1: New York Giants (Trade up with Houston Texans) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 9 months, 3 days – born 7/25/01
NFL teams have mutated the science of drafting a QB into nothing short of rocket science, molecular chemistry, or structural engineering. If it was not immediately clear, each of those fields are rife with human error resulting in catastrophe. This is not one of those deals. Some may disagree with tossing the generational label around. And I tend to agree since generational should distinguish individuals that only come along once every 15-20 years. Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, and Andrew Luck immediately come to mind.
Bryce Young may not have the prototypical size of a generational QB, but he already led Alabama to the CFP championship game and collected the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman. And the skills he showcased while collecting those honors were as close to generational as it gets. We know the Giants’ new HC Brian Daboll is not a supporter of Daniel Jones after the team declined the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. Davis Mills may have only managed 12 games of play during his entire Stanford career, but his results from the 11 games he started for the Texans last season were at such a promising level that Houston uses the top overall selection to stockpile draft capital with their sights set on returning the franchise to respectability.
2: Detroit Lions – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 6 months, 25 days – born 10/3/01
Could it be true? Two generational-level QBs from the same class? Depending on who you ask, we may even add another to that number. The number of difference-making QBs from the 2023 class could obliterate the legendary 1983 class that resulted in six QBs selected in the first round and delivering three of the best to ever play the position (John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly). Those three represent 43% of the seven Hall of Famers from the entire ‘83 class. Everything will (obviously) depend on how the ‘22 college season plays out, and on the number of underclassmen that actually declare. As it stands, the six QBs projected to land in the first round in this mock would tie the ‘83 class for the most in draft history.
A great deal of the reasoning surrounding C.J. Stroud’s meteoric rise from being scouted as the 42nd-best talent from the 2020 recruiting class to the second overall selection can be explained through his rankings among the current crop of QBs holding serious NFL potential, with at least one season of college play. Stroud ranks first in average FPs/dropback vs. Cover 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and inside the red zone, first in overall FPs/dropback, first in passing FPG, second in NFL passer rating, second in TDs/INT, first in passing YPG, first in air YPG and second in TD rate. Mash together his incredible, beyond his years understanding of protection manipulation, arm strength and ball placement, and we have a recipe for a truly talented individual that could ultimately compete with Young for the top-overall spot.
3: New York Jets (Trade up with Seattle Seahawks) – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama Crimson Tide
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 7 months, 26 days – born 9/2/01
4: Jacksonville Jaguars – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 2 months, 14 days – born 2/14/02
The closest Trevor Lawrence got to playing with a WR having the potential to eventually develop into a WR1-type during his rookie season was during his first three games with DJ Chark Jr. But it would be much closer to reality to label Chark as a WR2. The 2023 draft will present the Jaguars with the opportunity to draft a wideout that I truly feel is a generational talent. Like Young and Stroud, you can read a much more comprehensive breakdown on what Jaxon Smith-Njigba brings to the table inside his Devy profile in the 2022 Draft Prospect Guide.
If not for the desperation-level dearth of QB talent across the NFL, JSN would be in serious play for being selected with the top overall pick. Only five WRs have been selected first overall in the history of the game, only two since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 – Irving Fryar (1984) and Keyshawn Johnson (1996).
Rather than tossing a bunch of numbers on the page, let’s keep it simple in anointing Smith-Njigba’s game as being entirely coverage independent – and no other wideout in the nation comes remotely close. Jaxon doesn’t offer the straight-line 40-speed in the 4.2-4.3 range, but he doesn’t need that level of speed to punish opponents. Two years prior to his head-turning ‘21 breakout, JSN posted confirmed measurements of a 4.59-second 40-time, 3.91-second short shuttle and a 37” vertical jump at The Opening Finals in 2019. That 3.91-second time is not a typo. It easily outpaces every WR testing result from the ‘22 Combine and Pro Day’s across the country. It’s the type of change-of-direction (COD) at 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds that comes along once in a generation.
We can expect to see Smith-Njigba run in the 4.4s at the Combine, and we haven’t even brought his Jerry Rice-/Larry Fitzgerald-level hands into the equation. If you know anything about me, you know I never toss around comparisons to the greatest talents to ever take to an NFL field unless the situation is warranted beyond all doubt. The situation is warranted with JSN.
5: Seattle Seahawks (Trade back with New York Jets) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami Hurricanes
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 1 month, 27 days – born 3/1/01
If you’re asking yourself “Tyler Van Who?” it’s high time for you to enlighten yourself. Following D’Eriq King’s shoulder injury in Week 3, Tyler Van Dyke stepped into the role to field a level of play the Hurricanes haven’t been a witness to in at least 35 years. As we get closer to the actual 2023 draft, the reputation surrounding Van Dyke could elevate him to being selected as high as the third overall pick.
After he took over the Miami offense, a team previously averaging 18.3 PPG under King exploded to average 39.3 PPG and with victories over Kenny Pickett’s Pittsburgh and Devin Leary’s NC State. Another redshirt freshman, among the current crop of QBs holding serious NFL potential and with at least one season of college play under their belts, Van Dyke posted the fourth-most FPG, third-most passing YPG and the fifth-highest TD rate. His career with The U will almost certainly conclude after two seasons. However, he should still do enough in two year’s time to be remembered among Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, and Bernie Kosar as one of the finest to play the position in program history.
6: Atlanta Falcons – Jalen Carter, DI, Georgia Bulldogs
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 3 months, 16 days – born 1/12/01
7: Carolina Panthers – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky Wildcats
Age at 2023 draft: 23 years, 10 months, 1 day – born 06/27/99
Does Will Levis have a bright future? No question. Should he join Young, Stroud and Van Dyke in declaring early? At this outrageously early stage in the evaluation process, that answer is no. Considerable struggles against Cover 1 and Cover 3 stick out like a sore thumb in his profile. Recent history informs us that NFL teams have a case of amnesia on QBs having a big year after previously showcasing little in the way of NFL potential earlier in their careers (i.e., Zach Wilson and Kenny Pickett).
Should Levis showcase further development this season, it’s almost guaranteed he’ll forgo the additional “Super” year afforded to him by the COVID-shortened ‘20 season to declare for the draft. With the current narrative being tossed about that he’s already ready for primetime, Levis may declare regardless of his ‘22 results. At the end of the day, it would not be surprising in the slightest to see the Panthers reach on Levis with their top-10 selection after failing to make any appreciable improvements facing the two coverages that he’ll see on around 60% of his future NFL snaps.
8: Chicago Bears – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU Tigers
Age at 2023 draft: 20 years,11 months, 21 days – born 5/11/02
The Bears did not have the luxury of a first round pick in the ‘22 draft after trading it to secure Justin Fields in the previous draft. It’s already been established how desperate NFL teams are to land their cornerstone QBs. Big props to the previous regime in Chicago for assisting the Matt Eberflus era in that regard. Some may be Doubting Thomases, but Fields is a special talent. Adding Velus Jones Jr.’s blazing inside speed with the 71st pick in the ‘22 draft speaks to the football IQs of those currently running the show.
Adding Kayshon Boutte’s sub-4.4 speed with their 2023 first would catapult this offense into rare territory. Only a handful of NFL franchises in history can stake the claim to fielding three starting WRs with sub-4.4 speed – Boutte, Jones and Darnell Mooney. With Fields’ cannon for an arm, it’s an offense that could develop into a juggernaut far sooner than some might expect.
9: Houston Texans (Trade back with New York Giants) – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia Bulldogs
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 3 months, 10 days, – born 1/18/01
10: Washington Commanders – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia Bulldogs
Age at 2023 draft: 20 years, 10 months, 1 day, – born 6/27/02
11: Pittsburgh Steelers – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State Buckeyes
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 9 months, ?? days, – born 7/??/01
12: Philadelphia Eagles – Jordan Addison, WR, Transfer Portal
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 3 months, 1 day, – born 1/27/02
We don’t even know where Jordan Addison will end up playing this season. He’s currently in the process of evaluating his NIL offers to determine the next destination on his path to the NFL. But we do know the ‘21 Biletnikoff Trophy winner is one of the most talented wideouts in all of college football. We also know his future will unquestionably find him working out of the slot. However, that’s far from a knock on a receiver of Addison’s calibur. His ability to work after the catch is nothing short of special.
Addison is not as clean of a prospect as Smith-Njigba or Boutte, as he has a bit of work to do to clean up both his coverage success profile and curbing his immense dropped pass numbers. That said, there is no question that an NFL team will be happy to add his playmaking in the opening round. Inserting Addison alongside A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith would strike fear into the hearts of every DC set to face the Eagles.
13: Las Vegas Raiders – Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah Utes
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 4 months, 16 days, – born 12/12/01
14: Minnesota Vikings – Devin Leary, QB, NC State Wolfpack
Age at 2023 draft: 23 years, 7 months, 18 days, – born 9/10/99
Another QB following Stroud and Van Dyke’s whirlwind ascendancy toward becoming a potential first round selection, Devin Leary is building a considerable following in favor of his talents. The metrics tell us the attention is not misplaced. Using the same criteria described for Stroud, Leary ranks 13th-best in average FPs/dropback vs. Cover 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 among the 49 most promising QBs in college with at least one season of play, 19th in overall FPs/dropback, 16th in passing FPG, 12th in TDs/INT, 18th in passing YPG, 16th in air YPG and 14th in TD rate.
Leary’s ranks are obviously not quite at a level that would label him as being an elite QB prospect, but that’s built into landing at the 15th pick. For all we know, the Vikings could be steadfast in developing Kellen Mond as the heir apparent to Kirk Cousins (Mike Zimmer was obviously not part of that camp). Like the final entry of the six projected first round QBs, I’m not buying into a narrative where Minnesota waits patiently for a third round QB project to develop into starting material.
15: New England Patriots – BJ Ojulari, Weak-Side DE, LSU Tigers
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 0 months, 23 days, – born 4/5/01
16: Tennessee Titans – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern Wildcats
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 8 months, 28 days, – born 7/31/01
17: Indianapolis Colts – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson Tigers
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 3 months, 25 days, – born 1/3/02
18: Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Harrell, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
Age at 2023 draft: 23 years, 8 months, 27 days, – born 8/1/99
Let’s keep this one very simple. Following their victory over Ohio State in the CFB championship to conclude the ‘20 season, Nick Saban set out to insert speed into his offense. He successfully lured Jameson Williams to Tuscaloosa. We all know how that worked out. Once again, Saban took to the transfer portal with Williams and John Metchie III declaring for the ‘22 draft. He succeeded in adding another serious WR talent from the roster that opposed him in the title game. However, he recently signed another from the portal in Tyler Harrell that is sliding significantly under the radar.
As a 6-foot and 165-pound junior at Christopher Columbus High, Harrell posted a 4.52-second 40-time, 4.28-second pro shuttle and 34 ¾” vertical jump at The Nike Opening in 2018. Three years and 30 pounds later, Harrell recorded a verified 4.24-second 40-time during Louisville’s ‘21 Pro Day. Yeah, don’t sleep on this kid. Whether they’ll publicly admit it or not, the Ravens desperately need a burner to replace Marquise Brown.
Current Louisville QB Malik Cunningham had the following to say about Harrell’s speed:
"We always talk about Tutu [Atwell] speed. Well, this is world-class speed. It's crazy. I really can't wait for you all to see it. He's like a blur. It's like you blink and he is gone, it's scary. Just wait, you will see it."
19: Dallas Cowboys – Bryan Bresee, DI, Clemson Tigers
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 6 months, 22 days, – born 10/6/01
20: Miami Dolphins – Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 10 months, 0 days, – born 6/28/01
Meet Nick Saban’s other talented WR addition to his 2023 roster: Jermaine Burton. It just wasn’t meant to be in Athens for Burton due to the Bulldogs’ heavy reliance on the run. On an efficiency basis, Burton did everything he was asked during his two seasons with Georgia. Burton took home “The Fastest Man” honors after recording a 4.43-second 40-time at The Opening Regionals in 2018, and went on to post a 3.95-second short shuttle and 39” vertical jump at The Opening Finals. Those recorded measurements are symply atypical for a 6-foot-1, 187-pound 17-year-old. The addition of Burton would provide a fourth outstanding athlete alongside Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki in Miami.
21: Philadelphia Eagles – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas Longhorns
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 2 months, 29 days, – born 1/30/02
Everything you need to know about the legend of Bijan Robinson can be found inside his Devy profile in the 2022 Draft Prospect Guide. Beyond that, the Eagles will have the luxury of scrapping their rotational backfield approach with the insertion of a back with clear bell-cow potential. Dropping Miles Sanders down to a change-of-pace role should also aid in maintaining his health, should the Eagles re-sign him.
22: Houston Texans (Pre-draft trade with Cleveland Browns) – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State Nittany Lions
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 9 months, 2 days, – born 7/26/00
23: Los Angeles Chargers – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia Bulldogs
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 0 months, 12 days, – born 4/16/01
24: Arizona Cardinals – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina Gamecocks
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 4 months, 7 days, – born 12/21/00
25: Seattle Seahawks (Pre-draft trade with Denver Broncos) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 9 months, 22 days, – born 7/6/01
Again, if you desire to take a deep-dive into the background on Michael Mayer, the ultimate resource is within his Devy profile in the 2022 Draft Prospect Guide. After the Herculean breakout from UGA true freshman Brock Bowers, Mayer is no longer considered the top TE prospect in the country. Just keep in mind that Bowers is, without question, a generational inline talent.
With his combined 122 receptions, 1,443 yards and 16 TDs between the 2016-17 seasons, Jimmy Graham easily stands as the most successful TE during Seattle’s 45-year history. Prepare for that narrative eventually being rewritten with the combo addition of Van Dyke and Mayer.
26: Miami Dolphins (Pre-draft trade with San Francisco 49ers) – Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 1 month, 8 days, – born 3/20/02
Did I fail to mention that Nick Saban also pulled the most talented receiving back in college football out of the transfer portal? And do not try to label Jahmyr Gibbs as a satellite back. Once the Dolphins’ front office realizes they’ve done Mike McDaniel’s backfield zero favors with the committee additions of Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Sony Michel, gifting the brass with the difference-making skills of Gibbs will right that wrong. Forgive the broken record bulletin, but the ultimate resource for Gibbs’ background material can be found within the Devy profile found within the 2022 Draft Prospect Guide.
27: Green Bay Packers – Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina Tar Heels
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 8 months, 16 days, – born 8/12/01
North Carolina not only lost Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome to the ‘21 draft, they also dealt with an extensive list of their wideouts transferring out of Chapel Hill. The only WR remaining on the roster that caught more than five balls during the ‘20 season was Josh Downs. Until Antoine Green emerged to shoulder some of the load in Week 9, Sam Howell was forced to divert 60% of his targeted throws to WRs in Downs’ direction. Those facts damaged Howell’s reputation as an NFL prospect but, for his part, Downs did not disappoint when provided with that ludicrous volume.
Downs recorded a 4.47-second 40-time, 4.12-second short shuttle and a 41 ⅞” vertical jump as a 17-year-old at The Opening Regionals in 2019. Aaron Rodgers can continue to pull strings to keep Randall Cobb on Green Bay’s roster for as long as he likes, but the Packers need game-breaking talent at receiver if GB is ever going to capture another Super Bowl victory. Christian Watson was an excellent first step, but bolstering the rotation with Downs that’s set to feature Allen Lazard, Cobb and, potentially, Amari Rodgers could be the final piece in the puzzle.
28: Kansas City Chiefs – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU Horned Frogs
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 7 months, 22 days, – born 9/6/01
Like the situation in Green Bay after losing Davante Adams, any hope for the addition of a single wideout as a one-for-one replacement for Tyreek Hill holds no less than hundred-to-one odds – see Mecole Hardman. Boosted by the talents of Patrick Mahomes II, there’s little doubt that Skyy Moore should become a fine pro. At 6-foot-4 and 212-pounds, a selection of Quentin Johnston would provide Mahomes with supreme length and tape that reads as a low 4.4s athlete. The Kansas City offense with Johnston in tow would prevent opponents from fielding consistent dime packages loaded with smaller defensive backs.
29: Cincinnati Bengals – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon Ducks
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 0 months, 2 days, – born 4/26/01
30: Detroit Lions (Pre-draft trade with Los Angeles Rams) – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State Buckeyes
Age at 2023 draft: 21 years, 8 months, 14 days, – born 8/14/01
31: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 4 months, 15 days, – born 12/13/00
Every bit of material necessary to justify Grayson McCall being selected at the end of the first round can be found within his Devy profile in the 2022 Draft Prospect Guide. The moment McCall took over the Coastal Carolina offense as a ‘20 redshirt freshman he transformed the Chanticleers from a cupcake afterthought addition from the FCS, into a Group of Five powerhouse only surpassed in success by Desmond Ridders’ Cincinnati Bearcats.
Like Ridder, it’s unlikely that McCall’s ability to use his legs will translate to the NFL without detriments to his health. And it’s very possible that McCall stays in school for another year. However, McCall is already superior to Ridder in both arm talent and pre-snap recognition of the defensive coverage.
32: Buffalo Bills – Jaquelin Roy, DI, LSU Tigers
Age at 2023 draft: 22 years, 6 months, 6 days, – born 10/22/00