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2023 Dallas Cowboys "We Suck Again" Off-Season Thread


LTtxfan

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Everyone blaming DAK.  

COWTURD:  Time for Cowboys to 'make calls' for Dak Prescott, Bills lack offensive identity

 

Also Can't trade without his consent..

DAK Contract

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 Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million deal to stay in Dallas.  The deal has a maximum value of $164 million, including $126 million in guaranteed money, and includes two key details: A no-trade clause, and a no-tag provision. Prescott's deal averages to $42 million a year over the first three seasons with $75 million in the first season and a $66 million signing bonus.

 

Plus not sure how the dead money works, if Cowboys were to trade DAK...

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Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Pollard undergoes ankle surgery; will be ready for camp but where?

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Clarence E. Hill Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

FRISCO, Texas ‚ÄĒ Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a high ankle sprain, per sources.

The surgery, known as a tightrope procedure, repaired the ligaments from the sprain.  His fractured fibula is expected to heal on it’s own and will not require a cast.

Pollard, who had to pull out of the Pro Bowl and was replaced by Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, will have at least a 3-to-4 month rehab.  But he should be ready to go in time for training camp in 2023.

The question is where?  And how will the injury impact his impending free agency?

Coming off a career-best season when he supplanted Ezekiel Elliott as the teams leading rusher, topping the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in career with 1,007 yards, Pollard had hoped to cash in during free agency in March.

He is an unrestricted free agent and would garner huge interest on the open market if the Cowboys don’t lock him up with a long-term deal or the franchise tag for $10.1 million

Pollard, who also had 371 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns, is set to be part of a loaded free-agent running back class, including Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Miles Sanders of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns and Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders.

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Likely 3 Compensatory picks for 2023

Dallas is slated to potentially earn comp picks for the departures of Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, and Cedrick Wilson in last year’s free agency. None of them are yielding (in this projection) the coveted third-round pick, but it is hard to not be excited about the idea of two fifths and a sixth.

Remember that the Cowboys traded away their own sixth-round pick when they acquired defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins a week before the deadline this past season (Dallas also picked up a 2024 seventh-round pick as a part of the trade just for future notes). Getting that back along with two more picks in the round before sure would be nice.

https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2023/1/24/23568183/cowboys-draft-2023-likely-receive-3-compensatory-draft-picks

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Time to let Zeke Go???

Dallas Cowboys rumors: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly open to pay cut to stay with team

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 The Dallas Cowboys have some decisions to make. Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers keeps them out of the NFC Championship Game for the 27th year in a row, and if the team wants to halt that streak before it reaches 28 then they are going to have to do something differently in 2023.

Obviously what that difference is will be figured out over the coming months and a lot of it will have to do with the roster. There are a number of free agent decisions that Dallas is going to have to make over the course of the next 60 or so days, and they may also make one about one of the faces of the franchise for the last seven years.

Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys

This August will mark four years since the Cowboys handed Ezekiel Elliott a $90M contract, an inflection point in the team’s roster-building strategy. We do not need to spill more ink on the merits of paying a running back big-time money, as noted we are over 1,000 days removed from that time.

Many have noted for some time now that 2023 marks an important point in Elliott’s career with the Cowboys. It is this offseason when he will for the first time not have any guaranteed money on his contract which makes moving on from him a legitimate possibility. Given his decline in production there is a case to be made but Zeke does bring with him some intangibles that the team clearly loves.

If there is anything that any team truly does love, it is when a player is willing to forfeit money in the name of the organization. According to The Dallas Morning News Elliott is indeed willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys.

The running back is willing to accept a pay cut this offseason, recognizing that a reduced salary can better fit him into the franchise’s plans, a person familiar with Elliott’s thinking told The Dallas Morning News on Monday afternoon. He is currently scheduled to earn a $10.9 million salary in 2023.

...

Meanwhile, this is the first offseason since Elliott signed the 2019 extension that he doesn’t have any guarantees tied to his salary. That gives the Cowboys some leverage to push for a reworked contract.

Theoretically, the Cowboys could release Elliott and avoid paying him the $10.9 million salary for 2023. Doing so with a post-June 1 designation would mean Elliott counts $5.82 million against the 2023 salary cap and $6.04 million in 2024. Again, that route is believed to be counter to the club’s intentions.

A foundation is in place for Elliott to sign a contract restructure that better aligns him with today’s running-back market.

If there is one certainty about the Cowboys’ offseason, it is that Elliott won’t be back under his contract as it is presently written. And he is on board with that.

It feels significant that this news is coming out less than 24 hours after the season officially ended. This offseason has long been the one where the team was going to face a fork in the road with one of their favorite players, and it appears that they are already working on a potential way to avoid either of the presented paths.

It seems as if the Cowboys are laying the foundation for bringing Zeke back in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps the fibula injury that Tony Pollard suffered has them thinking differently than they were before. Who knows.

 

https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2023/1/23/23568600/cowboys-rumors-ezekiel-elliott-reportedly-open-to-pay-cut

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Daks contract really goes through 23 and 24, as 25 is a voidable year with a $21m dead money hit if he leaves. So think about that. How do we go with that? Dak cannot be traded or cut.

1. Go all in on Dak for one year. Fire Nussmeyer and Moore. Cut Zeke for no cap. Get a FA stud W/R. Get a better guard and center. Keep Steele. Is it time to cut Tyron Smith? Franchise Pollard. Bring in a backup QB to push Dak. (Is Carr affordable?). If Dak succeeds then keep building offense for him.

2. Preemptively gut the team in 24 if he has a shitty 23. Suck for high picks. Void the contract and Dak moves down the road in 25.

3. What I actually think will happen. FO doubles down on Dak and restructures to make cap room, kicking the can thru 26.

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Pollard is getting signed or franchised. Same for Donovan Wilson. Other than that who knows. 

Need a new voice and method for Dak as he's untradeable and uncuttable. 

Need to add 2 receivers, a RB, a TE, and try to keep the defense from declining. 

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https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/cowboys/2023/01/25/the-dallas-cowboys-biggest-problem-is-an-unfixable-jerry-jones-one/

 

Spoiler

The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest problem is an unfixable Jerry Jones one
And Dak Prescott isn’t free of the blame here, either.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cheers as he says ‚Äúhello my subjects‚ÄĚ ahead of a press...
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cheers as he says ‚Äúhello my subjects‚ÄĚ ahead of a press conference announcing the first-ever cryptocurrency partnership between the Dallas Cowboys and Blockchain.com on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at Cowboys headquarters in the Star in Frisco. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

By Tim Cowlishaw

6:00 AM on Jan 25, 2023
In This Story
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy
Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones
Jerry Jones
Owner/ President/ General Manager, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott
Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

As writers covering the Cowboys, we don’t run the risk of tearing an ACL or leaving the press box on a stretcher for any reason beyond having eaten too many nachos. But we do bang our head against the wall a lot. And this is another day where we mostly settle for that.

Some columns sound a call to action. Last summer when the Rangers fired Chris Woodward, a man most local sports fans wouldn’t recognize walking through NorthPark mall, I wrote that nothing mattered until they fired Jon Daniels. Two days later, they did. That was unexpected and not particularly enjoyable, Daniels being someone I actually liked personally. And I doubt owner Ray Davis read my column and decided it was time. Regardless, it at least illustrated what the power of the pen used to mean.

Having been bounced from the playoffs short of the NFC Championship Game for the 27th consecutive year, the Cowboys have a Jerry Jones problem and a Dak Prescott problem. The rest is window dressing.

A kicker problem? Who cares, go get another one.

Zeke willing to play for less money? Well, good grief, I should hope so. His last 50 carries netted 100 yards. Nice round numbers, but he doesn’t have enough burst left to move an XFL offense. Doesn’t look like much of a center, either.

A Mike McCarthy problem? Well, until someone can identify the next member of the Sean McVay-Kyle Shanahan-Zac Taylor club, there‚Äôs no point. It would be the height of foolishness to send a first-round pick (and presumably more) to the Saints for Sean Payton, whose career numbers are basically McCarthy‚Äės. If you wanted to slide Dan Quinn into the big chair just to keep him around, I wouldn‚Äôt fight you on it, but don‚Äôt expect a new, improved operation at The Star.

The Dak problem? Anyone who can play the game he delivered at Tampa Bay has a chance. But he’s in his head with these interceptions and Kellen Moore (whose time here has come and gone) can’t get him out. Beyond a new voice to run the offense, the only suggestion I have for Dak is flag football.

Remember in Season 2 of ‚ÄúTed Lasso‚ÄĚ when one of Richmond‚Äôs best players, Isaac McAdoo was ‚Äúall up in his head‚ÄĚ and Ted convinced the retired Roy Kent to join the coaching staff? Kent took McAdoo to his old soccer playground, made him play with local stiffs to regain the love of the game. I‚Äôm not suggesting this as a serious fix for Prescott, but a different voice, direction and thought process can surely restore him to at least average in the turnover department. This team‚Äôs going nowhere with him leading the league.

The Jerry problem? After all these years, it’s still everything with this team. Allow me to locate a soft place in the wall here before I smash my head through it once more.

THERE ARE 31 TEAMS IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE WHERE THE GENERAL MANAGER AND THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF PLAYER PERSONNEL COMPETE WITH THEIR JOBS ON THE LINE EACH SEASON IF THEY FAIL TO DELIVER TITLES FOR TOO LONG.

Then there are the Dallas Cowboys where Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones question the rising costs of fuel for Jerry‚Äôs yacht as they study their scout‚Äôs reports for another draft. Jerry can call Sunday‚Äôs loss ‚Äúsickening‚ÄĚ but the GM and his sidekick never suffer the sickness that comes from being fired or even having that threat hang over their heads. They make money like no other franchise in this country and they fill their stadium with 90,000 fans ‚ÄĒ I will refrain from calling them believers because plenty of Cowboys fans are truly sick and tired of the whole thing but just can‚Äôt quit the process ‚ÄĒ and they pump up the ‚Äúmaybe next year‚ÄĚ refrain even though their entire organizational flow chart is flawed.

The head coach is more powerless here than he is in New England or San Francisco or Philadelphia, and the players are generally quick to recognize it. After home games, six people might show up for McCarthy’s postgame remarks while the rest of the media horde is clustered around Jerry out in the hallway. And it’s not like the coach doesn’t notice that and hasn’t commented on it.

But for McCarthy or any coach to survive here, the best chance is to adopt an ‚Äúit is what it is‚ÄĚ philosophy about the whole thing and hope for great drafts. The Joneses barely participate in the free-agency process, handicapping the team each year as they routinely go through entire seasons with unspent cap money, while letting the Eagles go out and pay for Haason Reddick or add A..J. Brown to the payroll in a draft-day trade.

With the Joneses, the Cowboys are forever selling the distant future because they know the present belongs to someone else. Hasn’t changed in over a quarter of a century. Isn’t likely to change just because people talk about it or some guy writes about it.

The Joneses want you to keep enjoying the ride. Hard decisions like ‚Äúmaybe we failed on this quarterback evaluation‚ÄĚ aren‚Äôt on the table. There are other pieces of business to attend to, like getting those season-ticket renewals out in the mail next week.

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, LTtxfan said:

Cowboys free agents: The offseason priorities for the 2023 Dallas roster 

The Cowboys have some important decisions to make about their 2023 free agent class.

https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2023/1/23/23567894/cowboys-free-agent-offseason-2023-decisions-vander-esch-schultz-brown-peters-hilton-steele

The only people I view as ‚Äúmust bring back‚ÄĚ are Schulz and Pollard.¬†
 

It’s time for Kellen Moore to go, but Jerry won’t allow it. We won’t be lucky enough for someone to hire him away as HC, so we’re stuck with him and Dak. 


Dan Quinn will be a HC somewhere and he deserves it. He’s been great despite injuries and some shitty DBs. 

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15 minutes ago, Pig Bellmont said:

The only people I view as ‚Äúmust bring back‚ÄĚ are Schulz and Pollard.¬†
 

It’s time for Kellen Moore to go, but Jerry won’t allow it. We won’t be lucky enough for someone to hire him away as HC, so we’re stuck with him and Dak. 


Dan Quinn will be a HC somewhere and he deserves it. He’s been great despite injuries and some shitty DBs. 

You're OK spending $12M or more on Dalton Schultz? I'm not. I actually like the young guys (Hendershot and Ferguson). I say let somebody else overpay for Schultz. Dak settles on throws to him too much as it is.

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Kiper's early look at NFL Draft. Has the Cowboys taking Bijan at #25: https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2023/insider/story/_/id/35514084/2023-nfl-mock-draft-mel-kiper-first-round-predictions-31-picks-best-team-fits-top-prospects

A few head-scratchers, maybe. A Tech DE is really a candidate to go in the Top 10? I can't quite follow his reasoning on the Texans taking Stroud at #2 and then saying he has Stroud just barely behind Bryce Young and Will Levis in his rankings.

 

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1. Chicago Bears

Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

I thought long and hard about a trade here, with the Colts, Raiders and Panthers as the top candidates to move up for a quarterback. And if I'm Chicago general manager Ryan Poles and I can move down a few spots, add premium picks and still get my choice of the best defensive prospects, I'd make a deal. It takes two teams to make a trade, however, and that's never a guarantee. For now, let's stick with the Bears keeping this pick.

Chicago's roster needs help from top to bottom, but its defense was particularly dreadful in 2022, ranking last in the league in sacks (20) and points allowed per game (27.2). It has to be D all the way for wherever the Bears make their selection. Carter, an explosive interior pass-rusher and run-stuffer, gets the nod over Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. on my Big Board. He's the best player in this draft, a Day 1 starter in the middle of this defense.

2. Houston Texans

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Houston just fired coach Lovie Smith, and the franchise's clear offseason priority has to be upgrading at the quarterback position. Davis Mills really struggled in his second season as the Texans' offense was among the league's worst in several statistical categories. With two top-12 picks in this draft, they have to get quality starters as they continue their rebuild.

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5hMel Kiper Jr.

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18dMatt Miller

I see Stroud as the best fit here as the Texans could get their pick of the top passers. He's extremely accurate, can make every throw and has excellent touch at every level of the field. I usually don't put much stock into a single game evaluation, but Stroud's performance in the narrow loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals showed me something. He was spectacular against an elite defense, carving up the Bulldogs with his arm and using his legs to maneuver the pocket and find receivers. Houston still has several needs, but it should start with Stroud. I have Stroud just barely behind Will Levis (Kentucky) and Bryce Young (Alabama) in my rankings, but it's going to be a close race through April.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Will Anderson Jr., DE/OLB, Alabama

New Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort gets a premium pick to try to improve this roster, and he could luck into a Pro Bowl edge rusher right off the bat. Anderson was a tackle-for-loss machine in college -- he had 54 over the past two seasons -- and dominated offensive tackles in both the run and pass game. He was unblockable at times against SEC competition. For the Cardinals, who are losing the retired J.J. Watt, he could play some outside linebacker and move around the defense to create mismatches. This would be a home run pick for Ossenfort & Co.

4. Indianapolis Colts

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

The trades for Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan in back-to-back offseasons didn't work out for general manager Chris Ballard, and now the Colts are starting over -- again -- at quarterback. Don't they have to draft a signal-caller here (if they don't trade up to get their preferred guy)? They have some intriguing talent on their roster, but as we've seen time and time again in the NFL, nothing else matters if they don't have their quarterback.

There's a clear gap after the top three passers in this class, and the Colts don't necessarily have to trade up to get one of them. In this scenario, they could take Young, a quick processor with an elite feel for the pocket and how to move around and locate his target. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner doesn't have a big frame, which some NFL scouts will downgrade him for because there aren't many starting quarterbacks under 200 pounds. I love his tape, though, and I'd be willing to bet on his talent. Spread out the offense and watch him throw darts to Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce.

5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Here we go -- the third quarterback in the top five picks. Levis is going to be polarizing for the next few months. Turn on his tape, and you're going to see some poor interceptions and questionable decisions. But you're also going to see rockets that should have been caught and tight-window throws that no other passer in this class can make. There will be a general manager in the top 10 who sees Levis' positives over the negatives. He also is ahead of the curve in learning a pro-style offense, because that's what he played in for the Wildcats.

play

1:24

Kiper likes Will Levis' upside

Mel Kiper Jr. discusses why he thinks Will Levis has all the tools to succeed as a QB in the NFL.

For the Seahawks, do they really think Geno Smith is their long-term answer? If so, they're going to have to pay him before he hits free agency in March. If they franchise tag him, though, they could play him in 2023 as the bridge to Levis, who can take over after some seasoning as the backup. If Seattle gives Smith a big deal, it surely would be happy with Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter here to help a defense that allowed 4.9 yards per carry, which ranked 27th in the league. Along with this pick from Denver that came in the Russell Wilson deal, it also has No. 20 overall to get help on that side of the ball.

6. Detroit Lions (via LAR)

Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech

The Lions finished the season with eight wins in their final 10 games, but their explosive offense papered over massive holes on the other side of the ball. They ranked last in the league in yards per play allowed (6.2) and opposing QBR (55.9); they had issues defending the run and the pass. Wilson, the top true defensive end in this class, would help both. He can use his burst at the snap to beat offensive tackles on passing downs or use his 6-foot-6 frame to hold up against the run. An edge-rushing duo of Wilson and Aidan Hutchinson would be formidable, with surprise rookie James Houston working in on obvious passing downs.

Plus, if Detroit plays its cards right, it could use the No. 18 pick on a cornerback -- this is a little too high to take one. And if you're curious about the quarterback position, general manager Brad Holmes likely will take a close look at this class and weigh each passer against veteran Jared Goff, who had a stellar second half of the season. (This pick is from the Matthew Stafford swap with the Rams.) In this scenario, though, the top three are off the board.

7. Las Vegas Raiders

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

The Raiders are a team to watch for a trade up for a quarterback, but they also might prefer a veteran -- Tom Brady? -- over a rookie to take over for Derek Carr in 2023. This is a veteran roster that could compete in the AFC West with the right guy under center. That guy also needs help along the offensive line, though; only left tackle Kolton Miller's starting spot should be guaranteed going forward. Skoronski, who started 33 games at left tackle for the Wildcats, could move to guard or right tackle at the next level. He allowed just one sack in 2022. He'd be an instant starter for a new-look offense.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

The Falcons had just 21 sacks this season, which ranked 31st in the league, and they were led by Grady Jarrett's six. Veteran edge rusher Lorenzo Carter added four, while rookie second-round pick Arnold Ebiketie had 2.5. No other player had more than two. They have to get better along the front seven. That could start here with Murphy, a complete defender who had 17.5 sacks in three seasons at Clemson. He could even kick inside to tackle on passing downs.

Atlanta is another team with questions at quarterback, as rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder flashed at times at the end of the season. He's not a lock to be the Week 1 starter, though I expect the organization to do deep evaluations on this draft class and bring in another player to compete with him. For now, however, Murphy is too good to pass up.

9. Carolina Panthers

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Let's get this out of the way now: I wouldn't play Richardson in Year 1. He needs time to develop. He's not an NFL-ready thrower. But he is an awesome talent, a raw quarterback in a 6-foot-4 frame who would be one of the league's most electrifying runners as soon as he steps on the field. His size and physical tools cannot be taught, and NFL coaches will want to work with him and try to take him to the next level. Richardson completed just 53.8% of his passes in 2022 -- he has a long ways to go with his mechanics. Again, though, he has a high ceiling if a coaching staff can help him get there.

play

2:24

Why Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Anthony Richardson needs time to develop

Mel Kiper Jr. shares why any team prepared to draft Florida QB Anthony Richardson needs to give him time to develop.

In this scenario, the rebuilding Panthers would need to sign a bridge quarterback -- how about bringing back impending free agent Sam Darnold? -- so that Richardson can sit on the sidelines and soak in everything. Carolina still needs a head coach, but it also has extra second-, third- and fifth-round picks from the Christian McCaffrey trade to try to improve this roster.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt

The Eagles, one of the NFL's four best teams, gained this first-rounder from New Orleans last year, and now they have a chance to add a premium prospect to their loaded roster. They don't have many current needs, but they do have several decisions to make in free agency, including whether to bring back defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Robert Quinn, Brandon Graham and Javon Hargrave. Let's use this pick to help them get younger.

Kancey's 2022 tape is extremely impressive, and I moved him way up my Big Board. He wreaked havoc the past two seasons, racking up 13.5 sacks when lined up as a defensive tackle, the most in the country. At 6-foot, 280 pounds, he's undersized, but so was former Pitt tackle Aaron Donald. (To be clear, he's not Donald, but he's still pretty good.) We know Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman invests heavily in the D-line, and Kancey would fit next to 2022 first-rounder Jordan Davis.

11. Tennessee Titans

Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

The Tennessee offense was a mess this season, which resulted in the firing of coordinator Todd Downing. General manager Jon Robinson also was let go, and you have to think Robinson's inability to get the offensive line up to par contributed to it. Longtime left tackle Taylor Lewan has played just 20 games over the past three seasons and could be an offseason cap casualty. There might be an opening on the left side. Johnson played guard for the Buckeyes in 2021 but moved to left tackle in 2022, and he was tremendous. He will be a plug-and-play starter in the top 15 picks.

12. Houston Texans (via CLE)

Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa

I gave the Texans their quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick, and general manager Nick Caserio should go with the best prospect on his board with this selection, which was acquired in the Deshaun Watson trade. Don't get picky and try to plug a hole -- this roster has to improve in several spots. Van Ness is a versatile and productive defender who made an impact at end and tackle for the Hawkeyes, even as he never actually started a game. He had 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons, 9.5 from the interior and four from the edge. NFL teams covet that sort of positional flexibility. He would get lots of early snaps for Houston.

13. New York Jets

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

I thought about an offensive lineman here, but let's instead reunite my top-ranked receiver in this class with my top-ranked receiver in the 2022 class. The Jets picked Garrett Wilson at No. 10 last April, and he had 83 catches for 1,103 yards as a rookie. But in 2021, his teammate Smith-Njigba was the Buckeyes' top wideout, as he put up 1,606 yards, doing damage mostly out of the slot. After an injury-plagued 2022 in which he caught just five passes, however, there are big questions about his health -- he had a nagging hamstring injury -- headed into the draft.

Illustration by ESPN

I'm a big fan of Smith-Njigba, and I think he could be a star in the right situation. New York likely will have a new starting quarterback in 2023, and that passer will have to get support around him. This offense has a chance to be much improved. The Jets had a stellar draft last year; Smith-Njigba would be a great start for this one. And yes, I know, this makes it back-to-back top-15 picks on receivers for the Jets, but Smith-Njigba is worth it because of what he and Wilson can do together.

14. New England Patriots

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Will the Patriots bring back free agent corner Jonathan Jones? That could determine what Bill Belichick & Co. do here, because this is a strong cornerback class in the back half of Round 1. There could be a run on defensive backs in the 20s. Witherspoon is my top-ranked corner, a long and physical player who shut down an entire side of the field for the Fighting Illini. He also is not afraid to stick his head in and make a tackle.

Outside of corner, New England could target offensive line or wide receiver with this pick to try to support quarterback Mac Jones, who struggled in Year 2.

15. Green Bay Packers

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Why not a tight end here -- regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers is back as the quarterback? Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis are free agents, and this is a major hole on the roster. The tight end class is really good this year, with Mayer atop my board. He is a complete player who put up 809 yards and 67 catches with nine touchdowns in 2022. He can stretch the middle of the field and run past linebackers on seam routes. The only downside is that he doesn't have super-long arms, but he's ahead of the game as a pass-catcher. Green Bay could also use younger talent in the front seven.

16. Washington Commanders

Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Here's yet another team with quarterback issues, as the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz last offseason (which cost them their third-rounder this year) but turned back to Taylor Heinicke down the stretch. Neither is likely to be their Week 1 starter; I wonder whether they will be players in the veteran-signal-caller market and bring in someone to compete with Sam Howell. No matter who is playing quarterback, though, they have to improve along the offensive line. Jones is a 310-pound mauler who didn't allow a single sack as the Bulldogs' left tackle in 2022. I wouldn't be shocked if he went in the top 10.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Like father, like son in Pittsburgh? The Steelers drafted linebacker Joey Porter in the third round in 1999, and they have a need for his son in 2023. Porter is an aggressive 6-foot-2 corner who was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions. He picked off just one pass in his career, but he had 11 pass breakups in 2022, so he gets his hands on the football when it's headed in his direction. The Steelers likely will be hoping one of the top offensive tackles drops to them, and they could also target a defensive tackle.

18. Detroit Lions

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Remember when I mentioned earlier that the Lions have cornerback issues? Well, hopefully at least Lions fans were reading. Jeff Okudah flashed the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, but he was still inconsistent, and there's no surefire starter on the other side of the field. Gonzalez was a lockdown defender at Colorado before transferring to Oregon last year, where he picked off four passes and improved every week. He's going to test really well at the combine in March, too. This pick makes too much sense for a Detroit defense that badly needs an infusion of young talent in the secondary.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech

The Bucs could be in for an offseason of change, depending on what the NFL's greatest quarterback decides. We already know they'll have a new-look offense with coordinator Byron Leftwich getting fired. And even with concerns along the offensive line, I'm looking at the end spot in Todd Bowles' 3-4 defense as their top need with Akiem Hicks and William Gholston both hitting the free agent market. Yes, 2022 second-rounder Logan Hall will get snaps on one side next season, but if they can add a starter here, why not do it?

White dominated at Old Dominion before he transferred to Georgia Tech in 2021. He missed most of that season with an ankle injury but had a dominant 2022, with 7.5 sacks and 57 total tackles. He's another inside-outside lineman who would bring some interior pass-rush ability to Tampa. White will be at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, next week, and I know scouts are excited to see him up close.

20. Seattle Seahawks

Byron Young, DE/LB, Tennessee

We're back with another Seattle pick here after I projected general manager John Schneider to take a quarterback at No. 5. Let's focus on the defense. The Seahawks struggled against the run this season, and we know coach Pete Carroll loves toolsy edge defenders. L.J. Collier didn't work out in Round 1 in 2019, but Darrell Taylor, a Round 2 pick in 2020, is coming off a breakout 9.5-sack season. Bruce Irvin made his way back to the team in 2022 too.

play

1:25

Byron Young shares journey to become Vols' defensive standout

Tennessee LB Byron Young shares his unconventional journey from a job at Dollar General to being a game-changer on the Vols' defense.

Young, another prospect who will be at the Senior Bowl, is intriguing. At 6-3, 245 pounds, he fits the mold of what Carroll wants from a front-seven defender, and he has some pass-rush upside. He had seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2022, showing off advanced moves. The Seahawks knocked their 2022 class out of the park, and a home run in 2023 could set them up for another long run of success.

21. Los Angeles Chargers

Tuli Tuipulotu, DT, USC

Here's what I wrote in my first mock draft for last year's cycle: "The Chargers again struggled against the run in 2021, an issue that has plagued them for years. Just go back to their 2018 divisional round playoff game against the Patriots, when they were dominated up front. They allowed 4.8 yards per carry this season, which ranked 28th in the NFL."

How are we back here again? L.A. allowed an even worse 5.4 yards per carry this season, which ranked last in the league. It also allowed 5.9 yards per play, which ranked 29th. This is a massive issue. General manager Tom Telesco has taken offensive linemen in the first round in back-to-back drafts, so this could be where he targets a big guy on defense. Tuipulotu played mostly on the edge for the Trojans and racked up 13.5 sacks last season, 8.5 of which came when he was lined up at end. At 290 pounds, though, he fits in L.A.'s 3-4 scheme as a big end who can help in the run game and take some pressure off Joey Bosa.

22. Baltimore Ravens

Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is out, and quarterback Lamar Jackson's future with the Ravens is uncertain after he and the team haven't been able to agree to a new contract. Coach John Harbaugh isn't used to this sort of chaos. Still, I think Jackson will be back -- potentially on the franchise tag -- in which case he needs someone to catch passes. Baltimore still hasn't gotten its receiving corps right; it ranked last in the league in receiving yards by wideouts (1,517). Rashod Bateman, a first-rounder in 2021 who has struggled with injuries, has just three touchdowns in 18 career games.

Johnston could help the Ravens stretch the field. He averaged 17.8 yards per catch for the Horned Frogs this season. At 6-4, he's still developing as a route runner, and he's a physical mismatch once he gets his body into defensive backs and leaps for the ball. Jackson could use Johnston's length in the red zone.

23. Minnesota Vikings

Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Veteran Patrick Peterson was the Vikings' top corner this season, but he's a free agent, and even if the team brings him back, it should start thinking about the future in the secondary. Safety Lewis Cine, Minnesota's first-rounder last April, played just two defensive snaps before breaking his left leg and missing the rest of the season. He should make a full recovery, but can the Vikings improve on the outside too? Rookie second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. played in just six games due to injury, and he's not a lock to start. Whoever takes over for fired coordinator Ed Donatell needs options. Forbes was an interception magnet for the Bulldogs; he had 14 over three seasons, including six in 2022. He gave up a few big plays, but he has tremendous potential as a cover corner.

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24. Jacksonville Jaguars

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

How about those Jaguars? After an AFC South title in 2022, shouldn't they be the early favorites to win it again? General manager Trent Baalke did a nice job filling holes last offseason, but the pass rush still was mediocre, the off-ball linebackers struggled badly in coverage and there's an open corner spot opposite Tyson Campbell. With a strong cornerback class in this draft, Baalke & Co. could target Banks, a man-coverage defender with exceptional physical tools. He could rise as we get closer to the draft once NFL teams see him test at the combine. And yes, this makes five cornerbacks off the board in Round 1.

Another position to keep an eye on for Jacksonville is tight end, where Evan Engram is a free agent. Luke Musgrave (Oregon State) and Dalton Kincaid (Utah) could be options.

25. New York Giants

Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Here's another team that took a big jump in 2022, as quarterback Daniel Jones took care of the football and the defense played just well enough to keep the Giants in games. Jones' breakout came with one of the least impressive wide receiver corps in the league, especially as Kenny Golladay has not lived up to his massive free agent contract. Can general manager Joe Schoen get Jones -- a free agent who is likely to return -- a No. 1 wideout?

Addison put up huge numbers at Pitt in 2021 before dealing with some injuries at USC, and he has the versatility to play outside or in the slot. He just knows how to get open. New York also will get back rookie second-rounder Wan'Dale Robinson, who flashed before tearing an ACL. I like what the Giants are building, but they have to give Jones some help.

26. Dallas Cowboys

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

This just makes sense, right? Team owner Jerry Jones loves star running backs, going back to his days of drafting Emmitt Smith in Round 1 in 1990, and he repeatedly has said Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys' most important player. Well, Elliott could be a salary-cap casualty this offseason, and Tony Pollard -- who made the Pro Bowl this season -- broke his left leg in the divisional round and is a free agent. Could Jones and the Cowboys start over and take Robinson, the best back in this class, here? Robinson also is a great pass-catcher, so he's more than just a between-the-tackles runner. He could also take some of the pressure off quarterback Dak Prescott.

I thought hard about defensive tackle with this pick, with Bryan Bresee (Clemson) and Mazi Smith (Michigan) as two possibilities. Dallas struggled at times stopping the run.

27. Buffalo Bills

Derick Hall, DE/OLB, Auburn

The Bills have one of the league's best rosters, but they could lose a few defenders in free agency, including Jordan Poyer, Tremaine Edmunds and Shaq Lawson. They need to restock in this draft. And even though Buffalo has used first- or second-round picks on Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and AJ Epenesa in the past three drafts, its depth on the edge has to get better. That's why I see Hall, who had 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons, as a stellar fit on Day 1. He could turn into a steal here.

On the other side of the ball, I almost went with offensive tackle Cody Mauch (North Dakota State), who could play guard early in his career before becoming the team's long-term left tackle. Guard O'Cyrus Torrence (Florida) could be another option.

Reminder: These last four picks are based on projections from ESPN's Football Power Index, so please take all complaints elsewhere.

28. Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Hayden Hurst had a decent bounce-back season after signing in Cincinnati, but he's hitting the free agent market again this offseason. The Bengals need to find a long-term tight end target for quarterback Joe Burrow. Even with Hurst, the offense ranked 29th in receiving yards by tight ends (556). Adding a big red-zone target is a way for it to level up.

play

0:26

Utah cashes in the flea-flicker for a 29-yard TD

Cameron Rising airs it out to Dalton Kincaid for the touchdown to put the Utes on the board first.

Both Kincaid and Luke Musgrave (Oregon State) have a chance to be Round 1 picks, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few teams preferred one of them over Michael Mayer (Notre Dame) as the top-ranked tight end in this class. Kincaid had 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons, while Musgrave was in line for a breakout before he suffered a knee injury in October that prematurely ended his season. Kincaid has more speed, but Musgrave's size (6-6, 250 pounds) and upside intrigues NFL scouts. Cincinnati would upgrade with either player here.

29. Denver Broncos (via MIA/SF)

Isaiah Foskey, DE/OLB, Notre Dame

Denver traded away prime picks to get quarterback Russell Wilson last offseason, and it got back this one after dealing Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins before the deadline at midseason. Suddenly, when you look at this depth chart, there's no Chubb or Von Miller exploding off the edge, even though defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero did a great job with what he had this season. Because it's a little too late in Round 1 to find a surefire offensive line starter, I like what Foskey would bring to the Broncos. He had 22 sacks and five forced fumbles over the past two seasons, and at 265 pounds, he could play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at the next level.

30. Philadelphia Eagles

Brian Branch, S, Alabama

Philadelphia made a preseason trade to acquire safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but he had such a great season that he might be too expensive for the Eagles to bring back. In that case, this pick is the best like-for-like replacement -- Branch can play as a slot corner or a deep center fielder, filling Gardner-Johnson's shoes. Branch is my top-ranked safety, but he'll be a cornerback on some teams' boards. I projected the Eagles to add a defensive tackle with the No. 10 pick, and injecting this defense with young talent should be their offseason priority.

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Kansas City redid its wide receiver corps last offseason, but it might have to do another overhaul in 2023. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had a resurgent season, and Mecole Hardman are both free agents. Could they supplement what they have with this pick? I'm a huge fan of Flowers, who caught 200 passes in his college career. He's polished and shifty, shaking cornerbacks from all over the field to get open.

I almost went with speedster Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee), who is a better deep threat, but Flowers is more ready to contribute early. Hyatt had 15 touchdowns and averaged 18.9 yards per catch for the Volunteers in 2022.

 

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13 minutes ago, C-Man said:

Kiper's early look at NFL Draft. Has the Cowboys taking Bijan at #25: https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2023/insider/story/_/id/35514084/2023-nfl-mock-draft-mel-kiper-first-round-predictions-31-picks-best-team-fits-top-prospects

A few head-scratchers, maybe. A Tech DE is really a candidate to go in the Top 10? I can't quite follow his reasoning on the Texans taking Stroud at #2 and then saying he has Stroud just barely behind Bryce Young and Will Levis in his rankings.

 

 

The Cowboys really wasted an opportunity this year with there being no legit top QBs in the NFC. They're all in the AFC. That might last another couple of seasons but eventually the NFC will draft a great QB again. They need to go all in now and hit for a Super Bowl in this window where they have what passes for a top 2 or 3 QB in the conference and a top 2 or 3 defensive playmaker in the league. I think a Bijan pick at the end of the first if they get a shot at him would line up with this. He's one of the most ready to contribute offensive players in the draft and pairing him with a healthy Pollard would give the offense a 2 RB monster tandem where both guys are elite pass catchers as well as running backs. That's something no one else in the league has and could give the offense a huge boost provided they also find a #2 receiver. 

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The Cowboys OC has to be be the fall guy because DAK is regressing, and financially Dallas is stuck with their current QB.

DAK needs a new voice coaching him... he's not processing and seeing the field like an NFL QB should.  

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18 minutes ago, LTtxfan said:

The Cowboys OC has to be be the fall guy because DAK is regressing, and financially Dallas is stuck with their current QB.

DAK needs a new voice coaching him... he's not processing and seeing the field like an NFL QB should.  

Yeah you have to. Both the OC and QB Nussmeyer need to go simply because the QB is highly paid and throwing 15 picks this season and 2 crucial ones that got you beat when your defense had only given up 12 points to a bad QB into the 4th Quarter. 

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1 hour ago, C-Man said:

You're OK spending $12M or more on Dalton Schultz? I'm not. I actually like the young guys (Hendershot and Ferguson). I say let somebody else overpay for Schultz. Dak settles on throws to him too much as it is.

Agree.  Maybe our QB having a mediocre security blanket is part of the problem with this offense.

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1 hour ago, Gene Parmesan said:

Agree.  Maybe our QB having a mediocre security blanket is part of the problem with this offense.

If Schultz is asking for too much money that's one thing, but at this point it would seem like having a security blanket for to Dak is a good thing, not something that holds the offense back.  Do you really want Dak improvising more difficult throws/reads based on his performance this year?

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24 minutes ago, Captain Obvious said:

If Schultz is asking for too much money that's one thing, but at this point it would seem like having a security blanket for to Dak is a good thing, not something that holds the offense back.  Do you really want Dak improvising more difficult throws/reads based on his performance this year?

Schultz made $10,9M this season. He'll get more next season. Way too rich for my blood.

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3 hours ago, Pig Bellmont said:

The only people I view as ‚Äúmust bring back‚ÄĚ are Schulz and Pollard.¬†
 

It’s time for Kellen Moore to go, but Jerry won’t allow it. We won’t be lucky enough for someone to hire him away as HC, so we’re stuck with him and Dak. 


Dan Quinn will be a HC somewhere and he deserves it. He’s been great despite injuries and some shitty DBs. 

I don't know who I'd call a "must" on this list but I guess Pollard is as close to one as you can get -- unless you're drafting Bijan or are fairly confident you're getting Pollard's replacement in the first couple or three rounds. But I'd like to keep Vander Esch, Donovan Wilson and Terrence Steele in addition to Pollard. I also liked Barr at times and I think we've seen what happens when you lose DB depth so maybe throw Anthony Brown in. Like it or not, Vander Esch was important to this defense this year as proven by the time he was injured.

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1 hour ago, C-Man said:

Schultz made $10,9M this season. He'll get more next season. Way too rich for my blood.

The only team that would pay him much more than $10.9 would be Dallas.

Our love affair with guys who are JAGs (Gallup, Schultz, Zeke) is so exhausting.

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Dak kinda stinks/is mediocre but we cant move on with that contract. The next best thing would be to move on from Kellen Moore. If you have what is supposed to be a great OC who is supposedly a hot head coaching candidate, and they are still with your team after 4 or 5 years and you've never been in any real danger of losing him, he might be mediocre. I also hate the fact that all it took was one guy being injured(Pollard) for the offense to become complete shit. That's a sign of mediocre coaching to me. Better coaches are able to succeed despite injury.

 

The fact that the Cowboys cant figure out how to manage the RB position is comical. Literally all you have to do is draft a couple every year and never hand out a big contract. Maybe sign a FA or two if you get desperate. Love Tony Pollard. Not trying to have another RB with a large contract when the reality is that you're just constantly in need of dudes with fresh legs.

Edited by Pam Cummings
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4 minutes ago, Pam Cummings said:

Dak kinda stinks/is mediocre but we cant move on with that contract. The next best thing would be to move on from Kellen Moore. If you have what is supposed to be a great OC who is supposedly a hot head coaching candidate, and they are still with your team after 4 or 5 years and you've never been in any real danger of losing him, he might be mediocre. I also hate the fact that all it took was one guy being injured(Pollard) for the offense to become complete shit. That's a sign of mediocre coaching to me. Better coaches are able to succeed despite injury.

 

The fact that the Cowboys cant figure out how to manage the RB position is comical. Literally all you have to do is draft a couple every year and never hand out a big contract. Maybe sign a FA or two if you get desperate. Love Tony Pollard. Not trying to have another RB with a large contract when the reality is that you're just constantly in need of dudes with fresh legs.

 

0 touches against SF

1 meaningless catch last play of the game for Turpin too..

OC gotta fucking GO

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13 minutes ago, TornACL said:

The only team that would pay him much more than $10.9 would be Dallas.

Our love affair with guys who are JAGs (Gallup, Schultz, Zeke) is so exhausting.

Zeke won the rushing title twice in his first three seasons and had 1357+ yards in three of his first four. He was much better than JAG. But he's washed up at 27. That is true.

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10 minutes ago, Zeus said:

 

0 touches against SF

1 meaningless catch last play of the game for Turpin too..

OC gotta fucking GO

It looked they tried to get him in. But maybe for a play action ? And dak and beast wasnt on same page.  
dak sacked I think. Never saw beast again 

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34 minutes ago, Zeus said:

0 touches against SF

1 meaningless catch last play of the game for Turpin too..

OC gotta fucking GO

Yeah not giving Malik Davis any touches vs 49ers, especially after Pollard went down was ridiculous...

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4 hours ago, Loch Ness Monster said:

 

Having a really good QB like Burrow or Hurts on a rookie deal is so clutch. Jamar Chase, Tee Higgins, Devonta Smith also on cheap deals. Allows you to load up everywhere else on the roster.

Cowboys are locked into mediocrity. Yay.

We all belabored this point when we said you can't give Dak a big deal. You have to do one of the binary things: Draft a QB who is awesome and win or pay an elite QB who is awesome to win. You can't pay a guy like Dak and win because the money needed to buy the elite talent at other positions is then gone.

As you've said, we made our bed.

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How many should be retained?

Edwards could be a serious candidate for DC if Quinn leaves for an HC job, which seems like a strong possibility. Leon Lett seems to be doing well getting production out of a D-line that has had to shuffle a lot of players due to injuries, but may be looking for a promotion.  I'm ready for a new offense brain trust. Hopefully Kellen moves on. 

 

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1 hour ago, DougO said:

 

How many should be retained?

Edwards could be a serious candidate for DC if Quinn leaves for an HC job, which seems like a strong possibility. Leon Lett seems to be doing well getting production out of a D-line that has had to shuffle a lot of players due to injuries, but may be looking for a promotion.  I'm ready for a new offense brain trust. Hopefully Kellen moves on. 

 

I thought Philbin did a much better job this year than the previous one. The line was solid and they had to go to several configurations of backups through the season and switch up in the middle of games a few times. 

That said I want them to hire a new OC and have it sorted who his QB coach will be before an offer is extended to him. Then get his input on who his staff should be. 

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4 hours ago, LTtxfan said:

Yeah not giving Malik Davis any touches vs 49ers, especially after Pollard went down was ridiculous...

I saw Davis in for one play and Polomalu Jr ran right past him and blew up the play on a blitz

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