Answering big NFL draft questions for teams with top-10 picks

The 2023 NFL Combine is in full swing, which means the NFL Draft is fast approaching. This year’s draft will offer plenty of excitement, starting right at the top. The Chicago Bears are “leaning” to trade the No. 1 pick, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. And with several quarterback-needy teams in the top 10 of this year’s draft, there’s a lot at stake here.

Most draft decisions will be made after the combine and free agency, but all 32 teams have already gathered their draft picks and are starting to figure out their plans for Round 1. Today, we’re just focusing on the top 10 teams going to pick the April, these all have a lot of intrigue around them. We asked each of NFL Nation’s reporters for these 10 teams one big question, including what positions the teams could target and how they might approach their Day 1 picks.

Which top prospect fits the Bears’ plans best? Will the Lions use both of their first round picks on defense? Are the Falcons potentially in for a top quarterback? Let’s dig deeper.

Jump to:

Barring the possibility of a return, is Anderson Jr. or Jaylen Carter a better fit for the Bears’ defensive schemes?

Either would fit well in coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense, as Chicago ranked last in sacks (20) and quarterback hits (43) in 2022. But Eberflus said the 3-technique defensive tackle — the position played by Carter — he’s the “engine that makes everything go right,” and he had a similar type of player with the Indianapolis Colts in DeForest Buckner. Game-destroying low tackles don’t become available that often in free agency, so the draft is likely Chicago’s best route to address this position.

Anderson, on the other hand, could replace what the Bears had on the edge with Khalil Mack. The Alabama product was one of the best rushers and running backs in college football and could provide an immediate boost on the defensive end. But Carter in the middle of the defensive line seems like a better fit at this point, and the edge rusher should be a top priority for the Bears in free agency. –Courtney Cronin

How can the Texans set up whatever QB they draft for success?

Houston needs to add more targets and has a second-rounder at No. 12 overall. The receiver position is a question, especially since it remains uncertain whether Brandin Cooks, who was the team’s leader in receiving yards (699), will be traded or return as a trade request during the 2022 season.

But regardless of what happens with Cooks, the Texans need to add a receiver or two via the draft. He was 28th last season in WR receiving with 2,154 yards. A wideout like USC’s Jordan Addison, Boston College’s Zay Flowers, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba or TCU’s Quentin Johnston could make the new quarterback’s life easier. — DJ Bien-Aime

Is it safe to assume that GM Monti Ossenfort and the Cardinals will go with the best defenseman on their board here?

You know what they say about the case. There are some glaring needs on defense, so a pass rusher wouldn’t be a shock at No. 3, especially since Arizona finished with 36 sacks (tied for seventh-fewest in the NFL). Losing JJ Watt to retirement and potentially losing Zach Allen to free agency should create a sense of urgency to rebuild a pass rush that was consistently one of the best in the NFL for years before last season’s exit.

Arizona will move away from the “best player available” approach under Osenfort and focus on drafting for need. But “the best DEFENDER available’ could make sense, especially since one or both of Anderson and Carter should be on the board when the Cardinals pick. — Josh Winefuss

How does your gut feel about the possibility of the Colts a) staying home at No. 4 and drafting a QB, b) trading up to get a QB, or c) going another route?

It’s a tough call because we haven’t gotten a good read on the Poultry evaluation of available quarterbacks, which makes it hard to understand how motivated they might be to make a move. But in the end, I’m leaning toward the Colts staying at No. 4 overall.

General Manager Chris Ballard hasn’t made a first-round trade in the six previous drafts he’s overseen. In fact, it is much more likely to recede. Staying at No. 4 would still give the Colts one of the top QBs — a group that includes Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson — – while protecting other options necessary to help build this new QB. — Stephen Holder

Seattle is one of five teams with two first-round picks. How would the ideal Round 1 play out in April?

Let’s start with the assumption that the Seahawks will either sign quarterback Geno Smith to a multi-year contract or franchise tag him before the March 7 deadline, freeing them up to devote their starting capital to improving their front seven . If they like Carter and Anderson as much as draft analysts do, then an ideal scenario would be for the Bears to trade the No. 1 overall pick to a quarterback-needy team currently outside the top five, improving the odds to get three QBs. top four and leaving at least one of those two defensemen available at No. 5.

The 20th overall pick is right around the part of the first round where Seattle could be tempted to move back, though there may be less urgency since the Seahawks already have three Day 2 picks. Ideally, the best player on his board at this point will line up with whatever needs he has left. This could include defensive tackle, offensive end, inside linebacker or center. — Brady Henderson

Will the Lions use both of their first-round picks on defense, and which positions need the most help?

After ranking near last in the league in most defensive stats for the second straight year, it makes sense for the Lions front office to address this issue immediately. Detroit’s offense has proven it can thrive with quarterback Jared Goff running the show, ranked in the top five, but the Lions need to shore up the defense to build on their first winning season since 2017. They gave up over 6 yards per game in 2022, and only two teams allowed more points (25.1 per game).

The Lions could use a defensive end and cornerback to take the next step in their rebuild, and the first round should provide multiple picks for both positions at each of their pick positions. — Eric Woodyard

If Las Vegas is targeting a quarterback in free agency, what is the focus of that pick?

Well, it depends on whether GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels prefer the need or the best player available. A veteran quarterback could join Las Vegas on the primary condition that the Raiders also upgrade the offensive line. That means he would play a plug-and-play offensive tackle.

Otherwise, it’s all defense. I expect the Raiders to seriously consider adding another pass-rusher or shutdown cornerback with their No. 7 pick. Yes, you’ve heard this one before, but the Raiders allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (25th) and managed just six interceptions (tied for last) in 2022. — Paul Gutierrez

Do the Falcons have enough confidence in Desmond Ridder to pass on a quarterback if one of the top falls on them at No. 8?

Who can say with absolute certainty right now whether Levis or Richardson are better than Ridder, last year’s third-round pick? If Young or Stroud were somehow available at No. 8, it would certainly be worth a conversation within Atlanta’s draft room, but even then, it would depend on what the Falcons did before the draft on the ground. Atlanta liked Ridder’s work ethic and improvement as his rookie season progressed, and he threw two touchdown passes and zero interceptions in four games. Considering the big needs on defense and possibly offensive line, the Falcons would likely pass on a quarterback here.

Here’s another thing to watch, though: Can the Falcons convince another team to trade up to get the No. 8 pick, if a QB is available, giving them more capital to help rebuild the roster? — Michael Rothstein

Could Carolina spend big on a quarterback in free agency? and draft here?

No, spending big on a quarterback in free agency is almost out of the question with the team’s salary cap situation. The Panthers cap room currently ranks in the bottom half of the league. In all likelihood, they will sign a veteran who has the potential to be a bridge at backup value. And don’t be surprised if the Panthers trade the first three or four picks to get the quarterback pick. GM Scott Fitterer has been adamant in the past that the best long-term solution to building a championship-caliber roster is with a quarterback on a rookie deal. — David Newton

The Eagles just went to a Super Bowl, but they have a lot of players hitting free agency. What are the biggest offseason needs?

Eight of their 11 defensive players from 2022 are pending free agents, and three of them are defensive ends: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Brandon Graham. Even if one or more of them are re-signed, the front office places a high priority on the trenches and will want to replenish that area.

Cornerback is another position to watch, especially if James Bradberry signs elsewhere when free agency opens in mid-March. — Tim McManus

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