It’s been nearly eight months since the start of the 2022 college football season, and with just days to go before the 2023 NFL Draft, I’m doing something a little different in this penultimate mock draft. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco has been doing this for years — a mock draft on what teams should do — and his ‘23 version comes out on Tuesday. It’s a great idea because it gets you on the record, plus it gives fans an easy way to point out where you were criminally wrong.
So here it is, what I think NFL teams should do on Thursday, during the first round of the draft. A sneak peak: I have five quarterbacks coming off the board (and two of them are selected after teams trade up into the first round), six defensive backs, and five offensive linemen — though the first doesn’t hear his name called until pick No. 9.
Round 1 - Pick 31 — Mock Trade from Kansas City Chiefs
Will Levis QB
KENTUCKY • SR • 6’4” / 229 LBS
PROJECTED TEAM: Tennessee
PROSPECT RNK: 15th
POSITION RNK: 1st
We were at Levis’ pro day and he’s built like a linebacker — and watching him throw the ball in person is something to behold, you can actually hear the passes whistle. But questions remain about his ability to layer the ball to all three levels, as well as some inconsistencies when he rolls to his left. In this, our ‘What should happen’ mock draft, we have the Titans trading back into the first round to get Levis for the fifth-year option. Ryan Tannehill is 35 and entering the last year of his contract, and it doesn’t appear that Malik Willis is in the team’s long-term plans. (The Titans trade picks 41 and 72 to move up to No. 31)
The former Texas Longhorns Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, San Francisco 49ers standout and Texans fifth-round draft pick joined the Chiefs during free agency on a two-year contract with a maximum value of $20 million and a base value of $16 million negotiated by Austin-based NFL agent David Mulugheta. The deal includes $8.6 million fully guaranteed and a $7.25 million signing bonus, and Omenihu can’t wait to prove it was a wise investment by general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid from the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
“It feels great,” Omenihu said. “I talked to Veach a couple of days ago to tell him him how appreciative I am. It’s an great organization. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I want to take advantage of it and try to bring my talent to the organization and help out. It’s good, man.
“You know they have a winning culture and are going to do everything in order to win. You come in and play your role, be a piece to the puzzle and go to work, head down and try to get back to the Super Bowl in Vegas.”
Round 1: Alabama S Brian Branch
Branch (6 feet, 190 pounds) is the top safety in this draft class for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to land on versatility. He can lineup as a traditional safety, but he can also play the slot corner position as well (think Tyrann Mathieu) and he also returned punts at Alabama. In his senior campaign, he led his team in interceptions (2) and had the most sacks among defensive backs (3), earning First-Team All-American honors. He’s easily the best tackling defensive back in this class and you just know that Steve Spagnuolo would love to use him on blitzes off the edge.
On Sunday, Vineland held its own Super Bowl victory celebration — this time for just one player, Chiefs rookie running back and hometown hero Isiah “Pop” Pacheco.
Hundreds gathered on the streets of the South Jersey city to celebrate the Vineland High School graduate and former Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back.
The “Parade For Pop,” started around 11 a.m. on Landis Avenue and the Boulevard and proceeded to a rally at Gittone Stadium — the very stadium where the former Fighting Clan football captain played during his high school career.
City officials, friends and family offered their congratulations to Pacheco at the rally, which started at about 12 noon.
In the weeks before the parade, the professional football player said he credits the Cumberland County city with much of his success.
“It’s an honor to my family and I that the city of Vineland is having a parade for me,” Pacheco said. “It’s important to me because I grew up here and the person I am today is because of Vineland. I love the city and the people there.”
Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones has already made it publicly known that he plans on being the NFL’s MVP. That’s why he seemingly took it personally when oddsmakers gave him long odds to be named the 2023 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Former Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman grabbed Jones’ attention on Twitter by writing “No @StoneColdJones is crazy” in reference to Fanduel odds shared by uStadium. The Fanduel odds were of 10 players that have the strongest odds to win DPOY next season, none of which were Jones. Instead, they have Jones at +3,000 odds to win DPOY.
Chris Jones’ message to Hardman was simple; it included the message “2x Super bowl Champ” accompanied by a smiling face emoji and a middle finger emoji.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has once again surprised the Whitehouse High School football team. Last time, he made a surprise visit to chat with the football team while he was in town for a prior speaking engagement. This time around, he sent all the players on the team a gift.
Mahomes, in coordination with 1UP Sports Marketing and Adidas, sent the football team some gifts that they received this week. The Whitehouse Independent School District shared some images on social media of players from the football team reacting to their gifts.
Each player received a pair of his Adidas Mahomes 1 Impact FLX shoes in varying colorways. The reactions from the student-athletes were pretty exciting to see.
5. Lastly, Veach spoke about the current state of the Chiefs’ wide receiver corps as a whole heading into the draft.
Kansas City currently has 10 wide receivers under contract entering draft weekend, with those being (in no particular order) Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, John Ross, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Cornell Powell and Ty Fryfogle.
Here’s what Veach had to say about the Chiefs’ current group and what the team may do moving forward:
“I think that you always are looking to get more talent and get deeper. There’s a lot of players that we like,” Veach said. “Certainly, MVS, Skyy [and] Toney. [We] brought Justin Watson back [and signed] Richie James. So, we have really good players, and we can certainly go out there and line up and win games, but I’d say the same [thing] about the offensive line, the defensive line and the receiver position. We’re always looking to get deeper, more athletic and more talented. I mean, we’re happy with the guys that we have, but like every team in this draft, we can find ways to make our team better.”
Around the NFL
With the 2023 NFL Draft kicking off in less than a week, the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers hope to make a trade happen soon.
The Jets and Packers have recently re-engaged in trade talks surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday afternoon, per sources.
Rapoport added that although a deal is not imminent, both teams are at least talking and hope a deal can be done this week.
2017 draft: John Ross over Patrick Mahomes
The Bengals are sitting pretty with Joe Burrow currently at the helm at quarterback, but there is an alternate universe where Patrick Mahomes is QB1 in Cincinnati. At the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals spent the No. 9 overall pick on wide receiver John Ross. Immediately following that pick was Mahomes to Kansas City where he has since established himself as an all-time talent with two Super Bowl rings on his finger.
Ross played just four seasons with the Bengals and only totaled 957 yards over that stretch. His best year came in 2019 when he caught 506 yards over eight games, but missed time due to a shoulder injury.
While the Bengals did have Andy Dalton solidified as its starter at the time, there was a case to move off of him at this juncture if they were bold enough. While he had three years left on his contract, there was no guaranteed salary left at that time and he was coming off a season where he was 6-9-1 as the starter. Dalton would then go under .500 for the rest of his tenure in Cincinnati and would eventually leave the franchise following the 2019 season. Again, it would have been a bold move had the Bengals bet on Mahomes’ potential and ousted Dalton, but it would have paid off immensely.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
How he fits with the Chiefs
Should Kansas City select Washington — likely somewhere from the third through fifth rounds — he would probably play a role to similar to Skyy Moore’s in 2022: someone without an immediate offensive role, but who will still get some targets here and there. Stylistically, he is similar to Moore — which at first, could restrict his offensive role.
But Washington could have the upper hand over Moore in making contested catches — while displaying a similar ability to get yards after the catch. It could lead to these two being used interchangeably as strong, solid slot receivers who play bigger than their size.
The bottom line
Washington’s all-around ability as a receiver makes him a fit for the Chiefs. He could give the offense another layer of unpredictability in how it can align its receivers — and give it someone who can make plays both before and after the catch.