ESPN analyst Todd McShay has published his first mock draft of the year. Here are a few quick thoughts…
Some of the things we’ve been discussing for a long time are represented. For example, I’ve been saying I think Texas running back Bijan Robinson will top many draft boards in terms of pure grade. In a year without many clear top-10 picks, I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t take him in that range despite his position. He is just too good and the alternative options will be far less talented.
McShay has Robinson going fifth overall to the Eagles at #5. It’s a perfect match.
There’s also a place for Anthony Richardson at #11. That’s not as high as I’ve been suggesting but McShay has Richardson at #32 on his big board. Thus, he is acknowledging here that there’s a very realistic chance the Florida quarterback will be taken very early — irrespective of how raw he is perceived to be.
I think as we go through this process he will continue to appear in more and more mock drafts and should he have a strong draft season, he will be a firm candidate for the top-five based on his incredible upside. As we’ve been noting for some time — there are plenty of elite QB’s in the NFL currently who were not being mocked in the top-15 when they declared. Patrick Mahomes, as highlighted last week, wasn’t even included in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 board just three weeks before the 2017 draft.
McShay has Will Levis at #6. This is validation of how we’ve assessed Levis over the last 12 months and the way we’ve projected him and his situation at Kentucky which, frankly, was horrendous. The lack of weapons, the fact he was sacked endlessly compared to every other big name quarterback in college football and his experience in a pro-system rather than a wide-open, half-field system that delivers mass-production. He’s not had it easy and he’s immensely talented.
McShay also has Michael Mayer going very early (#12) which I think is a lock and he has Myles Murphy lasting to #14. I don’t understand how or why people keep putting Murphy in the top five or six picks. Have they watched Clemson?
I’d be surprised if Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr go in the top-10. I don’t think either player is deserving of that mark, despite the premium nature and big need for offensive linemen. Skoronski is a guard convert in all likelihood and Johnson Jr just doesn’t jump off the screen.
Seattle’s picks are Jalen Carter at #2 and Brian Branch at #18.
We’ve discussed Carter a lot and he would provide a long overdue interior presence for a struggling D-line. He will be the first non-QB taken barring any unforeseen injury or character issues and a tremendous addition. Whether it’s Seattle or Chicago picking at #2 — Carter will almost certainly leave the board there, unless someone trades up.
Here’s McShay’s blurb:
This pick is higher than Seattle thought it would be when it sent Russell Wilson to Denver in March — and it will have options here. First, if the Seahawks aren’t sold on Geno Smith long term, they can happily select Ohio State passer C.J. Stroud and let Smith walk in free agency. Second, they can trade back with a team that wants Stroud and pick up even more picks for their ongoing rebuild. Or third, they can add a difference-making defender.
It’s still early to project trades or truly evaluate Smith’s future, so I’m opting for the third option — and going with Carter over Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. Seattle has a bigger need on the interior than edge, and I think Carter could be dominant there with a lightning-fast first step and plenty of disruptive power. He reminds me of Quinnen Williams.
McShay is right to highlight the possibility of drafting a quarterback at #2, although it’s nothing to do with being sold or not on Geno Smith. The simple fact is Smith turns 33 next year and has had one good season. Hedging your bets isn’t a negative given recent performances haven’t been as strong:
Weeks 1-4: 5th in EPA/play, 30.9 total EPA
Weeks 5-14: 18th in EPA/play, 29.7 total EPA
Mistakes have been killers, with Geno losing more expected points to INTs, sacks and fumbles since Week 5 than any other quarterback pic.twitter.com/1GximK1y3v
— Kevin Cole (@KevinCole___) December 12, 2022
Owning pick #2 would be a rare gift and an unusual, for this franchise, opportunity to select a top quarterback prospect. They would have to strongly consider that, even if they retain Smith as the starter. Quarterback is a critical position. Having a player for today and one learning and developing for the future would be a good plan. If they love Stroud, Levis or Richardson — the three available in McShay’s mock — it should be considered.
I do think it’s very possible the Seahawks draft a safety in the first two rounds. They have to be ruthless with Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams and can’t justify committing $36m to the pair in 2023. I’m not sure they’d do it at #18 though — or for Brian Branch. He is, as McShay notes, more of a hybrid slot/safety. At times he looks like a Rolls Royce gliding across the field but he can also pack a punch. He’s not an eraser or a strong safety though.
It’s all defense in Round 1 for Seattle, after it took Jalen Carter at No. 2 — and Branch can impact every area of that side of the ball. You’ll see him down near the line of scrimmage trying to make a run stop, blitzing through gaps, holding up in coverage and showcasing his range and instincts on the back end. He fits this system and would be a great complement to rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant. Jamal Adams is turning 28 next season, while Quandre Diggs will be 30, so adding to the safety room would be prudent. But Branch has played quite a bit of slot corner, and that’s where I’d expect him to make an impact early in his career.
Boise State’s J.L. Skinner looks a better fit and might be available early in round two. He is the closest thing I’ve seen to Kam Chancellor since Kam retired.
A quick final note — the updated draft list has Seattle now in possession of #17, not #18.
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