Our draft guru, Dane Brugler, released his latest, post-NFL Scouting Combine mock draft earlier this week. What stood out about his 31 selections in Round 1?
We asked our draft team members Nick Baumgardner, Diante Lee and Nate Tice for their thoughts.
Post-Combine Mock Draft
– Colts trade up to No. 1, but not for Bryce Young
– A scenario Ryan Poles can be comfortable with
– Interesting names in the back-half of round onehttps://t.co/nlb8hb3r5v
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 7, 2023
1. The Colts and Panthers moved up for C.J. Stroud (at No. 1) and Anthony Richardson (No. 4), respectively. The Bears were at the heart of both trades. Especially in light of everything you saw and heard at the combine, how’d you like those moves?
Baumgardner: The Colts and Stroud felt like a perfect pair before the combine. Stroud could go through his share of first-year hiccups, but Indianapolis has a better roster than we’re used to seeing this high up in the draft. The Colts have the defense and general personnel to help a young player like this. For me, it seemed like a decision of whether Indianapolis would fall in love with Stroud, Bryce Young or neither and opt to sit and wait, knowing there’d be value at No. 4 anyway.
Stroud was terrific at the combine and in the College Football Playoff. His throwing motion is like a well-practiced golf swing, and he’s the most gifted pocket passer in this class. And, make no mistake, this is a good quarterback class.
Tice: I love it for the Bears, who need as many viable players and ways to find them as possible. A war chest of draft picks would help.
Stroud matches the size threshold that the Colts have for their players and would bring a polished game to a roster that isn’t as bad as one might think. Pairing Stroud (my personal QB1) with Shane Steichen, who has a background in Norv Turner offenses, would make sense. Stroud could push the ball to an Indianapolis receiving corps with size. That roster would just need a little talent injection along the offensive line, as well.
.@CJ7STROUD makes it look eaaaasy.
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— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
Diante Lee: In the mock-draft cyberverse, this is the trade package to end all trade packages for Chicago. When Bears GM Ryan Poles spoke with such unwavering certainty about acquiring surplus draft capital by trading the first pick, this is exactly what he and the Chicago fan base had in mind.
Based on conversations had before and during the combine, the Colts are looking for a long-term option at quarterback but not a project. While there’s no such thing as certainty when it comes to rookie quarterbacks, Stroud is as close as you’ll get in this draft class to threading that needle. His size, accuracy and consistency make him the kind of foundational piece needed to build this offense around.
I still some have questions about how Stroud will manage pressure at the next level, but I have a hard time seeing him being anything other than the efficiency machine he’s been since his first start for Ohio State. The 2017-18 version of Jared Goff is the trajectory I’m banking on, and Stroud’s ceiling will be determined by how comfortable he is using his legs.
Florida’s Anthony Richardson details ‘life-changing’ week at NFL Scouting Combine
Baumgardner: As far as Richardson goes, I don’t hate the idea of him landing in Carolina, although I hope he whenever he goes has or adds an established veteran on its roster. If that Panthers can do that, Frank Reich could create a really good environment for Richardson’s gifted skill set. I like a fit of Richardson and Seattle better, to be honest, but that’s why this trade makes even more sense from Carolina’s standpoint.
Tice: I love the pairing of Richardson with the Panthers, especially if they sign Jacoby Brissett to be a bridge, as Dane suggested. Brissett could hold down the fort until Richardson is ready, which I think will be quicker than expected. The Panthers have a good offensive line (that’s mostly signed through 2024), D.J. Moore as a No. 1 receiving option and a talented defense that can shoulder the team’s weight during any adjustment period.
I like Richardson with the Panthers. I love the thought of Brissett and Richardson making up that QB room in 2023.
Lee: Brissett (or a quarterback of that caliber) serving as the intermediary between the Panthers’ present and future would be ideal, especially if Carolina can bring in that player on a one- or two-year deal. There isn’t a great deal of offensive skill on the roster, outside of Moore, but Carolina will have a healthy amount of cap space in 2024 to properly build around Reich and his quarterback of the future.
If Carolina plays its hand right, this can be a swift turnaround.
Official 40 time for @GatorsFB QB Anthony Richardson: 4.43 pic.twitter.com/7oYT6ArwaH
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
2. The other trade here is pretty interesting, too: New England climbs to 10 for Peter Skoronski; Philadelphia slides to 14, adds two picks and takes Bijan Robinson. Who won that trade?
Tice: There might be concerns with Skoronski’s length, but there are none about his value as a football player. It would make sense for the Patriots — a team that found similar value in a player like Joe Thuney, despite his “length limitations” — to be interested in a prospect who can play anywhere along the offensive line. A skilled, versatile player is a worthwhile investment. And “skilled” and “versatile” are two words Bill Belichick loves in crafting his roster.
I think the Eagles win this trade, though, continuing their habit of starting with a red paper clip and turning it into something increasingly more valuable. Robinson is one of the most talented players in the draft, because he can impact snaps on all three downs. For whatever is said about running-back value, finding a football player who can provide a positive impact as a rusher, receiver and pass blocker for 40-ish snaps is well worth an investment in mid-Round 1.
NFL combine: Official measurements and testing results for each prospect
Lee: I don’t know if either team “wins” the trade, but I think that both would leave feeling like their mission was accomplished. Skoronski should be a top-10 pick in this draft, arm length be damned, and New England’s offensive line was an issue all last season. Even without legendary assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia in the fold, I have enough trust in Bill Belichick’s vision for pivoting this franchise into its next era and in Skoronski’s ability as a pass blocker to see a great fit.
As for Philadelphia, Dane’s mock had Christian Gonzalez and three edge rushers already off the board by the time the 10th pick came up, so there’d be incentive to drop back a few spots and reevaluate. This draft doesn’t have enough blue-chip talent across the board to debate positional value by round (in good faith, at least), and this isn’t a roster with many immediate needs to address. Getting Robinson and some extra draft capital is ideal.
Daniel Jeremiah’s 7th ranked overall prospect Peter Skoronski can move at 6’4” 313 lbs @NUFBFamily | @PSkoronski
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— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023
Baumgardner: My biggest takeaway is that it shows how talented Skoronski is, and how high the league is on him. Some teams may have disagreements on where to play him, but many think he’s a top-five player in this class — he’s no worse than a top-10 player. If you have the assets to make it happen, he’d be someone worth the jump.
However, this also illustrates that Philadelphia is in position to win any and all trades it enters during the draft, as its roster is still pretty loaded and its draft capital is still in a very good spot. (On a personal note: I suggested Bijan for the Eagles back in the summer and it felt like the entire city was coming for me. I now feel vindicated.)
3. Trades aside, what was the most surprising pick of Dane’s latest mock?
Lee: I relish an opportunity to think like a commenter on Dane’s mock drafts, so I won’t miss it here. I was genuinely intrigued by Calijah Kancey and Zay Flowers making the first round, particularly with Bryan Bresee having to eke his way into Round 1 and Quentin Johnston falling out of the top 31. Kancey’s speed scores were what you needed to see for a defensive tackle who weighs in below 290 pounds (Kancey was 281), but we’re still talking about an undersized guy in weight and wingspan.
With Flowers, he meets the baseline athletic ability for a wide receiver of his size (5-foot-9, 182 pounds). He also can toggle between being smooth and sudden as a route runner, has great hands and is a playmaker. However, you’d be drafting a receiver who can really only fit into one archetype, and I don’t know if he’d consistently get open in the middle of the field enough to justify a first-round selection.
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Baumgardner: Seeing Bresee’s name all the way down there at No. 29 is a bit jarring. It’s realistic, though, as many are torn on him. He’s a talented player who’s had to deal with things outside of his control, so he could outperform his ultimate landing spot.
Another thing that’s not a surprise to me but might be to some: Dane noted Houston doesn’t have to (and might not) take a quarterback at No. 2. It seems like too many have assumed otherwise. The Texans need so many things, in addition to a quarterback, that if they want to ride with Davis Mills for a bit longer and focus on the elite options in next year’s quarterback class … I can understand that.
Tice: It was a non-pick for me, and that’s Johnston falling out of the first round. This wide receiver class is not a great one, as far as top-end talent — especially compared to recent classes and even more so when it comes to receivers with size. I wouldn’t be shocked if Johnston falls to Day 2, because he is not a perfect prospect, but he has an intriguing height/weight/speed combination that others at the top of this year’s class don’t.
I kept scrolling to see his name and ended up in the comments section.
One of the top WR prospects Quentin Johnston logs an 11’2″ on the broad jump. @MrJohnston____ | @TCUFootball
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— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
4. What’s the best player-team fit in the back half (picks 17-31)?
Baumgardner: Man, there are so many. I’ll go with Michael Mayer and the Chargers, I can see Justin Herbert’s smile all the way from here in freezing cold Michigan. One of the things I love so much about projecting Mayer to the NFL is the fact that he played for several different quarterbacks at Notre Dame, many of them inconsistent. The Irish went through a huge transition during his time there, and it didn’t bother him at all. The wobblier Notre Dame got, the better Mayer looked.
Honorable mention is Jaxon Smith-Njigba to Seattle at 20. That seems like incredible value. It was good to see Smith-Njigba back on the field running around doing crazy stuff at the combine.
Tice: Love, love, love Mayer to the Chargers. He would be a steadying force for Herbert and provide an influx of talent that the Chargers desperately need at tight end — not only as a receiver but as a blocker. Nick mentioned my other favorite one: Smith-Njigba to the Seahawks. He would be a cherry on top for what I think will be a top-10 offense in 2023 and has a skill set that would pair wonderfully with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
I’m also a sucker for the Joey Porter Jr. to the Steelers at 17. Porter, unsurprisingly, has the mindset of a Steelers defender and would give that unit another player with bona-fide star potential. A defense led by T.J. Watt and breakout player Alex Highsmith up front, with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Porter on the backend would be one of the league’s best. Porter would match the competitive, intelligent and physical mindset that the Steelers play with.
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Lee: There are some really good ones in the back half — Dane is great with identifying a franchise’s body-type and athletic-trait thresholds. Myles Murphy is exactly the kind of prospect who fits into Tampa Bay’s “bigger, faster, stronger” approach to building out its front seven, and Dalton Kincaid is perfect for a Cowboys offense that needs someone other than CeeDee Lamb to take up tough targets in the middle of the field.
I’m rolling with consensus here, though: Mayer, pairing up with a Chargers offense that needs more versatility and physicality. Los Angeles still needs speed, but Mayer’s presence would help the underneath passing game and the run game.
(Photo of C.J. Stroud: Dale Zanine / USA Today)