NFL draft picks 11-20 recap: Smith-Njigba to SEA
Mike Florio breaks down picks 11-20 from the 2023 NFL Draft.
MIKE FLORIO: There was plenty of talk about the Tennessee Titans potentially using the 11th overall pick in the draft on a quarterback. And they had their pick of Will Levis or Hendon Hooker. They opted not to take a quarterback. Peter Skoronski, the Northwestern tackle, instead becomes the first round choice of the Tennessee Titans, bolstering the offensive line, at least for Ryan Tannehill for now. Whether or not they addressed the quarterback position remains to be seen. They've apparently soured on Malik Willis, third round pick last year, who was eventually benched late in the season for Josh Dobbs.
Whoever is playing quarterback, Skoronski has the potential to become an anchor for the offensive line, as the Titans try to continue to stay relevant in a very difficult AFC. Remember, they were just the number one seed not that long ago. They are far from it now. Missed the playoffs in 2022. AFC continues to get better. They are looking at foundational pieces to try to build their team for the long haul. Titans take a tackle. We'll see what they do the rest of the draft.
Well, that was a stunner from the Detroit Lions at pick number 12. They could have had Texas running back Bijan Robinson at number six. Instead, they trade down to 12 with the Cardinals, pick up an extra high second round pick, and take a running back, Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs. There's going to be an apples to apples comparison of Robinson and Gibbs because the Lions had a straight line for Robinson if they wanted him. Instead, they add Gibbs.
And they just paid David Montgomery in free agency. And they have DeAndre Swift, who was a high draft pick three years ago. Crowded house in the backfield for the Detroit Lions, a team that could have addressed quarterback. Both Will Levis and Hendon Hooker are available. They didn't. They go running back.
It's going to be a very interesting selection moving forward because the Lions could have maybe traded down. Could have gotten him with the 18th overall pick, which they still hold. They must have thought that someone was lurking to get Jahmyr Gibbs not long after number 12, or they wouldn't have burned that pick. But still, they could have had Bijan Robinson. And you have to ask yourself, would you rather have Robinson? Or would you rather have Gibbs and that extra pick high in round two? We'll see what they do with that pick before coming to a conclusion.
So as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade, the Green Bay Packers picked up selection number 13, a flip-flop of 13 and 15, with the New York Jets. And with that selection, the Packers bolster their defensive line. Lukas Van Ness, an Iowa player who never actually started a game for the Cornhuskers, now enters a rotation where he can play inside, he can play outside. He's ridiculously strong. We interviewed him at the scouting combine, seems like a guy who truly gets it, understands the sport. Ready to come in and contribute, except the fact that the pecking order in Iowa kept him on the bench. Didn't have a problem with it.
And now, a Packers defense that has been a problem in recent years gets a little bit better if Van Ness can deliver. One of the realities of draft night, we don't know who's going to work out and who isn't. Teams make their projections. The Packers making their projection at number 13, maybe recognizing if they stayed at 15, the New England Patriots may have taken the versatile Van Ness at 14. So by jumping up by one, the Packers ensure they get the guy they wanted. And indeed, they did. Lukas Van Ness to Green Bay.
So after the Packers took Lukas Van Ness with pick number 13, the Patriots at 14, what did they do one spot ahead of the New York Jets? They decided to trade down. The Steelers swoop up from number 17 to take Georgia tackle Broderick Jones. Maybe the guy that the Jets would have taken, maybe the guy that they would have gotten if they'd stayed put at number 13. This is one of the hidden costs of the Aaron Rodgers trade. You go back two spots, you get leapfrogged by the Steelers, and you lose out on maybe the guy you would have taken.
For the Steelers, bolsters an offensive line that could use the help. They've gone on a roller coaster ride in Pittsburgh with the offensive line over the past two decades. It's been bad, and they won Super Bowls. It got better, and they were still competitive. Now, it needs to improve in order to get the most out of last year's first round pick, Kenny Pickett. So Broderick Jones helping that Steelers offensive line.
They've got the skill position players. You need the blockers in order to get the most out of the rest of the offense. That's what the Steelers do. And remember, they still hold pick number 32, the first pick in round two, but essentially, the last pick in round one because the Dolphins don't have a first round selection due to tampering with Sean Payton and Tom Brady in 2022.
Well, the Jets dropped from number 13 to number 15 as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade. They lost out on tackle Broderick Jones, when on the clock at 15, the Jets go with edge rusher Will McDonald, who necessarily benefits from the presence of Quinnen Williams on the inside. Less attention to the outside, greater opportunities to get around the edge and harass some of the great quarterbacks that the Jets will see this year in their division and out of their division. They'll face Patrick Mahomes. They'll see Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Daniel Jones, et cetera. They need more help defensively.
That's what they get with pick number 15. You can't help but wonder what might have been if they hadn't given the 13th pick to the Packers as part of that Aaron Rodgers trade. Regardless, they stayed in the top 15, they got a player that they think will help them get better. And now, we see if that defense, already very potent with Sauce Gardner, Quinnen Williams, and company, gets even better in 2023 and beyond.
The Washington Commanders have made it clear that Sam Howell, a draft pick last season, is their guy at quarterback. But with Will Levis and Hendon Hooker slipping through the cracks, and there at number 16, would the Commanders consider taking a new quarterback to supplant Sam Howell? If they considered it, they ultimately didn't do it.
Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes becomes the pick of the Commanders, with guys like Christian Gonzales and Joey Porter Jr. still on the board. There must have been something that Coach Ron Rivera really liked in Forbes to add him to a defense that has a good front end. Needed some help on the back end, especially with some pass-happy offenses in the NFC East and beyond. If the Commanders want to become contenders, they need help at the back end of the defense, and really, they need to have a big year to stave off the potentially inevitable changes that will be made once a new owner takes over. Forbes needs to play right away. Forbes needs to make a difference. If he makes enough of a difference, maybe Ron Rivera sticks around for 2024.
The New England Patriots have plenty of great defensive backs. But with Christian Gonzalez there at number 17, after the Patriots traded down from number 14 with the Steelers, they couldn't resist. They're getting a great player who can come in and help that defense become even better. The offense has been so much the focus in New England. It was such a disaster last year. But Bill Belichick, a defensive guy, and he knows how to coach up good players and make them great players.
They've been getting by on the back end with lesser draft picks in recent years. To make that investment of a top 20 pick in a guy that many regarded as the top corner, regardless of any of the others who have already gone, maybe this Patriots defense can keep up in an AFC East where there are plenty of great quarterbacks now and also, when the Patriots venture beyond their division, more and more great signal callers in the AFC. It calls for a great defense. The Patriots getting help there and trading down to do it, meaning they get extra help down the road in the form of additional draft pick compensation.
Who would have thought that a linebacker would be taken in the 2023 draft before a tight end? Some thought maybe four tight ends would go in round one. Well, if it's going to happen, they'd better get to work on taking them because no tight ends go. At number 18, the Lions go for Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.
Some people are going to criticize what the Lions have done. They could have had Bijan Robinson at six. They trade down to 12. They still take a running back. Would Jack Campbell have been there at some point after 18? Could they have traded back into round one to get him or just maybe waited until the top of round two? Quite possibly. Instead, they make the pick.
And my sense is they are looking for guys that fit that Dan Campbell, Chris Spielman kneecap-biting vibe. They know the kind of guys they're looking for. So they must have seen something in Gibbs and they must have seen something in Campbell that made them think they were getting guys that were going to make an already good team even better for 2023.
With both Will Levis and Hendon Hooker still slipping and sliding through the top 20, the Buccaneers at number 19 were regarded as a potential destination, even though they still have Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. It wasn't to be for the quarterbacks. They keep going. The slide ends sooner than expected for Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, a guy that many compare to Aaron Donald. Measurables very similar. Played at Pitt. That could be where the comparisons end.
But in Tampa Bay, a place that knows a thing or two about having dominant defensive tackles, i.e., Warren Sapp, here comes a guy who has an opportunity to plug in that hole created by the decision not to bring back Akeem Spence. You line him up with Vita Vea. And maybe at a time when your offense is trying to find its footing post Tom Brady, your defense can become downright destructive.
It took a while for the receivers to come off the board on Thursday night. It began at pick number 20 with the Seahawks. Now you would say they've got DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But Jaxon Smith-Njigba, regarded by many as the best receiver in the class, even though he's not a classic number one receiver, not a guy that's going to draw a double coverage, he's a guy who's going to benefit from the double coverage drawn by his teammates, working the slot, the middle of the field.
A great target for Geno Smith. His window, as we reported at PFT earlier this week, was 12 to 22. That means his floor was the Ravens at number 22. The Seahawks make the move before Baltimore can get to him. They upgrade their offense. They upgrade their receiving corps. And they give Geno Smith more opportunities to prove that he belongs as the long-term quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.