My latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft takes us through the first round with the selections based on what I’d do as the general manager for all 32 teams and an insight into potentially what they’re currently thinking. The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine will also give us more insight into teams’ thought processes in the coming weeks.
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1
1) Chicago Bears: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The Bears can use help all over the field, but taking the best player available is the best strategy at this point. Jalen Carter is a freakish presence who can slide into a barren Bears’ front seven and anchor the unit for years.
A trade-down makes sense if Chicago receives quality offers for QB-needy teams, but going too far down puts them at risk of missing out on Carter and/or Will Anderson Jr.
2) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Bryce Young is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s draft, but the Texans better be able to protect him to make sure he stays on the field. Young has the “gamer” trait that allows him to make plays when the team needs it most. He’ll help energize the Texans’ franchise under new head coach DeMeco Ryans.
3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
The perfect replacement for J.J. Watt and an incredible prospect himself, Will Anderson Jr. can be the face of the defense moving forward. The Cardinals’ front seven is lacking impactful playmakers.
4) Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Shane Steichen will surely look to develop another dynamic young passer after bringing Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts along. C.J. Stroud is a refined pocket passer with excellent accuracy at all levels.
5) Seattle Seahawks (From DEN): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Myles Murphy has the athleticism to stand over the tackle as an edge defender. Seattle desperately needs to improve their pass rush, and Murphy has the physical tools to develop into a major threat.
6) Detroit Lions (From LAR): Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Lions have to reinforce their leaky defense. With uncertainty at both defensive tackle and cornerback, they have a few intriguing options. Joey Porter Jr. is an impact corner with great size, and his development should benefit from the Lions’ player-centric staff.
7) Las Vegas Raiders: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Paris Johnson Jr. is a terrific prospect who checks all the boxes, and, unlike recent Raiders picks, comes with high character. He’ll need more technical refinement in order to get to his ceiling, but he could be an All-Pro in time. He’ll help Raiders fans forget Alex Leatherwood.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Peter Skoronski’s next-level position will be determined during Combine measurements, specifically the length of his arms. Presently, I see Skoronski filling the right tackle spot for Atlanta as they figure out whether they should retain Kaleb McGary. Skoronski is already a more polished pass protector than McGary.
9) Carolina Panthers: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Any quarterback is a reach at this point, and no more of a sure thing than Hendon Hooker in Round 2 or Aidan O’Connell in the third round. Tyree Wilson is incredibly athletic and can be used in a variety of roles.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (From NO): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Eagles don’t have many weaknesses, so expect them to take advantage of this opportunity to add a gem. Devon Witherspoon is tough, smart, and polished, as well as a terrific fit for their defense. He can take James Bradberry’s starting role as the veteran hits free agency.
11) Tennessee Titans: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
A top offensive lineman would be the pick if one is available, but there’s not a great candidate on the board. Instead, Jalin Hyatt fills the Titans’ need for speed at receiver. The local product has to be part of a revamped offense that features more playmaking and explosive plays.
12) Houston Texans (From CLE): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
While Houston could justify taking a receiver or bolstering the middle of their offensive line for Young, they have to balance need with value. Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez is an aggressive corner in coverage.
13) New York Jets: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Skoronski or Johnson would be the pick if available, but I expect both to be gone. Otherwise, the Jets have a need for a safety, and Brian Branch is a great centerfielder. Consider him a safety with cornerback-type ball skills.
14) New England Patriots: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is good value here. The bigger question here is whether the Patriots finally develop a receiver they select early in the draft. The good news on JSN is he doesn’t need development.
15) Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
There’s not a right tackle worth taking at this spot, and Branch doesn’t make it this far, forcing Green Bay to look elsewhere. Michael Mayer can give either Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love an immediate boost in 2023, thanks to his reliability and catch radius.
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Mayer doesn’t quite quench the desire for fans wanting a receiver in Round 1, but he’ll help the offense nonetheless.
16) Washington Commanders: Broderick Jones, LT, Georgia
Washington will surely look closely at cornerback in addition to left tackle. Broderick Jones is a mauling blocker with massive size and strength.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Regardless of how good a player Cameron Heyward is, he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
Why does Bryan Bresee fall?? There is a run at cornerback early on. If Bresee gets back to his playing form of 2021, and I’m sure he will, this will be the steal of the draft.
18) Detroit Lions: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
There are a lot of teams who like Luke Musgrave more than Mayer. He’s a downfield weapon at the tight end position. Detroit’s offense can continue building an impressive vertical attack with Musgrave surrounded by Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Will Levis needs a lot of work but has tremendous upside. Tampa Bay is capped out and lacking a viable long-term QB starter on the roster. This is closer to where Levis should go, regardless of the top-10 speculation and hype.
20) Seattle Seahawks: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Seattle’s had luck banking and developing athletic prospects, and Quentin Johnston fits that mold. Tyler Lockett is aging, and the team has zero depth behind him and DK Metcalf. In the short term, a trio including Johnston is incredibly dangerous. Long term, Johnston will hopefully develop into a terrific No. 2 option after Lockett declines.
21) Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The Chargers need to load up on weapons for Justin Herbert as injuries continue to limit the availability of their stars. Jordan Addison is quick and versatile. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should enjoy having another explosive option to scheme around.
22) Baltimore Ravens: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Wide receiver is a consideration here — just as it is every single draft for the Ravens. Instead, beefing up a secondary that disappointed in 2022 is important. Marcus Peters is a free agent, and Cam Smith can bring some tenacity in his absence.
23) Minnesota Vikings: DJ Turner, CB, Michigan
I like DJ Turner more than most. He’s a polished corner with outstanding ball skills despite being under the radar. Minnesota absolutely has to add more competition at the position this offseason, and Turner could be a Day 1 starter.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
There hasn’t been enough buzz about Deonte Banks amongst the public. Banks is getting first-round grades in the scouting community.
After the Combine, he’ll be shooting up mock drafts. The Jaguars don’t desperately need a corner in 2023, but they can develop Banks into a starter early in his career.
25) New York Giants: John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
Giant fans are outraged with this selection and want to burn down my house. While Zay Flowers was seriously considered here, New York is about to make major investments in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
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Yet, in a few weeks, they won’t have a center on the roster. John Michael Schmitz is a terrific center prospect who will anchor the line for years to come.
26) Dallas Cowboys: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
I went off my board for this pick. It was a battle between Kayshon Boutte and Flowers, but Boutte is a better fit for Dallas and could be the best receiver to come out of this draft two years down the road. The Cowboys need an additional playmaker, and adding through the draft is the best way to add a cost-controlled contributor.
27) Buffalo Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Any offensive lineman would be a reach at this point despite the team’s need. Bijan Robinson immediately upgrades the entire offense and makes life easier for Josh Allen. He’s a stellar rusher and solid contributor on passing downs, making him a good value in the late first round despite the diminishing value of backs.
28) Cincinnati Bengals: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
Most will ask who Tucker Kraft is, but he’ll be a household name after the Combine. He was a force in college thanks to his blend of athleticism and open-field power.
29) New Orleans Saints (From SF via MIA via DEN): Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
The Saints have a crying need for defensive tackle help. Mazi Smith has been a terrific player the past two seasons and will be a Combine hero very soon. New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen will love the idea of Smith anchoring his defense for years to come.
30) Philadelphia Eagles: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Giving an all-purpose back in Jahmyr Gibbs to the Eagles is unfair, but also an obvious fit. He’ll help Jalen Hurts as a ball carrier, pass catcher, and blocker. Gibbs is a massive upgrade on free-agent-to-be Miles Sanders.
31) Kansas City Chiefs: BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Flowers and Dawand Jones received consideration for this spot. But with Frank Clark expected to be a cap casualty and the Chiefs’ affection for smaller, one-gap pass rushers, BJ Ojulari fits like a glove.