The quarterbacks at the top will define the 2023 NFL Draft. From a fantasy perspective, the primary question is running back Bijan Robinson's landing spot. Expect a wait on receivers relative to the talent of the past couple of seasons. How will it all shake out? This three-round mock will show where to expect player values to land.
1. Carolina Panthers - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Panthers have three distinct paths at the top of the draft. Young is a size outlier. Richardson has the broadest range of outcomes. Meanwhile, Stroud is the safest path. NFL teams are reluctant to accept risk early. Stroud profiles the type of players that head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown have worked with in the past, including Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, and Carson Wentz. Safety is the path early.
2. Houston Texans - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Texans are looking to develop a winning culture. Head coach DeMeco Ryans missed playing for Nick Saban at Alabama by one season. But that does not mean there is no connective tissue between Ryans and the program Saban built. An Alabama alumn tapping his future quarterback from his program is a great way to start.
3. Indianapolis Colts - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Trade: #3 for #4, #79, 2023 4th
This match is a perfect blending of creative coaching and quarterback upside. Colts coach Shane Steichen built a complex, attacking offense around the dual-threat ability of Jalen Hurts as the Eagles' offensive coordinator. Richardson allows doing the same, perhaps with a higher ceiling. Richardson tested as the most athletic quarterback in draft history at the Combine.
4. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr Jr., EDGE, Alabama
The Cardinals leveraged their position as third in the draft to accumulate picks and still walk out with the top position player. New coach Jonathan Gannon engineered a scheme to help Haason Reddick lead the league with 19.5 sacks, and Anderson is next. There is talk this pick is between Anderson and Tyree Wilson, but the Cardinals have 2022 third-round pick Cameron Thomas as one of their bright spots, which can profile to the strong side position held by Josh Sweat. Anderson is a tone-setter for a rebuilding team.
5. Seattle Seahawks - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Seahawks happily select Wilson to continue a quick franchise rebuild. The team has long drafted on traits, and Wilson leads the pack. The team has a stable of productive and intriguing edges like Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe, but Wilson gives them a shot at superstar potential to anchor the line for years.
6. Detroit Lions - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Detroit ranked 30th in pass defense. Jeffrey Okudah showed flashes of delivering on his potential as the 3rd overall pick in 2020, and the Lions brought in Cameron Sutton in free agency. However, the team needs and positional value still point here. Gonzalez is a plus athlete who can grow into a lockdown corner, giving GM Brad Holmes a chance at replicating Jalen Ramsey's impact from his time in the Rams front office. Jalen Carter could be in play here, but this could be the starting point to see a slide down the board due to a disaster of a predraft process. The Lions could also look to move back if a team is interested in coming to get Will Levis, the last of the top quarterbacks on the board.
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Raiders re-signed Jermaine Eluemunor to plug a glaring hole on the offensive line, but the team still needs to add talent. Johnson played guard in the 2021 season, but his long-term future and positional value point to tackle. Jalen Carter is in play because it is the Raiders, but Johnson is a cleaner option. He is a versatile answer and allows the Raiders to shift players along the line to reach the best potential solution.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Here we go. The Falcons have voiced commitment to giving Desmond Ridder a chance to prove himself as the team's quarterback. Tyler Allgeier ran well as a rookie, topping 1,000 yards, but Arthur Smith owes his job to coordinating an offense built around a special running back in Derrick Henry. There is a difference between productive and special. Robinson gives Smith a chance at that type of build and Ridder his best chance at succeeding. This addition would shift Cordarrelle Patterson into a flexible weapon and reserve Allgeier as a battering ram to continue pressuring worn-down defenses.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Trade: #9 for #19, #82, 2023 2nd
Picks nine and ten stand as inflection points for teams to move into position for Levis. The Buccaneers' current plan is Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. Which is to say they lack one. Levis is raw, but his arm strength fits the vertical scheme the Buccaneers built around Jameis Winston before Tom Brady's arrival. The team could be patient with Levis, allowing Trask or Mayfield to see if there may be any meat on the bone. But Levis' ceiling outweighs the other two options.
10. Philadelphia Eagles - Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia
Howie Roseman is one of the most aggressive general managers in the NFL. The hallmark of the Eagles' defense has been depth through the defensive line, and with two picks in the first round, the Eagles can take a risk on Carter despite the red flags. Less than a month ago, Carter was viewed as the best positional prospect in the draft. Here the Eagles can backfill the loss of Javon Hargrave and pair Carter with his former teammate Jordan Davis inside for years to come.
11. Tennessee Titans - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Titans may be the pick teams need to jump to get involved with Will Levis. Here it happened. The team lost longtime anchor Taylor Lewan and rolled the dice on Andre Dillard as a longshot, but Skoronski is a safer play. His athleticism may knock him inside to guard, where he can remain a cornerstone. But the Titans need help at every area of the line, and Skoronski is the first step towards rebuilding.
12. Houston Texans - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
The trade of Brandin Cooks positions this as a popular wide receiver landing spot, but Ryans has enjoyed the benefit of a deep defensive line with the 49ers. Jerry Hughes was the team's most productive lineman with nine sacks, but he will be 35 before the season. Van Ness is the type of high-ceiling investment the team needs during their rebuild. Iowa used a deep defensive line rotation, holding Van Ness back from the kind of production that could see him flirt with top-five capital, but his athleticism is precisely what teams seek in the position.
13. New York Jets - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Jets have built one of the most interesting young cores in the NFL but were forced to rely on 37-year-old Duane Brown to hold down the left tackle position. They have to add to the line. Jones could be the first offensive lineman off the board, and the Jets find value here. Jones is the type of athletic tackle to fit as a positional prototype. Here is hoping this pick is not traded for Aaron Rodgers and immediately renders this mock obsolete.
14. New England Patriots - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Wright is likely a tier below the top three offensive tackles in the class and looks locked into the right side. But the Patriots need help. The team signed Riley Reiff to start at right tackle, but at 34, his best football is behind him. The Patriots surprised when they took Cole Strange in the first round in 2022 and were rewarded with a disappointing season. The team has to continue to add talent.
15. Green Bay Packers - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Smith screams Packers pick after crushing the NFL Combine. The team has favored athletic upside from major schools, and their last three first-round picks have come from Georgia. Rashan Gary had a breakout season in 2022, and Preston Smith is still a strong producer. Adding Smith into the rotation will continue replenishing the depth and creating a solid rotation.
16. Washington Commanders - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Commanders have hunted a complimentary corner to Kendall Fuller since his selection in 2016. Witherspoon has the talent and positional value to land inside the top ten; at this point, he would be the best player available and lock down a need. The team had a strong pass defense, ranking in the top five, but with rookie Sam Howell potentially taking over, they must lean into a defense-first ball control style. This pick is a home run.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Joey Porter Jr Jr., CB, Penn State
Porter grew up around the Steelers organization, where his father stood out on a Super Bowl champion team in 2006. Porter went on to star for Penn State, and now he finds himself among the top prospects in the 2023 draft. The Steelers replaced the departed Cameron Sutton with 33-year-old Patrick Peterson but lacked any long-term option at the position. A fun narrative fit that answers a position of need.
18. Detroit Lions - Brian Branch, S, Alabama
The Lions have invested heavily in their offense early in the past couple of drafts and now find the opportunity to address the defensive backfield. After taking Gonzalez at the sixth pick, the team turns around and adds the top safety in the class. Branch is the type of versatile chess piece teams crave, capable of playing nickel corner or as a single high eraser. The team added C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency and pairing him with Branch immediately solidified the back end. The Lions ended the season on an 8-2 run as one of the hotter teams in the league, and if their offense continues to produce, they will find themselves in shootouts again.
19. Chicago Bears - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Bears could be forced to stay inside the top ten and select one of the top offensive linemen after a free agency hunting the position came up empty at tackle. But this trade-down provided the opportunity to accumulate another early 2024 selection and another day-two pick. It also gives the top receiver selection. Smith-Njigba would complete a masterful renovation of the Bears' receiving options. He could serve as the primary slot, occasionally alternating with D.J. Moore while Darnell Mooney stretches the field and Chase Claypool provides size. Oh, and he played with Justin Fields at Ohio State. Offensive line is still a significant need, but the team would have five more selections in the top 103 picks. They have to find out of Fields is the answer this season with a war chest of draft picks to position in the 2024 quarterback derby or focus attention on the defense.
20. Seattle Seahawks - Calijah Kancey, IDL, Pittsburgh
The Seahawks finished tenth in sack percentage and added Dre'Mont Jones in free agency, but Kancey could be the type of interior pass rusher to bring the unit up a level. He was another Combine champion but had the production to back it with two straight first-team All-ACC seasons. The team has experimented with size outliers, succeeding with the 5-foot-11 defensive tackle Poona Ford. Inserting Kancey and Walker into this defensive line makes this a unit to watch.
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