Tennessee Titans mock draft 4.0: Titans trade up for a QB, but not where everyone expects

The reports keep swirling and the Tennessee Titans keep finding themselves in the middle of the cyclone.

The 2023 NFL Draft is less than three weeks away, beginning with the first round on April 27. The Titans own the No. 11 pick, but the team has been the subject of speculation about trading up into the top 10 to pick a quarterback. Making such a trade would require the Titans to give away a gigantic ransom of picks and players, probably more than the team can afford to lose and still compete in 2023.

But let’s imagine a reality where the Titans do make the move up. What will they have to give away, how far will they be able to move up and will the trade be worth it?

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Here’s the Tennessean’s fourth mock draft for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Table of Contents

No. 1: Carolina Panthers pick Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

There goes one quarterback off the board. The Panthers pick Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud over Alabama’s Bryce Young on physical profile, hoping Stroud’s size and accuracy end up more valuable than Young’s poise and elusiveness.

No. 2: Houston Texans pick Alabama QB Bryce Young

There goes a second quarterback. The Texans build around Young, leaning on his instinctive and dynamic style to retool their offense.

The Arizona Cardinals hold the highest-leverage pick in the draft. Every quarterback-hungry team will be calling to make sure they get one of the two top passers left. The Titans try here, as do at least six other teams. But the Indianapolis Colts are the most desperate here, giving up three picks this year and a mid-round pick in 2024 to get their guy.

No. 3: Indianapolis Colts pick Kentucky QB Will Levis

That’s three. New Colts coach Shane Steichen rose up the ranks by coaching quarterbacks like Phillip Rivers and Justin Herbert. The Colts buy high on Will Levis’ upside, hoping his physical traits translate into a dynamic identity.

No. 4: Arizona Cardinals pick Alabama OLB Will Anderson

Quarterback or not, Alabama’s Will Anderson is the best prospect in this class. The Cardinal’ pass rush gets a huge boost with a player who’s drawn comparisons to outside linebackers such as Von Miller and Demarcus Ware.

No. 5: Seattle Seahawks pick Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez

Picking a QB is tempting, but the Seahawks instead opt for Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, the top defensive back on the board, pairing him with 2022 Pro Bowl rookie Tariq Woolen to ensure a dominant secondary for years to come.

Projected trade: Titans move up just far enough

The Detroit Lions have plenty of options to consider at No. 6. The most notable is Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, a potential All-Pro force on the interior. But there’s plenty of depth at defensive line in this draft. The Lions, who already have another first-round pick, can move back to No. 11 and grab defensive linemen in two places while adding extra picks. The Titans will have to give up multiple first-round picks and multiple second- and third-rounders to make this happen, but they deem it worth it.

No. 6: Tennessee Titans pick Florida QB Anthony Richardson

The Titans leapfrog the Las Vegas Raiders to get the fourth top-tier quarterback in the class. There are serious questions about Anthony Richardson’s subpar production at Florida, but he has one-of-a-kind athletic skills as a runner and thrower. The Titans let Richardson learn for a year behind Ryan Tannehill and try to harness those skills to build one of the most unique offenses pro football has ever seen in 2024 and beyond.

No. 7: Las Vegas Raiders pick Texas Tech DE/OLB Tyree Wilson

With all the quarterbacks gone, the Raiders settle for the consolation prize of wrecking ball pass rusher Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech. He menaced quarterbacks all last season and provides a jolt for the Raiders’ defense as Maxx Crosby‘s wingman off the edge.

Projected trade: The Cowboys move way, way up

The Atlanta Falcons have plenty of needs they can address at No. 8, but the Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to let a generational talent fall further than No. 8. The Falcons get two first-round picks and two second-round picks to keep building their roster and the Cowboys stay in win-now mode by getting one of the draft’s best prospects.

No. 8: Dallas Cowboys pick Georgia DT Jalen Carter

Jalen Carter’s legal issues stemming from his alleged involvement in a fatal car crash in January drop the Georgia defensive tackle a few spots. But he’s still a dominant talent teams are going to covet, and the Cowboys take the gamble on moving up to get a player who just a few months ago was in talks to be picked No. 1 overall.

No. 9: Chicago Bears pick Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.

The Bears would’ve been content to take Wilson or Carter if they fell to No. 9, but instead they snag the top offensive tackle in the class with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., a stalwart who’ll protect QB Justin Fields for years to come.

Call it a luxury pick all you want, but the Eagles can afford a little luxury. Bijan Robinson is a star running back in waiting. Pairing him with QB Jalen Hurts and receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith gives the Eagles a good argument for best offense anywhere.

No. 11: Detroit Lions pick Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness

With last year’s No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson starring on the outside, Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness comes in as Hutchinson’s bookend. The Lions’ rotation looks nastier by the minute.

No. 12: Houston Texans pick Georgia OLB Nolan Smith

The Texans already have their quarterback, now they go out and get an edge rusher to go after opposing quarterbacks. Georgia’s Nolan Smith is the most athletic pass rusher in the class and he’ll use his freaky athletic talents to overcome his smaller stature.

No. 13: New York Jets pick Northwestern OL Peter Skoronski

The Jets are drafting for need and value here, rebuilding their struggling offensive line with Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, the draft’s best technician up front and ready to play guard or tackle as needed.

No. 14: New England Patriots pick Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon

This might end up being the steal of the draft. Devon Witherspoon of Illinois was the stingiest cover corner in college football last season and he’s a plug-and-play starter for Bill Belichick’s defense in a division getting ready to face Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers six times a year.

No. 15: Green Bay Packers pick Georgia TE Darnell Washington

In a deep, middle-heavy class of receivers and tight ends, maybe it’s crazy to make Georgia’s Darnell Washington the first pass catcher of the board. But when your team can add a 6-foot-7, 267-pound behemoth who blocks like a tackle and attacks the open field like a running back, you jump at the chance.

No. 16: Washington Commanders pick Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.

He might be a tier below Witherspoon and Gonzalez, but Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., is still a cornerback with NFL bloodlines, elite traits and fantastic production in a power college conference. Paired with Kendall Fuller in Washington‘s secondary, he has a chance to thrive.

No. 17: Pittsburgh Steelers pick Georgia OT Broderick Jones

Broderick Jones only has one year of college tape, but what a year it was. He didn’t allow a sack in 15 games, all wins, and helped lead Georgia to a national championship. He brings that pedigree with him to Pittsburgh where he continues to develop.

No. 18: Detroit Lions pick Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey

Let the Lions’ stockpiling of defensive linemen continue. Calijah Kancey of Pitt is an athletic marvel who is a handful as an interior pass rusher. The Lions create one of the most dominant units possible through draft-day maneuvering.

Projected trade: The champs move up to fortify their front

The Kansas City Chiefs don’t have many holes, but they stay aggressive to preserve their championship-favorite bona fides. They send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the No. 31 pick and three Day 2 picks over the next two years to move up 12 spots.

No. 19: Kansas City Chiefs pick Tennessee OL Darnell Wright

Maybe he’s a right tackle. Maybe he’s a guard. Maybe he develops into a true blindside protector. Whatever he profiles as, Darnell Wright is a starting-caliber NFL lineman, and he joins fellow Tennessee product Trey Smith in front of Patrick Mahomes.

No. 20: Seattle Seahawks pick Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Finally, a wide receiver comes off the board. The Seahawks bring in Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and his top-shelf agility and shiftiness to line up with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in an offense that’s only getting better.

No. 21: Los Angeles Chargers pick Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

As if Justin Herbert didn’t have enough toys to play with in the passing game. Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer helps the Chargers’ run game as a fantastic in-line blocker and gives Herbert some relief over the middle as an old-school seam-running tight end.

Projected trade: There goes DeAndre Hopkins

The Cardinals trade their way back into the first round, giving up All Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins in exchange for the No. 22 pick. The receiver-needy Baltimore Ravens are more than comfortable making this deal.

No. 22: Arizona Cardinals pick Clemson DE/OLB Myles Murphy

You already have Will Anderson, now you grab another paradigm-shifting edge defender in Clemson’s Myles Murphy. It’ll be a race to the quarterback every pass play with these two in the fold, just the way new Cardinals coach and former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon likes it.

No. 23: Minnesota Vikings pick TCU WR Quentin Johnston

There isn’t a receiver alive who’s going to draw attention away from Justin Jefferson, but that doesn’t stop the Vikings from trying to find one. TCU’s Quentin Johnston is the draft’s most prototypical receiver, and what he lacks in polish, he more than makes up for in big-play potential.

No. 24: Jacksonville Jaguars pick Florida OL O’Cyrus Torrence

The Jaguars love drafting players from in-state colleges in the first round. In the grand tradition of C.J. Henderson (2020), Taven Bryan (2018), Jalen Ramsey (2016), Dante Fowler (2015) and Blake Bortles (2014) in the last decade alone, the Jags snag Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence, the draft’s premier interior offensive lineman.

No. 25: New York Giants pick Boston College WR Zay Flowers

The Giants reloaded their receiver room in the offseason, but there’s always room for more tinkering. Boston College’s Zay Flowers is one of the smallest receivers in the class, but he’s got a knack for getting open and will help the Giants stretch the field horizontally and vertically.

No. 26: Atlanta Falcons pick Maryland CB Deonte Banks

The Falcons could’ve picked someone like Witherspoon or Porter earlier, but they pick up an extra handful of picks by falling back half the round and still grab a starting corner. Maryland’s Deonte Banks might not dominate as quickly as the other corners who’ve come off the board, but his potential is unreal and he helps the Falcons as soon as he arrives.

No. 27: Buffalo Bills pick Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Not much to explain here. Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs is as valuable as a receiver out of the backfield as he is as a runner between the tackles. He boosts what the Bills’ offense can do, enhancing an already-scary unit.

No. 28: Cincinnati Bengals pick Utah TE Dalton Kincaid

Maybe the Bengals reach for a lineman like Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison here. But if Utah’s Dalton Kincaid makes it to 28, the Bengals have no reason to pass him up. Give QB Joe Burrow a tight end to carve the middle of the field with and create even more space for those electric receivers.

No. 29: New Orleans Saints pick Clemson DT Bryan Bresee

This pick could just as easily be Michigan DT Mazi Smith, but the Saints take the player with the higher pedigree, nabbing Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, the nation’s former No. 1 recruit out of high school, to anchor the middle of their defensive line.

No. 30: Philadelphia Eagles pick South Carolina CB Cam Smith

What does a team that has everything need? Why not another cornerback? South Carolina’s Cam Smith regressed a little in 2022, but his 2021 tape is excellent, and established him as one of the best cover corners in a an SEC loaded with talent.

No. 31: Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker

The Bucs stockpile picks after their trade with the Chiefs and still get a chance to pick a first-round quarterback. Hendon Hooker of Tennessee is a bit of a risk because of his age and injury history. But he played as well as any quarterback in college football last year, and Tampa bets on that skill even if he’s limited by his ACL leading up to his rookie year.

Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at [email protected]. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans mock draft 4.0: Titans trade up for QB, but not No. 3

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