Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Four quarterbacks feature while Alabama, Clemson and Georgia dominate the first round

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 360 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

The 2022 draft is in the books, which means it is time to start wildly speculating about the 2023 draft class. Full disclosure, I have not done much film study on any of these players yet. I’ve watched maybe one game of each of them, if not just watched some highlights or saw them play during the 2021 season. Most of this will change dramatically in the coming months, but it is a fun introduction to the prospects that will make up the 2023 draft class.

With that in mind, I did not create the draft order. These odds are the latest from DraftKings and tiebreakers were determined by strength of schedule in 2022.

1. Houston Texans (200-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
I would like to formally apologize to Davis Mills. I believe the Texans will be better than this in 2022. But if Houston has the No. 1 pick, it will be tough to pass on Stroud. After a slow start to the 2021 season, Stroud found his groove with 44 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He has good size at 6’3″ and an NFL-level arm.

2. Atlanta Falcons (150-1) – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Atlanta could pull the trigger on Bryce Young here, but instead, I think they will grab his Alabama teammate who should have won the Heisman in 2021. Anderson was nearly unstoppable this past season, posting 17.5 sacks. Had he been eligible, he would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. Positional value pushes him to the second spot here, but make no mistake, he enters the year as the No. 1 overall prospect.

3. New York Jets (150-1) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
I truly hope the Jets are not picking in the top five again. If they do, Carter would be an excellent target. After picking up Jermaine Johnson II in the 2022 draft, New York can round out their front four with Carter. He is supremely athletic and disruptive. He will be a major catalyst for Georgia’s defense this season.

4. Detroit Lions (150-1) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This is the best case scenario for the Lions as the 2021 Heisman winner falls into their laps. This would reunite him with one of his favorite targets in Jameson Williams. Young is a very polished player with a great arm and solid mobility. His biggest test will be continuing to perform without his top two targets, (Williams and John Metchie). We saw him struggle without them against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (130-1) – Jackson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I don’t care that you just paid Christian Kirk a ridiculous amount of money. Smith-Njigba is a game-changing player with incredible ball skills. He dominated playing out of the slot for Ohio State and often looked like the best receiver on a team that just produced two first-round selections at the position. His monster game in the Rose Bowl points to what he could look like as the featured target for C.J. Stroud.

6. Seattle Seahawks (100-1) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
Seattle chose to pass on the quarterback position in this draft class, opting instead to rebuild its offensive line and restock its defense. Now, the Seahawks can grab a quarterback to grow with. Van Dyke turned some heads this past season at Miami. He took over the starting job a couple games into the season and finished strong. This pick is about projection that he will take the next step in his development, notably, increasing his completion percentage.

7. Carolina Panthers (100-1) – Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Carolina could go a couple directions here, including quarterback, but I think they will give Matt Corral another year to prove himself, especially with three quarterbacks off the board already. Instead, they go with the best player available in Smith. He flies around in that Georgia defense. We will get a chance to see him take on a much larger role with Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean now in the NFL.

8. Chicago Bears (100-1) – Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh
If Justin Fields is going to be successful, he is going to need weapons to work with. Chicago did grab Velus Jones Jr. in the third round, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Addison here. One of the most productive players in college football a year ago and Kenny Pickett’s favorite target, there are rumors Addison could go link up with Caleb Williams at USC for his junior season.

9. New York Giants (100-1) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
If the Giants are picking in the top ten, I think this pick will be spent on a quarterback. New York ignored the position in the 2022 draft and declined Daniel Jones’ 5th-year option. Levis put together an impressive year at Kentucky. He will need to cut down interceptions, but he is a good athlete, shows good pocket presence and has a compact throwing motion. Plus, he plays in a pro-style offense.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (65-1) – Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Pittsburgh still needs help in the secondary after not drafting a single corner in the 2022 draft. Ricks enters the year as my top corner. He essentially spent the past two seasons as LSU’s No. 1 corner with Derek Stingley Jr. out. Now, he will join Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa before likely making the jump to the NFL.

Editor’s note: Eli Ricks was arrested Sunday evening for speeding and possession of marijuana.

11. Washington Commanders (65-1) – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Another SEC corner, Ringo will get a chance to show he can be the top option with Derion Kendrick now in the NFL. Ringo is big at 6’2″ and a good athlete. He showed his playmaking ability with a 79-yard pick-six of Bryce Young in the National Championship Game. For the Commanders, he would give them a No. 1 corner, especially with William Jackson looking like a potential cap casualty after the season.

12. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (50-1) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Sure, the Eagles still have Dallas Goedert, but after trading away Zach Ertz this past year, there is not much at the position other than Goedert. Bringing in Mayer allows the Eagles to go back to running two tight end sets and gives Jalen Hurts another weapon. Mayer is a very well-rounded prospect and seems in good position to be the first tight end drafted in 2023.

13. Minnesota Vikings (45-1) – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Adam Theilen turns 32 this year and struggled with injuries in 2021. Minnesota might have other needs here, but grabbing another LSU receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson feels like a great investment. It seems even smarter when you look at the cost of keeping top-end receivers these days. Boutte had 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.

14. New England Patriots (40-1) – Malachi Moore, CB, Alabama
New England lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and has yet to take any meaningful steps to replace him. Malachi Moore had a good year, with three interceptions as he stepped into a bigger role for the Tide defense. He has good size and skills, but needs to show he can be a true No. 1 corner this season. It will help sharing a defensive backfield with Eli Ricks.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (35-1) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Bresee is a former No. 1 recruit who has dazzled in the limited playtime he has gotten at Clemson. It is not because he is not talented enough either, he just missed the final nine games of the Tigers’ season due to injury in 2021. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant defensive players in college football. He would give the Raiders an incredibly talented front four, which they will need playing the AFC West.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (35-1) – Tony Grimes, CB, UNC
The Eagles had a good 2022 draft, but did not find any corners to reshape the secondary. Grimes is a tall corner with good coverage skills. He has good make up speed and uses his hands well to break up passes. He has room to grow, but he looks like an NFL corner.

17. Miami Dolphins (30-1) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Bring back the first-round running backs! Robinson enters the year as a Heisman candidate after a strong sophomore campaign. He is thick at 6’0″, 214 pounds and perhaps most importantly, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has 41 catches across his first two college seasons. Miami desperately needs an upgrade in the backfield.

18. Tennessee Titans (28-1) – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
This is a name that you should get to know. Mesidor flashed some real promise at West Virginia before transferring to Miami for the 2022 season. He has a sweet spin move and a high motor that makes him incredibly difficult to keep out of the backfield. Tennessee could add him to an already very talented defensive front.

19. Arizona Cardinals (25-1) – Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
The Cardinals revamped their offense with Hollywood Brown and Trey McBride. Now, they need to continue investing in their defense. Budda Baker is a great player, but Arizona could use another safety. Joseph has nine interceptions over the past two seasons and brings great size to the position. Now he will get a chance to showcase that talent at Notre Dame after three seasons with Northwestern.

20. Baltimore Ravens (22-1) – Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson needs some more weapons. The Ravens have a ton of depth at receiver, but not enough quality starting options. Mims could help change that. He is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic in space and catches the ball well away from his body. I like him as a replacement for Hollywood Brown with even more upside.

21. Indianapolis Colts (22-1) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Indianapolis quietly had a good draft, but I’m not so sure Bernhard Raimann is the surefire answer at left tackle. If he is, then this definitely won’t be a need in 2023. Until then, I believe the Colts need to invest in the offensive line. Johnson could be the best tackle from a slightly underwhelming class, at least at first glance.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (18-1) – Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Cincinnati struck gold with Chidobe Awuzie in free agency last year, but they still need some more help in the secondary. Phillips is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic. He flashed his playmaking potential in the Rose Bowl, forcing a fumble of Jackson Smith-Njigba and intercepting C.J. Stroud. He also showed that he has some work to do to solidify himself as a first-round player.

23. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (17-1) – Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson
Houston continues to go with the best player available. At this stage, that is Davis. He had a bit of an underwhelming season missing four games due to injury as well. If he can get healthy and return to the form he showed as a freshman (nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) then he will earn his spot in the first round.

24. Dallas Cowboys (17-1) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Another Clemson defender. Murphy took the next step in his development as a sophomore, posting eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has great size at 6’5″, 275 pounds. Dallas needs someone to play across from DeMarcus Lawrence.

25. Los Angeles Chargers (16-1) – Trenton Simpson, EDGE, Clemson
In case you weren’t aware, Clemson has a really good defense this year. Simpson is well built and incredibly versatile. He has an explosive first step off the line and a nose for the football. He is capable of dropping into coverage as well. Brandon Staley would love getting his hands on him.

26. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (16-1) – Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
Bobby Wagner is gone and Seattle does not have a clear replacement on the roster right now. To’oTo’o was one of the best linebackers in college football this past year and made a bit of a surprising decision to return to school. He looked sharp in his first season with Alabama after transferring from Tennessee.

27. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (14-1) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Miami should continue to prioritize surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talent. Skoronski has a big frame that he needs to continue to grow into. If Liam Eichenberg does not lock down the starting spot at right tackle, Skoronski could be his replacement.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (10-1) – Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
Detroit entered the 2022 draft needing some safety help. Perhaps third-round pick Kerby Joseph will be able to fill the void. If not, then Catalon could be a logical choice here. He earned some first-round buzz this past season before deciding to return to school.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Kansas City added Skyy Moore in the second round, who is a speedy, slightly undersized receiver. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely won’t be around long. The Chiefs could also use a bit more size at receiver too, which is where Johnston comes in. He is 6’4″ and excels at making contested catches. He is a run after the catch threat as well with his relentless running style.

30. Green Bay Packers (10-1) – Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Hopefully, Robert Tonyan will be back to full strength after missing most of 2021 due to injury. Either way, he is on a one-year deal and the Packers do not have much behind him in terms of tight end depth. Latu is a big-body target at 6’5″ and moves very well in space. He can be flexed out to give Aaron Rodgers, or whoever is quarterbacking Green Bay, another weapon to throw to.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-1) – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
There are a number of directions I could see the Buccaneers going. So much is unknown about Tom Brady’s future. Let’s assume Tampa does not need to address the quarterback spot for right now. Lavonte David is essentially a free-agent after the year is over, so perhaps the Bucs would seek out his replacement, Sewell, brother of Lions tackle Penei Sewell, plays downhill and seeks out contact. He should be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (13-2) – Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
Let’s squeeze another running back in here. If you are looking for an explosive, do-it-all playmaker, look no further. Achane is a bit undersized, but that only matters if you can catch him. He would give the Bills a really dynamic element in the run game and short passing game with his game-breaking speed.

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NFL Draft Daily: Takeaways from Alabama and Georgia in the national championship game

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 106 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

Georgia and Alabama put a bow on the 2021 college football season with Monday’s national championship game. The Bulldogs snapped a 41-year title drought as Kirby Smart finally beat his former boss and mentor Nick Saban.

If you’ve been paying attention to college football or tracking draft prospects this year, you know there were a ton of future NFL players on the field in Indianapolis. Some won’t be eligible for this season, but my goodness, Saban and Smart continue to prove that they are among the elites when it comes to attracting and developing NFL-caliber talent. Saban has a better history than Smart on both sides of the ball, but there is no denying Smart’s prowess on defense.

Having had a chance to watch the game and work back through the film again, there was a lot to like when it comes to spotting future NFL players. Here are my biggest takeaways from Monday night.

Smart has landed a top-five recruiting class each of the past four seasons. (Wikimedia Commons)

Georgia’s defense is on another level

The Dawgs were led by their incredible defense all year long, not allowing more than 14 points against any opponent the entire regular season. They allowed 9.5 points per game, including the SEC Championship game where Alabama dropped 41 on them. That is 6.5 points per game less than Clemson, who allowed 15 points and finished with the second-best scoring defense.

As I mentioned above, Smart is the best recruiter and developer of defensive talent in the country right now. Georgia has future top-50 picks at every level of their defense and a handful of guys who will go in the mid to late rounds backing them up. By now, you likely know names like Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker and Derion Kendrick. However, guys like Devonte Wyatt, Nolan Smith and Lewis Cine (more on him later) are all potential top-50 selections as well. Then there are Quay Walker and Channing Tindall. Neither one was a featured player or even really a full-time starter for Georgia, and yet, it would not be a surprise to see both of them go later on Day 2. Robert Beal Jr., who had 6.5 sacks this season, doesn’t even get mentioned when talking about this defense most of the time.

The next wave of talent is exciting as well. Jalen Carter could be a future first-rounder. Kelee Ringo, who had the game-sealing pick-six, will be eligible next season and will certainly have opportunities to work his way into the top 50. He had a really strong performance that makes me excited to watch more of him in the future. Smael Mondon Jr., Nazir Stackhouse and MJ Sherman should all see more action next year as this next wave of talent heads to the NFL. The pipeline from Athens to the NFL is only growing stronger.

I was wrong about Stetson Bennett

I told coworkers, friends and my very patient wife who probably tuned me out because she was not quite as invested in Georgia’s starting quarterback situation as I was, that I really thought the Bulldogs needed to turn their offense over to J.T. Daniels for the College Football Playoff. Georgia was finally tested in the SEC title game and forced to play from behind. It seemed like Bennett was not cut out to keep up with Alabama if the Tide built an early lead again. He attempted just 287 passes across 13 games. That ranked 79th among quarterbacks in FBS this season. Bennett was never asked to be the guy, and I assumed that it meant he couldn’t fill that role.

Turns out, he was more than ready to lead the team when they desperately needed someone to step up, this time on an even bigger stage. Bennett went over 300 yards passing and had three touchdowns against a good Michigan defense in the Orange Bowl, securing a rematch with ‘Bama.

With Georgia’s run game looking incredibly sluggish in the first half. Then, Bennett was strip-sacked and Alabama took an 18-13 lead, and the pressure was really on. Over the final 10 minutes of the game, the former walk-on quarterback was flawless. He tossed two touchdowns to build a lead and the defense closed it out with a pick-six. Bennett had plenty of help, but he also showed that he was capable of leading this team at a time when it needed leading.

I don’t think this makes him an elite quarterback prospect or anything, but maybe this puts him on the radar as a seventh-round pick or preferred free agent, if he is even interested in going pro. He has the makings of a player who could succeed as a backup quarterback in the NFL. Teams like the Bengals, Chargers or Bills, who could all be in the market for a backup quarterback this year, make sense as potential landing spots for the championship-winning quarterback.

Harris had 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

Christian Harris and Lewis Cine made themselves some money

Every year, there are a few players that cement their status or really capitalize on the increased attention on them to shoot up draft boards. If there are two players that I think did that better than anyone else on Monday, I would pick Alabama’s Christian Harris and Georgia’s Lewis Cine.

Let’s start with Harris. He started the year as a player many thought could go in the first round and possibly even be the first linebacker off the board. While far from an exact science and not at all indicative of how the league views him, the website NFL Mock Draft Database shows Harris dropping from the 20th ranked player overall in early October to 55th in the middle of December. He had an up and down season, struggling to sort through traffic and failing to read his keys. It was unfortunate to watch for such an instinctive and dynamic defensive playmaker.

Against Georgia, Harris showcased the incredible upside that makes him such an eye-catching prospect. He racked up three sacks and four tackles for loss and looked downright explosive. He still has a long way to go when it comes to gap discipline, but he should be in the mix in the late first round or early second round.

On the other side, Cine was seemingly everywhere for Georgia’s defense. He had seven tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass break up. Those counting stats are far from outstanding, but his play went well beyond the numbers. He made a number of key stops for the Bulldogs, which was something they could not do against the Tide in the SEC championship game. It was the type of game that I think will propel him into the top 50 conversation. With a number of teams picking at the backend of the first round or early in the second round, Cine could be in the running to be the second safety selected, following Kyle Hamilton.

Will Anderson Jr. will start the 2023 draft cycle as the No. 1 player on my big board

This guy is incredible. He showcased his full range of skills on Monday night. He batted a pass at the line, made opposing offensive linemen look silly in pass protection and set the edge against the run with authority. In my estimation, he should have won the Heisman this year. He had 34 tackles for loss in 15 games this season. That is 2.3 tackles for loss per game. Leo Chenal and Devin Lloyd tied for the second best average at 1.6. That came on top of 17.5 sacks, which was tops in the country, and trailed only Andre Carter II in terms of sacks per game. Reminder: this was playing in the SEC against some of the best college offensive linemen in the country.

His length, physicality and athleticism at one of the most coveted positions in college football make him one of the most exciting prospects in recent years. Put him in the same air as Chase Young and Myles Garrett. I am so excited to break down his film this summer.

Jameson Williams and John Metchie III should consider returning to school

This was the worst part of the game by far. Williams emerged as a legitimate contender to be the first receiver taken in the 2022 draft with his electric playmaking and field-stretching ability. The Ohio State transfer stepped into the void left by Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith and flourished. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter and will now miss the entire pre-draft process and potentially the beginning of the 2022 season.

While I don’t think any team will look at him as damaged goods or take him off their board because of the injury, it will almost definitely hurt his stock. He was someone who likely would have ran well at the combine and boosted his stock even further. Williams could very reasonably still go in the first round. There is something to be said for getting paid while you rehab your surgically repaired knee.

However, he will likely be losing out on some money in the process. I could realistically have seen him coming off the board as early as No. 10 to the Jets (hard to see any receivers going before that point, barring trades) before the injury. He will likely slide some. Even falling 11 spots to the Patriots (projected) at No. 21 would cost him $7.3 million over the course of his rookie deal. If he potentially drops further to the Chiefs (projected) at No. 29, it would be about $9.3 million less.

In the end, Williams will have to do whatever works best for him and his family. If he, God forbid, got hurt again after returning to school, he could cost himself a lot more money than that. There is certainly still a good amount of risk. That being said, there are worse situations than returning to Alabama to play with Bryce Young and potentially John Metchie III again. Metchie also suffered a torn ACL playing in the SEC title game. He was not projected to go quite as high as Williams and his injury could set up a return to Tuscaloosa. Those two back at school would only bolster a team that is already the favorite to win the national title in 2022. Williams could erase any doubt about the injury and find himself in the mix to go in the top 10 in 2023. Injuries are one of the harsh realities of football and will set up one of the most interesting decisions to watch when the deadline comes up Monday, January 17th.

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