As it stands a month out from the 2023 NFL draft, five teams are set to skip the first round, all having traded away their top selections. That means the Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers need to nail their picks on Day 2.
More teams could join these five by making trades over the next few weeks and throughout draft night — we had nine on Day 1 last April) — and interestingly enough, none of these teams picked in Round 1 last year, either.
How could each of these franchises without a first-round pick still make improvements in this draft? We asked the NFL Nation reporter for each team to outline top draft needs, then went to NFL draft analyst Steve Muench for his thoughts on a prospect who might be available when those teams make their first selections. (Teams are listed in order of their first pick.)
Jump to a team:
LAR | MIA | DEN | CLE | SF
Where’s their first-round pick? The Rams traded their first-rounder to the Lions in 2021 as part of the package to land quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Top picks: Nos. 36, 69, 77
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, cornerback and safety. The Rams have lost starters at all three levels of the defense this offseason, including linebacker Bobby Wagner, pass-rusher Leonard Floyd, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, safety Nick Scott and defensive tackle Greg Gaines. They haven’t made any additions on the defensive side of the ball — although there is still time in the later stages of free agency — and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a focus there during the draft.
The Rams’ defense ranked 24th in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA, 12th in rush DVOA and 31st in ESPN’s Football Power Index defensive efficiency metric last season. With the release of Floyd, Los Angeles doesn’t really have much help rushing the passer on this roster outside of defensive tackle Aaron Donald. — Sarah Barshop
Best prospect fit at No. 36: Will McDonald IV, DE, Iowa. He would be a great replacement for Floyd at outside linebacker and give the Rams’ pass rush that much-needed boost. McDonald has the length, initial quickness, footspeed and closing burst to get after the quarterback, recording 34 sacks over his five-year career at Iowa State. Plus, he has experience lining up in a two-point stance, and he’s strong enough to set the edge even though he’s on the leaner side (6-foot-4, 239 pounds). McDonald has a late-Round 1 grade, but he could easily be there at pick No. 36 for the Rams. — Muench
Where’s their first-round pick? The Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick for tampering violations.
Top picks: Nos. 51, 84, 197
Biggest needs: Guard, tight end and running back. Miami traded for defensive back Jalen Ramsey and signed linebacker David Long Jr. to boost the defense, but there are still holes on offense. The Dolphins brought in offensive lineman Dan Feeney, but he isn’t a long-term option. They still believe Liam Eichenberg will blossom into their left guard of the future, but he spent most of last season injured. And tight end Eric Saubert joins a tight ends room with Durham Smythe and Tanner Conner, after the team traded Hunter Long and allowed Mike Gesicki to leave in free agency. None of those players have produced much, meaning Miami could look to find a pass-game threat at the position.
Finally, the Dolphins re-signed last season’s running back room, spearheaded by Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., but that offseason activity should not deter them from drafting a running back. Both Mostert and Wilson have injury histories, so it would be smart to have another back capable of slotting in when needed. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Best prospect fit at No. 51: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State. Taking Musgrave this early is a bit of a risk considering he sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the 2022 season and his pedestrian production at Oregon State, but it’s a risk that could pay off in a big way. He has the speed to stretch the field and the burst to make plays after the catch, and his route running stood out during Senior Bowl week. Musgrave tested OK at the combine and represents an upgrade over Gesicki as a blocker. At 6-foot-6 and 253 pounds, Musgrave has impressive physical traits. — Muench
Where’s their first-round pick? The Broncos traded their first-rounder to the Seahawks last March as part of the package to land quarterback Russell Wilson.
Top picks: Nos. 67, 68, 108
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback and running back. Despite swinging a big checkbook around in free agency to acquire offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers, the Broncos still need additional depth on the offensive line. That’s especially true at tackle, where Calvin Anderson, Cameron Fleming and Billy Turner were not retained. The Broncos allowed a league-high 63 sacks in 2022, too. They could also use some help at cornerback and running back, as well as depth off the edge.
Denver has missed the playoffs for seven consecutive years and made four coaching changes since January 2017, so it’s not a huge surprise that its depth chart is patchy. — Jeff Legwold
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Best prospect fit at No. 67: Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse. He started 31 games at left tackle and eight games at right tackle at Syracuse, and he would give the Broncos a No. 3 swing tackle to bolster depth on both sides. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, with 33¾-inch arms, Bergeron might even be a better fit at guard. He lined up there at times during Senior Bowl week, and he has the potential to develop into a starter at that position — and maybe replace Dalton Risner — before turning into a starting tackle down the road. And Bergeron — who is quick off the ball in pass pro and takes good angles in the run game — comes at solid value at this point in the draft. — Muench
Where’s their first-round pick? The Browns traded their first-rounder to the Texans last March as part of the package to land quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Top picks: Nos. 74, 98, 111
Biggest needs: Linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle. Cleveland signed a trio of likely starters in defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and safety Juan Thornhill, but it could still use a couple more defensive linemen and perhaps another veteran at linebacker. Cleveland was 25th in run defense (4.7 yards allowed per carry) and 23rd in defensive expected points added (minus-34.6) last season.
Wide receiver would have made this list, but the Browns made some upgrades in their speed at the position in trading for Elijah Moore and signing Marquise Goodwin. Those two will join Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones to build out the unit. — Jake Trotter
Best prospect fit at No. 74: YaYa Diaby, DE, Louisville. You can’t have enough pass-rushers. Diaby is coming off a breakout season and tested well at the combine, running a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and leaping 10 feet in the broad jump at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds. He’s at his best pass-rushing between the tackles, as his first-step quickness and good length give interior offensive linemen problems. But he’s just scratching the surface in terms of his ability to get after the quarterback, and I think Diaby has the potential to develop into a starter on the outside. — Muench
Where’s their first-round pick? The 49ers traded their first-round to the Dolphins in 2021 as part of the package to move up in the 2021 draft and select quarterback Trey Lance. The pick has since been traded to the Broncos and Saints.
Top picks: Nos. 99, 101, 102
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, edge rusher and kicker. The 49ers said goodbye to Mike McGlinchey, who signed a massive contract with the Broncos, and though Colton McKivitz is the top in-house option to replace him at offensive tackle, the Niners could use depth there. They could bring in at least one more contributor at tackle. And the Niners should always be considered a candidate to invest heavily on the defensive line, especially off the edge. Though they have high hopes for Drake Jackson — last year’s second-round pick — they could use more depth and competition at a position they greatly value.
At kicker, the Niners traded for veteran Zane Gonzalez, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look for competition. Gonzalez is coming off a significant groin injury that kept him out the entire 2022 season and is entering the final year of his contract. — Nick Wagoner
Best prospect fit at No. 99: Andre Carter II, OLB, Army. Finding a tackle the 49ers can confidently expect to compete for the spot vacated by McGlinchey this late in the draft isn’t in the cards. But while they recently bolstered their depth at edge by signing Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell, they shouldn’t be done there. Carter is coming off a disappointing 2022 season (3.5 sacks) and didn’t stand out much in pre-draft events, but only Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. had more sacks in 2021 than his 15.5. He doesn’t have elite get-off speed, but he’s quick and bends well enough to win with speed. At 6-foot-7 and 256 pounds, Carter had early first-round projections based off the 2021 tape, and if he’s able to regain his form, he’d be a steal at this point in the draft. — Muench