After the divisional round of the NFL postseason concluded Sunday, only four teams remain in the hunt for the Super Bowl title. For the rest of the league, it’s on to the offseason and the 2023 draft.
Here are The Baltimore Sun’s projections for the first round, which begins April 27 in Kansas City.
Notes: The order for picks 29-31 are projected. The Miami Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick following an investigation into whether the team violated league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.
1. Indianapolis Colts (projected trade via Chicago): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
It seems likely the Bears will look to trade out of the first pick, but who will make the jump? After striking out with veteran quarterbacks in recent seasons, the Colts make the move to acquire a young star in Young, who’s played at a consistently high level despite his listed 6-foot, 194-pound frame.
2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
This is a fine consolation prize for a team that looked like a shoo-in for the top pick most of the season. The 6-3, 218-pound Stroud is coming off perhaps the best performance of his career, completing 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a narrow loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
If the Cardinals don’t trade down, they’ll have their pick of the top defenders in the draft. The 6-4, 243-pound Anderson is a dominant pass rusher, racking up 207 pressures in three college seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.
4. Chicago Bears (projected trade via Indianapolis): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
While the Bears need to surround quarterback Justin Fields with more playmakers, upgrading the defense should be the top priority here. The 6-3, 300-pound Carter is a game-wrecking force in the interior who can both rush the passer and stop the run.
5. Carolina Panthers (projected trade via Seattle, via Denver): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Depending on who the Panthers hire as coach, a veteran quarterback could be in play. If not, trading up for a star prospect might be the best option. The 6-3, 232-pound Levis is a gamble considering his high number of turnovers, but he offers an intriguing skill set that could be franchise-altering if he reaches his full potential.
6. Detroit Lions (via L.A. Rams): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Lions are one of the most intriguing teams of the offseason, and where they sit in the draft has a lot to do with it. Do they look to upgrade at quarterback and trade up? If they stay put, the 6-foot, 180-pound Witherspoon feels like a perfect match given his aggressive play style.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern
The bet here is that Tom Brady ends up in Las Vegas with his former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, which makes upgrading the offensive line crucial to protect the 45-year-old quarterback. The 6-4, 315-pound Skoronski is a reliable plug-and-play option at either tackle or guard.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
This pick depends on what the Falcons decide to do at quarterback heading into Year 3 under coach Arthur Smith. Do they draft one, ride with third-round pick Desmond Ridder or make a move for a veteran? No matter what they decide, they’ll need to bolster a defense that was one of the league’s worst at pressuring the quarterback. The 6-6, 276-pound Wilson can help with that.
9. Seattle Seahawks (projected trade via Carolina): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Seahawks trade down and still end up filling one of their biggest positions of need. Although he’s still a bit raw as a pass rusher, the 6-5, 275-pound Murphy is an outstanding athlete who can grow into a dominant defender.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Eagles have several top defenders hitting the open market this offseason, including Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry. The 6-2, 201-pound Gonzalez is a smooth playmaker with the size and skills to be a lockdown corner.
11. Tennessee Titans: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Two starters on the Titans’ offensive line are entering free agency, and longtime left tackle Taylor Lewan could be a salary-cap casualty. The 6-6, 310-pound Johnson didn’t allow a sack on 449 pass-blocking snaps in his first season at left tackle, according to PFF.
12. Houston Texans (via Cleveland): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks says he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, and 2022 draft pick John Metchie III is still recovering from a form of leukemia. The 6-4, 215-pound Johnston is an explosive playmaker who would give Stroud the vertical threat he needs to attack defenses downfield.
13. New York Jets: Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
Much like safety Kyle Hamilton last year, Branch is considered one of the draft’s best prospects, regardless of position. The 6-foot, 193-pound nickel back would be an excellent fit in a secondary that’s quickly becoming one of the league’s best behind star corner Sauce Gardner.
14. New England Patriots: Jordan Addison, WR, Southern California
The Patriots have one of the worst groups of wide receivers in the league and could lose top target Jakobi Meyers in free agency. The 6-foot, 175-pound Addison has been incredibly productive at both Pittsburgh and USC, catching 159 passes for 2,468 yards and 25 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
15. Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Packers have been reluctant to spend high draft picks on offensive weapons, but they might make an exception here considering they have just one tight end under contract in 2023. The 6-4, 265-pound Mayer is as pro-ready as they come and would give Green Bay another dynamic receiving threat to complement its young wideouts.
16. Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Standout cornerback Kendall Fuller has just one year left on his contract and the players behind him have been inconsistent at best. The 6-2, 194-pound Porter can be a little too aggressive at times, but the son of the former Steelers star has the tools to be a sticky defender in coverage.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Whether it’s upgrading at left tackle or on the interior, the Steelers could use some help up front. The 6-4, 310-pound Jones excelled in his first season at left tackle for the defending champion Bulldogs as both a run and pass blocker.
18. Detroit Lions: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
The Lions might have more important needs, but with Jamaal Williams entering free agency this offseason and De’Andre Swift not far behind, running back is sneakily high on the list. The 6-foot, 220-pound Robinson is a broken-tackle machine who many evaluators consider worthy of a top-10 selection. He’d be an instant star behind the Lions’ excellent offensive line.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
It seems as if Tom Brady’s time is up in Tampa Bay, and there could be quite an exodus of talent behind him in free agency. If the Bucs decide to hit the reset button, the 6-4, 231-pound Richardson is an intriguing prospect to build around. He’s still growing as a passer but is an elite athlete who could make a Jalen Hurts-type leap in the NFL.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
There’s nothing wrong with double-dipping at the same position when you need as much help as the Seahawks do on the defensive line. The 6-5, 275-pound Van Ness is a fast riser who might be a top-15 lock by the time he tests at the scouting combine.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Star wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen have both struggled to stay on the field, and there are few reliable options behind them. The 6-1, 200-pound Smith-Njigba is an outstanding route runner who could thrive in the slot for quarterback Justin Herbert.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
If the Ravens can’t find a way to bring back veteran Marcus Peters, cornerback becomes one of the team’s top offseason needs. The 6-foot, 188-pound Smith is an instinctive player who broke up 15 passes and recorded four interceptions on 70 targets over the past two seasons, according to PFF.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Three of the Vikings’ top four cornerbacks are hitting free agency, including veteran Patrick Peterson. While the 6-foot, 180-pound Forbes doesn’t have ideal size, he has 14 interceptions and 17 pass-breakups in three seasons as a starter.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
While the Jaguars have two building blocks on the edge in Josh Allen and Travon Walker, they could use some reinforcements in the middle. The 6-5, 305-pound Bresee could slip a little because of a previously torn ACL and inconsistent production, but the former top overall recruit out of Damascus is a disruptive force when healthy.
25. New York Giants: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
For the Giants to take the next step and compete with the top teams in the NFC, they’ll need to improve one of the worst linebacker units in the league. The 6-3, 240-pound Simpson is a rangy athlete who also has experience covering the slot in Clemson’s defense.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Cowboys’ 19-12 divisional-round loss to the 49ers showed how few playmakers they have on offense besides wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and running back Tony Pollard. The 5-10, 172-pound Flowers has elite speed and can separate from defenders down the field.
27. Buffalo Bills: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
A 27-10 divisional-round loss to the Bengals exposed a lot of the Bills’ weaknesses, especially in the trenches. The 6-5, 347-pound Torrence could help Buffalo establish some toughness up front and keep some pressure off star quarterback Josh Allen.
28. Denver Broncos (via San Francisco, via Miami): Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
Starting interior linemen DeShawn Williams and Dre’Mont Jones are hitting free agency, potentially thinning a defensive line that has already lost Shelby Harris and Bradley Chubb. The 6-4, 357-pound Ika can help solidify the front seven while offering some pass-rushing potential.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
The Chiefs have five players taking up nearly $140 million in cap space in 2023, so it’s more important than ever to fill out the roster through the draft. One of those players, defensive end Frank Clark, could be released in a cost-cutting move, freeing up a spot for the 6-3, 235-pound Smith to step in and contribute immediately.
30. Cincinnati Bengals: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
Safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell and cornerback Eli Apple are set to hit free agency this offseason, leaving some potential holes in the secondary. The 6-3, 195-pound Johnson is a versatile coverage man and strong tackler who would fit seamlessly in a blossoming defensive backfield.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
The Eagles’ defensive line has been one of the biggest reasons for their success this season, but it could lose key contributors like Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave in free agency. The 6-3, 250-pound Ojulari, a steady contributor for LSU over three seasons, would be a welcome addition to the rotation.
36. Los Angeles Rams: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
40. New Orleans Saints: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
42. Cleveland Browns: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
51. Miami Dolphins: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
100. San Francisco 49ers: Luke Wypler, G/C, Ohio State