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Davis’ 2023 NFL First Round Mock Draft

On Thursday April 27, 31 players will be announced to join new teams in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. As Roger Goodell takes the podium to announce the first overall pick in this year’s draft, many might be more surprised than we think. Who will take the number one spot as the new captain of the Carolina Panthers? “With the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…”


1. Carolina Panthers (via CHI)


C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State


Why not Bryce Young? You look at all the successful quarterbacks Alabama has had in the past seventy years; the only name that pops up is Joe Namath. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones as their new franchise guy. In his rookie season, he was arguably the best rookie quarterback that season. Since then, he’s been extremely underwhelming. Alabama quarterbacks just don’t transfer well in the NFL because they’re always playing with the best of the best. They never really have to overcome struggles. Once they make the NFL, the struggling comes naturally and they fold. This is why C.J. Stroud is my number one guy.


2. Houston Texans


Bryce Young, QB, Alabama


With that being said, Bryce Young is still one of the top quarterback picks in this year’s draft. For him not to be picked first or second would be foolish in my opinion. We look at the other quarterbacks in the draft and why not put Florida QB Anthony Richardson here? These teams are looking for a great quarterback to fit their franchise puzzle. Although having the skill, Richardson just doesn’t make the cut. He’s an amazing athlete but isn’t the great quarterback these two teams are looking for. 


3. Arizona Cardinals


Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama


Going into the year, Anderson was the first overall pick for this year’s draft. For him to fall to the number three pick, the Cardinals’ organization must be going wild. When your team’s defensive line depth is as bad as the Cardinals’, there’s no doubt about who you’re going to pick for this spot.


4. Indianapolis Colts


Will Levis, QB, Kentucky


Just like the first two teams picking quarterbacks in this draft, I believe the Colts will have the same mindset. Yes, they need that franchise QB, so why not go with a safe pick? You know Levis will perform at the next level. It might take longer than Stroud or Young, but it’ll happen. Like Richardson, he has the size to make it happen, and the consistency to go along with it. The Colts already have the offensive line to put a rookie quarterback in the starting position. Why not go with Levis?


5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)


Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia


In Mel Kiper’s prospect rankings of this year’s draft, Jalen Carter is number one. There’s a possibility that Carter doesn’t even fall to number five. If he does, the Seahawks better pick him up because he’ll be a perfect fit in that Seattle defense.


6. Detroit Lions (via LAR)


Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech


Why on earth would the Lions take another defensive end as their first pick in back-to-back drafts? Think about it. The pairing of Wilson and Aidan Hutchinson would be greatness in the making. You have two defensive end positions on the roster. Why not fill them up with two young and very promising emerging athletes?


7. Las Vegas Raiders


Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois


This is the spot where Anthony Richardson gets picked, right? After the signing of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency, I don’t see the Raiders realistically picking a QB at this pick. They signed him with the intent that he’s going to be the franchise quarterback. The Raiders need a defensive player that’s going to boost them through the 2023 season. Get the top cornerback in the draft: Devon Witherspoon.


8. Atlanta Falcons


Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida


If there’s a team that likes to take risks, it’s the Atlanta Falcons. Although they drafted quarterback Desmond Ridder in last year’s draft, I don’t see why they can’t add Richardson to the lineup. Maybe he’s the guy that will fix their quarterback dilemma. Atlanta isn’t too far from hometown Florida, so let’s see what Richardson can do in A-Town.


9. Chicago Bears (via CAR)


Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern


If you watched any Chicago Bears games last season, you would know that it was “Let’s see how long Justin Fields can run around the field before he gets tired or sacked.” The man needs help on that offensive line. He can’t keep running until the wheels fall off. Skoronski will provide the protection Fields needs to make accurate, calculated passes. Theoretically, the more pocket time Fields has, the more accurate he should be.


10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)


Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon


During free agency, the Eagles have done a phenomenal job filling up that secondary of theirs. From resigning Darius Slay and James Bradberry to picking up Terrell Edmunds and Greedy Williams. While you have this great depth in secondary, why not draft someone who can learn from these veterans? Gonzalez won’t only receive the knowledge these veterans have, but will also gain the experience by playing beside them to take over in a few years.


11. Tennessee Titans


Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State


As of right now, the Titans have veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill as their starter. If that goes south, their third-round pick, Malik Willis, will step up to the plate. Willis needs weapons. Why not pick the top-ranked wide receiver in the draft to fill that void?


12. Houston Texans (via CLE)


Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia


After the incredible performance displayed at the combine, Smith made himself known as one of the better prospects in this year’s draft. With the lack of superstars in the Texans’ defense, there’s no question that they need to pick a defensive stud while they can. Smith showed that he has what it takes to perform at the next level. Why not give him a chance?


13. Green Bay Packers (via NYJ)


Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah


After the loss of Robert Tonyan in free agency, there’s only one place to look as the Packers make their first pick in this year’s draft. Kincaid is listed as the best pass-catching tight end in the draft and will continue to prove so as soon as he earns a starting spot on that Green Bay roster.


14. New England Patriots


Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State


We know that whoever the Patriots decide to start at QB this season will be young and inexperienced. If they decide to go with Mac Jones, he needs the protection after he struggled immensely with pressure last season. Johnson will provide the protection Jones deserves.


15. New York Jets (via GB)


Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia


With the addition of veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the offensive line needs some work. Rodgers is getting older and can’t take the hits he used to. Offensive tackles seem to be a recurring theme in this year’s draft, so why not hop on the bandwagon?


16. Washington Commanders


Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College


The Commanders are in a quarterback situation right now. Whoever they decide to start next season will need weapons. I was tempted to go with Tennessee OT Darnell Wright, but didn’t quite think this was the “wright” pick for this spot. See what I did there?


17. Pittsburgh Steelers


Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee


In my mind, if Flowers and Wright are swapped in this year’s draft, I wouldn't be surprised. However, newly-rooted quarterback Kenny Pickett needs protection to prove that he can be the Steelers’ franchise guy. He didn’t quite get that opportunity last season, but he can if Pittsburgh decides to make the right decision with their first pick in the draft.


18. Detroit Lions


Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas


I know I’m going to get flamed for putting Bijan this low, but hear me out. Realistically, I cannot see a running back going any higher than this pick. Unless you’re Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey, I don’t see Robinson cracking the top ten. With the departure of Jamaal Williams due to free agency, the Lions want to emulate the one-two punch they had going on last season. Robinson would be a perfect fit to split carries with D’Andre Swift. He may even earn the starting spot on that Detroit roster with Williams in New Orleans.


19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa


With there not being an edge rusher picked in a while, Tampa Bay intends to break that trend. Van Ness is a top-tier prospect and probably shouldn't even fall this low. The Buccaneers would have a steal with this pick and their defensive line would improve dramatically.


20. Seattle Seahawks


Jordan Addison, WR, USC


Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Addison fell to the next pick and the Chargers picked him up. The only two notable players on this Seattle roster are DK Metcalf and an aging Tyler Lockett. They need wide receiver depth and to pick one with their second pick in the draft won’t be a mistake.


21. Los Angeles Chargers


Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU


I absolutely despise having Johnston picked this high. I believe the Chargers desperately need a wide receiver with this pick. In my opinion, the next best wide receiver in this draft is Quentin Johnston from TCU.


22. Baltimore Ravens


Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State


After losing cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller to free agency, the Ravens need someone who will fix that issue. After playing at the highest level of college football, Forbes recorded six pick-sixes, breaking the all-time record for the number of interceptions returned for touchdowns in a player's career. The Ravens have the chance for him to line up opposite star defensive back Marlon Humphrey. I promise they won’t regret making this choice.


23. Minnesota Vikings


Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State


A weakness for this Minnesota team is easily their cornerback situation. They brought in Byron Murphy Jr. in free agency to help out, but I don’t think it’s quite enough. The Vikings can pick Porter to be their next defensive star while the opportunity presents itself.


24. Jacksonville Jaguars


Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee


You might look at me and realize that there’s no way Jalin Hyatt will be picked this high, and I partially agree with you. It took a lot of courage to write his name down by this spot, but if you think about it, it makes sense. He’s arguably the next-best wide receiver on this board. There’s no way he falls to the Jaguars’ second-round pick. Sure, this might be a little early for him to be picked, but the wide receiver depth is questionable. Marvin Jones left and the Jaguars picked up a contentious Calvin Ridley. They have no idea how their wide receivers will perform. Why not pick one you know will play to the best of their ability?


25. New York Giants


Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland


While the Giants need a wide receiver, they shouldn’t reach any more than the Jaguars did with that last pick. Similar build to Forbes, I don’t see why Banks won’t find similar success in the NFL. Although they don’t have the same resumes, Banks could be the leader the Giants need in their secondary.


26. Dallas Cowboys


Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame


This may be my favorite pick in the draft so far. Michael Mayer would fit this Dallas offense perfectly. After losing Dalton Schultz to free agency, there’s no question that Dallas has to fill this spot soon. Taking the second-ranked tight end in this draft would make the most sense to me and probably the Cowboys organization too. Take this while you can, Dallas.


27. Buffalo Bills


Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson


The Bills’ defense is already solidified as one of the top defenses in the league. With not many starting spots open, the departure of Tremaine Edmunds leaves that inside linebacker spot vacant. Simpson would fill the Bills’ only need to keep this defense performing at a top level.


28. Cincinnati Bengals


Brian Branch, S, Alabama


I flipped back and forth with this one. I didn’t know if I wanted to pick Branch or Kansas State corner, Julius Brents. Both seemed like reasonable picks for the Bengals to take at this spot, but after doing a bit of research, Branch became the no-brainer choice. The Bengals lost both their star safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell to free agency. For them not to pick Branch to fill the void would make zero sense to me. 


29. New Orleans Saints (via SF/MIA/DEN)


Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh


This pick has been swapped as many times as Mom’s meatloaf that no one wants to eat. They keep passing it around to see if someone will eat the meatloaf so Mom won’t be upset. This pick matters for the New Orleans Saints as they have many spots to improve on. Originally, I wanted Felix Anudike-Uzomah out of Kansas State to take this pick, but after careful consideration, I decided against it. The Saints pretty much lost their entire defensive line to free agency. Calijah Kancey would start the perfect rebuild to get the Saints’ defense back to their top-ten spot.


30. Philadelphia Eagles


Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson


Due to the age of this Eagles' defensive line, they need to figure out a way to rejuvenate these spots. After signing defensive end Brandon Graham to a one-year deal, the Eagles aren’t looking to keep him much longer. Murphy would provide a perfect replacement for Graham so Graham can go off to retirement. Murphy would also be able to learn from this veteran defensive line in Philadelphia and use that to prove himself as one of the better defensive ends in this draft class.


31. Kansas City Chiefs


Will McDonald IV, OLB, Iowa


Last but not least. The last pick of this first round is occupied by outside linebacker Will McDonald out of Iowa. I think the Chiefs could have gone with several different options for this pick, but to me, McDonald seems like the best pick on the board at this point.

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