BY ISAAC HOWSON, SPORTS STAFFER
Welcome to my 2023 NFL Mock Draft, one that will probably be completely wrong. I’m going to do my best previewing the draft before it starts on Thursday at 8:00 P.M.
There seems to be a large bumper crop of talent in the draft this year, even though they say that every year. Hopefully teams can find their franchise quarterbacks this year along with defensive studs, explosive weapons and pro-bowl caliber offensive linemen. Strap in because I’ll do my best to predict what’s going to happen.
- Carolina Panthers (From Chicago) : Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
It’s clear what the Panthers want to do after they traded DJ Moore, the 9th overall pick, a second-round pick this year, a 2024 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2025. With Young’s accuracy in the pocket along with his ability to make plays out of the pocket it’s clear he appears to be the man with the weight of the Panther’s franchise on his shoulders. Some have questioned the fact that he is undersized and may be more prone to injury, but I don’t believe that’s enough to sway the pick in another direction. ‘
2. Houston Texans : Will Anderson Jr. , EDGE, Alabama
Congrats to Nick Saban and his Alabama machine producing the first two picks of this draft. Quarterback is an obvious play here for the Texans but with rumors of them not in love with a certain guy means I think they wait. Anderson is a perfect option to “settle” for at 2. His upside is that off one of the pest pass rushers in the league to come and with a Texans team that needs almost anything this pick is a no brainer.
3. Arizona Cardinals : Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
I don’t believe the Cardinals are going to trade back in the draft this year. If the Cardinals get an offer they absolutely love, then yeah maybe. However, I don’t think they get that offer and they stay put where they are. With character concerns around Jalen Carter I think the Cardinals go Wilson here. The potential is off the charts with Wilson. He has the potential to be one of the best players in this entire draft and I think the Cardinals love that here.
4. Indianapolis Colts : C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Colts get their guy. Levis is clearly the other option here but I believe the Colts play it safe. Stroud, for me, has the best floor of any QB in this draft. His accuracy seems to be pro ready and ignoring all the character issues, I believe he is the second-best option out there.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) : Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Seattle has the best player available here and I don’t think they’re complaining. I personally believe that the character issues around Carter are fabricated and this works to the benefit of Seattle. We’ve been hearing Carter’s name for months and I think he’s ready to step in for whatever team takes him on draft day and be an absolute monster.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams) : Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
There is a lot in play here for the Lions and they have an amazing selection of players to choose from. I do believe Gonzalez is the pick here. I think what you’re getting with him is the potential. Sitting at 6’ 1”, 197 lbs. with a 32” arm length means his potential as a shutdown corner is what makes the Lions select him.
7. Las Vegas Raiders : Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Raiders get their guy as well, without having to move up in the draft. I do believe the Raiders have a guy they want out of the bunch but at the end of the day, if it means not having to give up assets they would love getting Levis at 7. He’s a freak athlete and has Josh Allen type potential it seems, it’s just a matter of if he can put it all together. That type of prospect is exactly what the Raiders love and hopefully they can have a first-round that won’t have some off the field issues for once.
8. Atlanta Falcons : Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Georgia gets their turn of having some high-end selections in this draft and I really like Smith in Atlanta. I believe the Falcons can go with whomever they want here no matter if it’s a reach and with that they go with Smith. Pairing the speedy Smith with Arnold Ebiketie would wreak havoc on teams and the ability to create a two headed monster is something I don’t think the Falcons can pass up on.
9. Chicago Bears (From Carolina) : Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
With the Bears moving down, showing they clearly don’t need a quarterback, means Fields is the guy. When you have “your guy” protection is of the utmost importance. Johnson fills that hole for the Bears and helps that line which struggled last year. He can step in as a day one starter and has the potential to be a pro-bowl caliber lineman for years to come.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (From New Orleans) : Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
You can never have too many pass rushers, and I feel like the Eagles will agree with me. Van Ness would fit perfectly among the pieces that the Eagles already have and it’s good to get some younger talent mixed in with the older pieces on that line. This spot, however, should be on trade watch for teams like the Steelers who would want to jump up and grab Johnson or Skoronski for their offensive line.
11. Tennessee Titans : Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Titans need a lot of things and weapons are definitely one of them. With Robert Woods never really supplying a consistent role out of the slot, Njigba appears to be the solution. Getting the somewhat consensus best receiver in the draft is smart for the Titans here at 11.
12. Houston Texans (From Cleveland) : Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Congrats Texans fans, this is what you get for remaining patient. While it’s totally reasonable to expect a team to trade up if Richardson is on the board past 7, let’s say no one wants to trade back. I think its very likely teams from 8-11 love their guys and just stay put. Richardson is a freak athlete and him going to a team like the Texans that isn’t looking for amazing QB play right away helps the young Qbs growth. Getting amazing value at 12 makes the Texans look like the early winners of the draft.
13. Green Bay Packers (from N.Y Jets) : Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Congrats Packers you moved up two spots in this draft and it only cost you your franchise quarterback. But honestly, I don’t blame the packers, Rodgers forced his way out and they did get some more assets other than this pick swap. Mayer fills a need for the cheese heads. In my opinion he is the safest tight end in the draft. He may never be a top 3 in his position but he will be a consistent pass catcher for his entire career.
14. New England Patriots : Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
An absolute steal here for the Pats. Having, arguably, the best corner in the draft fall to you at 14 is amazing value. If Witherspoon goes earlier and Gonzalez is available I believe he would be the pick here. Mac Jones is not it and if Richardson falls keep an eye out for New England to make a move.
15. New York Jets (From Packers) : Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Jets stay winning this offseason and get an absolute steal here with their selection. The Jets just need offensive line depth and that’s what Skoronski offers. I see him as more of a guard in the NFL and the Jets are fine with that. I believe they start him at guard and with their two tackles coming back from injuries, having an amazing plug and play guy fits what the Jets need to make themselves true contenders in the NFL.
16. Washington Commanders : Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
This is either the steal of the first round or the worst pick. I think the hate on 1st round running backs is a little much. Getting a guy for 5 years that appears to have the potential of a top 5 rusher in the league is something a Commander’s team needs. They aren’t the most appealing to watch now and I think Bijan changes that. Bijan is also someone, I believe, that puts fear in opposing defenses and to make the three other teams in your division fear someone is huge for Washington.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers : Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
While I would love to trade up and grab Johnson from Ohio State this just seems like what’s going to happen at 17. My team loves their family lineages and Porter offers exactly that. We do need corners and I believe Porter is the 3rd best in this draft and as long as the Steelers can grab an offensive line by trading up or staying put at 32 I don’t mind this pick whatsoever.
18. Detroit Lions : Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Lions can really go with whatever they want and adding more depth to their defense is never a bad idea. Adding the 6 ft 5 Murphy to Aiden Hutchinson creates a scary tandem for the future. Need to get after those quarterbacks and I think the Lions agree with that saying here.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The second team to have a post Brady era needs some revamping on the offensive line. Jones fills a clear need for the Bucs as they look to move on with who knows what from the Qb position. Hendon Hooker is an interesting shout but I think if they make that move it comes later in the draft, possibly at 32. The Bucs are still getting someone who offers that pro-bowl potential from the offensive line which is something that no team can live without.
20. Seattle Seahawks : Quentin Johnston, Wr, TCU
Thanks to the Broncos the Seahawks have two first-round picks in this draft and after drafting Carter fifth overall means why not have some fun later on. With Geno being the guy in the short term, I say, go out and get another weapon. Johnston is a freak and for me is the second-best receiver in this draft. Add to that offense and make the Seahawks true contenders in that division for years to come.
21. L.A Chargers : Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Kenny Pickett’s college buddy does not go to the Steelers but lands nicely in Los Angeles. I do have some concerns with his size and hands in the NFL but it does fit a need for the Chargers. You need to supply Herbert with as many weapons as possible and Addison is dynamic enough to create some fireworks out in Sofi.
22. Baltimore Ravens : Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
I honestly expect the Ravens to move down because they seemingly do that every year. However, they need corners and grabbing Banks helps create a nice partnership with Marlon Humphrey. I’m sure they have gotten a nice look at him due to the fact he went to school close by. The Ravens have had some poor injury luck with their corners in years past and adding more only helps create more security in a division filled with offensive firepower.
23. Minnesota Vikings : Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Back-to-back corners in the draft and yet again, it fills a need. With the loss of Patrick Peterson, the Vikings need to fill the void and with Banks off the board they go with Forbes. While Forbes has been called out for being a very aggressive corner I think his 4.35 40-yard dash along with his play recognition make him an interesting prospect for the Vikings.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
With Trevor Lawrence showing why he was the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft you need to protect him. With concerns over his length as a pass rusher means he does fall to the Jags at 24. However, at worst I believe he’ll be a solid lineman in the league which is something I think the Jags can live with at pick 24.
25. New York Giants : Brian Branch, S, Alabama
A great year for the Giants and adding Branch makes it even better. The Giants need a safety and adding a freak of an athlete in Branch makes that defense even scarier. Another plus to Branch is his availability to play some corner if need be. Adding a swiss army knife to Don Martindale’s defense only makes that division even tougher to predict.
26. Dallas Cowboys : Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
With the name Dalton you’d think he’d be the closer for the Double Deuce, but instead he’s the Cowboys first-round selection. Kincaid has the potential to be the best tight end in this draft. Losing Dalton Schultz to the Texans means there’s a position to be filled and that’s exactly what Kincaid offers. Also look out for Bijan if he’s still here.
27. Buffalo Bills : Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
The Bills wouldn’t surprise me if they want Zay Flowers here but with DeAndre Hopkins available for a second-round pick I think they do that instead. What they get with McDonald is depth for a d-line that needs it. I love Von Miller but can you still rely on him with his age and coming off a major injury. McDonald fits nicely in the Bills defense that is still finding a way to get to the quarterback. Hopefully with this pick they can actually get to Mahomes.
28. Cincinnati Bengals : Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
With the over under for tight ends in the first round, I believe, being 2.5 I say take the over. Washington is an absolute freak who if pans out could easily be the best tight end in the game. Heck he could even play slot receiver in my opinion with how versatile he is. The Bengals can afford to take a swing for the fences with pick 28 and if it works, they could find themselves with the best offense in football.
29. New Orleans Saints (From San Francisco) : Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
I don’t know why but I can just picture Bresee in a Saints jersey. They clearly need defensive linemen and I think he’s the best available at this pick. Hendon Hooker is interesting here but I honestly believe they could wait if they really wanted him.
30. Philadelphia Eagles : Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
The Eagles have the luxury of going with the best player available here and Kancey is an interesting pick for them. While I could see him going higher if he falls to 30 the Eagles could scoop him up. I keep mentioning him but look out for Hendon Hooker. The Eagles sure wouldn’t mind moving down so this makes this pick another interesting watch.
31. Kansas City Chiefs : Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Just like capitalism the rich keep getting richer. With Ju-Ju leaving for the Pats there is a need to fill at the wide receiver position. If Flowers is here I think it’s a no brainer for the Chiefs. To have a cheap contract for what could be a #1 or at worst #2 reviver is huge for a team coming off a Superbowl with their amazing, but expensive quarterback.
This concluded my mock draft for the 2023 NFL Draft. I assume 90% of this isn’t going to come close to happening but it’s fun to take a deep dive into the world of NFL prospects. And yes, you can kill me for no trades but in my opinion it’s more fun. Yes, there are going to be draft day trades but it’s fun to play the what if game. I’m just hoping my Steelers don’t mess things up this year.