The season is far from over, but NFL draft season never stops. Using the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator and our own 2023 Big Board rankings, we’re taking a look at what a no-trade first round might look like.
2023 NFL Mock Draft
1) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Houston Texans tried the low-upside QB value pick, and it took a lot longer than most expected before they realized why that never works. This team is a long way from competing in meaningful football games. Nonetheless, if they want to be any more than a W in their opponents’ record, they’ll need to get a quarterback who can change football games in their favor.
Bryce Young is an example of a QB who has few major flaws, with his size being the only red flag worth looking into with much scrutiny. He has a strong arm, solid accuracy, reads the field fairly well, and can place the ball away from defenders when he needs to. Only four QBs have weighed less than 200 pounds and made a Pro Bowl in their career, and three of them were drafted in 1987. It’s a legit concern, but one that I think you can justify when you watch his play on the field.
2) Chicago Bears: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
No narrative turned on its head faster in 2022 than people’s opinion of Justin Fields as a quarterback. His struggles as a passer and wasted talent as a runner were challenged immediately to start the year. He’s progressed so far this season that it’s becoming far more clear the type of team Chicago wants on offense. On defense? Not so much.
Enter Will Anderson Jr., an Alabama pass rusher who will finish his career as one of the most successful edge rushers in college football history. Anderson lives in the backfield, and Bears fans will see a player they haven’t seen since Richard Dent on the 80s squad.
3) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Seattle Seahawks have had a different sack leader each year since 2018 (when Frank Clark had 14 sacks), which also marks the last time they had a double-digit sack player. Since then, it’s been a revolving door of mediocre-at-best pass rushing mixed in with some promising but ultimately unsuccessful pressure creators.
Myles Murphy hasn’t been a double-digit sack player, but what he’s done is develop each year since he burst onto the scene in 2020. He has a nose for the football, making pressure his business. His size and expected athletic talents have him in the discussion for this high of a pick. And if he continues to develop along the same track he is now, Seattle could have a mean-looking pass rush with a younger core of linemen.
4) Detroit Lions (from LAR): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
It looked a little dicey when the Lions started the season 1-6, but Dan Campbell’s turnaround has shown that their process of developing both players and coaches may have a payoff. The biggest thing that will prevent that payoff from ever coming to fruition is the lack of a QB capable of making plays when the chips are down. Jared Goff is only “the guy” when he has perfect protection, a strong run game, and a defense holding his opponents to minimal points.
C.J. Stroud has been compared to Goff, but I think those comparisons are only true when you look at Stroud against what people thought Goff was going to be coming out of Cal and not what he’s been in the NFL. Stroud has a better arm, is more accurate, and works better both in and out of structure. Drafting Stroud would take everything they’ve been able to do with Goff and put someone under center who can do the things Goff cannot.
5) Carolina Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
It hasn’t exactly been envious to be a Panthers fan when it comes to seeing their team’s moves at the quarterback position. It has all been about high cost and low upside so far, and I think it’s about time the Panthers’ faithful see their team take a risk that might be worth taking.
Anthony Richardson has the best traits in this draft class for a quarterback. He has a massive arm, great size, can throw with accuracy while threatening with his legs, and has the attitude of a starting QB in a pro league. Sure, the downsides are stark, and you can almost hear the growing pains he’ll have to go through making the leap from the SEC to the NFL. However, the potential payoff is (significantly) higher than “bottom-tier starter,” like what Panthers fans have had to deal with lately.
6) Philadelphia Eagles (from NO): Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
It feels like cheating that the Philadelphia Eagles have a pick this high. Their team needs are few — none are glaring. Still, this is America, and the rich getting richer is to be expected.
Kelee Ringo is one of the most explosive athletes in the country, able to go from a dead stop or backpedal into full speed in a different direction almost instantly. He’s not as technically sound as some of the top corners to come out recently, but he’s able to make up for his relatively few mistakes by utilizing his athletic gifts.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
I’m not going to lie, part of me is making this pick after watching the Lions game and bruising my forehead after accurate pass-drop-aggressive facepalm over and over again. The Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of needs, and picking in this range gives them plenty of options. I don’t think any need is more glaring than their lack of a reliable receiving weapon, though, especially as Trevor Lawrence develops.
Quentin Johnston is one of the best offensive players in the country and a big part of the Horned Frogs’ College Football Playoff chances. He’s a height/weight/speed guy with a big frame to box out defenders, and he has exceptional ability at the catch point. With Calvin Ridley underneath and Quentin Johnston over the top, Trevor Lawrence may light the NFL on fire in 2023.
8) Arizona Cardinals: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Few teams have been as disappointing in 2022 as the Arizona Cardinals. The danger of their offensive unit never materialized; their defense has struggled to find any footing. Age is starting to become a factor in some places, and the team needs to make some serious changes quickly to prevent a spiral.
This is likely a hard floor for Jalen Carter in the draft, with a top-five selection just as likely (if not more). One of the most talented players on one of the most talented teams in college football history in 2021, Jalen Carter has built on his reputation as a disruptive problem for opposing offenses this season. It would be a coup for Arizona if Carter is still available here and a no-brainer of a pick if there ever was one.
9) Las Vegas Raiders: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Las Vegas Raiders were expected to be a much better squad in 2022 than what we’ve seen fielded, culminating in several firings that didn’t exactly set the team up for a lot of success in 2023. On the plus side, that means pretty much anything goes in the draft, leaving a lot of options on how to improve.
Offensive line help is needed in Vegas, and Paris Johnson Jr. provides the best opportunity to improve immediately and delivers a promising long-term outlook as well. Johnson played guard for several seasons before transitioning outside, but all that means for his pro prospects is that you can start him wherever you need to at the start of his NFL career. An easy win for the Raiders, who could use the help inside and out.
10) Indianapolis Colts: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
It would be easy to take a quarterback for Indianapolis, who can’t seem to find a proper signal-caller since Andrew Luck’s untimely retirement. While I think the Colts’ receivers are getting a bad rap in general due to bad QB play, I struggled to find a reason to slot one of the remaining QBs here, given how the team has behaved in recent offseasons.
Instead, I think that decision gets punted to 2024 while the team continues to try to build their core group of players on both sides of the ball. Kayshon Boutte is one of the most talented receivers in the 2023 class, with good size and athleticism to pair with strong hands. He can work on some concentration issues in traffic, but his route tree is diverse enough that the upside drastically outweighs the risks as a receiver.
(Editorial Update: Boutte announced he will return for his senior year after this article was written.)
11) Atlanta Falcons: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
While I’m sure Falcons fans would love another offensive skill player in the first round to aid their flailing offense, their flailing defense needs the biggest shot in the arm. Several players were considered here, but ultimately, finding a proper running mate for A.J. Terrell does the most to improve this team.
Cam Smith is a cocky, aggressive corner with what appears to be strong athletic traits. His agility in particular stands out to me, which helps him stick to his receiver when manned up. He’s no slouch in zone either, with quick reaction skills that take advantage of that athleticism.
12) Green Bay Packers: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Have we seen enough of Jordan Love to know he isn’t the guy? Probably not. But we haven’t seen enough of Jordan Love to know that he is the guy, and the Packers are facing a crucial crossroad coming into the 2023 season. Aaron Rodgers has seen his on-field ability nosedive in ways the organization isn’t used to, making quarterback a huge priority for the franchise’s long-term health.
Will Levis won’t be for everyone, but if you’ve got a little time and patience to bring him up to speed, you will have one of the most talented QBs in the class. Levis has solid size, a strong arm, and better athletic talents than you’d think just looking at him. He’s a bit wild in his decision-making, and his accuracy can waver under pressure. But when he’s on, you’ll have some serious “WOW” moments at QB.
13) Houston Texans (from CLE): Jordan Addison, WR, USC
When you have as many needs as the Houston Texans, it’s best to stick to fixing one area and, as the kids say, “git gud.” In this case, we’re going to try to give the team’s offense a massive boost by giving them a player we know can throw deep as well as one we know can go deep.
Jordan Addison transferred to USC and has continued to show that his place is on an NFL field. While not as successful statistically as in 2021 (largely due to factors outside his control), Addison’s speed, route running, and hands have made him a hot target for the 2023 NFL Draft. Size may be an issue at only 175 pounds, but if the Texans go with Young, it shows they’re willing to compromise with that concern.
14) Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers with a bottom-10 defense feels like finding out your favorite singer uses autotune. It is disappointing but also seems unnecessary — and probably is. There’s a decent chance the Steelers will improve in 2023 simply by developing the players they already have. However, there are defensive areas they can address with their first pick to help catalyze the process.
At almost 6’6″ and 275 pounds, Tyree Wilson certainly looks the part of a Steelers defensive lineman. He comes prepackaged with some dangerous athletic traits that have helped him get seven sacks in each of the last two seasons for the Red Raiders. That doesn’t quite encapsulate the type of disruption you can get from Wilson, but it’s a good floor for what he could do in the NFL.
15) Detroit Lions: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes has done a fantastic job of finding a young, uber-athletic core of players for his football team, hitting on multiple picks in each of his first two drafts. While he could certainly go for a “quarterback of the defense” by drafting right tackle Penei Sewell’s brother, Noah, I think he’ll opt instead for building up a struggling defensive secondary.
Joey Porter Jr. comes with NFL bloodlines, but he’s proven in 2022 that he’s a lot more than his name. His athletic talents jump off the field, and he’s taken a similar year-to-year progression that Daxton Hill did before the Bengals drafted him in the first round. Porter’s aggressiveness and speed would be a welcome addition to the Lions’ secondary.
16) New England Patriots: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
For as long as I can remember, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had a type when it comes to certain positions. He rarely deviates, instead looking for players who fit the specific roles he needs within his team’s current structure. Post-Brady Patriots have looked quite different, but I think they stick to their roots.
Noah Sewell is a big, physical, and athletic linebacker who, like his brother Penei, has been a star for Oregon since stepping on the field. With a team that has struggled to keep to their assignments at times, finding someone with the talent to play all over the defense while keeping the troops in line would be a huge boon to New England.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Injuries have been a massive problem in LA, making it difficult to project their draft decisions. If we assume that some of their biggest issues (like pass protection) are resolved simply by returning players, it opens up a bit.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba may have the dubious distinction of being a top-flight receiver who has never been the No. 1 receiver on his team. In most situations, that could be viewed as a negative. But in this case, it just means you’re getting a receiver who understands his role in an offense and how he can best utilize it. In the NFL, with Justin Herbert throwing to him, I’m not sure what that looks like other than being productive.
18) Seattle Seahawks: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Having already taken steps to shore up their defensive front in this draft, the Seahawks have some needs on the back end the front office can address. Tariq Woolen has been a gigantic get for the Seahawks’ defense. But rather than rest on their laurels with him as a win, I think they double down and grab another top-flight athlete for their secondary in 2023.
Brian Branch has had strong production for the Crimson Tide, but his project to the NFL might be even better. Branch found himself on the Feldman Freaks list for this season, having hit more than 22 miles per hour at one point. The guy has wheels, and putting someone with that size and speed to back up Tariq Woolen is like cheating.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Tampa Bay came into the season with a good idea of who they were on offense and defense, but I don’t get the feeling they’re leaving the season as comfortable. The team needs some serious succession planning, and quarterback is easily the most important position to plan for. I doubt the team believes in Kyle Trask, so let’s look at his polar opposite.
Hendon Hooker has a sizable arm and good athleticism, which he pairs with a solid understanding of how to read defenses and excellent ball control. He’s older as a prospect (25), and he’s coming off an ACL injury that ended his final season at Tennessee. Nonetheless, his long-term prospects are solid if he’s used correctly in the NFL.
20) Washington Commanders: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
There are many ways Washington could go with this pick, but with the players they have on their defensive front, I would like to see them continue with their current team-building strategy and ensure that the front seven remains fast, explosive, and athletic. A linebacker may not be the most popular pick, especially having just picked Jamin Davis, but it’s precisely that reason that I think Trenton Simpson makes such a fine addition.
Washington put its defense on the map with a staunch commitment to building a monstrous defensive front. However, when injuries started to mount, we saw some cracks form. That this team has been as competitive as it has been with Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke is pretty amazing. Still, with no QBs readily available to fix that particular problem, I’m plugging in more strong pieces to their defense until offensive attacks can’t beat it.
21) Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Tennessee Titans want to punch you in the mouth and keep punching until the final tick is off the clock. This philosophy has worked for them, and I doubt they decide to deviate now by trying to get cute. This team has built a strong, athletic front line for their offense. The best way to keep that going is to, well, keep that going.
Peter Skoronski is one of the best tackles in this class. He possesses good size and decent length, and he looks to have strong athletic traits (which he uses to beat almost anyone he faces). He’s exceptionally dangerous on the move, and imagining King Henry running behind him is the stuff of nightmares for the AFC.
22) New York Jets: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
The Jets have always seemed like a team that can’t get out of its own way. In that regard, the winning they’ve seen in 2022 has seemed almost miraculous at times to an outsider. Still, the best way to take advantage of a good thing is to lean into it, and that’s what I think they do in this draft.
Bryan Bresee has top-10 talent, boasting a strong size and athletic profile. He was one of the highest-rated high school prospects of all time at his position. He’s leveraged that into solid production at Clemson, but he’s been limited a bit by injuries — the only reason we don’t see him going higher.
23) New York Giants: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The New York Giants have been one of the surprise teams of 2022, as they weren’t projected to be nearly as good as they have been. There are a few reasons they’ve been doing as well as they have, but it’s in no small part to a much improved defensive unit. One area they could use some help? Their secondary.
Four interceptions and seven passes deflected is an exceptional college season for a cornerback, and even better for a draft prospect when you can also boast elite size. At 6’2″, Christian Gonzalez has been fantastic for the Ducks. Bringing him to New York to play with his former teammate in Kayvon Thibodeaux is enticing.
24) Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Cincinnati Bengals are like that rich relative at Christmas time, you never really know what to get them because they seem to have everything. To that end, I decided to buy the biggest, shiniest toy I could think of and hope that does the trick. With Hayden Hurst on a one-year deal, it makes sense to keep Joe Burrow surrounded by weapons.
Michael Mayer has an athletic, thickly built frame that isn’t super common among receiving threats in the NFL. He has made it work at one of college football’s tight end factories, however, and this Notre Dame prospect has put up over 800 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2022. We’ve seen what Burrow can do with speed, let’s see if he can go even further with speed and power combined.
25) Denver Broncos (from MIA): Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Broncos trading for Russell Wilson being viewed as a massively bad move is something I don’t think many would have considered when the deal went down. As bad as the offense has been, this team needs more than a few playmakers on both sides of the ball. With Bradley Chubb gone, the team could use some pass-rushing help.
Enter Isaiah Foskey, who has put up 11 sacks in each of the last two seasons. A strong athletic profile would only cement his first-round grade for most. This is precisely the type of player George Paton has been looking for.
26) Baltimore Ravens: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
We’ve seen the Baltimore Ravens casually exist as the best-managed team in football for some time. Nonetheless, it’ll be intriguing how their quarterback situation evolves over the next few years. Until we have some clarity, the assumption that Lamar Jackson will just be tagged is the only scenario that makes sense. So, let’s get them some help elsewhere.
At over 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Rashee Rice is an imposing figure on the field. He’s struggled a bit with drops, but his size and athletic profile, particularly his acceleration off the line and speed down the field, make him a problem for defenders. The Packers took a similar risk with Christian Watson in 2022, so why not go with something that has been shown to work?
27) Dallas Cowboys: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
Taking on the Cowboys has been challenging in 2022, but if they continue to improve coming into the 2023 season, they might be one of the teams to beat. There are several ways they can get better, but this team likes to build through the trenches. I think that’s the route they take.
The first word that comes to mind with O’Cyrus Torrence is “massive.” At 6’5″ and 335 pounds, he’s an impressive figure even when standing among other offensive linemen. While he doesn’t necessarily have the quickest feet, Torrence is one of the strongest players in this class and is among the most explosive offensive linemen at the snap.
28) Buffalo Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Big, strong, and almost impossible to take down, Josh Allen has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past few seasons, both as a passer and a runner. He has been good enough that it can be difficult at times to identify serious flaws on his team, as he covers up a lot of deficiencies with his play.
Big, strong, and almost impossible to take down, Bijan Robinson has been one of the best running backs in college ball over the last few seasons. Pairing him with Josh Allen is what I like to call “identity building,” since it’s going to be the thing that every defense fears, studies, and tries desperately to overcome every week if they have to face it.
29) Minnesota Vikings: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Some teams like a balanced approach to team building. Others like to go heavy in one area until it’s a strength. I think the Vikings under general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah lean more toward the latter, especially after double dipping at defensive back in 2022. I think they stick to that and try to build a dominant defensive backfield in 2023.
Emmanuel Forbes is one of the more productive defensive backs in the class, but it’s his smaller frame (only 180 pounds) that keeps him from going higher in the draft. Tariq Woolen has shown what a corner who played wide receiver can look like. And like Woolen, Forbes boasts some impressive athletic ability. Woolen posted a 42″ vertical at the Combine, while Forbes reportedly jumped 44″ in high school!
30) Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
If they have done anything consistent over the years, the Kansas City Chiefs have valued high-upside players. They find value by carefully considering risks other teams may weigh more heavily against. Sometimes, that means taking a top-tier athlete and seeing if you can develop them.
We’ve seen a lot of raw pass rushers over the years in every round, and we continue to see this trend because developing athletic talent has been a way to succeed for decades on the edge. Felix Anudike-Uzomah is one such player, lacking a solid pass-rushing plan from play to play but able to display some athletic feats that explode off your screen. He could use some serious development, but he’s the type of pass rusher that could become terrifying.
31) Philadelphia Eagles: JL Skinner, S, Boise State
As you may have noticed with other picks in this draft, I’m a big fan of double dipping to make a weakness a strength. With the Eagles having already taken a cornerback, I think it’s only fitting to add a big, rangy safety like JL Skinner with their second pick to help threaten offenses with size and speed in the secondary.
Skinner is no slouch outside of his athletic traits either, as one of his biggest strengths is communication pre-snap. A field general on the back end of a defense like the Eagles could take them from contender to perennial favorite in this league.
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