The 2023 NFL Draft, which will be held on April 27-29, has people excited now more than ever about how it will go down. We’re through the first wave of NFL free agency, which means we get one step closer to knowing what teams will be looking for come draft day. It also means I can send out my first NFL mock draft of the year now that we know a bit more of what teams are thinking. We can expect a different draft than last year, which had the first five picks as defensive players. The only QB that was taken was Kenny Pickett at pick 20 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Expect a completely different draft this year.
1. Carolina Panthers (via Chicago Bears)
Pick: Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
There are a lot of rumors surrounding who the Panthers could pick here, but we do know it will be one of the big four QBs. Using what we know about Frank Reich and the Panthers, I believe we can whittle it down to one guy. Reich likes a bigger, stronger QB who can stand in the pocket and sling it. The Panthers don’t have a lot of talent to work with so it likely won’t be a project that would drown before he could get his feet under him. Welcome to the Panthers, Mr. Stroud.
2. Houston Texans
Pick: Alabama QB Bryce Young
Young, from a talent perspective, is the best QB in this entire draft class. The only major issue with him is that he’s on the smaller side standing at 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds. Many are worried about how well his body is going to hold up in the league. Luckily for the Texans, they don’t have much but they do have a great left tackle in Laremy Tunsil to protect Young’s blindside.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
The Cardinals are openly shopping this pick for anyone who would most likely be moving up for a quarterback. However, I think they stay put to take the biggest shoe-in (if there ever was one) defensive player available in Anderson Jr. The guy is a freak athlete and a one-man wrecking crew at Alabama. Barring a trade, it’s the easiest pick I’ve made in this NFL mock draft.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Florida QB Anthony Richardson
The latest news surrounding the Colts is a bit surprising, as many are suggesting that the Colts could move back in the draft. Until further notice, the Colts are still a QB needy team looking for their cornerstone since Andrew Luck retired. They likely take Richardson here and, if they play it right, give him a year to sit behind Gardner Minshew. Richardson has all the tools one could ask for but he needs a year to iron out his mechanics and get adjusted to the NFL.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos)
Pick: Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
While it’s not at all unlikely that the Seahawks could go QB here, they desperately need help on the defensive front seven. Wilson is a pure pass rusher that bullied opposing tackles in college routinely this past season. He’s strong as an ox and one of the best tacklers in the class. He’s got the size, speed, and strength to succeed.
6. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)
Pick: Georgia DL Jalen Carter
Carter is probably the most talented player in this draft and if he wanted to be, could probably be the first overall pick. The problem is it doesn’t seem like he wants to be. Whether it’s getting charged for reckless driving or showing up to his pro day overweight leading to him not being able to finish the workout, he’s probably cost himself millions with his actions. It’s not hard to find an NFL mock draft that has him falling farther, but I think the Lions are a good spot for him. The players have really bought into what coach Dan Campbell is trying to build over there and I think that could rub off on Carter.
7. Las Vegas Raiders
Pick: Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
The Raiders have a respectable offense that can make some noise. Their defense, however, leaves a lot to be desired. They take the first cornerback off the board here and possibly the fastest one in the draft. Gonzalez ran a 4.38 second 40-yard dash at the combine and film that shows it. Combine that with his solid ball tracking skills and tackling, it’s a good start for the silver and black.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
Just a pick later, we have a similar situation albeit with a more potential focused feel. The Falcons likely want to see what Desmond Ridder can do with a full season playing with Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Tyler Allgeier. Like the Raiders, their defense is looking abysmal. Witherspoon is one of the best man coverage and press corners in the draft and he knows it. Add in a high motor that never stops with his explosiveness and physical play and the dirty birds have another young, exciting player to build on.
9. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers)
Pick: Ohio State Tackle Paris Johnson Jr.
Protect Justin Fields at all costs. That’s what the Bears need to be thinking right now. Johnson Jr. can do that for the Bears as well as be a dominant force in the run game. As a matter of fact, that’s his strong suit but he also has the base, footwork, and strength to stick with edge rushers.
10. Trade! Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Philadelphia Eagles)
Trade: Buccaneers trade pick 19 and 50 for Eagles pick 10
Pick: Kentucky QB Will Levis
It’s not a proper NFL mock draft without a trade. Odds are, the Buccaneers don’t believe that Baker Mayfield is their future. Luckily for them, the Eagles are more than willing to trade back to gather more talent in an effort to shore up their depth later in the draft after losing so many players. They take Levis here to likely start the season sitting behind Mayfield to develop him into possibly their own version of Josh Allen.
11. Tennessee Titans
Pick: Northwestern Tackle Peter Skoronski
Skoronski is debatably the best offensive lineman in the draft talent and skill wise. The biggest thing he has against him are his arms, which have only measured in at 32 inches. That is abnormally short for an NFL tackle. However, the Titans are desperate for any lineman and if it doesn’t work out at tackle, they’ll still likely end up with an above average guard.
12. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)
Pick: Clemson DL/EDGE Myles Murphy
The Texans are having themselves a draft here as they take the third best edge rusher on the board with this pick. Murphy has great burst off the line and is strong enough to push back opposing linemen back. He has great hand strength and usage at the point of attack and will most likely develop into a more than a solid edge rusher under new head coach DeMeco Ryans.
13. New York Jets
Pick: Georgia Tackle Broderick Jones
With the Jets still being in talks with the Packers over the Aaron Rodgers trade, we’ll just assume that they keep this pick for now. And with that pick, get someone opposite of Mekhi Becton to block for their new QB. Jones is arguably the best athlete out of all of the tackles in this year’s class which he showed through his forty-yard dash time (4.97 seconds) and his broad jump (108 centimeters).
14. New England Patriots
Pick: Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
If Mac Jones doesn’t pan out this year, there will be some serious questions about the future of the Patriots moving forward. It’s why they’ve already signed J.J. Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki to the squad, and while they’ll be following up with Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba provides Jones another weapon at the deep end of the field with a knack for playmaking. With that, the first receiver is off the board in this NFL mock draft.
15. Green Bay Packers
Pick: TCU WR Quentin Johnston
The Packers find themselves in a similar situation as the Patriots in needing their young QB to succeed and fast. Jordan Love will be taking snaps under center come Week 1 and will likely have a shorter time to prove himself as a starter than most quarterbacks after sitting for three years. A trio of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Johnston should provide Love with more than enough weapons to seize the opportunity.
16. Washington Commanders
Pick: Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
The Commanders really luck out here with Porter Jr. falling to them this late in the draft. Porter Jr. has the size and strength to be successful and he knows how to use it. He’s not the speediest of corners but he doesn’t have to be as many receivers will have a tough time getting past his hands and quick feet.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Maryland CB Deonte Banks
Cornerback is a big position of need for the Steelers even after their signing of veteran Patrick Peterson. Banks is a linebacker in a corner’s body because he loves to get his hands dirty in the run game. He has the speed and tools to succeed in the passing game as well, but he’s a bit raw technically and will take some time to properly develop those skills.
18. Detroit Lions
Pick: Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
Smith ran a 4.39 forty-yard dash as an edge. You want to talk about a freak of nature, this guy is it. At his smaller frame and weight durability will be a question but he held up well in college. At his size, you’d think he’d be a better pass rusher than run defender but thanks to his honed technical skills he knows how to use his quick feet and leverage.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Pick: Alabama Safety/CB Brian Branch
Branch did not have the best of combines and showed off what a variety of prospects picked so far did the opposite of, which is a lack of athleticism. However, Branch has a ton of tape and production to warrant a pick from the safety needy Eagles. Branch has something that no other player has at his level in this class. He has elite instincts versus both the run and pass, something he’ll have to hope makes up for his lack of elite speed and explosiveness. In this NFL mock draft, he finds a home in Philadelphia.
20. Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Clemson DT Bryan Bresee
The anchor behind the Clemson defense, it’s up in the air on where he’ll be drafted because of a torn ACL he suffered back in 2021. This past season, he was still a pillar in the middle of that defense but didn’t pull up as gaudy of numbers as before. It’s going to depend on how comfortable teams are with his recovery, but after putting together a solid season, it’s hard imagining him slip past the Seahawks.
21. Los Angeles Chargers
Pick: USC WR Jordan Addison
Mike Williams is injury prone; Keenan Allen isn’t getting any younger, and Austin Ekeler is seeking a trade. Justin Herbert is going to need another weapon to keep the offense steady and luckily Addison will fall to them here. Even better, he can fit in the slot to still produce when everyone else is on the field. He’s a smaller receiver but a fantastic deep threat.
22. Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Boston College WR Zay Flowers
There’s a strong chance that Lamar Jackson returns to the Ravens and that means they’ll both be all in on each other. So, they might as well finally use a first-round pick on a wide receiver to help him out. Like Addison, Flowers is smaller but has some of the best explosiveness out of any of these receivers. He’ll help Jackson and the offense improve their big play ability.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness
It’s rare to find an NFL mock draft that has Van Ness falling this far due to his production, high character, and strength. Don’t get me wrong, those are amazing attributes to have but he is still very raw as a prospect. He tends to play high and rely on his strength which got him through college but isn’t going to cut it in the NFL. That being said, he’s still an intelligent guy with a high motor so I’m betting on him putting it all together.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: South Carolina CB Cam Smith
The Jaguars have a lot of good things going for them on offense but need to tighten up the defense to become true competitors. After seemingly hitting on Tyson Campbell, they’ll look to draft his new partner here. Smith has a rare combination of size and speed, but he does struggle to get physical as he’s only 180 pounds. However, after two elite years in a row it’s safe to say he’s learned how to make do.
25. New York Giants
Pick: Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt
If the Giants don’t end up with a wide receiver at the end of the first round their fans might riot. Luckily, another explosive playmaking receiver is still on the board here. Hyatt tormented SEC safeties all year after seemingly no one could figure out a way to contain him. He has drop issues and questions about his ability to run shorter and intermediate routes but that may be because he wasn’t asked to do that much as a Volunteer.
26. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Texas RB Bijan Robinson
Finally, we have our first running back off the board and luckily it makes sense in a lot of ways for the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliot is gone and Tony Pollard will have questions to answer after suffering a high ankle sprain that required surgery. Johnson has the opportunity and ability to be a generational talent at running back and even though historically it hasn’t proven wise to take a running back in the first-round, this is still late enough to justify the value.
27. Buffalo Bills
Pick: Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence
Another first, we have our first guard taken off the board and there’s not a lot of argument that he’s not the best one in this draft. Virtually every NFL mock draft has him being the first guard off the board due to how dominant he was in college and how athletic he is. The Bills happily take him here to protect Josh Allen for years to come.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
The third first in a row, welcome to the first-round tight ends. Have you ever heard of the phrase all sizzle, no steak? Mayer is the opposite, as he doesn’t wow you with spectacular speed or catches often, but he does everything really well. He has the highest floor of the tight ends simply for his blocking ability. After losing Hayden Hurst, the Bengals will welcome Mayer with open arms.
29. New Orleans Saints (via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos)
Pick: Pittsburgh DL Calijah Kancey
Due to being an undersized yet explosive defensive lineman, Kancey is going to get unfairly compared to Aaron Donald probably for the entirety of his career. Those are unfair comparisons to make, he’ll likely never achieve that level of status, but he has the potential to be special. His speed, technique, explosiveness, and feel of the game make him plenty dangerous.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes
The Eagles could go running back here but will instead choose to continue to beef up their secondary. First they got their safety, now they have their nickel corner replacement. Forbes would likely be a top ten pick if not for weighing in at just 166 pounds at the combine. His coverage in both man and zone are elite and he’s got the speed/quickness to stick with anyone. He also plays surprisingly aggressive for someone with his frame.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Pick: Oklahoma Tackle Anton Harrison
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that, if a receiver falls, the Chiefs may prefer to go that route. In this NFL mock draft that didn’t happen, but what did happen was one of the best pass protecting tackles in the class fell to them. Harrison is exactly that albeit not exactly a great run blocker. He probably won’t have to worry about that much in this offense plus he has the potential and strength to work on that aspect of his game.
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