1. Chicago Bears – DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
You’d have to believe that the Bears are going to trade back at least once and collect a boatload of picks in the process while still getting one of, if not the top non-quarterback player in the draft. But for this 2023 NFL mock draft, we exclude trades, so the Bears use the first pick on the most impactful non-QB to add to their roster.
Bears fans would love it if this draft featured an elite receiver or offensive tackle worthy of going #1 overall, but that’s not the case this year. In reality, this works to their advantage because they can trade back and still add a top tackle to protect Justin Fields, but stuck at one, they add an elite talent to their defense.
This franchise has been known for having a tough defense, but this hasn’t been true for a few years. They start to turn around this narrative by adding an elite defensive tackle to help turn the tide in the trenches.
2. Houston Texans – QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
If only trades weren’t allowed in the actual draft, then the Texans’ unbelievable week 18 win to lose the top spot wouldn’t hurt them. They still land Bryce Young here to help them create a new era in Houston.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
The Cardinals are another team that’s a likely trade partner for teams eager to try to land their own franchise QB. Again, with no super elite offensive tackles or pass catchers, the Cardinals take an edge rusher to replace J.J. Watt.
4. Indianapolis Colts – QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
No more acquiring older, veteran quarterbacks and hoping that they can squeeze out one more decent year. The Colts land their first young, potential franchise QB since they drafted Andrew Luck.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) – DE Myles Murphy (Clemson)
I think it’s likely they re-sign Geno Smith, but they still could be looking to draft a QB. After the Broncos’ week 18 win, this pick falls out of the top 3 and out of contention for Young and Stroud in this 2023 mock draft. The Seahawks are a true wildcard team right in the heart of the top 10 picks. They could possibly take a QB at #5, trade up, or even trade back. Sitting at #5, they look to get a legitimate edge rusher to hopefully get a star on defense to balance out the stars they have on offense.
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR) – DT Bryan Bresee (Clemson)
It’s a real shame that this Lions team didn’t make the playoffs after their performance Sunday night in Green Bay. There was an argument to have been made halfway through the season that they should be spending their top pick on a QB, but that discussion has largely been muted. Instead, they turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball once again. They add an elite talent to the middle of their young and game-changing defensive line.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – QB Will Levis (Kentucky)
Josh McDaniels and Co. are going boldly into the post-Derek Carr era. Sitting at 7, they will probably have to trade up to land a top 3 QB and even then, they won’t have their choice of the 3 unless they jump all the way up to #1.
8. Atlanta Falcons – CB Kelee Ringo (Georgia)
The Falcons haven’t seen enough out of Desmond Ridder to ascertain what they got out of last year’s draft pick. I don’t see them adding another prospect to the mix and instead will focus on the rest of the team as they have wholes at pretty much every group outside of pass catchers. In my 2023 mock draft, I see Atlanta securing Ringo, a lengthy physical corner who has played against the best of the best. The Georgia corner gets to stay in the same state.
9. Carolina Panthers – QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)
Despite just missing out on the playoffs, the Panthers still land the 9th pick in this draft. They could possibly bring back Sam Darnold, but it would not be as “the guy” to build around. Regardless of whom they hire as head coach, this franchise is lacking clarity at this position and the 9th pick still allows them to land a big, physically talented QB who will benefit from not having to start Week 1.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) – CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
The Eagles may make a Super Bowl run and still draft in the Top 10 come April. It’s amazing that they can find anyone to trade with after some of the deals they’ve pulled off. This pick essentially comes down to which need Howie Roseman determines is most pressing, largely based on their activity in free agency. Offensive line help is needed at the tackles as Lane Johnson is nearing the end, but the secondary could be most dire if they allow James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to walk. I think one, if not both, are gone, so this becomes the greatest need. They get a 6-2 corner who can learn from Darius Slay and give them two physical turnover machines at both their corner spots.
11. Tennessee Titans – OT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
The Titans window is closing, if not already shut, with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Malik Willis didn’t look great, so he’s not a clear successor. They need to try to reload as best as possible and the top tackle in the draft is a good way to do it.
12. Houston Texans (via CLE) – WR Quentin Johnston (TCU)
With a new young QB, the Texans then make sure to get a top pass catcher to help him develop. The 6-4 receiver gets to stay in the same state as the Texans try to replicate the playbook of the Bengals with Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase.
13. New York Jets – OT Paris Johnson (Ohio State)
The Jets need to address their offensive inadequacies and at this point in the draft, the best way to do so is to add talent along the line. Their QB situation is up in the air, but at the 14th pick, they won’t be able to improve that directly.
14. New England Patriots – S Brian Branch (Alabama)
The Patriots will add a well-tested and extremely versatile defensive back to try to solidify their pass defense, which has to face the Bills and Dolphins a total of four times a year. Branch will most likely be a free safety in the NFL but could be used in the slot as well.
15. Green Bay Packers – TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)
Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love, a pass-catching tight end is what this offense is missing. Robert Tonyan is a free agent and even if they retain him, he’s more of a red zone-specific target and is not much of a threat between the 20s.
16. Washington Commanders – CB Devon Witherspoon (Illinois)
Their division features some of the best receivers the league has to offer. Hopefully, with Chase Young returning in 2023, they’ll have their defensive line back in prime position. However, their secondary is not remotely close to matching their front 7 talent, but adding an elite press-man corner helps to balance out this defense.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Joey Porter (Penn State)
The son of the former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter is too great of a connection to pass up on. He’s exactly what this defense needs and just has to move a bit to the west within the same state. He’s an excellent cover corner who allowed 143 yards all season.
18. Detroit Lions – CB Cam Smith (South Carolina)
Smith has excellent ball skills and broke up over 20% of balls thrown his way over his past two seasons. This Lion’s defense was porous for much of 2022 and with their first pick, they made it known that they would arguably have assembled the best young defensive line in the league and now will try to do the same in their secondary by teaming up Cam Smith with Jeff Okudah. Okudah struggled in 2022 with a PFF rating of under 60, but they’ll hope he can get back on track after selecting him 3rd overall in the 2020 draft.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Tyree Wilson
The 6-6, 275-pound edge rusher is just what this defense needs. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has flashed at times, but this pass rush is a shell of itself from only a couple of years ago. Jason Pierre-Paul is long gone and Shaquille Barrett is trying to return from a torn achilles, so it’s not clear when he’ll be ready and what he’ll look like. Wilson could easily end up a top-10 pick but ends up falling to 19 in this 2023 mock draft.
20. Seattle Seahawks – CB Deonte Banks (Maryland)
The Seahawk’s defense needs to be replenished, and with two top-20 picks, this is an amazing opportunity. They grab a pass rusher earlier in the round and now add a 6-2 corner who is excellent in man coverage and is a solid tackler.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars – OG O’Cyrus Torrence (Florida)
This offense flipped the switch in the second half of the year. They’ll also add Calvin Ridley to the mix in 2023, but drafting an SEC lineman who didn’t allow a sack all year will ensure that Trevor Lawrence is protected to give his speedy pass-catchers some more time to get open.
22. Miami Dolphins – Forfeited
23. New York Giants – WR Jordan Addison (USC)
Injuries or no injuries, this receiving corps is not very good. They invested heavily, both in free agency and the draft, and have yielded very little in return. It sure seems like they’ll have to double down on Daniel Jones and Saquan Barkley, so Brian Daboll and company are looking to add a top receiver to the mix. Over the past two seasons, Addison had almost 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.
24. Baltimore Ravens – WR Zay Flowers (Boston College)
The Raven’s situation at pass catcher has been so abysmal this season that this pick should be mandatory for them to take a pass catcher. Hopefully, Rashod Bateman will return healthy in 2023 after undergoing foot surgery and finally put together a season that all believe that he is capable of talent-wise. Flowers is super quick and elusive and would make a lethal combo with Lamar Jackson (think running reverses and end-arounds).
25. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
It’s very tempting to go receiver here, given Keenan Allen’s age and Mike Williams’ injury history. I believe that’s in the cards in the later rounds of this draft, but here they could shore up the offensive line by adding a well-rounded 6-4, 310-pound left tackle from Georgia to their line. Obviously, with Rashawn Slater hopefully returning 100% from a torn biceps in 2023 to their starting left tackle spot, Jones would have to move over to the right side.
26. Dallas Cowboys – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
It’s tempting to go corner, offensive line, or even tight end here, but Smith-Njigba is arguably the best receiver in the draft and putting in the slot with Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup on the outside is too tempting to pass up on.
27. Cincinnati Bengals – RB Bijan Robinson (Texas)
Joe Mixon has been inconsistent for several years now, and adding Robinson at the back end of the first round has the potential to add a dynamic weapon to Joe Burrow’s offense. Robinson also has an injury history, primarily dislocating his elbow, but with the 27th pick in the draft, it’s well worth this risk. Mixon has a cap hit of $12.85 million and dead money of $5.5 million, so moving on from him is an option. More likely is that they have a tandem in 2023 of the two running backs and look to part ways with Mixon in 2024 when his cap hits $13.133 million and dead money of $2.75 million.
28. Minnesota Vikings – Clark Phillips III (Utah)
The Vikings go back to the well again to draft secondary. This has been a frequent occurrence for them, yet they have yielded very few results. They need to shore up their secondary as their window with Kirk Cousins appears to be closing. With an offseason that will probably be headlined by a record-breaking extension for Justin Jefferson, they need to find a solution here on the cheap.
29. Denver Broncos – EDGE Mike Morris (Michigan)
The Broncos need a replacement for Bradley Chubb, and they get their next young talented pass rusher here. Morris just declared for the draft and will leave Michigan as a junior, coming off a disappointing season in which he struggled to stay healthy, but has flashed as a first-round talent and could complement the great Denver secondary.
30. Buffalo Bills – LB Trenton Simpson (Clemson)
Tremaine Edmunds is a free agent and it’s not clear that Buffalo can afford to keep him. Either way, Simpson is a great tackler and makes plays sideline to sideline. Teaming him up with Matt Milano would allow them a cheaper alternative to Edmunds without totally losing out on a talented duo in the heart of their defense.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – LB Drew Sanders (Arkansas)
Willie Gay is only under contract through 2023 and the Chiefs could be looking to add another young linebacker alongside Nick Bolton. Sanders is much more of an off-the-ball linebacker who is an exceptional pass rusher. Frank Clark has over $9 million in dead money in 2023, so he’s not going anywhere, but Sanders could be added to a mix of Clark and George Karlaftis.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama)
The Eagles use three running backs consistently throughout the course of a game. Miles Sanders is also a free agent at the end of the season. They’re going to have to make a lot of tough contract decisions this offseason and Sanders might be one of those. Gibbs is a versatile back who could be used well in this offense, with or without Sanders.