The NFL Scouting Combine will take place in Indianapolis next week, which is news I'm excited about. There's been some scuttlebutt about the NFL possibly scrapping the combine one day, but I hope it doesn't happen. Selfishly, it's a valuable tool for me when evaluating players. I watch almost all of the players in the draft as part of my regular gig covering college football, and I can study the tape I have access to afterward, but the combine is my best view into how the players look in drills.
While private workouts with teams or at pro days might be better for teams, they're much worse for me! For that reason alone, I hope the combine never goes away, and they continue to televise it every year.
Anyway, as for what you're here to read, this will be my final mock before the combine. Plenty has changed from my first mock a couple of weeks ago, so I can only imagine how different things will look after the combine. As you'll see with some of my picks (and I'll explain in further detail below), I've already gotten a bit of a head start based on what I believe some players will do at the combine and how it will impact their stock.
Remember: there are only 31 selections in this mock draft because the Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick due to tampering.
For more extensive draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
Mock Trade from Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
The Texans aren't willing to risk somebody trading ahead of them and getting their guy, so they do it instead. Lovie Smith's final give to the Chicago Bears is a Week 18 victory that netted them a few more picks. Texans fans will forgive him for it so long as Stroud pans out, and there's a good chance he will.
Mock Trade from Houston Texans
Round 1 - Pick 2
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
Until the Bears address the 3-technique spot in their defense via free agency or trade, I'm operating under the assumption that Jalen Carter will remain above Will Anderson on their draft board. He is the best player in this draft and makes everybody's job easier.
Mock Trade from Arizona Cardinals
Round 1 - Pick 3
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
The Panthers don't think Jim Irsay was blowing smoke with his comments during Shane Steichen's press conference, and make sure to jump the Colts so they can take Bryce Young first. It will be fun following all the reporting on Young's size and which teams are and aren't concerned about it.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
This is where I have to divorce what I saw with my eyes from Levis at Kentucky from how NFL teams will evaluate him as a prospect. Levis is a player who will be impressive in workouts and fits the mold of where the Colts have gone with prior QB choices.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
It's insane that a player like Will Anderson would drop to No. 5 in this draft, but that's life when the QB position is as important as it is. The Seahawks certainly won't mind. I don't know that Anderson will be a generational talent at the NFL level, but I'm confident he will be a Pro Bowl-level player at worst.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Adding Aidan Hutchinson last season was a boost to the Detroit defense, but there's no need to stop adding more to the pass rush possibilities. Murphy's performance at the combine could make or break his draft stock, but he's scheme versatile, so plenty of teams will see ways they can fit him in.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Ohio State • 6'6" / 310 lbs
This year's OT class lacks an obvious No. 1, and I wonder if that's part of the reason I don't think it's a great class overall. Of the options, Paris Johnson is my No. 1, and where I'd go first. Both for what he already is and what he could become.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 271 lbs
Wilson is another player whose stock could shift based on how he performs in workouts. Based on what's on tape, this is a player with a high motor that's still got room to grow as far as his pass-rushing technique. If he runs well, I've talked to some people who think he could end up the first pass-rusher taken. Even ahead of Will Anderson.
Mock Trade from Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Oregon • 6'2" / 201 lbs
The Cardinals could've stayed at No. 3 and taken Will Anderson, but they have so many needs, and Carolina was willing to give up so much it made more sense to move down. Gonzalez has the length and athleticism every team looks for in a corner on the perimeter.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Paris Johnson is my No. 1 OT overall, but if I were rating simply on ceiling, Jones would be the choice. He's an incredible athlete and plays angry, but he's also still learning the position. The Eagles value the trenches, and they can develop. He could be a Day One starter or spend a season as depth before taking on a full-time role.
Round 1 - Pick 11
USC • 6'0" / 175 lbs
The Titans offense severely lacks players who can take the top off a defense after trading A.J. Brown, and Addison is a game-breaker. He doesn't have Brown's size and speed combo, but he's just so dang good at getting open. He's a lot like DeVonta Smith, who, coincidentally, now plays alongside A.J. Brown.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
It's possible the Titans could take Johnston over Addison, but not in this mock. Instead, the Texans get a receiver who isn't as polished a route-runner but has the long speed to get over the top of defenses and isn't afraid to get over the middle. He could prove an excellent option for new QB C.J. Stroud.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
In this universe, I imagine the Jets address their QB issues via trade or free agency and use this pick to address an offensive line that needs help. Skoronski is talented enough to play tackle, but it's possible he doesn't have the ideal frame and arm length to match up with NFL pass-rushers and win consistently. So maybe he gets knocked inside to guard. Either way, the Jets can use him!
Round 1 - Pick 14
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Van Ness is a player whose stock is likely to rise at the combine, and I have him going to the Patriots here. There's familiarity between Bill Belichick and the Iowa coaching staff, so the Pats will have all the necessary intel on Van Ness. He's not a finished product and has a lot left to learn, but there's a high ceiling.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Ohio State • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Aaron Rodgers emerged from a darkness retreat earlier this week, having had a vision. A vision that showed him he needed Jaxon Smith-Njigba to add to the Packers' offense to play alongside their other young receivers to take that next step toward a Super Bowl. Or, maybe the Packers see JSN as an excellent addition to their offense, regardless of what Rodgers saw while tripping on shrooms. Whatever the case, Smith-Njigba was the best receiver on an Ohio State offense that included Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in 2021. He's pretty good.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Cody Mauch OT
North Dakota State • 6'5" / 302 lbs
Mauch's name pops up routinely when talking to people who attended the Senior Bowl. He was impressive at the event, and if he performs well at the combine and in workouts, he may sneak up into the first round. I haven't seen a lot of Mauch, who played at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, but while he moves well, I wonder if he'll be forced to kick inside from tackle. Washington would be fine with that.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Illinois • 6'0" / 180 lbs
I had the Steelers go with Joey Porter Jr. in my first mock, but I'm ditching the family reunion story this time. Mostly because Witherspoon wasn't available at this point of my last mock! He is here, and he's Pittsburgh's choice, as it needs help at corner, and Witherspoon plays with an edge that I can't help but believe Mike Tomlin will fall in love with.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
The Lions are happy the Steelers opted to skip the family reunion because that allows them to take Porter instead and continue to improve their defense. Porter hits every measurable you want at the position and has excellent ball skills. Also, given who his father is, you won't be surprised to learn he doesn't shy away from physicality.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
I had Tampa take Anthony Richardson in my first mock, and they could. However, a part of me wonders if Tampa wouldn't prefer to start a rebuild following Tom Brady's retirement. This is a team that's a few moves away from being a serious contender for the No. 1 pick next year. Whatever the case, Mayer is the best tight end in this class and would be useful to whatever QB Tampa opts to go with in 2023 or 2024.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
If the Seahawks come out of the first round with Will Anderson and Bryan Bresee, I will declare they've won the draft. Anderson is my No. 1 edge rusher, and Bresee is my No. 2 interior DL behind Jalen Carter. They'd still need to address their OL, but the DL would be fixed in one night in this scenario.
Round 1 - Pick 21
LSU • 6'0" / 195 lbs
Boutte is flying under the radar before the combine, but I expect that to change after Indianapolis. His strengths weren't a great fit with LSU QB Jayden Daniels last season, but he was a five-star recruit out of high school for a reason. He can line up at different spots and is a serious vertical threat.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Alabama • 6'0" / 190 lbs
The way this mock breaks down, I can see Baltimore going a thousand different ways here. So, when you aren't sure, just pull the old Ravens' reliable of having them pick the best Alabama player left on the board. Seriously, Branch would be an excellent addition to the Baltimore defense. He played everywhere on the Alabama defense during his time there, and he played well everywhere. His versatility is why he's my No. 1 safety in the class, even if he isn't always playing safety.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Pittsburgh • 6'1" / 281 lbs
I've always said any time you can take a disruptive, undersized tackle from Pitt, you have to do it. OK, so Calijah Kancey isn't Aaron Donald, but hardly anybody is. But he is disruptive and plays every snap like it's his last. He could be an absolute steal for the Vikings or anybody who takes him.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Florida • 6'5" / 347 lbs
I'm not as high on Torrence as others, but I completely understand why many consider him the best guard in the class. Of course, I think the best guards in this class still think they're tackles! Anyway, the Jaguars can use help on the interior of their OL, and Torrence would be a good fit.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Jalin Hyatt WR
Tennessee • 6'0" / 185 lbs
I'm skeptical Hyatt will be an immediate contributor at the NFL level, so maybe the Giants would look elsewhere. However, Hyatt has the kind of explosiveness and deep ball skills not many others in this class have. I think the transition from what he was asked to do in Tennessee's offense to what will be asked of him in an NFL offense will take a while, but the player who emerges on the other side could prove to be elite.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Clemson • 6'3" / 234 lbs
The Cowboys are another team I'm not sure about in this spot. Given Jerry Jones' love of shiny objects, Dallas could go after Bijan Robinson here. It would make sense, as Robinson is phenomenal, but I don't like taking running backs in the first round. A more prominent need for Dallas would be at linebacker (another position I don't love taking in the 1st), and Simpson's strength, speed, ability in coverage and intelligence all make him a very interesting prospect.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas A&M • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Johnson isn't my No. 1 safety in the class, but that's more about Brian Branch than Johnson. He's undoubtedly one of the most interesting prospects in the class because, like Branch, he did a lot of different things at A&M. His ability to play different roles effectively show off how smart he is, and that, combined with his athleticism, makes me think Johnson will be a productive player if placed in a defense creative enough to take advantage of his abilities.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Tennessee • 6'6" / 335 lbs
Wright was a five-star out of high school and played both tackle spots during his four-year career as a starter on Rocky Top. He's much better as a pass-blocker than a run-blocker to this point, but I don't think the Bengals will mind that seeing as how protecting Joe Burrow will be the top three things on his to-do list every week.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
BJ Ojulari EDGE
LSU • 6'3" / 250 lbs
The only knock on Ojulari after the combine will be his production at LSU. That can be explained by playing under multiple defensive coordinators during his college career, all of whom asked him to do different things. At the end of the day, he's a stud, and while I have him going late-first here, he could go much earlier.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Cam Smith CB
South Carolina • 6'0" / 188 lbs
I've seen a lot of mocks that have the Eagles taking one of the top running backs here, but based on how the Eagles have drafted, that seems out of character. Corner is likely to be considered a more pressing need than RB in Philly, and Cam Smith is a player who could be a Day 1 starter. He's physical, quick, and has excellent ball skills.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
Depending on what happens with Orlando Brown, the Chiefs could go with an OT like Anton Harrison here. I expect they franchise Brown and add to their pass rush in Nolan Smith. Smith is a stud that produces and does all the little things that lead to production from everybody else. He's a champion who would fit right into a championship locker room.