The Carolina Panthers have already started making major news by trading up to the first overall pick.
Which quarterback will they pick? How does this affect the draft landscape? Who else will be making blockbuster trades? Let's look into the future with my 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0.
1. CAROLINA PANTHERS: C.J. Stroud (QB - Ohio State)
The Panthers shook the NFL by making a move for the number one overall selection. So which quarterback will Carolina select? Some have made the connection that Anthony Richardson could remind the organization of Cam Newton. However, I can't imagine that the Panthers have mortgaged that much draft capital for a developmental player with just 13 starts under his belt. When you look at the quarterbacks that Panthers head coach Frank Reich has worked with over his career - they've all had classic quarterback size. Reich and his staff prefer an accurate passer to protect the ball and sense pass-rush. All of the signs point to Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. At the moment, Stroud is the odds-on-favorite to be selected at number one overall, and I agree wholeheartedly with these odds. Stroud is my QB1 in this class, and I think he's a perfect fit for Reich's offense in Carolina.
2. HOUSTON TEXANS: Bryce Young (QB - Alabama)
The next pick, another quarterback, another perfect fit. Bryce Young would be a breath of fresh air for the city of Houston after the Deshaun Watson debacle. Young and new head coach DeMeco Ryans share ties to the University of Alabama which instantly provides Ryans some easy insight into what kind of leader Young could be for the Texans organization. Young's football IQ, passing accuracy, and pocket maneuverability would allow Houston to take a major step forward with their franchise.
3. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Will Anderson Jr (EDGE - Alabama)
Arizona changed its staff this offseason and hired Monti Ossenfort as their new general manager. Ossenfort has spent time with the Patriots and Titans, two teams that have always placed a great deal of value on pass-rushers and leadership traits - Will Anderson Jr meets that criteria. There's plenty of speculation that the Cardinals could trade back, but I don't think they're willing to move out of the top six picks and miss out on an elite defender like Anderson.
4. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Will Levis (QB - Kentucky)
New Colts head coach Shane Steichen has done wonders with passers like Justin Herbert and, most recently, Jalen Hurts. Will Levis has all the traits that Colts GM Chris Ballard loves. Levis has a rocket launcher of an arm and the ability to make some impressive off-platform throws, but he needs a lot of work on his throwing mechanics and footwork. Despite his shortcomings, Levis has undeniable skills that could be molded in the right system - I think Indy Is that system.
5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Jalen Carter (DL - Georgia)
What a gift for the Seahawks - a playoff team getting a prospect who many analysts have deemed as the best player in the draft. Sometimes Seattle messes around and reaches on players that fit their system, but I can't see them passing on a blue chip star like Carter.
6. DETROIT LIONS: Devon Witherspoon (CB - Illinois)
The Lions could go a few different ways here, but I think they want to compete for the NFC North with the Bears re-building and Aaron Rodgers likely on the move. If the Lions want to compete with the Minnesota Vikings, they'll need to improve their secondary. Devon Witherspoon gives Detroit a physical man-cover cornerback that can shadow a top receiver.
7. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: Anthony Richardson (QB - Florida)
The Raiders cut Derek Carr and essentially told everyone they weren't interested in Aaron Rodgers as they look to take a more long-term approach to the quarterback position. If the Raiders want any shot of competing with the Chiefs, Chargers, or Broncos in the future, they'll need an MVP-caliber quarterback at the helm. Head coach Josh McDaniels has experience with athletic/unconventional passers like Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, so I could easily see him bringing on Richardson as a redshirt rookie while he develops.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS: Tyree Wilson (EDGE - Texas Tech)
In 2022, the Falcons were second-to-last in sacks - they simply couldn't generate any pressure on opposing passers. Wilson fits the mold that Falcons GM Terry Fontenot likes - a prototype prospect with a massive wingspan and incredible potential. We could easily see Wilson in the top five selections, so getting him at eight is an excellent value for Atlanta.
9. CHICAGO BEARS: Peter Skoronski (OT - Northwestern)
This is what Dunder Mifflin's regional manager, Michael Scott, would call a Win-Win-Win scenario. The Bears traded back and acquired a lot of draft capital, they add the top offensive lineman in the draft, and he played his college ball just half an hour away from Soldier Field. Justin Fields was running for his life, literally, on nearly every play last season, so inserting Skoronski at left tackle would be a huge boost for the Bears offense.
10. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Christian Gonzalez (CB - Oregon)
It's rumored that the Eagles may be trading cornerback Darius Slay this offseason. Whether Philadelphia trades Slay or not, they need to add to their secondary, and Gonzalez gives them a high-level athlete at the position. Gonzalez shined at the NFL Combine, turning in a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 41.5" vertical leap. He's got fluid hips and elite footwork that should allow him to match up against opponents' top receivers.
11. TENNESSEE TITANS: Paris Johnson Jr. (OT - Ohio State)
The Titans have been struggling to fill the holes on their offensive line for years, and now, starting left tackle Taylor Lewan has been released by the team. Tennessee has a lot of holes on their roster, and a trade back would make sense. But in this scenario, I couldn't think of anyone willing to move up to this pick. Johnson can plug in immediately at the left tackle spot and give the Titans some stability up front.
12. HOUSTON TEXANS: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR - Ohio State)
Whenever a team drafts their franchise signal-caller, they typically like to draft pieces to help him succeed. The Texans appear to be parting ways with Brandin Cooks in the near future, so drafting a top receiver would be wise at this pick. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a route technician that would immediately be the top target on a receiving corps with Nico Collins, John Metchie, and Robert Woods.
13. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Lukas Van Ness (EDGE - Iowa)
Imagine if Thor, the god of thunder, decided he wanted to play football - that's what Lukas Van Ness looks like. Van Ness is a cut 6-foot-5, 272-pound pass rusher that ran a 4.58 at the Combine. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst heavily values physical traits and pass-rushing ability - Van Ness has that in spades.
Trade Details: Green Bay sends Aaron Rodgers to New York for Pick 13 overall and a 2024 second-rounder.
14. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Jordan Addison (WR - USC)
If the Patriots believe in Mac Jones, they need to get him some playmakers. Addison may have disappointed fans at the Combine, but I'm sure that NFL GMs won't weight that too heavily against him - especially after watching his film. Addison doesn't win with elite size or speed, he's simply a smart route runner that plays a very cerebral brand of football. Most rookie receivers struggle on the Patriots because of the learning curve, but Addison is a high-IQ receiver that has excelled with two different quarterbacks and two different offensive systems over the last two seasons.
15. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Dalton Kincaid (TE - Utah)
A new era is underway in Green Bay, and the Packers need to do everything they can to supply quarterback Jordan Love with weapons. Dalton Kincaid is my TE1 in this draft class because he possesses such an enticing blend of receiving prowess and athleticism. Kincaid runs routes like a receiver and goes up for contested catches like a top-tier tight end. He'd be a day-one starter for the Packers and a major weapon in the middle of the field.
16. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: Broderick Jones (OT - Georgia)
The Commanders can't take a shot on a rookie quarterback this year because I simply don't think Ron Rivera has that kind of time left in Washington. If Rivera wants to win games this season and improve the teams' 2th-ranked scoring offense, they need to shore up their offensive line. Broderick Jones is an athletically-gifted tackle prospect with the potential to be the best in this class.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Joey Porter Jr Jr. (CB - Penn State)
It is absolutely poetic to see Joey Porter Jr Jr. drop to the Steelers in this mock - I think we're all rooting for that. The Steelers have zero chance of beating the Bengals for the AFC North division if they can't defend the pass. With his ridiculous 34-inch arms and aggressive play strength at the point of attack, Porter gives Pittsburgh a "Steeler Guy" who easily fits the mold as their CB1 for years to come.
18. DETROIT LIONS: Myles Murphy (EDGE - Clemson)
Detroit gets to keep adding pieces to a young, improving defense that, unfortunately, finished last in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. After adding a cornerback earlier in the draft, the Lions would likely look to improve their defensive front. Murphy has the size (6-foot-5 and 268 pounds) and strength to be a productive pass-rusher at the next level, and I'm sure lining him across from Aidan Hutchinson would help as well.
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Brian Branch (DB - Alabama)
How the mighty have fallen. The Buccaneers have holes all over their roster, so a trade down would make a lot of sense here. However, the only can't-miss prospect still available at this point is running back Bijan Robinson, and I can't picture a team moving into the Top 20 to select a running back. Brian Branch is the next Alabama prospect to play the STAR role for the Crimson Tide. Like Minkah Fitzpatrick before him, Branch moved all over the defense for Alabama, ranging from nickel to corner to safety. Tampa Bay has two corners and three safeties whose contracts have expired, so there'll be no shortage of spots for Branch to play in.
20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Nolan Smith (EDGE - Georgia)
Remember Bruce Irvin? The Seahawks drafted Irvin with the 15th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft and actually brought him back to the roster in 2022 as a 35-year-old veteran. Nolan Smith compares favorably to Irvin regarding athletic ability and versatility along the defensive front. Smith stole the show at the Combine, running a 4.39 40-yard dash and equally impressive explosion scores on the vertical and broad jumps. Smith would be reuniting with his former Georgia teammate, Jalen Carter, to make the Seahawks front seven scary in 2023.
21. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Darnell Wright (OT - Tennessee)
The Chargers really need to just protect Justin Herbert - it's that simple. The team drafted Rashawn Slater a couple of years back to play on the left side, but the right tackle spot has been a revolving door. Darnell Wright is a mammoth (6-foot-5 and 233 pounds) yet still maintains his athleticism. Wright is a plug-and-play right tackle that would give Herbert more time in the pocket and improve the run-blocking for the Chargers' lackluster rushing attack.
22. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Quentin Johnston (WR - TCU)
This pick is made regardless of whether or not Lamar Jackson returns to Baltimore. The Ravens simply don't have a field-stretching weapon on offense. Quentin Johnston could be the Mike Williams to Rashod Bateman's Keenan Allen. The Ravens' new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, likes to attack vertically and spread out the field, and Johnston could make a lot of sense for the Ravens here.
23. BUFFALO BILLS: Bijan Robinson (RB - Texas)
This couldn't wait any longer. I struggled with where to have Bijan Robinson drafted in this mock, and ultimately I looked at which team needs him the most to get over the hump. I entertained the idea of the Chargers drafting Robinson just a couple of picks earlier, but they have much more pressing needs. The Bills, however, could use a playmaker in the backfield to take pressure off of Josh Allen and give defensive coordinators panic attacks. The Bills made a very similar move last year when they traded up a couple of spots for Kaiir Elam, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them go after a player once again.
Trade Details: Buffalo trades picks 27 and 130 overall to Minnesota for pick 23.
24. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Deonte Banks (CB - Maryland)
Trent Baalke loves traits - he loves them - so much so that the Jaguars passed on Aidan Hutchinson last year for the potential of Travon Walker. The Jags need a cornerback, and Deonte Banks fits the mold that Baalke loves. Banks came out of the Combine with a 9.99 relative athletic score after running a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and jumping an impressive 42 inches in the vertical leap.
25. NEW YORK GIANTS: Zay Flowers (WR - Boston College)
Isaiah Hodgins, Wan'Dale Robinson, and Collin Johnson are the only receivers on the roster for the New York Giants as of this writing. While the team may add a veteran like D.J. Chark or Allen Lazard in free agency, I still think they're looking for more offensive playmakers to pair with Daniel Jones for the long haul. Flowers is deemed by many as the most dynamic receiver in the class, and it's hard to deny it after Flowers totaled over 500 yards after the catch in 2022.
26. DALLAS COWBOYS: Calijah Kancey (DL - Pittsburgh)
Kancey is being looked at as an Aaron Donald-Lite type of prospect. Like Donald, Kancey is smaller (6-foot-1 and 281-pounds), and he showed off some incredible speed at the Combine (4.67 40-yard dash). Kancey was a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Outland and Nagurski trophies, respectively. He can be a quick and disruptive force on the inside that would drive opposing offensive lines crazy. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn appears to have no issue fitting unique prospects into productive roles in their defense.
27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Bryan Bresee (DL - Clemson)
The Vikings moved back to acquire more picks and still get a high-potential defender to add to their new-look defense. Brian Flores is the new defensive coordinator for the Vikings, which means they'll be attacking up front and doing it with versatility in the front seven. Bresee can play inside or outside in a multiple-look front, similar to fellow Clemson alum Christian Wilkins whom Flores drafted with his first selection as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins back in 2019.
Trade Details: Buffalo trades picks 27 and 130 overall to Minnesota for pick 23.
28. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Michael Mayer (TE - Notre Dame)
The Bengals need blocking up front and could use a pass-catcher at the tight end position - why not get both? Mayer has been dubbed "Baby Gronk" by college football fans because of his size, blocking, and contested catch ability. An offense with Chase, Higgins, Boyd, and Mayer would be absolutely terrifying for opposing defenses, especially in the redzone.
29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Mazi Smith (DT - Michigan)
Smith is a hefty presence in the middle at 6-foot-3 and 337 pounds. The Saints had the ninth-worst rushing defense in the NFL last season, and now their top three defensive tackles are entering free agency. Smith has excellent play strength and the ability to be a clogger in the middle of a defensive line. At pick 29, he's a bit of a reach for a need, but the Saints appear to be in line to win the NFC South.
30. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Keion White (EDGE - Georgia Tech)
Keion White is an incomplete prospect at the moment, but his size and athleticism are the kind of stuff that Howie Roseman loves. The Eagles couldn't quite get to Patrick Mahomes II in the Super Bowl, and their defense really started to come undone at the end of that game. A rotational pass-rusher like White would give the Eagles some youth and energy up front.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Anton Harrison (OT - Oklahoma)
Protect Patrick Mahomes II at all costs - in this case, the cost is just Pick 31. Anton Harrison is an athletic tackle prospect with the ability to play on the left or right side. He could plug in immediately at the right tackle spot for the Chiefs as a rookie.