2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

The draft is roughly four weeks away. Much has happened since Mock Draft 1.0. The combine, free agency, Jalen Carter’s unfortunate situation and the Bears’ trade, to name a few. Oddly enough, this didn’t completely throw the top of the draft off its axis from last time. Anyway, hope you enjoy.

#1 Carolina Panthers (F/CHI) – QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

When news of the trade broke my gut reaction was the Panthers are going after Stroud. Since then we’ve gotten enough reports of them being interested in Stroud, Young, Levis, and trading down that the conventional wisdom now is “they haven’t settled on anyone yet.”

I have a hard time believing that there wasn’t at least a leader in the club house before they made this trade, even if they are open to changing their minds. The reason I thought Stroud is, when considering Carolina and Indianapolis as suitors for the pick, those teams have gone through such hell with their trash-veteran-quarterback-roulette over the past few years that they simply cannot afford to get this wrong. Not that Stroud is bust proof, but he’s clearly the safest. His accuracy and processing are too good. Specifically for Reich, I viewed Stroud as who he’d feel most comfortable just properly executing his system. People are referencing how Reich has worked with bigger quarterbacks over the years, so advantage Stroud over Young, and while I don’t know how much that matters, it is at least an interesting data point.

Also Stroud was immediately the betting favorite so either that happened entirely randomly or someone knew something.

#2 Houston Texans – QB Bryce Young, Alabama

The first two picks of the draft are going to be C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young so you can just write in whoever Carolina doesn’t take here.

#3 Arizona Cardinals – Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

The Cardinals decision at 3 used to be Anderson vs Carter, but with Carter’s off-field developments the situation now appears to be Anderson vs trading down. It’s entirely possible someone intent on acquiring QB3 trades with Arizona to secure their preference between Levis and Richardson. For the time being, however, the Cardinals just stay put and select the best non-quarterback in the draft.

#4 Indianapolis Colts – QB Will Levis, Kentucky

I don’t believe Chris Ballard is going to get on board with drafting Anthony Richardson here. Not only is his job on the line, but so is his career. If Ballard gets this wrong and ends up receiving a pink slip he may never get a second chance at being a general manager. I can’t get onboard with the notion he will willingly watch Richardson sit on the bench for however long to begin his career, running the risk of the rest of the team crumbling and Jim Irsay finally firing him.

Whether or not you believe Levis is Week 1 pro-ready, he’s much closer than Richardson. If whoever Houston takes comes out and lights up the first five weeks while Richardson still can’t beat out Gardner Minshew, Ballard is done. Levis can get placed into the starting lineup right away, and while everyone loves putting Richardson here due to the work Shane Steichen did with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia, Steichen was also the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles during Justin Herbert’s rookie season, who profiles fairly closely to what Levis brings to the table.

#5 Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

The Seahawks spent the entire combine telling everyone they might draft a quarterback at 5 and I think they’re just telling the truth. I don’t think it’s some smokescreen or game of chess to manipulate the board or have teams offer better trade packages. Pete Carroll and John Schneider basically said “you don’t get to draft this high often, and if all goes according to plan we never will again, and we have to consider taking advantage of this opportunity.”

They’re right, and that is 100% how they should view this selection. I think this pick comes down to either a quarterback being available that they like/love, or Jalen Carter. Carter fits the concept of “we need to take advantage of selecting this high,” as he is a true blue chip talent that would only be “falling” to the 5th pick due to circumstance (quarterbacks going early, off-field situation).

Geno Smith’s new deal is functionally a one year pact. Richardson can sit for a year then take over in 2024. If Seattle loves Richardson, or any quarterback available here, they have to pull the trigger.


Lions Receive: #10, #30
Eagles Receive: #6, #48

#6 Philadelphia Eagles (F/DET/LAR) – DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

I’m going to explain the Eagles side of this trade here and the Lions side is included in their selection below.

First off, Howie Roseman is going to trade down from pick 10 or 30, or perhaps both. Philadelphia is light on picks this year with only six total. And while they have four picks in the top 94, they don’t pick again until 219. Howie is not going to go 125 picks without selecting anyone. He’s just not. He will be maneuvering throughout the draft.

This trade, however, seems to fly in the face of what I just said. Not only does Howie move up, but he gives up pick 30, a valuable chip to trade down and accumulate picks. While true, he can still move down from 48 and add some selections. It won’t be as valuable as moving down from 30, but he can make it work.

As for trading up, the Eagles might (and perhaps should) have the same mind set as Seattle. They don’t plan on drafting this high ever again and therefore should take full advantage. Jalen Carter is a #1 overall level talent that is within Howie’s grasp. Fletcher Cox is back on a one year deal but is entering his age 33 season. Philadelphia can seamlessly transition from the elite interior pressure Cox provided for over a decade into Carter. We’ve also seen Howie make small moves up the board in each of the past two drafts to get the guys he wanted, moving up to nab DeVonta Smith and Jordan Davis.

As for the character component of drafting Carter. One of Carter’s most common comps is Fletcher Cox, so if anyone *should* be taking Carter under their wing, it’s Cox. Additionally, Cox plus Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Haason Reddick, and future practice rivals Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson fit the “strong veteran leadership in the locker room” description thrown about whenever we talk about bringing in a talented yet potentially troubled player. And to top it off, Jordan Davis was Carter’s teammate at Georgia, which could help smooth the transition.

If Detroit is even willing to pass on Carter themselves, Philadelphia (and everyone else really) should try to acquire him.

#7 Las Vegas Raiders – CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

I had this pick in my first mock draft and am leaving it. Also, I’m going to take a victory lap for this snippet:

I think a handful of the corners are going to rise during the pre-draft process, and one of them will find their way into the top 10.

Given Gonzalez’s size, ball skills, and what people anticipate him doing at the combine, he’s my bet for shooting up the draft the most.


Anyway, I think Vegas would prefer Gonzalez to Witherspoon due to the fit in Patrick Graham’s defense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons – Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

The Falcons have been big spenders in free agency, specifically on defense, but the job’s not finished. Atlanta finished 31st last year in sacks, collecting only 21. Tyree Wilson falling here must be a dream scenario for the Falcons (unless they’re hoping Carter gets to them) as Wilson can easily go 5, 6, or 7.

#9 Chicago Bears (F/CAR) – OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

Popular position, different name. Most will have Peter Skoronski here, and while that’s entirely possible, I think the Bears may prefer Jones out of every tackle. Part of theory on Skoronski is that given his positional versatility he would allow Chicago to get their five best lineman on the field. There’s definitely logic to that and the team may want to move Teven Jenkins back out to tackle. However, with Jenkins flourishing at guard last year and the signing of Nate Davis in free agency, I think Whitehair will be on the move to center, where he has extensive experience throughout his career. That sets up a Davis-Whitehair-Jenkins interior with Braxton Jones at one of the tackle spots.

Point being, I think the Bears really want a tackle here, not a flexible player. Another reason they may prefer Jones to Skoronski is scheme fit. It’s pretty clear scheme fit is important to this regime (front office and coaching staff) and they made it clear in their signing of Davis and pursuit of McGlinchey that they want to run the ball. They want mean guys up front. There were four big name tackles in this year’s free agency, and with all the cap space in the world Chicago was only ever linked to one of them; the mean nasty run blocker.

I don’t know that I personally care Skoronski’s arms are short, but if you want someone who is going to overpower opponents you’re probably going to look elsewhere.

#10 Detroit Lions (F/PHI/NO) – CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

As for the Lions, they easily could just take Carter if they’re comfortable with his off-field situation. However, just last year the team opted for Aidan Hutchinson over Kayvon Thibodeaux. Now, in that situation they may have just thought Hutchinson was better, but it’s possible they arrived at that conclusion due to the “character issues” Thibodeaux was rumored to have (not that they had any validity (though that snow angel thing was a terrible move)). Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes seem to have put effort into building a “character” locker room, so perhaps they’re just out on Carter.

If indeed they’re not interested in Carter, you’d imagine their top targets at 6 would be Tyree Wilson, Miles Murphy, Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, and maybe Lukas Van Ness. According to #math, if Detroit trades with Philadelphia and falls from 6 to 10, one of those players will be available here (assuming Carter is the pick at 6). So, Detroit moves down from 6 to 10, moves up from 48 to 30, and still gets one of their top targets.

The trade itself similar to the swap the Lions made last year with the Vikings where the sent 32, 34 and 66 for 12 and 46.

Oh, right, the actual player. Yes, Detroit has made several free agent signings in the secondary, but none should preclude them from selecting a corner in the first round at 6 or 18. Cam Sutton has had an up and down career and it’s no guarantee which version the Lions are getting. Emmanuel Moseley’s deal is only for one year, and while I will always believe a good corner exists somewhere within Jeffrey Okudah, his career has been lackluster thus far, even if largely due to injury.

Witherspoon’s mentality fits with Dan Campbell’s, and if all of Witherspoon, Sutton, Moseley and Okudah are good-to-great then you’re looking at one of the best corner groups in the entire league.

#11 Tennessee Titans – OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

This has got to be the most common team-player pairing in all of the mock draft universe. I have nothing to add here you haven’t read 20 billion times by now.

#12 Houston Texans (F/CLE) – WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

Another Mock Draft 1.0 original that I’m sticking with. I’m not confident Johnston is the first receiver off the board, or that he even ends up in the top 20. But looking at what Houston has at receiver, it makes sense they just roll the dice on this class’s best chance at a true X receiver.

#13 New York Jets – OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

As long as the Jets keep this pick and one of the top three tackles is available this seems like a lock. The position is a mess, but with Skoronski’s ability to play guard he does give the team flexibility to either leave AVT at tackle or move him back inside and have Skoronski at tackle.

#14 New England Patriots – CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

New England doesn’t ever draft corners this high, but this is circumstantial. The top three tackles are gone, Porter’s man coverage ability fits in with what the Patriots want to do, and I wouldn’t put it past Belichick to give Porter Jr. a little bumped based off the kind of competitor Porter Sr. was when facing Belichick.

#15 Green Bay Packers – S Brian Branch, Alabama

You may think “oh how could this pass on “Smith-Njigba?” and it’s certainly valid, but I think Branch is going to go early because he is far and away the best safety. I apparently am in the minority on this but I think the depth at safety in this draft just isn’t there, and the Packers can just lock up a plug-and-play player at the position and figure out the rest later.

#16 Washington Commanders – RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

Look, someone is going to do it. In Jordan Reid’s new mock he said the consensus among the league folks he asked is “it would be a major surprise if [Robinson] made it past the top 20 picks.” In Mock Draft 1.0 I had him going to the Falcons, which I still think is possible. After that, though, it’s just hard to find a spot in the top 20 given who is actually picking there. I thought about Tennessee at 11 to easily transition from Henry to Robinson in 2024, but decided against it. Tampa is another common spot where folks at putting Robinson and that one does make sense.

But why on earth would Washington do it? Alright, well, so far in the Martin Mayhew era he has demonstrated a willingness to go against the grain in the draft, especially the first round. Last year after trading down he over-drafted Jahan Dotson by at least half a round. Now, that seems to have worked out, but that would only reinforce in Mayhew’s mind that should trust his instinct. In the first round in 2021 he took Jamin Davis too high, especially given positional value. 2021 was littered with chasing athletes too, taking Davis, Samuel Cosmi, and Dyami Brown in the first three rounds. He over drafted Phidarian Mathis in the second round last year… by a lot.

But what about Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. As far as Gibson is concerned, it’s the last year of his deal and Ron Rivera clearly hates him. I don’t think Gibson is on the roster in 2024. Regarding Robinson, yes he had a nice rookie year and yes he’s an incredible story, but here’s what I wrote about the Falcons taking Bijan despite their current running back room:

I agree that Tyler Allgeier is not getting the credit he deserves for his rookie season. Yes, Cordarrelle Patterson is a legend. Hell even Avery Williams looked nice during the year. But none of that is going to stop this team from taking Bijan Robinson if that’s what they want to do. The Colts traded up to get Jonathan Taylor despite Marlon Mack coming off a 1,000-yard, 8 touchdown season. The Jets traded up to get Breece Hall despite Michael Carter’s near 1,000-total-yard rookie year. The Seahawks traded up to get Kenneth Walker despite Rashaad Penny putting up 671 yards and 6 touchdowns over the last 5 games of 2021. These types of running backs don’t prevent teams from getting a stud if that’s what the team wants to do.

The Broncos drafted Javonte Williams despite having just signed Melvin Gordon. The Jaguars drafted Travis Etienne despite James Robinson’s rookie season (though maybe anything Urban Meyer just doesn’t count). These solid starting running backs simply do not prevent teams from getting someone else if they believe that someone else is special. This team needs to find out what they have in Sam Howell. Surrounding him with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, and Bijan Robinson seems like the best way to find out (or set Caleb Williams up for success).

#17 Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

Deonte Banks blew up the combine and seems pretty entrenched as CB4 in this draft. He fits a massive need for the Steelers especially in the wake of Cam Sutton leaving town.

#18 Detroit Lions – Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

I don’t think Murphy is falling down draft boards the way he is mock drafts, and while I wanted to get him higher than this, it was just hard to find a spot. I think it’s possible Detroit is interested at 6 which would make this a home run first round so far for the Lions. Murphy has explosive power and a high motor. I think Dan Campbell is going to love him.

#19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

Tampa can probably take any position here and we’d all say, “yea, makes sense.” Edge is a definite need however, and Van Ness showed out at the underwear olympics. He could easily go 7-10 spots higher than this.

#20 Seattle Seahawks – Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

I’m sure Pete Carroll will wish that Nolan Smith was at least 10 pounds heavier as Carroll wants real edge setters, but Smith’s size never prevented him from playing the run well in college. His athletic profile is simply too good to pass on here, and Carroll openly admitted Seattle wants to get better in the front seven after their playoff loss.

#21 Los Angeles Chargers – WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

Michael Mayer is a popular pick here and it makes sense, but with how deep this class is at tight end the Chargers may opt for the speed they need at receiver if Flowers is available.


Ravens Receive: #30, #81
Lions Receive: #22

#22 Detroit Lions (F/BAL) – DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

The Ravens are without a second rounder and are likely to look to trade down to accumulate some extra picks.

I’m not overly thrilled about projecting this double move by the Lions since the odds of it happening are so low, but just hear me out. Last year Detroit got aggressive and went flying up the board when they decided they just absolutely had to have Jameson Williams. While Carter is a special talent the Lions may just take at 6, he also would provide an improvement to the team’s interior pass rush. Well, you’ve probably read by now that Brad Holmes was instrumental in the Rams drafting Aaron Donald. I’m not really a huge fan of the Donald-Kancey comparisons, but in this scenario Detroit gets to walk, nay, waltz out of the first round with Witherspoon, Murphy, and Kancey, which is just ridiculous.


Vikings Receive: #31, #95, #122
Chiefs Receive: #23

#23 Kansas City Chiefs (F/MIN) – WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Like the Ravens, Minnesota is without a second rounder this year and and given Kwesi’s penchant for analytics I suspect he will look to move down from 23 to accumulate more picks.

Last year I predicted the Chiefs would trade up in the first round, specifically with the Patriots, because they had 12 total selections and there’s no way they were fitting 12 rookies on a Super Bowl caliber roster. Well this year the Chiefs have 10 picks and, once again, there’s no way they’re fitting 10 rookies on a Super Caliber roster.

Oh, and guess what? The Chiefs DID trade up last year with the Patriots. Let me know when you’re on my level.

Won’t be holding my breath.

Anyway, the trade details from last year are the Chiefs sent 29, 94, and 121 for 21, which is nearly identical to what this trade would be.

We know the Chiefs can use help at receiver and Smith-Njigba could easily go much higher than this. This will be the “how did the league allow this?” moment of the draft if it comes to fruition.

#24 Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

In each of the past two drafts Trent Baalke has over-drafted a freak athlete out of Georgia. Despite reaching on Tyson Campbell, Campbell has developed into a quality player and profiled similarly to Ringo. The jury is still out on Walker but the point is Baalke’s affinity for freak athlete’s is no secret. While Ringo never produced the best tape at Georgia despite his gifts, I don’t think Baalke will be able to pass on those gifts, especially given the need at the position.

#25 New York Giants – CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

Speaking of need at the position..

#26 Dallas Cowboys – DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

In Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft he said the Steelers might just take Mazi Smith over Kancey at 17 if they’re both there. What really caught my attention is that Smith’s range apparently starts at 17. Then Daniel Jeremiah said “Smith has generated a lot of buzz in personnel circles for his combination of athleticism and power,” and mocked Smith to Dallas himself. I’m not trying to just copy DJ’s pick, but it would appear the league is much higher on Smith than the media, and he does fit a need for Dallas.

#27 Buffalo Bills – WR Jordan Addison, USC

The Bills playoff loss really exposed two things; the lack of reliable receivers not named Diggs, and the defense apparently just falls apart without Von Miller. Jordan Addison is such an easy plug-and-play option he makes too much sense for a team chasing a Super Bowl.

#28 Cincinnati Bengals – TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Speaking of easy plug-and-play options for Super Bowl chasers, Mayer would come in and immediately replace Hayden Hurts.

#29 New Orleans Saints (F/DEN/MIA/SF) – DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

The Saints lost what feels like their entire defensive interior in free agency. I still think Bresee goes much higher than this but it’s difficult to find a spot for him. This would be a dream for New Orleans.

#30 Baltimore Ravens (F/DET/PHI) – Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

The Ravens have invested premium picks in pass rushers lately but have yet to get the desired result. Here’s another swing.

#31 Minnesota Vikings (F/KC) – CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

Forbes sneaks into the first despite his 166 pound frame. He’s an absolute ball magnet and the Vikings desperately need help at corner.

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