2023 NFL Mock Draft: Trade-Heavy First Round Sees Bryce Young Going First and 4 QBs Overall

Most of the NFL has turned its eyes to draft season. To kick it off, we have a trade-heavy 2023 NFL Mock Draft that sees Bryce Young go first overall.

With the end of the season here for all but two teams and many coaching staffs figured out, it’s time to turn our eyes towards the NFL draft with a 2023 NFL Mock Draft. With the Shrine Bowl near conclusion and the Senior Bowl in the offing, we can get a good sense of the biggest names in the draft — and where they might land — before we take in even more information from the NFL Combine.

2023 NFL Mock Draft

In order to avoid some of the staleness that comes with repeated mock drafts, we’re going to project some trades in order to match the hectic nature of the draft and better fit teams to players that match what they do.

1) Indianapolis Colts (From CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Trade: Indianapolis receives pick 1, Chicago receives picks 4, 35, 105, 2024 first-round pick, and 2024 third-round pick

Trading up to the first pick in the draft, even from the fourth pick, is a tall order. The Titans traded away the first pick to the Rams for a song, but even when excluding that trade, we’ve seen trades within the top four picks extract a heavy price.

When the Bears traded up one spot from No. 2 to No. 3, they not only gave up the third overall pick but a third-round pick, a third-round pick the next year, and a fourth-round pick.

The Colts would have to pay even more to go from No. 4 to No. 1, but it would be worth it for a quarterback of the future. The defense is likely going to rebound, and they have a pair of receivers they like in Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce.

There are size concerns with Bryce Young, but he’s one of the most creative quarterbacks to come out of college football and is the rare Alabama signal-caller that truly carried his team.

2) Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

The DeMeco Ryans era begins with a quarterback. While Ryans just left a team that seemingly could do it all without a passer, he knows how much the Texans can struggle without a true focal point for the offense.

C.J. Stroud has technical improvements to make and needs to make his mechanics consistent, but his natural feel for the field and the tools that he displays are all great pieces to have in one package. The fact that he plays smart, accurate football, even with his mechanical deficiencies, is a big plus. The Texans will get a lot out of Stroud.

3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

Arguably the top player in the draft, the Cardinals get a bit of a steal here. With J.J. Watt retiring and already some issues with depth along the edge, it makes sense that the Cardinals would invest in the nation’s best pure pass rusher — one who was in the Heisman race as a defender before he was even draft-eligible.

Will Anderson was a remarkable athlete who produced at a high level both as a pass rusher and run defender. Alabama did help him out a bit with their angles, stunts, and blitzes, but Arizona should be prepared to do the same as he develops his rush technique.

4) Chicago Bears (From IND): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

There weren’t going to be many surprises for who the Chicago Bears were going to pick, but having them take Jalen Carter at No. 4 is a lot better than at No. 1, giving them a number of additional picks this year and next year to fill out a team lacking talent.

MORE: PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator

There is a bit of a dropoff in value from the top four players in the draft to the rest of the pool, and watching Carter play demonstrates why he’s considered one of the elite — not only is he an extremely talented pass rusher with unreal athleticism and strength, but he happens to be one of the best run-defending tackles in the draft, too. Like other super-athletes who jump onto the scene early, he will need technical refinement. But he’ll be productive out of the gate regardless.

5) Seattle Seahawks (From DEN): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Pete Carroll likes unique physical body types, and Myles Murphy represents the kind of big, long, and athletic defender he has preferred along the edge. He can play in a variety of schemes and roles, and Seattle will be comfortable testing that versatility. Above all, he’s explosive and should be able to make an impact from play to play. Murphy also happens to have a more well-developed set of pass-rush skills than many players with three years of experience.

6) Carolina Panthers (From DET via LAR): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Trade: Carolina receives picks 6 and 81, Detroit receives picks 9, 61, and 113

Although the Panthers saw some extraordinary play from Sam Darnold to finish the season, he’s a free agent and likely not going to turn into a franchise quarterback because of a few good games. They start their new era with an expensive trade-up for their quarterback of the future. And they’ll have to do it, knowing that Las Vegas might grab their target.

After being a backup at Penn State, Will Levis transferred to Kentucky to help lead them to some of their best seasons ever under a Shanahan/McVay-style offense. He has an incredible arm, a great build, and good athleticism. However, he will need more seasoning to truly take over.

7) Las Vegas Raiders: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

The Raiders could use a right tackle or a right guard, and it’ll be up to Josh McDaniels and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo to determine the best position for Peter Skoronski along that line. He can play any position and fits any scheme. He has great functional athleticism, strength, and footwork, though his length and kick-step will be a no-go for some teams looking for an elite athlete at tackle.

The price is a bit too high here for another quarterback, and Las Vegas may have to wait until next year as they explore free agency, the trade market, or their own depth chart for a quarterback. They could, for example, be in the market for Aaron Rodgers.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

The Falcons are in wait-and-see mode for their two young edge rushers in Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. Still, they can improve the pass rush by investing in Bryan Bresee. While Grady Jarrett finishes out his career with the Falcons, he can bring along Bresee as the rookie adjusts to an NFL schedule and level of competition. Injuries are a concern with Bresee, but he’s been elite when healthy. At quarterback, Atlanta will evaluate Desmond Ridder.

9) Detroit Lions (From CAR): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

The Lions traded up to No. 12 last year to grab Jameson Williams. This year, they trade down to pick 9 to get those selections back. The Lions do like the cornerbacks they have on the roster, but it’s tough to look at the defensive production they’ve had this year and ignore the defense.

Some might consider Christian Gonzalez the top corner in the draft, and rightfully so. He needs to add a little bit of size to his frame, but he has strength, length, speed, and instincts. And he can move with more lateral capability than any 6’4” corner has any right to.

10) Philadelphia Eagles (From NO): Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

With James Bradberry hitting free agency and Darius Slay taking up an extraordinary cap hit of $26 million in 2023, it would behoove the Eagles to give themselves some flexibility at the corner position, especially with safety/corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson also hitting free agency.

Joey Porter is in a somewhat similar mold to Bradberry and Slay with his phenomenal length, elite speed, and a great understanding of leverage and spacing. His ball skills also match what those two have demonstrated. He should slot right in if the Eagles find themselves in cap hell in the secondary after the Super Bowl.

11) Tennessee Titans: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

So far the biggest “steal” of the first round, the Titans are probably running to the podium to grab one of the more versatile and powerful edge rushers in the draft. While Tyree Wilson doesn’t have the agility one might expect of a top-10 edge rusher, he’s effective, productive, and mean. He certainly fits the mold of a Mike Vrabel pass rusher, a position they need to upgrade after the Bud Dupree signing has petered out.

12) Houston Texans (From CLE): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

In order to help out rookie C.J. Stroud, the Texans will continue investing in the offense. Here, they pick Quentin Johnston, a threat to all three levels of the field with contested-catch ability and fantastic speed. He can win deep with his acceleration, up top with his explosive leaping ability, or in the intermediate parts of the field with agility and route running.

13) New York Jets: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

We’re going to avoid a quarterback here amid reports that the front office and ownership believe strongly enough in Zach Wilson that they would be willing to let go of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur for misdeveloping him. That means finding another area of improvement, and the Jets are a fairly well-stocked team. Here, they go back into the well of offensive line investments.

Paris Johnson is one of the longest tackles in the draft — perhaps only beaten out by his teammate Dawand Jones –, and he has the athletic capability and body awareness to know how to use it. He’s played on both sides of the line, which should be a boon for the Jets, who may still be interested in keeping Mekhi Becton long-term despite the injury concerns.

How they manage the left guard/right tackle situation otherwise between Max Mitchell, Laken Tomlinson, Johnson, and Connor McGovern is up to them after that — and a good problem to have.

14) New England Patriots: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Jakobi Meyers played well this year, but it was not enough. Mac Jones will likely improve after the Patriots restructure their offensive play-calling system behind Bill O’Brien, but he’ll need weapons to throw to. New England has had issues finding receivers, but the benefit of a player like Jordan Addison is that there isn’t much unlocking to do — he’s a refined, knowledgeable athlete with experience in a number of systems.

He should make an immediate impact with the Patriots, whether that’s as an underneath after-the-catch receiver, an intermediate route-running chain-mover, or a deep threat. And when they need to win a contested catch, Meyers will be waiting.

15) Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

The Packers got a lot out of their rookie receivers and can now continue to invest in the offense with a tight end that will allow them to more fully transition into a complete offense, one that can hopefully function without Aaron Rodgers. As Jordan Love waits in the wings, there’s the possibility that they can go from elite quarterback to elite quarterback, but we won’t know until the season starts.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

The Packers have rarely invested in tight end, and it’s not as if Robert Tonyan is a bad player. But getting a tight end of the future like Michael Mayer to pair with Love, one that can play right away as a blocker and contested-catch receiver, should allow the Packers to win in the air with Tonyan, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, or on the ground with their stable of running backs.

16) Washington Commanders: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

Washington already has a high-level defense, but they have an opportunity to take it to the next level by pairing someone with Kendall Fuller. Benjamin St-Juste had some phenomenal moments last year but was up and down. Having Kelee Ringo, an outside corner with rare speed, in that cornerback room isn’t a bad thing and should allow them to match up against any receiving corps with a number of skill sets.

17) Los Angeles Chargers (From PIT): Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Trade: Los Angeles Chargers receive picks 17 and 119, Pittsburgh receives picks 21, 85, and 156

The Chargers know that the Detroit Lions could use a linebacker and also know that there might only be one first-round linebacker in this year’s draft, so they trade up with the Steelers, who could use this pick but could use a few more top-100 picks even more. Trenton Simpson has fantastic range and the coverage skills the Chargers have lacked at inside linebacker. Not only that, LA could lose Drue Tranquill to free agency, making a thin room thinner.

18) Baltimore Ravens (From DET): Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Trade: Baltimore receives picks 18 and 152, Detroit receives picks 22 and 86

Having lost out on Simpson, the Lions resist double-dipping at corner and trade back once more, this time with the Ravens, who see a cornerback run in the offing and don’t want to miss out. Cam Smith will allow the Ravens to cover for the fact that their injured cornerback room will have a number of players hitting free agency. The defense wasn’t up to Baltimore’s usual standard, and Smith’s ability in man coverage should complement their preferred scheme perfectly.

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

With Tom Brady retiring, the Buccaneers likely don’t trust someone like Kyle Trask to take over the offense. Instead, they’ll look to the draft. Having a magician like Anthony Richardson seems like a great way to partially paper over their newfound offensive line issues.

His arm strength should work well with the style of football the Buccaneers want to play with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. He’ll need to develop better mechanics and improve his accuracy to be a truly standout quarterback, but he has more upside than any other QB in the first round.

20) Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Like Addison, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is an excellent route runner who demonstrates the ability to play a variety of roles. That’ll be important for Seattle, who will eventually need to look for a replacement for Tyler Lockett, whose incredible play helped revive Geno Smith’s career.

Like Lockett, Smith-Njigba not only has technical refinement and agility but great hands and phenomenal body control. This would be a leap of faith for the Seahawks, as Smith-Njigba functionally missed 2022, but that’s what this front office does.

21) Pittsburgh Steelers (From LAC): O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida

With five picks in the top 100, the Steelers can afford to attack their most-needed positions. Their offensive line is certainly not what it used to be, and this is a team willing to invest in interior linemen. O’Cyrus Torrence is one of the most powerful offensive linemen in the draft and can be dominant up front.

He overpowers even the strongest nose tackles and has a great sense of space and pass-protection awareness, along with a truly dominant run-blocking capability. He’s not a fit for every scheme with his athletic limitations, but he should be a perfect fit for the Steelers.

22) Detroit Lions (From BAL): Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

The Lions might reach a little bit here in order to replace Alex Anzalone, a locker-room leader that has often been injured and will hit free agency. No one seems to move smoother at the position than Drew Sanders, who could be what many projected Anzalone to be coming out of the draft were it not for injury.

Sanders is a recent convert to off-ball linebacker, so he’ll need some work, but he absolutely has the size and tenacity to play Detroit’s style of football and the movement upside to make him the coverage player that Malcolm Rodriguez will likely never become. They could be an intimidating duo for years to come.

23) New York Giants (From MIN): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Trade: Vikings receive picks 25 and 127, Giants receives picks 23 and 199

Andrew Thomas was one of the best offensive tackles in football. The New York Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The fact that both statements are true is a damning indictment of the state of the New York offensive line and the need to fill it out in multiple ways.

In this scenario, the Giants have a tandem of Georgia Bulldogs holding down the line, both of whom demonstrate an instinct for finishing. Broderick Jones would move to the right side of the line, where he has a small amount of experience. This should give them the athleticism they need to take on the right-sided edge rush in the division and the power to continue running the ball.

24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Branch, S, Alabama

The Jaguars will get Calvin Ridley next year, meaning that receiver isn’t quite the need we might assume it to be. With Cam Robinson and Walker Little playing well at offensive tackle and good investments along the interior, it’s hard to justify any first-round offensive pick. Instead, they can help out their defense. As Devin Lloyd continues to develop, they’ll still need an answer to teams with tight end receiving threats.

Brian Branch can play in the box and defend the run and has shown physicality uncommon for the position. He also has experience at cornerback on the inside and outside to complement his in-box and free safety play. The Jaguars could use that versatility and need someone to help out Tyson Campbell, an emerging star at cornerback.

25) Minnesota Vikings (From NYG): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Having missed out on the first tier of cornerbacks in the draft, the Vikings can trade back and still grab a first-round quality player while still accumulating the picks that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is known to love having. The Vikings just sunk second- and fourth-round picks in cornerbacks last year and have a younger player in Cameron Dantzler that they might want to continue to develop.

The problem is that those three players are the only ones they have under contract next year, and none of them are by any means reliable. Devon Witherspoon has the opportunity to break into the top-10 conversation if the draft circuit goes well for him. But for now, he’ll be in the second tier. The Vikings should like both his length and agility, two things not often paired together.

26) Dallas Cowboys: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

The Dallas Cowboys will have to spend rounds 2 and 3 investing in receiver, but there really aren’t first-round worthy players that provide the kind of complement to CeeDee Lamb that they need. While players like Josh Downs and Zay Flowers are exciting, having a physical outside receiver to allow Lamb to dominate the slot would supercharge the offense — and that might have to come later.

MORE: Top 10 CBs in the 2023 NFL Draft

Instead, they invest in cornerback. They’ll be getting back Anthony Brown from injury, and they had a remarkable performance from rookie DaRon Bland. But it would be ideal to keep Brown as depth and have someone like Clark Phillips III man the slot instead of Jourdan Lewis. He’s physical, quick, and has ball skills — just like Bland and Trevon Diggs. In the second round, they can target outside receivers like Rashee Rice, Kayshon Boutte, Xavier Hutchinson, or Cedric Tillman.

27) Buffalo Bills: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

A true complement to what the Bills do in the receiving game, the Bills can continue to hope that Gabe Davis develops into a big red-zone target while Stefon Diggs does everything else an offense can ask a receiver to do. Yet, Josh Downs provides a slot threat with immediate upside to compete with players like Isaiah McKenzie and Khalil Shakir as third options in the offense.

He could even take over between the 20s as the No. 2 receiver until they get into the red zone. Having someone as electric as Downs on the Bills’ offense should be exciting to watch.

28) New Orleans Saints (From SF via MIA via DEN): Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

The Saints made good use of their rights to Sean Payton’s contract, generating a first-round pick and a future second-round pick by trading him to the Broncos, where Payton will be the new head coach. They need those picks, too. With Cameron Jordan on the verge of retiring and the Marcus Davenport experiment not quite working out, the Saints could use another edge defender to help Dennis Allen’s defense.

Isaiah Foskey is Notre Dame’s all-time career sack leader, a difficult feat in such a storied program. He’s well-regarded for his leadership and special-teams play, but the Saints will be drafting him for his ability to produce on the edge — which is led by his fantastic explosion and technical play. He’s the prototypical size for the position and has an array of pass-rushing moves already in his arsenal. He can contribute right away.

29) Cincinnati Bengals: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

The Bengals have a solution at right tackle in La’el Collins and no one else. Even if their playoff run was cut short in big part because of injury, returning their starters to the offensive line won’t be enough to protect Joe Burrow and truly unleash the offense. Anton Harrison can take over for Jonah Williams at left tackle and has the length to take on the speed rushers that Williams has struggled with, which should allow Burrow more space to navigate in.

30) Kansas City Chiefs: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

The Chiefs have found out how to “replace” Tyreek Hill through a combination of better offensive line play and spacing on the offense. But they might also want to replace him outright with someone who has fantastic ball skills, incredible speed, and the ability to win before or after the catch.

Jalin Hyatt needs to be protected off the line of scrimmage, but players like him will always find a role in the Chiefs’ offense, which could use a high-level receiver who can more consistently pull coverage off the top than Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

31) Philadelphia Eagles: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M

The Eagles are losing Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to free agency and could use some versatility on the back end as well as physicality up front. Like Branch, Antonio Johnson has lined up at slot corner, linebacker, and safety.

His speed, physicality, and intelligence lend themselves well to the kind of defense Philadelphia runs. While he doesn’t have the ball production of some of the other players in the secondary, his play regularly enabled other defenders in coverage.

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