The final mock: Predicting every 1st round pick for the 2023 NFL Draft
Credit to us.
Each and every year, Adam Spencer and I (Connor O’Gara) put together a mock draft wherein we go back and forth making picks for each franchise. But unlike the rest of the NFL Draft experts, we don’t take 4 or 5 hacks at it. This isn’t the place for Mock Draft 8.0.
Mock Draft 1.0, comin’ in hot.
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Ahead of Thursday night, Adam and I made each pick for Round 1. How many quarterbacks will come off the board? What in the world happens at No. 2? And is there a chance that Hendon Hooker sneaks into the first round? Will both of us survive being new dads?
With the exception of that last question, let’s break all of that down with the first and only mock draft brought by yours truly:
1. Carolina Panthers — Bryce Young, Alabama QB
Despite some recent noise around Will Levis, whose odds to go No. 1 overall have significantly improved this week, I think the Panthers do the smart thing here. Bryce Young is the best quarterback in this class. Is he a bit small? Sure. But Carolina doesn’t need to overthink this. Young is also a dynamic player who will be an immediate leader in the Panthers’ locker room. Just take the best quarterback in the 2023 draft class and move on, Carolina. — Adam.
2. Houston Texans — CJ Stroud, Ohio State QB
This is where things get really interesting. It’s odd that this close to the NFL Draft, wherein as many as 5 quarterbacks could come off the board in Round 1, we still don’t know for certain that the quarterback-needy Texans will be part of that. I’m gonna guess they will, despite the Alabama connection between DeMeco Ryans and Will Anderson. Starting over and doing so with a pocket passer with a seemingly high floor like Stroud ends up being the move instead of Will Levis. — Connor.
3. Arizona Cardinals — Will Anderson Jr., Alabama Edge
If the Cardinals keep this pick and a QB-needy team doesn’t try to leapfrog the Colts at No. 4, they should absolutely take Will Anderson Jr. No need to use the full allotment of time to make the pick, either. As soon as the Texans make their choice, just make it official. Anderson is a dominant edge rusher and fills a position of need in Arizona. I don’t see a scenario where Anderson isn’t a disruptive pass rusher as a rookie. — Adam.
4. Indianapolis Colts — Will Levis, Kentucky QB
The Colts are ecstatic to get their guy at No. 4. After sweating out the Texans’ decision, they finally draft their first franchise quarterback since Andrew Luck. Ironically, the same issues that plagued Luck — holding onto the football too long and taking too many hits — will be the issues Levis has to work through in Indianapolis. But Indy opts for Levis instead of Anthony Richardson to be the new face of the franchise. — Connor.
5. Seattle Seahawks — Jalen Carter, Georgia DT
You just know Pete Carroll will be thrilled if arguably the best player in this draft class falls to the Seahawks at No. 5. Yes, Carter had a bad Pro Day. Yes, there are questions about his judgment and character. But there’s no denying his impact on the field when he’s at his best. Seattle needs help along the defensive line, so the former Georgia star is a perfect fit in the Pacific Northwest. — Adam.
6. Detroit Lions — Devon Witherspoon, Illinois CB
The Lions just shipped off Jeff Okudah to the Falcons with an expectation that they’ll be able to get cheaper at corner. Witherspoon checks all the toughness boxes of an early-round corner. His work ethic will fit in perfectly with Dan Campbell in Detroit. — Connor.
7. Las Vegas Raiders — Christian Gonzalez, Oregon CB
The Raiders will look long and hard at Anthony Richardson here, but with Jimmy Garoppolo in Las Vegas now, the team has likely bought itself a year or 2 before it truly needs to draft a quarterback. The defense, on the other hand, is a mess. Christian Gonzalez fills a major need and can be a starter for the next decade. — Adam.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Bijan Robinson, Texas RB
For the first time since Vince Young in 2006, Texas has an offensive player drafted in Round 1. The Falcons have gone skill-position heavy in Round 1 lately with Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Assuming that quarterback isn’t the play and there’s some desire to see what they have in Desmond Ridder, getting the guy who runs through contact better than any back in the Draft makes a lot of sense for the rebuilding Falcons. — Connor.
9. Chicago Bears — Lukas Van Ness, Iowa DE
This isn’t necessarily a pick that will make Bears fans go crazy, but it is a very smart pick. After trading down from No. 1 overall, the Bears get a guy who fills a serious need on defense. Chicago finished with an NFL-low 20 sacks in 2022. Van Ness has recorded 13 sacks at Iowa the past 2 years. He’ll be an instant play on the edge for Da Bears. — Adam.
10. Philadelphia Eagles — Nolan Smith, Georgia Edge
Hey, why not add another defensive Dawg to the mix in Philly? It worked out for Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean. Why not go with another high character former Georgia star like Smith? This actually isn’t much of a positional need for the Eagles, but with Brandon Graham entering Year 14, Smith could be an ideal replacement who could provide a unique skill set with his size and speed. — Connor.
11. Tennessee Titans — Anthony Richardson, Florida QB
Malik Willis isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback in Nashville. Richardson could be. The Titans will be thrilled that 1 of the top 4 quarterbacks in this class fell to them at No. 11. He can learn for a year behind Ryan Tannehill and then take the reins for a team that expects to be a contender in the AFC South on a yearly basis. Richardson and RB Derrick Henry will be quite a tandem for Tennessee. — Adam.
12. Houston Texans — Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech Edge
After debating internally whether to go with a quarterback or Will Anderson with their No. 2 pick, the Texans look like the early draft winners by getting Wilson to fall to 12. The guy who could be the 2023 version of Travon Walker gives Houston a much-needed potential game-wrecker coming off the edge. — Connor.
13. Green Bay Packers — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State WR
The Packers don’t like to take receivers in Round 1, obviously. It was a major source of friction between Aaron Rodgers and the squad. Now that Rodgers is a New York Jet, would the Packers really take a first-round receiver in their first draft without Rodgers? I think they’re absolutely that petty. Also, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a special talent. Give new QB Jordan Love another target to pair up with deep threat Christian Watson and start rebuilding the offense for a new era at quarterback. — Adam.
14. New England Patriots — Peter Skoronski, Northwestern OL
It feels extremely likely that the Patriots go with a versatile offensive lineman to help protect Mac Jones in this new version of the Bill O’Brien offense. That means adding a potential Day 1 tackle who could also start at guard if needed. The Patriots are fired up to land Skoronski after the Bears pass on him at No. 9. — Connor.
15. New York Jets — Broderick Jones, Georgia OL
The Jets have their new quarterback. Now they need to protect him. Jones is the best offensive lineman left on the board and he’ll be a great fit in the Big Apple. New York has talent on its offensive line, but injuries plagued that unit in 2022. Jones is a versatile player who can contribute immediately along the line. — Adam.
16. Washington Commanders — Dalton Kincaid, Utah TE
The ultimate “should probably be in on this quarterback class but isn’t” team continues to beef up that supporting cast by adding the prolific Kincaid. The former Utah star gives the Commanders something it desperately needs. That is, a complement to Terry McLaurin, who signed his long-term deal ahead of last season. — Connor.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers — Darnell Wright, Tennessee OL
The Steelers’ offensive line is a mess. They desperately need an influx of talent along the offensive front. Enter Darnell Wright, the former Vol who has skyrocketed up draft boards this offseason. He can be an immediate starter and clear the way for RB Najee Harris starting in Week 1 of the 2023 season. — Adam.
18. Detroit Lions — Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh DT
The Lions would’ve pulled the trigger on Jalen Carter had he fallen to No. 6, but after going corner with their first pick, Detroit’s defense gets some more much-needed help with Kancey. Last I checked, drafting shorter defensive tackles from Pitt in the middle of Round 1 is a pretty safe bet. — Connor.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State OL
For my third pick in a row, I’m scooping up an offensive tackle. The Buccaneers are moving on from Tom Brady, who (finally) retired this offseason. The new quarterback, whether it’s Kyle Trask or someone else, will need to be protected better than Brady was this past year. Johnson is a guy who can fill an immediate need for the Bucs. — Adam.
20. Seattle Seahawks — Hendon Hooker, Tennessee QB
Yup. Why not? No, the Seahawks haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first 2 rounds in 30 years. But yes, Hooker makes all the sense in the world. That Geno Smith contract is essentially a 1-year deal if you read the fine print. Hooker could go work with Pete Carroll, who once fell in love with Russell Wilson despite the pre-draft questions about him and his scheme fit. It’d be great to see the Seahawks “let Hook cook” as their quarterback of the future. — Connor.
21. Los Angeles Chargers — Michael Mayer, Notre Dame TE
Many mock drafts have Bijan Robinson going here after Austin Ekeler requested a trade. But since Connor sent the Texas star to the Falcons with the No. 8 pick, I have to shift a bit here. The Chargers also have a need at tight end, so snagging Mayer makes sense. Giving QB Justin Herbert more weapons to use is never a bad idea. — Adam.
22. Baltimore Ravens — Quentin Johnston, TCU WR
As the Lamar Jackson saga continues, it would seem like now is an ideal time for the franchise to draft a receiver in order to either entice him to return or entice his successor. Suddenly, the Ravens would have some nice non-Mark Andrews surroundings after the Odell Beckham Jr. addition. Johnson might have some developing to do, but his ability to make plays on the outside should give whatever the Ravens’ 2023 offense is a chance to succeed. — Connor.
23. Minnesota Vikings — Joey Porter Jr., Penn State CB
Once again, Connor has scooped up my perfect fit before I had a chance. I wanted to send Hendon Hooker to the Vikings here, but alas, he’s off the board. Instead, the Vikings will have to address their woeful secondary (the 2nd-worst pass defense in the NFL in 2022) with Joey Porter Jr. The former Nittany Lion has the potential to be one of the best cornerbacks in this entire draft class. — Adam.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars — Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State CB
There’s plenty of depth at corner, so it’s possible that the Jags wait on addressing that area. But after seeing Porter come off the board a pick earlier, they get the ball-hawking Forbes to solidify that No. 2 corner spot opposite of Tyson Campbell. — Connor.
25. New York Giants — Zay Flowers, Boston College WR
Try to name a Giants receiver from last year. … I’ll give you another minute. … See? It’s impossible. Brian Daboll getting QB Daniel Jones and a no-name group of receivers to the playoffs last year was absolutely incredible. He certainly earned his Coach of the Year award. Heading into 2023, that unit needs an influx of talent. Enter Zay Flowers, who could legitimately be the Giants’ best receiver as a rookie. — Adam.
26. Dallas Cowboys — Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern DT
Following a failed attempt to trade up to get Bijan Robinson, the Cowboys settle for a freakishly athletic defensive tackle in Adebawore. The guy who ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever (4.49 seconds) for a player north of 280 pounds would be an intriguing roll of the dice for a team in need of someone who could make life easier on Micah Parsons. — Connor.
27. Buffalo Bills — Jordan Addison, USC WR
The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner comes off the board to a team where his services are needed in a big way. Addison can be a complementary receiver to Stefon Diggs in Buffalo. Paired with Diggs and a couple of Buffalo’s deep threats, there should be plenty of space for Addison to operate in the Bills’ offense. — Adam.
28. Cincinnati Bengals — Deonte Banks, Maryland CB
The depth at corner in this year’s draft ends up playing right into the Bengals’ hand. They don’t have to give up any draft capital to land the exceptionally athletic Banks. He could fill a major area of need with starting outside corner Chidobe Awuzie coming off a torn ACL. — Connor.
29. New Orleans Saints — Myles Murphy, Clemson Edge
Cameron Jordan is getting older. He’s still a great player, but the Saints need to cut back on how often he’s used in order to maximize his impact. Thus, there’s a need at edge rusher, and Murphy is the best player left on the board who fits that need. Murphy had 18.5 sacks over 3 years at Clemson. — Adam.
30. Philadelphia Eagles — Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama RB
Miles Sanders had the best season of his career, but he signed with the Panthers in free agency. Gibbs is an ideal modern back with his pass-catching abilities and how he runs through contact. He gives Jalen Hurts a promising backfield complement for an offense that has enough pieces to push Howie Roseman into the “running back in the first round” decision for the first time as the Eagles GM. — Connor.
31. Kansas City Chiefs — Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee WR
When you win the Super Bowl, it’s hard to say your team has “needs,” per se. But the Chiefs desperately need a WR1 to put alongside elite TE Travis Kelce. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who led all Chiefs receivers with 7 catches for 51 yards in the Super Bowl, is off to New England. Hyatt just won the 2022 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best pass catcher. There are questions about whether he can succeed outside of Josh Heupel’s receiver-friendly system at Tennessee or not, but the Chiefs have nothing to lose taking a chance on him at the end of Round 1. — Adam.