With less than a week until Round 1 of the 2023 NFL draft, the rumors and intrigue are picking up. We’ve heard a lot of buzz about potential traded picks, the Texans’ intentions at No. 2, big-time risers among top prospects and how the quarterbacks will come off the board. So we asked NFL draft analysts Matt Miller and Jordan Reid to break down the latest intel from around the league.
What moves could shake up the top 10? Could Houston really pass on a QB, and which teams might want to trade for Arizona’s No. 3 pick? Where could Bijan Robinson get drafted, which picks just make too much sense not to happen, and which trends should continue this year? We get into all that and then let Matt and Jordan fill out two intriguing teams’ perfect draft outcomes. Finally, our experts empty the scouting notebooks with what they’re hearing.
Let’s jump in, starting with big questions around key teams in the top five.
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Houston buzz | Trades for Arizona
Robinson’s range | Our guys
Perfect matches | Trends
Ideal drafts | Buzz, rumors and notes
Could the Texans really pass on a quarterback at No. 2?
Miller: The chatter around the Houston Texans not selecting a quarterback at No. 2 overall continues to build. Seriously. In texts and calls with scouts, coaches and even agents throughout the past week, I couldn’t find one person who truly believes the Texans will select a QB there. This is either the best organized smokescreen of all time, or the Texans are really set on drafting a defensive player at No. 2 overall. Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. is the name most often connected to Houston by league sources. (Remember, next year’s draft class promises to be loaded at QB, too, with USC’s Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye leading the pack.)
Reid: Yeah, it certainly is possible at this point. New coach DeMeco Ryans is locked into a six-year deal with the team and he might want to reshape a lacking defensive unit. There are obvious quarterback issues, but Houston also allowed 5.7 yards per play last season, 26th in the NFL. And since the Texans don’t have any building blocks along the defensive line, they could have a higher grade on Anderson than any of the quarterbacks not named Bryce Young — who is the assumed No. 1 pick. During his time in San Francisco, Ryans saw how important someone like Nick Bosa can be for a defense and could view Anderson playing a similar role in Houston.
Give us a trade offer for the No. 3 pick that makes sense for both sides.
Reid: The Indianapolis Colts send the No. 4, No. 79 (third round) and No. 106 (fourth round) picks, along with a 2024 third-rounder to the Cardinals. It’s a hefty price, but there will certainly be plenty of teams aiming to move up to No. 3 — Adam Schefter recently reported there are as many as six — so this would secure the Colts the quarterback they want. If Indy likes one of the quarterbacks available, it’s a better strategy than just hoping no other team jumps ahead and takes the passer it’d be targeting. The framework of this deal is similar to the Bears-49ers trade from 2017, when Chicago came up one pick to select Mitch Trubisky. In that deal, the Bears traded a third-rounder, fourth-rounder and future third-rounder. And Arizona could still land the defender it would otherwise be picking at No. 4.
Miller: The Tennessee Titans send the No. 11 and No. 72 (third round) picks, a 2024 first-rounder and a 2025 first-rounder to the Cardinals. It would allow the Titans to jump the Colts (and a bunch of other teams) for a quarterback of the future, with 34-year-old Ryan Tannehill nearing the end of his run. And that quarterback could be Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, if the Texans do indeed draft a defensive player. The Cardinals, meanwhile, comfortably move back to a spot where they could probably still get Iowa pass-rusher Lukas Van Ness to jumpstart a rebuild on defense, while also looking forward to multiple first-rounders in each of the next two years.
What is Bijan Robinson‘s expected draft range?
Miller: I’d say the highest spot the Texas running back could go is the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 overall. Atlanta loves the power run game, and while Tyler Allgeier rushed for 1,035 yards as a fifth-round rookie, he added only three scores and wasn’t a factor in the passing game. Robinson would give Atlanta a featured back and let Allgeier factor in as a short-yardage back. The lowest I could see Robinson going? That would be No. 31 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. If teams stick to the “no running backs in the first round” mantra, he could fall right into the NFC champ’s lap.
Reid: Every scout I’ve spoken with says there’s no way that Robinson — a consensus top-five prospect who plays a devalued position — makes it outside the top 20. But an NFL exec says, “He’s special but not worth the investment. Look at all of the teams that signed running backs to second contracts. It’s not pretty and many never ever see the end of the deal.”
I agree with Matt on Robinson’s ceiling. If there’s a team that doesn’t worry about positional value and sticks to “best player available,” it’s Atlanta. But I don’t think Robinson gets past the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 21 overall. With Austin Ekeler recently requesting a trade, the Chargers lack playmakers at running back. Adding Robinson would give the Justin Herbert-led offense a huge boost in multiple areas.
One week out, which prospect are you much higher on than the current consensus?
Reid: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland (No. 14 overall). I saw Banks up close on the road scouting last season and he seemingly got better each game he played. At 6 feet and 197 pounds, he’s a physical corner who can be a fit in a man-to-man scheme, but he also has the instincts and fluidity to work in a zone defense. His performance against Ohio State sticks out the most to me. Banks got beat down the sideline early in the game by Marvin Harrison Jr. but was outstanding for the rest of the contest. His game is similar to that of Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and I think he’s just scraping the surface of his potential. Banks has the size, quickness and technique to quickly become a key part of an NFL team’s defense.
Deonte Banks’ NFL draft profile
Check out the best highlights that contributed to a stellar college career for Maryland CB Deonte Banks.
Miller: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (No. 5 overall). My esteemed colleagues are stuck on the fact that JSN played only three games and caught five passes last season, as he was limited with a hamstring injury. But I’m not forgetting his dominant Rose Bowl performance in January 2022, when he caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson not on the field. With elite short-area quickness and lateral agility, Smith-Njigba can separate and is the best route runner in the class. He also has solid hands, with just five drops to his name in college.
Let’s play matchmaker! What is a pick that simply has to happen?
Miller: Darnell Wright to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17 overall. The Steelers haven’t invested early-round picks in the offensive line and it’s showing. Right tackle is at the top of my needs list for them. Tennessee’s Wright, the best right tackle in the class, fits Pittsburgh perfectly with his toughness in the run game and mobility to protect the quarterback in passing situations.
Reid: Devon Witherspoon to the Detroit Lions at No. 6 overall. GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell instilled a toughness factor in this team and they’ve added a bunch of players who plays with passion. That fits with Witherspoon, who plays the game with a chip on his shoulder. He is without question the most physical cornerback in the class, and the Lions still need help at the position. So the Illinois product makes a lot of sense as an addition to an already impressive young core.
Pick one recent draft trend and predict whether it will or will not continue in 2023.
Reid: No team has used more early draft picks on cornerbacks in recent years than the Minnesota Vikings; they’ve selected six in the first two rounds over the past 10 years. And I think Minnesota could add another to the total since cornerback is arguably the team’s top need. With Brian Flores now the defensive coordinator, the Vikings could potentially be eyeing players who thrive in man coverage, and Maryland’s Deonte Banks and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. are first-round prospects who fit that new scheme and might be there at No. 23. Minnesota is currently without a second-round pick, so Day 1 could be the move.
Miller: It’s a well-documented fact that the Green Bay Packers have not drafted a wide receiver in the first round since Javon Walker in 2002. And while many are projecting the Packers will finally use a premium pick on a pass-catcher to support young quarterback Jordan Love (assuming Aaron Rodgers is traded), I don’t see it happening this year either. At least not a wide receiver. I’d instead look for them to add a tight end — maybe Utah’s Dalton Kincaid — in the first round at No. 15 overall, with wide receiver once again being addressed later in the draft.
Building intriguing teams’ perfect drafts
No. 5: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
No. 20: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
No. 37: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
No. 52: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
No. 83: Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
No. 123: Davis Allen, TE, Clemson
No. 151: Jerrod Clark, DT, Coastal Carolina
No. 154: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
No. 198: Warren McClendon, OT, Georgia
No. 237: Travis Dye, RB, USC
The Seahawks rebuilt the offensive line last year with tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas as part of what’s now seen as one of the past decade’s best draft classes. General manager John Schneider can do something similar with the defensive line this year. Carter is the draft’s best interior pass-rusher and would fill a need at 3-technique with his speed and power off the snap. And adding the speed of Murphy — he ran a 4.51 at his pro day while weighing 270 pounds — gives the defense the juice it was lacking off the edge in 2022.
On Day 2 of the draft, the Seahawks can continue to find value — and starters. I have them adding a slot wide receiver (Downs) to eventually replace Tyler Lockett, a cornerback to play opposite last year’s gem Tariq Woolen (Brents) and a center with a lot of potential (Stromberg). The Day 3 picks are more about stacking the roster with depth, notably at quarterback with Thompson-Robinson. He could be an understudy to Geno Smith.
Reid’s ideal scenario for the Houston Texans
No. 2: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
No. 12: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
No. 33: Will McDonald IV, OLB, Iowa State
No. 65: Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State
No. 73: Daiyan Henley, ILB, Washington State
No. 104: Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
No. 161: Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
No. 188: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
No. 201: Andrew Vorhees, G, USC
No. 203: Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State
No. 230: Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
No. 259: Brenton Cox Jr., OLB, Florida
With 12 draft picks (tied for the most in the draft), the Texans have a prime opportunity to remake a roster that lacks young talent in multiple spots. Starting at the top, Houston can land a new face of the franchise in Stroud. There are rumors that Houston could go with Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., but in my perfect outcome, it instead addresses the big need under center. And keeping Stroud and Smith-Njigba (Ohio State teammates) together makes for a dynamic pairing. I’ll also get Stroud his Buckeyes center, Wypler, on Day 2. And rounding out the second day, McDonald gives them a presence off of the edge, while Henley is an intriguing playmaker in the middle.
Will McDonald IV’s NFL draft profile
Check out the best highlights that contributed to a stellar college career for Iowa State’s DE Will McDonald IV.
Vorhees is a pick for the future, considering he recently tore his right ACL at the combine. Houston needs help along the interior and with the advantage of a bunch of picks, it can make a long-term bet. He was seen as a potential midround selection before his injury.
News, notes and everything we heard this week
Miller: Where will Kentucky quarterback Will Levis land? Multiple sources around the league say the Colts would love to select him, but that gets complicated if Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud is on the board. “The Colts want Levis,” said one AFC scout. “The question is do they love him more than Stroud? I think they do, but that’s a bold move.” And another scout added: “The Colts would probably love for someone to jump them and select Stroud so they can take Levis.”
Reid: Two prospects keep coming up when talking with league sources as potential picks at the end of Round 1: Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents and TCU interior blocker Steve Avila. The NFL is a copycat league and the immediate success of Tariq Woolen has significantly helped Brents. Even though he’s not as fast in a straight line as Woolen, Brents has a lot of similar qualities as a prospect, including a lot of explosion and a deep toolbox. With Avila, the lack of consistent options on the interior and a strong showing at the Senior Bowl helped boost his stock. I’ve heard that Dallas and New Orleans are two teams to keep an eye on with Avila.
Miller: Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the top receiver in the class based not just on my evaluations but also conversations with NFL personnel. But nailing down his landing spot in the draft is much harder. One longtime scout said JSN’s range was “anywhere from 12 to the mid-20s,” depending on how teams view his average 4.48 speed (from his pro day) and the hamstring injury that robbed him of all but 62 snaps in 2022. The Texans at pick No. 12 are a popular mock draft destination for Smith-Njigba, but one scout I spoke to said the Packers are a sneaky team to watch at No. 15.
Reid: After visiting with the Falcons on Thursday, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter has now met with every team in the back half of the top 10. It was made known that he would visit only with teams inside the top 10, and those teams are doing their homework. Carter is arguably the best player in the class and can be a Day 1 contributor, but he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing last month in connection with a fatal crash in January. It’s still hard to see him making it past the Eagles at No. 10.
Miller: Is the “Hendon Hooker in Round 1″ talk real? Yes, according to multiple scouts I spoke with this week. One league source even threw out a prediction: The Washington Commanders could take the Tennessee signal-caller at No. 16 overall.