The NFL season is nearly here and college football had its soft opening this past weekend. We will get the full slate of college action Labor Day weekend followed by the NFL kickoff a few short days later.
Not surprisingly, I’m already thinking about the 2023 NFL draft though. This is my first mock draft since my way-too-early edition, which I published right after the draft in May. While a lot of time has passed, not a ton has changed. I’ve had a chance to watch a bit more film in the offseason, but with no games being played, there is very little new information to impact a players’ draft stock.
This draft class is shaping up to be an exciting one, with tons of quality quarterbacks and one of the best edge rushing prospects we have seen in a few years.
With that in mind, I did not create the draft order, so don’t get at me if you don’t like where your favorite team is picking. These odds are the latest from Vegas Insiders’ consensus. Tiebreakers were determined by strength of schedule.
1. Houston Texans (+29000) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
As much as I personally like Davis Mills, it is going to be hard to justify passing on a quarterback. Especially when it is in as talented a quarterback class as this one. Heading into the season, Stroud is my top-rated passer. He passes the eye test. Plus, he put up monster numbers a year ago and has an NFL-caliber arm. Houston will be able to use all of the additional picks from the Deshaun Watson trade to surround him with talent and put him in a position to succeed.
2. Atlanta Falcons (+23000) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This is another tricky one. The Falcons could ride it out with Desmond Ridder, who they drafted in the third round in 2022. However, I think he would have to show a lot of promise for Atlanta to pass up on Young. The 2021 Heisman winner is incredibly accurate and a plus athlete. He is a bit undersized, but that hasn’t stopped him from lighting up SEC competition so far. Kyle Pitts, Drake London and the impending return of Calvin Ridley would give Young a strong set of receivers to grow with.
3. Seattle Seahawks (+17000) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Geno Smith just won one of the least compelling quarterback battles in NFL history. He beat out Drew Lock, who arrived as part of the Russell Wilson trade this offseason. In short, the Seahawks need a quarterback. Levis is my third at the position for me entering 2022 and worthy of being a top-three pick. He checks all of the physical boxes and played better than just about anyone against Georgia during the regular season last year. He will need to cut down on turnovers and prove he can consistently perform at a high level. I like his upside a lot.
4. Chicago Bears (+14400) – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Chicago lucks their way into the best player in the draft at this spot. This really is a best-case scenario for the Bears, who will have no reason to consider moving on from Justin Fields. Instead, they can find a replacement for Khalil Mack. Anderson, in my opinion, should have won the Heisman last season. That’s how good he was. His stats look like something out of NCAA Football 14 and he is built to play on Sundays. No need to overthink this one.
5. New York Jets (+14100) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Despite the buzz of potentially replacing Zach Wilson should the Jets end up with another high draft pick, I think he will get one more year to prove himself. New York’s biggest need will likely be at offensive tackle, but this is a weaker class at the position. Instead, Joe Douglas will go with the best player available, grabbing Carter from Georgia. Because the Bulldogs defense was stacked with NFL talent, Carter rotated in a lot. He will be featured much more heavily in 2022. It will give him the chance to wow fans and scouts with his incredible motor and physique. With Quinnen Williams set to play 2023 on his fifth-year option, Carter could either be his partner in crime, or his replacement.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (+13000) – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Give Trevor Lawrence a true No. 1 receiver! Jacksonville has a good amount of depth at the position, but lacks a clear go-to playmaker. Boutte could be exactly that. He was off to a blistering start in 2021 with 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games before an ankle injury ended his season. He will have a new quarterback in 2022, but his size, speed and playmaking ability should keep him in the top-10 conversation.
7. Carolina Panthers (+12100) – Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
There is certainly a chance the Panthers take a quarterback if they are picking in the top 10. Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold are both on expiring contracts. I think Carolina could run it back with Mayfield if he can show signs of regaining his 2020 form. In that case, bolstering their linebacking corps would make a lot of sense. Simpson is a potential game-wrecker with good range and some pass rushing ability. He had 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2021 and seems poised for an even bigger season.
8. Detroit Lions (+12000) – Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina
Detroit has been linked to rookie quarterbacks for the past two drafts, but have instead opted to build their roster elsewhere. I think the time has come for them to grab a successor to Jared Goff. With the top three off the board, McCall is my next highest-rated quarterback at this point. He is incredibly accurate and shows good ability to improvise when the play breaks down. His numbers were fantastic in 2021 and I am excited to see what he can do this upcoming season.
9. New York Giants (+11800) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
Perhaps the Giants will go after a veteran quarterback in this scenario. Think Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield. However, I still think there is one last quarterback worth going in the top 10. There is a lot of projection here with Van Dyke with only nine starts under his belt so far. However, he flashed more than enough upside and potential to warrant being in this spot at the end of August. He checks every box from a size perspective as well. It would be really interesting to see how he would develop under Brian Daboll.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (+8000) – Keele Ringo, CB, Georgia
Pittsburgh definitely needs an upgrade along the offensive line, but it’s still a bit early for the offensive linemen in this class. Instead, they can rebuild a cornerback room that needs an injection of young talent. Ringo put himself on the national radar with a pick-six to close out the National Championship game. It capped a strong season from the redshirt freshman. He has great size at 6’2″ and moves really well, especially for a bigger corner. He would compete for a starting job in Pittsburgh as a rookie.
11. Washington Commanders (+7600) – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
With five quarterbacks off the board already, it is hard to imagine Washington picking a sixth one this early. That might mean another year with Carson Wentz at the helm or potentially Sam Howell getting a crack. Instead, the Commanders can opt to retool their secondary. Smith dominated in 2021 with three interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He has great size at 6’1″ and should be a candidate to start from Day 1 or provide some much-needed depth.
12. New England Patriots (+4200) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
As a Jets fan, this might be my worst nightmare. New England has desperately needed a playmaking receiver for a few years now. There might not be a better option than Smith-Njigba. He racked up 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns as the third option in Ohio State’s offense. I can only imagine what kind of numbers he will put up as the top option this year. Mac Jones would greatly benefit from adding Smith-Njigba to the Patriots offense.
13. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (+3900) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
After grabbing a quarterback at the top of the draft, Houston shifts its focus to the other size of the ball. With Jonathan Greenard locking down one defensive end spot, Murphy would be a great player to pair with him. He put up some impressive numbers with 12 sacks and 25 tackles for loss through his first two seasons. His burst off the line is great and he has really good instincts. The Texans have a long rebuild ahead, so finding key players to build around is going to be important. I believe Murphy could be one of those blue-chip players.
14. Miami Dolphins (+3900) – N/A
The NFL stripped the Dolphins of their first-round draft pick in 2023 as punishment for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.
15. Tennessee Titans (+3800) – Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Another Clemson defender coming off the board in the first half of the first round. Bresee had his season cut short in 2021 due to injury, appearing in just four games. He had a good freshman season with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He has the size and strength to thrive in the NFL. For Tennessee, Bresee would create a talented from three with Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons. Mike Vrabel would definitely love to solidify his front seven.
16. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (+3800) – Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
With the first of two picks in Round 1, the Eagles look to solidify their cornerback room around Darius Slay. Ricks is supremely talented and has good production from his first two seasons at LSU with five interceptions. He will get a chance to continue to grow his game playing for Nick Saban now at Alabama. There is some durability concern with Ricks. He missed the final six games of the 2021 season and had offseason back surgery. If he can clear those medical red flags, I think he is worth a first-round pick.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (+3600) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Raiders seem ready to end the Alex Leatherwood experiment at tackle with rookie seventh-round pick Thayer Munford likely starting at right tackle this year. Perhaps Munford will negate the need for a new tackle. If not, Skoronski definitely should. The Northwestern man put on a solid display to open the 2022 season against Nebraska. Pairing him with Kolton Miller would give the Raiders two really good tackles tasked with keeping Derek Carr upright.
18. Minnesota Vikings (+3600) – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
Minnesota has built depth in a lot of places on defense, but there is still room to improve their defensive line. Mesidor is one of my favorite prospects in this class. He is a dynamic pass rusher who excels at shedding blocks and collapsing pockets. He put together two strong seasons with West Virginia before transferring to Miami. I think he could start for Minnesota at defensive end as soon as next season.
19. Arizona Cardinals (+3500) – Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
This might seem a little bizarre given that James Conner is still under contract, but he will be in his final season of his contract in 2023. Plus, Arizona’s offense is all about speed and big-play ability. Gibbs brings that in spades. He would bring another element of dynamism to this offense. He is my favorite running back in this class at this point. The potential of him playing with Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore and Hollywood Brown is enticing.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (+2280) – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
The Eagles continue to retool their defense with Georgia prospects. After taking Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in 2021, adding Smith feels fitting. Plus, he fills a need for this defense. Brandon Graham is in the final year of his contract and Philly does not have a clear successor to him at defensive end. Smith is a bit undersized for this role, but his speed and bend off the edge could make him a good fit.
21. Indianapolis Colts (+2240) – Clark Phillips, CB, Utah
There are not a ton of areas where the Colts need to upgrade. Corner is probably the biggest one. Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore are both quality starters, but both will be free agents following the 2023 season. Phillips could provide some depth right away and projects as a future starter. He is a bit undersized, but he plays much bigger. I like his play style and I’m excited to see what he will do in his junior year at Utah.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (+2080) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Cincinnati lost C.J. Uzomah this offseason and never found a true replacement. Hayden Hurst is only on a one-year deal and Drew Sample has yet to provide much production. Mayer would fix all of that and give Joe Burrow yet another weapon to work with. He is a proven receiver and a solid blocker. Picking up an asset in the passing and running game while filling a position of need feels like a great option.
23. Dallas Cowboys (+2000) – Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State
Dallas’ offensive line has quickly become an issue. Tyron Smith is injured again and La’el Collins is now in Cincinnati. Johnson will get a chance to showcase his talents at tackle after kicking inside to guard last year for a few appearances. He has the right build for an offensive tackle at the next level, standing 6’6″, 315 pounds. He will definitely get tested in the Big Ten this season. If he can hold up against the best the conference has to offer, don’t be surprised if he is the first tackle off the board.
24. Baltimore Ravens (+1880) – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
In case you haven’t heard, the Ravens need help at receiver. I actually really like both Rashod Bateman and the depth they have built, but they lack proven starters. Addison is obviously not proven at the NFL level, but he did tear up college football in 2021, claiming the Biletnikoff Award as Kenny Pickett’s top target with Pittsburgh. Now he will play that same role with Caleb Williams at USC. I expect he would be happy to have Lamar Jackson as the next quarterback he gets to play with.
25. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (+1700) – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Seattle is in full tear down mode right now. They have lost a lot of quality at linebacker in recent years, headlined by Bobby Wagner’s departure this offseason. Asking Sewell to replicate his production right away would be unfair, but he has the pedigree and skill to help cushion the blow. He is a physical presence in the middle of the defense.
26. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (+1600) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I was split here on grabbing a potential replacement for Tua Tagovailoa and continuing to build around him. I obviously opted for the latter with Robinson. He is a powerful runner who makes defenders pay for attempted arm tackles. When he plays fast and downhill, there are few running backs as productive as him in the country. He has great hands and shows signs of being able to pass protect. He would unquestionably be an upgrade over everyone Miami currently has on its roster.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (+1380) – Jaheim Bell, TE, South Carolina
There is definitely a push in scouting tight ends to simply target traits and hope to coach them up at the next level. Bell doesn’t fall squarely into that category, but he definitely falls more in line with Mike Gesicki and Kyle Pitts when it comes to play style. He is a mismatch in space and uses his big frame to win contested balls down the field. I am excited to see him catching passes from Spencer Rattler this season. For the Chargers, he would be a long-term solution at the position after relying on free-agent stop gaps in recent years.
28. Green Bay Packers (+1140) – BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
After losing Za’Darius Smith this offseason, the Packers have very little depth at edge rusher. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary represent quality starters at outside linebacker. Ojulari could be a rotational option who eventually takes over for Smith, who will turn 30 in November. The LSU edge rusher is coming off a solid season where he had 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Receiver is still an option, but I think Green Bay will wait on the development of Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
29. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (+1100) – Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
After taking McCall with their first pick in this round, Detroit should be relatively set on offense. Brad Holmes can turn his attention to the defensive side then, where linebacker and safety look like potential needs. Branch is a versatile playmaker who can move around the formation. I believe he could play either safety spot at the next level, but what makes him even more valuable is his ability to drop down and play nickel corner. He would bring a much-needed infusion of talent to this Lions secondary.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (+1020) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Even after adding Skyy Moore and signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, it feels like the Chiefs still have a need at receiver. It is important to remember Smith-Schuster is only on a one-year deal. Johnston would bring some size and big-play ability to this offense. At 6’4″, he is a vertical threat, but he has run after the catch ability as well. The Chiefs made it clear they don’t want to spend big money on the position, so adding receivers in the draft feels like a priority.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+770) – Devin Leary, QB, NC State
NC State is primed for a big season and Leary is a huge part of that. He balled out in 2021 with 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions. It was a huge jump from what we had seen in his first two seasons with the Wolfpack. Circle October 1st as a date to watch for when he gets his toughest test of the year against Clemson. For the Buccaneers, it feels more and more like this Tom Brady’s last ride. He had his mysterious absence from training camp coupled with a 40-day retirement and reports that he tried to join Dolphins ownership. Kyle Trask has shown no signs of being the guy, so it is time to find a new successor.
32. Buffalo Bills (+600) – Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
Jordan Poyer is in the final year of his contract. Micah Hyde will be a free agent after 2023. They are both 31 years old as well. It might be time for the Bills to start thinking about what is next in their defensive backfield. Joseph arrives in South Bend following a stellar junior season with Northwestern. He is a ballhawk with nine interceptions over his past two seasons. He is a proven tackler as well with the size needed to contend in the NFL.
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