With the 2023 NFL Draft now upon us, I am pleased to present my 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my personal impressions of team needs and interests entering the draft, with consideration given to a potential late-round trade scenario.
Enjoy the draft!
1 | Carolina Panthers (via CHI) — Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
After the Panthers traded up with the clear intent to a draft quarterback, they have done their due diligence on all of top prospects at the position. C.J. Stroud seemed to emerge as their preferred choice initially, but Bryce Young is now the overwhelming favorite to be selected first overall.
2 | Houston Texans — Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Quarterback is the obvious need, but with the Texans missing out on the opportunity to draft their reported favorite, Bryce Young, the question now is whether they like either C.J. Stroud or Will Levis here. If not, it could be Will Anderson Jr., arguably the top defensive prospect in this draft, who heads to Houston with the second overall pick.
3 | Arizona Cardinals — Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Cardinals have been and expect to continue fielding offers from teams looking to trade up for a quarterback, but likely do not want to drop too far down only to see their top targets come off the board right in front of them. A trade down that yields a reasonably compelling return and still leaves Arizona in prime position to draft a top offensive lineman, cornerback, or edge rusher — such as Tyree Wilson — would be ideal for a team that has a plethora of needs on both sides of the ball.
4 | Indianapolis Colts — Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
If the Texans elect to pass on a quarterback, look for the Colts to weigh a trade up with either them or the Cardinals to secure their top choice at the position. Indianapolis could just as easily draft C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson, but there is ample buzz that suggests their passer of preference is Will Levis.
5 | Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) — Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Seahawks will likely have a decision to make here whether to continue fortifying their defense through the draft or rolling the dice on the athletically gifted Anthony Richardson as their quarterback of the future. That said, it’s boom or bust for Seattle with the fifth overall pick — or perhaps a pick later in sequence acquired in a trade down — as they bank on being able to develop Richardson’s raw talent.
6 | Detroit Lions (via LAR) — Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Defense expects to be the focus for the Lions with the sixth overall pick, as they will be within striking distance of or selecting from among the top cornerbacks, edge rushers, and defensive lineman Jalen Carter. Their level of comfort with Carter likely determines whether he is the pick, but I can also see a scenario where Detroit simply prefers Devon Witherspoon.
7 | Las Vegas Raiders — Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Raiders are firmly in the first-round quarterback market, but they are also in dire need of premier talent at every level of their defense. That said, while I think it’s more likely that Las Vegas shops this pick to acquire more draft capital, I would lean towards cornerback Christian Gonzalez being one of the primary targets that they hope to come away with — either at seventh overall or slightly down the board.
8 | Atlanta Falcons — Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
With the two top cornerbacks and edge rushers eluding them, the Falcons may be pressed to simply opt for the best player available. With that in mind, Atlanta has emerged as the first potential landing spot for running back Bijan Robinson. Whether or not a team should spend premium draft capital on a running back is certainly a conversation that can be had, but there’s no denying that Robinson is an elite prospect and makes sense as the selection for a team whose offense would run through him.
9 | Chicago Bears (via CAR) — Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Even after trading down ahead of the draft, the Bears may end up in position to select a prospect they would have considered at first overall in Jalen Carter. Whether Carter is or isn’t available, there are also a number of signs that have begun to point at athletic offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. being in heavy consideration here for Chicago.
10 | Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) — Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The Eagles fielded one of the best rosters in the league last year from top to bottom, but took a number of hits this offseason. Having Jalen Carter slide to them on draft night — or more likely, Philadelphia trading up to stop his fall — would more than cushion the blow from those losses, while giving the polarizing prospect the opportunity to grow into a pro under veteran leadership on and off the field.
11 | Tennessee Titans — Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
The Titans expect to be adding a new piece to their offense on draft night, either here or perhaps earlier in a trade up. Quarterback or receiver could be in play, but I see Tennessee continuing to remake their offensive line and targeting versatile tackle-guard prospect Peter Skoronski to fill a starting role.
12 | Houston Texans (via CLE) — C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
While they pass on a quarterback at the start of the draft in this scenario, the Texans still somehow manage to land C.J. Stroud when they come back up on the clock for their second selection — perhaps in part due to the unflattering narratives circulating about Stroud in the lead up to the draft. In any case, while the board appears to fall in their favor here, I see this fit being more likely to fall into place as the result of the Texans trading up.
13 | Green Bay Packers (via NYJ) — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
It would be ironic for the Packers to finally draft a wide receiver for the first time in 20 years with a quarterback change now officially on the horizon. But, imagine Green Bay not only breaking the trend, but emphasizing the point by using the pick acquired in the Aaron Rodgers trade to do it and selecting Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
14 | New England Patriots — Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Patriots are a team to watch for a cornerback, an offensive tackle, or a wide receiver, and with a number of names still on the board to consider, I see New England opting for local product Zay Flowers, a playmaking pass-catcher who has been linked to the organization since the start of the draft process.
15 | New York Jets (via GB) — Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Now that the Jets have their new quarterback, the priority should be to shore up his frontline protection. Offensive tackle Broderick Jones has room to grow but offers the upside to be a long-term solution at a position where New York has been chasing consistency.
16 | Washington Commanders — Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Cornerback and tight end could be in consideration here, but if the Commanders have a shot at one of the top offensive linemen at the midpoint of the first round, it’s difficult to see them passing. In this scenario, it’s rugged right tackle Darnell Wright who goes to Washington.
17 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Offensive line or a trade up could be in play depending on how the board falls, but cornerback is a clear and present need for Pittsburgh. Deonte Banks is also a consideration, but it may just be meant to be for Joey Porter Jr. to join the Steelers and follow in the footsteps of his father.
18 | Detroit Lions — Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Along with cornerback, which they addressed earlier in this scenario, defensive line appears to be the highest-priority target for Detroit in the first round. Tight end is also a possibility, but they likely take the chance the position stretches to the top of the second round. If they are unable to land Tyree Wilson, who they are reportedly interested in, with their earlier pick, a fallback option with comparable upside for the Lions could be Lukas Van Ness.
19 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
The Buccaneers head into the draft with a vacancy at offensive tackle, but may not be keen to dip into the next tier this early. An alternative could be pursuing a key chess piece for their defense and drafting a high-floor, do-everything defensive back in Brian Branch.
20 | Seattle Seahawks — Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Should the Seahawks proceed with drafting a quarterback with their first pick in the draft, virtually every other position appears to be in play with their second pick. That said, I see the opportunity to draft hybrid edge defender Nolan Smith here being too appealing for Seattle to pass up.
21 | Los Angeles Chargers — Jordan Addison, WR, USC
From my view, the choice for the Chargers here will come down to two players — edge rusher Myles Murphy and wide receiver Jordan Addison. Looking at the team’s roster construction, the same considerations factor in at both positions: age, injury concerns, and salary increases for the current starters heading into next offseason. The pick may ultimately depend on who has the most influence in the war room. That said, after initially slotting Myles Murphy here, I see Jordan Addison staying in Los Angeles to start his career as a pro.
22 | Baltimore Ravens — Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Ravens likely explore a trade down given their limited number of picks, but may think twice about moving back with one of the the top four cornerbacks still on the board. Deonte Banks would address a critical need and would have the opportunity to emerge as an immediate starter for Baltimore.
23 | Minnesota Vikings — Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt
The Vikings expect to be in play for a wide receiver here certainly and possibly a quarterback. However, should they miss out on their primary targets or opt to trade down for more picks, I can see them shifting their focus to defense with the intent to juice up the interior pass rush. Calijah Kancey is a physical outlier, but is undoubtedly a disruptive force inside with a skill set that compares favorably to other successful pros at or around his size.
24 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
The Jaguars are in an advantageous position heading into the draft, not having very many obvious holes to fill. As such, they can afford to draft the best player available on their board. Should edge rusher Myles Murphy or defensive back Brian Branch remain available, they expect to be the mix, but I can also see Jacksonville opening up the anticipated early run on tight ends with the selection of dynamic pass-catcher Dalton Kincaid.
25 | New York Giants — John Michael Schmitz, OC, Minnesota
Projecting a wide receiver to the Giants here has been popular throughout the draft process, as well as cornerback more recently, and rightfully so. But when the chips are down, I ultimately see New York investing again in the offensive line to protect their investment at quarterback — specifically keeping the front of the pocket clean. For my money, there’s no better prospect in this draft to plug in and play at the pivot than John Michael Schmitz.
26 | Dallas Cowboys — Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Cowboys have made shrewd moves to address problem areas this offseason, notably at wide receiver and cornerback. While you can’t rule it out here, the need to draft a prospect at either position with their first-round pick has been appreciably reduced. Running back is a need, however, and the Cowboys would surely love to see Bijan Robinson still available here. But, it’s more likely they close on a guard or a tight end, with a number of names in the mix. With that in mind, Michael Mayer has gained steam as a primary target in recent weeks and emerged as the favorite to be drafted by Dallas.
27 | Buffalo Bills — Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
At a glance, the Bills appear to have their bases covered at most every position, but it’s difficult to ignore the sizable void at linebacker and the limited time remaining on the contracts of multiple interior defensive linemen. I personally like the fit of linebacker Drew Sanders here, but Buffalo may be more partial to adding a big body up front — and defensive tackle Mazi Smith certainly fits that profile.
28 | Cincinnati Bengals — Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Offensive line and tight end have been the popular projections for the Bengals here and they are in range to draft a prospective starter at either position if they so prefer. But, if Cincinnati feels comfortable with their current in-house options at right tackle and the capacity for the board to stretch at tight end, I can see them addressing a thin depth chart at cornerback with Emmanuel Forbes, who plays well above his well-publicized weight class.
29 | New Orleans Saints (via SF) — Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
With a new quarterback in place, the Saints expect to add more weapons to their offense through the draft, which puts receivers Jalin Hyatt and Quentin Johnston in the conversation here of the names still available. But, I can see adding a top prospect on the edge — where they have a reasonable need — enticing New Orleans more and perhaps to the point of trading up. I didn’t forecast it here, but I have a scenario in mind where, if Myles Murphy starts to slide, the Saints make the call to move up with a cooperative partner. Otherwise, depending on how the board falls and considering how his stock has cooled, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to suggest that Murphy is still around if they stay put.
30 | Las Vegas Raiders (via PHI)* — Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
* Projected trade up with Philadelphia Eagles *
There seems to be enough smoke coming from league circles to now believe five quarterbacks coming off the board in the first round is a real possibility. Personally, I think if it happens, it will be the result of a team trading back in at the end of the night, perhaps with the Eagles here, who may attempt to recoup assets if they move up from their earlier pick. The Raiders have done their homework on all of the top quarterbacks in this draft and, depending on how they have them stacked and how the board falls, could engineer an exchange with Philadelphia to jump back into the first round and draft Hendon Hooker.
31 | Kansas City Chiefs— Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
The Chiefs enter the draft with a number of familiar pieces now missing from their roster and I look at drafting offensive line or defensive line here, a trade down, or a trade up for a player they really covet all being options for Kansas City. But, I can see them continuing to remake their receiver corps with an emphasis on the element of deep speed and drafting blazer Jalin Hyatt.
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition
|1||Carolina Panthers (via CHI)||QB||Bryce Young||Alabama|
|2||Houston Texans||EDGE||Will Anderson Jr.||Alabama|
|3||Arizona Cardinals||EDGE||Tyree Wilson||Texas Tech|
|4||Indianapolis Colts||QB||Will Levis||Kentucky|
|5||Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)||QB||Anthony Richardson||Florida|
|6||Detroit Lions (via LAR)||CB||Devon Witherspoon||Illinois|
|7||Las Vegas Raiders||CB||Christian Gonzalez||Oregon|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||RB||Bijan Robinson||Texas|
|9||Chicago Bears (via CAR)||OT||Paris Johnson Jr.||Ohio State|
|10||Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)||DL||Jalen Carter||Georgia|
|11||Tennessee Titans||OL||Peter Skoronski||Northwestern|
|12||Houston Texans (via CLE)||QB||C.J. Stroud||Ohio State|
|13||Green Bay Packers (via NYJ)||WR||Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Ohio State|
|14||New England Patriots||WR||Zay Flowers||Boston College|
|15||New York Jets (via GB)||OT||Broderick Jones||Georgia|
|16||Washington Commanders||OT||Darnell Wright||Tennessee|
|17||Pittsburgh Steelers||CB||Joey Porter Jr.||Penn State|
|18||Detroit Lions||EDGE||Lukas Van Ness||Iowa|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DB||Brian Branch||Alabama|
|20||Seattle Seahawks||LB||Nolan Smith||Georgia|
|21||Los Angeles Chargers||WR||Jordan Addison||USC|
|22||Baltimore Ravens||CB||Deonte Banks||Maryland|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||DL||Calijah Kancey||Pitt|
|24||Jacksonville Jaguars||TE||Dalton Kincaid||Utah|
|25||New York Giants||OC||John Michael Schmitz||Minnesota|
|26||Dallas Cowboys||TE||Michael Mayer||Notre Dame|
|27||Buffalo Bills||DT||Mazi Smith||Michigan|
|28||Cincinnati Bengals||CB||Emmanuel Forbes||Mississippi State|
|29||New Orleans Saints (via SF)||EDGE||Myles Murphy||Clemson|
|30||Las Vegas Raiders (via PHI)*||QB||Hendon Hooker||Tennessee|
|31||Kansas City Chiefs||WR||Jalin Hyatt||Tennessee|