Sep 10, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws a pass against the Texas Longhorns during the first half at at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
2023 NFL Mock Draft: First round, version 1.0
Gallery Sports reporter Patrick Creighton’s first 2023 NFL mock features a big trade.
It’s that time of year, it’s Lying Season, err, Draft Season! With the early part of the draft already set (the draft order after No. 24 can still change), here is a look at potential candidates for each team in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Indianapolis Colts (via mock trade with Chicago Bears): C.J. Stroud (QB, Ohio State): Historical precedent would imply that this move would cost the Colts the No. 4 pick, plus a second-round pick this season, and two future firsts. There is expected to be some competition for this deal, but Colts general manager Chris Ballard is on record saying that he will do whatever it takes. Stroud has the size the Colts like, is accurate, has touch when needed, and is incredibly athletic. He just played his best game of his college career against the best team in college football on the biggest stage in the CFP Semifinals. Indy will pay through the nose but get their franchise quarterback.
- Houston Texans: Bryce Young (QB, Alabama): Despite doing everything they could to sabotage themselves, Houston still comes away with their future franchise quarterback. Despite his size, Young is a phenomenal talent who is the best in college football when off-script. He is accurate in the pocket and athletic enough to escape trouble while keeping his focus down the field. Sometimes, you get what you want despite yourself.
- Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr. (OLB, Alabama): The Cardinals have multiple needs but edge rusher is likely at the top of the list, especially with J.J. Watt retiring. Anderson is the highest-graded edge rusher in the draft and could help make an immediate impact on the Cardinals’ defense.
- Chicago Bears (via mock trade with Indianapolis Colts): Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia): Chicago has needs all along its defensive and offensive lines, so going with the highest-graded defensive tackle here makes sense for the Bears. Teams ran all over Chicago in 2022, so getting a defensive tackle who can stuff the run and push the pocket will be a huge add for them.
- Seattle Seahawks (via completed trade with Denver Broncos): Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech): Another team in desperate need of help on the defensive line grabs the second-highest-rated edge rusher in the draft in the Red Raiders’ Wilson. At 6-6, 275, he’s strong enough to set the edge and fast enough to get to the quarterback.
- Detroit Lions (via completed trade with Los Angeles Rams): Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas): Reportedly the only player in the draft to grade out as elite, the fourth-ranked Lions’ offense gets the monster impact back they’ve been searching for since Barry Sanders retired. With the team committing to Jared Goff at quarterback and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson returning, the Lions’ offense, with the addition of Robinson, could be the greatest scoring unit in franchise history. They will deal with the defense later in the draft.
- Las Vegas Raiders: Will Levis (QB, Kentucky): Is this technically a reach? Yes, but it’s the Raiders, and this is what they do. With Derek Carr about to be out of town, this is where the Silver and Black grab a quarterback with a bazooka for an arm and slick mobility but in need of some grooming. Head coach Josh McDaniels will get a guy with all the tools he loves, now it’s time for him to develop a star.
- Atlanta Falcons: Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson): The Falcons grab an absolute freak of an athlete to help with their anemic pass rush that generated the second-fewest sacks in the NFL.
- Carolina Panthers: Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU): So many people have the Panthers drafting a quarterback, but after the top three are gone, there’s a significant falloff. Anthony Richardson is an elite athlete but not a good pocket passer right now, and the team did get Matt Corral in the third round last season because of injury. Corral would have likely been a first-round selection otherwise. With a returning Corral, the Panthers get their young quarterback a future stud at wide receiver in Johnston.
- Philadelphia Eagles (via completed trade with New Orleans Saints): Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon): What do you get the team with the most ferocious pass rush in the NFL? The top-rated corner in the draft to help give the pass rush even more time to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
- Tennessee Titans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State): The Titans’ offense was horrifically affected by the loss of A.J. Brown. They start to remedy that with a player who is pure speed. Smith-Njigba had a Rose Bowl for the ages after the 2021 season. Injury kept him off the field for almost the entire 2022 season, but part of that was choosing to prepare for the draft. Now healthy, he should return to looking like the player who entered 2022 as the highest-rated wide receiver in college football.
- Houston Texans (via completed trade with Cleveland Browns): Peter Skoronski (OT, Northwestern): Things work out just right for the Texans here, as the best offensive lineman in the draft falls to them at No. 12. Skoronski allowed only one pressure the entire season in the Big Ten, but may not have the arm length to be a tackle in the NFL. With both Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard entering their final years on their contracts, Skoronski could play guard his rookie season and then kick back to tackle should the Texans trade a tackle/let one go after the season. Skoronski can absolutely pave the road in the run game at 6-4, 315, and is nimble enough with great technique to pass block on the outside.
- New York Jets: Paris Johnson (OT, Ohio State): The Jets already have a terrific defense, but they need linemen and playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. They will get the best available tackle on the board here, even if he may be a few picks early. He has NFL size, length, and athleticism, and as he gains more strength should be a force. He is already good enough to plug and play at left tackle.
- New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr. (CB, Penn State): While the Patriots do need playmakers on offense, they also need help in the secondary, and they get a player here who could be a serious impact player quickly. Porter is a 6-2 cover corner with an NFL pedigree. Belichick will be ecstatic to get him.
- Green Bay Packers: Isaiah Foskey (DE, Notre Dame): The Packers boost their pass rush by adding the dynamic Foskey, who recorded 11 sacks this season and was a highly disruptive force against USC.
- Washington Commanders: Max Melton (CB, Rutgers): Hidden away on a bad team, scouts love Melton’s speed and tenacity. He is a tremendous athlete, and it has been reported that some teams see him as the best corner in the draft. The Commanders have a lot of significant needs, and Melton fills one of their biggest.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Brian Branch (CB/S, Alabama): Branch has drawn comparisons to current Steelers star Minkah Fitzpatrick as a player who can play a hybrid role. He was at his best in the Sugar Bowl against Kansas State with 12 tackles, including three for loss, and an interception. Branch finished the season with 90 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 sacks.
- Detroit Lions: Tuli Tuipulotu (DT, USC): The Lions were the 30th in pass defense and 29th in run defense in 2022, and they address both of those with this pick. Tuipulotu finished 2022 with 13½ sacks and two forced fumbles. He is an explosive rusher on the interior, and at 6-4, 290 can add some weight to be an every-down NFL defensive tackle. He is a true pocket pusher who could give interior linemen headaches for days.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Antonio Johnson (CB/S, Texas A&M): Bucs take the best available defensive player, who happens to fit one of their needs. Despite missing some time with an injury, Johnson finished with 71 tackles and three forced fumbles. He has the flexibility to play safety, nickel corner, and dime linebacker.
- Seattle Seahawks: Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan): Seattle was the NFL’s third-worst rush defense, so they take a defensive tackle who can clog up the middle as well as any in the draft. At 6-3, 326, Smith is an anchor on the interior who demands and withstands double teams. He has drawn comparisons to Dontari Poe as a disruptive run defender.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Jartavius Martin (CB/S, Illinois): A potential riser as we get closer to the draft, Martin is versatile and athletic with a high football IQ. He can play outside corner, nickel corner, and safety. He finished the season with 64 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 11 passes defended. He fills one of the team’s two biggest needs entering the draft.
- Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Addison (WR, USC): The Ravens always seem like their offense is hampered by a lack of outside weapons, and Addison is a burner. He had a ridiculous sophomore year at Pitt, racking up 1,606 yards while catching passes from Kenny Pickett. He added another 875 yards and eight touchdowns at USC in 2022. He is a threat to take the top off the defense on any play.
- Minnesota Vikings: Cam Mitchell (CB, Northwestern): Northwestern may have been lousy, but Mitchell was terrific, recording 52 tackles, 9 passes defended, 1 interception, and a forced fumble. He is a physical corner at 6-0, 195. He helps fill a major void for the Vikings entering the draft.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame): The Jaguars pull down the top tight end prospect in the draft. Mayer has drawn comparisons to Mark Andrews for his skills as a receiver and abilities to gain yards after the catch. He is a size mismatch at 6-4, 251, he wins contested balls and high points the ball well. He finished 2022 with 809 yards and 9 TDs.
- New York Giants: Henry To’oTo’o (LB, Alabama): Stronger than his size would indicate (6-0, 230) To’oTo’o is very athletic and has terrific football instincts. He has proven to be an excellent run defender with enough speed to be effective in pass coverage. He projects as a good fit at weakside linebacker. He finished 2022 with 94 tackles and 2½ sacks.
- Dallas Cowboys: Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama): With Ezekiel Elliott finishing the least efficient season of his career (career-low 3.8 yards per carry) while often overshadowed by pending free agent Tony Pollard, the Cowboys have decisions to make. Gibbs would give them a legit three-down back with big-time burst and good hands out of the backfield. Gibbs finished 2022 averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 10 total touchdowns. Whatever Dallas decides with their two current running backs, Gibbs will make the pain of choosing between them much easier.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Steen (OT, Alabama): The Bengals invest in the health and well-being of franchise quarterback Joe Burrow. Steen is an excellent pass blocker with strong technique, and a reliable run blocker as well. He is capable of playing left tackle and versatile enough to play on the right side as well.
- Denver Broncos (via completed trade with Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers): Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois): The Broncos address a major need with the best available corner on the board. Witherspoon is fast and a terrific athlete, and his ball skills showed significant improvement this season. He accumulated 40 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 14 pass breakups in 2022.
- Buffalo Bills: Will McDonald IV (DE, Iowa State): The Bills address their need for a defensive end with McDonald, who offers a lot of upside as a pass rusher.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah (DE, Kansas State): The Chiefs don’t have a ton of pressing needs, but edge defender is probably one. Anudike-Uzomah has a terrific combination of length, strength, and speed to get to the passer and chase down runners in pursuit.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Evans (RB, Ole Miss): Evans is the top talent on the board here. Miles Sanders is coming off a career season, but is also a free agent and will be looking for a significant payday. Evans can be his complement or his replacement. Evans averaged 6.5 yards per carry and had 10 total touchdowns in 2022.
I approved your Cowboys pick…👍