As the NFL Draft approaches, speculation is rife among football fans about who will go where and how the picks will play out. Some “mock drafters” have inside info, others don’t.
So while many mock drafts aim to predict what will happen, this mock draft takes a different approach.
Rather than trying to guess what each team will do, I have put myself in the shoes of each team's general manager and made the picks based on what I would do if I were in charge.
To make these selections, I have carefully considered each team's needs, evaluated the positional value of available prospects, and weighed the talent of each player against the specific fit for each team. With these factors in mind, I have compiled a mock draft that reflects my personal evaluation and vision for the 2023 NFL Draft.
This will be the first of three mock drafts as the evaluation process evolves. Let's get started!
1) Indianapolis Colts (VIA CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Bears get: 2023 1st-round pick (#4), 2023 2nd-round pick (#36), 2024 1st-round pick, 2024 3rd-round pick
Colts get: 2023 1st-round pick (#1).
After playing the QB carousel since Andrew Luck's retirement, the Colts finally get their guy. Young brings accuracy and a play-making dynamic to an offense teeming with talent.
2) Houston Texans: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Texans take a little bit of gamble and go with a prospect who is rough around the edges but has all the physical traits in the world. Now the onus will be on the Texans' new staff under DeMeco Ryans to get more out of Levis than Kentucky did.
3) Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr, EDGE, Alabama
With the Cardinals being in full tear-down and rebuild mode under a new GM and head coach, the best course of action is to add elite talent to the defense. Anderson has game-changing playmaking ability.
4) Carolina Panthers (VIA IND, VIA CHI): CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Bears get: 2023 1st-round pick (#9), 2023 2nd-round pick (#40), 2024 2nd-round pick
Panthers get: 2023 1st-round pick (via Indianapolis, #4)
With four teams between pick 5 and their original pick at 9 that are real threats to take a QB, the Panthers pay up to get their guy in Stroud. Stroud brings pure arm talent to the table and gives new coach Frank Reich something he never had during his tenure in Indianapolis.
5) Seattle Seahawks (VIA DEN): Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia
There are not many things more beautiful come draft season than team needs matching the best player available. With the crazy run on QBs to start this mock, the Seahawks find themselves the beneficiary of a beautiful bit of serendipity. In Carter, they are getting a disruptive force in the middle of their defense.
6) Detroit Lions (VIA LAR): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Lions fill a massive need with a top-10 player on my board. I considered Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez here as well, but ultimately I think Witherspoon's ball skills and physicality are better fits for what Detroit wants to do on defense.
7) Las Vegas Raiders: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Raiders' offensive line has been dreadful in pass protection of late. They really only have one standout player in Kolton Miller. With this pick, the Raiders “tackle” a need and help set the stage for whoever will be the next Raiders QB.
8) Atlanta Falcons): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Four QBs in the top 10! Somehow the Falcons get lucky here, grabbing my #2 overall QB at #8 without having to trade up. Richardson is basically a superhero version of what Arthur Smith was trying to do with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder in 2022.
9) Chicago Bears (VIA CAR): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Panthers get: 2023 1st-round pick (#4)
Bears get: 2023 1st-round pick (#9), 2023 2nd-round pick (#40), 2024 2nd-round pick
The Bears pull off the double trade back! No QB was pressured more frequently in 2022 than Justin Fields (41.5% of dropbacks), and while some of that is on Fields for holding the ball too long, there is no denying their offensive line needs help. This offseason should be all about setting Fields up for success. Adding a hometown boy in Skoronski and a ton of draft capital is a massive win for the franchise.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (VIA NO): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
With a ton of expiring contracts and limited cap space, the Eagles might not be able to bring back many of their older vets, most notably Javon Hargrave. We know how much Howie Roseman values depth on the defensive line as well. Wilson brings power and length off the edge with the ability to rush from the interior on obvious passing downs, potentially replacing some lost production from that spot.
11) Tennessee Titans: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
With Harold Landry coming off a major injury and Bud Dupree being a cut candidate, the Titans desperately need a “Dude” on the EDGE. Murphy brings a diversified pass-rush skill set, with the ability to both win the corner and play through OTs with his power.
12) Houston Texans (VIA CLE): Jordan Addison, WR, USC
After landing their QB at #2, the Texans support the pick by bringing in the best pure separator in the draft in Addison. Addison will give his fellow rookie teammate plenty of open throws, making life easy on him as he develops.
13) New York Jets: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
With many questions along the Jets' OL, they fill a big need at right tackle with Jones, who has tremendous power and length.
14) New England: Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State
We know how much coach Bill Belichick values the cornerback position. Whether or not they lose Jonathan Jones to free agency, they should be looking to upgrade the position, especially considering the AFC East is arguably the most WR-rich division in football. Porter brings exceptional length and ball skills to the mix.
15) Green Bay Packers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
I admit it, having the Packers go defense in the first round — specifically an EDGE guy that can do just about everything — is very low-hanging fruit, but I don’t see a world where they should pass this opportunity up. Preston Smith is in his 30s now, and really was just average last season. Van Ness brings length, power, and a high motor and has a game that closely resembles that of new teammate Rashan Gary.
16) Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Another perfect scenario where need corresponds with the best player available. The Commanders get lucky here by adding a premium talent at a super valuable position. Gonzalez brings incredible athleticism to the cornerback room.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
There is too much value to pass up here for the Steelers, as they invest into their 2nd-year quarterback. Jones has grown-man strength and fits the Steelers' identity to a “T.”
18) Detroit Lions: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
While I realize it's highly unlikely the Lions drop two first-round picks on the secondary, this is a “what I would do” mock, and with the way the board fell, it just feels too perfect to add my top CB and my top S prospect to arguably the league's worst secondary in 2022. Branch is a Swiss Army Knife who pairs with young safety Kerby Joseph perfectly. I also considered Bijan Robinson here.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Two of Tampa’s top 3 CBs are free agents, and it's unlikely they are able to keep both. Banks is a straight bully and gives them the type of physicality and press ability Todd Bowles covets in his corners.
20) Seattle Seahawks: John Michael Schmitz, IOL, Minnesota
This was probably the toughest pick for me in the round. While I don’t love the positional value here, I opted to move forward with improving Seattle’s weakest link on the offensive line, center. Schmitz's versatility on the interior was attractive, as well, as he allows them to keep their best five on the field in the event of injury. This should help reinforce their run game — the identity of their offense.
21) Miami Dolphins: Forfeited
22) LA Chargers: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
Need, fit, and talent all match up here. Hyatt gives the Chargers that much-needed speed element to the offense, in which he can help maximize Justin Herbert’s ridiculous arm talent. While I do have concerns about Hyatt's transition to the NFL against more physical defenders (he was rarely asked to beat press man in college, so that’s a projection), new OC Kellen Moore is adept at using bunches to get his players free releases, much like Hyatt benefitted from at Tennessee.
23) Baltimore Ravens: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
In this scenario, I am re-signing Lamar Jackson and doubling down by finally giving him the assets he needs to be his best. JSN’s consistency and ability to get open in the short and intermediate parts of the field pairs nicely with Rashod Bateman’s big-play ability. New OC Todd Monken will start to give Lamar more easy throws.
24) Minnesota Vikings: Bryan Bresee, IDL, Clemson
The Vikings bet on traits here with Bresee, who adds athleticism and a penetration-driven skill set to the interior of their defense. Ultimately, the Vikings would have liked a corner here, but the board didn’t really fall that way.
25) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Let's just keep investing into the franchise QB and give him as many good pass-catchers as humanly possible. I am still pulling the trigger on Kincaid even if the Jags re-sign Evan Engram. Coach Doug Pederson has used multi-TE sets effectively in the past with Philadelphia.
26) New York Giants: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Wide receiver is such a massive need I would probably double down on the position this year if I were running the Giants organization. Flowers gives them explosive playmaking ability and consistent separation.
27) Dallas Cowboys: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Cowboys are in a bit of a cap predicament, and in this scenario, opt to replace pending free agent Dalton Schultz with a cheaper, better option in Mayer. Ultimately they kill two birds with one stone as they desperately needed to add another receiving threat.
28) Buffalo Bills: O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida
The Bills need to start prioritizing some consistency on the offensive line. I realize Josh Allen can cover for a multitude of sins, but taking a little off of his plate would be good for the offense as a whole.
29) Cincinnati Bengals: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
As good as Bijan is, he was still very hard to slot in this mock, as positional value is so important to me. At this point, it just seemed like a no-brainer though. The Bengals get to save some money and move on from Joe Mixon and replace him with a generational talent — and that’s not hyperbole.
30) New Orleans Saints (VIA SF): Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
Musgrave gives the Saints a crazy amount of versatility, pairing his massive frame and athleticism with undersized move tight end Juwan Johnson. The mismatch potential with these two is extraordinary.
31) Philadelphia Eagles: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
This is another potential cost-saving move that allows the Eagles to comfortably move on from James Bradberry. Forbes also happens to be a perfect fit in a zone-heavy defense, where they can maximize his off-coverage read and react skills.
32) Kansas City Chiefs: Quintin Johnston, WR, TCU
The idea of getting Patrick Mahomes another downfield weapon is super attractive to me. Johnston’s ability to make plays, whether on schemed touches or downfield targets, adds an element back to this offense that was missing for most of 2022.