The NFL Combine has changed the draft landscape, as it does every year. But how it changes our projections in a one-round NFL mock draft is more substantial than it usually is. With questions surrounding Jalen Carter potentially dropping him out of the first round and interesting dynamics at quarterback, there are plenty of ways that the NFL draft landscape shifted compared to one week earlier.
Once again, we’ll project trades in the draft because the character of a few scenarios has become a near certainty. With that in mind, let’s project where the draft might go in the first round.
2023 First-Round NFL Mock Draft
1) Indianapolis Colts (From CHI): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Trade: Indianapolis receives pick 1; Chicago receives picks 4, 35, 106, and Indianapolis’ 2024 second-round pick.
Determining trade compensation can be a very difficult process. Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles told NBC Sports’ Peter King that he can get “a ’24 one and a ’25 one” but (wisely) didn’t mention if that package would include teams inside the top five. Significant trades for the first and second overall picks have generally been from the middle of the first round, making them poor precedents for predicting value.
When the Bears traded up to the second overall pick from the third overall pick in 2017, they gave up their first-round pick and third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a future third-round pick.
Because the Colts are trading from the third overall pick instead of the fourth overall and into first instead of second, we can project some increases in compensation without buying into Poles’ sales pitch of a future first-round pick, which is typically associated with those trading from between 10th to 15th overall.
For the Colts’ part, they can get a quarterback whose size doesn’t bother them and who has a lot of control at the line of scrimmage. C.J. Stroud needs to improve as a producer under pressure but otherwise checks off a lot of boxes to be picked first overall.
2) Houston Texans: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
It’s March, and it’s time to get a little bit silly. It’s probably not the case that Anthony Richardson catapulted himself completely into consideration for the top pick based on his Combine performance alone, but we shouldn’t ignore the difference in value between having a known elite, 1-of-1 style athlete and a merely-very-good athlete.
Quarterback athleticism doesn’t map directly onto quarterback performance, but we can’t ignore the enormous value that teams like the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and Baltimore Ravens have found in their raw athletes, and it could be the case that Richardson is a more complete athlete than any of those quarterbacks.
It also helps that he’s a more refined passer than his reputation suggests, and he has the ability to operate a typical NFL offense without the addition of quarterback runs.
DeMeco Ryans knows the value of a running threat at quarterback, particularly after seeing one tear apart his defense in the NFC Championship game. It would make sense for him to trust in his development process while taking the floor that athleticism offers.
3) Las Vegas Raiders (From ARI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Trade: Las Vegas receives pick 3; Arizona receives picks 7, 38, 109, and a 2024 second-round pick.
In recent years, teams trading up from the middle of the round into the top five have had a heavy price to pay. For Trey Lance, the 49ers gave up their 12th overall pick and two future first-round picks in addition to a future third-round pick. Even from the sixth overall pick, the New York Jets gave up their first-round pick, two second-round picks, and a future first in order to secure Sam Darnold.
Here, we’ll project a little bit less than those particular hauls but more than what the Las Vegas Raiders received from the Miami Dolphins in 2013 for Dion Jordan – a first-round pick (12th overall) and a second-round pick.
Because it’s for a quarterback, the price will be on the high side, which is why the Raiders give up their second-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a future second-round pick in addition to the seventh overall pick.
The Raiders, knowing that they have to compete in the most quarterback-heavy division in the NFL, take a chance on upside via a player that in some ways compares to Patrick Mahomes in his playstyle and field awareness. Bryce Young is perhaps the most advanced quarterback in the draft, but size concerns have made him a little bit less of a darling among scouts than a typical player with his profile.
4) Chicago Bears (From IND): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
The Bears traded down to four in order to get a bevy of picks in the draft and could do so again, but with the uncertainty surrounding Jalen Carter and a well-understood cliff of talent behind Anderson, they stay put and grab the premier edge defender in college football.
Will Anderson Jr. is an incredible athlete with the ability to rush the passer from multiple spots in a variety of ways and is good at setting the edge against the run. He’s a virtually complete defender, and players of his caliber typically go first overall.
5) Carolina Panthers (From DEN via SEA): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Trade: Carolina receives pick 5; Seattle receives picks 9, 39, and a 2024 second-round pick.
Historically, it’s pretty difficult to find a team trading up into the fifth pick for a quarterback, so this trade is a bit tougher to project. Nevertheless, we’ll take Seattle’s confidence in Geno Smith at face value and allow them to avoid the relatively meager value proposition of taking a non-quarterback in this class where the talent outside of the top defenders is neutral.
Carolina gives up a second-round pick this year and a second-round pick next year, a cheap price to pay to acquire a guy they might think is a franchise quarterback. Will Levis checks boxes off for teams looking for a quarterback that can do everything.
He’s accurate, aggressive, and has experience in pro-style systems. On top of that, he has prototypical size and above-average athleticism. There are consistency concerns to work out, and he doesn’t have a trump card over the other quarterbacks in this draft. But there’s a lot for a coach like Frank Reich to love about him.
6) Detroit Lions (From LAR): Joey Porter Jr. CB, Penn State
Outside of quarterback, this is the top player that may have helped boost his profile at the NFL Combine. Not only did Joey Porter Jr. clock in with incredible, near-unbelievable measurables with his 34-inch arms and a well-built, 193-pound frame, but he ran well and recorded a 10’9” broad jump.
The presumed top cornerback, Christian Gonzalez, didn’t do poorly – his workouts were better than Porter’s – but the frame advantage Porter has could definitely appeal to a team like the Detroit Lions, who want to be as physical as possible.
None of this disqualifies the Oregon cornerback, and he could easily be the Lions’ pick, but Porter fits the mold almost as well and has some intriguing play to offer.
7) Arizona Cardinals (From LV): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Christian Gonzalez wasn’t going to lose much ground to Porter because of the combine, and the Cardinals’ gambit to trade down in a relatively even draft class of talent worked out. They might have been able to pick the best non-Anderson defender.
The Cardinals need plenty of help, much of it on defense. They would be wise to pick any number of positions and could go after the edge defenders available here in the draft. But Gonzalez is a blue-chip prospect that hasn’t received as much attention as the second wave of defensive linemen.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons could go in a number of directions here and need to resolve issues along their offensive line. But they can mask those issues a little bit with the playcalling of head coach Arthur Smith and some picks later in the draft.
For now, they boost their ailing defense with an edge defender that many projected might go in the top five. Myles Murphy is athletic and carries much more size than most high-end edge rusher prospects in recent years. He will help Falcons’ defense get younger and more talented.
9) Seattle Seahawks (From CAR): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Seahawks traded down four spots and still get the player that they might have picked regardless. They love size/speed standouts, and Tyree Wilson is a prototypical example.
His production and age are red flags, but that has historically mattered a lot less for the Seahawks than it does for other teams. He can be an effective defender for them and supplement the strides the defense made last season.
10) Tennessee Titans (From PHI): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Trade: Tennessee receives picks 10 and 94; Philadelphia receives picks 11 and 72.
The Titans move up one pick in order to prevent teams like the New England Patriots, Washington Commanders, or Jets from taking their preferred tackle prospect.
One of the meanest offensive tackles in the draft, Paris Johnson Jr. also happens to demonstrate high-level athleticism and power to go along with the kind of attitude we expect to see from a Mike Vrabel-led team. For the Eagles, they lose essentially nothing but get to jump 18 spots in the third round.
11) Philadelphia Eagles (From TEN): Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
With the two top cornerbacks gone, the Eagles will have to “settle” for a player who was in consideration for the mantle of the top cornerback but doesn’t have the length to compete with Porter and Gonzalez.
While the Eagles might prefer more length to replace James Bradberry, they would still be happy with Kelee Ringo, a fast, big cornerback who has great recovery speed and performed at a high level against phenomenal receivers.
12) Washington Commanders (From CLE via HOU): Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Trade: Washington receives pick 12; Houston receives picks 16 and 97.
The Texans need to gather more picks in order to round out a depleted roster, especially to support their new quarterback. There are some players here that could help, but more bites at the apple will help more.
The Commanders, for their part, will still need to bolster their defensive line despite franchise-tagging Daron Payne. In the long run, they might not retain Payne and will want to have a solution. Bryan Bresee from Clemson, a powerful athlete who can play the multiple positions that both Jonathan Allen and Payne play along that d-line, could be the long-term answer.
Without the opportunity to draft a quarterback high in this draft, the Commanders will have to craft a roster capable of enticing one in next year’s free agent class or select one in the 2024 NFL Draft. Washington might also be a player in free agency for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo.
13) New York Jets: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Jets don’t have a talent issue along the offensive line – they have a health issue. Their OL has struggled over the years because of availability concerns, and they could very easily justify not picking an offensive lineman here.
But grabbing a player like Broderick Jones, who can play guard or tackle, gives them a lot of leeway as they consider extensions for their young offensive linemen. They might be able to move on from Mekhi Becton or even play Alijah Vera-Tucker at center. That seems unlikely, but having as many versatile bodies as possible gives them options.
14) New England Patriots: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is by no means the top receiver on most people’s boards. But the New England Patriots have long marched to the beat of their own drum in the draft and have historically prized receivers who have some kind of trump card athletically – usually the three-cone.
That hasn’t been universal, but it does track for some of the best receivers in the franchise’s history. Given the history of production that Brian Hartline-coached receivers have had in the NFL, Smith-Njigba’s savviness, and the wideout’s absolutely incredible agility scores, it’s easy to project someone like him to the Patriots despite the concerns about his health and long speed.
15) Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Pairing the Green Bay Packers with a tight end in the first round has been a tradition for mock drafters going back years, and it hasn’t borne out. But with the talent of this class, the need profile of the Packers, and the desire to move on from Aaron Rodgers and create a friendly system for Jordan Love, Michael Mayer makes sense here.
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He’s probably the best do-everything tight end in the draft, even if many of the other tight ends have a more pronounced skill set in one specific area. Green Bay can ask him to do anything. The team can transition to a run-first offense with Mayer blocking or keep throwing the ball with Mayer as a focal point in the middle of the field.
16) Houston Texans (From WAS): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Truthfully, the Texans don’t need a wide receiver as badly as many analysts claim. They have 2022 second-round pick John Metchie III, veteran Brandin Cooks, and 2021 third-round pick Nico Collins. If push comes to shove, they’ll have a functional receiving corps to help out Anthony Richardson.
But Cooks wants out, and Collins hasn’t developed at the pace that would make someone confident in that unit. Adding the consensus top receiver in the draft in Quentin Johnston would go a long way toward making life easier for a developmental quarterback, giving Houston a remarkably fast unit and some contested-catch capability.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The Pittsburgh Steelers get to stay where they are and grab the other receiver competing for the top spot at the position in Jordan Addison. He may go later in the draft in part because of his poor combine performance – weighing in at a light 173 pounds and running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash instead of what might be considered a more reasonable 4.40-second, given his size.
But he’s a good route-runner that has demonstrated on-field speed. Pittsburgh is comfortable with those kinds of athletes, even if their previous several first-round picks all had great on-field testing.
18) Baltimore Ravens (From DET): Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Trade: Ravens receive pick 18; Lions receive picks 22 and 124.
In all honesty, this isn’t remarkable trade compensation for the Lions to move down this many picks, but the Ravens don’t have a second-round pick and would be loathe to give up a third-rounder. And there aren’t many teams that have a substantial reason to trade up with many of the receivers gone and a good chunk of the second-tier corners still around.
The Lions have plenty of options here and can comfortably trade down without losing one of their top targets. So they take a slight loss in value here and get the guy they would have drafted at 18 anyway while the Ravens pick the only offensive lineman worth a top-half pick left in the draft – and do so at a steal in the second half of the first round.
Peter Skoronski can play tackle or guard, and with a tight cap situation – especially after applying the franchise tag to Lamar Jackson – Baltimore may not be able to re-sign guard Ben Powers. In order to make the most of that offensive line and perhaps limited time with Jackson, they should protect him and allow Jackson, Dobbins, and hopefully, Gus Edwards (depending on whether he sticks around) to thrive.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers miss out on an opportunity to draft a quarterback after they all go far too high following a combine extravaganza, but that doesn’t mean Tampa can’t improve their offense.
After letting go of Leonard Fournette and not having too much in the way of skill position players under contract long term, the Buccaneers can start a new era of football in order to help out what is potentially a stellar defense. Bijan Robinson is one of the best running back prospects to come out in a few years, and the Buccaneers get to grab him at the 19th pick. While that doesn’t match modern NFL value, many would call it a steal.
20) Seattle Seahawks: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
There’s plenty of steam around the Seahawks taking a receiver in the draft, and that makes a lot of sense. But given the size concerns for most of that unit and the dropping value of the position in this year’s draft in general, it might make more sense to overdraft a different position that may not be of value later.
The Seahawks have been running a variety of run-blocking schemes over the past few years and Shane Waldron enjoys that versatility.
O’Cyrus Torrence may not profile as a typical zone-blocking guard, but in a multiple scheme like Seattle’s – one that saw the run game drop off in the second half of the season mostly due to blocking – they could find an upgrade at guard and supplement the talent that they drafted at tackle last year.
21) Los Angeles Chargers: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Let’s project another post-Combine leap for a player with an outstanding performance. Jack Campbell had been consistently discussed as a second-round (possibly even third-round) prospect at linebacker for most of the draft season.
But Combine with a performance like he had, Campbell could replace Kenneth Murray or Drue Tranquill, depending on how free agency goes. Regardless, L.A. has a need at the linebacker position and could take a chance on another workout stud – though, unlike Murray, one that has a better view of the field.
22) Detroit Lions (From BAL): Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The Lions lost basically nothing by trading down and have their pick between the top safeties and all but one linebacker to help out their defense. If they’re feeling particularly bold, they could even replace one Iowa tight end with another in this year’s draft.
But here, they opt to replace LB Alex Anzalone, a free agent. Malcolm Rodriguez isn’t well-rounded enough to be the primary linebacker talent in two-linebacker looks, but he’s a very good player to pair with someone like Trenton Simpson, who both has the physicality Detroit covets and the coverage skills to fill in for Rodriguez.
23) Buffalo Bills (From MIN): Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Trade: Buffalo receives pick 23; Minnesota receives picks 27 and 130.
The Buffalo Bills have had plenty of talent at safety but stand to lose Jordan Poyer in free agency. Pairing him and Micah Hyde together was a big part of the plan in the defensive backfield, so they’ll need a solution sooner rather than later. They opted not to retain LB Tremaine Edmunds using the franchise tag, so they could lose him as well.
Brian Branch can play either role and move around where needed while other players fill in the gaps. While his nominal role at Alabama was at nickel corner, he projects as a hard-hitting safety who can patrol the deep middle or play in the box at the NFL level. In order to remain competitive, Buffalo will want to invest in that kind of player in the draft.
For Minnesota’s part, this allows them to add some more picks, as they seemingly love to do. And it still allows the Vikings a shot at a first-round quality cornerback.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The cornerback run should have started much earlier, and the Jacksonville Jaguars benefit both from Minnesota’s willingness to wait and the need profiles of a number of teams ahead of them in the draft.
Devon Witherspoon is considered a player eligible for the first tier of cornerbacks, according to a number of analysts, and his aggressiveness, fluidity, and physicality should appeal to the Jaguars. With another rising star in Tyson Campbell at the position, Jacksonville might be able to develop a defense that can fully support the Trevor Lawrence-led offense.
25) New York Giants: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Another Combine riser cements his spot in the first round with an incredible performance. Deonte Banks participated in the explosion and speed drills at the NFL Combine and blew them out of the water.
He’s also been a fantastic shutdown corner on film for Maryland, rarely giving up completions. The agility drills that he opted out of were probably the least necessary for him to complete, given his on-film quickness and mobility. The problem is that he just doesn’t post turnovers, which may make some teams shy away.
26) Dallas Cowboys: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
The Dallas Cowboys are slotted by many to select a cornerback, but Daron Bland was outstanding for them despite being a sixth-round rookie in 2022. Bland and Trevon Diggs should be able to handle outside coverage, but there’s an issue with slot coverage and safety. Like Branch, Antonio Johnson can play either one of those positions.
Despite an average Combine performance, Johnson’s tape showcases somebody who should fit in Dallas’ defense surrounded by a multitude of linebackers and defensive backs playing various roles in different packages. Given how successful Jayron Kearse has been for the Cowboys, it makes sense that they would enthusiastically embrace length at the position.
27) Minnesota Vikings (From BUF): Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
In some mock drafts, Cam Smith goes much higher than no. 27, often landing in the middle of the round. Here, because of the late nature of the cornerback run, the Vikings scoop up good value with a player like Smith, who is comfortable running the man coverage demanded in Brian Flores’ system and can play off-ball or in press.
Smith weighed in light at the combine but at least had great athletic testing to make up for it. That will be a concern for Minnesota, whose remaining cornerback group isn’t the heaviest in the world but still gives them a foundation to work from as they rebuild their defense.
28) Cincinnati Bengals: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Along the offensive line, there were no significant Combine risers who could effectively replace Anton Harrison with this pick.
Harrison was no Combine stud, but he performed well enough in drills, while the next group of offensive linemen – Dawand Jones, Darnell Wright, and Cody Mauch – didn’t do enough in workouts to propel them ahead of Harrison.
The former Oklahoma OT is a functional athlete with good length and plenty of power. He should help Joe Burrow stay upright.
29) New Orleans Saints (From SF, via MIA, via DEN): Lukas Van Ness, ED, Iowa
Lukas Van Ness had a very interesting Combine. As a power rusher who primarily bull rushes, his athletic profile should have matched that of an explosive athlete. Instead, he tested incredibly well in the three-cone and short shuttle, typically associated with those who can turn the corner.
It’s as if Bud Dupree had tested as Vic Beasley. Nevertheless, Van Ness showcased quite a bit of upside, and the New Orleans Saints are comfortable with that at the edge rusher position. Happy to take Van Ness, they can begin their attempt to control a wide-open NFC South.
30) Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Who better to complement Haason Reddick than the more athletic version of him in Nolan Smith? Smith weighed in at 238 pounds – compared to Reddick’s combine weight of 237 pounds – and ran loads faster, with one of the best combine performances we’ve seen at the position.
Smith didn’t do agility drills, a critical component to his playing style, but his productivity per pass-rushing snap and toughness speak well for his ability to produce as needed. The Eagles do have bigger concerns elsewhere along the defense and more immediate needs, but Smith is a great value that’s tough to pass up.
31) Kansas City Chiefs: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Kansas City Chiefs released Frank Clark and will have Carlos Dunlap hit free agency. Though they have plenty of confidence in George Karlaftis, K.C. will need to have another edge rusher on the roster long-term if they’re going to continue their dynasty.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
A great secondary and good linebacker corps should help them maintain their defense, but adding another edge rusher would make the Chiefs more complete. Isaiah Foskey is typically slated to go earlier in the draft, but with Combine risers pushing him out of those higher spots, the Chiefs get the benefit of a productive athlete who nevertheless tested better than most edge defenders do.
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