Mock Draft 4.0
Welcome to my final full mock draft before the 2023 NFL Draft. There will be news coming in as we approach the draft and I will be posting a minor update on Instagram on draft day, but this is my last iteration with commentary, and I don’t expect too many major changes in the final 48 hours. Plus, if you want your own say, enter your predicted top 10 in the competition on our Instagram page.
1. Panthers – Bryce Young (QB – Alabama)
And just like that, Bryce Young is back to being the overwhelming favorite to be taken first overall. For some time, rumors have been swelling that Young is the owner’s favorite while the coaches prefer CJ Stroud. It seems Tepper will win out, with reports Young has canceled all other visits and bookies locking in Young as the overwhelming favorite to go first. This isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as some may be making out, in my opinion, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Panthers are trying to trick the Texans into trading up with them (which may be giving them too much credit) or that we’re all just over-reading the actions of some of the parties involved. Nevertheless, Young should be the first name called on Thursday night.
2. Texans – Will Anderson (DE – Alabama)
It looks like the Texans only like one quarterback, and they’ve messed up big time by giving away the number one pick back in Week 18. It seems they don’t value any of the remaining QBs enough to take one at this pick, and given no one will trade up to 2 (when they can just trade with the Cardinals instead), Houston seems like they will stick and pick a defender. Tyree Wilson is the bookies’ favorite, but I’m hearing it’s more likely to be Will Anderson, the safer of the two picks, to start things off with an Alabama 1-2.
3. Cardinals – Tyree Wilson (DE – Texas Tech)
The Cardinals have been linked to Tyree Wilson for a week or two now, and with Houston leaning towards Anderson and nobody willing to pay enough to trade up for CJ Stroud, it seems Arizona will get their man. There is a complication, though. Kyler Murray has been on record as requesting Paris Johnson, and the Cards certainly have a need at tackle. So while edge isn’t the cut-and-dry pick, I think it’s most likely. Also, don’t be shocked if the Titans, Raiders, or someone else slides up for this pick.
4. Colts – CJ Stroud (QB – Ohio State)
While Will Levis is the popular pick as the second QB off the board, I think he’s in for a bit of a fall. While the media has hyped him up, it’s hard to see the Colts taking a player that’s so risky, with limited upside, when you have a pro-ready product already available. I know the Texans weren’t keen on some of Stroud’s mental stuff, but I’d like to this the Colts are willing to look past that. Meanwhile, it looks like Anthony Richardson is totally out of the question as the Colts are focused on the near future.
5. Seahawks – Jalen Carter (DT – Georgia)
There have been plenty of negative comments regarding Jalen Carter’s personality, work ethic and intangibles (an arrest, a lack of fitness at his Pro Day and questions about his love of football), but the Seahawks still look like they’ll risk him with the number five pick. They do have the benefit of an additional first-round pick which does grant them a little more leeway, so while they’d likely prefer Anderson or Wilson, Carter also fills a major need. He’s an elite athlete with enormous upside, and if he pans out, he could be the pick of the draft.
6. Lions – Devon Witherspoon (CB – Illinois)
The bookies have Witherspoon locked in as the favorite for this pick, which is a big change from a couple of weeks ago. He’s the perfect fit for the intangibles-driven Lions and would slot in beautifully in a Dan Campbell offense that just traded away former first-round bust Jeff Okudah. Will they get it right this time around? It seems like Witherspoon has been sufficiently cleared from an injury perspective and is a better scheme fit for the new regime, so I think it’s likely second time lucky for Lions fan on the CB carousel.
7. Raiders – Paris Johnson (OT/G – Ohio State)
The Raiders could easily end up with Christian Gonzalez here as he fills a major need, but with Paris Johnson still, on the board, I think they really need to snatch him up. Johnson has been a major riser in the draft process and looks highly likely to be a top 8 pick at worst, though realistically, every team in the top 10 will likely consider him until he goes as tackles are just so valuable. The only risk is that he may need time at guard before he transitions out.
8. Falcons – Bijan Robinson (RB – Texas)
I’ve been delaying making this change for weeks, and I still think Peter Skoronski is a very good fit, but ultimately Bijan is just such a Falcons pick, as they’ve developed a real habit of drafting elite skill position players early in the first round. Robinson is probably the best prospect in the draft, and the Falcons should feel like their Super Bowl window includes the next five years, so snapping up the best runner since Saquon Barkley is a wise choice. Alternatively, I can imagine edge rushers Nolan Smith and Lukas Van Ness are also viable options. The Falcons do have many needs, and edge is the greatest.
9. Bears – Peter Skoronski (OT/G – Northwestern)
While the Bears will be hoping one of the top three D-linemen falls to them, without that option, I think they need to improve Justin Fields’s protection. Paris Johnson would be the ideal fit, and I can still see them going Darnell Wright, but I think Skoronski is just too good a player to pass up on. His short arms do have coaches scared of his NFL viability, but I think he’s the kind of player you take anyway.
10. Eagles – Lukas Van Ness (DE – Iowa)
The Eagles could well take Bijan Robinson if he’s here, while Jalen Carter would be a perfect choice if he falls, but given they’re gone in this mock, as are the top offensive linemen, Philly instead get edge rushing help for when their starters ultimately move on in a year or two. Van Ness is young but very talented and is apparently a popular name in Philadelphia. Also, don’t be shocked if they go wide receiver and pick off Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of nowhere. A trade-up for a preferred option is also possible.
11. Titans – Anthony Richardson (QB – Florida)
This would be a bit of a shock, especially with Tony Pauline reporting the Titans like Will Levis and CJ Stroud, but with a full rebuild on the cards, talk of Derrick Henry being traded away and Ryan Tannehill still around for a bit, Richardson makes sense. I’m not a big Richardson fan, his floor is extremely low, but I can imagine the Tennessee brass falling in love with his upside and taking the gamble. O-line also isn’t out of the question, especially if one of the top two tackles falls.
12. Texans – Will Levis (QB – Kentucky)
Can the Texans really pull off this move? Honestly, I think they’d be fine with passing on a quarterback with both picks, even if Levis is still available, but I’m slotting him in here because I think this is more likely than any other individual team below this pick. Don’t even be surprised if he (or Richardson) pulls a Malik Willis and really falls. Previously I’ve had Jaxon Smith-Njigba locked in here, with many linking him to Houston since the original Tony Pauline report, but I’m going to side with the excellent Charlie Campbell and stick with Levis here for now. Also, don’t rule out Bijan Robinson, as crazy as that sounds.
13. Packers – Nolan Smith (OLB – Georgia)
The Packers could really use a pass-catcher here, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba or a tight end are very much on the cards, but I expect they hit the trenches instead. A tackle like Darnell Wright is very much in the conversation, but I think Nolan Smith is the better bet, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith just not doing a good enough job of pressuring opposition quarterbacks. Protecting Jordan Love should be a major concern, too, though, and it is possible they insisted on the pick swap with the Jets as they know New York is taking a tackle. Regardless, it should be one of those two options.
14. Patriots – Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)
The Patriots are a nightmare to mock, but Bill Belichick does prefer versatile players, which I think knocks out the two tackles on the board (Darnell Wright and Broderick Jones) while I don’t think the only cornerback of value here, Christian Gonzalez, is a Pats fit either. That leaves wide receiver, and while Zay Flowers is the kind of whacky pick I could see New England taking, I’m going with JSN as this is the right range for him, and I could see a team trading up with the Patriots (who love going down) to get the OSU man.
15. Jets – Darnell Wright (OT – Tennessee)
The Jets desperately need O-line help for their new, plodding QB. Darnell Wright would be excellent value, and if he’s gone, I imagine they take Broderick Jones instead. If somehow all of these guys are gone, I could see them reaching for Anton Harrison or taking a pass rusher like Myles Murphy.
16. Commanders – Christian Gonzalez (CB – Oregon)
This would be incredible value for Gonzalez, who deserves to be a top-10 pick. Washington desperately needs help in their secondary, and Gonzalez is arguably the best cornerback in this draft. He should go earlier, but a fall isn’t out of the question.
17. Steelers – Joey Porter Jr (CB – Penn State)
People love mocking Porter to Pittsburgh, his father’s team. I personally just think he’s the best value in a position of need for the Steelers. The other possibility here is Broderick Jones, and I think he’s equally viable, as protecting Kenny Pickett and creating lanes for Najee Harris is vital for the black and gold.
18. Lions – Myles Murphy (DE – Clemson)
This is a really tough pick to make. The Lions have few desperate needs, so they’ll likely go with some version of the best player available. I could see Jahmyr Gibbs, Broderick Jones, a trade down or even a linebacker, but I’m going for the value pick in Myles Murphy. I see him sliding inside as a 3-4 DE, but he could play some edge too.
19. Buccaneers – Broderick Jones (OT – Georgia)
The Buccs have so many needs it’s hard to know which way to turn. I think if a pass rusher or quarterback drops, they could easily go that way, while cornerback isn’t out of the question. With Jones on the board, though, I’m going to slot him in here. They’ll need a strong O-line if they’re going to get anything out of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask.
20. Seahawks – Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)
While edge rush is a major issue in Seattle, with no value available at this spot, I think Pete Carroll brings in a third pass catcher to supplement Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and eventually take over from the former. The other wide receivers are also viable here.
21. Chargers – Jordan Addison (WR – USC)
It’s hard to see this not being a pass catcher here, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams unable to stay consistently healthy and Josh Palmer a bit meh. Tight end is a real possibility, too, with the Chargers sniffing around free agency and trades for one. That feels like a second-round option, though, while there’s really only four good receivers available this year.
22. Ravens – Deonte Banks (CB – Maryland)
While I think receiver is the far greater need, cornerback is the heavy bookies’ favorite. Though Emmanuel Forbes is really rising, I think Banks is the better fit for Baltimore. Regardless, expect a value pick, as the Ravens are traditionally excellent drafters.
23. Vikings – Emmanuel Forbes (CB – Miss. State)
The Vikings badly needs secondary help. I think there are a fair few options here in the 20s, with Kelee Ringo, Brian Branch, Cam Smith and Tyrique Stevenson all possible names in this range. Forbes is the riser, though, as I mentioned earlier, so he’s the pick here. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota grabs a receiver if the right guy is on the board though.
24. Jaguars – Brian Branch (S/CB – Alabama)
Branch is a really tough guy to slot in. The Jaguars have been very vocal in their need for a cornerback, and it’s by far the most likely choice, but I’ve no idea who they’ll select. Kelee Ringo is also a real chance, but with Branch’s ability to play safety, too (and hence take over from the mediocre Rayshawn Jenkins), I like him in Jacksonville.
25. Giants – Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU)
While the Giants need help in their back 7, I’m slotting them the remaining receiver to play opposite Darius Slayton. I’m not sold on this pick at all, but it’s just not obvious who else they could select. Johnston is my favorite WR in the class, but he’s very risky with awkward hands and separation issues. But he’s big and fast, and I love his upside. He’d be an intriguing fit in NYC.
26. Cowboys – Dalton Kincaid (TE – Utah)
There’s been plenty of chat linking Dallas with pass catchers, and while receiver is bizarrely a real chance, with the top four gone, they surely have to take the top tight end on their board. For me, that’s Kincaid, the more complete blocker and player. Michael Mayer is a real chance, too, while a tackle isn’t out of the question in this range.
27. Bills – Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – Alabama)
I spoke on the Razzball Fantasy podcast about my love of Jahmyr Gibbs, and it seems like bookies are catching up with me, as he’s now a favorite to go in the first round. I think anywhere from the Lions back is a possibility, and I don’t see him slipping past the Eagles at 30. The Bills are very much in win-now territory, and while an O-line addition is viable, as would a receiver be if one were available (maybe they trade up?) I’m slotting them a truly elite weapon for their backfield.
28. Bengals – Michael Mayer (TE – Notre Dame)
I’m not buying Irv Smith as the Bengals’ starter for next season. They’ll surely pick up a tight end on Day 1 or 2. With Michael Mayer still available, they have to snap him up. Mayer isn’t the greatest blocker, but he’s so good after the catch, I just love watching him play. He’s bordering on a first-round lock, even if it’s late.
29. Saints – Calijah Kancey (DT – Pittsburgh)
The Saints badly need D-line help. I don’t love any of the edge rushers here, so I’ll give them some interior pressure instead with the ultra-talented rusher in Kancey. He’s not a good run defender, so if they want that guy, Mazi Smith or even Bryan Bresee are better options. But New Orleans has benefited from excellent interior pressure for years, and with Cameron Jordan almost aging out, it’s time for the new hotness.
30. Eagles – Bryan Bresee (DT – Clemson)
The Eagles could go a number of ways here, and it, of course, depends on who they draft at 10. I think helping the interior of their D-line would be a classic Eagles move, though, as they love bulking up the trenches. Bryan Bresee is a love/hate prospect, but he’s a sensible risk to take at this point. Hopefully, the Eagles liked what they saw at their top 30 visit with him.
31. Chiefs – Anton Harrison (OT – Oklahoma)
The Chiefs have invested an enormous amount of money in their generational quarterback. Now they need to protect him from getting trodden on in the playoffs again. Anton Harrison isn’t my favorite tackle left, I prefer Tyler Steen and Jaelyn Duncan, but Harrison seems to be the guy NFL teams prefer.
Check out my rankings, mock draft and other articles at ffdfantasyfootball.com, or if you have any thoughts or questions, you can find me @thefantasyfirstdown on Instagram (where I answer all questions) and @fantasyfirstdwn on Twitter. In two weeks, I’ll be back after the draft with a new series of articles.