If you didn’t see the big capital letters in the post title, then let me reiterate: this is the FINAL VERSION of my 2023 NFL mock draft. Even though less time has elapsed between versions 2.0 and 3.0 than between 1.0 and 2.0, you’ll find just as many changes (if not more). Anyone who says they are confident about their mock draft is lying. This year is crazier than any I’ve seen in a decade. At the risk of repeating myself too many times, this is what I think teams WILL do, not what they SHOULD do. To see what changed, you can find version 2.0 here.
Note: The Miami Dolphins lost their original 1st-round pick due to tampering violations by their owner Stephen Ross.
- Carolina Panthers – QB Bryce Young, Alabama
I’ve warned that this pick could change, and indeed it has. Evidently, owner David Tepper has overruled his new head coach. Frank Reich says “there is consensus“, but he’s probably just parroting the company line. This would be by far the shortest QB ever coached by Reich, which is a shame because he’s really good in all other respects. His processing speed, accuracy, leadership, and mobility are all excellent. That 5’10”, 194-lb frame just gives me pause. Clearly, it doesn’t give Tepper pause.
- Houston Texans – DE Will Anderson, Alabama
Apparently Young was Houston’s preferred QB all along. I’ve been mocking him to Houston consistently, but he’s no longer available. As badly as the Texans need a QB, they opt for the best player available. GM Nick Caserio comes from NE, where they love Alabama players. New HC DeMeco Ryans is a defensive-minded guy, and he knows how elite edge rushers change teams from his time in SF. I admit that this is a guess, as even NFL Insider Ian Rapoport says nobody has any clue whatsoever what the Texans are going to do tonight.
- Arizona Cardinals – OT Paris Johnson Jr, Ohio State
Ultimately, I don’t think Arizona gets the value they want to move this pick. Since they aren’t after a QB, they’ll simply take the top player on their board. Who is that player though? Many sources feel that it’s DE Tyree Wilson, whereas Johnson has been gaining a ton of traction. I think Arizona might place a higher emphasis on tackles, especially given Kyler Murray’s protection issues and injury history. Johnson has soared past Peter Skoronski as the top-rated OL prospect, as he’s a true LT candidate.
- Indianapolis Colts – QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State
It appears that the Colts are staying put. Owner Jim Irsay wants the team to develop its own QB, so trading for an expensive veteran (i.e., Lamar Jackson) is out. Supposedly, the team is interested in Will Levis. Conversely, I’ve been giving them Anthony Richardson. None of us expected Stroud to be available here, however, so that likely changes the calculus for Indy. The Levis news feels too much like a smokescreen, and I think Indianapolis just wants Stroud to come to them so they don’t have to move up to #3. Stroud fits new HC Shane Steichen best, and the Colts might defer to that unlike Carolina.
- Seattle Seahawks – DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
If everyone Seattle likes is off the board, they’re a prime candidate to trade down with a team that wants a QB. Contrary to popular belief, I just don’t see Jalen Carter is a fit for the Seahawks. His questionable work ethic is a horrible match for Pete Carroll, and as much as this team takes risk, I think this is one they’ll pass on. With Arizona taking Paris Johnson, Wilson falls to Seattle. He is similar to Carter in his high upside, but he comes without the baggage and plays a premium position.
A foot injury drops him to 5 in this draft, but if he and Anderson are gone, this is an extreme trade-down candidate.
- Detroit Lions – CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
I still believe that my previous pick, Myles Murphy, is the best player available. Teams just don’t seem to agree with me, as they have him rated in the teens. Additionally, Jeff Okudah was recently traded, so CB is now a big need. I described Witherspoon as my top CB in version 1.0, but he fell in version 2.0 after teams soured on him. Since then, he ran a great 40 time and proved his health, so he’s back in the top 10. I think he has the best technique in the class, and his strong tackling and relentless motor will greatly please HC Dan Campbell.
- Las Vegas Raiders – CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
I’ve completely shied away from the idea of LV taking a QB, even if CJ Stroud were to fall to them. Next year’s class is better, and this team is not a QB away. Thus, I’m keeping this pick the same. The Raiders have been consistently linked to Gonzalez and view him as CB1. As a tall and fast CB, Gonzalez has the most upside, and that’s ideal for a developmental team like the Raiders. There’s also a lot of fluidity in his movements, so he could fit both man and zone schemes. Las Vegas needs as many building blocks as they can find, so this CB should entice them.
- Atlanta Falcons – OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
I’m still unsure about Atlanta. They’d probably be open to a trade with Philly if the Eagles want to leapfrog the Bears for (spoiler alert) Jalen Carter. Given the fact that Chicago might opt to take their lineman in that scenario, I’ll leave the Falcons where they are. The best player available that fits Atlanta is Skoronski, as he is an ideal guard who can move over to tackle if needed once Jake Matthews moves on. Skoronski is considered the cleanest lineman in this class, and he’d be the first one taken if he had longer arms.
- Chicago Bears – DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
GM Ryan Poles LOVES Carter, so I guess Drew Rosenhaus was right: his client is not falling out of the top 10. I won’t discuss Carter’s issues anymore, just his fit with the Bears. Chicago needs talent at all levels of their defense (and offense for that matter). For some teams, Carter the football player is the #1 overall prospect in the 2023 draft. Chicago had the #1 pick yet might still conceivably land their top player. That outcome has to greatly appeal to the Bears’ brass.
- Philadelphia Eagles – DE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
Some of my previous picks still look like they could happen, and here’s another one. From what I’m hearing, GM Howie Roseman likes Van Ness’s upside more than Nolan Smith’s. He wanted Carter, but in this draft, Atlanta doesn’t facilitate that result. Roseman loves line prospects period, so he’ll be glad to take Van Ness and develop him for a year behind Brandon Graham, just as the team did with Jordan Davis behind Javon Hargrave.
- Tennessee Titans – QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Though I gave the Titans Will Levis last edition, I don’t think he’s their preferred pick. As I’ve stated, Richardson is Levis with higher upside. Tennessee swung for the fences with Malik Willis last year but is unsatisfied. Richardson feels to me like he could present the same problem but with a higher pick, but I’m not making the call here. His upside remains immense, and his floor remains perilously low. Richardson’s future depends on his new team’s plan for him.
- Houston Texans – QB Will Levis, Kentucky
As has been the rumor, I think the Texans really do prefer Levis among the non-Bryce Young QBs. I just don’t think it’s their first pack that they’ll use to acquire him. The team isn’t THAT MUCH in love that they can’t handle the thought of Levis being gone by 12. If he’s still on the board at 12, the team might run the draft card to the commissioner. Houston isn’t keen on Stroud’s personality, which is pretty much the opposite of Levis’s. Despite a roller coaster draft process, Levis settles around where we thought he might after all.
- Green Bay Packers – OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Green Bay has moved up two spots due to the Aaron Rodgers trade, and that gives them more options than you might expect because their needs align with New England’s. A pass catcher is often given to the Packers in mock drafts, but that just doesn’t fit Green Bay’s first-round strategy. I think they’ll opt to provide better protection for Jordan Love and draft weapons later. Wright is purely a right tackle prospect, but he might be the best one. It also happens to be what GB needs.
- New England Patriots – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The Patriots need to help Mac Jones, whether that’s with a pass catcher or a blocker. I had Broderick Jones here before, but I’m now feeling that Bill Belichick might be hesitant to go back to the Georgia OT well, particularly since they want someone who can contribute now. Jones is a developmental LT prospect. In this draft, the top WR who will be ready on day 1 falls to NE, and they scoop him up. Smith-Njigba’s veteran savvy and route running make him a great fit for the Patriot Way.
- New York Jets – OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
The Jets are fortunate that New England wants a receiver, because it enables them to scoop up the last premium OT in the draft. Jones has some issues that he needs to clean up, but they’re all coachable. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is paramount, and having another lineman that could step in or even start would be fantastic for them. New York can’t afford to watch its line crumble after a couple players get hurt. Jones addresses that contingency while also developing as the LT of the future given Duane Brown’s age.
- Washington Commanders – CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Washington is all-in on a CB, so they aren’t after a guy like Brian Branch who is expected to be a safety at the NFL level. Furthermore, I believe they prefer Forbes to Joey Porter Jr. I talked about Forbes in my controversial prospects article, and his stock has skyrocketed since then. Apparently, teams have decided that all the positives I mentioned outweigh his slight frame. I reiterate that he has never been seriously injured. Washington’s secondary needs a major boost, and Forbes has the ball skills and shutdown potential that Ron Rivera craves.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Joey Porter Jr, Penn State
Like father, like son. Joey Porter Sr was a Steeler, and we know the Rooneys like their legacy picks. Pittsburgh also happens to need a corner, and big, physical corners are their style. His tackling also fits the Steeler defense. After the team refused to let another Pitt QB slip away last year, they might be unwilling to allow a Porter to escape them either. Almost any defensive prospect or offensive lineman would be good for Pittsburgh, but I like the match with Porter Jr.
- Detroit Lions – RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
I’m not touching my Robinson landing spot. It’s possible that he could go higher, but the positional value is too poor. Detroit is truly going “best player available” given their pair of first-round picks, and Robinson is that prospect at this juncture. D’Andre Swift could be traded, and David Montgomery does not preclude the Lions from taking a generational RB. Is an RB the best use of first-round resources? No. Are we likely to say that this pick was a hit? Very much yes.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Myles Murphy, Clemson
I said last time that Tampa wanted a tackle. That remains true, but all the first-round caliber players are off the board. Thus, the Bucs might save tackle for round 2 and address their poor pass rush. When Shaq Barrett went down last year, the rush vanished with him. Every team needs at least 2 reliable edge rushers, and Murphy could yet be among the best in this class. I insist that his best football is still to come, and though he is falling down boards, he’s a tremendous value here.
- Seattle Seahawks – DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Since I’m still giving Seattle Tyree Wilson, I’ll continue to give them Kancey as they continue to build their defensive line. Playing in the same division as Aaron Donald for years, John Schneider probably can’t help but see a bit of Donald in Kancey: an undersized but lightning quick DT that gets after QBs. He’s more of a liability in run support than Donald is, but interior rushers are highly valued. The Seahawks can scheme to protect him on running downs while unleashing him in the passing game. Kancey and Wilson would quickly fix a big weakness.
- Los Angeles Chargers – WR Jordan Addison, USC
More time has passed, and yet I have heard no mention of the Bolts possibly considering a defensive prospect. The more I hear, the more I think they might take a WR over a TE like Dalton Kincaid. Sources think Keenan Allen’s time with the team is dwindling, and another weapon will be needed for Justin Herbert. Therefore, LAC might take the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner and just hope that the offense can carry the defense. Gotta love Brandon Staley’s new-age thinking right?
- Baltimore Ravens – WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
Aside from maybe Myles Murphy, this is where the analysts and I disagree most. I consider Johnston the clear-cut #1 wideout in this class, and I would have taken him in the top 12. Teams have concerns about his skillset though, including his contested catching and route running. Those aspects of his game will improve with time and coaching. Baltimore has been starved for WR talent, but with this pick, they would have Johnston plus Odell Beckham Jr for Lamar Jackson or…another QB.
- Minnesota Vikings – LB Jack Campbell, Iowa
Last time around, I had the Vikings taking a receiver. With the top 3 gone though, I’m not sure how much they would value Zay Flowers as a #2 WR. That feels a bit rich for the 23rd overall pick. The team also needs a corner (that’s a perennial need), but only Deonte Banks is available among the top guys, and he’s not a polished prospect. With the misses Minnesota has had with 1st-round CBs, I bet they’d want more of a sure thing. That brought me to Campbell: the top off-ball linebacker who could replace (and upgrade) Eric Kendricks. These players have become less valuable, but the Vikings need one badly.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – S Brian Branch, Alabama
I’ve switched the secondary player that Jacksonville is taking because I believe they would too if Branch made it to their draft slot. In my prior draft, he was off the board before this pick. Here, his projection as mostly a safety (and occasional slot corner) causes him to slide beyond the top 4 CBs. The Jaguars won’t complain though because they need to upgrade their pass defense if they’re going to truly compete with Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow for AFC supremacy.
- New York Giants – WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
New York still gets a receiver, but not the one that fell to them last time. Still, I don’t think Big Blue fans will be disappointed. Flowers gives the team a speed element that they’ve been missing. He’s also a smooth, polished receiver much like their other top target (Jordan Addison). Some scouts like Flowers more than any of the other WRs. I’m not in that camp, but I’d say he belongs late in the first round. He, Darren Waller, and Saquon Barkley would form a great trio of weapons.
- Dallas Cowboys – TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
Out with one Dalton, in with another? I doubt that their former TE having the name Dalton Schultz influences this pick in any way whatsoever, but Dallas does need a replacement. With the run on receivers, the top TE in the class falls right into the Cowboys’ laps.
- Buffalo Bills – RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
The newest trend in mock drafts is to give Buffalo a guard like O’Cyrus Torrence. That’s fine, but Brandon Beane can acquire a quality guard next round if he wants to. Jahmyr Gibbs is #2 of 2 highly-touted RBs in this draft, and he won’t be around much longer if Buffalo passes. This pick may feel redundant with James Cook on the roster, but Gibbs is a much better bruiser. He’ll replace Devin Singletary as the lead back with Cook spelling him to keep him fresh. Or Buffalo can use 2-back sets. It doesn’t matter, as long as Josh Allen gets another weapon to take some of the load off his shoulders.
- Cincinnati Bengals – CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
One more corner in round 1. Tight end and running back are popular positions for the Bengals in mock drafts, but both of those positions can wait. CB cannot. Besides, Joe Mixon is still around for at least another year, and the team is higher on Irv Smith than one might think. The concern at corner is twofold. First, Chidobe Awuzie won’t be healthy until later in the season due to his torn ACL. Second and more importantly, his replacement remains Eli Apple. That fact cannot be overstated.
- New Orleans Saints – EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
A third draft brings a third different edge rusher to the Saints. If Nolan Smith doesn’t go in the top 10 (likely to Atlanta or Philadelphia), where DOES he end up? An increasing number of teams are concerned about his size, which makes him a liability against the run, and his lack of statistical production in college. The athleticism is just too great to ignore. His position is a bit unknown due to his small size for a DE but large size for an OLB, but the man can fly. No Georgia player seemed to put up a ton of sacks in that scheme, so teams will take a chance that Smith’s best play lies ahead.
- Philadelphia Eagles – G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Philly got their defensive lineman at #10, so I’m continuing to give them their offensive lineman at #30. As the only pure interior lineman to go in the first round (depending on how you feel about Peter Skoronski), Torrence is a mauler. There’s no other way to put it. He is a huge man that lets you know it if you’re an interior defensive lineman. Howie Roseman likes to build through the trenches, and he just paid Jalen Hurts a ton of money. It’d be best to protect him given the investment.
- Kansas City Chiefs – OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
Though I’ve said that anything aside from a lineman is a luxury pick for KC, I’ve been giving them luxuries in my previous mocks. Based on how the board has turned out, those players are no longer available. Thus, the Chiefs may pivot to the sensible move and replace one of their two departed tackles. Kansas City was quite happy with their previous Oklahoma OT (Orlando Brown Jr), so why not try for another? Harrison is sneaking into many first round mocks because he has LT upside. He’s not a strong run blocker yet, but his pass protection is more important given that Patrick Mahomes is the QB.
Just missed: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina; DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson; OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State; DE Keion White, Georgia Tech; DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern; TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame; LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas