With the 2023 NFL Draft only a fortnight away, here’s my latest look at who could go on Day 1. While we know there will be trades on the night, it’s impossible to predict most. The one trade I am willing to include is the Cardinals, who are likely to trade down with a QB-needy team. Whether that’s with the Titans, Bucs, Colts or, in this mock, the Raiders remains to be seen, and we may not know until the night. Regardless, I would be surprised if Arizona sticks and picks at 3. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
1. Panthers – C.J. Stroud (QB – Ohio State)
The Panthers are taking a quarterback, it would be crazy to suggest otherwise, but the only question is who. I personally prefer Bryce Young, but popular wisdom suggests Carolina prefers C.J. Stroud, and for their system, that makes sense. Young and Richardson are, of course, possibilities, but until we hear otherwise, I’m backing in the Ohio State man here.
2. Texans – Bryce Young (QB – Alabama)
The Texans deserve to be punished for giving away the first pick, but as it turns out, they end up with the best quarterback anyway. Young is a little small, but he’s just so talented, as he’s shown over and over in college. He brings major Kyler Murray comps, and if he can perform anywhere near that level, he’ll be a great pick here.
3. Raiders (traded with Cardinals) – Anthony Richardson (QB – Florida)
I’ve been gung-ho on the Raiders trading up to take Richardson for over a month, but I’m starting to have doubts. The Raiders are bringing in win-now players, so giving up draft capital to grab a quarterback who won’t even play this year seems questionable. But they’ve got a clear out in Jimmy G’s contract in 2025, and that seems about when you’d want Richardson taking over. Plus, the Raiders have always loved taking big, unexpected swings. It also seems like the perfect spot for Arizona to move down to, with one of the top two edge rushers and Christian Gonzalez likely available at 7. So, for now, I’m sticking with the Raiders moving up to take the athletic but raw Anthony Richardson at 3.
4. Colts – Will Levis (QB – Kentucky)
The Colts would likely prefer Richardson, and it’s not out of the question they swap with the Cards to ensure that occurs. If someone jumps ahead of them though, I think Levis is still the likely pick. While Indy could go ahead with Minshew, they’ve surely learned their lesson on veteran retreads, it’s surely time they go with a rookie, and Levis is the only remaining option here. He’s got a powerful arm and needs to work, but you’d expect that he’d be starting by the end of 2023.
5. Seahawks – Will Anderson (DE – Alabama)
This would be the best possible scenario for the Seahawks, it seems unlikely they’ll go first-round QB when they just re-signed Geno Smith to a contract flush with guarantees until 2025 and brought back Drew Lock too. Smith looked solid last year, too, so it’s safe to assume he’s locked in for the near future. This leaves the Seahawks to improve their awful pass rush, and they have three viable options. Jalen Carter makes the least sense when they have at least some quality in Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, plus he’s clearly the riskiest option with his character concerns. Though Pete Carroll isn’t scared of challenging personalities, so if Anderson does indeed go at the 3-spot, Carter becomes a real chance. Edge is the real weakness for the Seahawks, though, and Will Anderson is clearly the superior option. Tyree Wilson comes into the argument if Anderson is gone, but it seems crazy to take Wilson over Anderson, who is just such a safe prospect.
6. Lions – Tyree Wilson (DE – Texas Tech)
There’s no obvious fit for the Lions here. The bookies have cornerback and D-line as almost equal favorites, but I know Bijan Robinson and even O-line help are popular picks. I really don’t see CB as a need, with Emmanuel Moseley and Cam Sutton surely enough to shore up their secondary. Jalen Carter would be the perfect fit to sort out their interior, but he just doesn’t feel like a Dan Campbell kind of guy from a character and work-rate perspective. That leaves us with Tyree Wilson, and I could see him being a good fit. I don’t know if the Lions will stick with 4-3 or shift back toward 3-4, but Wilson fits either way. He could be a solid 3-4 DE with his strong run defense and should be able to create interior pressure. He would also be excellent on the edge opposite Aidan Hutchinson in either scheme and fits the Dan Campbell mold nicely.
7. Cardinals (traded with Raiders) – Christian Gonzalez (CB – Oregon)
With reports suggesting the Cardinals love Christian Gonzalez and the odds line for his selection a short 6.5, this feels like the perfect spot for him to go. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he goes to the Lions earlier or to the Raiders here, but it’s hard to see him falling too much further. He had a great combine, and while he’s not the biggest, grittiest guy, he’s so talented it’s hard not to see him become a starter in the long term.
8. Falcons – Devon Witherspoon (CB – Illinois)
This hasn’t fallen well for the Falcons, with Tyree Wilson, the perfect fit, not falling to them. I could see them just taking the best player available in Jalen Carter or Bijan Robinson, but that really doesn’t fill a need at all, so I have to back the bookies and select a CB or edge player. Van Ness feels like a reach and doesn’t really fit the Falcons’ scheme, so I’m locking in the aggressive Witherspoon instead. While he’s a little undersized, and injuries could be an issue in his future, he still feels like the best option at this juncture.
9. Bears – Jalen Carter (DT – Georgia)
The Bears just keep getting lucky! After lucking their way into the first pick, they shift down and still get one of the draft’s top prospects in Jalen Carter. The tragic racing incident will have him off some boards, but I can see Chicago taking a risk on him because he just can’t fall further than this. He’s simply too talented. O-line is the other obvious option, and I could see the Bears taking either of the top tackles here too. But if Carter is here, they take him unless the character concerns are too much for them to handle. D-line is a major weakness for them.
10. Eagles – Bijan Robinson (RB – Texas)
Since 1990, in the 1st round, the Eagles have an incredible record of only selecting D-linemen, O-linemen and wide receivers, with only three exceptions. Those were two quarterbacks (both with No.2 overall picks) and a 2002 cornerback pick. Admittedly, these are the premium positions most likely to be selected in the 1st round, but it’s crazy they haven’t strayed outside that box at all. The bookies have DL as the odds-on favorite, but I don’t understand that at all. There are no DTs that would be a suitable option here, and the Eagles are flush with edge talent in Reddick, Sweat, Graham and Barnett. So while guys like Lukas Van Ness and Myles Murphy are viable options, I’m ordering off the menu and backing a shock as the Eagles select for their greatest need, running back. Bijan Robinson is arguably the best player in this class for any position and the best prospect we’ve seen since Saquon Barkley. I know it’s unconventional, but it’s time the Eagles went for glory and took the luxury pick.
11. Titans – Paris Johnson (OT/G – Ohio State)
It’s hard to see no O-linemen taken in the top 10, but even if both Johnson and Skoronski are gone by this pick, it makes the most sense for the Titans to target a tackle. Their O-line used to be a strength, but it was awful last season, and they need to rebuild. It’s not out of the question that they move up for a quarterback or has Levis fall to them, but I think OT is the most likely bet. I like Skoronski myself, but Johnson has all the momentum with his prototypical tackle shape, so I expect him to be the first OL off the board.
12. Texans – Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)
Smith-Njigba has all the momentum to be the first receiver off the board, and the expectation is that the Texans will be the first to grab a WR at 12. JSN will be an excellent slot receiver due to his impeccable route running, though it’s hard to see him succeed on the outside at this stage. That will suit the Texans just fine, as they have plenty of outside guys but need that stud in the middle of the field. While I personally think O-line would be a better option here, it’s hard to see them going that way now.
13. Jets – Peter Skoronski (OT/G – Northwestern)
Peter Skoronski is the clear best tackle in this class for me. I know he’s not got the usual body shape, and he could move inside, at least initially, but he was just so impressive at Northwestern. As someone who is ready to play straight away, he suits the Jets perfectly, and if he somehow falls to them, they should be running to the podium to make this pick as they set up to win now.
14. Patriots – Broderick Jones (OT – Georgia)
The popular pick for the Patriots is a receiver, but that isn’t typically the Bill Belichick way. In fact, I’d be surprised if they don’t trade down. Assuming they stay, though, O-line makes the sense by far and fits in better with their usual drafting style. Broderick Jones would be a great fit to protect Mac Jones (or Bailey Zappe, eeek) as an athletic, aggressive tackle who is ultra-competitive. He is a little raw, but the Patriots aren’t exactly in a win-now situation, so they can afford to let him develop a little.
15. Packers – Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU)
Is this the year the Packers finally take a first-round receiver? If there’s an O-lineman they like, I can imagine them going that way instead, and it’s probably too early to reach for a tight end, so receiver does make the most sense. They really could take any of the available options too, and I like the smaller, slot-style options in Addison and Flowers, as they do lack a true slot receiver. But I like Quentin Johnston better as the true replacement for Davante Adams that Allen Lazard failed to be. Johnston is a true alpha, and while I have concerns about whether he is good enough in contested situations, he’s the sort of risk the Packers should be taking.
16. Commanders – Joey Porter Jr (CB – Penn State)
While Washington have a range of offensive needs, their atrocious secondary must be addressed first. While they could go Brian Branch to lock down the middle of the field a little better, I think Joey Porter is the better bet here as a solid scheme-fit who can slide in on the outside where the Commanders have been so very weak.
17. Steelers – Brian Branch (S/NB – Alabama)
With Terrell Edmunds out the door, the Steelers need some safety help and get it with the top option, Brian Branch. Branch is versatile and smart and should improve their run defense. Corner and O-line are also real options here, but with the top 3 guys at both positions off the board, this is their best option.
18. Lions – Jack Campbell (LB – Iowa)
The Lions have a few needs left: LB, DT, TE and QB spring to mind. But none of them really provide any value here. That makes this a really tough pick. Given this is a very weak linebacking class, and the Lions have a truly awful LB room (despite the emergence of Malcolm Rodriguez), it would make sense for Detroit to reach a little for the top option at the position, Jack Campbell. He’s the perfect Dan Campbell-type as a natural leader, a big, strong, hard worker. He’s not a sideline-to-sideline guy but is a strong, smart middle linebacker who would be a great fit next to Alex Anzalone.
19. Buccaneers – Tyler Steen (OT – Alabama)
The Buccs have a laundry list of needs, but the O-line should be their starting point. There’s no obvious 4th OT off the board, but I’m going with Tyler Steen over Darnell Wright et al. An experienced player with great athleticism, my only concern with Steen is his run blocking, which means he’s not the greatest fit for a Tampa Bay team looking to establish the run without a quality QB.
20. Seahawks – Lukas Van Ness (DE – Iowa)
Could the Seahawks really go double D-line? Given how huge that need is and how bad their pass rush was, I could imagine Seattle taking a bit of a luxury pick here in Lukas Van Ness. Honestly, he could go a lot earlier than this, but his lack of experience and lack of starting experience profile him as more of a rotational guy for now. That should suit Pete Carroll just fine, though.
21. Chargers – Mazi Smith (DT – Michigan)
The Chargers have few glaring needs, but one major issue for a while now has been their run defense. Mazi Smith is the best interior run-stuffer in this class and is the perfect pick for LA. I could also see them going RB while most of their other needs can be filled in the later rounds.
22. Ravens – Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)
If you want to know just how bad the Ravens receiving room was last year, look at their WR1: Demarcus Robinson. Ewww. Zay Flowers is an explosive RAC star who will be the perfect complement to Rashod Bateman and all those Ravens tight ends. This could also be Jordan Addison, but talk is the Ravens prefer the smaller guy, Flowers.
23. Vikings – Kelee Ringo (CB – Georgia)
The Vikings have a very weak cornerback room, even after bringing in Byron Murphy. While I prefer Tyrique Stevenson as a player, Kelee Ringo is a far better scheme fit.
24. Jaguars – Tyrique Stevenson (CB – Miami)
The Jags have been very public in their desire to improve their secondary and wide receiver room. I don’t really understand the latter, so I’m going for a corner. Tyrique Stevenson isn’t the perfect fit, but he’s by far the best option on the board.
25. Giants – Myles Murphy (DE – Clemson)
While the Giants have an obvious need for an outside receiver, I don’t think the only viable remaining option, Jordan Addison, is the guy for that role. Instead, I would suggest a stronger edge presence opposite Thibodeaux would really lift Brian Daboll’s defense to a new level. Myles Murphy is of incredible value this late, and the Giants can’t pass up on it.
26. Cowboys – Michael Mayer (TE – Notre Dame)
This is a pretty easy one. The Cowboys just lost Dalton Schultz, and while they could rely on Jake Ferguson, the top prospects in a strong tight end class just falling into their laps must be too hard to pass up on. Michael Meyer and Dalton Kincaid are battling for that top spot, and while it could go either way, I’m backing the Notre Dame man due to his superior blocking and experience.
27. Bills – Jordan Addison (WR – USC)
The Bills have an obvious need in the slot that neither Isaiah Mckenzie nor Khalil Shakir could fill. Jordan Addison is the exact guy they need to operate underneath in the space created by speedster Gabe Davis and the elite Stefon Diggs. If none of the top four receivers is available, I think the defense becomes the obvious alternative.
28. Bengals – Dalton Kincaid (TE – Utah)
Irv Smith isn’t the answer to the Bengals’ tight end problems, so they need to pick someone up in the draft. They can sort out their defensive depth issues later in the draft. Dalton Kincaid is in the running to be the first tight end off the board. In a top-heavy class, getting him late in the first round is amazing value.
29. Saints – Tuli Tuipulotu (DE – USC)
The Saints badly need edge help with Cameron Jordan nearing retirement and Marcus Davenport out the door. There are plenty of alternatives available, but I like Tuipulotu as the versatile option who can fill a number of gaps for the Saints.
30. Eagles – Calijah Kancey (DT – Pittsburgh)
The Eagles have lost plenty of interior defensive linemen, and Fletcher Cox isn’t getting any younger. Jordan Davis is a great run stuffer, but the Eagles need some interior pressure, and Calijah Kancey is the perfect player to provide that. I like the talent of Bryan Bresee, but the injuries are a concern, and I think Kancey is the better fit.
31. Chiefs – Darnell Wright (OT – Tennessee)
The Chiefs could go in any number of directions at the end of the first round with the D-line, receiver and running back all possibilities, but I think protecting Patrick Mahomes needs to be a priority. Darnell Wright is a 1st round talent who could easily go in the top 20. He doesn’t have the high-level upside of many other guys but could slot straight in at right tackle, and that’s what the Chiefs need.
Other possible 1st rounders:
Hendon Hooker (QB – Tennessee) – I just don’t think there’s a team willing to take a first-round risk on an injured player who was barely a first-round prospect when healthy.
Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – Georgia Tech) – Gibbs is an extremely talented runner, but teams simply don’t value running backs, and he’s hurt by Bijan Robinson being in the same class. He’s an elite talent who could easily go early in the first round if a team loves him though.
Jaelyn Duncan (OT – Maryland) – Could easily replace one of the tackles or go to another O-line needy team.
O’Cyrus Torrence (OG – Florida) – A viable option for teams needing interior line help. I’ve mocked him to the Eagles at least once.
Anton Harrison (OT – Oklahoma) – I don’t believe Harrison is a first-round talent, but guys in premium positions often go earlier than they should.
Nolan Smith (OLB – Georgia) – This is one I could easily see happening. Smith is a major talent, it’s just a question of whether he’s a fit for any of the teams drafting late in the first round.
Will McDonald (OLB – Iowa State) – McDonald is a great QB hunter but an awful run defender. He’s very much a luxury pick. He had a good senior bowl and would suit a team looking for more defensive pressure who is strong elsewhere.
Keion White (DE/OLB – Georgia Tech) – I see White go in a lot of mocks in the first round, and I have no idea why. He’s not a first-round talent. But we’ve seen teams fall in love with players late in the first and reach before, so it could easily happen.
Isaiah Foskey (DE – Notre Dame) – I had Foskey in the first round earlier in the process, but he’s starting to look more like a Day 2 guy. He’s just a little stiff and may not transition well to the NFL.
Bryan Bresee (DT – Clemson) – I see Bresee in a lot of mocks, and he could easily go anywhere in the second half of the first round. He’s just not quite as explosive as Kancey, nor is he as good a run-stuffer as Mazi Smith.
Henry To’oTo’o (LB – Alabama) – Inside linebackers are rarely selected in the first round. At most, you expect one or two. To’oTo’o is a really solid player but more likely to be a day 2 guy.
Trenton Simpson (LB – Clemson) – Simpson is the opposite to To’oTo’o. He’s a risky prospect with solid upside, but I doubt teams will take a risk on a guy whose tape just isn’t that good at a low-priority position.
Cam Smith (CB – South Carolina) – Smith has a lot of issues. He’s not overly twitchy, he has work ethic issues, and he’s really only a man corner option. he could go on day 1, but I doubt it.
Emmanuel Forbes (CB – Mississippi State) – There are three clear top CBs, but I’d expect 5-6 will go in the first round. That brings some guys like Forbes into the conversation, even though he’s a Day 2 talent.
Quan Martin (S/CB – Illinois) – Martin had a fantastic combine, but safeties are undervalued in the draft.