The 2023 NFL Draft is just days away now, with the first round going down on Thursday, April 27. After months and months of speculation and guessing how the draft will go down, Draft Day is nearly here. On the heals of the Aaron Rodgers saga finally coming to an end, let's get right into my first and only full first round mock for this year's draft.
1. Carolina Panthers (via Chicago) - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Since trading for the first overall pick, there hasn't been a question of whether or not Carolina will draft a quarterback. The only question is what quarterback it will be, which looks to be down to Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. It seems pretty obvious that it is tipping in Young's favor as he gives new head coach Frank Reich and the Panthers a strong duel-threat quarterback to lead them out of the the rebuild.
*Trade alert: Texans trade pick 2 to Colts for picks 4 and 35, DT DeForest Buckner, and a 2024 3rd rounder
2. Indianapolis Colts (via Houston) - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The recent report about the Colts hoping a team jumps them for Stroud so they can draft Will Levis, smells of burning because it sounds like a giant smoke screen. Instead, they trade up to draft Stroud themselves. The former Ohio State quarterback isn't far behind Young in talent and he showcased his phenomenal arm strength throughout his college career. While is sometimes knocked on his running ability, he still runs when he has to even if it isn't a large part of his game.
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
With J.J. Watt retiring, the Cardinals need to find a new dominant force off the edge to come after the quarterback. The argument can definitely be made that Anderson is the top player of the draft, regardless of position, beating out his former teammate Young. The Cardinals luck out that the two teams ahead of them are quarterback-needy and unless someone jumps them for Anderson, he will fall into their laps.
4. Houston Texans - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Now, why on Earth would Houston trade back with one of their division rivals to allow Indy to take one of the top quarterbacks? Especially when the Texans also need a quarterback? Well when you snag a top talent at another position of need in return and still have an opportunity to add a high-ceiling quarterback two picks later, why not? Richardson has insane arm talent along with being built like a tank and having incredible athleticism. He might take a little longer than the previous two quarterbacks taken, but Richardson very well might end up having the better career.
5. Seattle Seahawks - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Seahawks have two first round picks and can go any number of directions with both of them. One of their biggest needs is their edge rush and with Anderson already gone, they snag Wilson. The former Red Raider is explosive off the edge and is a game-wrecker. He would fit very well with the Seahawks' defensive scheme and give them a lot to work with in getting after the quarterback. Wilson recorded 14 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss for Texas Tech the previous two seasons.
6. Detroit Lions - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Former third overall pick Jeff Okudah has not lived up to lofty expectations for the Lions thus far. They could make things right by taking the top corner in this year's draft, and continue to get playmakers on defense. Witherspoon plays with serious aggression as a feisty coverage corner, which fits the bill perfectly for a Dan Campbell defense. He has all the top attributes to be Detroit's top corner from day one.
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Putting a stop to Carter falling too far due to his legal troubles, the Raiders are the perfect fit for the former Georgia defender. He jumps off the tape and is very quick and twitchy for his size. Following a season in which he posted seven tackles for loss and three sacks, Carter can be a force on the inside and eat up interior offensive lineman. The Raiders are always looking for the next big dominant and beastly defensive tackle.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Falcons have significant needs on both sides of the ball and with three top 75 picks, they can go a long way in filling them up. Taking a top edge rusher with their first pick would make a lot of sense, and Murphy is a good fit. While Atlanta has an okay edge rush group, which included hyrbrid linebacker Kaden Elliss, they should add a more specilized edge rusher to lead the defense. Murphy has the athleticism and strength to excel.
9. Chicago Bears - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
After their trade with the Panthers for the top pick landed them DJ Moore, the Bears give Justin Fields another big weapon. Smith-Njigba is the top receiver in the draft by a pretty wide margin. Chicago could really bring their offense more together in adding him. They reportedly love him and how could you not with his outstanding playmaking abilities?
*Trade alert: Eagles trade pick 10 to Bucs for pick 19 and LB Devin White
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Philadelphia) - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
After seeing Witherspoon come off the board, the Buccaneers decide to jump up and take the guy they want at cornerback. In doing so, they move on from disgruntled linebacker Devin White who requested a trade earlier this month. Tampa Bay was able to retain Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean on multi-year deals, but depth is always key. Gonzalez is a top corner that wouldn't be there at the Bucs original pick and can be a big factor on the team for years to come.
11. Tennessee Titans - Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State
The Titans added former Eagles first round pick Andre Dillard in free agency, but that doesn't mean they are out of the market to add to their offensive line. Especially when you're adding a guy like Johnson, who is not only the top tackle in the draft but one of the top prospects overall. For a tackle as big as him - 6'6", 313 pounds - Johnson is very athletic and would greatly improve the Titans left tackle position.
12. Houston Texans - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
After acquiring DeForest Buckner and getting their quarterback earlier in the first round, the Texans further beef up their defensive line. Jerry Hughes is 34 and entering the final year on his contract, while Ogbonnia Okoronkwo signed with the Browns. Van Ness has high upside, as he has the size and athleticism to succeed with proper development. With DeMeco Ryans now at the helm in Houston, that development is in good hands if the defense he led in San Francisco is any indication.
13. Green Bay Packers - Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Jordan Love season is finally upon us in Green Bay and he is going to need receivers to throw to. Addison would be able to come in right away and make an impact as he showed his incredible dynamic abilities for two programs in college. He would be able to adjust to a new quarterback quickly and give Love a big weapon to trust to pair with fellow youngsters Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
14. New England Patriots - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
At 14th overall, the Patriots could very well trade up or down depending on how the board falls. On the defensive side of the ball, they have yet to replace the elite level of play that Stephon Gilmore brought to the secondary. Porter Jr. bring a lot of pedigree to the position and has very a strong tackling ability like his father. He also played very well against NFL level receivers throughout his college career and is very athletic.
15. New York Jets - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Jets have a lot of question marks on their offensive line and they need to hit on an immediate starter to protect their new quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Skoronski is the perfect guy to protect him, as the former Wildcat could move inside in the NFL and give the Jets some position flexibility. He has the talent to give New York a boost regardless of where plays on the line.
16. Washington Commanders - Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Washington needs serious help in their secondary, even while having solid starting cornerbacks in Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St.-Juste. Ringo has the size and length to be an immediate impact to an NFL team and can cover bigger receivers well. While he was once viewed as a potential top 10 draft pick, he will fall more towards the middle of the first round. Ringo would fit well in Washington's zone-heavy scheme playing opposite St-Juste.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Steelers signed Patrick Peterson in the offseason, but they have to start looking towards the future at cornerback, as Peterson is turning 33 in July. Enter Banks, a raw but very physical corner with incredible athleticism. Being able to learn from the veteran Peterson would be an ideal situation for Banks, even when Peterson isn't what he once was physically. The former Terrapin has experience at both cornerback spots, so he can move around the field for the Steelers.
18. Detroit Lions - Brian Branch, S, Alabama
The Lions double up on adding to their secondary as they try to defend the likes of Justin Jefferson, Christian Watson, D.J. Moore, and others in the NFC North. Branch is a versatile safety who would pair well with their first pick, Witherspoon, in the secondary. He would also pair very well with second-year safety Kerby Joseph, who had an excellent rookie season, for years to come.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (via Tampa Bay) - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
The ultimate Howie Roseman special would be trading back from 10th overall, snagging a big time addition to their linebacker corps in White in return, and STILL getting a huge offensive playmaker in Robinson. Following the departure of Miles Sanders, the Eagles are left with Kenneth Gainwell - who could be something special - and Boston Scott - who they re-signed - at running back. While those two are great backs to have in the building, Robinson adds an extra level to the offense that those two can't.
20. Seattle Seahawks - Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Tariq Woolen had an outstanding rookie season for the Seahawks last year, finishing third for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Seattle could pair him with another young potential stud, this time taking a cornerback in the first round. Forbes has incredible reaction time and accelerates with ease to shut down plays before they even get the opportunity to get started.
21. Los Angeles Chargers - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The Chargers pretty much played the entire 2022 with no reliable or healthy receivers, as both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen missed quite a bit of time with injuries. Justin Herbert's rookie contract comes to an end after the 2024 season. Before the Chargers have to pay him, they need to give him enough weapons to work with and start to think of a future without Allen. Johnston is a big target and would provide Herbert with a strong weapon for at least a few years.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
The Ravens have some promising young players along their defensive line, but they suffered a major loss when veteran Calais Campbell signed with the Falcons this offseason. Bresee has a lot of physicality and is very explosive with elite lateral quickness. The Clemson alum moves like a edge rusher at times and barrels through offensive lineman while also having a high football IQ with quick reaction time.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Outside of Justin Jefferson, the Vikings don't really have much in their receiver room to pair with the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. Minnesota released 10-year veteran Adam Thielen in March, leaving them with K.J. Osborn, Jalen Nailor, and Jalen Reagor as the top three receivers on the depth chart behind Jefferson. Flowers would give the Vikings' offense an extra flavor as he is arguably the most electric skill position player in the draft. He has elite speed and is versatile, providing damage on the ground as well.
*Trade Alert: Jags trade 24 to Eagles for 30 and 2024 2nd
24. Philadelphia Eagles (via Jacksonville) - Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
After trading back with their first pick, the Eagles give up one of their two second rounders in 2024 to move up six spots. At this new draft spot, Philadelphia turns their attention to giving their edge rush some help. Foskey has been rising up draft boards following his dominant senior season in which he recorded 11 sacks, 14 QB hits, 23 total tackles, and 11 tackles for loss. He has the most sacks in Notre Dame history and could be an invaluable chess piece for the Eagles.
Foskey has high-end athleticism and has a non-stop motor, along with having the quickness and bend to get around the edge. Pairing him with Josh Sweat and veteran Brandon Graham would make up an insane edge rush group for the Eagles. Not to mention, Jordan Davis manning the interior is a worry for offenses as well.
25. New York Giants - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
With the tendency Wink Martindale has to blitz, the Giants need to shore up their secondary with players that can make plays when the defense goes all out for sacks. New York led the league in Cover 0-blitzes last season, but were tied with the Raiders for least amount of interceptions. As much pressure that the defensive front can create - if they can't get to the quarterback - it won't matter unless the secondary can finish the play. Smith was very good in man coverage during his college career and he is fluid to stick to the hip of the receiver. He is very strong at the catch point and has the speed to keep up with quick playmakers. The perfect fit for the Giants' secondary.
26. Dallas Cowboys - Caljah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Dallas hasn't drafted a defensive tackle in the first round since 1991, when they drafted Russell Maryland first overall. But Kancey is a worry first round selection and might not even last this long. Dan Quinn is always working to get top level defensive tackles on the field and would love Kancey in his defense. The Cowboys already have a pretty dominant defensive line, but could really make things tough on Jalen Hurts and the Eagles in matchups against their rivals. They finished tied third in the league with 54 sacks last year, and that was without an elite interior defender. Kancey has some quickness and has a good first step while he uses his power to bullrush the offensive linemen.
27. Buffalo Bills - Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The Bills lost versatile linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the Bears and need to begin work on replacing him. Simpson could step in and be an immediate impact player on defense for Buffalo with the athleticism and versatility he brings to the table. The former Tiger is a solid contributor on passing days and has great instincts reading the play in front of him.
28. Cincinnati Bengals - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Bengals don't have any glaring holes on either side of the ball, at least in regards to starters. Where they can certainly improve is depth, and when we've seen what has happened in the past, the offensive line is the biggest need there. Right tackle Jonah Williams is heading into the final year of his contract. Jones started one year at right tackle in Athens and showed great athletic traits while holding his blocks with solid balance.
29. New Orleans Saints - B.J. Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Signing Derek Carr this offseason, the Saints' offense is headed into a better direction. While they still aren't perfect offensively, they can use a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. Ojulari has an explosive first step and beats blockers off the edge quickly. His athleticism give him an edge against the run and he is consistent with his hand placement on disengaging from blocks.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Philadelphia) - Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
After trading down with Philadelphia, the Jaguars snag a playmaker for Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have breakout tight end Evan Engram locked in to play the 2023 after franchise tagging him. But if the former Giant can't reach a long-term agreement with Jacksonville, they will be scrambling to find a replacement. They can instead pair Kincaid with him for now and create a great duo, while Kincaid could take over as the top guy if Engram isn't locked up. The Utah product has skillset similar to Engram and has a lot of strong physical attributes.
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Chiefs lost two key offensive lineman in the offseason - left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and right tackle Andrew Wylie. Wright dominated elite pass rushers at Tennessee, using his combination of size, quickness, and core strength. He went up against Ojulari in the 2022 season and really held his ground. Wright is also a natural run blocker with enough power to hold off would-be tacklers.
Cover photo courtesy of NFL.com