First-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft: C.J. Stroud Goes First, But Will Levis Slides Past the Top 3 Signal-Callers

    With just over a month until the real NFL draft begins, we dive into the fantasy football implications of a first-round 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    With just over a month until the 2023 NFL Draft, mock drafts continue to be dialed in as we try to determine how teams will utilize their picks. From a fantasy football standpoint, the picks made in the first round will have massive implications on what is a very talented class. For this mock, we use the PFN Mock Draft Simulator and analyze the fantasy football impact of a one-round 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    First-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft

    1) Carolina Panthers (From CHI): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

    This one feels inevitable. Maybe I’m falling into the smoke screen trap, but Carolina selecting C.J. Stroud feels like the logical selection, given the team’s infatuation with Stroud during the NFL Combine and his pro day. That’s also where he goes in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    Stroud and Bryce Young are the Tier 1 quarterbacks in this draft class, and with this landing spot in mind, I will stick with the pre-draft grade with Stroud remaining as the QB1 for Carolina. Hopefully, they can add a few playmakers at receiver in Round 2 or 3.

    2) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

    Although Houston wound up with the second overall pick, they likely still come away with their top-ranked player. Bryce Young has been viewed as the best quarterback in his class for quite some time, and with the Panthers going first, their franchise signal-caller falls into their laps.

    From a fantasy standpoint, nothing changed here for Young, and he’s a top-three pick in Superflex drafts. But to ensure his career doesn’t take the same path as other rookies who have landed in Houston, the Texans must address the offensive line, especially given Young’s size. They should also look to add more receiving weapons following the Brandin Cooks trade.

    3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

    Will Anderson Jr. is the best player in this entire draft. He’s also one of the most decorated as a two-time all-American, two-time Nagurski award winner, and Bednarik Award winner.

    Although IDP isn’t the most popular format, Anderson will be popular in those leagues. While edge defenders don’t score as many points as linebackers due to the decrease in the volume of tackles, Anderson has more than shown his ability to win with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. It might take one or two years, but Anderson will be a top-five defensive line player for IDP leagues.

    4) Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

    No quarterback in this draft class has more upside than Anthony Richardson. He’s a big-bodied passer with a strong arm and can scramble with the best of them. If things go right, he will be the next Cam Newton.

    MORE: Top Superflex Dynasty Rankings

    With Shane Steichen now the head coach for the Colts, this will likely speed up Richardson’s maturation process. The Colts have a solid offensive line, one of the best running backs in the NFL, and an underrated Michael Pittman Jr. at receiver. I don’t expect Richardson to be on fire out of the gates, but if you like him, especially if he gets top-four draft capital, you will need to spend equally as high of a pick to add him in rookie drafts.

    5) Seattle Seahawks: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

    Seattle knocked it out of the park with most of their picks last year. Not only did they drastically improve their offensive line, but cornerback Tariq Woolen was as good as you could hope, leading the league with six interceptions.

    What is also helpful for a secondary is getting pressure on the quarterback. Having already signed Dre’Mont Jones, the addition of Tyree Wilson only further helps their pass rush and gives Seattle a high-level rusher that can also make an immediate impact as a run defender. You likely won’t get a ton of upside from him for fantasy, but if you’re in a league that awards points for sacks and pressures, Wilson will be one of the top guys out of his class.

    6) Detroit Lions: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

    “Please be better than Jeff Okudah.” That’s what every Lions fan is going to say when they see a cornerback selected in the first round. Let me just go ahead and tell you now: Christian Gonzalez is the real deal. Gonzalez is a lockdown corner with both length and size in his favor.

    That will be necessary as Detroit will rely on him to guard DJ Moore and Justin Jefferson. Unfortunately for fantasy, cornerbacks don’t score many points at all. If you’re in a league that utilizes the DB position, that will typically be used on a box safety rather than a perimeter corner who might only see eight or so targets thrown his way a game.

    7) Las Vegas Raiders: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

    The “slide” of Jalen Carter wraps up here at pick No. 7 with the Las Vegas Raiders in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft. I find this to be a fascinating pick, as Will Levis was still sitting on the board, yet the Raiders went with one of the most disruptive players to come into the league in the last several years.

    The signing of Jimmy Garoppolo gives Las Vegas flexibility in how they want to use this selection, and if anything, fantasy managers likely walk away with more consistent production from Raiders players like Davante Adams with Garoppolo rather than with Levis.

    8) Atlanta Falcons: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

    After taking a shot on Desmond Ridder last season, the Falcons are back at it, drafting another unproven quarterback in Will Levis. If you like arm strength, you’re going to love Levis. There’s also a rushing component to his game, as he rushed for 1,174 yards with 17 scores on 211 carries.

    The concern for fantasy is that he just hasn’t shown the level of consistency as a passer you would need to feel confident. I think the upside is certainly there, and he’s got two fantastic playmakers in Drake London and Kyle Pitts.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind them throwing Desmond Ridder back out there under center or preferably rolling with Taylor Heinicke until Levis is ready, as he needs time to develop. Levis is, at worst, the QB4, but there is also a vast gap between the top four quarterbacks in the rest of this class.

    9) Chicago Bears (From CAR): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

    Chicago is in a prime spot here to take the first wide receiver off the board, but they opted to protect Justin Fields. I’m totally fine with that. Paris Johnson Jr. is built differently than most other humans walking this planet. While he brings a powerful punch, Johnson also has incredible grip strength and shows finesse in his hand work.

    Games are won in the trenches, and the longer he can give Fields time, the more fantasy value we’re going to get out of players like DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, and even Khalil Herbert, who has a chance to be a big winner following the loss of David Montgomery. Chicago will be a sneaky fun team to watch for fantasy.

    10) Philadelphia Eagles: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

    I am already nervous about all the comments we would see on the internet if the Eagles selected another wide receiver out of TCU in the first round when there was probably a clearly better wide receiver on the board.

    All I know is I hope this turns out better for Quentin Johnston than it did for Jalen Reagor. There is nothing else Jalen hurts needs to show to prove he is a starting quarterback. So at this point, why not surround him with as much talent as possible?

    A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are both No. 1s in their own right, but adding Johnston into the mix likely gives the Eagles the best wide receiver room in the entire NFL. Whether or not there are too many mouths to feed now in Philadelphia is another debate, but I do like this landing spot for Johnston. However, there are others I actually like way more yet to come in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    11) Tennessee Titans: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

    Broderick Jones is a road paver, and there’s a case to be made he is the top offensive tackle on the board. Jones is an incredible athlete for someone his size, and that athleticism shows up in his ability to reach second- and even third-level defenders.

    This makes all the sense in the world for a team with a smash-mouth identity like Tennessee, assuming they don’t move Derrick Henry. Unfortunately, from a fantasy aspect, Tennessee isn’t the most desirable roster to pick and choose from. We still have significant questions at quarterback with Ryan Tannehill, and we’re hoping for better seasons out of Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo.

    12) Houston Texans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

    This is what I love to see. When you draft a rookie quarterback, protect him and give him weapons. After selecting Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick, Houston comes right back and gives him the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft: Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

    Young is the most accurate quarterback in his draft and one of the best regarding anticipatory and timing throws. That’s going to mesh perfectly with Smith-Njigba, who runs some of the best routes in this draft and will be a high-volume slot receiver, not dissimilar to Amon-Ra St. Brown.

    In fact, I think that type of role and playstyle meshes well with JSN, given his very underrated physicality. He is the No. 1 wide receiver for dynasty in this class, and I could see a path where JSN sees 120 targets as a WR2 in PPR formats for 2023.

    13) New York Jets: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

    New York has gone all in on winning a Super Bowl. Otherwise, why else would you go out and try to get Aaron Rodgers? If Smith-Njigba were here, I think it would’ve been interesting to have seen what the Jets would’ve done, but I don’t think you’ll hear Rodgers or anyone else complaining about Peter Skoronski.

    The Jets need to build up front, especially the tackle position. It just so happens Skoronski might be the most pro-ready offensive lineman in this class. He is an overall technician with fantastic balance and lower body strength. He will give Rodgers all the time he needs to find Garrett Wilson or Allen Lazard. Any upgrade to an offensive line is always a good thing for fantasy football, even if we can’t get any points from a pancake block.

    14) New England Patriots: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

    This feels like a very New England-type pick for a 2023 NFL Mock Draft. Despite sensational play in Clemson, Myles Murphy feels like the forgotten man amongst edge rushers. But here, New England capitalizes on someone who slipped in value but has a scheme versatile skill set and a rare blend of size, length, and explosion.

    Murphy is built as a prototypical 4-3 end, but there were a couple of times you saw him drop back into flats or to a shallow spy, which might get him a couple of extra plays here and there. I’m not expecting a ton of fantasy upside here for IDP leagues, but Murphy should be an impact starter on the defensive front from Day 1.

    15) Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

    Part of me feels like the Green Bay Packers have already made the selection and have already moved on to the second round. Slipping in both the NFL and rookie draft, Michael Mayer feels like a case of prospect fatigue, as he is unquestionably the most pro-ready tight end prospect in this class.

    MORE: 2023 Dynasty Rookie Rankings

    Not only will Mayer win as a blocker, but he will quickly become a trusted target for Jordan Love — assuming this is the landing spot. With Robert Tonyan now in Chicago, the table is set for Mayer to become the tight end of the future for Green Bay. I wouldn’t discount a top-12 finish for Mayer in 2023, and the talent of the 2023 TE class is a much-needed injection of upside to an otherwise lackluster position.

    16) Washington Commanders: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

    You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more likable person in this draft than Nolan Smith. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a better athlete than Smith, who ran a 4.39 40 while at the NFL Combine and checked in at 6’2″ and 238 pounds.

    Washington already has a solid defensive line, but adding Smith to Chase Young and Montez Sweat might be too much for the Commanders to pass up. Given the nature of the position, he won’t carry a ton of upside from a fantasy aspect, but Smith will be a very productive player.

    17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

    How fitting of a selection is this for a 2023 NFL Mock Draft? The Steelers not only address a position of massive importance but do so with a familiar name with the son of a former Steelers great in Joey Porter Jr.

    Pittsburgh spent a ton of their time in free agency addressing the offensive line, and Porter being on the board is too easy of a selection. Not only is he a legacy player, but Porter is a corner with incredible length and physicality and can be put on an island if needed, given his dominance in press-man scenarios.

    18) Detroit Lions: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

    Detroit knocked it out of the park last year with the additions of Aidan Hutchinson and Malcolm Rodriguez, who they found in the sixth round. Adding Trenton Simpson to this defense only further solidifies my stance that the Lions are a team to be feared in 2023.

    Simpson is a hybrid defender who can attack both in coverage and zone-blitz looks. He’s a moveable, positionless defender — a math-changer and chess piece for Dan Campbell and this Detroit defense. At Clemson, he played everything from WILL linebacker to deep safety, and that versatility will make him a precious fantasy football commodity for IDP formats.

    19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

    It was just a matter of time until Bijan Robinson heard his name called, and the fit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes way too much sense. With Tom Brady retiring for the second time and the Buccaneers releasing veteran Leonard Fournette, Robinson can come in and, from Day 1, eat up over 300 opportunities. He can be the focal point of this offense while the team figures out what they have with the passing game, led by Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin.

    And in all fairness, it likely didn’t matter where Robinson was selected. He is by far the No. 1 RB of his class and is in a tier amongst himself. He is already considered the No. 1 running back in dynasty. I have no reason to believe he won’t be a top-12 running back in 2023 as well.

    20) Seattle Seahawks: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

    After a bit of a gap, we are back on the receivers, and this one makes a ton of sense. At 5’11” and roughly 173 pounds, Jordan Addison has garnered a lot of comparisons to Tyler Lockett, which makes this landing spot very intriguing.

    Addison is one of the most refined receivers in this class. The Biletnikoff Award winner in 2021, Addison is a dynamic player with a strong route tree and a good sense of pace, both with how he can speed up and slow down depending on the coverage. He’s got excellent hands and can catch the ball cleanly away from his body, which helps him after the catch.

    I don’t think Addison is a universal fit, but the fact that we can plug him into the literal role of the player he’s being compared to makes it a bit too easy at this point.

    So long as Geno Smith has a comparable season to last year, Addison should have a solid rookie season. Yet, he will take off when Lockett eventually leaves, which could be at the end of the 2023 season, as the Seahawks could use an opt-out in his contract and save roughly $47 million in dead cap. Therefore, Addison is a pick not just for the present but for the future.

    21) Los Angeles Chargers: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

    You’re welcome. That’s all I’m going to say for this one. You are welcome. The dream landing spot for Jalin Hyatt is the Los Angeles Chargers. Hyatt is a game-changer. His speed — especially when he puts his head down and gets into the drive phase — can’t be found anywhere else. It forces defenses to designate a safety who must play over the top on his side of the field on every single play. At times, you’ll see triple coverage trying to contain him.

    Rather than death by a thousand paper cuts, it’s a one-punch knockout with Hyatt, as it only takes one play, and all of a sudden, it’s six on the board and 14+ for your fantasy roster. For him to maximize his fantasy value, Hyatt needs to land on an offense that is aggressive, passing-focused, and has a quarterback with an accurate deep ball. Find me a team that fits this description more than the Chargers … I’ll wait.

    22) Baltimore Ravens: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

    Baltimore drafting a defensive player in the first round. Yeah, that makes sense. Isaiah Foskey is the sack leader in Notre Dame football history and will likely be a valuable pass rusher at the NFL level.

    The Ravens already have an outstanding defense with Patrick Queen, Roquan Smith, Kyle Hamilton, and Odafe Oweh, and adding Foskey would simply expand the depth to one of the league’s best defenses. This pick doesn’t add a ton of value from a fantasy perspective, but it helps get the ball back into the offenses’ hands more often. But will it be Lamar Jackson’s hands?

    23) Minnesota Vikings: Keele Ringo, CB, Georgia

    Very few cornerbacks can compare with Kelee Ringo from an athleticism standpoint. At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Ringo is as gifted as possible for an outside corner. You’re rarely going to beat him vertically in a foot race, and he excels in trail technique against mesh or crossing patterns.

    The only potential knock on him is he is not the quickest at changing directions because of how big he is. But outside of that, he’s got the speed and athleticism to recover against darn near anyone.

    Like Porter and Gonzalez, cornerbacks don’t give you anything for fantasy on their own. Still, a couple of extra interceptions or a forced fumble can mean a lot in a given week, especially when the ball will be going back into the hands of Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.

    24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Branch, S, Alabama

    This is the sensible selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft. I’m not saying it’s the most fun, especially for fantasy, but Brian Branch coming in to stabilize their secondary is a great selection.

    Jacksonville was the only team in their division with a positive point differential (+54), but they tend to get into shootouts because of how good their offense is under Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence.

    Branch, at this point in the draft, is a steal for the Jaguars as he can slide right into the nickel spot for their defense and give them the versatility that they didn’t have last year. The depth of quality at the quarterback position in the AFC is only getting stronger. If the Jaguars want to take that next step, Branch would be a great selection.

    25) New York Giants: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

    The Giants pulled off an otherworldy move to acquire Darren Waller rather than overpay in a subpar wide receiver market. That takes some of the pressure off the team to address pass catcher right out of the gates. Instead, Brian Daboll gets back into the trenches and adds Bryan Bresee to bolster the defensive line.

    The natural talent is evident for Bresee. Likely at his best as a three-technique DT, Bresee showed versatility and played up and down the line at Clemson. He is great against the run as well, showing the ability to work down the line if needed. Very, very few IDLs become viable fantasy assets. I mean, even Aaron Donald only has one top-10 season. Bresee is another one of those “better for the NFL” than fantasy selections in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    26) Dallas Cowboys: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

    I can already tell you Jerry Jones is upset he couldn’t trade up to get Bijan Robinson. However, if you’re a fantasy manager with Tony Pollard on your roster, go ahead and pop the bottles and start celebrating because he’s going to be a first-round pick at this point.

    So what does Dallas get for their sorrows? Oh, just an aggressive, physical cornerback with great man coverage skills and ball production who can also come downhill and help out in the run game. You know, nothing much. Dallas already has one of the best corners in the league with Trevon Diggs, but adding Devon Witherspoon to the defense means Dallas has two cornerbacks they can trust to be on an island and then use Stephon Gilmore as their CB3.

    With Philadelphia adding Quentin Johnston earlier in the draft, maybe it’s a good thing Dallas was forced to make the sensible pick — not the fun one.

    27) Buffalo Bills: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

    I’m not saying I’m the best thing to happen to fantasy football, but I’m also not not saying it. Not only is Jalin Hyatt going to the Chargers, but how about Zay Flowers to the Buffalo Bills?

    A genuine debate can be had about Flowers being the No. 2 wide receiver in his draft class. I think it’s a 100% viable argument. The way he loses defenders mid-route is a near-mirror match for Antonio Brown.

    MORE: 2023 Dynasty Rookie WR Rankings

    Rarely did anyone ever keep up with him, and this is consistent across all the tape. His hands are sensational, barring a few concentration drops, and while he isn’t the biggest player on the field, he fights. Flowers has no issues getting involved in the running game. He is far more physical than people give him credit for, similar to JSN.

    Buffalo needs a second receiver, given the inconsistencies of Gabe Davis — high ankle sprain or not. If this landing spot were to happen, for the 2023 season at least, Flowers would be my second-ranked rookie wide receiver of this class behind JSN. With that said, I think the upside of Flowers is actually a higher ceiling than that of Smith-Njigba, as Flowers is a positional-versatile receiver, whereas JSN is more of a slot-only weapon.

    28) Cincinnati Bengals: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

    When in doubt, add more weapons. Joe Burrow said himself, “the window is open for as long as I’m here.” I believe him. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league, and the only spot we were really trying to find more production from is the tight end position. In steps Darnell Washington.

    Washington is one of the most physically impressive players coming out of college. He is the guy you want stepping off the bus first. Guys like that are typically not valued for what they can do in the open field and as a receiver. That’s an area that’s not a concern for Washington, as he’ll be perfectly fine with vertical seams, quick hooks, in-breakers, or even a high point similar to what he did in the combine.

    Yet, Washington’s best skill is actually his ability as a blocker. Whether it’s driving in the run game or a chip-and-release, Washington is as good of a blocker with his hand in the dirt as he is an offensive weapon in the open field as a ball carrier.

    Throw in the fact that he can leap over defenders or stiff-arm them into the dirt, and suddenly, you’re looking at a top-12 tight end for fantasy. Now, we’ve never seen the target share go to the position in Cincinnati at a reliable rate. But was that due to the scheme or the roster itself? If you bring Washington into the fold, Cincinnati will certainly be incentivized to get him the ball. At a minimum, he becomes one of the best red-zone targets in the league.

    29) New Orleans Saints: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

    Lukas Van Ness is an explosive athlete with power at the point of the attack. He has the speed and power to play through blockers, maximizing his ability to collapse the pocket with plus length and lower body size.

    This is a defense that lost David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport, and Shy Tuttle this offseason and needs a versatile player to pair with Cam Jordan. While there aren’t a ton of takeaways here from a fantasy aspect, it’s a great move for the Saints in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

    30) Philadelphia Eagles: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

    Philly is back on the board, having made an addition on the offensive side of the ball which naturally means Howie Roseman will look at the defense. And they stick to the perimeter, but this time go with Cam Smith, the cornerback out of South Carolina.

    One of the best attributes of the 2022 Eagles was their secondary. They were a shutdown defense with C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Darius Slay, and James Bradberry. However, there is a vacancy on this defense as CJGJ signed a deal with the Detroit Lions.

    Rather than take a step back, the Eagles reload with Smith, a highly competitive defender who plays well in coverage and is aggressive as a tackler. He’s not the biggest at 6’1 “in 180 pounds, but he’s got plenty of speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and can get up with a 38” vertical. Smith likely wouldn’t have to start as a rookie, but I believe he will be a starter early in his career.

    31) Kansas City Chiefs: Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn

    When you just won the Super Bowl, you can pretty much do whatever you want. With the loss of Frank Clark, the Chiefs now have a need for an additional pass rusher, and they fill that spot with Derick Hall.

    Hall is a long, explosive edge rusher with a strong base, but he is also very physical with his hands. He’s at his best when converting his speed into power, and while he isn’t the most bendy coming off the edge, he brings a ton of physicality and can also drop back into a soft zone if needed. I don’t see him playing a ton of outside linebacker, which hurts his fantasy value, but Hall will be productive nonetheless.

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