• Texans pass on a QB at No. 2: Houston could potentially use the No. 12 pick to trade up after securing Will Anderson Jr. with its first draft pick.
• RB Bijan Robinson lands in the top 10: This hardly seems like a surprise, but it goes against where Robinson is being selected in the average mock draft.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins
We’ve had plenty of time to hear consensus opinions about what will happen in the 2023 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to take those opinions and flip some on their heads.
These are four of the biggest potential surprises for the 2023 NFL Draft.
TENNESSEE TITANS TRADING UP TO NO. 3 OVERALL
The Arizona Cardinals have one of the hottest tickets in town, holding the No. 3 overall pick. As a team that doesn’t need a quarterback, they know a bidding war sparked by quarterback-needy teams behind them could commence. We’ve heard teams such as the Lions, Raiders and Falcons as potential trade-up candidates for that spot, but another outside of the top 10 seems to be in the mix, as well. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah recently said on his podcast “Move The Sticks” that one team he’s heard of as a surprise candidate for the No. 3 overall pick is the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are in a weird spot. They fired general manager Jon Robinson in the middle of the 2022 season before going on a seven-game losing streak to end the year, subsequently missing the playoffs. The current state of the Titans is a massive fall from grace from their No. 1 overall seed status a year ago. Their roster is devoid of talent, and they look like a team a lot closer to rebuilding than competing. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is 35 years old and in the final year of his contract coming off his worst season as the team's starter. Tennessee could save almost 18 million if he's cut. They do have Malik Willis, who they selected in the third round of last year’s draft, but the general manager who drafted Willis is gone. Is there still faith in him to be the franchise's next starter?
These are just a few reasons why the Titans could very well be the team that offers the biggest purse for No. 3 overall to go get a new quarterback.
HOUSTON TEXANS NOT TAKING A QUARTERBACK AT NO. 2
In a recent installment of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, he typed through the idea of the Texans not taking a quarterback at No. 2. On the surface level, that is indeed a hot take, Peter. However, King goes on to explain the way they would do so is by potentially using their No. 12 overall pick and their additional 2024 Day 1 picks to move up back into the top 10 for a quarterback if one starts to fall. That way, they could likely take pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. at No. 2 and still get a quarterback.
It feels crazy to read, but there is a way I could get on board. If Houston wanted to pull this off with my blessing (which means so much, I know), they would have to use that No. 12 overall pick to secure the Cardinals' No. 3 overall pick before the draft even began, therefore having back-top-back picks at Nos. 2 and 3. This would likely require them to deal at least one of their 2024 first-round picks and some extra Day 2 capital this year, next year or both.
It’s a lot to give up, but who’s to say either of those first-round picks next year will have the Texans in a similarly advantageous position? Let’s say C.J. Stroud goes No. 1 overall. If the Texans did this, they could then take Will Anderson Jr. and either Bryce Young or Anthony Richardson one after the other. Sure, everyone always thinks the grass is greener in future draft classes, but that’s not always the case. You could have a franchise-changing draft opportunity at your fingertips now.
As Lt. Aldo Raine said, “damn good deal.”
JALEN CARTER AS THE FIFTH DEFENSIVE PLAYER TAKEN
I’m not predicting this to the point of saying it will happen — rather, that it could. Carter’s stock is in limbo after he was arrested in February on reckless driving and racing charges stemming from a fatal January car crash. A few weeks later, he worked out at Georgia’s pro day but didn’t look physically ready for the event. Each team will have a different opinion on where they would draft Carter, but it feels as though the player who had No. 1 overall-type tape could be sliding, perhaps even outside the top 10.
Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. seems like a lock to be the first defender taken in the draft, but there was some hype for Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson to take that crown during combine week. Even if he doesn’t overtake Anderson, that kind of talk could mean he is also selected ahead of Carter. Then you have two fantastic cornerback prospects in Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon who could easily have suitors in the top 10.
As wild as it is to think of it this way, if the Cardinals take Anderson at No. 3, the Seahawks draft Wilson at No. 5, the Lions nab Gonzalez at No. 6 and the Raiders select Witherspoon at No, 7, Carter would be the fifth defensive player off the board.
Right now, Carter’s over/under line is pick 7.5.
BIJAN ROBINSON IN THE TOP 10
Saying one of the most talented players in the entire class is going in the top 10 may not seem like a surprise, but when you look at his current average draft position in mock drafts, it certainly is.
Earlier this draft cycle, PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner identified three “blue chip” prospects in the class, meaning players you don’t doubt will be difference-makers at the next level. Those three are: Will Anderson Jr., Jalen Carter (on tape) and Bijan Robinson. I agree with him.
With only three blue-chippers in this class, and just one on offense, I have to believe Robinson will be picked a lot higher than mock drafts are indicating. Robinson currently has an average draft position of 26.2 in mock drafts you can do here at PFF. A jump into the top 10 would be quite a swing, but I think it’s a lot more plausible Robinson is selected before Pick 10 than after Pick 20.
He is coming off back-to-back seasons of elite rushing grades and even posted a 75.2 grade as a receiver. We can sit here and argue the positional value tag all we want, but Robinson is going a lot higher than people are predicting.