NFL draft: Post free agency first round mock predictions

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) /

We are only 40 days away from the NFL Draft on April 27-29 after a long week of NFL free agency. This period in the NFL season is one of the most unpredictable and exciting times all year and I live for trying to predict what happens.

Aside from the Dolphins, who only currently own four picks, it is fun to see how teams shape their roster and sometimes their entire future on these three important days. Here is how I see the first round of the NFL draft going down.

  1. Carolina Panthers – Bryce Young, QB Alabama

Bryce Young is the consensus top quarterback in this class. Carolina, who traded over a king’s ransom to Chicago for the top pick, is certainly in the market for their next franchise quarterback. We all know which position they choose, but the question is who they will select. Young is the most polished and well-equipped quarterback out of the four first-round QB prospects and will in all likelihood be the next Panthers’ quarterback.

2. Houston Texans – CJ Stroud, QB Ohio State

The Texans are another QB-needy team who want to find their franchise quarterback. With Young off the board, the Texans have their choice between Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. If Bryce Young was not in this class, Stroud would likely be the consensus number-one quarterback in the draft, so I have Houston taking Stroud with the second overall pick.

3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson, EDGE Alabama

Will Anderson is absolutely the best overall prospect in the entire draft. The only reason he’s not the first overall pick is the simple fact that quarterbacks are valued more than any other position in the game. Anderson is a game-wrecking pass rusher whose natural talent, size and strength is something a re-building Cardinals organization cannot pass up on.

4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB Kentucky

After being in quarterback purgatory for the last several years, stuck with veterans past their prime such as Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan, the Colts should be ready to hand the reigns over to a highly-touted rookie quarterback. They have a high pick in a strong QB class and will likely have their choice of Levis or Anthony Richardson. General manager Chris Ballard likely plays it safe and takes the traditional pocket passer Levis as his next face of the franchise.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Jalen Carter, DT Georgia

My first controversial selection in the draft is Seattle taking Jalen Carter at number five overall. Carter’s talent is not controversial — just a few short weeks ago, he was considered a lock to be a top-five selection. However, character concerns stemming from an arrest for reckless driving arrest back in Athens, Georgia a few weeks ago are scaring away teams and he is sliding down draft boards. Seattle likes to take chances on troubled characters whose upside outweighs their potential downside, leading to them selecting Carter at five.

6. Atlanta Falcons (via DET) – Anthony Richardson, QB Florida

After seemingly not being able to land Lamar Jackson in free agency, the Falcons jump at the opportunity to select their franchise quarterback after both Seattle and Indianapolis pass on him. Atlanta leapfrogs Vegas here to draft one of the more exciting albeit lesser-proven prospects in this class in quarterback Anthony Richardson, whose draft stock skyrocketed after an extremely impressive NFL combine. Richardson would likely compete with Taylor Heinicke for the starting job in Atlanta.

7. Las Vegas Raiders – Paris Johnson, OT Ohio State

The Raiders stand pat at pick seven after signing QB Jimmy Garoppolo to a three-year deal this past week. After watching four quarterbacks and two top defenders go in front of them, the Raiders have their pick of their litter for offensive talent. While a receiver may be tempting here, Las Vegas drafts their left tackle of the future in Paris Johnson, a massive, athletic specimen from Ohio State who projects to be a long-time NFL starter.

8. Detroit Lions (via ATL) – Devin Witherspoon, CB Illinois

The Lions were spurned on their last high selection of a cornerback several years ago as Jeff Okudah is simply not developing into the corner he was projected to be. Devin Witherspoon seems like a sure-thing at the eighth pick. The aggressive, hands-on cornerback from Illinois is as close to a polished prospect as you’ll see in this draft. Not shying away from contact in the secondary nor the line of scrimmage, Witherspoon is a perfect fit for the culture Dan Campbell is building in Detroit.

9. Chicago Bears – Tyree Wilson, EDGE Texas Tech

Ryan Poles and the Chicago Bears have one of the top prospects in the entire draft fall into their laps with the ninth pick after trading back from the first overall selection just a couple weeks ago. After trading away Khalil Mack two years ago, the Bears defense has been missing a dominant pass-rusher. Tyree Wilson, at 6’6, 271 lbs, can bend and move better than anyone at that size should. The Bears get their premier pass rusher at a fantastic value.

10. Philadelphia Eagles – Bijan Robinson, RB Texas

Coming off an NFC championship, there are really not a ton of holes on this roster. Philadelphia brought back both of their star cornerbacks and center Jason Kelce decided to continue playing after considering retirement. However, after losing Miles Sanders in free agency, the Eagles could be in the market for a running back. Bijan Robinson is far and away the best running back in this class. He would be hard to pass up here, unless they decide to trade back.

11. Green Bay Packers (via TEN) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR Ohio State

12. Houston Texans – Peter Skoronski, OT Northwestern

13. Tennessee Titans (via GB) – Christian Gonzalez, CB Oregon

14. New England Patriots – Jordan Addison, WR USC

15. New York Jets – Broderick Jones, OT Georgia

16. Washington Commanders – Joey Porter Jr., CB Penn State

17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Calijah Kancey, DT Pittsburgh

18. Detroit Lions – Darnell Wright, OT Tennessee

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lukas Van Ness, EDGE Iowa

20. Seattle Seahawks – Nolan Smith, EDGE Georgia

21. Los Angeles Chargers – Trenton Simpson, LB Clemson

22. Baltimore Ravens – Zay Flowers, WR Boston College

23. Minnesota Vikings – Myles Murphy, EDGE Clemson

24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quentin Johnston, WR TCU

25. New York Giants – Bryan Bresee, DT Clemson

26. Dallas Cowboys – Dalton Kincaid, TE Utah

27. Chicago Bears (via BUF) – Cody Mauch, OT North Dakota State

28. Cincinnati Bengals – Emmanuel Forbes, CB Mississippi State

29. New Orleans Saints – Jalin Hyatt, WR Tennessee

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Siaki Ika, DT Baylor

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Deonte Banks, CB Maryland