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What Teams Do Will Anderson Jr., Bijan Robinson, and Jalen Carter Fit Most Often in Mock Drafts?



With the 2023 NFL Draft less than a month away, mock drafts are everywhere. And at Pro Football Network, our Mock Draft Simulator is always free for everyone. Every selection is tracked, giving us a fun dataset to look at for trends among players and teams. Where does Will Anderson Jr. land most often, and is the fit right? Just because a player is mocked to a team often doesn’t inherently mean it’s a good fit.

NFL Draft Landing Spots

Over the next month, we’ll dive into some players and teams that tend to find one another most often in our mock drafts.

Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.

Arizona Cardinals – 52.6%
Seattle Seahawks – 10.1%

Others listed among the favorites were the Texans (drafting a QB), Broncos (how, exactly?), Dolphins (again, how?), and the Lions (possible). But the Cardinals and Seahawks feel like the two teams vying for Will Anderson Jr.‘s services.

It’s unlikely a team gives Arizona a package to move to No. 3 that they’d take for a non-QB. Their dream would be to pick up assets from the Colts to move back one spot and still draft Anderson while also adding some necessary draft capital to rebuild their shattered roster.

MORE: Will Anderson Jr. First Non-QB Taken in Latest Mock Draft

Anderson would fit like 99% of gloves we’ve seen people put on. Jonathan Gannon would deploy Anderson exactly like he should be, and he’ll be productive immediately because he is already a professional run defender on the edge. Just look at what Gannon was able to do with Haason Reddick. Anderson spoke about a Cardinals’ pairing at the NFL Combine.

“You can see what the coach did at Philadelphia. He had his guys on the edge going,” Anderson told reporters at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s something that I really like — get on the edge and go. So I’m very excited about that.”

The Seahawks are another good fit. They already have outside linebacker types in Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor, but there’s no such thing as having too many pass rushers. Anderson fits the Seahawks about as well as he does the Cardinals because of his endless versatility.

Texas RB Bijan Robinson

Los Angeles Chargers – 18.2%
Dallas Cowboys – 15.5%
Philadelphia Eagles – 12.4%

Bijan Robinson is one of the most intriguing and talented prospects in this draft class. But simply because he plays running back, he’s also one of the most controversial.

If the free agency market is any indication, It appears the “running backs don’t matter” narrative has finally seeped into the brains of front offices. But while the NFL draft has 32 picks in the first round (31 this year, thanks to Miami), the draft doesn’t have 32 first-round-caliber players. However, it’s largely believed that Robinson is one of those few who are.

So when does the talent overtake the devaluation of the position?

Our Mock Draft Simulator suggests it’s somewhere around the Chargers’ 21st pick. While using a first-round pick on a running back is treated like riding a dog like a small horse (shoutout, E-Trade baby), is it so wrong to have a player you can almost surely count on as being good at a relatively inexpensive rate for five seasons?

It’s not easy to weigh because many will point to recent Super Bowl teams and their runners as proof that using a high draft pick on a running back is the definition of foolishness.

MORE: Texas RB Roschon Johnson Could Be Drafted Relatively High

There’s no doubt that Kellen Moore would know exactly how to use Robinson. He’d be an absolute workhorse for the Chargers. However, that always comes with the risk that he’ll wear down quickly, much like Ezekiel Elliott did for the Cowboys after three seasons. However, the Chargers have other needs that should be addressed first, most specifically adding some speed at wide receiver, and the 21st pick could accomplish that depending on how the board falls.

The wrench in all this is that Chargers RB Austin Ekeler has requested a trade after not coming to terms with the team on a contract extension. Yet, Brandon Staley is steadfast in his desire to retain Ekeler.

“We want him to be a Charger,” Staley told NFL Network. “I think that that’s something that (general manager) Tom (Telesco) has said. It’s something I’ve said. We want this guy to be a Charger. We’re also respectful of his position, and we’re gonna see where it goes.”

Speaking of the Cowboys, the Texas product certainly makes for Dallas in one area; he’ll sell a metric crapload of jerseys, in turn making the Cowboys a lot of money. Pair that with Jerry and Stephen Jones’ constant calls for running the ball as often as possible, and you have your recipe for this selection with the 26th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Trading for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks addressed the Cowboys’ two most-pressing needs.

The Philadelphia Eagles are an intriguing option. Kenneth Gainwell is still on the roster, but adding a high-level replacement after losing Miles Sanders in free agency could be a route Howie Roseman goes with two picks in Round 1. Obviously, drafting Robinson happens at 30 and not 10.

Georgia DT Jalen Carter

Detroit Lions – 17.8%
Atlanta Falcons – 17.2%
Las Vegas Raiders – 16.9%
Chicago Bears – 15.4%
Seattle Seahawks -13.2%
Philadelphia Eagles – 12.4%

On behalf of the entire NFL, I vote not to allow Jalen Carter to fall to the Eagles in the draft. A quartet of Jordan David, Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, and Carter would be tough to digest for opposing offensive lines. Replacing Javon Hargrave with Carter to extend the life of Philadelphia’s dominant defensive line to what feels like the past two decades shan’t be allowed!

The Lions would be a fun fit. Carter would get to pin his ears back a bit playing alongside Aidan Hutchinson, Alim McNeill, and a whole host of other rushers along the defensive line. It would put Carter in an advantageous situation early on where he could win with athleticism as he learns the finer points of the position from a technical perspective because he would get more favorable matchups on the interior.

The storyline in Atlanta could be cool because Carter would effectively take the mantle over from Grady Jarrett eventually. However, the Falcons paid David Onyemata and still have Jarrett, while their EDGE play is a bigger defensive weakness at this point in time.

Chicago’s entire defensive front could still use a facelift, so drafting the best available defensive lineman with the ninth pick isn’t a bad option. Between Anderson, Carter, and Tyree Wilson, one of the three should realistically be there.

Seattle is interesting because they’ve never made a huge effort to add interior pressure as part of the package from a defensive tackle perspective. Guys like Michael Bennett could do it as big edge defenders, but additions like Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed might change the calculus. What Seattle plans on the defensive interior is a mystery.

The Raiders need offensive and defensive line help like nobody’s business. But they must wrestle with the optics of drafting Carter just a few years after Henry Ruggs. If they’re comfortable with the potential backlash and PR hit they’d receive from the pick, then it makes sense.

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Finding Landing Spots for Leonard Floyd, Jadeveon Clowney, and Other Pass Rushers




The opening waves of 2023 NFL free agency felt like they happened a lifetime ago, but there’s still one position group that has starting-caliber players available on the open market: EDGE. It’s rare to see an elite pass rusher in free agency, but veteran contributors — especially those on the wrong side of 30 — often remain on the market even as the calendar approaches June.

Let’s run through the best free agent EDGEs available and identify their best landing spots as teams begin to finalize their rosters before training camp.

Best Fits for the Top Free Agent EDGEs

For whatever reason, the EDGE market didn’t pop this offseason. Charles Omenihu (Chiefs) and Samson Ebukam (Colts) paced the group with $8 million-per-year salaries. The free agents on our list should come in well below that figure.

Leonard Floyd | Los Angeles Chargers

Coaching connections often play a significant role in free agent signings, especially at this late stage of the game. Leonard Floyd already has a relationship with Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, who worked with Floyd in both of their previous stops with the Rams and Bears.

When Floyd signed with the Rams in 2020, he said, “It’s going to be great playing for (Staley) again,” noting Staley’s preparation and communication skills. Networking aside, the Chargers have a need for another pass rusher behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.

MORE: Best EDGEs in the NFL 2023

Bosa has only stayed healthy for a full campaign in two of his five NFL seasons, while Mack played 921 defensive snaps at age 31 (which Los Angeles might want to prevent next season). Chris Rumph hasn’t developed into a reliable third option, while second-round rookie Tuli Tuipulotu might profile as more of a three-technique than a pure edge rusher.

Floyd is an incredibly durable player who hasn’t missed a game since 2017 and regularly sees action on 80-90% of his team’s defensive snaps. He’d be ready to step in if the Chargers suffer an injury, but he’d also be an overqualified reserve if everyone stays healthy.

Jadeveon Clowney | Kansas City Chiefs

Jadeveon Clowney talked his way out of Cleveland this offseason, blaming the Browns coaches for failing to put him in a position to succeed. Clowney’s persona — and the fact that he’s posted three or fewer sacks in three of the last four seasons — might make it difficult for him to find a new NFL home.

But the Chiefs are used to bringing in talented malcontents. Kansas City has a veteran roster in place to handle a personality like Clowney, and they could use another edge rusher even after signing Omenihu and using back-to-back first-round picks on George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah.

Steve Spagnuolo likes to deploy pass-rushing rotations, as no Chiefs defensive end played more than 64% of the club’s snaps in 2022. Omenihu has always been a part-time player, and Anudike-Uzomah will be adjusting to life in the NFL — there’s room for a player like Clowney on Kansas City’s roster.

Justin Houston | Chicago Bears

After adding contributors at seemingly every position on their defense except EDGE, the Bears have made it known that they’re not done bringing in veteran players.

“A lot of times, these guys want to see the landscape,” head coach Matt Eberflus said in March. “Sometimes it’s after the draft. They want to see the landscape of where teams are and what they look like. That’s certainly an option. Again, we’re always trying to add players all the way through, even up to training camp. We’re always going to do that.”

MORE: Best NFL Defenses in 2023 

Eberflus was the Colts’ head coach when Indy signed Justin Houston in 2019. Given that the Bears still need defensive end help, Houston could be an option for the Bears, who didn’t use any draft capital on the EDGE and project to start Trevis Gipson and free agent acquisition DeMarcus Walker.

At age 34, Houston might prefer to land with a contender. But Chicago has the most cap space and could probably make a trek to the Windy City worth his while. Houston might not be able to convert 15 pressures into 9.5 sacks again, but he’d be a valuable veteran presence for a young Bears defense.

Frank Clark (55) celebrates a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium.
Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) celebrates a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Clark | Jacksonville Jaguars

Josh Allen ranked third among NFL edge defenders with 1,005 snaps in 2023. Travon Walker finished 16th with 897. If the Jaguars want to practice load management next season, they could stand to sign a veteran pass rusher, especially after losing Arden Key to the division-rival Titans.

Jacksonville can’t rely on former first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson, who has already had his fifth-year option and could be traded before the season gets underway. The Jaguars used a fifth-round pick on pass rusher Yasir Abdullah in April, but he’s undersized and is unlikely to make an impact in 2023.

With their sights set on more than simply winning the AFC South, Jacksonville could consider someone like Frank Clark, who was released by the Chiefs earlier this year. Clark, viewed as a leader within the Chiefs’ locker room and served as a regular tutor for Karlaftis during his rookie year, could become a mentor for Walker while providing stout run defense as a rotational player.

Yannick Ngakoue | Carolina Panthers

Now that free agent signings like Vonn Bell and Shy Tuttle are joining impact players like Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn in Carolina, the Panthers’ defense has the makings of a potential top-10 unit, especially with Ejiro Evero in place as defensive coordinator.

The most obvious hole remaining on the depth chart is at defensive end opposite Burns, where Carolina is still waiting on former second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos to deliver.

MORE: Highest-Paid EDGEs in 2023 

Yannick Ngakoue has serious issues as a run defender, and he was lucky to generate 19.5 sacks over the past two years, given that he ranked 91st and 60th in pass-rush win rate in those respective seasons, per PFF. But he’s still an NFL-caliber defensive end, and he played under Panthers head coach Frank Reich in Indianapolis.

“He’s got such good get-off. He’s explosive,” Reich said when the Colts traded for Ngakoue in March 2022. “He’s just really smart. He understands the game, he understands what offenses are trying to do. He’s good situationally, and more than that, what I’m coming to appreciate about Yannick more and more is really what a leader this guy is.”

Melvin Ingram | Washington Commanders

Although the Commanders declined Chase Young’s fifth-year option for 2024, they’re clearly hoping he has a standout year in 2023 and forces the team to regret their decision. Hope isn’t a strategy, though, and Washington needs to build more defensive end depth in the event that Young misses more time with injuries.

With Young sidelined last season, the Commanders were forced to give more than 300 snaps each to James Smith-Williams, Efe Obada, and Casey Toohill. Melvin Ingram is 34 years old, but he proved he was still capable of making the occasional splash play with the Dolphins last season. The Browns reportedly targeted Ingram before acquiring fellow pass rusher Za’Darius Smith from the Vikings earlier this month.

Kyle Van Noy | New York Giants

The Giants could use a veteran to compete with Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines for the team’s EDGE3 role behind Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari. Meanwhile, New York also needs more bodies at linebacker, where Jarrad Davis — who was bouncing on and off practice squads in 2022 — is projected to start next to free agent addition Bobby Okereke.

Why not kill two birds with one stone? Kyle Van Noy spent most of his time rushing the passer for the Chargers in 2022 after Bosa went down, but he also has plenty of reps as an off-ball linebacker with coverage responsibilities. He should come cheap (which is important for the cap-strapped Giants) and is the sort of experienced veteran that Wink Martindale likes as depth on his defense.

Dawuane Smoot | San Francisco 49ers

Let’s finish up with Smoot, who may not have the name value of the other available edge rushers but has been a quietly consistent force for the Jaguars since 2019, posting at least five sacks in all five seasons.

Smoot tore his Achilles in December, which could put his availability for Week 1 in question. But that might not matter for a contending team like the 49ers, who could stash Smoot on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for at least six weeks before inserting him into their pass-rushing equation.

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Top Fantasy Options at RB Include Christian McCaffrey, Bijan Robinson, and Saquon Barkley




The running back position can be one of the best positions to build your 2023 redraft fantasy football roster around, as the continued push for more value at receiver has made many rushers a value on draft day compared to years past. With another group of highly talented rookie rushers in the league, plus shakeups thanks to a wild offseason of moves, here are the current 2023 redraft running back rankings.

2023 Redraft Running Back Rankings

The below rankings are intended as a guide for 0.5 PPR formats. They do not take into account individual league rules and setups.

1) Christian McCaffrey | San Francisco 49ers
2) Austin Ekeler | Los Angeles Chargers
3) Jonathan Taylor | Indianapolis Colts
4) Saquon Barkley | New York Giants
5) Bijan Robinson | Atlanta Falcons
6) Josh Jacobs | Las Vegas Raiders
7) Nick Chubb | Cleveland Browns
8) Tony Pollard | Dallas Cowboys
9) Derrick Henry | Tennessee Titans
10) Rhamondre Stevenson | New England Patriots
11) Breece Hall | New York Jets
12) Travis Etienne Jr. | Jacksonville Jaguars
13) Najee Harris | Pittsburgh Steelers
14) Jahmyr Gibbs | Detroit Lions
15) Joe Mixon | Cincinnati Bengals
16) Aaron Jones | Green Bay Packers
17) Kenneth Walker III | Seattle Seahawks
18) Dalvin Cook | Minnesota Vikings
19) Miles Sanders | Carolina Panthers
20) J.K. Dobbins | Baltimore Ravens
21) Dameon Pierce | Houston Texans
22) Cam Akers | Los Angeles Rams
23) James Conner | Arizona Cardinals
24) Rachaad White | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
25) D’Andre Swift | Philadelphia Eagles

26) Javonte Williams | Denver Broncos
27) David Montgomery | Detroit Lions
28) Isiah Pacheco | Kansas City Chiefs
29) Alvin Kamara | New Orleans Saints
30) Brian Robinson Jr. | Washington Commanders
31) Jamaal Williams | New Orleans Saints
32) AJ Dillon | Green Bay Packers
33) James Cook | Buffalo Bills
34) Alexander Mattison | Minnesota Vikings
35) Zach Charbonnet | Seattle Seahawks
36) Khalil Herbert | Chicago Bears
37) Rashaad Penny | Philadelphia Eagles
38) Samaje Perine | Denver Broncos
39) Damien Harris | Buffalo Bills
40) Antonio Gibson | Washington Commanders
41) Elijah Mitchell | San Francisco 49ers
42) Tyler Allgeier | Atlanta Falcons
43) Jerick McKinnon | Kansas City Chiefs
44) Jeff Wilson Jr. | Miami Dolphins
45) Devin Singletary | Houston Texans
46) Raheem Mostert | Miami Dolphins
47) Devon Achane | Miami Dolphins
48) Roschon Johnson | Chicago Bears
49) Kenneth Gainwell | Philadelphia Eagles
50) Jaylen Warren | Pittsburgh Steelers

MORE: Fantasy Draft Strategy | Fantasy Scoring

51) Ezekiel Elliott | FA
52) Cordarrelle Patterson | Atlanta Falcons
53) Leonard Fournette | FA
54) Kendre Miller | New Orleans Saints
55) Chuba Hubbard | Carolina Panthers
56) Clyde Edwards-Helaire | Kansas City Chiefs
57) Michael Carter | New York Jets
58) Gus Edwards | Baltimore Ravens
59) D’Onta Foreman | Chicago Bears
60) Kareem Hunt | FA
61) Zamir White | Las Vegas Raiders
62) Chase Edmonds | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
63) Pierre Strong Jr. | New England Patriots
64) Joshua Kelley | Los Angeles Chargers
65) Jerome Ford | Cleveland Browns
66) Tank Bigsby | Jacksonville Jaguars
67) Isaiah Spiller | Los Angeles Chargers
68) Zonovan Knight | New York Jets
69) James Robinson | New England Patriots
70) D’Ernest Johnson | Jacksonville Jaguars
71) Zach Evans | Los Angeles Rams
72) Tyjae Spears | Tennessee Titans
73) Boston Scott | Philadelphia Eagles
74) Nyheim Hines | Buffalo Bills
75) Evan Hull | Indianapolis Colts

76) Kyren Williams | Los Angeles Rams
77) JaMycal Hasty | Jacksonville Jaguars
78) Israel Abanikanda | New York Jets
79) Jordan Mason | San Francisco 49ers
80) Chase Brown | Cincinnati Bengals
81) Ronald Jones II | Dallas Cowboys
82) Latavius Murray | Buffalo Bills
83) Matt Breida | New York Giants
84) Hassan Haskins | Tennessee Titans
85) Tyrion Davis-Price | San Francisco 49ers
86) Zack Moss | Indianapolis Colts
87) Chris Evans | Cincinnati Bengals
88) Sean Tucker | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
89) DeWayne McBride | Minnesota Vikings
90) Eno Benjamin | New Orleans Saints
91) J.D. McKissic | FA
92) Salvon Ahmed | Miami Dolphins
93) Melvin Gordon III | FA
94) Kenyan Drake | FA
95) Darrell Henderson Jr. | FA
96) Deuce Vaughn | Dallas Cowboys
97) DeeJay Dallas | Seattle Seahawks
98) Dontrell Hilliard | FA
99) Myles Gaskin | Miami Dolphins
100) Justin Jackson | FA

fantasy rankings

101) Eric Gray | New York Giants
102) Darrel Williams | FA
103) Kenny McIntosh | Seattle Seahawks
104) Keaontay Ingram | Arizona Cardinals
105) Ty Johnson | FA
106) Marlon Mack | FA
107) Malik Davis | Dallas Cowboys
108) Mark Ingram II | FA
109) Deon Jackson | Indianapolis Colts
110) Ty Chandler | Minnesota Vikings
111) Ameer Abdullah | Las Vegas Raiders
112) Rex Burkhead | FA
113) Kevin Harris | New England Patriots
114) Trayveon Williams | Cincinnati Bengals
115) Trestan Ebner | Chicago Bears
116) Mohamed Ibrahim | Detroit Lions
117) Trey Sermon | Philadelphia Eagles
118) Caleb Huntley | Atlanta Falcons
119) Chris Rodriguez Jr. | Washington Commanders
120) Craig Reynolds | Detroit Lions
121) Kene Nwangwu | Minnesota Vikings
122) Ke’Shawn Vaughn | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
123) Rico Dowdle | Dallas Cowboys
124) Tiyon Evans | Los Angeles Rams
125) Mike Boone | Houston Texans

126) Raheem Blackshear | Carolina Panthers
127) Travis Homer | Chicago Bears
128) Justice Hill | Baltimore Ravens
129) Sony Michel | FA
130) Tyler Badie | Denver Broncos
131) Keaton Mitchell | Baltimore Ravens
132) Snoop Conner | Jacksonville Jaguars
133) Malcolm Brown | FA
134) Brandon Bolden | Las Vegas Raiders
135) Julius Chestnut | Tennessee Titans
136) Avery Williams | Atlanta Falcons
137) Kyle Juszczyk | San Francisco 49ers
138) Royce Freeman | FA
139) Patrick Ricard | Baltimore Ravens
140) Zander Horvath | Los Angeles Chargers
141) Jonathan Williams | Washington Commanders
142) Tevin Coleman | FA
143) Ty Montgomery | New England Patriots
144) Mike Davis | FA
145) Damien Williams | FA
146) Gary Brightwell | New York Giants
147) Corey Clement | Arizona Cardinals
148) Tyler Goodson | Green Bay Packers
149) Reggie Gilliam | Buffalo Bills
150) C.J. Ham | Minnesota Vikings

Who Are the Best RBs To Draft in 2023 Redraft Leagues?

Despite everyone saying running backs don’t matter, they, in fact, do matter quite a bit for fantasy. While they are just one component of a roster, nailing the running back selections for your team will place you in a much better position than those who fade the position and roll the dice with mid-RB3s who might have some upside but lack a consistent floor or ceiling.

You likely don’t need to tell you that drafting Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, or even Bijan Robinson is a good idea. But I would say to be aggressive with Detroit Lions RB Jahmyr Gibbs.

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He landed in an ideal spot and fills the role left by D’Andre Swift, and while Swift did disappoint overall, he was third in points per opportunity with a 70-target season despite Jamaal Williams breaking Barry Sanders’ rushing TD record with 17.

David Montgomery isn’t going to do that. Gibbs is not just a better prospect than Swift but is the best receiving back we have seen since the 2017 class and has a top-six upside if things break right.

At 214 pounds with sub-4.5 speed and receiving versatility, Buccaneers RB Rachaad White has lead-back upside, and we saw this start last season.

In Weeks 10-17, White averaged 15 touches and over 70 yards per game, which would be a 17-game pace of over 1,200 yards on 275 touches, with over 70 coming in the passing game while playing on 49% of the snaps. If he even sniffs that volume level, White could close in on high-end RB2 status in 2023.

Bank on a bounceback from Najee Harris in 2023 as well. Between Weeks 1-8, Harris was the RB23 and 29th in points per game at 10.9 (PPR). But we also have to remember that Harris was dealing with a Lisfranc injury he sustained during training camp.

Yet, Harris finished the season much stronger, and it seemed to go a bit under the radar. From Weeks 10-17, Harris was the RB8 overall and ninth in points per game with 15.3 (PPR). He was tied for second in rushing attempts (141) and averaged 20.6 opportunities.

Add in Week 18, and Harris averaged 20 opportunities, 87.8 rushing yards, and 0.8 touchdowns per game. He also sat 14th in routes run while recording 20+ carries in five of his last eight games.

As for mid-round value or later picks to target in fantasy football RB rankings, keep an eye on James Conner, Alexander Mattison, Zach Charbonnet, Devon Achane, Roschon Johnson, Jaylen Warren, Samaje Perine, Tank Bigsby, and Pierre Strong Jr.

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Analyzing the Browns’ Best and Worst-Case 2023 Season Scenarios




The Cleveland Browns have an extraordinary ceiling, given who they have at quarterback and how they’ve constructed their roster. They are, however, third in the odds to win the AFC North, just barely ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Browns’ NFL predictions for 2023 don’t look optimistic.

But Cleveland does have several outcomes ahead of them that could change the tenor of their season and head coach Kevin Stefanski, who may not get a third QB to work with if Deshaun Watson doesn’t work out.

If all goes according to plan, the Browns could have an elite offense and elite defense. They have the pieces in place on both sides of the ball to make a deep run and shock the AFC. Now that the Browns have overcome the hurdle of winning a playoff game in their recent history, they need to do more to build on it. And they can.

Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Cleveland Browns’ 2023 NFL Season

The Browns need many things to go right for them in the division, not just on their team, in order to see the ideal scenario evolve for them in a competitive AFC. Cleveland would benefit from a limited development curve for Kenny Pickett in Pittsburgh but will probably need more help from Baltimore and Cincinnati in order to win the division and set up favorable seeding in the playoffs.

On Cincinnati’s side, seeing the losses at safety and cornerback could mean a drop-off in their passing defense, while the Bengals could see pressure get to Joe Burrow despite investments along the offensive line. For the Ravens, another inconsistent Lamar Jackson season, driven by slow development at receiver, would help — especially because Baltimore’s defense doesn’t look to be what it once was.

But in order for those things to matter at all, the Browns need to be a better team. The primary issue is at quarterback, where they could see Watson return to his MVP-level play. In Houston, before his battle with the team and subsequent sexual misconduct allegations from over two dozen women, Watson was electric.

Last year, he looked rusty last year, and bridge quarterback Jacoby Brissett outperformed him on the field. But if he’s shaken off that rust, Watson could be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

MORE: Cleveland Browns Season Preview 2023

There’s explosive potential with Cleveland’s offense. Amari Cooper can turn in big plays consistently, and both Marquise Goodwin and Donovan Peoples-Jones have the athleticism to be a deep threat.

What will really make an offense like that effective, however, would be a high floor with consistent players. Elijah Moore can provide that from the slot, and rookie Cedric Tillman has the size and speed to be explosive with the capability to win underneath. David Bell, a third-round pick from last year, could also be a possession option.

If half of Cleveland’s receiving corps takes a step forward in their development, they could have an extremely well-rounded cast. Add in Nick Chubb, perhaps the best pure runner in the NFL, and the Browns could attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways.

Their offensive line underperformed last year, but there were moments when this core group was one of the best in the NFL. If they reached the heights that they had before, they could make for one of the most potent NFL offenses.

On defense, the Browns have upgraded their pass rush, pairing Myles Garrett with Za’Darius Smith. Smith was efficient last year, and he could do it again, giving Cleveland a great foundation to build their defense around. They’ve shored up the middle with Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency and Siaki Ika in the draft, which could turn that DT group from a weakness into a strength.

nfl predictions
Jan 8, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) releases the ball as he is hit by Cleveland Browns dfensive end Myles Garrett (95) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

And though returning Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah back from injury will be big, the most important thing will be making sure that their young secondary can be consistent. Martin Emerson turned in a surprising and underrated performance as a rookie corner last year, and the Browns have seen some excellent years from Denzel Ward, who didn’t live up to that last year but could under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

At nickel, Greg Newsome, who’s been promising but hasn’t improved substantially since entering the league, could round out the defense. On top of that, a leap forward in development from Grant Delpit could mean an elite defense.

MORE: Where Does the Browns’ Defense Rank in 2023 Rankings?

In any instance, the pass rush should make the coverage look better. That should mean, in the best-case scenario, a top-eight NFL defense and a top-five NFL offense for Cleveland.

Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Browns’ 2023 Season

In the worst-case scenario, the Browns will see the division return to its heyday and compete to fill all the Wild Card spots in the playoffs. The Bengals and Ravens both have quarterbacks with MVP-quality seasons and, more recently than Watson, too.

The investments that Cincinnati has made on the offensive line and the Ravens have made at receiver have a good chance of working out. If Baltimore generates a multidimensional offense, they’ll have more threats available to them than Cleveland will, regardless of Watson’s return to form. The Bengals may not have as many ways to attack offenses, but if they stay on track, they have more explosive potential.

All that could occur while Pittsburgh quietly improves in the background. It’s difficult to bet against Mike Tomlin, and improvement for Pickett and WR George Pickens could make the offense threatening. A pass rush with T.J. Watt will also always be difficult to discount. If the Steelers get more out of their secondary than just what Minkah Fitzpatrick can provide, they’ll also be tough to score on.

But the worst-case scenario for the Browns would mean that their own roster fails to meet their standards. Watson hasn’t played well in the NFL since 2020, and his 2022 play was alarmingly bad — ranking 31st in adjusted net yards per attempt, right behind the quarterback he replaced: Baker Mayfield.

It’s entirely possible that Cleveland’s receiving corps might be carried solely by Cooper. There are no promises guaranteed for rookies, especially third-round rookies. Moore, Peoples-Jones, and Bell have all been inconsistent enough that it’s tough to rely on them to consistently produce.

MORE: 2023 NFL Schedule

It also could be the case that Smith, who is 30 years old, fails to capture his performance from last year while injuries and age catch up to him. If the Browns don’t have the development they need from their young secondary, they could see themselves gashed time and again while Garrett’s effective pass rush gets wasted on every third down.

In the end, outcomes will be driven by Watson himself. Should he perform like he did last year, the Browns will get to pick pretty high in the draft, which should be pretty valuable for their next head coach.

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