra playmakers on offense exterior of QB Justin Herbert. Nonetheless, it is a slight attain, as JSN is ranked because the No. 26 general prospect on this draft.
22. Baltimore Ravens: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Baltimore followers will collectively murmur “Newman!” if JSN goes one choose forward of them. However, just like the Steelers, Baltimore isn’t generally known as a workforce that reaches within the draft, therefore why Witherspoon is the choose right here. He’s the highest-rated cornerback nonetheless accessible at a place that may change into a giant want if the Ravens lets Marcus Peters stroll in free company.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Lukas Van Ness
“Newman!” Count on the identical response out of Vikings followers if the top-remaining receivers and cornerbacks are off the board – which is the case on this situation. Van Ness is kind of the comfort prize, particularly with the unsure futures of the workforce’s beginning defensive ends.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State
May Jacksonville use one other cross catcher? Certain, however taking one right here could be a small attain. Similar goes for cornerback and an inside offensive lineman. The following-highest rated security, additionally a place of want in Jacksonville, is ranked within the early- to mid-second spherical vary. Nonetheless, Harrison is just not solely the second-highest rated prospect nonetheless accessible, he’s large enough that he may be capable of play defensive finish within the Jaguars’ 3-4 protection at 6-foot-6, 272-pounds.
25. NY Giants: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
Like Jacksonville, as a substitute of reaching for a receiver right here, Simpson could be a extra logical selection because the highest-remaining prospect. He’s not as huge as Dallas’ Micah Parsons, however he’s acquired some Parson-like talents in that you should use Simpson everywhere in the discipline. Plus, it’s not a nasty thought so as to add a rookie who might lead your workforce in tackles whenever you play in a division that features run-heavy groups Philadelphia and Dallas twice a 12 months.
26. Dallas Cowboys: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
The curse of the 2016 draft continues, because it’s doable the workforce strikes on from both Ezekiel Elliott or Dak Prescott – or each — within the offseason. However the prime 4 QBs are lengthy passed by this level, and buying and selling or releasing Prescott could be cost-prohibitive. Elliott, however, has already stated that he’d be prepared to take a pay minimize to stay with the workforce. In the meantime, UFA Tony Pollard is out for 4 months following surgical procedure to restore ligaments from a excessive ankle sprain suffered within the playoff loss to San Francisco. Nonetheless, taking a working again within the first spherical most likely makes followers uneasy – particularly with wants at receiver, cornerback, defensive sort out and guard. However the formulation Dallas used and had a lot success with throughout Prescott’s rookie 12 months was to mix an elite floor recreation with an elite offensive line. One more reason why the Cowboys may take a RB within the first? The workforce’s younger linemen are additional forward of their run blocking than they’re in cross safety. So this choose wouldn’t solely fill a possible big want for Dallas with an elite expertise, it could additionally play to the energy of the workforce’s younger offensive linemen. Apart from, it’s onerous to think about Prescott throwing as many INTs with a extra explosive floor recreation.
27. Buffalo Payments: WR Zay Flowers, Boston School
Uh-oh, are the Payments available in the market for a brand new receiver? The Rigdon huge board is greater on Flowers than different evaluators, as Brugler has the Payments drafting Flowers within the second spherical. Flowers is ranked No. 32 within the newest Rigdon huge board, so this wouldn’t be a lot of a attain.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
Apparently, Cincinnati not solely is in higher form at offensive sort out than many thought, the playoff win over Buffalo reveals the Bengals may need some depth there, too. Search for the Bengals to improve the secondary as a substitute.
29. Denver Broncos (from SF): OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Want, meet greatest participant accessible. Till (and until) the Broncos tackle the offensive line in free company, it’s going to be tough to mock a special place.
30. Kansas Metropolis Chiefs: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Ringo is a little bit of a polarizing prospect – there will probably be some who suppose that is means too low for the previous Bulldog, whereas others really feel he’s extra of a second-round prospect. This provides the workforce three strong, younger cornerbacks.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge B.J. Ojulari, LSU
Once more, Philadelphia may lose a number of starters in free company. The Ojulari choose offers them insurance coverage ought to a number of depart and with Derek Barnett nonetheless recovering from a torn ACL.
Los Angeles Rams, second spherical: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
New Orleans Saints, second spherical: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Cleveland Browns, second spherical: DL Mazi Smith, Michigan
Miami Dolphins, second spherical: G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
San Francisco, third spherical: CB Eli Ricks, Alabama
* Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.
** Miami misplaced its first-round choose as a consequence of tampering fees.
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He additionally covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective on this subReddit. And his huge board is up to date at the very least as soon as per week through the season and main as much as the draft.