if Deshaun Watson plays the way he played last year, then that's going to be the worst team in the division. 

2023 NFL Draft Reactions & Takeaways 

Which team overall had the best draft? 

Mitchell Schwartz: So, good question. I mean, I think the Bears are maybe getting overlooked a little bit just because that trade happened a month or two ago and we kind of lose sight that they got a lot of value. They're got a really good receiver. They're able to, you know, stay in or get to number nine and traded down with Philly one pick and picked up a little more draft capital and still picked a pretty good player at 10. So, I think Chicago did a good job. Most of the smart people say, as long as you can trade down, you can accumulate more picks and Chicago was in that perfect opportunity to do it. And when you look back and you think, “oh, maybe they could have held on to the number one pick and waited for something else to materialize,”

People were talking about, “oh, maybe trade with Houston at two and then being able to trade back from two.” And never did it really seem like that number two pick market would kind of bear it out the way we thought it would. And Houston was rumored to want to trade down but ended up trading up to three to get Brian Anderson. But I think Chicago was smart to kind of do that trade when they did and they got a lot of value. And then did another trade and were able to pick up some more picks. And I think I would look at them.

I still think Carolina, as much as they gave up, they got the best player in the draft in my opinion, Bryce young. We talked last time about, you know? Him being that outlier in terms of the physical stature and the height/weight and all that, but still thinking he is heck of a player playing in the SEC against some big dudes who are getting drafted in the first round alongside him. And I think he only missed one game in his career. So he's been able to be durable so far. You know, a lot of people are talking about Philly being able to get Jalen Carter who ‘drops a bit’ from maybe top three/top five to that nine spot where Philly went up and took him. And Nolan Smith as well getting him at 30. Not having to come up and do it. You know, I push back on that a little bit. I think if you have two guys who a team says did a great job of waiting to let the board come to them and drafting them, I would say “why did they get to those spots?”

Yeah, I think we go a little bit overboard with falling in love with certain players in the draft process. And we see all these mock drafts and all these boards and Jalen Carter's the number one defensive talent on the draft, and Nolan Smith’s probably in the teens on most people's boards. And they get picked at 9 and 30. And the question is ‘Why?’. And everyone's saying Philly had an amazing first round and this and that. And I'd say maybe they didn't necessarily get the greatest value out of taking guys who are slipping. So Philly is a common one that we see in terms of the best pics and I would say I’m a little more lukewarm on them than maybe everybody else is.

What was the biggest surprise of the draft?

Mitchell Schwartz: The Gibbs pick is a bit surprising. To see him get taken at 12, and he even admitted as much after the pick. He was kind of getting ready to get picked in that 20 to 31 range where most of the top running backs that aren't seen as transcendent guys quite like Bijon was tend to get picked. Just understanding the value of that position and being able to draft guys were “more premium” in terms of the edge rushers and the Offensive Tackles and QBs and receivers and even corners a bit in that first round are the value picks. So, I do think seeing that second running back at number 12 was a surprise. I don't think if we left the draft and we said two guys were picked in the first round, most people would say, “Yeah, that makes sense based on when the top 15 and Gibbs probably going in the late 20s.” But if we say two running backs were picked it 8 and 12 and one of those is Gibbs. You know, I think that's where the shock and the surprise tends to come out a little bit more.

But you know, there's two sides to every coin. If you look at him as a pure running back then you could say, “yeah, maybe Lions reached a little bit for that.” If you look at him as someone who might get played in one of those roles where you're getting jet sweeps, you're getting thrown the ball in the passing game, you're maybe a little bit more. You know, the McCaffrey in San Francisco mold where team was really creative. And Detroit's offense last year was awesome. They were super creative and they're able to do a lot with a really good offensive line with Goff, who's shown he can play some good football when all the pieces are right around him. You know, they got St. Brown at receiver and some other guys. So if you look at him as one of these positionless weapon guys where maybe he's able to play some running back and he's able to play some receiver. I don't think you'd look quite as harshly on him as the 12th overall pick. But because he is running back at the end of the day, and he's probably going to get 15 carries, it's seen as kind of a negative pick.

But I would say honestly, I mean, Houston taking Stroud. I was surprised by this just because you didn't see that quite as much. We heard a lot about “Well it’s Will Anderson. And it's maybe Tyree, Wilson, it's potentially trading back. It's Will Levis.” Levis got to like even odds to be the number two overall pick and all of a sudden, they take Stroud. It was the guy that most people thought they should have taken in that spot. And then right after that, they trade back up and they draft Will Anderson, give up a lot to go do that. And so I was pretty surprised by picks two and three.

And I love football, I love watching all the stuff. I love watching the coverage of it. And everyone kind of says like “this is my mock draft, this is what I think's going to happen.” But pick two could throw that all out the window. You know, depending on what Houston does. So they kind of threw a lot of that out the window. They took the quarterback and not the one everyone thought given the rumors, and then they traded up and took the defensive player everyone did think they would take. So I think that was kind of the jumping off point for a frenzy. A frantic wild first round. And so it was it was really fun from there.

Which rookie quarterback is in the best situation to succeed right away? Long term? 

Mitchell Schwartz: I do like the Stroud pick. You look at that offensive coordinator that comes from San Francisco. And obviously Kyle Shanahan is kind of a genius. But they brought in Griese the last year as the quarterbacks coach, San Francisco did. And so I think it's Slowik is able to kind of watch and learn from Kyle for a few years, is able to see Griese turn you know, Mr. Relevant Brock Purdy into this 10-game-in-a-row-winner or whatever it was. So you're able to absorb all these different things, you have an offense that historically has been a little bit easier on the quarterback.

And then you've got Stroud who has played at a high level in college and played in a lot of big games. So it's a pretty good marriage of scheme coordinator who's been around some other guys, has developed some guys himself, and also the quarterback being a good player in college. I do like Love. I mean, honestly, all three of these guys fell into really good spots because you look at Frank Reich and he's kind of a noted quarterback developer and guru. And even as much as we want to make fun with the Carson Wentz pick, like he had a pretty good season with the Colts in terms of what his other seasons looked like.

And so you look at the Washington year, you look at the film a year before, and the Indy one stands out as the outlier, the three years. That was the year he got to work with Reich. So I think that's a good marriage and Reich likes to run the RPO as he likes to do a lot of the stuff Bryce Young was good at running in Alabama. So I think that's going to be a really smart and impactful marriage. And then Richardson again, goes to Indy. Steichen, who just developed Jalen Hurts and created this beautiful offense around him. And obviously Sirianni is part of that as well. So in a lot of ways, this is almost the most optimistic I've been about the three quarterbacks going in the top four picks in a while because there's no like “yeah, this team is bad and the coordinators bad and they don't really have a plan to develop him”.

You're able to get into three different spots with guys who have proven that they've been around and/or developed quarterbacks at multiple locations. The talent might not be around them like at the highest level as a Houston probably has at least talent of those three teams, but I do think the surrounding nature of what they're building, and you could probably argue Houston offensive line wise is right up there with those two groups, I just like the fit for all of them and that makes me excited. Because good quarterback play in the NFL is the catalyst of good football and fun in football, and these guys have all shown that they can be electric. And I would definitely like to see that in the pros.

AFC Predictions for 2023-24 NFL Season  

Is KC still the favorite in the AFC?

Mitchell Schwartz: I still think it's Kansas City. I think we all learned our lesson after this past year. I mean, I say we don't necessarily put myself in that category. Because KC is home, right? I still liked the Chiefs to come out of the AFC and win it all. And sure enough, they did. But I think we as a collective learned our lesson, but as long as Mahomes is there, as long as the O line is pretty good or better for the foreseeable future, as long as Kelce is there, this is going to be the best team in the AFC. The infrastructure that coach Reid has built, that Pat has now built; that's the best tandem in the conference. And again, you're better off just betting them and just assuming that they're going to be the best team.

Now, that's not going to happen every year. These things happen. And I would say injuries are probably the biggest thing going against any team who's projected to be as good or the best team. We saw that with Buffalo. I mean, they were kind of the consensus best team last year, for good reason. They had a top five offense and a top five defense. And they looked amazing. I mean, they started the year, and everything was clicking with all those guys. And slowly, they started to get injured. And you know, Von Miller gets hurt. And he was the guy they brought into free agency to be kind of the catalyst along the defensive line, especially. They had put a lot of first and second round picks into the defensive line. And Von gets hurt and he's not able to be out there. And all of a sudden, the injuries started to pile up for them. And so that can happen to Kansas City, or any other team, of course.

But I think, based on now free agency and the draft, I still think Kansas City is the way to go. And the defense is continuing to improve every year, that's the thing. That's the most exciting for me as a Kansas City fan, as the offense, again, is always going to be probably top five in the NFL as a minimum this year. The receiving group is the “downside” of the offense, but still a lot of good players. And again, I trust you get the most out of it. But if you're able to put a top five offense with now a top 10, or top 12 defense instead of a defense in the 20s, or in the low teens, like historically, we have in the past five years.

Now all of a sudden, that team’s floor is much higher, because you can go into any week. And we see this in December and January of the past few years, the Chiefs defense kind of turns the screws down and becomes you know, in those two months, a Top 12, Top 10, Top 8 defense. And with the baseline of talent and ability of the offense. It just makes them a much more well-rounded group and a much more well-rounded team. So I think it definitely has to be Kansas City.

How do you feel about the hype surrounding the Jets?

Mitchell Schwartz: I mean, I understand the reason to get excited about it. You know, Rogers had a “down year” for him last year. I mean, obviously coming up, 2 MVPs. It's if it's hard to have a third MVP at age 38, or 39, whatever it was. But he still has the ability and he can still make the throws. For him, it's more integrating into that offense with everybody else. Now obviously, Hackett's there to kind of smooth that transition. And so it’s guys he’s familiar with and the terminology and an offense he's familiar with.

And the last time he took a step back was McCarthy's last year in Green Bay and then Lafleur comes in and he wins two MVPs. So you know, the last time we kind of doubted him in “is the game slipping”, he turned it around in a big way. And I think that's what, you know, the Jets fans are banking on and I do think there's going to be an uptick from last year assuming he stays healthy. But that defense, that's where things are a little more variable. I think we're all just assuming it's going to be like a top five defense and Salah has got them all fired up and motivated. But year to year defense is more variable in the NFL than offense.

So, you know, I think it's difficult to assume from the Jets perspective that you're just going to have a top five defense. And like we just talked about with Kansas City, you'd like to think the offense is top 10. And even if the defense progresses, it's still top 10. So if you get two top 10 units, it should be pretty good. So, I get the optimism but obviously, if you're living around it, it's going to be a little more positive than that maybe a realistic outlook.

What will happen in the AFC North?

Mitchell Schwartz: I think at this point, the Browns are the third team. I think Pittsburgh is probably looking at them as the fourth kind of depending on what they can do. And it's hard to bet against Pittsburgh with Tomlin’s record and with the defense the way it is. And they just seem to keep plugging away and kind of win that eight, nine, ten games every year regardless.

From the Cleveland perspective, not as much draft capital this year but still did a pretty good job of getting some guys that people thought were good players and going back to that consensus board type of thing. But getting guys who maybe were in the 50s to 75 range and I think Cleveland's first pick was 74. And then going down from there. So again, good players that in that third, fourth round range which is a lot of good value in the draft.

But it kind of comes back to the quarterback. And if he plays the way he played last year, then that's going to be the worst team in the division. If he plays better then we'll see what happens. But if I was a Cleveland fan, I wouldn't be super optimistic right now just based on what we've seen and the contract and the draft capital given to him.

Mitchell Schwartz on Travis Kelce’s Career

What was Travis Kelce like in the locker room? Any memorable stories to share?

Mitchell Schwartz: I mean, the stories you can and cant tell are maybe a little bit different. But I think the thing with him is now that we know him as more of kind of this personality and hosting SNL and doing all these cool things. Obviously, we know that the football player that he is what he's able to do on the field in terms of catching the ball and the receptions and the yards and touchdowns and all that and the catalysts he has for that offense. We learned that, especially with Tyreke getting traded last year.

The thing that always sticks out to me is just the mental ability to just understand football. He was a quarterback in college for a little bit. And I don't know if it's that, I don't know if it's just a natural ability. I mean, some guys are born with it. But when I first got to Kansas City, I mean, he's an awesome dude. We love having fun together. And you know, when we're you're doing walkthroughs or whatever, and it's a little bit lower paced, kind of tend to joke around in the huddle a little bit more and have your fun. And his ability to- he and I could kind of be talking off to the side, maybe he's saying something like he doesn't like fully hear the play call or the quarterback starts to play call and he's not totally locked in. But we get to the line of scrimmage. And again, this isn't like a practice or a game. So it's not happening in real situations, but the ability to kind of be thinking about two different things at once and still hear the play call and still get lined up and still run the right route and find the open space. And I just realized in those moments, like how brilliant he is as a football player.

That was the thing that always stuck out to me is just his ability to understand what he needs to do where he needs to go. And then he finds an identical person like that in Pat and that's the reason those two guys mesh so well is because they see the game the same, that same kind of brilliant genius level ability to feel the open spaces to manipulate defenses to anticipate each other's moves because they're seeing the game in the same way. And it's in a way that very few people have ever seen in the game. So you know as fun as he is, as cool as he is, as awesome as a teammate as he is, you know, I still think about that kind of beautiful brilliant football mind and what it must be like for him to just go out there and have everything be super slow motion.

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