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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.

2023 NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 17-32

The back half of Round 1 has plenty of talent and a few surprises.

17) Cincinnati Bengals: Javion Cohen, G, Alabama

The Alabama Offensive Line Factory continues to produce top-notch talent, and Javion Cohen is next in line. The Bengals’ OL is seemingly in a constant state of shambles, so this will make sense until proven otherwise. Cohen, at 6’4″, 305 pounds, has a proven ability to utilize his strength at both the point of attack and at the second level.

18) New Orleans Saints: Antonio Johnson, CB, Texas A&M

Antonio Johnson has had a terrific sophomore season for the Aggies, defending passes at a high rate despite being heavily targeted. With terrific size, Johnson maintains a low center of gravity despite his 6’3″ frame. The Saints are set at one cornerback position for the foreseeable future, but that future likely doesn’t contain their current slot CB option in Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The Aggies CB fills a desperate need as the league continues to become more and more pass-happy.

19) Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

An extremely reliable LT is incredibly valuable in today’s NFL and in college. Peter Skoronski is uber-talented and excels in pass protection. He’s no slouch in the run game, either. Skoronski has the makings of a 10-year, Pro-Bowl type player if he maintains his current trajectory. Taylor Lewan can’t maintain the left tackle spot in Nashville forever, and Skoronski is more than a capable replacement.

20) Denver Broncos: BeeJay Williamson, S, Louisiana Tech

A surprise name to the outsider of college football, but not to those initiated. BeeJay Williamson is a ballhawk by nature and a considerably safer option than most at the position. The recent success and NFL readiness of Louisiana Tech DBs give more thought to checking out the Bulldogs, and Williamson is the top of that list. After recording 9 total plays on the ball in 2020, Williamson has followed it up with 2 more halfway through the 2021 season.

21) Carolina Panthers: Willie Lampkin, OL, Coastal Carolina

A bit undersized, Willie Lampkin more than makes up for any size discrepancies with his tenaciousness. He’s as strong as an ox and excels in the passing game. Though given the benefit of the doubt in Coastal’s passing attack, Lampkin has multiple highlight-reel moments and dominance through two years. The Panthers will need a bevy of offensive linemen opposite Taylor Moton — if they can even keep him. A rebuild to a faster, leaner offense continues with Lampkin’s selection.

22) New York Giants: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

A linebacker who can cover underneath has become increasingly important in today’s NFL. Meanwhile, the Giants have not had success at the position in years. Despite Clemson’s struggles in 2021, Trenton Simpson has patrolled the middle of the field admirably. He’s also got a terrific set of blitzing skills and could add value as a three-down off-ball linebacker for the Giants. A coverage LB with terrific blitz ability is a great fit for today’s NFL.

23) Cleveland Browns: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky

The Browns are going to be needing weapons for Baker Mayfield to throw to, and Wan’Dale Robinson is just that. After two seasons at Nebraska — and what would be two more at Kentucky — Robinson is a valuable asset to any offense. He can rush the ball, catch pop passes from the slot, and win on a bevy of routes. Truth be told, he could even enter the 2022 NFL Draft and be selected by the Browns all the same.

24) Detroit Lions: Justin Flowe, LB, Oregon

Justin Flowe will hopefully return to the field for the Ducks in 2022 as healthy as ever. Despite missing significant time in college, Flowe’s presence in his lone full game of action was dominant. He was all over the field against Fresno State, both in coverage and against the run. A physical specimen, Flowe’s injury history will be of much concern. But he has all the elite traits of a potential decade-long middle LB in the NFL.

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

The Raiders should largely have a new identity at this point. With a new identity comes more weapons for Derek Carr, or whoever is calling the signals on Vegas’ offense in 2023. Henry Ruggs is turning into a great receiver but does lack a full skill set to be a No. 1 threat. Kayshon Boutte, however, does not. Terrific after the catch and perhaps even better at the catch point, Boutte does everything well and nothing below average.

26) Buffalo Bills: Dane Belton, S, Iowa

The Bills have had their fair share of success with safeties from Iowa, and Dane Belton could be next in line. If he doesn’t declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, Belton is a name to watch for in the secondary for 2023. Belton’s already made more than a name for himself in 2021, intercepting 2 passes with at least a dozen more forced incompletions. Both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will turn 33 during the 2023 season. That, plus their contracts with the team expiring, necessitates them drafting Belton here.

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Alex Wright, EDGE, UAB

The year is 2023, and Tom Brady is still playing another half-decade for the Bucs, right? So they look to shore up gaps on the defense yet again. Alex Wright is a massive man on the edge at 6’7″, 270 pounds, with all the tools to be a pure pass rusher at the next level. Wright rips through tackles with strength and hand speed while also possessing the ever-popular “bend” for a man his size. He’s a terrific talent to watch in college and should be in the NFL all the same.

28) Green Bay Packers: Kris Abrams-Draine, CB, Missouri

Never mind the fact that Missouri took in two transfer cornerbacks from Tulsa, who were coached by former-Tulsa-now-Missouri DB coach Aaron Fletcher. Kris Abrams-Draine has looked the part and seen significant time opposite Akayleb Evans and Allie Green IV, who had an advantage of working with Fletcher before him. Abrams-Draine has recorded 2 interceptions and a handful of pass breakups despite rotational play at corner. He can blossom into a surefire first-round pick with an elevated season in 2022.

29) Los Angeles Chargers: Chidozie Nwankwo, DL, Houston

Get to know the name: Chidozie Nwankwo. Since entering the lineup midway through the season, Nwankwo has transformed the Houston defensive front into a feared unit. He eats up space similar to how former Houston DT Ed Oliver did while possessing terrific pass-rushing skills. The Chargers’ blossoming corps on defense is in need of a high-ceiling pass rusher up the middle. Nwankwo could be that man if all goes to plan.

30) Dallas Cowboys: Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State

The Dallas offensive line is a formidable one from outside in. Their lone trouble spot so far in 2021 has been center as Tyler Biadasz continues to evolve. They wouldn’t need an evolution or could simply move on from Biadasz if Luke Wypler were available and has another dominant showing in 2022. Wypler has all the intangibles to be a starter from Day 1 at center.

31) Baltimore Ravens: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming

The Ravens will have played against a former Wyoming linebacker enough to understand not to look over Chad Muma here. Built incredibly similar to current Bengals LB Logan Wilson, Muma is a stud every-down linebacker. He can run, cover, and blitz with the best of them. His value as a three-down LB warrants a first-round pick. Baltimore picks up a starter from Day 1.

32) Arizona Cardinals: Micah Mazzccua, OT, Baylor

You heard it here first. Micah Mazzccua could be in the conversation for top overall offensive lineman in this class if the hype turns out to be real. A freaky athlete, Mazzccua is currently playing behind Connor Galvin and Gavin Byers. However, he’s looked incredible in limited action so far in 2021. With the way offensive line coach Eric Mateos has elevated offensive linemen over the years, Mazzccua has this season and the next to unlock his potential. My money’s on Mateos unlocking that and Mazzccua becoming a very popular name.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical 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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