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NFL Draft order 2023 projections: Most pressing need for teams in the top 10


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Even as the Texans threaten to pull away (fade away?) in the race for the No. 1 pick, there’s still the potential for chaos in the picks right behind them. Two more teams (Carolina and Chicago) are sitting on eight losses, with a slight gap between them and 1-8-1 Houston, while another nine teams will head into Week 12 with seven losses. An ill-timed win could drop a rebuilding club from a top-five selection as far down as No. 11 or 12 in the order.

There’s still a long way to go, of course. Here’s how The Athletic’s Austin Mock projects the top 10 will settle when all is said and done:

Austin Mock's projected top 10

Mock projects the score for every game and the final win percentage for every team using his NFL betting model. His model phases out older data and uses data from this year as the season progresses. The simulation then runs 100,000 times after each day of games to give us, in this case, our No. 1 pick odds and each team’s likeliest draft landing spot.

There are a couple of significant differences between that list and the current order: Las Vegas holds the No. 4 pick heading into the weekend, but Mock projects the Raiders to land seventh (with 6.4 projected wins); Cleveland’s first-round selection, owned by Houston through the Deshaun Watson trade, is No. 7 in the current order but lands at No. 12 in Mock’s order.

We’ll see how it shakes out. What we can talk about in the meantime is what those teams headed for high draft picks need on their rosters. Nick Baumgardner breaks down the most pressing issue for each club in the current top 10:

1. Houston (1-8-1): Quarterback

It might be safe to say, despite their record and lack of hope in 2022, that the Texans might have more assets than actual remaining needs in this rebuild. As things stand, they hold 12 picks (five in the top 70) for the upcoming draft. If the front office thinks quarterback Davis Mills can get them to the Drake Maye-Caleb Williams sweepstakes of 2024, trade this pick for a haul and find receivers. If not, it’s Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud time.

2. Carolina (3-8): Quarterback

Yeah, nothing’s changed. Derrick BrownBrian Burns and Jaycee Horn make for a better-than-you-realize defensive foundation, and Ikem Ekwonu continues to improve. The Panthers need playmakers, of course, but this ship is going nowhere until they figure something out at QB. There are teams that should draft a quarterback this year and then there is Carolina, which may as well turn in its franchise card if it doesn’t.

3. Chicago (3-8): Picks

The Bears need offensive line help, specifically a center and a tackle (but, really, all over the place). They traded Roquan Smith and used that asset for wide receiver Chase Claypool, which more or less just moved one problem area to another. Instead of additional receiver help, the Bears now need a boost at linebacker. This team’s defensive line needs work, inside and out. You see the point. This is not a good football team at all. Having nine picks is nice, but improving on their early stockpile (two selections in the top 60, three in the top 70) would be big for the Bears.

4. Las Vegas (3-7): Quarterback

Unless something crazy happens here, the Raiders seem like a franchise that’s in need of a restart at QB, either because of where they are in the draft or because Josh McDaniels didn’t draft Derek Carr and wants his own guy. In reality, the Raiders could probably settle down, figure things out with Carr and their new offensive pieces and take Jalen Carter or Will Anderson. Carr’s 31, though. This isn’t a bad roster, so a talented rookie could have some success here.

5. Seattle, via Denver (3-7): Pass rush

While Geno Smith is no longer quite as on fire as he was early in the year, he’s still playing terrific football. Quarterback has not been a concern for the Seahawks this season. That’s a terrific development for the 32-year-old Smith, who may not be a 10-year answer in Seattle but is more than capable of steering the ship right now. There’s still some offensive line need here, but this is also a luxury pick (courtesy of the Russell Wilson trade), so landing someone like Myles Murphy or Bryan Bresee would be dynamite.

6. Detroit, via L.A. Rams (3-7): Quarterback

The Lions, now winners of three in a row, suddenly look more like a young team figuring itself out than the rudderless mess we saw at 1-6. Detroit’s recent turnaround has been keyed by some of the youth general manager Brad Holmes has drafted on defense, along with great work from the offensive line. Jared Goff hasn’t done anything to cost Detroit a game in this stretch, but the Lions still are approaching a fork in the road: Stay the course and continue to slowly improve with Goff under center or roll the dice on a more dynamic (but potentially less steady) playmaker?

7. Houston, via Cleveland (3-7): Wide receiver

What’d I tell you about all those picks? Take whatever you want up here, really. What a boon for GM Nick Caserio.

8. Pittsburgh (3-7): Offensive tackle

There are a few options here that sort of run even at the moment. Pittsburgh needs help in the secondary and up front, so cornerback or a defensive lineman could also be on the table early in Round 1. The Steelers also badly need a center, though that’s not happening here. But this still feels like a team in need of more premium help at tackle. Everything with Kenny Pickett remains TBD, so the Steelers have to improve around him.

9. Jacksonville (3-7): Offensive line

The Jaguars have potential future stars in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Devin Lloyd and Travon Walker have had some terrific defensive flashes as rookies this year. Get the guys on offense more help up front and start working on this run game. The Jaguars are one of the worst run-blocking outfits in football and while this may feel like a tempting spot to go wide receiver for Lawrence — he needs more help up front.

10. Philadelphia, via New Orleans (4-7): Edge rusher

I mean, frankly, the Eagles need next to nothing. Philadelphia’s roster is as close to “complete” as we have in the NFL, in my opinion. So Howie Roseman could have the luxury of seeing who wants to give him even more picks for this spot, or he can do something like invest in the eventual replacement for one of his aging stars up front (Brandon Graham turns 35 in April; Lane Johnson is 33 in May).

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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