16. Washington Commanders – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Commanders need cornerbacks the way peanut butter needs jelly. Deonte Banks is from the area and would not have to move far to join the franchise. Banks reads and reacts well, giving him the ability to stamp his fingerprints all over the game. He must put more consistency on tape, but Banks would start immediately for Ron Rivera’s defense.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Steelers really hoped one of the top cornerbacks would make it to them, but they cannot force a need here at No. 17. With No. 32 and No. 49 later in the mock draft, Pittsburgh can afford to fill a different need at No. 17 by going with its best available player — Darnell Wright. He can start on either side of the line, so let him compete and see how it shakes out.
18. Detroit Lions – Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech’s Keion White carries the label of ‘tweener’, but I think the more appropriate title would be ‘versatile’. White moves seamlessly from the interior all the way to the edge of the line. He is a freaky athlete who gains natural leverage when working blocks, and paired with White’s relentless motor, it results in a first-round prospect.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State
Weird things happen in the NFL Draft every year, and in this mock draft, the Buccaneers benefit from it by seeing Paris Johnson Jr. still available. Tampa Bay released its starting left tackle, Donovan Smith, and has yet to find his successor. Johnson is a superb pass protector who grades out well as a run blocker and should continue improving with more experience.
One More Trade!
•No. 20 overall (1st)
•No. 25 overall (1st)
•No. 89 overall (3rd)
•Future fourth-round pick (2024)
20. New York Giants (via SEA) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Giants trade up in front of a few quarterback-needy teams to secure the talents of Jaxon Smith-Njigba. JSN is arguably the best route runner in the class, using suddenness through routes to shake free from defenders and create after the catch. Smith-Njigba gives Brian Daboll a bonafide No. 1 target for Danny Dimes.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Full disclosure, I expect Bijan Robinson to go earlier than this. However, in this mock draft, no one pulled the trigger, resulting in an ideal outcome for Justin Herbert and Co. Austin Ekeler is seeking a trade, but even if the two sides make amends, Robinson possesses an upside that Ekeler lacks. He can catch passes at the same rate while being an infinitely more effective runner. Lock it in if Robinson is available at No. 21 overall.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
After signing Odell Beckham Jr., the Baltimore front office continues adding pieces for whoever its quarterback will be in 2023. Quentin Johnston joins a quartet of Mark Andrews, OBJ, and Rashod Bateman, giving the offense four high-upside pass catchers who complement each other perfectly.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The run on skill positions continues with Jordan Addison coming off the board at No. 23 in this mock draft. The Vikings lost long-time starter Adam Thielen this offseason, and although KJ Osborn shows promise, another pass catcher is needed. Addison is a crafty route runner, winning with subtleness and a deceptive top gear with the ball in his hands.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
The Jaguars need help in a few spots on defense, but perhaps the most glaring hole on that side of the ball is a slot defender. Brian Branch plays the nickel role at an elite level and profiles as a chess piece in the secondary, giving Jacksonville the freedom to deploy him in several ways. The Crimson Tide star is a nice addition to Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco.
25. Seattle Seahawks (via NYG) – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Nolan Smith dropping to this point of the mock draft is surprising but not impossible given his lack of size and injury history. However, the Seahawks do what the Seahawks do best by selecting the most talented player on the board and trusting their developmental team in getting the most out of Smith. He is a plus-run defender from day one and has all the traits to be a menace to opposing quarterbacks.