Brett Whitefield's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 3.0


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Brett Whitefield's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Welcome to the third 2023 NFL Mock Draft in my mock draft series (1.0, 2.0). While we initially promised three total mocks in the series, we are pleased to give you a bonus post-free-agency mock! Look for Mock Draft 4.0 to still come out the week of the NFL Draft, which takes place April 27 through 29, 2023.

With free agency mostly in the rearview mirror and my prospect film study also mostly done (with many more scouting reports to be written), now is a great time to take another look at how the first round could shake out.

Brett Whitefield’s 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Guide is FREE TO READ, complete with full evaluations, prospect rankings, prospect scores, dynasty fantasy rankings from our staff, and more.

My 2023 NFL Mock Draft Process

As the 2023 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.

As we get closer to the actual NFL Draft, I do weigh some information a little more heavily than past mocks. For example, I am not going to mock a player to a team that we know won’t consider him at all or doesn’t meet their typical positional benchmarks. While only a few picks are influenced in this way, it is worth noting.

With these factors in mind, I’ve written a mock draft that reflects my personal evaluation and vision for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Let's get started!

The 2023 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

1) Carolina Panthers (VIA CHI): CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State (Big Board: 5)

This is my first mock since the big trade, and we have a different QB going #1 overall for the third consecutive edition. Is Stroud my #1 guy? No. Do I think he might be a better fit for what the Frank Reich-led Panthers want to do? It's definitely possible. In Mock Draft 2.0, I had the Panthers moving up to #3 overall to take Stroud, so I am sticking with that thought process here. And indeed, I am deviating a little bit from the “what I would do” strategy here, as I do think this is the most likely outcome. However, if I were the GM trading up to #1, I would absolutely be swinging for the highest ceiling — that belongs to Anthony Richardson.

2) Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (Big Board: 4)

The same pick from 2.0, in which I wrote: “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.” It feels like we have known for a while that Young is the Texans’ guy, and it makes perfect sense for them.

3) Tennessee Titans: Anthony Richardson, QB, Tennessee Titans (Big Board: 2)


Cardinals get: 2023 1st-round pick (#6 via DET), 2023 2nd-round pick (#48 via DET), 2024 3rd-round pick (via TEN).

Lions get: IDL Jeffery Simmons, 2023 1st-round pick (#11 via TEN), 2023 3rd-round pick (#72 via TEN)

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

The Mike Vrabel-led Titans do some soul-searching and realize it's time to take a step back and reload a bit. They land on this three-team trade that facilitates ideal scenarios for all the clubs involved, and the Titans come way up to snag their QB of the future and do so without sacrificing any significant future draft capital. They give Simmons the AJ Brown treatment and grab as much value as possible before he hits free agency instead of backing up a Brinks truck.

4) Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (Big Board: 20)

The Colts stand pat, and grab my QB4 in the class. They were also the final QB-needy team in the AFC South — the Jags have Trevor Lawrence, and the other three clubs just made three straight QB picks in my mock. The funny thing is that Levis would be the oldest starter in the division. Levis does have a ton of upside, and it's hard not to fall in love with the “wow” plays, but his lack of consistency in both throwing and processing information put his status as a prospect in question. This pick is also convenient, given the slew of recent reports about the Colts being in on Levis as their guy.

5) Seattle Seahawks (VIA DEN): Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama (Big Board: 3)

Michael Scott comes to mind here: “it's happening” inside the Seahawks' war room as they watch the madness unfold in front of them with four QBs coming off the board, teeing them up perfectly to grab perhaps the best player in the Draft. With this pick, the Seahawks now have ferociously addressed their biggest weakness heading into the offseason, their defensive line.

6) Arizona Cardinals (VIA LAR VIA DET): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (Big Board: 1)


Cardinals get: 2023 1st-round pick (#6 via DET), 2023 2nd-round pick (#48 via DET), 2024 3rd-round pick (via TEN).

Lions get: IDL Jeffery Simmons, 2023 1st-round pick (#11 via TEN), 2023 3rd-round pick (#72 via TEN)

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

In this scenario, the Cardinals didn’t want to move all the way back to #11, nor did they want to take on the contract burden of Jeffery Simmons. Ergo (shout out Joe Dolan), the Lions come into play as the perfect third team to facilitate this trade. In the end, the Cardinals move back only three spots, get the other blue-chip defensive lineman in the class, and pick up some extra draft capital in the process.

DISCLAIMER: Carter has a disturbing ongoing legal situation that obviously could affect his status. Carter was arrested and charged with reckless driving and racing in a fatal January accident that killed a Georgia teammate and staffer.

7) Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon (Big Board: 10)

The Raiders have plenty of needs. While I would love to ask Josh McDaniels why he is hanging the fate of his last head coaching opportunity on the capped ceiling of Jimmy Garoppolo, what is done is done. The Raiders get a versatile corner in Gonzalez, with elite potential.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech (Big Board: 6)

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. Wilson brings rare power to the table and gets to learn from newly acquired vet Calais Campbell who built his career with a similar archetype.

9) Chicago Bears (VIA CAR): Paris Johnson Jr, OT, Ohio State (Big Board: 12)

If you have heard me on either of my podcasts, I have relentlessly pounded the table for getting Justin Fields right. With the addition of DJ Moore, the next biggest need is giving the man a clean pocket to work from. Johnson brings elite athleticism to the table, as well as position versatility (if needed). He’ll be a Day-1 starter for the Bears.

10) Philadelphia Eagles (VIA NO): Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson (Big Board: 15)

Eagles GM Howie Roseman prioritizes the big boys early in the draft. Here they land a monster pass rusher and edge setter who has tremendous developmental upside. I see a lot of people mocking Lukas Van Ness in this spot, but I think Murphy is a better prospect.

11) Detroit Lions: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (Big Board: 9)


Cardinals get: 2023 1st-round pick (#6 via DET), 2023 2nd-round pick (#48 via DET), 2024 3rd-round pick (via TEN).

Lions get: IDL Jeffery Simmons, 2023 1st-round pick (#11 via TEN), 2023 3rd-round pick (#72 via TEN)

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

The Lions filled their biggest remaining need with the addition of Jeffery Simmons, which opens the door for an extreme amount of flexibility in this Draft. While I think they should probably get in on the QB sweepstakes and ideally be the team to trade up to #3 for one, the ability to acquire a player of Simmons’ caliber was just too much to pass on in this scenario. As far as Witherspoon goes, if you have read either of my past two mocks, you know I believe this is a perfect team/player fit. The Lions did sign three high-profile defensive backs in free agency … but only one to a multi-year deal.

12) Houston Texans (VIA CLE): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU (Big Board: 13)

I love the idea of immediately giving Bryce Young a high-level playmaker. It’s a different mock, but the same pick as 2.0.

13) New York Jets: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern (Big Board: 11)

The Jets go ahead and shore up the offensive line with a pro-ready versatile piece who can play just about anywhere. He is a “blue-chip” (elite) prospect at guard or a “red-chip”(solid starter) prospect at tackle, who allows the Jets to get their best five offensive linemen on the field at once.

14) New England Patriots: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland (Big Board: 23)

The Patriots' needs are many, but perhaps none are bigger than cornerback, considering the AFC East is absolutely loaded with premium WR talent. Banks has the pedigree to be a Bill Belichick favorite whom I could see having accelerated development in New England. I personally like Joey Porter Jr. more as a prospect, but I think the staff in New England will gravitate toward Banks. If they don’t go CB here, I would consider Jaxon Smith-Njigba. However, it seems the Patriots probably like their pass-catcher situation more than they should.

15) Green Bay Packers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa (Big Board: 26)

We know the Packers love to go defense in the first round — just ask Aaron Rodgers. This is no different. I don’t like Van Ness as much as some, but I do think he is a good fit in Green Bay and checks most of the boxes the Packers look for in an EDGE defender.

16) Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State (Big Board: 18)

A major need meets draft board here, as Porter Jr. is my third-best player available. Porter brings pedigree, ball skills, and versatility to the table for Ron Rivera.

17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia (Big Board: 24)

Something about slightly undersized, juiced-up edge rushers drives the Pittsburgh Steelers crazy. Smith already feels like a Steeler to me at this point.

18) Detroit Lions: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (Big Board: 16)

When I set out to do this mock, I didn’t anticipate the Lions going wide receiver in the first round, but when you look at their depth chart, there is no doubt in my mind this should be the move if given the opportunity. JSN might not be a prototypical “X” receiver, but there is no reason he can’t play and function on the outside in the NFL. He and Amon-Ra St. Brown give the Lions a ton of versatility and route-running prowess in a group with 2022 1st-round pick Jameson Williams. This would be a disgusting receiver group.

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia (Big Board: 17)

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 get not only a replacement, but perhaps a chance for an upgrade. This seems like an ideal situation, especially with the likelihood of starting a young, inexperienced quarterback at some point in 2023. This is the same pick as in Mock Draft 2.0.

20) Seattle Seahawks: Jordan Addison, WR, USC (Big Board: 19)

Addison is a Tyler Lockett clone who can play inside or out. I love the idea of giving Geno Smith more weapons to help sustain this explosion of his.

21) Miami Dolphins: Forfeited
22) LA Chargers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas (Big Board: 8)

It's not the deep threat I have been promising through my first two mocks, but the Chargers get a top-10 player on my board with the 21st pick — not too shabby. With the news of Austin Ekeler wanting to be traded or getting a new contract, this just makes a ton of sense, and someone with Bijan’s talent is too much to pass up for a team that has such a strong roster top to bottom. In this scenario, I trade Ekeler for whatever I can get.

23) Baltimore Ravens: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina (Big Board: 36)

From a body type, athleticism, and play style standpoint, Smith resembles recent high draft picks at the position Patrick Surtain, Sauce Gardner, and Derek Stingley. Smith’s tape is a little inconsistent, but the high-end traits are there for him to be a dude. Wide receiver and potentially even quarterback (you might have heard about the Lamar Jackson situation) are other possibilities here.

24) Minnesota Vikings: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (Big Board: 22)

I am good for at least one low-hanging-fruit pick per mock, and with the litany of mocks coming out featuring this team/player fit, I couldn’t resist. Sometimes other people have good ideas too — not often, but sometimes (I jest, I jest). Hooker brings poise, leadership, accuracy, and athleticism to the table but could also bring a need for a sizable transition period coming out of that remedial Tennessee offense. The Vikings offer that with the high-priced Kirk Cousins still in the fold, and then Minnesota can look to get cheaper at the position in 2024.

25) Jacksonville Jaguars: Mazi Smith, IDL, Michigan (Big Board: 29)

We know Jaguars GM Trent Baalke is a guy who values physical traits to the extreme. With that said, I have to imagine he is licking his chops thinking about putting Mazi in his defensive front. Smith brings girth, length, and freaky athleticism to the table at 325+ pounds - guys his size that move like him are rare. The only thing holding Mazi back from being a top-15 pick is a general lack of production in 2022.

26) New York Giants: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State (Big Board: 38)

While I still think the Giants need to add pass-catchers, the addition of Darren Waller and some of the other minor moves they made at wide receiver open the door to attack another massive need here in the Draft. Forbes gives them some much-needed playmaking ability on the back end of their defense.

27) Dallas Cowboys: Calijah Kancey, IDL, Pittsburgh (Big Board: 7)

An already scary pass rush just got a heck of a lot scarier with the addition of Kancey. The current bodies on the Cowboys’ roster allow Kancey to focus on a specialized role as a quarterback hunter early in his career, while he potentially adds a little weight and strength to become more functional on run downs as he develops.

28) Buffalo Bills: O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida (Big Board: 35)

The Bills need to start prioritizing some consistency on the offensive line and I love the idea of filling both guard spots this off-season, after signing LG Connor McGovern away from the Cowboys. Torrence gives them some staying power at right guard and the pass-protection chops you look for for a team that passes as much as the Bills do.

29) Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah (Big Board: 14)

The rich get richer. While the Bengals just made a no-risk signing in TE Irv Smith, they can do better and keep adding. Kincaid joins Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd to supplement the scariest pass-catching unit in the NFL. Kincaid can win at all levels of the field and gives quarterback Joe Burrow another mismatch weapon. I also considered a different tight end in Darnell Washington, who I think would be great for the Bengals as well.

30) New Orleans Saints (VIA SF): Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (Big Board: 25)

Flowers might be small, but he can line up just about anywhere in an offense. His versatility and insane RAC skills make him a unique and tremendous fit in this offense. Pairing his three-level ability with Chris Olave is something to be excited about. If Michael Thomas is 80% of the player he was pre-injuries, we have a dynamic receiver trio that can do just about anything.

31) Philadelphia Eagles: Bryan Bresee, IDL, Clemson (Big Board: 33)

Roseman goes back to the Clemson well and gets a prototype 3-tech to pair with last year's first-round pick Jordan Davis, who is best served shading the center. Bresee’s best tape is extraordinary and definitely worth betting on at this stage of Round 1. Consider the Eagles' defensive line restocked.

32) Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame (Big Board: 30)

The Chiefs don’t have a ton of holes and have the luxury of preparing for life after Travis Kelce. While that could technically still be a few years, Mayer can also contribute immediately within the Chiefs' new affection for 12 personnel. While Mayer is a different player than Kelce, he offers similar middle-of-the-field value. I also considered Jalin Hyatt here, as well as Will McDonald IV.

Notable players left out

  • OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

  • OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

  • OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

  • EDGE Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

  • EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

  • WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

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.