The Super Bowl is over, and the start to the 2023 NFL offseason is officially underway. Despite the vast majority of teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, already a month into the process, the official draft order allows draft experts to use less speculation and more precision with their mock draft simulations.
As I’ve said a million times when writing these recaps, some mock drafts are taken more serious than others. Some “experts” carry more weight than others. When it comes to the draft gurus at ESPN, Todd McShay is one of those who typically garners a lot of attention, not that he is usually correct in his picks.
Nonetheless, McShay just released his latest mock draft, and just like his counterpart a little over a week ago, he sees a big trade at the top of the first round. Here is what McShay sees going down before the first pick is even made:
Projected trade: Colts secure their QB
Indianapolis has entered each of the past five seasons with a different starting quarterback, opting for veteran options via free agency and trades. But it was No. 27 in Total QBR last season (36.8), and the offense was at the bottom of the NFL in points per game (15.8). GM Chris Ballard will be eager to jump the line to land the top quarterback on the Colts’ board, whomever that ends up being. And the Bears should be listening to offers. They have their quarterback in Justin Fields and can still land a standout defensive player in a trade-back — while also picking up additional draft capital. Matt Miller actually projected the Colts to move up to No. 1 in his mock last week, too. It just makes sense.
The return could come down to just how desperate the QB-needy teams get and how much they fall in love with a specific passer. But I’d expect the Bears to receive something in the ballpark of the No. 4 pick, a second-rounder (No. 35), a fifth-rounder and maybe even an additional Round 1 selection in 2024.
With the Colts now possessing the top pick in the draft, here is how McShay sees Round 1 playing out:
1. Indianapolis Colts (via mock trade with CHI), Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
2. Houston Texans, C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
3. Arizona Cardinals, Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama
4. Chicago Bears (via mock trade with IND), Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN), Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR), Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
7. Las Vegas Raiders, Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
8. Atlanta Falcons, Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
9. Carolina Panthers, Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO), Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
11. Tennessee Titans, Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
12. Houston Texans (via CLE), Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
13. New York Jets, Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
14. New England Patriots, Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
15. Green Bay Packers, Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
16. Washington Commanders, Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
17. Pittsburgh Steelers, Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
If the Steelers can’t retain Cameron Sutton, then Gonzalez makes a lot of sense as a replacement. He has 6-foot-2 size, good length, some serious wheels and high-end ball skills, as evidenced by four interceptions in 2022. And if Pittsburgh does re-sign Sutton or add another cornerback via free agency, Gonzalez has versatility to move around the secondary and line up over the slot.
Alternatively, the Steelers could look at offensive line reinforcements, though the top three offensive tackles are off the board in this scenario.
With the main players in the trenches, on both sides of the ball, primarily off the board, the Steelers join in what turns out to be a run on cornerbacks. Taking Gonzalez was also the thought process for fellow ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller when he did a 2-Round mock draft.
Nonetheless, if you are like me, and don’t know much about these prospects, then it’s worth to see a breakdown of the player who is mocked to the Steelers.
For an in-depth look at Gonzalez, check out his draft profile below:
Christian Gonzalez has been a three-year starter in college football, playing his first two seasons at the University of Colorado. He then transferred to the University of Oregon for his final season where he established himself as one the best corners in the class.
Gonzalez is a long and lean corner with outstanding overall athleticism. He offers excellent size with the height and length to match up against opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers on the boundary. Gonzalez is a cover corner who flashes the ability to lock down his side of the field. Gonzalez is an outstanding man defender who shows the foot quickness, change of direction, and flexibility to match route combinations and stay connected at the top of the routes. He has the ability to flip his hips and carry vertically with excellent long speed. He is excellent in press coverage utilizing a well-timed punch at the line to disrupt the receiver and shows patient feet to consistently stay in front and in phase throughout the stem.
Gonzalez flashes outstanding instincts and awareness in zone coverage and is able to read the quarterback’s eyes while keying in on moving targets in his zone. He is an easy mover dropping in coverage and flashes excellent short-area quickness to close on anything thrown in front of him. With his long arms, Gonzalez is able to win most 50/50 situations and is able to knock the ball down at the catch point.
Once considered a weakness, Gonzalez showed drastic improvement with his ball skills as he set career highs in interceptions in 2022 (4). He is a very good open-field tackler and does not shy away from physicality and oftentimes looks to bring it.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Play strength
So, what would you think if the Steelers pull the trigger not just on Gonzalez, but a cornerback in Round 1? Would you be okay with the pick, based on how McShay sees things playing out? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the NFL offseason.