We’re well into April, about three weeks out from the 2023 NFL Draft with rumors running amuck across the entire league. Leaks, smokescreens, and gossip flooding the league news lets you know were in peak draft season. And with that, comes peak mock draft season. In this mock draft, we’ll be projecting picks based not only on player talent level, but also based on the latest news coming out for each player and team. This won’t be necessarily in the order of who I think is the best or what the teams should do, but in the order of what it seems they are likely to do.
1. Carolina Panthers (via Chicago Bears)
Pick: Alabama QB Bryce Young
When I wrote my last mock, I had the Panthers taking C.J. Stroud here due to scheme fit. Frank Reich historically uses a traditional pocket passing quarterback. Recent reports coming out are that the front office and coaches are infatuated with Young, and even betting lines are starting to agree. Many agree Young is the better processor and can see the at an elite level already, so it’s not hard to see why the Panthers would take him here.
2. Houston Texans
Pick: Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
Stroud might be the slower processor and have issues with awareness inside the pocket, but he’s far from a consolation prize. He has consistently made throws to all parts of the field this past year and he showed signs of better mobility against Georgia. No matter who the Panthers pick first between Young and Stroud, expect the other to go here.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
There are rumors of teams looking to trade with Arizona here to grab what many view as the last remaining first round talent QB in this draft. However, the Cardinals don’t seem to be in any advanced trade talks as of today. So, they’ll take the most elite defender in this in the 2023 NFL Draft in Anderson, who has the strength, speed, technique, and motor to become an elite edge defender.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Kentucky QB Will Levis
Shane Steichen will have a big decision to make here assuming he goes with a QB and the decision ultimately comes down to him. Steichen said he looks for three things in a QB: accuracy, decision making, and the ability to create. Between Levis and Anthony Richardson, the former is arguably better in decision making and accuracy. But don’t be surprised if Richardson’s name is called here.
5. Trade! Tennessee Titans (via Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos)
Pick: Florida QB Anthony Richardson
The Titans trade their 11th and 41st pick to move up six spots and draft the last of the remaining big four in Richardson. Richardson has all the physical tools to be successful in the NFL but he lacks consistent QB play and that’s to be expected of someone with only 13 college starts. He’ll likely sit behind Malik Willis to start the season as the Titans try to figure out what they have with Willis as well. Basically, they’ll end up hedging their bets on one of them putting it all together.
6. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)
Pick: Georgia DL Jalen Carter
Adding Carter to a line with Aidan Hutchinson is a recipe of destruction for opposing offensive lines. There are character concerns surrounding Carter but make no mistake about it, he’s the most talented ball player in this draft when he’s using his maximum capabilities. Being drafted to a team that’s so bought into their culture should also do wonders for him.
7. Las Vegas Raiders
Pick: Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
Although on the lighter side, Witherspoon is the kind of corner that not only isn’t afraid to get in your face but loves it. He’s super aggressive but also has the speed to hang with faster receivers. He leaks confidence will let you know he’s blanketing you all game. He’s elite in man coverage but likely wouldn’t have trouble playing zone due to his quickness and awareness.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
New Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen is coming over from the New Orleans Saints and needs implementing his defense. Wilson is not only a scheme fit for Nielen’s 4-3 defense but is an absolute monster of a human being. He looks like he was created in a lab to play edge. He’s not fast and can’t cover but he won’t have to in Atlanta. Just send Wilson after the QB and he’ll deliver.
9. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers)
Pick: Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.
Johnson Jr. probably isn’t the top pass protector in this class, but he has all of the tools to become the one. The Bears should be looking to keep Justin Fields upright as much as possible after the offensive lines he’s had to deal with to begin his career. Johnson Jr. could play either left or right tackle and help shore up that line for years to come. In the meantime, he’s a mauler in the run game with his strength and quickness.
10. Trade! Green Bay Packers (via Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints)
Pick: Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Odds are the Packers and Jets will have a trade worked out around this time meaning the Packers will have more picks to work with. For now, we’ll say they’ll just swap first and second round picks with the Eagles. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst trades up, as he loves to do, to draft the best route-runner in the 2023 NFL Draft. Touted by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson as the best receiver at Ohio State while they were both there, the Packers draft another weapon to help Jordan Love succeed.
11. Seattle Seahawks (via Tennessee Titans)
Pick: Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy
Murphy doesn’t have a lot of pass rush moves at his disposal partially because his speed to power was hard for any college tackle to handle. If he didn’t beat them off the edge with his quickness and agility, they’d likely find themselves getting pushed back into their own QB. On top of that, he can play in the 3-4 or the 4-3, standing up or out of a three-point stance.
12. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)
Pick: Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
With the top three edge rushers gone, the Texans could go receiver here to help out Stroud. However, the additions of Robert Woods and Noah Brown with the return of John Metchie III makes for a decent group. Also, new coach DeMeco Ryans is a man of defense and likely won’t be able to resist adding someone like Gonzalez if he’s there. Despite his size, Gonzalez glides down the field with ease and is consistently at the catch point of balls thrown his way.
13. New York Jets
Pick: Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski
Skoronski was the best all-around offensive lineman in college football last year and possibly in the 2023 NFL Draft. So why does he fall to 13? His wingspan and arm length are far shorter than many offensive tackles in the NFL. But his floor is still that of a great offensive guard or possibly even a center. Assuming the Jets get Aaron Rodgers and keep this pick, this is the best-case scenario for them.
14. New England Patriots
Pick: Boston College WR Zay Flowers
Flowers has reportedly been climbing up draft boards and it’s not hard to see why. For such a smaller receiver, he shows a lot of aggression and hand fighting potential. Unlike most receivers his size, he should be able to play on the outside as well as the slot. The Patriots need Mac Jones to take a step this year and drafting Flowers should help.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Green Bay Packers)
Pick: Texas RB Bijan Robinson
Even though they traded back, the Eagles land the prospect many mocks have them taking with their original pick. I’m not a fan of running backs in the first round, but Johnson doesn’t have many flaws in his game. In fact, he excels in most facets. This will likely be the Eagles only chance to take him where he’ll do more than enough to replace Miles Sanders.
16. Washington Commanders
Pick: Penn St CB Joey Porter Jr.
Coming from an elite corner pedigree, Porter Jr. looked a lot like his father in college locking down receivers left and right. Like the other two corners taken already, Porter Jr. plays his best ball in physical, man coverage. Like the other two, that means he can also get a bit handsy at times drawing out penalties. It’s to be expected, but you can’t teach his feel for the game.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Clemson DL Bryan Bresee
It’s easy to see the Steelers going corner here, but there’s an abundance of corners left in this 2023 NFL Draft even with the top three out. What can’t be ignored is how interested in Clemson Mike Tomlin and company have been over the past couple months. Many point to this interest in Murphy, but I think Bresee fills a hole as well. Before his ACL injury in 2021 Bresee was going inside the top 10 in many mocks. His combine results and film show that athleticism is still there and could easily be a bargain at 17.
18. Detroit Lions
Pick: Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
Doubling up on Georgia front seven products is something their NFC North counterparts the Packers did last year. The Lions will happily do the same if given the chance. The speed, power, and athleticism the trio of Hutchinson, Carter, and Smith would bring already put them in elite company. Smith turned heads after running a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine and his film shows that wasn’t a fluke.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Georgia OT Broderick Jones
Jones is another athletic wonder who needs some fine-tuning in the technical fields. He’s incredibly strong and quick for his size. You’d expect someone that looks like him to be lumbering around instead of moving like a tight end. He’ll get room and time to grow on a Buccaneers squad needing a tackle for whoever their starting QB of the future will be.
20. Trade! New York Giants (via Seattle Seahawks)
Pick: TCU WR Quentin Johnston
The Giants move up to select what many view as the remaining of the big three receivers. Although his combine/pro day numbers and measurements weren’t as impressive as many would have thought, Johnston is still a mismatch against most corners. He’s one of the biggest receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft and still maintains good explosiveness and speed. He just has to work on catching the ball at its highest point with his hands more consistently.
21. Los Angeles Chargers
Pick: USC WR Jordan Addison
This just seems like it’s inevitable. The USC product and the Chargers are linked in more ways than just meetings and the Chargers needing a wide receiver. Addison had switched schools previously to follow his coach, who is currently the receivers coach for the Chargers. Addison is a solid slot receiver and one of the better route runners in his class. If the Chargers are truly looking to move on from Keenan Allen like some suggest, Addison would be a good replacement.
22. Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt
There’s a lot the Ravens could choose to do here depending on how they see the situation with Lamar Jackson. But trade talks around the QB seem like they’ve never really got off the ground so for our sake we’ll say he stays. Hyatt would be a speedy field stretcher for the purple and black, something they haven’t had in years. He’s also a versatile player who can play inside and out.
23. Minnestoa Vikings
Pick: Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness
The Vikings stop what many would probably see as a very unlikely drop for Van Ness. What makes Van Ness different from those drafted before him was the multiple elite tools many have that you can develop or tighten technique on. Van Ness relied a lot on his strength, which is ironically his only elite strength. That being said, if he can fix his balance and attack point issues, he has a bright future. In the meantime, it gives the Vikings a lot of moving pieces on their edge and line.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: South Carolina CB Cam Smith
Smith has quietly made a name for himself in the SEC over the past couple of years even if some of the stats don’t show it. All you need to know is he’s allowed an average 53.9 QB rating when targeted since 2021. Like Gonzalez, he effortlessly moves down the field but does struggle when he has to get physical with receivers.
25. Seattle Seahawks (via New York Giants)
Pick: Pittsburgh DL Calijah Kancey
This isn’t a typical Seahawks pick as Kancey’s measurables are shorter and lighter than defensive linemen they’ve picked in the past. However, thanks to his speed, quickness, and hand usage Kancey can get to the QB like no other pure defensive lineman in the 2023 NFL Draft. There’s a lot of reasons he’s been comped to Aaron Donald, not just because they both came out of Pittsburgh.
26. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Utah TE Dalton Kincaid
The Cowboys could either go with a receiver or tight end here, but luckily for them there’s a guy who can play both. Kincaid won’t be your traditional in-line tight end because of his measurables but he can play the slot like no other tight end in the class. He’s what some have said the best pass catcher in the 2023 NFL Draft regardless of position and is a terrific route runner. He’s a great scheme fit.
27. Buffalo Bills
Pick: Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence
This would be a no brainer here as it’s the best player to fill the Bills’ biggest need. Torrence won’t wow you with his athleticism testing but he will impress you with his tape. He was a wrecking ball on Florida’s offensive line that any running back would be happy to follow. In over 3000 snaps in college, he never gave up a sack. Sometimes the boring picks are the best picks.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison
There’s a lot of bang for your buck here with this selection. Jackson Carman and Jonah Williams haven’t been what the Bengals had hoped for, and they did partially fix that with the signing of Orlando Brown Jr. By drafting Harrison, they fix the right tackle position as well. While not the best run blocker or at protecting the inside, he is great at setting an edge. The rest could very well come.
29. New Orleans Saints (via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos)
Pick: Michigan DL Mazi Smith
This might be a reach for some, but the Saints can’t afford to let him slip by here. Interior defensive line is their biggest need and there is a massive drop off after Smith. He fills up running lanes faster than a lot of defensive tackles do at his size. And with that size, he uses great hand strength and lateral quickness to bully opposing linemen. There’s a lot of potential here.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes
Forbes would probably be a lot higher on most mock drafts if he didn’t weigh in at 166 pounds which was even lighter than most expected. That never stopped him in college as he’d stick with anyone put in front of him and made QB’s lives miserable with his ball hawking prowess. Forbes wasn’t afraid to get his nose into the run game either. There are concerns about longevity here, but weight can always be added on.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Pick: Tennessee OT Darnell Wright
The Chiefs finish with another tackle off the board to replace Orlando Brown Jr. Wright has as much experience as almost anyone coming out in the 2023 NFL Draft after four years in the SEC. He knows where to move his feet and has a great understanding of how to use his base and core strength to his advantage. Plays like a wily pro to make up for not being as athletic as others.
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