Connor Rogers’ NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Young goes No. 1, surprise at No. 3
We’re two and half weeks away from the 2023 NFL Draft and the rumors are flying.
This draft has teams pondering a few different questions. Which quarterback goes first overall? How does Houston react if it’s the guy they want? When will the run on corners begin and which team gets aggressive to land one?
Despite the lack of value for the running back position, a blue chip talent like Bijan Robinson is simply too good to fall too far. Who will blink and grab him and will it be a sneaky team coming from the second round, back into Round 1?
This Mock Draft 1.0 doesn’t feature trades, but I’ll highlight a few teams that could be on the move. Here are my latest predictions for the first round…
Connor Rogers’ 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Panthers (via Bears): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The depth of this quarterback class has justifiably generated a lot of hype these last three months. Despite that, Young is still a gifted prospect who easily warrants being the top selection.
Despite his size, he’s an elite intermediate middle of the field thrower. His pre- and post-snap recognition and overall field vision is in a unique tier. I’m sure there will be healthy debate in the Panthers’ war room, but logic keeps bringing me back to Young being the pick.
2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
With Young off the board, the Texans find themselves picking between ceiling and floor. Anthony Richardson‘s traits give him endless potential at the next level, but Stroud is the safer selection. Texans GM Nick Caserio needs to find stability under center as the DeMeco Ryans era begins. Stroud should give this offense a significant boost quickly, especially when you factor in the talent they have at offensive tackle.
3. Cardinals: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The first surprise pick of this mock draft. Will Anderson warrants being the first non-quarterback taken in this draft, but I’ve heard buzz about Arizona and Wilson going back to the beginning of the Combine.
Ultimately I think the Cardinals get out of this pick and with the state of their roster, both help up front and at corner are at play.
4. Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
This is most likely Chris Ballard‘s last swing at quarterback for the Colts, why not take the home run cut? I like the fit with Shane Steichen, who had a ton of success working with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
Richardson’s playmaking, running and deep ball set his floor. If he can clean up his mechanics in the short game, he’ll find consistency that unleashes a high-end ceiling.
5. Seahawks (Via Broncos): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The conversation around Carter has drastically changed from “should the Bears stay at No. 1 to take him” to “who in the top eight is willing to roll the dice?”
This Seattle regime has taken chances on prospects with question marks before. Not only is interior defensive line a need, Carter has the most talent of any player in the draft.
6. Lions (Via Rams): Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
I think the Lions’ draft room would be jumping for joy. Dan Campbell, fully caffeinated, would bear hug anyone in sight.
Will Anderson and Aidan Hutchinson rushing the passer on opposite sides for the long-term future? I wouldn’t want to play quarterback in the NFC North.
7. Raiders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
You can make the argument no player in this draft put out better 2022 tape than Witherspoon and I know of three teams that timed him at 4.39 in his forty.
The former Illinois corner brings a lot of snarl to the back end of a defense. With his sticky coverage, rare click and close along with highlight reel hits, I think he’s a future Pro Bowl cornerback.
8. Falcons: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez has done everything and more you could’ve hoped for when he transferred from Colorado to Oregon. He has size, top end athleticism, good technique and emerging ball skills (4 interceptions and 7 pass break ups in 2022).
9. Bears (Via Panthers): Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
The Bears are fascinating in this spot as they’ve positioned themselves to still land a tier one player, but ultimately could move back again if a quarterback falls. In this spot, Ryan Poles lands the best offensive lineman in the draft. I think he could play any of the five spots well.
10. Eagles (Via Saints): Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Philadelphia is in the unique position of picking in the top 10 coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Will they take an approach to land an instant impact piece or look more long term?
Van Ness fits into the latter, bringing developmental youth to their front seven with legit power. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t a starter, he displayed winning bull-rush reps on tape against both Peter Skoronski (2021) and Paris Johnson (2022). Traits go early and Van Ness is loaded with them.
11. Titans: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Ryan Tannehill is in the final year of his contract and new general manager Ran Carthon will find his quarterback of the future at some point. That doesn’t have to be this year, but if Levis falls right into their lap, why not? This is a great landing spot where he wouldn’t be forced to play right away.
12. Texans (Via Browns): Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
DeMeco Ryans needs more talent up front for his defense to work. Smith is still figuring it out as a pass rusher, but he has the athleticism and fearlessness to wreak havoc off the ball. When you think of the type of leader Ryans was as a player (and now as a coach), Smith’s special football character is easy matchmaking.
13. Jets: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Duane Brown will be 38 years old Week 1. Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell are young with talent, but both are coming off significant health issues. Paris Johnson has tremendous length and movement skills, with a nasty demeanor in the run game. His anchor strength needs improvement, but he adds young talent to the Jets’ tackle group.
14. Patriots: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
With Trent Brown on one side and Wright on the other, not many teams can stack up to the size and strength New England would roll out at tackle. The Tennessee product is battle tested after squaring off against Will Anderson and Bryan Bresee in 2022, where he had great showings.
15. Packers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
As the Jordan Love era is set to kick off, he’ll need a possession target to lean on. Smith-Njigba is a polished separator who has no fear and is great working over the middle of the field. He makes excellent adjustments to the football and could very well be in line for a 1,000-yard rookie season. Him and Christian Watson would complement each other quite well in this offense.
16. Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
17. Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
If Pittsburgh wants to give Kenny Pickett a chance to thrive, they have to reinforce the offensive line in this division. Jones was great in his first full year starting, showing off explosive range with such a quick lower half at his size.
18. Lions: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
With all three tight ends on the board here, this is a true pick your flavor selection. Michael Mayer is the most balanced, Darnell Washington is the best blocker but Kincaid brings the most as a receiving threat right now.
Ben Johnson is one of the more exciting young play callers in the league. Giving him the trio of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams and Dalton Kincaid is a special blend of targets to impact all three levels of the field.
19. Buccaneers: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Jason Licht has taken his early round swings on pass rush help, but this unit still desperately needs help. Murphy is a strong run defender with power and athleticism. He never had a truly dominant season for Clemson, but his potential as a 21-year-old rookie will have him come off the board early.
20. Seahawks: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Adding Zay Flowers to the duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett puts an absurd amount of stress on a defense vertically. With Kenneth Walker in the backfield and a thriving Geno Smith under center, this offense would bring the perfect amount of balance. Not a lot of players have the lightning quickness and movement skills that Flowers does.
21. Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Everyone in the AFC is in a race to overload their young franchise quarterback with weapons. The Chargers have talent around Justin Herbert, but this selection balances instant impact and long-term stockpiling at the receiver position.
Addison is a smooth route runner and his drop rate drastically improved after transferring to USC. His ability to alter tempo to separate and carve up zone coverage will lead to early production. Despite his size, I think he can win both inside and outside at the next level.
22. Ravens: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
With Odell Beckham Jr. landing in Baltimore, they aren’t forced into taking the best wide receiver available with this selection. I’ve heard the Ravens are all over this corner class, but the question has been if one will make it all the way to their selection.
Banks is an explosive athlete that stepped up when challenged this season. He’d most likely start right away across from Marlon Humphrey.
23. Vikings: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
Kancey is an outlier due to his size for an interior defensive lineman (6'0 ⅝, 281 pounds), but he’s an incredibly gifted pass rusher. This Minnesota interior needs a boost and I think he’s a top 15 talent in this class
24. Jaguars: Brian Branch, SAF/NCB, Alabama
Jacksonville has gotten the hard part out of the way with landing a franchise quarterback and a respectable, reliable head coach. Now they need to stockpile the defense. Branch’s tackling and awareness give him a great floor. He’s a matchup player who can handle coverage from the slot, but also dirty work against the run coming downhill.
25. Giants: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The Giants have an extremely small wide receiver room and Johnston would give them a bigger, outside threat. Him and Darren Waller would allow Daniel Jones to challenge the opposition with more aggression as they can make plays on the ball in the air.
26. Cowboys: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
There are true shades of Randy Gregory in Will McDonald’s game. He’s a flexible rusher with burst, speed and bend. Him and Micah Parsons disrupting quarterback’s together for at least the next half decade would be a dream for Dan Quinn.
27. Bills: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
Brandon Beane understands the mission for his Buffalo Bills: become a tougher team up front and protect the franchise in Josh Allen. Torrence accomplishes both, with a highway-paving mentality in the run game and a massive frame to get around in pass protection.
28. Bengals: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I was torn in this spot as the Bengals could walk away with either the best tight end in Michael Mayer or the best overall playmaker in Bijan Robinson. With the lack of long-term confidence in Joe Mixon being on the roster, how could anyone pass up the blue-chip talent from Texas here?
I wouldn’t be surprised if a team jumps back into Round 1 to get him.
29. Saints (via 49ers): Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Bresee dealt with a ton of adversity this season with personal health issues and the tragic loss of his sister. His 2022 tape doesn’t warrant a Round 1 selection, but some teams will bet on the raw talent he has at that size.
30. Eagles: Steve Avila, OG/OC, TCU
I had the Eagles shooting for the stars with Lukas Van Ness at No. 10, this pick goes the other way. Avila is a steady presence on the interior of the offensive line, with experience at both guard and center. It would be nice to have his massive 332-pound frame next to Jason Kelce and eventually Landon Dickerson down the road.
31. Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
With Frank Clark shown the door, Kansas City will be all over this edge class. Anudike-Uzomah has a nonstop motor and a diverse pass-rush package. The Chiefs would charge forward with youth opposite George Karlaftis, while veteran star Chris Jones does the heavy lifting in the middle.