2-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft: C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young mark new eras for franchises

In this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, and other quarterbacks mark new eras for their respective franchises.

We’re only in early June. But already, we’ve begun to build an understanding of the 2023 NFL Draft class and what it has to offer. In this 2-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft, we examine the latest batch of possibilities. Which quarterbacks are set to pace the class and direct its perception? Which skill position players might break into the early rounds? Those questions are answered below.

2023 2-Round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 1-16

1) Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

The Texans are giving Davis Mills a chance to prove he’s their franchise QB. He showed legitimate promise in 2021. But if the Texans land the No. 1 overall pick, as current odds project, they’ll likely be in the market for a new QB. In that scenario, no one is a better bet in the 2023 NFL Draft than Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

Stroud passes the eye test with a strong 6’3″, 220-pound frame and visible athleticism. But it’s what he does beyond that which makes him such an alluring prospect. Stroud has superb arm talent, but he’s also poised, mechanically-sound, unnaturally accurate, and a quick processor. There’s a very real possibility that Stroud is penciled in as the No. 1 overall pick early in the process. It’s just a matter of what team winds up at that spot.

2) Atlanta Falcons: Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State

The Falcons could absolutely be in the mix for a quarterback here. But they signed Marcus Mariota, who has pre-existing experience with Arthur Smith, and drafted Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Neither is a lock to be the long-term answer. But if either shows promise, the Falcons have the flexibility to keep investing in talent elsewhere in 2023.

One area of concern in Atlanta, with an eye on the future, is the offensive line. The interior remains unsettled outside of Chris Lindstrom, and after declining Kaleb McGary’s fifth-year option, Atlanta is almost sure to seek his replacement in the near future. In a tackle class without much blue-chip talent, the Falcons may need to pounce quickly on the top option. Paris Johnson Jr. is a safe bet to be that player. Set to start at left tackle after playing guard in 2021, Johnson has the size, length, athleticism, and power to be a blue-chip bookend.

3) Detroit Lions: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

The Lions opted to punt on the 2022 NFL Draft quarterback class, handing Jared Goff the reins for another year. Goff is a serviceable QB, but if the Lions have a chance to upgrade in the 2023 NFL Draft, they need to take it. That’s the next step in the team’s rebuild. Now that they’ve added talent on both sides of the ball, it’s time to get a legitimate high-upside passer who can elevate the electric blue.

In this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, Bryce Young is the pick at third overall. Young may be undersized — listed at 6’0″ and well under 200 pounds — but he plays with a larger toughness and resolve. Especially off-script, he always stays composed and can easily create with his short-area athleticism and arm elasticity. Young also has the benefit of being reunited with his top target from 2021: wide receiver Jameson Williams. That explosive combo could once again terrorize opposing defenses.

4) New York Jets: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

There’s a scenario where the Jets see improvement from Zach Wilson and still log an uninspiring record. As much as Robert Saleh’s squad has improved in recent years, the team may still be a season or two away from truly competing in the AFC East. Joe Douglas added help at WR, EDGE, and CB in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Now, in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, they turn back to the trenches and acquire a running mate opposite Quinnen Williams.

Williams is already a blue-chip interior defender for New York, but adding Bryan Bresee to the mix would make that defensive tackle duo borderline dominant. At 6’5″, 300 pounds, Bresee possesses freaky explosiveness and lateral agility off the snap. And with his length and active hand usage, he can turn that burst into tremendous power. Bresee can work to improve his leverage, but he’s a top-tier talent who could complete the Jets’ defense.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

The Jaguars got their skeleton key on the defensive line with Travon Walker. He’s the ultimate chess piece who, in an ideal role, should move around a lot and expand his influence across the front. But while Walker’s all-encompassing physical potential gives the Jaguars some flexibility, there’s still room to upgrade at other positions.

Particularly at 3-technique, the Jaguars could use a prospect of Jalen Carter‘s caliber. The 6’3″, 300-pound product has been favorably compared to former NFL all-star Warren Sapp, who went to Carter’s high school. Carter wins with absurd initial explosiveness and superior natural leverage, and his violent hands allow him to capitalize on those qualities consistently.

6) Carolina Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

After Stroud and Young, the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class is very much an enigma. There are several prospects who have first-round upside. However, each of the remaining prospects has a flaw to correct in the 2022 season. There’s a great deal of uncertainty, but at the same time, someone is going to emerge. That someone could very well be Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

Richardson only threw 66 passes in 2021, so the sample size needs to increase before we crown him a surefire first-round pick. But if we’re projecting into the future, Richardson has the tools to get to this point. He’s an explosive, quick-twitch athlete for his 6’4″, 235-pound frame, and he has a tremendous arm, which can carry velocity to all levels of the field and teleport passes in the short range. In 99 of 100 outcomes, the Panthers are seeking a QB next offseason. Richardson gives them tools to bank on.

7) New York Giants: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Things are looking up for the Giants with Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll. But there are a few loose ends from the previous regime that may eventually need tying up. Although he’s back and healthy, Saquon Barkley’s long-term status with New York is unclear. And while he has a chance to revitalize his career under new management, Daniel Jones’ leash will be shorter this year. If the Giants are picking at No. 7, odds are Jones didn’t impress. And then it will be time for the Giants to invest in a new QB.

Like Richardson, Will Levis is a talented but flawed passer. He comes with a steely 6’3″, 230-pound frame, exceptional athleticism and competitive toughness, and a very live arm with wicked velocity. But at the same time, his decision-making and pocket presence can be inconsistent, and his field vision is very much a work in progress. Nevertheless, the Giants’ staff has previous experience with a talented yet flawed prospect in Josh Allen. With Levis, they may try to get lightning to strike twice.

8) Chicago Bears: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

The Bears entered the 2022 offseason with dire needs both on the offensive line and in the receiving corps. You can’t exactly say they didn’t address those areas, but the proposed solutions from Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus leave plenty to be desired. They came into the offseason needing to support Justin Fields. Months later, that need is still there. But the 2023 NFL Draft should allow them an opportunity to keep building.

In this 2-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft, the Bears take Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba as the first receiver off the board. Smith-Njigba actually caught 10 passes for 49 yards and a score from Fields in 2020 before going on to dominate the college football landscape in 2021. Other receiver prospects may have a higher ceiling, but the floor for Smith-Njigba is astronomically high. For Smith-Njigba — a savvy separator with loose hips, twitch, and elite catching instincts — there are very few avenues to failure in the NFL.

9) Seattle Seahawks: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too. Will Anderson Jr. should not have fallen this far. But if the draft order plays out as the current odds project, many teams picking early might not need an edge rusher or may give the QB position greater precedence. Detroit picked Aidan Hutchinson. The Giants picked Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Jets picked Jermaine Johnson II. Jacksonville picked Travon Walker. Even the Falcons got Arnold Ebiketie in Round 2.

EDGE isn’t a top need for many teams picking early on. But the Seahawks do have room to add to their rotation. And at this point, the value with Anderson is too good to pass up. Anderson gives the Seahawks a potentially dominant edge defender with high-end explosiveness, lateral agility, power capacity, and a plasma-hot motor in pursuit. Anderson is arguably the top prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. This is as far as he feasibly falls.

10) Washington Commanders: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

On the surface, the selection of a tight end will incite groans from the Washington Commanders fan base. But at this point, the initial value for several positions of need has diminished. Washington also has uncertainty at tight end. Logan Thomas is 31 and coming off a major knee injury. Cole Turner and John Bates provide decent depth but little guarantees beyond that. In the 2023 NFL Draft, there’s a tight end prospect worth taking top 10. And Washington is in prime position to add him.

The preseason cycle is a perfect storm for overhyped prospects, but Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is as advertised. He’s a stellar receiving threat with rare instincts and elite hand strength. Beyond that, he’s a fleet-footed, agile athlete at 6’4″, 251 pounds. He can both separate and acquire yards after the catch. And as a bonus, Mayer is a phenomenal blocker. Washington fans have been forced to project upside with their most recent picks at TE, but Mayer is a weapon on Day 1.

11) Pittsburgh Steelers: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

The Steelers traded up for Devin Bush when they selected him in the 2019 NFL Draft. Bush was one of the best rookie performers in the league in 2019, but the situation has quickly soured since. Things hit a new low this past offseason when it was announced that the Steelers had declined Bush’s fifth-year option. Now, Bush will be a free agent in 2023, and the Steelers will need a new wave of talent at linebacker.

Noah Sewell might allow the Steelers to succeed where they failed with Bush. Sewell stands at 6’3″, 250 pounds, and is a homing missile in the box. He’s not afraid to engage blockers with full force and blast open lanes, and he’s a sure tackler in open space with quick recognition ability. His full-field range isn’t elite, but Sewell has more than enough explosiveness to work with. He’s also fairly steady in coverage.

12) Philadelphia Eagles: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Having a strong influx of draft capital allows flexibility for a team when it comes to addressing needs. There are several other areas to acknowledge for the Eagles here, but the talent lines up best at EDGE. With Brandon Graham projected to be a free agent in 2023, Myles Murphy may be a welcome addition to Philadelphia’s defensive line.

Murphy is a menacing physical talent, standing at 6’5″, 275 pounds. At that size, he sometimes brings shocking initial burst, exceptional lateral agility, and elite power capacity. He also visibly improved his hand usage over the course of the 2021 season. Murphy projects best as a big EDGE, but in Jonathan Gannon’s scheme, he could move around a bit. And Jordan Davis’ presence would only free him up to make more plays.

13) Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

The Eagles have a decent roster, so if they pick in this range, we can potentially assume that Jalen Hurts didn’t lock down the starting role long-term in his 2022 audition. However, at the same time, four QBs are already off the board. It might not make sense to reach for an uncertain option here. So instead, the Eagles dip into the dense pool of WR talent and add to their offense.

Jordan Addison could potentially be a perfect complement for the skill sets of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Smith is the slasher who can separate independently and provide a safety net wherever he is. Brown is the enforcer who can convert in contested situations and also take short passes for long distances with his RAC ability. Addison might be a bit of both. He’s a stellar separator and RAC threat with his snappy athleticism and hip sink, but he’s also an acrobatic receiver when the ball is in the air.

14) New England Patriots: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

The Patriots lost star cornerback J.C. Jackson in the 2022 offseason. They then used the 2022 NFL Draft to add Marcus Jones and Jack Jones to their cornerback room. Time will tell if the Patriots’ investments pay off, but on the surface, it wasn’t an inspiring response to the loss of a defensive catalyst. More likely than not, New England will enter the 2023 offseason with a familiar need at cornerback. Luckily for them, that’s a need they can fill in the 2023 NFL Draft.

In this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, the Patriots pace the cornerback group by selecting Georgia’s Kelee Ringo as the first CB off the board. Ringo is a rare physical specimen at cornerback. He almost looks like a strong safety at times, with a long 6’2″, 205-pound frame. But at the same time, he has more than enough speed to carry receivers upfield and close ground in recovery. With his size, he also brings surprising twitch and fluidity. He’s a young cornerback, still refining his game. But he has the tools to go this high.

15) Las Vegas Raiders: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

At first glance, this pick is understandably surprising. The Raiders traded for Davante Adams this past offseason and recently extended Hunter Renfrow. Adams and Renfrow make for a superb duo, but behind them, the depth at WR is fairly uninspiring for Las Vegas. With this selection in our latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft, however, the Raiders can turn that area of uncertainty into a strength.

Kayshon Boutte is still on the board here, perhaps for a reason. While he has the upside to be the first receiver off the board, his situation is quite as stable as Smith-Njigba’s or Addison’s. Many are banking on Boutte to get back to form after missing half of the 2021 season with an injury. If he can do that, he brings high-end explosiveness, twitch, RAC ability, and catching instincts to Josh McDaniels’ squad. Imagine a receiving trio of Adams, Renfrow, and Boutte. That’s a playoff-level unit.

16) Miami Dolphins: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

The Dolphins are quickly becoming San Francisco East, with all the intermingling names they have in the RB room. That’s not a surprise with offensive wunderkind Mike McDaniel as their head coach. After signing Chase Edmonds from Arizona, McDaniel is likely satisfied for the time being. But the opportunity to add a special RB talent like Bijan Robinson might be too hard to pass up in 2023.

Running backs rarely go this high in the first round anymore, but Robinson is worth it. The 6’0″, 220-pound back has not only workhorse potential with his size and physicality but also brings a truly uncommon blend of short-area athleticism, balance, vision, and creative instincts. Robinson is a master of space at RB. And playing for McDaniel, a mastermind of space manipulation, there’s no telling what Robinson could accomplish.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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