NFL Mock Draft 2023 -- Picks #1-10
Every year, from the end of the National Championship to the NFL Combine, players rise up and plummet down draft boards across the league. You might be asking, 'How can a player’s draft status change if he hasn’t played in a game during that time span?'
The answer? It shouldn’t.
Here’s the issue: the NFL Combine is a scripted, track meet-like event that should be utilized like a confirmation device but is often misused as the “end-all, be-all.”
All 32 teams send their coaching staffs to scout players in events like the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, 3-cone drill, and more. The league measures each player’s height, weight, hand length, arm length, and body fat percentage.
While the Combine should be used to confirm what teams have seen on tape, NFL organizations often consider it, mistakenly, as the all-important element of the draft process.
For example, if a team has their eyes on a deep-threat receiver who looks great on tape, they should look for the tape to translate over to the combine. So, if said receiver runs a 4.33 40-yard dash and shows up to the Combine in pristine shape, the team who had their eyes on him would feel great about their analysis of the tape.
However, more often than not, teams rely far too heavily on the Combine -- see the ongoing debate surrounding superstar quarterback Bryce Young.
Young, who spent the last two years playing quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, was projected to be the #1 overall pick as the college season came to an end. However, after concerns about his height (5’10”), weight (204 lbs), and most notably his hand size (9 ¾ inches), Young has dropped to #2 and even #3 in some mock drafts.
Some analysts say they would be hesitant to draft the 5’10” quarterback because of his imperfect measurements.
So, I ask all 32 NFL general managers who will be selecting players on the night of April 27th, what does the tape tell you?
In 2021, Bryce Young won SEC Offensive Player of the Year, AP College Football Player of the Year, SEC Championship game MVP, the Davey O’Brien Award, the Manning Award, the Maxwell Award, became the first Alabama quarterback ever to the Heisman Trophy, and made 1st team All-SEC as a Consensus All-American.
Whew! Young also led the SEC in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2021 with the same incompetent baby hands.
For reference, Joe Burrow’s hands measured 9-inches at the Combine in 2020. I think he’s doing alright in the NFL.
With that said, let’s get into the mock draft – that is what should happen, maybe not what will.
1. Carolina Panthers (via Chicago): QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Profile: 5’10”, 204lbs | Age: 21 (July 25, 2001)
Bryce Young is the best player in this draft for all the reasons outlined previously. Young has proven to be all-time clutch at the collegiate level. In 2021, on the road against Auburn, Young and the Crimson Tide were down 10-3 with 43 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
It’s 4th and 7 and Young takes about an 8-yard backpaddle before delivering a strike to the boundary to move the chains. With 29 seconds left, Young takes a three-step drop, sets his feet, and pinpoints his receiver Ja’Corey Brooks, to whom he throws a beautiful back-shoulder fade over the outstretched defender for the touchdown. Alabama went on to win the game in 4 OT thanks to Young’s poise.
Carolina: Don’t pass on Young, you’ll regret it.
2. Houston Texans: QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Profile: 6’3”, 218lbs | Age: 21 (October 3, 2001)
CJ Stroud is your “prototypical NFL quarterback,” as the experts like to say. Stroud showed promise in the CFP Semi-Final against the vaunted Georgia Bulldogs’ defense. The redshirt sophomore threw a 4-touchdown, 348-yard parade on Kirby Smart’s defense, despite Ohio State’s 41-42 loss on the scoreboard. Stroud had an incredible year, earning himself a Heisman trophy nomination, but he wasn’t completely blemish-free.
In Ohio State’s most important game of the year, Stroud fell short on the road in Ann Arbor against Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines. Stroud threw two interceptions and just two touchdowns in the game, contributing to a humiliating 23-45 loss.
Lastly, Stroud was the beneficiary of two #1 caliber receivers in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom are ineligible for the 2023 NFL Draft. NFL teams are already anticipating Harrison Jr. to be a top 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Harrison Jr, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, would be the first wideout off the board this year, and Egbuka wouldn’t last much longer himself. For reference, in the Buckeyes’ loss against Michigan, Egbuka caught 9 balls for 125 yards and a touchdown, and Harrison Jr. caught 7 balls for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Ultimately, with the right pieces around him, Stroud will be a nice quarterback in the NFL.
Houston: Stroud or Young. Whoever is available at #2, take him.
3. Arizona Cardinals: DE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Profile: 6’4”, 243lbs | Age: 21 (September 2, 2001)
Arizona is a dumpster fire of a disaster – Pro-Bowl WR DeAndre Hopkins wants out, All-Pro Safety Budda Baker publicly requested a trade, and QB Kyler Murray is still injured. To make matters worse, the Cardinals signed former Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon as their new head coach this offseason. Gannon’s defense allowed 38 points in the most recent Super Bowl.
There has been speculation that Arizona will surrender its #3 overall pick, but that would be a colossal mistake.
Will Anderson Jr., the #1 ranked prospect across all boards, regardless of position, will be available at #3. In other words, the experts feel that Anderson plays defensive end better than Bryce Young plays quarterback.
Additionally, considering JJ Watt’s recent retirement, the Cardinals have a large gap to fill on the defensive line. In 2021, Anderson led college football with 17.5 sacks, and his productivity should translate into the NFL.
Arizona: this is the easiest pick of the draft. Go get your guy and don’t trade down.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Profile: 6’4”, 231lbs | Age: 20 (May 22, 2002)
Considering the Ravens’ recent signing of former Pro-Bowl WR and current friend of Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr., it seems that the Colts’ window to shop the #4 pick for the 2019 MVP just closed.
In dire need of a quarterback, Indianapolis will have to stay at #4 and take Anthony Richardson.
While analysts and scouts have been raving about Richardson, I don’t see the hype. In college, Richardson struggled to throw the ball accurately, consistently. In 2022, Richardson threw just 17 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. For comparison, Bryce Young threw 32 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, yet people “aren’t sold” on him.
Ultimately, the Colts could trade the #4 pick or, if they are bullish on a certain player, stay at #4 and take someone like Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson.
Indianapolis: I don’t envy your position.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver): DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Profile: 6’6, 276lbs | Age: 22 (May 20, 2000)
Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks have the first tough decision of the draft: Do you play it safe with Tyree Wilson or flip a coin with Jalen Carter?
I think this decision will come down to Seattle’s team needs, and they need an edge rusher more so than an interior defensive lineman. Additionally, considering Carter’s off-the-field issues and reported lack of effort in regard to his diet and training, Wilson is the safe play.
Do not be surprised if Detroit and Seattle swap picks, because the Lions are in dire need of an interior presence like Carter. If Dan Campbell’s Lions think that Seattle might take Carter, they could trade up for a small price.
Seattle: tough pick. Carter’s history indicates he’s a disaster waiting to happen. Who knows, though, right?
6. Detroit Lions (via Rams): DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
Profile: 6’3”, 300lbs | Age: 22 (April 4, 2001)
As mentioned above, Jalen Carter is an undeniable talent, but he’s had his fair share of off-the-field issues.
Carter’s teammate, Devin Willock, and Georgia staffer, Chandler LeCroy, died in a car crash on January 15th. While initially reported a “single-car accident,” police reported that Carter turned himself in to the Athens-Clarke County jail on charges of “reckless driving and racing.”
Police reported that “alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed” all contributed to the accident. LeCroy had a .197 Blood Alcohol Level, and her car reportedly reached a top speed of 104mph.
Carter also “misled the police about his proximity to the incident.” While initially proclaiming that he was a mile from the crash, he later admitted he was directly behind LeCroy’s car and, at times, side-by-side when racing.
Separately, on September 22, months before the fatal January incident, Carter was pulled over for excessive speeding. The police body cam video of Carter’s interaction with a very generous officer recently surfaced, and it seems Carter was “let off the hook.”
In the video, the officer, aware of Carter’s status as a football player, is seen telling Carter that he doesn’t want to take him to jail because he knows that it would make the news. Carter was driving 89mph in a 45mph zone.
Finally, in his Pro Day at Georgia, Carter showed up out of shape, raising many concerns about his work ethic and commitment to his diet.
On the field, many have argued that Carter is the best player in this draft. So, while the soon-to-be first round pick continues to provide reasons not to draft him, it will be difficult for Detroit to let him fall past #6.
Detroit: more trouble than he’s worth?
7. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Profile: 6’0”, 181lbs | Age: 22 (December 11, 2000)
Some mock drafts have the Raiders taking QB Will Levis, while others have Las Vegas trading back. However, with the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason in an attempt to stay afloat and weather the storm until next year, Las Vegas should use the draft to shore up their defense. Also, Will Levis will be no better than Garappolo in his NFL career.
The Raiders’ subpar back end has been their Achilles heel for the past few years, so Witherspoon would be an ideal first move to fortify a very depleted secondary. The 6’0” cornerback is physical and great in man coverage, but occasionally gets caught with his eyes in the backfield.
Ideally, you would want a taller, more built man-to-man corner as the first defensive back off the board, but Witherspoon looks to be the best available option.
Raiders: strengthen your weakness.
8. Atlanta Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Profile: 6’2”, 201 lbs | Age: 20 (June 28, 2002)
Like the Raiders, Atlanta has struggled on the defensive side of the ball in the post-Dan Quinn era.
After adding the former #3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, CB Jeff Okudah, in free agency, the Falcons could use Christian Gonzalez as a third viable option when lined up beside Okudah and Atlanta’s #1 cornerback, A.J. Terrell.
Gonzalez would also be a nice pick for the Raiders at #7, but Witherspoon is the highest rated corner on the board, so Gonzalez will likely fall to the Falcons at #8.
Atlanta: Trading back wouldn’t be a bad option, but if you stay at #8, I’d take Gonzalez.
9. Chicago Bears (via Carolina): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Profile: 6’1”, 201 lbs | Age: 21 (February 14, 2002)
The Bears added Bills’ LB Tremaine Edmonds, Panthers’ WR DJ Moore and RB D’Onta Foreman, Eagles’ LB T.J. Edwards, Packers’ TE Robert Tonyan, and more in free agency.
Chicago, one of the more active teams in free agency this offseason, is one receiver away from having a credible offense. So, who better to send to the windy city than Justin Fields’ former college teammate, Jaxon Smith-Njigba?
Last season, Justin Fields’ #1 target was Darnell Mooney and despite adding Chase Claypool late in the season, the Bears need to get Fields a co-#1 to DJ Moore if they want to maximize Fields’ ability.
To take a look at some other young quarterbacks who have excelled in this league, all happen to have a dependable, Pro-Bowl caliber #1 wide receiver. For example, Joe Burrow has Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Herbert has Keenan Allen, Jalen Hurts has AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs, Kyler Murray has (for now) DeAndre Hopkins, and Tua Tagovailoa has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
If the Bears draft a lineman to protect Fields, I cannot argue with that, but it will be tough to pass on Smith-Njigba, who has been graded the best WR in the draft.
Chicago: Learn from the 2021 Bengals. They took WR Chase, Burrow’s college teammate at LSU, over G Penei Sewell, and Cincinnati made the Super Bowl in Chase’s rookie year. No, Chicago will not be a Super Bowl contender, but they could make a serious run for the NFC North title with a revamped offense in 2023.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans): RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Profile: 6’0”, 220lbs | Age: 21 (January 30, 2002)
After losing G Isaac Seamalo in free agency, it would not be a bad idea for Philadelphia to draft an offensive lineman at #10 to protect their $255 million man, Jalen Hurts.
However, Seamalo was not the Eagles’ most significant loss this offseason – that award goes to RB Miles Sanders. Sanders, who played a prominent role in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run last year, signed with the Panthers, and the Eagles have yet to replace him.
Currently, the Birds’ backfield consists of three RB #2’s, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and Rashaad Penny, so they could use an RB #1. If Philadelphia wants another shot at the Lombardi Trophy, they will need an RB #1, and Bijan Robinson can be that guy.
Philadelphia: Yes, he played in Texas. That’s just one more reason to draft him for when you play Dallas twice a year.