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Top Questions That Remain After the 2023 NFL Draft

Albert Breer opens the mailbag to talk Texans, Eagles, Lions, Dalvin Cook, DeAndre Hopkins, Anthony Richardson and more.

And now that we’re on the other side of the draft, let’s get to some mail …

From Kevin Costa (@KCosta_41): Who was drafted?

Two hundred and fifty-nine players.

From FootballKennerDe (@KennerFootball): Was the Texans’ trade for Anderson or Stroud?

C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. were both selected in the first of the NFL draft by the Texans

Houston picked two players back-to-back at Nos. 2 and 3 ... so which player was the trade for?

Kenner, this is a really great question, and I’d say it almost had to be Will Anderson Jr.

Now, yes, the reason you’d take C.J. Stroud before him, with the No. 2 pick, is in large part because it’d effectively devalue the third pick—in that there were teams that had been interested in moving to No. 3 that weren’t anymore with the Ohio State quarterback off the board. Which, of course, positioned the Texans to get a reasonable price on the third pick and push a deal with the Cardinals over the goal line.

The problem is Arizona really wasn’t under any obligation to trade that pick to Houston. So if new Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort got on the clock and suddenly got a blockbuster offer from a team in the Texans’ range or a strong bid from a team in an area where they wouldn’t have had to do the second trade (with the Lions) to move back up, then Ossenfort would certainly be able to tell his old buddy Nick Caserio that circumstances had changed.

And in that scenario, the Texans might have lost Anderson. So while there was upside to taking Stroud first, the downside was the risk of not getting their edge rusher. It worked out, of course, but the trade itself was for the guy they took in that slot, because he was the one they couldn’t be 100% assured of getting until they got on the clock.

That obviously puts some pressure on both guys—Stroud as the second pick in the draft, and the guy the team decided it couldn’t do without, and Anderson as the one for whom the Texans yielded the last benefit of the Deshaun Watson trade (having two first-round picks in 2024).

From Opinions are divided (@giantsyankees3): Any reason ILB Rashaan Evans is still unsigned? Finished 7th in the NFL in tackles and only 27.

Opinions, I don’t have a great answer for this one. He’s a good player, started 17 games for the Falcons last year, has produced for two teams and, like you said, is just 27.

It’s not like there aren’t faults to his game, but he’s a physical, run-and-hit, off-ball linebacker, and one Atlanta would’ve brought back on the right terms. And so my feeling is once the market fell out during free agency and you started seeing one-year deals, and minimum deals floating around, he figured waiting might behoove him.

This draft, by the way, wasn’t a great one for off-ball linebackers (only one, Lions first-rounder Jack Campbell, went in the first two rounds). So maybe, just maybe, he thought someone would come out of the draft with a need unaddressed, and he may be able to get a few extra bucks that weren’t there in March.

What I can say is he’s had offers and interest, so he’ll play somewhere next year. It’s just a matter of where and for what, at this point.

From Jackson Arnold Schwarzenegger (@Jaben4Real): Chances for Dalvin Cook to end up in Miami?

Funny you ask, Jackson—we mentioned last week that the Dolphins and Vikings were, at one point, down the road on a trade for Cook. It didn’t work out, but Miami’s certainly considered what adding someone like Cook could mean for an offense that’s already pretty explosive, with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as headliners for the Dolphins’ arsenal.

Now, with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. in the fold, there isn’t a massive need there. They could certainly line up and play with the running backs they have. What they’d hoped Cook would give them was a game-breaking element in the backfield. And that’s a need they actually addressed this week, by tabbing Texas A&M’s stick-of-dynamite, Devon Achane, who had the fastest 40 time for any running back at the combine and the third-fastest time overall.

With that in mind, my guess is they’ll look to get Achane a lot of work through May and June and, if it looks like he won’t be ready to roll in September, then maybe they’d revisit the idea of a deal. But if Achane is good to go, I’d think the idea of Cook would be in the rearview mirror.

From Liam Sarsfield (@LiamSars): Thoughts on the Eagles taking 7 players from the national championship teams in 3 years? Is that a record? Are they like Leo DiCaprio on the couch pointing at the tv while watching the national championship?

I don’t know whether it’s a record. But to this point, it’s working. DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson, coming from Alabama’s 2020 title team, are clear hits. Jordan Davis, an alumnus of the historic ’21 Georgia defense, is trending that way, too, while the jury’s still out on Nakobe Dean, and obviously the three guys from this year’s repeat champs (Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, Kelee Ringo).

Someone, by the way, pointed out to me that Philly GM Howie Roseman has a tendency to take guys in clusters from college programs he likes, so I looked it up, and that’s true—in six of the last seven drafts, he’s taken multiple players from a single school.

It’s kind of funny to see that, of course, but it’s also actually functional. You’ll see teams doing this sort of thing when they either have a connection to coaches in a college program, or a strong relationship with a staff in general, because in those cases they’ll trust the information they’re getting from those places. Which is an important element to the draft process.

From Crew Chief (@CrewChiefCR): Does Kayshon Boutte have a real chance to be a WR1 in the NFL? Should we buy the hype?

I don’t think he’ll be a No. 1, but I also don’t think there are 32 No. 1 receivers in the NFL (some have two, more have none). I think people think that because he was a five-star recruit and he had a big freshman year at LSU, maybe he could become the school’s next version of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase. That, he is not.

But he’s got a chance, if he stays healthy and has his head screwed on straight, to be a versatile inside-outside sort of receiver who’s strong after the catch with a lot of add to an offense.

“The two-years-ago version looked like a first-round pick,” says one AFC college scouting director. “He’s just had some injury issues and he’s underachieved ever since then. He’s struggled to stay healthy, stay in shape and catch the ball consistently. But if they can get him to return to that form from two years ago, he could be a home run.

It was a dice roll in the sixth round by the Patriots, for sure, because of how Boutte’s final year in Baton Rouge went, not to mention his weird departure from the school (he was coming back, then he wasn’t, and you can Google the rest). But I do know New England got positive feedback from LSU coach Brian Kelly on the receiver, so this, at that stage of the draft, was worth taking a swing on.

From Alex Sullivan (@Alex_Sullivan11): Are the Bengals still shopping Jonah Williams?

Alex, they’re not. And if they weren’t going to do it before the draft, my feeling is they won’t do it at all. To me, there are teams (like, say, New England) that could really use him. But unless you’re talking about giving Cincinnati a second-round pick for Williams, it doesn’t make sense for the Bengals to move him, because if he plays well for them in the fall, they’ll get that year of service from him at a trouble spot (and insurance on La’el Collins working his way back from a torn ACL), and potentially a third- or fourth-round comp pick in 2025.

As for where Williams is at, he’s still rehabbing from knee surgery out in California. He’s close to being ready to do football drills, and while there’d be some question as to when he’ll be fully cleared for actual full-contact work, he’s certainly expecting to be full go for training camp. His plan, for now, is to go to Ohio for the mandatory stuff—starting with the full-squad minicamp next month. And the Bengals expect to have him, for the time being, in there as their starting right tackle, opposite newcomer Orlando Brown Jr.

A number of factors played into Williams’s trade request, with the position switch (from left tackle to right) being one and the lack of communication from the team on that switch before signing Brown to a big free-agent deal. For what it’s worth, I do think Williams is in a little better place with the team now than he was a month ago, and I think the Bengals will get a good year out of him, assuming no one comes in and throws big capital at Cincinnati (which could happen if there’s an injury with another team) to get him.

From Ryan (@My_name_is_Gym): Will the Colts move off of Richardson when they are picking No. 1 or No. 2 next year?

Ryan, I think Anthony Richardson’s going to play. And based on where that roster is (it’s actually pretty good), I’d say if they’re picking first or second, then Richardson didn’t play very well.

Which is one reason I’d say I wouldn’t rule anything out. Another reason would be how the NFL is already looking at USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. If those guys are really Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck (comparisons I’ve actually heard), then there’d definitely be a conversation to have, for the same reason there was a conversation to have when Kyler Murray was there to be linked up, finally, with Kliff Kingsbury in 2019. We all know how that one ended for Josh Rosen.

That said, I think your scenario is unlikely, and I think Richardson is going to get a lot of rope to develop into a franchise quarterback in Indianapolis. As we said Monday, he’s a Colt because the team looked at him and decided it’d rather swing and miss than watch Richardson become a superstar somewhere else. The caveat, of course, is he has a ways to go, more than the other quarterbacks in this draft, so when the Colts drafted him, it was with the understanding and acknowledgment that they’d have to give him some time.

From Zack Eisen (@zackeisen21): What does the DeAndre Hopkins market look like post-draft?

Zack, it’s not always about the money, but in this case, it really is all about the money.

Hopkins is scheduled to make $19.45 million this year. And the reason the Cardinals couldn’t move him, really, for anything, after allowing teams to talk to his camp, is right there for you. Other teams, such as the Chiefs and Bills, I believe would have an interest in him at a price point that’s not close to what he’s on the books for in Arizona. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have shown a willingness to pay him that, just in carrying his number on their cap for this long.

So in the end, I wouldn’t blame him if, at 31 years old and after a decade in the league, he was feeling his football mortality a little and decided to just take the nearly $20 million in front of him and then maybe go ring chasing thereafter.

From Zeze (@Zezex0_0): Were any other teams interested in trading up to pick 3 after the Texans took Stroud at 2? Or was it always going to be a double dip for Houston?

I don’t have that part of the story nailed down quite yet. But I can tell you at least one team was engaged on that pick and backed off after Stroud was picked.

First-round draft pick Jahmyr Gibbs at the Lions podium

If Gibbs has a great career, fewer people will care that many considered him a reach on draft night.

From Paul Vieira (@paulvieira): Does your info indicate that Jahmyr Gibbs would have been taken before Detroit's second first-round pick at 18?

Paul, my information indicates that Detroit was concerned it would happen. I personally don’t think the Patriots and Jets were going to pull the trigger at Nos. 14 or 15, but I do think the Lions were worried about those two teams. And there were teams further down that loved Gibbs and may have been willing to make a move up to get him—the Chargers, for one, were within striking distance at No. 17, and the Chiefs explored it too, though they’d have had to go much further.

How worried was Detroit? Well, their initial plan was to take Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon at No. 6 and then move up from No. 18 for Gibbs. So where they landed in that trade down is right around where they would’ve tried to trade up to land the Alabama dynamo.

Also, here’s the thing—they loved the kid and wanted to make sure they got him. If he becomes Alvin Kamara (they think he can, and Dan Campbell can speak with authority on that particular subject), then I don’t think anyone will be too caught up in whether he went sixth, 18th or anywhere in between.

From Tom Wilkinson (@tomwilkinson2c): Would Justin Fields have gone ahead of Anthony Richardson if he was in this draft?

Tom, I think Justin Fields coming out of Ohio State would go in front of Anthony Richardson coming out of Florida, because of his volume of experience and volume of throws on tape. That said, what Chicago did for Fields last year was used as an example for teams on how a coaching staff should bring Richardson along.

So while they’re different players, comparing them isn’t that off-base.

From Michael Marino (@MarinoMLB): Daniel Jeremiah reported Jets would’ve taken McDonald over Broderick Jones if he was there. Have you heard the same and have you also heard Jets wanted Gibbs at 15?

Michael, I’m not sure. But I’d take what DJ says on the Jets to the bank. (There was, for what it’s worth, widespread speculation among coaches and scouts that the Jets would take Jones where they took Will McDonald IV. The Gibbs thing came up for me based on the Lions’ suspicions on where he might land, before they traded back to get him at 12.)