The NFL scouting combine may signal the official start of NFL Draft season, but there are still about seven long weeks to go before the first pick is made. Free agency could still change everything about the draft. Pro Days in the next few weeks could shake things up too. And it’s imminently possible — even likely — trades alter the way the top of the first round looks
But the combine, at least, gave the NFL an up-close look at all the best prospects and helped narrow down some of the first-round possibilities. So here’s FOX Sports’ first post-combine look at the first round:
The Bears are going to trade this pick and the cost is going to be enormous. But they haven’t yet, so for now — since they’re committed to Justin Fields at QB — they’ll take the best defensive player in the draft. That’s easily the 6-4, 253-pound Anderson, who has 4.6-second 40-yard-dash speed and finished with an incredible 34 ½ sacks in 41 games for the Tide.
A quarterback–needy team likely gets a deal done with the Bears to leapfrog to No. 1, but for now, the Texans have the first pick of the signal-callers. And it makes too much sense for Houston to take Bryce Young. His diminutive size has been a talking point — he was measured at 5-10 and 204 pounds at the combine last week — but that didn’t stop him from dominating the SEC.
The word used to describe him the most is “freak”, thanks to his great size (6-6, 271) and incredible athletic ability. His 86-inch wingspan was the talk of the combine. Some scouts think he’s got the biggest upside of any defender in the draft. That sounds perfect for an aggressive defensive coach in a new job.
C.J. Stroud checks about every box you want in a quarterback — great size, throwing mechanics, decision-making and accuracy. He helped his stock tremendously making plays outside of the pocket in the Peach Bowl against Georgia. If Young is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, Stroud is a close second.
Is C.J. Stroud the whole No. 1 pick package?
Joel Klatt discussed how C.J. Stroud looked at the 2023 NFL Combine. He talked about when he met Stroud from covering games at Ohio State and analyzed his gameplay throughout the season.
They just re-signed QB Geno Smith, but it’s a short-term deal and Pete Carroll said Seattle is “totally connected” to the QBs in this year’s draft. This would be the perfect spot for the 6-4, 244-pound combine sensation who ran a 4.43-second 40 and wowed in other drills. He needs work on accuracy and maturity, and will have time for both sitting behind Smith for a bit.
The Lions need defensive help just about everywhere after tying with the Vikings for the NFL’s third-worst scoring defense last season. Christian Gonzalez, who had a great combine, makes a lot of sense here. Detroit needs cornerback help and Jeff Okudah hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a No. 3 overall pick, between injuries and production.
Four quarterbacks in the top seven would be unprecedented in the Super Bowl era, but some think it’s possible. The Raiders are definitely looking for one after ditching Derek Carr. Josh McDaniels will love Levis’ “cannon” and his confidence. At 6-4, 229 he looks a lot like Josh Allen, including some accuracy problem on his deep throws. But that arm will be tough to pass up.
As long as the Falcons stay committed to giving Desmond Ridder the chance to be their long-term quarterback, there’s no greater need for this team than pass-rush help. Atlanta has just 39 sacks combined the last two seasons. Luka Van Ness was productive at Iowa, registering 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss over the last two years for the Hawkeyes.
Considered by many to be one of the best defenders in the draft, his stock took a hit when he was arrested for his involvement in a crash that killed a Georgia teammate and staff member. But two misdemeanor charges probably aren’t enough to drop him out of the top 10. This 6-4, 314-pounder is the best interior rusher in the draft. He’d be a huge help for DE Brian Burns and DT Derrick Brown.
Minnesota’s Mo Ibrahim, Georgia’s Jalen Carter win RJ’s Player of the Year Awards
FOX Sports’ RJ Young debuts the first annual ‘RJ’s College Football Awards.’ Together, they hand out awards for the Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and more.
They are in danger of losing most of their defensive starters, so this has to be a defensive pick, right? They’ll consider a DT here, but they need someone to replace departing CB James Bradberry and the 5-11, 181-pound Witherspoon is a ball hawk who could learn a lot playing alongside Darius Slay.
You can’t completely rule out a trade up for a quarterback with the Titans, but their most pressing need is on the offensive line. Coach Mike Vrabel has preached ad nauseam this offseason the need to protect the quarterback better in 2023. Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski would be a Day 1 starter for Tennessee at tackle or guard.
After taking a quarterback with their top pick, it should be a no-brainer for the Texans to address their defensive front. Houston allowed 170.2 rushing yards per game last season, the NFL’s worst mark in 14 years. Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, listed at 6-5 and 298 pounds, could be a disruptive force right away in the trenches, forming a strong interior defensive line tandem with Maliek Collins.
The Jets have plenty of weapons for Aaron Rodgers (or whomever their QB is). Now they just need to keep him upright. They seem down on LT Mekhi Becton, their first-rounder from 2020, and could be eager to draft his replacement. The 6-5, 311-pound Jones is the kind of athletic tackle GM Joe Douglas likes.
Isaiah Wynn is hitting free agency and Trent Brown is entering the last year of his deal. The Patriots figure to be in the offensive tackle market, so Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. makes a lot of sense here. Listed at 6-6 and 310 pounds, Johnson has the versatility to play guard too. He’s a plug-and-play starter.
There would be some delicious irony if the Packers draft an offensive skill player (non-QB) in the first round for the first time since 2008 right after getting rid of Aaron Rodgers. But Jordan Love (or Rodgers) definitely needs a dangerous and reliable tight end. The 6-4, 249-pounder who caught 138 passes for 1,649 yards and 16 touchdowns the last two years could really open up the Green Bay offense.
Ron Rivera said the Commanders need offensive line help, but if all the top tackles are gone he’ll dip into the secondary here. They’re still reeling from the mistake of signing William Jackson and need help covering in an increasingly pass-happy league. Of course, it’s a much better story if Porter slides one more pick and ends up with his father’s old team.
The Steelers used first-round picks on quarterback Kenny Pickett and running back Najee Harris in the last two years. Now it’s time to invest up front to help them. Tennessee’s Darnell Wright could challenge for starting jobs at both tackle spots (the incumbents are Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor) and could potentially kick inside if necessary.
18. Detroit Lions — Georgia OLB Nolan Smith
The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Smith dazzled at the NFL combine, running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and posting a 41½-inch vertical. He’s raw from a production standpoint (he had just three sacks at Georgia last season), but his upside is through the roof. In Detroit he could complement 2022 No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and fellow rookie James Houston, who combined for 17.5 sacks last season.
Yes, they need to replace that Tom Brady guy. But the Bucs’ secondary could be decimated in free agency, so they’ll need replacements there, too. The speedy, 6-foot, 190-pound Branch has played nickel corner and safety for the Tide, and could slide in as an outside cornerback, too.
20. Seattle Seahawks — Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Smith-Njigba is the first wide receiver off the board. Arguably the best player at his position in the draft, the former Buckeyes star said at the combine that he’s fully healed from a hamstring injury that held him out for most of 2022. He could be the perfect complement to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Seattle.
Miami Dolphins — FORFEITED
The Chargers have two terrific edge rushers when they’re healthy (Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack) but are weak in the middle. Kancey is undersized (6-1, 281) but explosive and could take a lot of pressure off everyone else. He also could help with a poor run defense, though that’s not his strength.
Assuming Lamar Jackson stays put on the franchise tag (or a long-term deal), the Ravens’ focus should be adding more playmaking at wideout. A talent like Flowers could make Jackson very happy. Despite his smaller stature (listed at 5-9 and 182 pounds), Flowers is a versatile receiver with elite speed and crisp route-running skills. He has the potential to be a No. 1 option down the line.
The Vikings’ terrible pass defense had no one who could effectively cover the Giants’ terrible receiving corps in the playoffs. They are desperate for help at the front and back ends. The 6-foot, 197-pound Banks ran a 4.35 at the combine and could immediately step in as the best corner in Minnesota
This might be a little bit of a reach, but Jones is a massive (and intriguing) offensive tackle prospect at 6-8 and 374 pounds. The Jaguars will need a plan at right tackle if they can’t re-sign right tackle Jawaan Taylor in free agency. And at the least, they’d need a swing tackle option. Jones shined at the Senior Bowl.
The Giants will take the best available receiver here so they can help their $40 million-per-year QB a little more. Addison may be small (5-11, 173), but he’s got 4.49 speed and knows how to get open, which Giants coach Brian Daboll loves. He had a huge sophomore season (100-1,593-17) before battling injuries last year.
USC’s Caleb Williams finds Jordan Addison for the 35 yard touchdown
USC’s Caleb Williams finds Jordan Addison for the 35 yard touchdown to take the lead over the UCLA Bruins 27-24
CeeDee Lamb needs some help, and the free-agent market won’t offer much. The Cowboys could absolutely add a first-round receiver. Johnston has the size (6-3, 208) Dak Prescott will love and the speed to get open on deep routes
Robinson is really a top-10 talent, but the value of running backs probably slots him back here, closer to the end of the first round. He would take pressure off Josh Allen and the passing game. The Bills need a more effective and consistent run game to get in the Super Bowl mix.
The Bengals spent a lot of money fortifying their offensive line last offseason, but they still have uncertainty up front. Right tackle La’el Collins tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 last season, while left tackle Jonah Williams — entering the last year of his contract — had surgery last month on a dislocated knee cap. Harrison gives Cincinnati a young tackle prospect to groom as a long-term starter.
The Saints need some juice in the middle of their defensive line, and the freakishly strong 6-3, 323-pound Smith could provide it. He topped all defenders with 34 bench press reps at the combine. He’s saving the rest of his drills for his Pro Day, which some scouts can’t want to see.
30. Philadelphia Eagles — Florida G O’Cyrus Torrence
Guard Isaac Seumalo is a free agent and C Jason Kelce is contemplating retirement, so reinforcements are needed to power the league’s most dangerous run game. Torrence, at 6-5, 330, is a road grader who the Eagles’ trench-loving GM, Howie Roseman, won’t be able to pass up.
31. Kansas City Chiefs — Clemson DE Myles Murphy
The reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs released Frank Clark, who ranks third in NFL history with 13.5 postseason sacks, so they’ll need more pass-rush depth on the outside to complement Chris Jones. The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Murphy tied a team-high 6.5 sacks en route to first-team All-ACC honors last season at Clemson.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
Top stories from FOX Sports:
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more