With so much information going around the league with Pro Days, free agency, and general rumors leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, we’re going to keep tabs on league news and how it could impact the draft.

This article will be updated regularly by Ryan McCrystal, Brendan Donahue, and the Sharp Football team.

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April 19, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Stroud falling?

There really isn’t any hard news to tie this to, but if you’ve been following draft coverage this week you’ve probably come across conversations about C.J. Stroud potentially sliding on draft day. 

Here’s my take on these soft rumors:

We’ve also heard (more concretely, via Lance Zierlein) that Houston is trying to trade the second pick. Based on the rumors connecting Bryce Young to Carolina, we can assume Houston is passing on Stroud and hoping someone will trade up.

Now that Houston is actively shopping the second pick, it makes sense to hear some light rumors about teams backing off Stroud. All of the interested teams want Houston to believe there isn’t a significant market for that pick, thus lowering the asking price.

I can’t say with extreme confidence this is the exact root of the recent Stroud conversation, but it’s a very plausible explanation. In other words, don’t bet too heavily on Stroud falling past the second or third pick. – RM

April 13, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Houston in pass-rush market

The Texans have reportedly conducted visits and/or workouts with the following pass-rushers:

  • Will Anderson Jr.
  • Tyree Wilson
  • Myles Murphy
  • B.J. Ojulari

Anderson and Wilson make sense as potential targets if the Texans pass on a quarterback with the number two pick.

The Murphy and Ojulari visits are more interesting, as it indicates Houston is preparing for many different scenarios at the top of the draft. Murphy would be a viable selection with the 12th pick, while Ojulari could be on the board at the top of the second round.

The fact that Houston is spending time with pass-rushers in multiple different tiers tells us this position is a priority for them early in the draft. – RM

Bryce Young to Carolina

Rumors linking the Panthers to Bryce Young with the number one pick are starting to mount. Peter King of NBC Sports and ESPN’s Adam Schefter are among those who have stated Carolina is at least leaning that direction. 

There’s an alternative line of thinking out there, however, that Carolina is leaking this information to entice Houston to trade up for Young, allowing Carolina to then take C.J. Stroud at number two.

Here’s my take on the whole situation:

If Carolina is spreading these rumors in an effort to trade down, it would be unprecedented. When a team needs a quarterback, they keep the number-one pick.

That said, it would be a brilliant strategy if Carolina knows Houston has Young atop its draft board 一 and I’m putting a very strong emphasis on knows.

As of now, we believe Houston wants Young, but that’s partially because Stroud shares an agent with Deshaun Watson (more on that rumor here).

However, there’s also reason to believe Stroud is a better fit for Houston. General manager Nick Caserio comes from New England where they prefer traditional pocket passers. Caserio provided support to this trend when he drafted Davis Mills upon his arrival in Houston. Stroud fits that profile better than Young.

So if I were Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer, I would not trust any information coming out of Houston. If you want Stroud, you take him at number one and you don’t give any other team the opportunity. – RM

April 12, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Cowboys in the wide receiver market

The Cowboys have conducted visits, meetings and/or workouts with a long list of wide receiver prospects this offseason, including:

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  • Josh Downs
  • Quentin Johnston
  • Zay Flowers
  • Jalin Hyatt

Dallas has never been shy about tipping its hand by making its offseason workouts and visits public, so we can safely make some assumptions based on this list. There will be wide receivers high on the Cowboys draft board, and it may even be their top priority with 26th selection. – RM

April 11, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Falcons trade for Jeff Okudah

The Falcons acquired cornerback Jeff Okudah from the Lions in exchange for a fifth-round pick on Tuesday.

So does this trade change Atlanta’s approach with the eighth pick in the draft?

The Falcons cornerback depth chart now features:

  • A.J. Terrell (fifth-year option available for 2024)
  • Jeff Okudah (fifth-year option available for 2024)
  • Casey Heyward (under contract through 2023)

Based on Okudah’s performance his option is unlikely to be picked up, which means Okudah and Heyward will hit free agency after this upcoming season.

The acquisition likely does not affect the Falcons’ strategy in the first round, but does give them the short-term insurance to avoid forcing a selection. If the right cornerback falls to them, they can pounce; and if their guys is gone, they’re prepared to go another direction.

I have paired the Falcons with Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon in previous versions of my mock draft, and still believe that’s a possibility. – RM

April 10, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Arizona shopping 3rd pick

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter the Arizona Cardinals have been in contact with at least six teams interested in acquiring the third pick. 

It’s likely the source for this came from within the Arizona organization, because they’re the only ones who benefit from this information going public.

With six teams supposedly in the mix, it sounds as though Arizona should be able to find a trade partner. However, we have to remember some of those inquiries may simply be teams laying the groundwork for a draft-day trade in the event the right player is on the board. 

It’s unclear if Houston will draft a quarterback (especially if C.J. Stroud is on the board), so all the other quarterback-needy teams have to be prepared. – RM

Anthony Richardson sliding?

Albert Breer dropped this interesting quote about Anthony Richardson into his most recent article on SI.com: “After talking to teams the last few weeks, it seems like Richardson could slide further.”

In the article, Richardson was also notably absent in Breer’s section on the Colts’ quarterback decision he only cited Will Levis.

Personally, I’m not surprised. In my most recent mock draft I have the Seahawks taking Richardson with the 20th pick, and have not had Richardson in the top 10 at any point this offseason. – RM

April 9, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Jim Irsay could override Colts front office

Take a look at this recent quote on the Colts approach to the draft from Jim Irsay (via The Athletic): “I know they [Chris Ballard and Shane Steichen] will line up together, there’s no question, and I’ll line up with their thinking unless something was very unusual.”

We know every owner has the option to step in and make a selection, but rarely do we hear them acknowledge that as an option. Even when we’re fairly certain ownership was behind a move, everyone involved typically pretends that was not the case.

Not only is this a fairly unusual quote, but it stands out as a distinct possibility in this draft.

Anthony Richardson is exactly the type of player owners tend to fall in love with 一he has big flashy traits that don’t require a great football mind to appreciate.  

So it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Ballard and Steichen decide this isn’t the right time to address their need at quarterback, but Irsay steps in and demands Richardson. – RM

April 7, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Lance Zierlein’s wild mock draft

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein created a stir with his latest mock draft, most notably with the Houston Texans taking Tyree Wilson second overall and passing on C.J. Stroud.

There’s a lot of crazy mock drafts out there, so should we take Zierlein’s seriously or is he just having some fun with an unlikely scenario?

Early April is still too early for anyone to have conviction in their mock draft selections, but Zierlein’s connections to Houston 一 he lives in the area and hosts a local radio show 一 should make us pay close attention to his Texans picks. 

In his final mock draft in 2022, Zierlein correctly predicted the selections of Derek Stingley Jr. and Kenyon Green. However, Zierlein’s mock draft released last April 12 connected Houston to Evan Neal and Devonte Wyatt 一 Houston passed over both players on draft day. 

It’s also important to note Zierlein has Bryce Young going number one overall to Carolina, and Zierlein has previously spoken on his belief Houston could pass on Stroud due to his shared agent with Deshaun Watson.

So here’s my takeaway: since this is the second time Zierlein has indicated Houston will pass over Stroud, he probably has some strong intel on that subject. As for how the rest of his mock draft plays out, it’s just his educated guess but entirely plausible 一 it only looks out of the ordinary because Houston’s choice sets off a ripple effect. – RM

Dalton Kincaid a first-round lock?

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah elevated Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid to number nine on his big board, 12 spots ahead of Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer.

Although this list is theatrically just Jeremiah’s personal opinion, his rankings are historically very chalky 一 we can assume he’s heavily influenced by the consensus opinion he’s hearing from his contacts around the league. 

Last year all but one player in Jeremiah’s top 25 landed in the first round (Nakobe Dean, who fell due to significant injury concerns).

So with Kincaid now appearing in Jeremiah’s top 10, we should assume he’s virtually a lock to land in the first round, and probably a good bet to be the first tight end off the board (that bet is available at -120 on FanDuel).

I also have Kincaid as the top tight end on my big board (27th overall). He’s a more dynamic weapon in the passing game than Mayer, which is likely the separating factor between the two for most teams. – RM

April 4, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Steelers not interested in cornerbacks?

Based on their offseason activity, it appears the Steelers are not interested in adding a cornerback in the first round. 

Some teams play mind games with their top-30 visits and pro day attendance, but Pittsburgh is straight forward in its approach to the draft. For at least the past 10 drafts, Mike Tomlin and/or GM Omar Khan (and Kevin Colbert before him) attended the pro days of their eventual first-round pick.

This spring, Tomlin and Kahn have not attended the pro day for a single top-tier cornerback prospect, indicating they likely are not in that market.

The one exception could be Joey Porter Jr.

Pittsburgh mostly sent lower level executives and scouts to the cornerback pro days, but sent assistant GM Andy Weidl, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and others to Porter’s pro day.

It’s also reasonable to assume Tomlin already knows Porter Jr. personally, as his dad spent five years coaching under Tomlin in Pittsburgh.

It is worth noting Pittsburgh has arranged pre-draft visits with Porter, Kelee RingoDonte Banks, Tyrique Stevenson and Emmanuel Forbes. So there clearly is some interest in the cornerback market. However, notably absent from that list are the top two corners in this class: Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon.

If Pittsburgh had a serious interest in using its first-round pick on a cornerback, they would likely meet with Gonzalez and Witherspoon to prepare for the possibility they’re on the board. Instead, Pittsburgh seems to be focusing on players who have the potential to be on the board at the top of the second round (the Steelers own the 32nd pick). – RM

April 3, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Titans exploring trade up?

On a recent episode of his Move the Sticks podcast, Daniel Jeremiah reported the Tennessee Titans have inquired about the third pick, currently owned by the Arizona Cardinals. 

Since Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are expected to be the first two selections, this rumor has obviously generated an assumption Tennessee likes either Anthony Richardson or Will Levis

Before Titans fans get excited (or angry), pump the breaks. 

As we’ve discussed previously, the Texans are believed to have more interest in Young, and may pass on Stroud. 

With this rumor out there, Tennessee may be laying the groundwork for a trade up for Stroud, in the event Carolina takes Young with the first pick. – RM

April 2, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Jalen Carter visits with Lions, Raiders, Bears

Jalen Carter has been busy with draft visits lately, most notably scheduling time with the Bears, Lions and Raiders.

It’s tempting to interpret these pre-draft visits as a sign of interest from teams, but that often is not what drives teams to invite a player for a top-30 visit.

Players with significant off-field questions, like Carter, are typically the busiest this time of year because no one wants to draft them without first spending time getting to know them as a person.

Perhaps these visits will go well for Carter, and he’ll solidify himself as a top-10 pick 一 but we can’t jump to that conclusion based on the visit itself. We’ll have to wait to see what intel leaks out after he’s taken his tour of the league. – RM

March 31st, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Hendon Hooker on the rise?

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is starting to appear in more first-round mock drafts, which should be surprising to no one who follows mock draft trends.

Almost every year around this time someone starts “rising” up draft boards:

This happens for a few reasons.

The first is boredom. The combine was a full month ago, free agency is basically over and so there’s nothing shaking up mock drafts anymore. The media is looking for something new to talk about.

That doesn’t mean they’re making up stories, however. Certain teams are actively spreading rumors. Those who don’t want a quarterback have every reason to make others believe they need to be aggressive. If quarterbacks come off the board earlier, teams will overpay in trades and it will push other good players down the board.

So with the media looking for good storylines and the NFL feeding them some juicy rumors, they fall for the bait.

So while we should never rule anything out when it comes to the draft, I’m not buying the Hooker hype. – RM

Jaguars targeting running back depth

The Jaguars have conducted visits and/or workouts with a number of potential Day 2 running back prospects:

  • Tyjae Spears, Tulane
  • DeWayne McBride, UAB
  • Kendre Miller, TCU

Obviously Travis Etienne will remain the leader of the backfield, but it appears the team wants to add some depth 一 likely in the third or fourth round. – RM

March 30th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Colts interested in Jaren Hall

The Colts have their eyes on BYU quarterback Jaren Hall, according to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline.

Per Pauline, the Colts believe Hall compares favorably to Jalen Hurts 一 a significant comparison as new head coach Shane Steichen spent the past two seasons as Hurts’s offensive coordinator. 

Indy likely won’t have a shot at C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young, so Hall could be a Day 2 or early Day 3 target for them. – RM

March 24nd, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Seahawks checking out the quarterbacks

A large of contingent of Seahawks coaches and front office personnel have attended the pro days of C.J. StroudBryce Young and Will Levis this week.

Seattle owns the fifth pick, so it’s not shocking they would check out the top quarterback prospects. However, it has been out of character for them to have quarterbacks take selfies with the staff at every single stop.

Last year, there was no reported contact between Seattle and its first-round pick Charles Cross prior to the draft. Same can be said of Seattle and its selection of Dee Eskridge in 2021, and Jordyn Brooks in 2020.

The Seahawks making a very public show of their quarterback pro day tour reeks of a smoke screen 一 likely an attempt to make everyone behind them in the quarterback mark believe they need to jump ahead of Seattle (thus pushing down top-tier talent at other positions). – RM

March 22nd, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Bryce Young is Panthers’ guy?

On ESPN’s First Draft, Todd McShay cited a source who claims “Bryce Young is already their guy” while speaking about the Panthers decision with the first pick.

Based on McShay’s wording, it’s clear this is not a source within the Panthers organization, so it’s second-hand information, and even McShay sounds hesitant to fully buy in. That said, it’s an interesting development that could have a significant ripple effect on the draft, if true.

Last week we discussed the possibility Houston could pass on C.J. Stroud if Young went first overall. So this rumor is potentially good news for the Colts, Raiders and other teams possibly still hoping to move up for quarterback. – RM

Lions and Jalen Carter

A common selection for the Detroit Lions in recent mock drafts has been Jalen Carter.

While this isn’t necessarily news, it’s worth addressing because it would be a surprising development as it goes against a core tenet of Brad Holmes’s philosophy as a general manager.

Holmes rarely gives in an interview in which he doesn’t use the word “intangibles.”

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm a few years ago, Holmes stated: “I am so much focused on the intangible traits way more so than the physical traits… I’ve learned so much as to why a player is or isn’t successful in this league. It falls so much on the intangibles more than the physical.”

To ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, Holmes stated: “I think the intangibles are the separators of success… we always made an emphasis on investing in high-intangible football players.”

Then consider his first comments about last year’s first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson: “Well, he checks a lot of boxes that we look for. From an intangibles standpoint, he plays with a really high motor. He loves football. He’s very passionate about the game.”

Carter certainly fits the Lions from a talent and team-need standpoint, but it would be require Holmes to betray the philosophy which drives his approach to team building. – RM

March 20th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Could Lions still draft a cornerback?

After an overhaul of their secondary in free agency, are the Lions still a candidate to draft a first-round cornerback?

The Lions added Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley in recent weeks, each of whom appear to be in line for starting role if the season started today.

Detroit owns the sixth and 18th picks in the upcoming draft and are frequently linked to cornerbacks with one of those selections. In an early version of my mock draft, I had them taking Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez with the sixth pick.

Gardner-Johnson and Moseley each signed one-year contracts, which means Detroit could easily justify adding more talent to the secondary via the draft. That said, these signings do appear to indicate Detroit is preparing for a scenario in which they are unable to land a cornerback early in this year’s draft.

It’s possible Detroit is loading up on free agents in the event a trade up for a quarterback remains possible.

As we discussed last week, Houston may pass over C.J. Stroud if Carolina takes Bryce Young first overall. If that scenario played out, Detroit could swap picks with Houston or Arizona to land Stroud, potentially leaving them without the remaining draft capital to address the secondary. – RM

Falcons out on Jalen Carter?

The Atlanta Falcons, who own the eighth pick in the draft, are likely among the teams that will pass on Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

Pairing Carter with Grady Jarrett would be enticing but, according to The Athletic’s Josh Kendall, it appears as though Atlanta will not select Carter if he’s on the board.

Falcons fans got their hopes up last week when Atlanta sent its head coach, defensive coordinator and director of pro personnel to Georgia’s pro day. However, Kendall was emphatic in his belief Carter will not be joining the team, stating: “Atlanta fans need to start getting their minds wrapped around the fact that Carter is not coming to Flowery Branch.”

Teams are still gathering intel on Carter, but we may begin to hear similar reports in the coming days and weeks. – RM

March 17th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Texans want Young but not Stroud?

On ESPN 97.5 Houston, NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein stated he believes it is a foregone conclusion the Texans will draft Bryce Young second overall if he’s available. 

Zierlein followed that up by saying if Young goes number one overall, the same cannot be said of C.J. Stroud.

The reason is due to Stroud’s agent David Mulugheta, who represents Deshaun Watson. Houston believes Mulugheta’s approach to forcing Watson out of Houston cost the team a considerable amount of money and GM Nick Caserio will not be eager to deal with Mulugheta again.

Egos get in the way of good decisions all the time, so this a plausible scenario Zierlein puts forth. That said, Mulugheta represents a growing list of high profile NFL players 一 avoiding him at all costs would simply be bad business, especially when it comes to selecting a franchise quarterback. – RM

March 15th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Jalen Carter Tanks Pro Day

Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter showed up at his pro day nine pounds heavier than he weighed at the combine and then was unable to finish position drills due to cramping. 

According to Albert Breer of MMQB.com, those in attendance said Carter looked out of shape.

Carter’s off-field concerns were first widely reported by ESPN’s Todd McShay back in December and it’s only since gotten worse. Last month Carter was arrested and charged with racing and reckless driving in an incident which resulted in the death of a Georgia teammate and a football staffer.

In my most recent mock draft I had Carter going fifth overall to the Seahawks. Despite the other issues, it seemed plausible Carter would be able to convince teams the arrest was one isolated terrible decision.

However, given the reports prior to the racing incident and now his pro-day flop, there are mounting concerns that will be difficult for any team in the top 10 to overlook 一 and it’s now reasonable to wonder if he falls out of the first round. – RM

March 10th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Darius Slay to Seek Trade?

According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Eagles have given Darius Slay permission to seek a trade

James Bradberry is also a free agent, which means Philly could be in the market to replace both starting outside corners this offseason.

Could this be the year Howie Roseman finally drafts a first-round cornerback?

The Eagles have not spent a first-round pick on a defensive back since taking Lito Shepherd 26th overall in 2002. At the time, Roseman still serving as a “salary cap staff counsel” for the Eagles under Andy Reid.

During the years in which Roseman has maintained control of the roster, he has selected just one defensive back before the third round: Sidney Jones, 43rd overall in 2017. – RM

March 9th, NFL Draft News & Rumors

Coach Praises Anthony Richardson’s Accuracy

Anthony Richardson received quite a bit of praise from Bruce Feldman of The Athletic in his combine notes column

One quote from a quarterback coach stood out: “the reason why I’m so high on him is you can see him throw with touch on film; you can see him take a good drop and be accurate, throwing the right type of ball.”

This was surprising to read because accuracy is one of Richardson’s greatest weaknesses. 

The metric Accuracy Above Average looks at a quarterback’s on-target rate relative to the average on-target rate for each route type, using data from Sports Info Solutions

Based on this metric, here’s how the top quarterback prospects ranked out of 66 qualified Power Five quarterbacks in 2022:

  • C.J. Stroud, 4th
  • Bryce Young, 16th
  • Hendon Hooker, 19th
  • Will Levis, 25th
  • Richardson, 60th 

Relative to college quarterbacks over the past five seasons, Richardson’s Accurate Above Average was 9.7% below expected. 

Perhaps this quote was just an effort to hype up Richardson 一 teams who aren’t interested in prospects sometimes do this in hopes it elevates their stock, pushing others down the board 一 but if certain teams genuinely trust Richardson’s accuracy, that definitely increases the odds he’s a top-10 pick. – RM

Christian Gonzalez Falling?

One prospect who did not get glowing reviews in Feldman’s column was Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez.

Per Feldman, an NFL defensive backs coach questioned his ability to defend the run: “In our division with the backs we face, that would be a problem. We need to find out more about him from his coaches there.”

It’s a fair criticism of Gonzalez, but some teams care more about a defensive back’s contributions to run defense than others. Ultimately, they make their money in coverage, so this is unlikely to have a significant effect on Gonzalez’s draft stock. – RM

Chicago Staying at No. 1?

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles believes he can get two future first-round picks for the number one selection in this year’s draft 一 but not everyone agrees. 

Speaking to The Athletic’s Mike Sando, one NFL team president stated “In the end, I don’t know if they get enough to move down. Maybe you can get a Tampa, who is desperate, or the Raiders. But I think everybody holds tight and they probably just draft.”

It would be surprising if Chicago cannot get a decent offer for the top pick. However, who makes that offer could be key.

Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. is a special prospect. If, as suggested, Chicago’s best offers are from Las Vegas (picking seventh) and Tampa Bay (19th), staying put and taking an elite pass-rusher may be more appealing than the extra picks. – RM

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