With apologies to my colleague, Ryan Wilson, who has done 14,033 mock drafts since September, it's time for me to enter into the madness that is Mock Draft Mania.
This my first. It won't be my last, but don't grade me on it.
It's one of four or five I will do leading up to the draft, including my favorite mock, which is the what-I-would-do mock -- the mock that is usually closest to what the actual draft looks like.
In this one, I have the Carolina Panthers taking Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick. They traded up with Chicago to land the selection, so it's certainly going to be a quarterback going in that spot. I went with Young in this mock, but I still think it's wide open as to who goes there. There is a chance it can be any of the top four quarterbacks.
In this mock, I have all four off the board by the fifth pick, which tells you there are a lot of quarterback-needy teams. After Young goes to the Panthers, I have C.J. Stroud going to the Houston Texans in the second spot, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 4 and Florida's Anthony Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 5.
The run on quarterbacks will be real, even if it means over-drafting a couple. That's the way of the NFL. If you don't have one, you have to do everything in your power to get one.
So that's the the backdrop for my mock 1.0. It's still early in the process, so don't grade me on it, but this is a good start, and I only need 14.032 more to catch Wilson.
NOTE: There are only 31 picks in this mock draft because the Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick due to tampering.
For more 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. (Check out the latest episode below.)
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
He is the best passer in this class. But will the Panthers take a risk on picking a 5-10, 200-pound quarterback first overall? That's a tough thing to do.
Round 1 - Pick 2
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
The word is they wanted Bryce Young. But since he's gone in this mock, they go in another direction. C.J. Stroud is a pure pocket passer and would make sense in terms of building the team around him for the future.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
The Cardinals have to improve their pass rush, so why not take Will Anderson Jr.? His play wasn't as good last year, but he's still a quality edge rusher. They could also trade out of this spot to add picks.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
They might have to trade up one to get him, but for now they stay put and he falls into their laps. The word is they really like Will Levis and see his skills translating to the NFL game. Levis is liked a lot more by NFL people than the draft Twitter cult.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Florida • 6'4" / 232 lbs
The Seahawks have Geno Smith, so Richardson can wait to play, which he will need to do. He has all the tools to be a star, but inconsistency is his problem.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Oregon • 6'2" / 201 lbs
They added some corner help in free agency, especially Cam Sutton, but you can never have enough corners in this league. Christian Gonzalez is the best of this class.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
There was talk about Jalen Carter being the first pick in the draft at some point, but off-the-field issues have impacted his status. Even so, the talent is there. The Raiders need help inside, so they can take the chance.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
They have A.J. Terrell on one side, but need help on the other. Joey Porter Jr. is a long corner who can help upgrade the secondary in a big way. They could also look at pass-rusher here.
From Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 271 lbs
Their defensive line needs a lot of help heading into this draft. Tyree Wilson might end up being the best edge player in this class. He does have a foot injury that has limited his offseason work some.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
They are bringing back Brandon Graham on a one-year deal, but they need a young pass-rusher to be ready in a year to take his place. Myles Murphy has those tools.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Ohio State • 6'1" / 200 lbs
They need a speedy player to pair with Treylon Burks in their passing game. Jaxon Smith-Njigba didn't play much last season because of injury, but he is a pure route-runner who will be the best receiver in this class.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
After getting their quarterback, they land a receiver who would give them size down the field. Quentin Johnson has all the tools to be a big-play threat at the next level.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
Like 2021 first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker, Peter Skoronski would give them versatility up and down the line. He was a college left tackle, but I think he would be an all-world guard.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Ohio State • 6'6" / 310 lbs
They have to get a tackle for the long run, and Paris Johnson Jr. is the best tackle in this class. He would be able to anchor in on the left side for a long time. Johnson's tape is impressive.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
Bryan Bresee is a player whose career was impacted by a lot of factors at Clemson, including injury. But he has the talent, and the Packers have to get better up front. A receiver, maybe Jordan Addison, is also a possibility.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Charles Leno is the left tackle, but he's 32. They could always use another big offensive lineman. Broderick Jones also has the look of being able to play guard. They could also look at a corner here.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Illinois • 6'0" / 180 lbs
Top corner Cam Sutton left in free agency to sign with the Lions, and Patrick Peterson essentially got a one-year deal to replace him. Devon Witherspoon is a perfect Steelers corner since he's a good tackler.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
They traded away T.J. Hockenson last year, so why not get his replacement? They have some solid guys, but Michael Mayer can be special. He is the top tight end in this class in my book.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Tennessee • 6'6" / 335 lbs
Darnell Wright is a player scouts love, especially after he dominated Will Anderson Jr. Wright would step in at right tackle and let Tristan Wirfs move to the left side.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 275 lbs
The Seahawks were once a dominant pass-rushing team, and Lukas Van Ness can go a long way to getting them back to that level. He didn't start at Iowa, but he played a lot and showed off a lot of pass-rush ability.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Siaki Ika DL
Baylor • 6'4" / 358 lbs
They have to get better against the run, and Ika is the power player who can do that. He is a force inside. Think Haloti Ngata. He's a guy who isn't getting enough first-round buzz.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Zay Flowers WR
Boston College • 5'9" / 182 lbs
It's time to get another receiver for this offense. Zay Flowers will thrive in the Todd Monken offense if Lamar Jackson is back, which I think he will be.
Round 1 - Pick 23
USC • 6'0" / 175 lbs
They let Adam Thielen go, which means they need help in their passing game. Jordan Addison is a great route-runner who would be a nice 1-2 punch with Justin Jefferson. They could go corner here as well.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
Look, their pass rush has to improve. Nolan Smith is the type of player who can make that happen. They could take him and move Travon Walker to a down spot. They could also take a tight end or corner here.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Deonte Banks CB
Maryland • 6'2" / 205 lbs
They had all kinds of issues at corner last year, so landing a young one who can step in and contribute right away is a must. Deonte Banks has the look of being that guy. They could also opt for more help on their offensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
With Zeke Elliott gone, they need another power runner to handle the tough carries. Tony Pollard is coming off a broken leg, so there is concern with him, and he's playing on a one-year deal. After getting Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore in a trade, they can opt for the luxury of taking a back.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Will McDonald IV EDGE
Iowa State • 6'4" / 245 lbs
I know they have drafted a bunch of players at this spot, and they have Von Miller, but Miller isn't a kid anymore and the pass rush still isn't good enough. So why not add another young, talented edge player?
Round 1 - Pick 28
Utah • 6'4" / 240 lbs
With Hayden Hurst gone, they have to get a replacement. Dalton Kincaid is an outstanding receiving tight end, which Joe Burrow needs in this offense.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Pittsburgh • 6'1" / 281 lbs
Their interior was decimated in free agency, but they did add some veterans late. But those are smallish deals. They need a player to develop inside, and Calijah Kancey has the quickness to be that player, although he isn't big.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Alabama • 6'0" / 190 lbs
They lost Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Lions in free agency, so Brian Branch would be the ideal replacement. He can play down in the slot and also at safety like Gardner-Johnson has done for the Eagles.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Mazi Smith DL
Michigan • 6'3" / 337 lbs
At some point, they have to get a power player inside to help the run defense. Mazi Smith is that type of player and would really upgrade what they have inside. They also could go for a tackle here to upgrade the line.