Each week, mock drafts pour in across the world wide web as pundits, analysts, professionals and amateurs share who they think NFL teams will be taking in the 2023 NFL draft. Most keep it on the straight and narrow, offering picks and analysis. Some spice it up with a wild trade or peculiar pairing to either go off the beaten path or drum up a response. Others, bring unique takes, and that’s what The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman delivered with his recent mock draft.
“The draft evaluation process is an inexact science, but what I strive to do with this project is provide unique insight into each of the players, as the analysis comes directly from the coaches who have scouted, game-planned for and played them,” Feldman wrote. “Those sources, granted anonymity to speak freely about the prospects, know exactly what they’re dealing with and what they’ve tried to do to them in real game situations — and how it all turned out.”
First, who did Feldman take for the Ravens at No. 22?
22. Baltimore Ravens: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
“This is a deep cornerback class and Baltimore picks up a former local star from the Terps in Banks, a 6 feet, 197-pounder who dazzled at the combine, running a 4.35 40 with a 1.49 10-yard split to go with a 42-inch vertical and an 11-4 broad jump,” Feldman wrote. “Coaches say that kind of elite explosiveness and athleticism showed up on his film this year, where he made 38 tackles and broke up eight passes. He was still pretty raw at Maryland and really hadn’t reached a point where he was playing off of instincts. The Terps liked to play him into the boundary and leave him on an island and he was matched up a lot last fall with Marvin Harrison Jr. and held up well.”
Along with Feldman’s beliefs and analysis, he shares the information given by the coaches.
“He’s very heavy-handed and has a knack for positioning his body and using his frame. Has good length and great explosiveness. He puts hands on guys at the line of scrimmage and will set the tone,” one coach told Feldman.
“He’s a little stiff-hipped, but he’s really physical and competes hard. He’s not instinctive like (Witherspoon), but he’s bigger and will battle. He’s got something to him,” another coach told Feldman.
But what of the other players the Ravens have been linked to all offseason? Feldman has responses on various others in droves.
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
“The length is so intimidating. You don’t find guys that can run like he can with that kind of length. He eliminated that side of the ball for us.”
“He’s very physical and has impressive change of direction. Someone tried to run a pivot (route) on him on fourth-and-2. His ability to flip his hips for a guy that long was a sight to see.”
“He is extremely athletic, has great COD and good movement skills. But on tape, he sometimes gets himself out of position, getting caught inside when he should be outside, or he’ll misfit something on a run play.”
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
“You can line him up anywhere. He’s light on his feet. Really strong hands; is strong after the catch. Has great change of direction. He really blocks. He high-points it really well. Just a better all-around player than Olave and Wilson. I thought he was better than Marvin Harrison Jr., too. They’re different. You can put him in the slot and do a lot with him. I don’t think Harrison will be able to run certain routes. You can line (Smith-Njigba) off of the ball in stacks and bunches and really give people problems with pick routes, rub routes and Jerk routes. You see people playing with a three-corner defense with that nickel who is more of a blitzer (and) he will eat them alive.”
“He’s different than the other ones. There’s more quickness to him, more suddenness. He can really make you miss with the stops, re-starts.”
“He is really frickin’ good. When he was a sophomore (in 2021) he looked like a pro.”
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
“He’s big and he can really take the top off the defense. Long strider with straight-line speed. He doesn’t necessarily get out his breaks that well.”
“He’ll jump over guys to get it, but he has inconsistent hands.”
“A Calvin Johnson type of the Big 12, so big, so much length, and so fast. What are you supposed to do with him? Press him, you better have someone over the top if they don’t get him.”
“I thought he was OK. Our DBs are really soft and don’t like challenging wide receivers. He definitely has playmaking abilities, but he’s not polished.”
“He’s a red-zone threat. People were afraid to press him up. His unlocking at the next level is how well he separates at the top of routes. Can he run the 18-yard comebacks? I don’t really know.”
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
“He’s a dude. There were times where we had him doubled and he still caught a touchdown pass on us. What do you do? He’s electric and has really good ball skills. If you don’t double him, he’s gonna double-move the s— out of you. He’s a strong little wide receiver from a blocking standpoint as well as after the catch. We recruited him and we thought he was a great human being, always smiling. Loved that kid.”
“He was awesome. Last year, their quarterback (Phil Jurkovec) was hurt; their O-line wasn’t a typical BC offensive line, and he almost single-handedly beat teams. He plays really hard. He can play slot or outside. He’s a great route-runner, really good after the catch. I think he’s a tough kid, too. Zay became really hard to double. They motioned him, would put him in the backfield, put him in the No. 1 spot, the No. 2 spot. I thought the BC OC (John McNulty) did a great job with him last year.”
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
“His route-running was crisp. I think he’s a heady guy who really knows how to read coverage.”
“He is good. I think (former Pitt OC Mark) Whipple did a great job of highlighting him (in 2021) and Addison had Kenny Pickett throwing to him. More than anything, he scared us so much as a returner. He changed your whole punt protection.”
“I really liked him. He’s really, really smooth, but he is very thin. He has really good change of direction, but I do think he lacks play strength.”
“He runs good routes and gets really good separation. I think the Air Raid (offense at USC) kind of hurt him. It’s a different route tree, where you’re really throwing the ball in space. He is frail, so light. I think if you get in his face and not let him get a free release, he will have some problems. He’s more about acceleration and stepping on your toes and good separation at the top of route. I don’t think he’ll be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. Can he take the pounding? I think he needs to work on his body.”