2023 NFL Mock Draft
April 25, 2023
With the 2023 NFL Draft being held Apr. 27 -29 in Kansas City, Missouri, I decided to create a mock draft for the first round for the second year in a row.
I will attempt to see through the various smokescreens and tricks deployed from NFL teams throughout the pre-draft process and correctly make every pick.
For my mock draft, I will include trades. Teams without a first round pick include the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. My mock draft will list the pick, team, player drafted, position and university. I will also include a brief explanation for each pick and make each selection based on what I believe the pick should be.
1. Carolina Panthers (via CHI): Bryce Young, Quarterback, Alabama
After drafting Cameron Newton no. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Panthers readdress the position with the selection of Bryce Young.
Young enjoyed consecutive phenomenal seasons throwing for 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and 3,382 yards, 32 touchdowns and 5 interceptions during the 2021 and 2022 seasons respectively to go along with 9 rushing touchdowns.
The former Crimson Tide will be in a position to succeed immediately with head coach Frank Reich, running back Miles Sanders, wide receivers Adam Thielen, DJ Chark and Terrace Marshall Jr. as well as tight end Hayden Hurst.
2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, Quarterback, Ohio State
After trading Deshaun Watson in 2022, the Texans finally get their next franchise quarterback in C.J. Stroud, who enjoyed a spectacular 2022 season with 3,668 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
After starting quarterback Davis Mills for 28 games the past two seasons and seeing him finish with touchdown-to-interception ratios of 16:10 and 17:15, the Texans will put their faith in Stroud who totaled 12 interceptions over his past two collegiate seasons.
The former Buckeye will have the likes of running back Dameon Pierce and tight end Dalton Schultz to help him transition to the NFL level.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., Linebacker, Alabama
With defensive lineman J.J. Watt retired and the hiring of former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as head coach, the Cardinals will be able to somewhat fill his void with Will Anderson Jr.
Anderson Jr. enjoyed a strong 2022 season, albeit not as strong as his 17.5 sack 2021 season, with 10 sacks and should contribute immediately to a defense that gave up 449 points, 29 passing touchdowns and 21 rushing touchdowns.
With 2x First-team All-Pro Safety Budda Baker requesting a trade from the team on Apr. 14, the Cardinals would be even more desperate to add talent to the defensive side of the ball.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, Quarterback, Florida
Colts owner Jim Irsay didn’t hold his draft cards to his chest after he specifically alluded to the team targeting a quarterback during new head coach Shane Steichen’s introductory news conference on Feb. 14.
Richardson would solve the quarterback problem plaguing the Colts since Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement in 2019 that has featured the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles.
The former Gator enjoyed a good 2022 season in which he threw for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions and ran for 654 yards and 9 touchdowns. Richardson would also have proven weapons in running back Jonathon Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
On top of that, Richardson also enjoyed an even better NFL Combine weighing in at 6-foot-4 and 244lbs, running a 4.43 40-yard dash and setting a quarterback record 40.5-inch vertical leap.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): Jalen Carter, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
After being arrested March 1 on reckless driving and racing charges, Carter finds himself falling into the laps of the Seahawks who need a presence in the interior of their defensive line.
Although Carter compiled a total of 6 sacks during his three-year career as a Bulldog, he has the versatility to play any position along the defensive line and can play against both the run and pass.
Carter would also simultaneously fill a position of need as the only defensive tackle on the depth chart is Bryan Mone following the departures of Al Woods, Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson.
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR): Tyree Wilson, Defensive End, Texas Tech
After drafting defensive end Aidan Hutchinson no. 2 overall in last year’s draft, the Lions continue revamping their defense, which finished last season ranked 27th, with the selection of Wilson.
The former Red Raider finished the 2022 season with 7 sacks to go along with 36 solo tackles and would immediately aid a Lions defense that had trouble getting to the quarterback last season. Excluding Hutchinson, who finished with 9.5 sacks, no other Lion had more than 4 sacks.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, Cornerback, Oregon
After fielding a defense that gave up 418 points, 6,216 yards and 4,129 passing yards, the Raiders shore up their secondary with the selection of Gonzalez.
The former Colorado and Oregon cornerback tallied 100 solo tackles, 19 passes defensed and 4 interceptions, all of which came in his lone year as a Duck, over his three-year career.
Coming in at 6’2″ and 201 lbs, Gonzalez has the physical traits to immediately contribute in a division with the likes of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Nolan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia
After revamping their defense with the signings of Jessie Bates, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss and Calais Campbell during free agency, the Falcons continue doing so with selection of Smith.
Smith enjoyed a good career with Georgia totalling 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 1 interception over four years and would address a pass rush that ranked 31st with 21 sacks. Smith started the first 8 games of the 2022 season before suffering a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in November.
The former Bulldog enjoyed a sensational NFL combine; running a 4.39 40-yard dash and jumping a 41.5″ vertical jump.
9. Chicago Bears: Peter Skoronski, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern
After trading the no. 1 pick to the Panthers for a haul including the no. 9 pick, a 2023 second round pick, a 2024 first round pick, a 2025 second round pick and wide receiver DJ Moore, the Bears address an offensive line that gave up 58 sacks during the 2022-23 season with the selection of Skoronski.
In 2022, the 6’4″, 313 lbs left tackle allowed 3 quarterback hurries, 2 quarterback hits and 1 sack while playing 12 games and 881 snaps.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Devon Witherspoon, Cornerback, Illinois
After losing starting Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Lions on a one-year, $6.5 million contract, the Eagles address their secondary with the selection of Witherspoon.
Although the team was able to re-sign last season’s starting cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darius Slay to multi-year extensions, both cornerbacks are 29 and 32 years old respectively in a division with the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Terry McLaurin, Michael Gallup, Jahan Dotson and Brandin Cooks.
Witherspoon accumulated 117 solo tackles, 25 passes defensed and 5 interceptions during his four-year career showcasing he is a willing tackler and has a penchant for finding the football.
11. Tennessee Titans: Will Levis, Quarterback, Kentucky
Amid uncertainty surrounding starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s future and the Titans allegedly being unhappy with second-year quarterback Malik Willis, the team drafts their quarterback of the future in Levis.
Levis enjoyed back-to-back good seasons with the Wildcats, throwing for 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in the 2021 season and 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the 2022 season. The former Nittany Lion also added 11 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons as well.
Levis will also be able to rely on a proven skill position player in running back Derrick Henry and promising wide receiver Treylon Burks.
12. Houston Texans: Lukas Van Ness, Defensive End, Iowa
After addressing quarterback with the no. 2 overall pick, the Texans address a defense that ranked 32nd in rushing yards, giving up a staggering 2,894 rushing yards, with the selection of Van Ness.
The Iowa product accumulated 35 tackles and 13.5 sacks over two seasons and would pair with fellow defensive end Jonathon Greenard to give the Texans a solid foundation along their defensive line.
13. Green Bay Packers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
With the 2002 draft being the last time the Packers drafted a wide receiver in the first round, the Packers break the 21-year streak with the selection of Smith-Njigba.
In light of wide receiver Allen Lazard signing a four-year, $44 million deal with the Jets and Randall Cobb currently a free agent, the Packers fill their voids while simultaneously forming an intriguing wide receiver duo of Christian Watson and Smith-Njigba for whoever ends up being the team’s starting quarterback.
14. New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback, Penn State
Joey Porter Jr., the son of four-time pro bowl linebacker Joey Porter, enjoyed a four-year career as a Nittany Lion tallying 115 tackles, 17 passes defensed and 1 interception.
Porter Jr. also ran a 4.46 second 40-yard dash and jumped both a 35″ vertical and 10’9″ broad jump at the Combine. He would be a great fit for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
15. New York Jets: Paris Johnson Jr., Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
After giving up 42 sacks during the 2022 season, the Jets address their offensive line with the selection of Johnson Jr.
The former Buckeye offers position flexibility, starting 13 games at right guard in 2021 and left tackle in 2022, and protection, only giving up 9 quarterback hurries, no quarterback hits and two sacks at left tackle.
16. Washington Commanders: Dalton Kincaid, Tight End, Utah
Kincaid is one of the best tight ends in the 2023 draft class and would immediately supplant Logan Thomas as the starter to give the Commanders an enticing quartet of skill position players including wide receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel.
In the wake of the team deciding to start second-year quarterback Sam Howell for the 2023 season and hiring former Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who enjoyed tremendous success with Travis Kelce, Kincaid would be a perfect pick.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, Offensive Tackle, Georgia
Although the Steelers only gave up 38 sacks last season, Jones would not only help keep quarterback Kenny Pickett upright in a division with the likes of Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, he would also help the running game.
The team ranked 16th in the league with 2,077 rushing yards with running back Najee Harris rushing for 1,034 yards. Jones hails from one of the best programs in all of college football that finished the 2022 season rushing for 3,109 rushing yards and would translate well to the Steelers style of offense.
18. Detroit Lions: Cam Smith, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Lions addressed their defensive line with their selection of Wilson with the No. 6 pick and address their secondary with the selection of Smith.
After ranking 32nd and 30th in yards allowed and passing yards, giving up 6,670 yards and 4,179 passing yards respectively, the 6’1″, 180 lbs former Gamecock would fill a position of need in a division with wide receivers the likes of Justin Jefferson, D.J. Moore and Christian Watson.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brian Branch, Safety, Alabama
The Buccaneers ranked 28th in passing touchdowns allowed during the 2022 season, surrendering 28.
The selection of Branch would immediately boost a defense that lost a lot of players in their secondary such as safeties Mike Edwards and Keanu Neal as well as cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting.
The 6’0″, 190 lbs former Crimson Tide was the only player in the SEC with 90+ tackles, 2+ interceptions and 2+ sacks and played safety, nickel and boundary. Branch would seemingly have a versatile role under Buccaneers defensive-minded head coach Todd Bowles.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Mayer, Tight End, Notre Dame
With the selection of Jalen Carter with the No. 5 pick to address their defense, the Seahawks turn to offense with Mayer.
The former Fighting Irish finished the 2022 season with 67 receptions, 809 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Myles Murphy, Defensive End, Clemson
Surrendering 2,478 rushing yards caused the Chargers to rank 28th in that category.
Murphy would help beef up the Chargers defensive line especially after totaling 17.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles over three years at Clemson.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Quentin Johnston, Wide Receiver, TCU
After signing Odell Beckham Jr. to a one year, $15 million contract at the behest of quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens double down in their efforts to surround him with offensive playmakers in Johnson.
Johnson has the physical traits, coming in at 6’3″ 208 lbs, and proven productivity, finishing his last year as a Horned Frog with 60 receptions, 1,069 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Bryan Bresee, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
If you want to talk about abysmal defense, look no further than the Vikings.
The purple and gold finished the 2022 season ranked 28th, 31st and 31st in points allowed, yards allowed and pass yards allowed. The selection of Bresee won’t provide an immediate solution to their defense, as he had 9 sacks over three seasons, but it will go a long way in doing so.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Calijah Kancey, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
The team will look to continue their momentum from last season with the selection of Kancey to address a defense that ranked 25th in sacks with just 35.
Kancey finished his three year career with the Panthers with 15.5 sacks and was the team’s first unanimous All-American since Aaron Donald.
25. New York Giants: Jordan Addison, Wide Receiver, USC
After re-signing quarterback Daniel Jones to a four year, $160 million contract over the offseason, the Giants finally surround him with wide receivers in the form of Addison.
The former Trojan finished 2022 with 59 receptions, 875 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns but is a year removed from a monstrous 2021 season that included 100 receptions, 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
26. Dallas Cowboys: O’Cyrus Torrence, Offensive Guard, Florida
America’s Team can easily go with running back with running back Tony Pollard coming off a a broken fibula and high ankle injury and the release of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
However, I believe interior offensive line will be the pick in order to keep quarterback Dak Prescott upright and with the success the team has had with their selection of offensive tackle Tyler Smith in the 2022 Draft.
27. Buffalo Bills: Deonte Banks, Cornerback, Maryland
You cannot have enough cornerbacks in today’s NFL.
Although the Bills have four capable cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White, Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson and Kair Elam, their loss to the Bengals in the playoffs will lead them toward solidifying the back end of their defense even further.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: JL Skinner, Safety, Boise State
Losing safety Jessie Bates III to the Falcons on a four-year, $64.02 million deal was a massive blow.
Skinner will help make up for Bates’ departure especially after finishing his four-year career as a Bronco with 133 tackles, 7 interceptions and 11 passes defended.
29. New Orleans Saints: Drew Sanders, Linebacker, Arkansas
The Saints select arguably the top linebacker prospect with the No. 29 pick.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Bijan Robinson, Running Back, Texas
After losing starting running back Miles Sanders in free agency, the Eagles draft his replacement in Robinson.
Robinson had 258 rushing attempts for 1,580 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 314 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in his final season as a Longhorn and would perfectly complement the Eagles offensive line.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: BJ Olujari, Linebacker, LSU
The super bowl champions continue to add to the defensive side of the ball with Ojulari.
The former Tiger finished his LSU career with 79 tackles and 16.5 sacks and would assist in taking the burden off Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones as well as provide defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with another weapon.