I’m excited for the draft.

You’re excited for the draft.

The teams at the top of the draft, though, aren’t quite as much, and that’s thanks to the makeup of a class that’ll have GMs in its upper reaches holding their … breath as they turn in their cards. There’s a lot to like, sure. But there’s plenty to worry about, too, and that’s from the top of the first round all the way to the bottom.

“If you have 15 first-round grades, then the class sucks,” said one general manager Saturday. “And I got less than 15 this year.”

On top of that, the landscape of this draft’s blue-chip tier is covered with potential landmines. After dozens and dozens of calls and text exchanges with GMs, coaches and scouts the last few weeks, a few themes emerged.

• Most teams I’ve talked to believe that Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are the best, and easiest-to-project, quarterbacks, though each comes with some perceived limitations. Taking Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis, conversely, comes with a lot of risk, but also potential reward on the back end. (We’ll have a lot more on the quarterbacks in our annual coaches-on-quarterbacks breakdown on Tuesday). So which QB teams have atop their boards will vary. There’s no completely clean prospect here.

With the Panthers’ offensive line, Young should come into a good setup to hit the ground running in Carolina.


• I’d peg the league consensus as having eight non-quarterbacks in the top group, with three pass-rushers (Georgia DT Jalen Carter, Alabama OLB Will Anderson Jr., Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson), two corners (Illinois’s Devon Witherspoon, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez), two offensive linemen (Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski), and Texas tailback Bijan Robinson in that crew.

• Each of those guys have questions. Carter’s are off the field. Anderson’s are on his ceiling as a player. Wilson’s are medical. Witherspoon’s concern his size, and Gonzalez’s are on his physicality as a player. Johnson’s are on his playing strength, and Skoronski’s related to the fact that most teams project him as a guard, rather than a tackle. And Robinson? Well, he’s probably the cleanest prospect in the class, but he’s a running back.

So that sets the stage for what should be a wildly unpredictable first round—which is to say, yes, what all those teams are worried about, you should go ahead and get excited over.

It also sets the stage for our annual analysis of what all 32 teams will actually do.

Welcome to The MMQB for draft week 2023. We’ve got plenty coming this week, and that starts Monday with a whole lot coming in our Takeaways.

But we’re starting with a little something for fans of every team.

This column is, annually, one of my favorites. I try to pack it with information. I go to pro scouting directors to ascertain each team’s needs—which are often more nuanced (teams projecting other teams working a year ahead at certain positions) than what you’ll find in the run-of-the-mill needs lists you see every April. And I learn a lot about the players, too.

So, now, we’re passing a whole bunch of that along to you. With teams sorted by the order of their highest picks, let’s dive in …

Carolina Panthers

First round: No. 1
Total picks: 6
Needs: QB, LB, RB, WR

What you need to know: It sure feels like there’s nothing really left other than for Roger Goodell to get to the stage and spit Young’s name out, a little at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Panthers weren’t sure who they’d take when they traded for the first pick, a little over six weeks ago, but my sense is their baseline, as far as who they were comfortable spending all that capital on, at the time, was Young. And Young never relinquished his lead over the pack. He crushed his meeting with new Panthers coach Frank Reich. He scored a 98 on the S2 cognitive test, one that Carolina owner David Tepper is said to be a big believer in. The Teppers spent time with Young’s parents at Alabama’s Pro Day. There is, of course, concern over Young’s size, from a durability standpoint. But he’s checked about every other box since. Now, will Carolina be able to find him a new receiver at No. 39?

Houston Texans

First round: No. 2, No. 12
Total picks: 12
Needs: QB, DE, WR

What you need to know: A month ago, it appeared to be a fait accompli that a quarterback would go at 2. Not so much anymore. I’ve heard DeMeco Ryans is amenable to the idea of taking a defensive player there, and that, if that train of thought wins out, it’d be Anderson or Wilson at that spot, and potentially a quarterback at No. 12 (Anthony Richardson?) or in a trade up from that second first-rounder of Houston’s. Anderson fits in that he has Alabama ties to Ryans, and in that GM Nick Caserio has a couple decades of experience plucking from Nick Saban’s programs. On the flip side, Wilson might be a better scheme fit for Ryans, with a higher ceiling. Either way, it does sound as if there’s been healthy debate on whether or not to take a quarterback at No. 2, with the argument for it obvious, and the argument going the other way being that you aren’t going to get an elite edge at 12. We’ll see what happens.

Arizona Cardinals

First round: No. 3
Total picks: 8
Needs: OLB, OT, CB, WR

What you need to know: It’s well-established that new GM Monti Ossenfort is looking to move down from No. 3, to accumulate more capital and build up a roster with needs everywhere. But it seems like it won’t be easy to move the pick. One thing that would help is Stroud getting past Houston—opening up an opportunity for someone to leapfrog the Colts to have their pick of any of the non–Young quarterbacks in the class. But if the Cardinals get stuck? One thing that comes up consistently is that Ossenfort is going to want to park the ball in the middle of the fairway with his first pick, be it at No. 3 or further down. Anderson is the name that most commonly comes up, but I also know Arizona passed Wilson on his physical, which would make him a possibility too. And if there’s a curveball coming, I’ve heard the Cards love Witherspoon at corner and Johnson at tackle. Both would be considerations—maybe at No. 3, maybe after a trade down.

Indianapolis Colts

First round: No. 4
Total picks: 9
Needs: QB, CB, OT

What you need to know: There were some things over the last two months that hinted the Colts could look at a position other than quarterback—one being that they were lukewarm on the idea of trading up when the Bears were peddling the first pick, saying they needed to go through the process with the prospects first. But four days out, few believe the Colts will look anywhere else at No. 4. Which QB they’ll take is murkier. Levis has had a rough pre-draft process, but I’ve heard his name linked to the Colts over and over from other teams last week. And I heard he made a very positive impression with the Manning brothers at their passing academy last summer, and, obviously, owner Jim Irsay still listens to Peyton on these things. Then, there are rumblings that traits-happy GM Chris Ballard is intrigued with Richardson, while assistant GM Ed Dodds likes Stroud, who’s seen as the best fit for Shane Steichen’s offense. So obviously, the Colts have done a decent job of making others believe that all things are possible.

Seattle Seahawks

First round: No. 5, No. 20
Total picks: 11
Needs: DT, QB, edge

What you need to know: This, to me, is the ceiling for Carter. I’ve heard that Pete Carroll loves the Georgia game-wrecker, and that the Seahawks had a good 30 visit with him. That said, Seattle GM John Schneider has had his ups and downs with such gambles in the past, and it’s fair to wonder if his experience with Malik McDowell a few years back would have a material effect on whether or not he’d spend the fifth pick on someone with Carter’s file. I also wouldn’t rule out Richardson; Schneider and Carroll really liked Josh Allen a few years ago, and there are some parallels with this one, including the fact that they wouldn’t have to rush him out onto the field as a rookie. As for the second pick? Sounds like Seattle is comfortable enough with its roster to go best player available there, with a trade down always being a possibility as long as Schneider’s finger is the one on the trigger.

Detroit Lions

First round: No. 6, No. 18
Total picks: 9
Needs: QB, CB, DT

What you need to know: I’ve heard, like Seattle, the Lions had a good meeting with Carter. A mess of rival teams believe he’s going to be a real consideration in this spot. If Carter’s gone, or even otherwise, Witherspoon—seen as a strong fit for both Dan Campbell’s program and Aaron Glenn’s defense—is another player that’s been connected to Detroit pretty consistently over the last few weeks. As for the second of its picks, a move up for a quarterback shouldn’t be ruled out (the Lions did all the work), and I’ve heard running back would be a consideration too. So No. 18 could wind up being the floor for Robinson. (Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve heard the Lions have already made calls on trading down from No. 18).

Las Vegas Raiders

First round: No. 7
Total picks: 12
Needs: CB, QB, DT, OL.

What you need to know: The Raiders are loaded with picks, and that gives them leeway to gamble a little (no pun intended). I just don’t see it happening at No. 7. Most teams expect Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler to, like Ossenfort, try to hit one straight and true here. Likewise, I’d expect a strong program fit there. Two names that have come up, along those lines, are Witherspoon and Skoronski. The former would fill a big need. The latter would too, and might fit the Raiders better than other teams, in that Las Vegas doesn’t need a left tackle (and plenty of teams don’t see Skoronski playing left tackle in the pros).

Atlanta Falcons

First round: No. 8
Total picks: 7
Needs: OLB, RB, QB

What you need to know: Robinson’s name has come up pretty consistently in connection to the Falcons, and it makes some sense, in how Arthur Smith built an imposing, dominant offense in Tennessee around a bell cow back, which allowed him to manage the quarterback spot a little differently. Trading for Jeff Okudah lessens the team’s need at corner a little, though Gonzalez could entice GM Terry Fontenot. And if you want a wild card, I’ve heard new Falcons DC Ryan Neilsen loves Wilson, seeing a little Cameron Jordan in his game (and the Saints system does favor bigger edge players). Along those lines, Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness is another I’ve heard would fit that mold for Atlanta. But … back on Robinson … is it possible he’d be the target after a trade down? Could be, since I’m told Fontenot has explored the idea of falling back a few slots. A team looking for, say, a tackle could conceivably come up.

Chicago Bears

First round: No. 9
Total picks: 10
Needs: OT, DT, edge

The Bears received picks No. 9 and No. 61, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in ’25 and DJ Moore from the Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 pick in ’23.

Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports

What you need to know: Bears GM Ryan Poles has done a ton of work on the offensive linemen, and a few people there told me that, at Ohio State’s pro day, he zeroed in pretty good on Johnson. The issue with Johnson lacking top-end strength can be addressed—he doesn’t turn 22 until July, and he has exemplary football character, which would lead you to believe he’ll improve in that area. “Knowing the scouting tree that Poles is coming from, I’d think it’ll be Paris,” said an AFC exec. “It’s the size, the length, just having a pass-blocking left tackle, it matches up.” Skoronski is another name that’s come up here, and if both are gone, Poles could work to fortify his defensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles

First round: No. 10, No. 30
Total picks: 6
Needs: RB, edge, CB

What you need to know: The Eagles are, again, in the enviable position of being able to take a risk, or work a year ahead of a need. On the first count, there’s perception out there that this is Carter’s floor, with Philly having both the veteran locker room and old friends of Carter’s, in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, to get the mercurial star on the right path. On the second count, taking Carter would work a year ahead of a Fletcher Cox–sized hole on the defensive line. Landing a Gonzalez at corner, a Van Ness on the edge, or a Darnell Wright at tackle would have a similar effect—with the potential for 2024 needs in those spots. And with the Eagles’ volume of picks a little light, I’d expect Howie Roseman to be looking to move down from No. 10, too, if someone like Carter or Gonzalez isn’t there.

Tennessee Titans

First round: No. 11
Total picks: 6
Needs: OT, QB, WR

What you need to know: I know the Titans have done the work on the quarterbacks, and some believe they will trade up. What I’ve heard, though, is the calls they’ve actually made have been in an effort to trade down, something they might pull off if the second tackle, the second corner or the right quarterback falls into this spot. If they stick, Tennessee could also draft a guy at any of those positions; if Richardson, Johnson or Gonzalez are there, it’s hard to rule that out.

New York Jets

First round: No. 13
Total picks: 6
Needs: OT, edge, DT

What you need to know: GM Joe Douglas has built a pretty balanced roster, which allows him to zero in on needs—and everyone seems to have their eye on a tackle going here. With the likelihood that the top two don’t make it here, that’d likely put Georgia’s Broderick Jones (who carries some football-character questions but is uber-talented) and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright (who might be strictly a right tackle) in play. Also, the Jets might be trading for a certain quarterback this weekend, a move that likely would leave them short one of their second-round picks (either 42 or 43), but probably not this one (unless it’s part of some sort of pick swap).

New England Patriots

First round: No. 14
Total picks: 11
Needs: CB, OT, WR, OLB

What you need to know: If Gonzalez or Witherspoon were to slip down here (doubtful), the Patriots would probably just take whichever one did. If not, New England is sitting in the range just past the first-round cliff, where players with second-round grades in some draft rooms start to come off the board. That’s when teams lean a little more towards need, and tackle is the biggest one the Patriots have, with older vets Riley Reiff and Trent Brown, and journeyman Calvin Anderson their answers right now at the position. Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be an exceptional scheme fit, but I don’t know that the Patriots could afford to take him and ignore their other needs, particularly given that they’re at premium positions that aren’t easy to fill later in the draft.

Green Bay Packers

First round: No. 15
Total picks: 10
Needs: WR, TE, DL

What you need to know: In a really good tight end year, this could be where the first one comes off the board. And while Utah’s Dalton Kincaid has generated the most buzz, the name I’ve heard here most is the draft’s best two-way tight end: Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer. It’d be a little bit of a reach, I think, but would be a good piece to get a young quarterback, given how Mayer can contribute immediately in multiple areas, with a versatile game, a lot of playing experience and really solid intangible qualities.

Washington Commanders

First round: No. 16
Total picks: 8
Needs: CB, OT, QB

What you need to know: I, and most teams, would be very surprised if the Commanders took a quarterback, to the point where some have speculated the team could move capital into 2024 to ready for a run then at D.C.–area native Caleb Williams. (You probably have to be the worst team in the league to get him, because whoever that team is probably won’t trade his rights away.) So assuming it’s not a quarterback, corner is one spot where the Commanders have put in a lot of work, and my sense is Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. would be a real consideration with the top two guys almost certainly gone at this point.

Pittsburgh Steelers

First round: No. 17
Total picks: 7
Needs: OT, OLB, DL, CB

What you need to know: There’s a little bit of an Eagles ethos in Pittsburgh, with ex–Philly VP Andy Weidl now assistant GM for the Steelers with his first draft under GM Omar Khan. And that would, on paper, mean Pittsburgh might lean towards a lineman on one side of the ball or the other here. The question, then, would be which offensive lineman and which defensive lineman will be sitting there for them on Thursday night—and there could be an edge player or two (Georgia’s Nolan Smith? Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV?) that might fit opposite T.J. Watt. It’s also fun to consider that Maryland CB Deonte Banks, who could go right in this range, was in Dino Tomlin’s recruiting class and played three years alongside him as a Terp. Dino, of course, is Mike’s son. And if it’s an offensive linemen, well, that could be after a trade up. The Steelers are one of the few teams that have explored a move up the board, and I’ve heard it’s with the idea of getting a tackle to put in front of Kenny Pickett.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First round: No. 19
Total picks: 9
Needs: OT, DL, S, QB

What you need to know: I’ve heard rumors the Buccaneers would make a move up for a quarterback. I’m not buying it. For one, I think the staff there is excited to see what they can do with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. For another, I know when another team called them about moving down, with the Bucs potentially coming up, Tampa Bay didn’t show much interest in doing it. And that’s in large part because this is going to be a big reset year, with the team needing to get younger in a few key areas.

Los Angeles Chargers

First round: No. 21
Total picks: 7
Needs: WR, S, OT

What you need to know: As usual, the Chargers come into the draft with a well-built, well-conceived roster, and the ability to work a year ahead on needs, which is why receiver—even with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Josh Palmer there—is on the list. The team could also use immediate help at free safety (there probably won’t be a first-round type available for them here) and right tackle (it depends on how the board falls). But one idea that kind of intrigues me? Throwing Kincaid, who’s more of a big receiver than a two-way tight end, into the mix with Justin Herbert.

Baltimore Ravens

First round: No. 22
Total picks: 5
Needs: WR, DL, QB

What you need to know: Quarterback is on the needs list as a contingency. But I’d expect that the Ravens accommodate their current quarterback, rather than replace him—a good number of rival teams believe that Baltimore will be in the receiver market at No. 22, with Odell Beckham on a one-year deal, and Rashod Bateman coming back from foot surgery. If they do, a burner could be in order, with Boston College’s Zay Flowers a potentially interesting fit.

Minnesota Vikings

First round: No. 23
Total picks: 5
Needs: QB, WR, CB

Hooker was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022.

Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports

What you need to know: I’ve heard the Vikings tied to Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker by a few other teams, with one even suggesting Minnesota could make a short move up to get a quarterback. I don’t know if I’m buying the idea—with just five picks, the Vikings don’t have a lot of capital to move around, and have spent the whole offseason trying to get younger—but I do believe a quarterback is in play for them, mostly because I don’t think they’ll do another deal with Kirk Cousins that’s heavy on guarantees.

Jacksonville Jaguars

First round: No. 24
Total picks: 9
Needs: OLB, OT, CB

What you need to know: Interestingly enough, just a year after the Urban Meyer mess blew up, and the Jaguars had the first pick in the draft as the league’s worst team (for the second straight year), this is a roster that doesn’t seem to have a lot of pressing needs. They could find a replacement for right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Or they create some flexibility at the edge spot, with Josh Allen going into a contract year, or get a little deeper in an improving cornerback room. Options are certainly open here for Doug Pederson and Trent Baalke.

New York Giants

First round: N. 25
Total picks: 10
Needs: WR, G/C, CB

What you need to know: The Giants went out to dinner with Smith-Njigba in Columbus and Jordan Addison in Los Angeles, so there’s a strong consensus built that the Giants are zeroing in on receivers at No. 25. And the idea is certainly in play, but I think there are two things to consider there. One, GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll are very aware that the roster still has a ways to go, so it’s not yet time to press needs. Two, with a strong tight end class and weaker receiver group, it's certainly plausible the Giants could look at taking someone like Mayer to pair with Darren Waller for Daniel Jones.

Dallas Cowboys

First round: No. 26
Total picks: 7
Needs: RB, DE, TE

What you need to know: This is pretty straight-forward: the Cowboys could use an edge-rusher to pair with (and eventually replace) DeMarcus Lawrence, a counterpoint for the franchised Tony Pollard at tailback and a tight end to take Dalton Schultz’s place. And given Dallas’s draft history, I wouldn’t rule out a top interior lineman, like Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence or Wisconsin’s Joe Tippman, either.

Buffalo Bills

First round: No. 27
Total picks: 6
Needs: WR, LB, S

What you need to know: The Bills will be able to look at needs for 2024 here, and receiver is shaping up to be a big one. My guess is they will not be able to afford to keep Gabe Davis, and TCU’s Quentin Johnston, should he slide this far, could be an ideal replacement for him on the outside. The safety and linebacker needs—with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer getting older, and Tremaine Edmunds gone—could be addressed on Day 2 of the draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

First round: No. 28
Total picks: 7
Needs: CB, RB, TE

What you need to know: Offensive line isn’t out of the question by any means, but the Bengals have invested enough to look elsewhere with their first-round pick. Tight end is probably the team’s biggest need, and there’ll be options available there for the team through Friday, which could free them up to look at Alabama dynamo Jahmyr Gibbs as an intriguing add to a super-charged offense, or catch a corner (Banks?) if one slips a little. And one other thing to watch—Cincinnati has been sniffing around for a havoc-wreaking defensive tackle, and Pitt’s Calijah Kancey fits that bill.

New Orleans Saints

First round: No. 29
Total picks: 8
Needs: DT, WR, DE

What you need to know: The Saints wound up back in the first round by trading Sean Payton for the pick that was first traded for Trey Lance, then for Bradley Chubb. It’s a fair bet that they’ll use the pick to shore up a defensive front that’s lacking after some defections and first-round misses in recent years. The good news is there’s some edge-rusher depth in this class, and someone like McDonald could be here for them.

Kansas City Chiefs

First round: No. 31
Total picks: 10
Needs: WR, OT, RB

What you need to know: The Chiefs are one of the few teams that has already made calls about moving up. And while teams that have talked to them feel like, at least for now, Kansas City is seeing if it can find a discounted way to go up the board, Brett Veach and his crew aren’t doing it for nothing. Targets? I’ve heard Flowers connected to the Chiefs. (He worked out with Patrick Mahomes in Texas last week.) The other name was Gibbs. Now, Andy Reid’s taken one running back in the first round in 24 drafts as a head coach and that one (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) hasn’t really worked out. Still, listening to other talk about Gibbs’s fit with Mahomes and Reid can be convincing. “I wouldn’t want to be in the AFC West,” said one NFC exec, “if Gibbs winds up in Kansas City.” If the Chiefs stay put, Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt and Michigan’s massive DT Mazi Smith are two more to watch.

Gibbs led Alabama in both receptions and rushing yards in 2022, cementing himself as an all-purpose player.

Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams

First round: No. 36
Total picks: 11
Needs: WR, OLB, OT

What you need to know: The Rams, for the first time under Sean McVay, are going through a hard reset, so the idea here will be stocking the roster with good young players in general, and having picks 36, 69, and 77 should give them a decent haul of top 100 players (or at least better than usual) to make that happen. One name I have heard connected to the Rams is Flowers, but at this point it seems as if it’d take a move into the bottom of the first round to make that happen.

Miami Dolphins

First round: No. 51
Total picks: 4
Needs: TE, LB, DT

What you need to know: I’d be surprised if Chris Grier stood still with just four picks. So in an ideal world, I’d say the Dolphins take their two Day 2 picks (51, 84), and try to get a couple extra picks to play with. The good news is, looking at their primary need (tight end), there’s a good chance they could do that and still wind up with their next starter at that position.

Denver Broncos

First round: No. 67
Total picks: 5
Needs: S, CB, OL

What you need to know: George Paton’s in a similar spot to Grier—light on picks, and wanting to accumulate some. He could use No. 67 or 68 to do it, or he could work a trade with the surplus of receivers he’s got. The Broncos haven’t been shopping those guys, but I think at the right price, they might move one (if I had to guess, I think it’d take a first-rounder for Jerry Jeudy, and maybe a second-rounder for Courtland Sutton.) with the idea that they get a little leaner and more flexible financially in the process

Cleveland Browns

First round: No. 74
Total picks: 8
Needs: DE, LB, S

What you need to know: The deals for Deshaun Watson and Elijah Moore took Cleveland out of the first two rounds, but, looking at the state of the roster, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. The Browns have the premium positions mostly filled out, so they need more foot soldiers than generals. And one pattern that was obvious in their 30 visits was the emphasis on linemen, both on offense (Ohio State’s Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler, Bama’s Tyler Steen) and defense (Ohio State’s Zach Harrison, Baylor’s Siaki Ika, Florida’s Gervon Dexter), with some receivers (Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, Houston’s Tank Dell) mixed in.

San Francisco 49ers

First round: No. 99
Total picks: 11
Needs: S, TE, OT

What you need to know: Ditto on the 49ers. They have their cornerstones, with a fleet of franchise players on hand. The volume of picks they have will allow them to move some around, and fill in blanks on their roster—with the offensive line (after Mike McGlinchey’s departure) and safety (after they had been connected to free-agent safety Jessie Bates III) being two spots to keep an eye on.

And so starts draft week here at Sports Illustrated. So you all know, I’ll have my column Monday afternoon with some notes leftover, then my normal What I’m Hearing columns once, and sometimes twice, a day through the week. My annual quarterbacks column comes Tuesday, my mock draft drops on Wednesday, and we’ll try to mix the mailbag in there too.

Keep it locked here, and we’ll have you covered.