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2023 NFL mock drafts mean next to nothing right now

The NFL Draft outlook almost always changes drastically from January to April.

NFL: NFL Draft Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions season is over and it’s time to shift the focus to the offseason and the many happenings that come along with it. Along with that comes the time to turn in your first of many mock drafts. I fired up a mock draft simulator for the first time this week. It was then that I realized there is another happening that comes along with the offseason. It’s “there’s no way that guy falls” season.

With the Lions’ sixth pick, I chose Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson. I took him because he fell there. I was met with a lot of comments about how I was dreaming if I though he’d fall that far. That’s paraphrasing like 40 different comments, many with nastier language.

My first urge was to tell every single person that it’s simulator and I took him because he fell. But more than that, my overwhelming urge is to scream from the highest tower that It’s only January and everything we think we know about the 2023 NFL Draft is just so incredibly wrong.

The draft is predictable to a point. You can predict that a handful of players are going to go in some quadrant of the first round. Beyond that, anything can happen and anything usually does happen.

There are many processes still to go with NFL Draft evaluation. There’s the Senior Bowl, the Shrine Bowl, the NFL combine and college pro days. Sure, the game tape matters the most, but a scout’s job is far from finished by January.

And don’t forget about free agency and trades. Team needs could change drastically over the next four months, which could reshape the entire 2023 NFL Draft board. Then there are the weird stories that come out of nowhere like “Kayvon Thibodeaux has a bad work ethic” and suddenly a guy who was once considered to be the number one pick falls.

Any number of things can happen between then and now. Just take last years draft. Let’s look at a mock draft from January 21, 2022. This is Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft of the year after the 2022 season had ended and the dust from Black Monday had settled. Here’s his initial mocked top 10:

  1. Jaguars: Evan Neal
  2. Lions: Aidan Hutchinson
  3. Texans: Kyle Hamilton
  4. Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux
  5. Giants: Ikem Ekwonu
  6. Panthers: Sauce Gardner
  7. Giants: Devin Lloyd
  8. Falcons: Treylon Burks
  9. Broncos: Kenny Pickett
  10. Jets: Trent McDuffie

Right off the bat you can see a bunch of stories here. Hey, one of them is totally right. The Lions drafted Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick. This Jeremiah guy knows what he’s talking about. Now, lets see what actually happened after all the processes were out of the way.

  1. Jaguars: Travon Walker
  2. Lions: Aidan Hutchinson
  3. Texans Derek Stingley
  4. Jets: Sauce Gardner
  5. Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux
  6. Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu
  7. Giants: Evan Neal
  8. Falcons: Drake London
  9. Seahawks: Charles Cross
  10. Jets: Garrett Wilson

So what happened? Everything happened. Travon Walker’s athleticism put everyone on notice at the combine and his pro day and he rose all the way to the first pick. He was 13th in Jeremiah’s first mock. Stingley did the same thing. The edge rushers in the class rose up to the top when everyone realized they were the best part of this draft. That allowed Evan Neal to fall from one to seven. Everyone loved Treylon Burks and his big hands until he didn’t have the greatest combine. Meanwhile, Drake London wowed everyone.

The Broncos traded their pick the Seahawks in the Russell Wilson deal. They were essentially the only quarterback-needy team in the top 10. Kenny Pickett fell all the way down to the Steelers. He wound up being the only quarterback taken day one. Jeremiah had three quarterbacks going in his first mock.

Like I said, pretty much everything that can happen to change the draft, did This wasn’t an anomaly either. 2021 had a lot of change. The 49ers traded up, Miami traded up and the Cowboys traded up. This was all in the first 10 picks. It completely shifted the initial understanding of how the draft was going to go down.

So, for the Will Anderson and Jalen Carter fans out there, the dream isn’t anywhere near dead. Teams could move ahead of the Lions to get in on the quarterbacks, players’ stock could dramatically rise or fall in the few months. The Lions could also fill some positions of need that will change who they’re looking to draft. Anything can and will happen.

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