Brett Whitefield's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0


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Brett Whitefield's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

Welcome to the second of three 2023 NFL mock drafts in this series (here’s my pre-Combine mock). Now that we are through the Combine and franchise tag period, now is a great time to take another look at how I would address the Draft for each team.

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. Let's get started!

1) Indianapolis Colts (via CHI): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida


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).

Yeah, I am doing it. I have been here on Richardson for the better part of a month but am firmly planting my flag now. Is Richardson a perfect prospect? No. Do his deficiencies present clear risks? Yes. I am not delusional in my thoughts on Richardson, but I do know this: I love taking a swing on the biggest upside in the Draft. If Richardson reaches his potential, this is not only a franchise-altering move, it's a league-altering move. We have seen Shane Steichen get it right before with Jalen Hurts, of whom Richardson is light years ahead at this point in the process. Let’s do it again.

2) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

From a developed skill-set standpoint, the Texans get the best quarterback in the Draft — not too shabby for them. Young steps right into running the QB-proof Kyle Shanahan offense under new OC — and former colleague of mine — Bobby Slowik. Young should be able to ramp up this system tenfold.

3) Carolina Panthers: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State


Cardinals get: 2023 1st-round pick (#9), 2023 2nd-round pick (#40), 2024 1st-round pick, 2024 3rd-round pick.

Panthers get: 2023 1st-round pick (via Arizona, #3)

The Cardinals, being in full rebuild mode, sacrifice blue-chip talent for the extra draft capital. Meanwhile, the Panthers get the best pure passer of the draft in Stroud. Stroud can make every throw and effectively attack all three levels of the field. He has some untapped potential as a runner as well. Unlike Frank Reich's last stint as a head coach, he gets his long-term option at quarterback straight out of the gate.

4) Las Vegas (via IND via CHI): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky


Bears get: 2023 1st-round pick (#7), 2023 3rd-round pick (#71), 2024 1st-round pick

Raiders get: 2023 1st-round pick (via Chicago, #4)

Vegas opts to avoid getting potentially sniped by Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta and comes up to get the last top-tier QB prospect available in Levis. Yes, I realize four straight quarterbacks to start the draft is not likely to happen, but remember, this is what I would do. (And it’s my mock, so I’m going to!)

5) Seattle Seahawks (VIA DEN): Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama

Imagine the excitement in the Hawks’ war room, watching all the madness unfold for them to land the blue chip prospect at #5. They could still be in the QB market, but re-signing Geno Smith gives them a lot of flexibility and no reason to be desperate.

6) Detroit Lions (via LAR): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

No change from the first mock here. 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) Chicago Bears: Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia

For the second straight mock, the Bears pulled off the double trade-back and have picked up additional 2nd and 3rd round picks this year, plus two additional 1sts in 2024, an additional 2nd in 2024, and an additional 3rd in 2024. Unfortunately for Justin Fields, help on offense will have to wait as the other blue chip guy in this class falls into their lap, and they get someone on to build their defense around. DISCLAIMER: Carter has a disturbing ongoing legal situation. Carter was arrested and charged with reckless driving and racing in a fatal January accident that killed a Georgia teammate and staffer.

8) Atlanta Falcons): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

The Falcons opt to sit out of the QB bidding war early to start the Draft and stand pat. Here they land a defensive building block in Wilson, who can play both on the edge or inside in the Falcons early down odd front.

9) Arizona Cardinals (via CAR): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon


Cardinals get: 2023 1st-round pick (#9), 2023 2nd-round pick (#40), 2024 1st-round pick, 2024 3rd-round pick.

Panthers get: 2023 1st-round pick (via Arizona, #3)

The Cardinals are in a very odd spot and have holes to fill everywhere. The simplest way of addressing that is to take the best player available at the most premium position and — voila! — they land arguably the best cornerback in the draft, one who will fit their new defensive scheme brilliantly.

10) Philadelphia Eagles (VIA NO): Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

With a ton of expiring contracts and an interesting cap situation, the Eagles might not be able to bring back many of their older vets, and have holes to fill at all three levels on defense. We know how much Howie Roseman values depth on the defensive line as well. Van Ness brings power, length, and athleticism off the edge, traits Roseman values highly. Christian Gonzalez — if he were to fall — and Brian Branch are also options here.

11) Tennessee Titans: Paris Johnson Jr, OT, Ohio State

The Titans get their new left tackle as they strike first on the OL front. Johnson Jr. is not my top OT on the board, but is a better fit for what the Titans do on offense than Peter Skoronski.

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

This is the same concept as the first mock, as the Texans get a new shiny weapon to pair with their new QB. Johnston’s playmaking ability meshes perfectly with Bryce Young’s playstyle, and I love the idea of protecting the QB investment.

13) New York Jets: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

The Jets add another fantastic player to their secondary, one who can either cover slot duties for them or play one of the safety spots.

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

If the Patriots don’t want the Mac Jones experience to crash and burn, they need to get the man some legit weapons. I made this pick with the assumption they bring back Jakobi Meyers. If they do not, I might go with Jaxon Smith-Njigba here as more of a slot replacement.

15) Green Bay Packers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

The Packers grab a near-elite WR prospect to complete their receiving corps. JSN’s game pairs incredibly well with big-play machine Christian Watson. With it looking more and more likely Jordan Love will be the quarterback next year, I love the idea of setting him up with a well-rounded and deep receiving group. I also considered OT Peter Skoronski here.

16) Washington Commanders: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Washington lands the best OT in the draft at the halfway point in the first round — insane value. Skoronski gives them flexibility on the OL, allowing them to ensure they get to put their five best blockers on the field.

17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State

Yes, this is incredibly low-hanging fruit, but it also happens to make a ton of sense. The Steelers desperately need a cornerback, and Porter is likely the best player on my board remaining.

18) Detroit Lions: Calijah Kancey, IDL, Pittsburgh

Other than cornerback, the biggest glaring need on the Lions is interior pass-rush. Kancey gives them freakish quickness at the point of attack and rounds out their defensive line nicely. For those doubting the willingness of the Lions to roll with an undersized 3-tech, remember they drafted Josh Paschal last year and used him in a similar role in 2022. They are almost identical in size. The Lions are cooking with gasoline here. (Kancey did not appear in mock draft 1.0 — he is a major riser from the Combine.)

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Out goes Donovan Smith, in comes Mr. Jones. While Smith was a solid player for the Bucs for the better part of a decade, in Jones they not only get a replacement, but perhaps a chance for an upgrade. That seems like an ideal situation, especially with the possibility of starting a young, inexperienced quarterback in 2023.

20) Seattle Seahawks: Bryan Bresee, IDL, Clemson

This was such a fun pick to make. Adding Will Anderson and Bresee to this DL is quite the insane transformation for Seattle. Bresee is exactly the type of player I could see the Seahawks swinging for the fences with, to boot. Bresee has insane talent in his body and just hasn't been able to put it all together yet.

21) Miami Dolphins: Forfeited
22) LA Chargers: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

Same player, same theme here in mock 2.0 — let's get a field stretcher for Justin Herbert. This helps Keenan Allen and Mike Williams as well, which are secondary wins. This whole draft should be about maximizing their best player in Herbert, and I am even thinking about doubling down with a Day-2 tight end in Sam LaPorta or Tucker Kraft.

23) Baltimore Ravens: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

With it looking more and more like the Lamar Jackson era could be coming to an end in Baltimore, I am pivoting and just taking the best player available at a premium position. Smith gives them the explosiveness and versatility the Ravens covet on the EDGE. This seems like a typical Ravens pick. (Smith did not appear in mock draft 1.0.)

24) Minnesota Vikings: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

In this edition of the mock, the Vikings go to the same school to find their player, but this time it is Murphy instead of Bryan Bresee. With Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter slated to play most of the 2023 season at 31 and 29 years old, respectively, the Vikings look to the future getting younger and cheaper on the EDGE. Murphy brings crazy athleticism and pass-rushing skills to the table.

25) Jacksonville Jaguars: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

This is the same thought process as mock 1.0, but a different player. We get more weapons for Trevor Lawrence as we keep investing in the franchise QB and give him as many pass-catching options as humanly possible. Washington offers a very different skill set than Evan Engram, and coach Doug Pederson has used multi-TE sets effectively in the past with Philadelphia.

26) New York Giants: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

The Giants fired up a massive contract extension for Daniel Jones, and to get the most out of that deal, they need to get him weapons right now. Ideally, they will sign a good free agent wide receiver — such as DJ Chark, who can handle the “X” duties — and also draft one. Flowers' skill set compares favorably to that of Stefon Diggs, with whom head coach Brian Daboll obviously had a ton of success.

27) Dallas Cowboys: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Same thought process as mock 1.0. The Cowboys have a need for more pass-catchers, are in cap trouble, and have an expiring contract in Dalton Schultz. Here we swap one Dalton for another to both upgrade the position and get cheaper. Dallas would be a slam-dunk landing spot for Kincaid.

28) Buffalo Bills: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

The Bills need to start prioritizing some consistency on the offensive line. Harrison gives the Bills options there, as he can play inside early in his career before securing a spot at OT at a later date. (Harrison did not appear in mock 1.0.)

29) Cincinnati Bengals: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Same player, different mock. I still love this fit for the Bengals. Do they have bigger needs? Yes. But this is crazy value, as Bijan is a top-15 player on my board. It allows them to get cheaper at the position as well, which is always a win/win, with Joe Mixon’s future a major question.

30) New Orleans Saints (VIA SF): Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

This is probably the biggest shocker of Round 1. Do I have a first-round grade on Rice? No. The harsh reality in most drafts, though, is that I will have between only 20-22 first-round grades, so by default there will be anywhere between 10 to 12 players who go in round 1 whom I don’t have graded that highly. Nonetheless, Rice is one of my favorite WRs in this class. I think he is vastly underrated and fills a giant need for the Saints. Pairing his three-level ability with Chris Olave is something to be excited about for new QB Derek Carr. (Rice did not appear in mock 1.0.)

31) Detroit Lions (via PHI): Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee


Eagles get: 2023 2nd-round pick (#48), 2023 2nd-round pick (#55)

Lions get: 2023 1st-round pick (via Philadelphia, #31)

The Lions sacrifice a little value here to come up and get a QB and secure the coveted 5th-year option. This makes perfect sense, given their current situation with Jared Goff and Hooker’s likely need for a lengthy transitional period, given the offense he ran in college and the fact that he’s coming off a major injury. I have no doubt in my mind that if Hooker doesn’t get hurt in 2022, he is very much in the conversation as a top-15 player. He has incredible arm talent and gives the Lions some long-term cost-controlled upside at the position. (Hooker did not appear in mock 1.0.)

32) Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Kansas City starts to prepare for life after Travis Kelce. While Mayer is a different player than Kelce, he offers similar middle-of-the-field value and can contribute early in his career with the Chiefs’ new affection for 12 personnel.

Notable players left out

CB Deonte Banks

OT Dawand Jones

TE Luke Musgrave

IOL O’Cyrus Torrence

Brett Whitefield is an experienced professional in football analytics, with more than a decade in the business. He has held several key positions with some of the top companies in the industry, including as a process manager at Pro Football Focus (PFF), where he spent more than seven years. Brett has also worked with and consulted for multiple NFL teams and Power-5 NCAA football programs.