NFL draft season is officially upon us for 30 teams. The hope of organizations far and wide rides on the decisions their executives make concerning the draft capital they’ve acquired. A lot will change before April, especially as the media pries for more information from their team and league sources, sifting through smokescreens along the way. But even before free agency, we can look ahead at what positions these NFL teams will need come draft day.
2023 NFL Mock Draft
It’s still early in the process, but it’s never too early to have a little bit of fun thinking about what trades could happen come April.
1) Indianapolis Colts (From CHI): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Indianapolis Colts have an incredibly important decision to make. Bryce Young is short and slight, and C.J. Stroud has some mobility but seems disinterested in using said mobility. In a conference filled with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, and Lamar Jackson, the Colts shouldn’t bother with the floor-to-ceiling debate. They need the ceiling to be the roof, as Michael Jordan once famously said.
That leaves Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. While Richardson could close the gap in the eyes of the media by the time April rolls around, that conversation isn’t being had yet, according to PFN’s Consensus Big Board. Levis has the arm and mobility teams salivate over in the NFL.
It’s easier than ever to shape an offense to work around a raw but athletic QB. Levis isn’t quite Allen, particularly when it comes to his physical presence. Even though they’re listed at similar sizes, Allen is bigger. However, Brian Daboll and now the combination of Daboll and Kafka have shown that a QB who can scan can skirt around the pesky process of getting to their third or fourth progression by simply putting their head down, tucking the ball, and running.
2) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
If he can play, he can play. The conversation surrounding small quarterbacks has changed over the past decade, but short kings aren’t necessarily finding success at the NFL level. Kyler Murray might be the closest physical comparison we have to Bryce Young, who’s under 6 feet and listed at 194 pounds.
He’ll undoubtedly come to the NFL Combine around 210 pounds, just as Murray did. And Young will undoubtedly not do a lick of athletic testing and most likely play closer to 190 pounds in the NFL than 210. He’ll be sick of eating by the time Indianapolis rolls around.
But the young man can play! Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones commanded an offense chock-full of NFL talent. They were facilitators, whereas Young is a playmaker. He was the offense. In some ways, his creative ability outside of structure is what makes him so intriguing.
And while that trait is also what excited people about Zach Wilson, Young is a different prospect than Wilson. And by different, I mean a lot better in the attributes that make a QB effective on a down-to-down basis and not just looking good on a YouTube highlight reel.
3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
It’s become boring to mock Will Anderson Jr. as the first non-QB off the board. It’s also almost a guarantee that folks will start outsmarting themselves when it comes to mock drafting to avoid the monotony.
Anderson’s dip in production this past season will be a knock against him as well. But even a lack of production accumulated in 34.5 career sacks in three seasons with Alabama.
His bend, burst, and agility are exactly what teams are looking for in a modern pass rusher. Quarterbacks are getting the ball out more quickly than ever. Teams need a player who can explode, rip through the tackle, and get that free hand up and through to the QB’s delivery, swatting at the elbow and ball for a strip sack.
Anderson’s athletic ability will also make him a menace in various defensive line games his coordinator dreams up for him at the NFL level.
4) Chicago Bears (From IND): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The Chicago Bears’ roster is an unmitigated disaster in February. But like the Jacksonville Jaguars an offseason ago, they’ll be spending extortionate amounts of money for players in free agency. They’ll try their best to use their nearly $100 million to build a team around Justin Fields.
If the Philadelphia Eagles are any indication, building the trenches is pretty darned important. Like Anderson at Alabama, Jalen Carter has been the best player on his Georgia defense for multiple years now. Let that statement sink in for a second.
It, at times, was hard to focus on the 340-pound Jordan Davis because No. 88 was going loco in the backfield. Carter isn’t a perfect prospect, but his athletic ability is so apparent that most won’t worry that he didn’t produce double-digit sack seasons at Georgia and that his pass-rush plan and hand play could use some seasoning.
5) Seattle Seahawks (From DEN): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
We’re assuming the Seattle Seahawks get a long-term deal done with Geno Smith in this particular instance. You can never have too many pass rushers, and Myles Murphy‘s athletic makeup will be coveted by Pete Caroll.
Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe, Uchenna Nwosu, and Bruce Irvin all have differences in their games. But they’re all impactful athletes, and Murphy will come in with arguably a sharper tool set than Mafe does currently.
Additionally, he brings the same sort of versatility the others do in a much larger package, meaning he can play as a strong-side defender and hold up against the run using his length and base.
6) Carolina Panthers (From LAR via DET): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
C.J. Stroud feels like a quarterback for Frank Reich. Stroud is the dropback pocket passer of the class. Though he’s been throwing to some absolutely ridiculous talent over the past few seasons, Stroud has shown that he has the mental capacity to play the game at the next level with success.
MORE: Which Quarterback Is Best for Panthers Head Coach Frank Reich To Build Around?
But unless your Joe Burrow mentally, you’re going to struggle as a passer early on. Young passers need to be able to create with their legs, and while Stroud doesn’t often show it, he can get on the hoof and scoot for yards on the ground when things break down. At the NFL level, he’ll have to decide on that option much quicker, because your NFL OL won’t protect for as long as your college line could.
7) Las Vegas Raiders: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Anthony Richardson is the QB that fascinates me the most in the draft class. The 21-year-old has a long way to go before he becomes a high-level passer who can dissect defenses and make the quick and correct decisions against zone coverage, but that comes with time.
Think of Richardson like Fields. He may not be quite as fast or quite as physical, but his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame is built for the NFL, and there is no shortage of quickness and power as a runner.
But Richardson also easily generates velocity, and his downfield passes appear effortless no matter the occasion. Once he nails down his lower body mechanics, he’ll be able to generate even greater velocity to attack NFL windows.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Tyree Wilson should always be the first guy off the bus. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, the Red Raiders EDGE is a menacing presence and an athletic marvel. He still has a lot to learn when it comes to the finer points of being a pass rusher at the NFL level, against NFL talent, but the young man’s length and size are a massive problem for opposing offenses.
Wilson reminds me of the edge-rushing version of Josh Allen the quarterback. He’s a playground bully. The 13-year-old who’s already gone through puberty to its completion and absolutely decimates his classmates on the playground. Wilson is the kind of project that would scare teams just a half-decade ago, but these types of players are being developed at a rapid pace by independent position coaches in the offseason.
9) Detroit Lions (From CAR): Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
When the Jrs start popping up from the stars you watched as a child, it’s impossible not to feel old. Joey Porter Jr. makes me feel old. Porter is everything that NFL teams want in their cornerbacks. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, he’s the prototype. When we add in his outrageous athleticism, there’s nothing more a team could want.
The Lions ran the fifth-most Cover 1 and Cover 3 in 2022. Porter is built to play as a deep third defender and one that can play man from depth or up close and personal.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (From NO): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Christian Gonzalez is a unicorn. The SEC and Big Ten are supposed to get all the freak athletes in the secondary. The Pac-12 has always developed some of the most cerebral secondary players coming out of college. The Philadelphia Eagles get the best of both worlds here with Gonzalez.
The Ducks cornerback is long and exceptionally agile for his length. Despite only playing cornerback full-time for a few years now, Gonzalez has shown adept processing ability at the position. He’s a great fit to play opposite of Darius Slay.
11) Tennessee Titans: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Tennessee Titans were an injury-riddled disaster in 2022, and the offensive line was no exception. Unfortunately, the OL left much to be desired even before injuries took hold.
Paris Johnson Jr. has all the length an offensive tackle could ever need, and he’s an exceptional athlete for the position. It’s safe to say that the Titans will want to stick to a similar style in 2023 and beyond, using play-action and a heavy run influence to make things easier for whoever is their QB in 2023.
12) Houston Texans (From CLE): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The Texans completed their first necessary task when they drafted Young. Now, they need to add a playmaker around the young QB.
Quentin Johnston is every bit of the playmaker Houston has needed on their offense since DeAndre Hopkins was traded away. Brandin Cooks is a good player, and if he stays around, will be a fantastic buffer for Johnston as he blossoms into Houston’s No. 1 receiver.
13) New York Jets: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
What could be scarier than Quinnen Williams? Williams and another freaky interior pass rusher like Bryan Bresee, that’s what could be even scarier.
The Jets are a relatively stacked roster awaiting proper QB play. New York could use this pick to invest in the offensive line, but this defense has to contend against Allen and Mike McDaniel’s offense twice a year, so interior pressure is absolutely necessary.
14) New England Patriots: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The New England Patriots have needed help at WR for a long time now. Bill Belichick and Co. have not done a good job drafting or developing the position. Only Jakobi Meyers has been a legitimate difference-maker for the team in recent years, and that largely feels accidental, given his draft status.
Jordan Addison goes against the Patriots’ norms because he would actually be a good pick. Addison isn’t on the Ja’Marr Chase tier of prospects, but he’s as well-rounded as we’ve seen in recent years. He’s already an NFL route runner who can win at all three levels of the field and after the catch.
15) Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Michael Mayer is arguably the best (true) tight end prospect we’ve seen since T.J. Hockenson. Kyle Pitts doesn’t count because he’s a glorified receiver in a TE frame. And although Pitts can block better than he’s given credit for, using him as a traditional in-line tight end is an insult to his abilities as a receiver.
MORE: Top 10 Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft
Mayer is the type of tight end we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Notre Dame. He possesses the ideal NFL frame and traditional usage, which means blocking wasn’t simply some tertiary assignment for the Fighting Irish TE. Young, or in Green Bay’s instance, inexperienced QBs, can really benefit from a tight end that can be a safe outlet on a consistent basis while also providing an option to attack up the seam.
16) Washington Commanders: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Benjamin St-Juste hasn’t been a complete wash so far during his young career, but he doesn’t possess the elite traits associated with becoming one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Cam Smith has the length and athleticism to pair incredibly well with Kendall Fuller on the outside, allowing St-Juste to play more in the slot in Jack Del Rio’s zone-heavy defense.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Please, for the love of all things holy, bring some legitimate OL talent into the building in Pittsburgh. While it’s true their offensive line has overachieved compared to the talent they’ve fielded, the Steelers could still use some high-end talent on the bookends of the line to protect their young QB.
But Peter Skoronski may not play tackle for Pittsburgh, and that’s also okay. Although Skoronski is an outstanding technician, he lacks the length most teams look for at tackle. But Pittsburgh could realistically invest in four of the five OL positions.
18) Detroit Lions: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
For as long as I have breath in my lungs, I will lead the charge. Safeties matter so damn much to pass coverage at the NFL level these days. Teams continue to modernize their coverages and the match principles, so many teams are leaning towards making safeties that can cover an absolute necessity.
Brian Branch hails from a Nick Saban system majoring in match Cover 3. If you’ll remember above, the Lions ran the fifth-most single-high looks in the NFL last season. But Branch will also bring an influx of physicality to the secondary on a defense that finished 27th in rushing EPA and 28th in success rate on defense.
Detroit’s spent the last few years building in the trenches. Now they finish building their defense with high-end talent in the secondary.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a really difficult spot. Tom Brady retired, and they had to go and be a bad team to win their division, almost ensuring they won’t get one of the top four quarterbacks in the draft class.
Although the Tampa Bay starters are returning to the lineup for 2023, they’re set to lose all their EDGE depth next season, so adding Isaiah Foskey here makes sense.
20) Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
The Seahawks’ defense no longer resembles the Legion of Boom in deployment, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from loving their length and size in the secondary. At 6-foot-3, Antonio Johnson has the size the organization drools over.
Johnson also fits Seattle’s modern deployment. He has experience playing in the box, in the slot, and on the outside, along with his normal safety roles in the back end. Pairing him with Quandre Diggs on the back end will allow Seattle to free up Jamal Adams to do what he does best and not have to cover consistently on the back end.
And don’t worry, Seahawks fans. Johnson spent more time playing in the slot than he did the back end. He can play as a slot defender and be used on the field at the same time as Diggs and Adams.
21) Los Angeles Chargers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
As with the Steelers, Broderick Jones going to the Chargers is an absolute necessity. Somebody needs to play right tackle for Los Angeles at some point in Justin Herbert’s young career.
But drafting Jones is a two-fold win because his more significant value comes in his outrageous run-blocking ability. He’s an absolute mauler, and as Cowboys fans are sure to tell Chargers fans, Kellen Moore will want to run the ball far more often than Joe Lombardi ever dreamed to.
22) Baltimore Ravens: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Baltimore Ravens’ luck at wide receiver is worse than Roy Sullivan’s. Whichever receiver they invest money or draft capital into, or whichever starts to blossom, suddenly gets struck by lightning (the injury bug). It’s made it difficult to properly evaluate Lamar Jackson’s growth as a passer because of the scraps he’s worked with outside of Mark Andrews.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a bit of an enigma. The receiver barely played at all in 2022 after a 1,600-yard season in 2021. He isn’t going to blow the doors off anyone with outrageous athletic ability but has equally outrageous flexibility, body control, and technical prowess. That last part should come as no surprise, considering Brian Hartline might earn himself a statue on OSU’s campus someday for how well he develops wide receivers.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Another year, another cornerback being drafted in Round 1 by the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a tale as old as time because, unfortunately, as of late, it’s blown up in the Vikings’ faces.
Minnesota has young cornerbacks on the roster, but none of them have shown they’re ready to become consistent contributors. And they’re the only three left on the roster before free agency hits.
Devon Witherspoon brings the high-end coverage tools necessary to survive in a league that has disallowed physicality in coverage. However, Witherspoon brings more than enough physicality against the run. The defensive back had a ridiculous eight tackles for loss in 2021.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
With two safeties off the board already, the Jaguars look to lock down the side opposite of Tyson Campbell. Kelee Ringo is a terrifyingly raw prospect to some. He has more pure athleticism than most people would know what to do with, and that’s the same type of player Campbell was coming out of Georgia himself. The one major difference being Ringo is more naturally fluid than Campbell.
Shaquill Griffin has one more year left on his contract. The Jaguars could take things slow with Ringo for a year and let him marinate, or save money against the cap by cutting ties with Griffin a year early. Either way, Jacksonville has given themselves options at CB heading into 2023.
25) New York Giants: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Somebody has to play cornerback in Wink Martindale’s man-heavy defense. Adoree’ Jackson is one half of the equation, but Darnay Holmes and Aaron Robinson aren’t at the necessary level to consistently survive Cover 1 and Cover 0 pressures in press-man coverage.
MORE: PFN Mock Draft Simulator
Clark Phillips III would fit immediately into the slot or against receivers who aren’t towering overtop him on the outside. With the Giants’ defensive front set and terrifying, one or two more coverage players could make a huge difference for them.
26) Dallas Cowboys: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
In the most terrifying turn of events for Cowboys fans, the wide receivers and cornerbacks have been picked through. Dallas, in this instance, did not tag Tony Pollard. Even if they had and Ezekiel Elliott took a significant pay cut, the Joneses couldn’t hold themselves back.
Marketing a Texas RB in an organization that still believes the run game is what will really get them out of their Super Bowl draught is an easy sell for Jerry and Stephen. They’re also quite set on taking the best player on the board early in drafts, and Bijan Robinson would certainly be that by this point, even if it’s at a position teams should avoid investing high draft capital in.
27) Buffalo Bills: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
This is probably a reach for the Boston College receiver, but the Buffalo Bills don’t have a whole lot of pressing needs outside of their No. 2 WR slot. Stefon Diggs is one of the best in the game, but they’ve gotten inconsistent production from Gabe Davis and others recently. Maybe Khalil Shakir can round into a high-end No. 3, but he’ll probably never be more than that.
Zay Flowers is slender and bendy. He can take off from his stance and threaten defenses vertically, but with more consistent finishing ability than Davis. He also hails from Boston College, so the cold never bothered him anyways.
Cowboys fans are cursing…
28) Cincinnati Bengals: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Linebacker has quickly become the defensive version of the running back. Runners need to create explosive plays with great consistency to be worth much of anything. Even then, they’re a product of their blocking. Likewise, a portion of LB play depends on how dominant the front four can be. Their value rests in their ability to cover on passing downs.
Trenton Simpson brings those flashes of coverage ability from his time at Clemson, and the Bengals have allowed Germaine Pratt to walk in free agency in this scenario.
29) New Orleans Saints (From SF via MIA via DEN): BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Azeez Ojuliari’s brother has made a name for himself at LSU, which undoubtedly made him cringe on signing day as a Georgia Bulldog. While he doesn’t fit the usual mold of Saints pass rushers, who tend to be big, long, and strong, the NFL game continues to get faster, and BJ Ojulari helps combat that with his explosiveness and bend.
30) Kansas City Chiefs: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Unlike Ojulari in New Orleans, Nolan Smith does fit the Chiefs’ pass-rushing mold. Adding Smith on the opposite side of George Karlaftis would provide yang to Karlaftis’ yin. It would also allow Kansas City to save $21 million by cutting Frank Clark, or they could restructure his contract. Either way, the Chiefs could use someone willing to produce sometime before January rolls around.
31) Philadelphia Eagles: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
The Philadelphia Eagles currently don’t have a starting linebacker heading into 2023. Both Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards are free agents. Noah Sewell has the athleticism and physicality to be an absolute maniac against the run, an area the vaunted Eagles defense struggled with in 2022.
Meanwhile, a linebacker’s coverage ability can, at times, be difficult to truly evaluate at the college level, due to the differences between college and NFL coverage rules and deployment. However, Sewell’s lateral mobility may preclude him from being a good fit to line up against good receiving backs in space.