2023 NFL Mock Draft: Jalen Carter headlines defenders taken in top four picks

As good as the class of defenders is for next April, Georgia's defense headlines two top-four picks in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

The 2023 NFL Draft is more than a year away. There is still plenty of uncertainty about the 2022 NFL Draft. Yet, next-next year’s iteration of the draft will be here before we all know it. Until then, it’s never too early to start taking a look at some of the athletes who should hear their names called early on in April 2023. Some of the names you’ll hear in Round 1 of this 2023 NFL Mock Draft are already dominating the action on Saturdays. That makes learning underclassmen in the college football ranks all the more fun.

For purposes of simplicity here, the current projected draft order of the 2022 NFL Mock Draft was used. This draft order was derived from the Las Vegas odds for the culmination of the 2022 NFL season. Though things will largely change, it’s important to start somewhere.

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

The SEC dominates the first half of Round 1, but does a quarterback go No. 1 overall?

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

A quarterback does indeed not go first overall, and it’s completely due to the fact that Jalen Carter is a game-wrecker in every sense of the word. Carter is the best player on a defense full of 2022 NFL Draft picks. He’s performed ridiculously well and has only started a couple of games. He hasn’t even played the full length of any game this season. The Bulldogs’ defense is perhaps the best college football has seen in some time, and Carter may have the most upside.

Comparing Carter to a notable NFL Hall of Famer only makes his prognosis for his NFL prospects even more impressive. Hailing from the same high school, Carter is an easy comp to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Warren Sapp. Not just in size or skill set, but in influence over the entire defensive line. Carter is the cream of the crop of talented defensive players for the class of 2023.

2) Detroit Lions: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

With an uncanny ability to stand tall as essentially a face of college football, Bryce Young has already surpassed expectations in 2021. Young is as talented as he is poised and possesses elite traits in his arm. He doesn’t let pressure affect him and can dot every level of the field beautifully.

There is some unknown to his game and some more that we’ll unearth in time. But as it stands right now, Young is the leader for the Heisman in 2021 and leader of the pack for QB1 in 2023.

3) Houston Texans: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

In Year 2 in Tuscaloosa, Will Anderson Jr. has already proven the ability to take over games. He’s recorded a handful of sacks to go along with nearly four times as many pressures on the season. Anderson’s truly been unstoppable off the edge.

Anderson possesses a size advantage over smaller offensive linemen and a strength battle against even the bigger tackles he faces. His athleticism has been on display more than enough times in 2021 alone.

4) New York Jets: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

The scariest thing about playing Georgia in 2021 has been going up against their defense. That will continue into 2022 as they return arguably two of the top three players on defense for the class of 2023. Kelee Ringo has size, speed, athleticism, and ball skills. He’s the complete package at cornerback and is allowing a ridiculous catch percentage on balls thrown his way. He’s the top cornerback to know for next season.

5) Philadelphia Eagles: Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina

Grayson McCall leads the nation’s quarterbacks in completion percentage while also averaging the highest yards per attempt. He’s dicing up the competition and doing it in record style. At current projections, McCall is set to break Mac Jones’ record for completion percentage in a season in 2021. He possesses all the tools to be considered an elite college quarterback.

How his skills translate to the NFL will be an interesting development to watch unfold. Nevertheless, McCall has proven enough in two seasons at the helm of Coastal Carolina that this pick may not even have the chance to happen. He could still declare early in 2022 if his record-setting pace continues.

6) Indianapolis Colts: Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

Marvin Mims may be the best receiver to come out of Oklahoma in some time. And that’d be some list to top. In just a year and a half in Norman, Mims has hauled in 11 touchdowns on 58 catches and is on pace to set career-highs in his sophomore season. Primarily a slot receiver in 2021, heading into what is likely his final year at Oklahoma in 2022, it would further cement his status as the top receiver if he can show that he can win outside as well as he did in his freshman season.

7) New York Giants: Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College

Don’t look now, but the next great Boston College QB may be upon us. Phil Jurkovec is on a record pace at BC, already setting historical benchmarks set by Doug Flutie and Matt Ryan. He isn’t the most flashy of quarterbacks, but he’s certainly one of the more polished passers of the 2023 class. Jurkovec is a big man with a big arm and an underrated athletic ability at this stage of his career. Sound familiar to Matt Ryan? He may be even better.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

Bryan Bresee came into Clemson as one of the most highly recruited athletes of all time. His prowess on the high school football field has taken time to develop on the college field, but when it has, he’s been just as dominant. He can take over games from the interior and would fill a massive gap at an aging position of need for Atlanta.

9) New England Patriots: Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson

The other Clemson interior defensive lineman, Myles Murphy, has more than made a name for himself. After a dominant freshman season, Murphy has made the most of his chances on the field this year. He’s a bully with his pass rush and serves as no slouch against the run. The Patriots need a flexible, multi-technique defensive lineman, and Murphy is by far their best option.

10) Philadelphia Eagles: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

The Aaron Donald Effect is in clear good standing at Pitt. It’s almost like Donald has a hand in helping their interior defenders get to work in the offseason or something. Calijah Kancey is the next big thing to come out of Pitt, playing a bit undersized at 6’0″, 275, on the interior. Still, his speed and hand usage are among the best in college football this season, let alone next year. A long-tenured spot is vacated when Fletcher Cox departs from Philly, and Kancey can slide right in.

11) Miami Dolphins: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Though not a fan of taking a running back with such a high pick, I can’t see the Dolphins passing up a once-in-a-generation RB like Bijan Robinson. Robinson has every tool at his arsenal, playing at a massive 6’0″, 215 pounds while running like Darren Sproles at times. What separates Robinson from other top-notch running backs is his ability in the passing game and ability to manufacture yardage on his own. He is a safe pick at an otherwise ill-advised position to invest high draft capital in.

12) New York Jets: Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland

The Maryland passing attack exploded in the early stages of the 2021 season, and Rakim Jarrett was a big reason why. Though it cooled off as the season progressed, that had more to do with their quarterback than anything else. Jarrett is a shifty route runner from the inside, dominating against nickel cornerbacks and linebackers. He can find holes in zones and may be best suited in a timing offense under what would be third-year QB Zach Wilson.

13) Washington Football Team: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

A highlight-reel waiting to happen, Quentin Johnston is more than a big-play threat — even if that is a big part of his game. At 6’4″, 201 pounds, Johnston is larger and more physically gifted than the last receiver from TCU that Washington drafted in Round 1, so don’t let that frighten you. Improving his consistency down to down will be important, but his high-level play this season is amongst the best in college football.

14) Minnesota Vikings: Malachi Moore, DB, Alabama

Talented and versatile, Malachi Moore has the chance to start in the NFL at a multitude of positions in the secondary. He’s got great size and speed, with athleticism for days. He can make plays in zone coverage while also showing an ability to stick with receivers of all shapes and sizes from the slot. The Vikings can’t rely on Harrison Smith forever, and Moore could be the future.

15) Pittsburgh Steelers: Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State

Even with a full two offseasons’ worth of work from now until April 2023, the Steelers’ offensive line will need more help. At least that’s how they’ve played so far in 2021.

Paris Johnson Jr. projects outside but has played primarily at guard through two seasons in Columbus. He’s had a ton of help with future NFL Draft picks alongside him, and 2022 could see him shift from right guard to left tackle in OSU’s offense. If he performs well in 2022 at left tackle, look for Pittsburgh to have to pick a bit higher to even have the chance to nab Johnson.

16) Kansas City Chiefs: Warren McClendon, OT, Georgia

Warren McClendon is a mauler in all facets of the game. Eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft, McClendon may not even be a part of the 2023 class. Nevertheless, with just a year and a half of starting experience, he may turn back for another year and a potential national championship run in Athens. If he does, he can cement himself as a first-round pick with more of the same. A keen sense of balance and dominant strength at the point of attack are just a few of the traits that McClendon has in spades.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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