Bleacher Nation NFL’s Final Round 1 Mock Draft
My bags are packed, and I’m checked in for my early morning flight to Kansas City tomorrow. But before I make my way to Kansas City for the NFL Draft, I’m filing away one final swing at predicting one of the more unpredictable first rounds in recent memory.
I’ve been mocking each team’s picks throughout April in a running mock draft/scouting project that has given me a pretty good idea of where I want to go with things today.
Unlike the running mock that wrapped up yesterday, there will be trades in this mock draft. So, without further adieu, here is my 2023 NFL Mock Draft.
1. Carolina Panthers (via CHI): Bryce Young — QB (Alabama)
I was on the C.J. Stroud to Carolina train for some time, and I think the Panthers were too. But, when Bryce Young ended his pre-draft visits amid Stroud’s stock falling last week, I came to terms with the idea that Young will go to Carolina.
Young can make plays all over the field with his arm and can do so with zip on the ball. However, his size is a concern. Seeing over the line from the pocket is an issue, evidenced by his knack for sitting deep in the pocket at Alabama.
2. Houston Texans: Will Anderson Jr. — EDGE (Alabama)
The Texans were in love with Bryce Young, but that’s not happening. DeMeco Ryans takes a stud pass-rusher at No. 2, and the Texans will reassess the QB availability when they’re back on the clock at No. 12.
Will Anderson Jr. is an every-down player with a lightning-fast first step at the line of scrimmage. Anderson averaged 734 snaps per season at Alabama, making him a building block for the Texans’ defense that can stay on the field for every down. His lightning-fast first step helped him become one of the most prolific pass rushers in college football during his time in Tuscaloosa. Anderson logged 42 hurries, 14 sacks, and nine QB hits for the Crimson Tide in 2022. His performance was good enough for an 83.6 overall grade at PFF.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Tyree Wilson — EDGE (Texas Tech)
With C.J. Stroud sliding, I don’t see any team being motivated enough to move up to No. 3. I think the Cardinals will stay put, not because they want to, but because they’ll be unable to find a taker.
Tyree Wilson had a breakout season at Texas Tech in 2022, logging 50 QB pressures and eight sacks in 10 games for the Red Raiders. Wilson also logged 32 hurries and 10 QB hits in 2022, finishing the season with a 75.1 PFF overall grade. While Wilson has a knack for attacking the man in front of him, sometimes it’s recklessly or without a plan. He doesn’t shy away from contact, but he’ll need to refine that and be more calculated at the next level.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis — QB (Kentucky)
Will Levis is an odd case. Some scouting folks are so in love with the boxes that he does check that they’ve had him ranked ahead of all of the QBs in the 2023 draft. Some have him ranked outside of the top five quarterbacks.
However, I think that the Colts see him as a pro-ready QB, and they’ll take him at No. 4 on Thursday evening in Kansas City.
Levis has proven that he has one of the strongest arms in the draft (I think Anthony Richardson’s is stronger), but there are plenty of concerns for Levis. His feet could be more consistent, his ball placement could be better, and his short-arm release is a concern. Levis was dealing with turn toe in 2022, but his final season at Kentucky was underwhelming. He threw for 2,416 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. But even in 2021, his best season at Kentucky, he threw 13 interceptions, and he’s never had a passer rating north of 100.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): Anthony Richardson — QB (Florida)
I’ve waffled on this one. A month ago, I had Richardson going to Seattle. Then I had the Seahawks taking Jalen Carter. However, I think the Seahawks, who have two first-rounders, would be remiss not to take advantage of having Geno Smith’s successor on their roster after night one.
Anthony Richardson dazzled at the Scouting Combine, specifically when it came to the measurables testing. He set a combine record with a 40.5 vertical and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. Richardson’s height (6’4″), weight (244), 40 (4.43), vertical (40.5), and broad jump (10’9″) all ranked first among quarterbacks.
You can cite his limited experience, inaccuracy (although the tape says different), or footwork as concerns. You can even point to the fact that he only throws fastballs and has yet to learn to take something off of the throw, which is why he’s behind other QBs in the draft. But these are all fixable. However, he comes with everything you can’t manufacture at the NFL level.
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR): Devon Witherspoon — CB (Illinois)
The Lions could go with Christian Gonzalez or Devon Witherspoon here, and either way, it’s bad news for the rest of the NFC North. However, I think it’ll be Witherspoon.
Witherspoon is tough and physical in both coverages and against the run. He plays like his hair is on fire, about 50 pounds heavier than he is. He’s relentless at the catch point, agitating at the line of scrimmage, and takes excellent routes to cut off receiver’s routes.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez — CB (Oregon)
I’m going with the “don’t overthink this” approach on this one — Vegas needs a corner, and Christian Gonzalez is right there for them.
Gonzalez is sticky in coverage and has off-the-charts athleticism, but he plays very aggressively and may need to tone that down at the next level.
His 4.38 40-yard dash (89th percentile), 41’5″ vertical jump (98th percentile), and 11’1″ broad jump (95th percentile) make Gonzalez one of the most explosive and athletic cornerbacks in the draft. Gonzalez is tall with long arms, can run in man coverage, and accelerates well to match vertical routes.
We’ve got a trade! Taking a QB at No. 2 might have been something that the Texans weren’t in love with after Carolina took Bryce Young, but I can’t see them leaving the first round without one. So, Houston sends their 2023 second-rounder (No. 65), a 2023 sixth-rounder (No. 188), and a 2024 second-round pick to the Falcons to move up.
8. Houston Texans (via ATL): C.J. Stroud — QB (Ohio State)
The Texans move up four spots to take a QB that they could have gotten at No. 2 in the NFL Draft but now do it with an elite pass-rusher on their roster too.
Stroud is accurate to all three levels, has a smooth touch, and his anticipation throws stand out in his tape. However, Stroud could have been better under pressure, and his throws took a dive in quality while on the run. Stroud will need to learn how to feel the rush much better at the NFL level, but what QB doesn’t?
9. Chicago Bears (via CAR): Jalen Carter — DT (Georgia)
The Bears had the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and they may still end up with the best player in the class at No. 9 if Jalen Carter falls to them.
We saw two former Bulldogs (Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt) become the first two defensive tackles off the board in 2022. Georgia again has the best DT in the draft, and his talent level is so high that a GM will roll the dice on him despite a turbulent pre-draft process.
Carter posted a 92.3 PFF grade in 2022, ranking No. 1 among power five defensive linemen. Carter is explosive and versatile, and PFF called him the best DT prospect they’ve graded since Quinnen Williams and maybe even the best since they began grading college prospects in 2014. That’s pretty high praise.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): Bijan Robinson — RB (Texas)
The Eagles could go offensive or defensive line here, but adding Bijan Robinson to their already scary offense in the middle of a contention window seems too perfect not to do. Robinson is the best running back in the NFL Draft, so don’t overthink it. Plus, how funny would it be to see Cowboys fans’ reactions?
Robinson is a three-down back that is equally explosive and elusive. He packs an explosive punch into his 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame. His 40-yard dash, broad jump, and vertical jump are all north of the 80th percentile.
Robinson won the Doak Walker Award and consensus All-American honors after rushing for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022. He hit the 100-yard mark in nine of his final 10 games and led the country with 104 missed tackles forced. He has knee-bending elusiveness, making it look like you’re controlling a create-a-player on Madden NFL.
11. Tennessee Titans: Paris Johnson Jr. — T (Ohio State)
If the Titans stay put with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft, an offensive lineman seems like a no-brainer for Tennessee. The Titans land a good one here.
Paris Johnson Jr. is the best offensive tackle in the draft on most big boards, including Dane Brugler’s at The Athletic. Brugler calls Johnson “quick out his stance with the movement skills to mirror pass rushers around the arc or show off his pulling range in the run game.”
12. Atlanta Falcons (via HOU): Myles Murphy — EDGE (Clemson)
The Atlanta Falcons ranked 26th (35%) in team pass rush win rate and 29th (27%) in team run stop win rate in 2022, per ESPN Stats and Information.
PFF dubbed Myles Murphy “an absolute freak athlete” in their scouting report. Murphy has a pro-ready frame and is a solid pass rusher who racked up 20 sacks and 55 hurries in three collegiate seasons.
Murphy possesses the type of size (6’5″, 268 pounds) and speed (4.51 40-yard dash at Clemson’s pro day) that NFL teams covet on the edge these days. He packs an explosive first step, and his quickness helps him convert speed into power at the point of contact. As a result, he can beat you around the outside or bulldoze you.
13. Green Bay Packers (via NYJ): Jaxon Smith-Njigba — WR (Ohio State)
The Packers moved up two spots in the NFL Draft as a result of the Aaron Rodgers trade earlier this week. Jordan Love is going to need weapons, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the consensus top wide receiver in the draft.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a skilled route runner and is called the best wide receiver of the recent bunch to come out of Ohio State by 2022 NFL Rookie of the Year candidate and former Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson. JSN’s top-end speed could be better, but his fluid route running makes up for it and makes him an ideal slot wide receiver prospect in the NFL. He’s strong enough to work over the middle and can shed most arm tackles after the catch. His hands are soft and reliable and were displayed at last month’s scouting combine.
14. New England Patriots: Zay Flowers — WR (Boston College)
Zay Flowers might end up being the best wide receiver in the NFL Draft when it’s all said and done. He’s a short and compact receiver who quickly gets in and out of route breaks, and his speed and explosiveness provide plenty of quickness in his release.
But what sets Flowers apart from the rest of the very good receivers in this draft is his elite ability with the ball in space. He ranked top 20 nationally in yards after the catch (503), per PFF, and has 84th percentile speed (4.42 40-yard dash).
15. New York Jets (via GB): Broderick Jones — T (Georgia)
The Jets’ defense was their strength last year. They’re adding Aaron Rodgers under center and getting Breece Hall back. Adding a high-upside tackle like Broderick Jones lengthens the list of reasons to keep an eye on the Jets in 2023.
PFF calls Jones’ punch in pass protection “deadening,” and The Ringer calls him an “easy moving tackle with a big frame and sky-high upside.” If you’ve learned anything about me from this mock draft, I LOVE taking big swings at high-upside guys in the early portion of the first round. Jones fits that bill.
16. Washington Commanders: Deonte Banks — CB (Maryland)
The fit is there, and the Commanders can snag a local kid who most believe shouldn’t make it out of the top 20 in this draft class, which is saying something for a class with some really good cornerbacks.
Banks has a strong, muscular build with speed. He uses his arm length (77 1/8) to slow receivers at the line of scrimmage and uses his coordinated footwork to maintain his stride with receivers downfield. Banks is physical with receivers downfield, sheds blocks to get into the play and displays solid open-field tackling.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter — CB (Penn State)
Porter is a long, physical corner with rare length; he’s stingy in coverage and makes plays on the ball. He would be a solid fit for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers at No. 17 and becomes the third corner in the last four picks and the fifth in the first round.
Porter is tall, lanky, and oversized for a traditional cornerback with long arms and wingspan. His size makes him an excellent press coverage defender. Porter uses his “go-go-gadget” arms to reroute receivers off the line of scrimmage and take them toward the sideline. His jams at the line disrupt routes and frustrate receivers. Where he lacks in the acceleration department downfield, he makes up for it with great building speed.
18. Detroit Lions: Lukas Van Ness — EDGE (Iowa)
Van Ness possesses top-tier size, length, and strength, making him a load for any offensive lineman to handle. He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine (74th percentile) and owns a quick first step that he uses as the foundation for his ball rush.
He has a thunderous punch and is a relentless hand-fighter. His arms are like a forklift for an offensive lineman. In Iowa’s matchup with Ohio State, Van Ness lifted and drove Paris Johnson Jr. into C.J. Stroud and battled well with the consensus best tackle in the draft.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brian Branch — DB (Alabama)
Brian Branch was a three-year contributor and two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, tallying 172 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four picks, and 23 pass deflections in his career. Branch earned AP second-team All-American honors after collecting 90 tackles, 14 TFLs, three sacks, seven passes defended, and two picks.
Branch is a do-it-all defender with instincts in coverage and speed as a blitzer. The Ringer compared Branch to Texans safety Jalen Pitre, and that’s a great comp. It’s also great news for the team that drafted him because he’s got the profile to be a day-one starter.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Calijah Kancey — DT (Pitt)
After adding Anthony Richardson with the fifth pick, the Seahawks address the interior defensive line at No. 20 with Pitt’s Calijah Kancey.
Kancey logged 14.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons at Pitt and was a unanimous All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. Kancey has elite lateral quickness and explosive hands and can drive blockers backward at the point of contact with above-average contact balance.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison — WR (USC)
Justin Herbert is a star quarterback on the verge of a mega-extension. Los Angeles would be wise to maximize his talent with playmakers around him. USC wide receiver Jordan Addison fits the bill.
Addison is a slippery and fast-twitched wide receiver, and while his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame is a touch on the undersized side of things in the NFL, he makes up for it with crisp route running, great footwork, and route transitions. Those skills allow him to be a menace on outs and dig routes, which can help balance the Chargers’ offense.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Kelee Ringo — CB (Georgia)
Ringo shows excellent patience in press coverage and avoids opening up too quickly. He has the makeup speed to transition seamlessly into trail coverage and gets his head around quickly to play the ball at the catch point. Ringo can be too aggressive sometimes, making him susceptible to the double move and the intermediate routes. However, he has a rare blend of size, speed, and ball skills. He might have a lower floor than some of the other cornerback prospects in this draft, but his ceiling is sky-high.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Emmanuel Forbes — CB (Mississippi State)
Minnesota needs to add depth at the cornerback position, and Emmanuel Forbes plays a lot like Cam Dantzler, who departed Minnesota in free agency.
Forbes is a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, posting incredible ball production, including 14 career picks (along with an NCAA record six pick-sixes) and 21 passes defended to go with 150 tackles and a forced fumble. Forbes is good in press and off coverage and reads the QBs eyes well to jump routes and make plays on the ball.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Peter Skoronski — T/G (Northwestern)
Skoronski is quick off the ball and does a great job keeping blocks centered and sustained, rarely in a compromised position. He plays with a low center of gravity and balanced base, showing a smooth and efficient kick step. What Skoronski lacks in the height and length department, he makes up for it with his smarts and attention to detail. Unfortunately, he’s compromised against long and athletic rushers on the edge. Still, I think he’ll be an excellent interior pass blocker at the NFL level.
25. New York Giants: Quentin Johnston — WR (TCU)
Quentin Johnston brings an excellent blend of speed, size, and strength to the table. Johnston was spectacular in 2022, with 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games to help lead TCU to the national championship game. Johnston’s drop issues could make him a potential bust, but his rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism could make him the best wide receiver in the draft. I think he falls due to the consistency concerns but provides a team like the Giants immense value in the bottom third of the first round.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Bryan Bresee — DT (Clemson)
The Cowboys need the interior defensive line, and Clemson’s Bryan Bresee fits the bill. I was impressed by Bresee at the NFL Scouting Combine. A penetrating defensive lineman with the versatility and athleticism to play at multiple spots on the line would be a solid addition for Dallas late in the first round.
27. Buffalo Bills: Jalin Hyatt — WR (Tennessee)
Jalin Hyatt has some of the best speed and explosiveness of any wide receiver in the draft class. His 4.4-second 40-yard dash is in the 88th percentile. Hyatt’s 40-inch vertical and 11’3″ broad jump rank in the 93rd and 98th percentile, respectively. Hyatt’s home run capability coupled with Josh Allen’s cannon arm and escapability gives the Bills quite the two-headed monster at WR in Hyatt and Stefon Diggs.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Jahmyr Gibbs — RB (Alabama)
I like the idea of the Bengals grabbing a running back here. Joe Mixon is in trouble with the law and the Bengals need to get young and cheap at as many positions as they can with Joe Burrow’s extension around the corner.
Jahmyr Gibbs’ 4.36 40-yard dash was second-best among all running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine and top ten overall. He has 99th percentile speed for the running back position. Gibbs ran for 926 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 44 catches for 444 yards and three scores through the air.
29. New Orleans Saints: Mazi Smith — DT (Michigan)
Almost every mock draft has the New Orleans Saints taking a defensive lineman with the 29th pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday. So, we’re going with the wide-bodied Mazi Smith for New Orleans. Smith boosts the Saints on the interior defensive line and the run defense.
The Detroit Lions have already added Devin Witherspoon and Lukas Van Ness in this draft, so why not continue to swing for the fences with the NFC North there for the taking? Detroit sends their second-rounder (No. 48), a fifth-round pick (No. 159 via ATL), and a 2024 second-round pick to the Eagles to move up.
30. Detroit Lions: Hendon Hooker — QB (Tennessee)
Detroit moves back into the first round here to take Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker. Jared Goff was excellent in 2022 but has been less-than-excellent more often than not in his career.
Hooker is tall and sturdy with a big frame and was an accurate volume passer for Tennessee. He’s an aggressive downfield thrower who consistently gives his receivers a shot to come down with the big play. He totaled 13 touchdown passes of 20-plus yards, per PFF (tied for sixth most in the country). Even with the downfield shots, Hooker only had five turnover-worthy plays on 331 attempts. That’s a 1.1 percent TWP rate, which ranked third in the country in 2022.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Mayer — TE (Notre Dame)
Kansas City has the best tight end in football on their roster in Travis Kelce, but the Chiefs do an excellent job of utilizing two-tight end sets and can use another quality pass-catcher. Mayer is also an outstanding blocker, giving him the advantage over Utah’s Dalton Kincaid here.
Mayer can do it all. He’s not the elite pass-catching specialist that Utah’s Dalton Kincaid is, but he’s no slouch when it comes to catching the football. Mayer logged 67 catches for 809 yards and nine touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors. The sturdy tight end possesses outstanding strength and body control at the catch point and uses his body to gain leverage against defenders. Mayer is also a physical specimen and can block on the line or in space. He’s a versatile Y tight end who has an excellent chance of becoming a day-one starter.