That time has come – it’s draft season(“Louder – I can’t hear you in the back”!!!) And with that comes the first edition of the 32Beatwriters mock draft. Be ready – as you will see more of these as draft season rolls along. But for now, we will start with our end of season mock, as we now know the draft order for the first 18 non-playoff teams. The remaining 14 selections will be determined over the course of the next month as we kick off playoff football and Super Wild Card Weekend!
For this purpose though, I have included the current playoff teams by order of record.
Much of the talent in this class remained the same from our midseason mock, but others were added due to a handful of prospects deciding to go back to school for another year. However, the top ten remained relatively the same, and appears to be heavy on the big boys in the trenches and defensive skill players. Unlike the last three years, a WR was not taken in one of the top 10 selections. It is not an exciting group of pass catchers this year, but will still have a group of prospects who can step in and play a role on day one.
Before you check out the mock draft below, just a reminder that the 2023 draft will have only 31 selections this year, as the Dolphins forfeited their 1st round pick due to a violation of tampering rules and then traded their pick from the 49ers they received in 2021 to the Broncos at this years trade deadline. The Browns, Rams, and Saints are the other three teams currently without a first round pick this year.
1. Chicago Bears – Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia – So Chicago lands the first overall pick in the draft with quite the conundrum – trade the pick, draft a QB, or take the best player available. The most important question they have to answer is, “Is Justin Fields the guy?” With the way he displayed his athleticism throughout the season, I think the Bears would be wise to try and build their offense around him. They are desperate for impact players, especially on defense, and this draft has two generational talents on that side of the ball in Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. Ultimately, I think Carter makes the most sense for Chicago.
2. Houston Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama – This could all change if Chicago decides to trade their 1st overall pick. I think Young, if he hasn’t already, will establish himself as the 2023 QB1 and be one of the top two picks come April. Despite the Texans losing out on the first overall pick thanks to their win over Indianapolis last Sunday, in this case, they still land the QB they’ve been linked to the most in Young.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr, EDGE, Alabama – Anderson is considered a generational talent in this draft and has the skills to live up to that hype. He does everything at an elite level and can absolutely take over games. The Texans lack superior talent on their defense and Anderson gives them the franchise EDGE they haven’t found since JJ Watt left. Anderson will step in day one and make an impact.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky – They have searched long and hard to find a Quarterback and have yet to replace Andrew Luck after his sudden retirement prior to the 2019 season. They have gone through almost six different QBs and the Colts’ front office is running out of time to get this position straight. However, this pick comes with a lot of risk, as Levis disappointed after a strong 2021 season and had him in the discussion as the first overall pick in 2023. Now, Levis must reestablish himself along the draft circuit and show decision makers that he has the look of a franchise signal caller. Levis comes with a lot of risk, but his raw tools will stand out amongst NFL front office personnel.
5. Seattle Seahawks(via Broncos) – CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State – It sounds as if Geno Smith may test free agency and see what he’s worth on the open market. If that’s the case, Seattle should disconnect their phone line and turn the card in immediately after they hit the clock. Having Stroud fall into their lap with Indianapolis passing him up for Levis would be the most ideal scenario.
Asked Geno Smith, who hasn’t had a multiyear contract since his rookie Jets deal, what he wants for 2023. He says a lot of decisions have to be made, and he knows NFL is a business—and he’s got his own business and decisions to make, as well.— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) January 9, 2023
That tells me he intends to go to FA pic.twitter.com/pY6GITlbmM
6. Detroit Lions(via LAR) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson – The Lions have a huge need in the secondary after being near the bottom in pass defense this year. However, this range of the top 10 picks would be a reach for any of the CBs in this year’s class with some higher-ranked talent still on the board. They can take Murphy here, pair him up with Aidan Hutchinson, and let both of them meet at the QB in 2023.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Paris Johnson Jr, OT, Ohio State – The Raiders signed Kolton Miller to a contract extension, but could use some additional help up front in the form of an athletic OT in Johnson. Johnson silenced all concerns after moving from inside to outside at LT for the Buckeyes and didn’t miss a beat. He’s talented enough where he can start his career at RT and move over to LT once Miller has played out his contract or if Las Vegas decides to move on from him sooner.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas – A running back hasn’t been drafted this high since Saquon Barkley in 2018. Ironically, Robinson has been consistently compared to Saquon as a pro comp throughout his college career at Texas and now we get to see just how good he can be in the NFL. Bijan is a difference-maker and an offensive focal point that head coach Arthur Smith saw up close with Derrick Henry during his time as offensive coordinator in Tennessee.
9. Carolina Panthers – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida – Richardson was a surprise declare for this draft, as he likely could have benefited from another year at Florida in 2023. Carolina may not see the fruits of this pick until two or three years in the future, but the combination of elite athleticism and physical traits are too hard to pass up. Whom the organization hires as its next head coach and the staff he puts together to surround Richardson with all he needs to succeed is paramount to this pick.
10. Philadelphia Eagles(via Saints) – Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson – Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office has established a reputation of building the trenches within the draft. The Eagles could see up to five defensive lineman leave in free agency, which means they may have to look to the draft in April to help replace those spots. Bresee can step in day one as a disruptive 3-tech that can also provide an interior pass rush and give the Eagles a strong presence up the middle with he and Jordan Davis.
11. Tennessee Titans – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern – The injury to Taylor Lewan leaves the Titans with a lot of uncertainty at LT and Skoronski has the skillset to step in day one as their new blindside protector. Tennessee will first have to decide what they do at the quarterback position, but drafting a cornerstone piece at a premium position is a good business decision.
12. Houston Texans(via Browns) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU – Texans received this pick as part of the compensation they got after trading DeShaun Watson last summer. They previously drafted Young to be their franchise signal caller and now give him a centerpiece on the outside to build around with Johnston.
13. New York Jets – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia – The Jets have a lot of uncertainty, not only at QB, but at the blindside as well. Mekhi Becton has not lived up to the draft capital the Jets invested in him after three seasons and may need to consider another option. Jones continues to rise up draft boards after his dominant performance against TCU in the CFP National Championship game.
14. New England Patriots – Jordan Addison, WR, USC – Patriots invested a top 15 pick in Mac Jones in 2021 and need to see it through his rookie contract, continuing to put pieces around him to help. They used a top 50 pick last year on Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton, who has shown flashes, but hasn’t lived up to that selection just yet. Addison is an explosive playmaker that can stretch the field vertically and open up lighter boxes for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris in the run game.
15. Green Bay Packers – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame – This pick seems unlikely the Packers would take a tight end this high, but Mayer is a different breed. He could easily step in as high as the number two option on offense behind only Aaron Jones. Christian Watson broke out in the second half of the season for Green Bay and Mayer would give the Packers a potential difference-maker at a position that does not have very many of them. Mayer is a top 15 talent, maybe higher, in this year’s draft class.
16. Washington Commanders – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon – This is the first of three consecutive picks at Cornerback in this mock. Commanders have to challenge some of the best WR talent in the NFL twice a year(Eagles – AJ Brown, Devonta Smith; and Cowboys, CeeDee Lamb) and will need to find help to limit big plays and give their defensive line(their strength) a chance to win up front. Gonzalez brings size/length and production, having 7 passes defended and 4 picks for the Ducks last season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia – The Steelers played some solid football down the stretch, finishing with a winning season at 9-8 after being 3-7 through Week 11. Pittsburgh has consistently been an organization that knows how to execute and develop talent through the draft. At one point, Ringo was considered the CB1 of this class, but the shine has worn off a bit. Still, this would be a great fit for him, as he may need more seasoning before he reaches his ceiling. Having him learn under an All-Pro like Minkah Fitzpatrick is a very good thing.
18. Detroit Lions – Clark Phillips, CB, Utah – The last of a trio of CBs in the middle of the 1st round might be the one with the highest upside. Cornerback is one of the stronger position groups of this draft class and Phillips III continues to make a strong case as CB1. The Lions took Myles Murphy earlier with their Rams pick and now get a playmaking, athletic corner in Phillips that can take it to the house at any moment and change the outlook of the game.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida – The Bucs lost Ali Marpet last season to retirement and were without Ryan Jensen for the entire season. Torrence is a mountain of a man and bullies 3-tech’s up front. If Brady decides to stick around, Torrence is a good plug and play guy who will sure up the middle of the pocket and allow the GOAT to continue his legendary career.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson – The Seahawks need help all over their front seven, as teams were able to run with ease early and often. The Seahawks will have multiple starters up front potentially leave as free agents and will need to find impact players. The draft could be a good place to look and Simpson falls to them here at 20 overall. Simpson is at his best playing in space as a SAM in an even front or rush LB in an odd front. He’d bring some elite athleticism to a Seattle defense that will need to prioritize a rebuild on defense.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars – Brian Branch, S, Alabama – The Jags continue to build their young defense and take Branch, which would be a solid pick here. Branch is arguably the top-ranked Safety in 2023 and could look to fill this position through the draft, as Rayshawn Jenkins is currently set to be a free agent. Jacksonville did draft Andre Cisco out of Syracuse in 2021, but Branch would provide an upgrade, and plug and play capability.
22. New York Giants – Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee – New York traded their best WR in Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs at the trade deadline and then lost Wan’Dale Robinson to a season-ending injury midseason. It will be hard to beat teams consistently with no presence on the outside and allow defenses to stack boxes against Saquon Barkley, and dare Daniel Jones to beat you. Hyatt would bring an explosive dimension to New York’s offense and give Daniel Jones some help to push the ball downfield – if the Giants decide to bring him back for another season.
23. Los Angeles Chargers – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois – LAC has some big money tied up to their front seven and also signed CB JC Jackson as a free agent last offseason, but was lost for the season after five games due to injury. Witherspoon is a physical corner with a quick trigger. Michael Davis is also a free agent after next season and the Chargers can continue to strengthen their secondary with Witherspoon to help slow down Kansas City twice a year.
24. Baltimore Ravens – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State – Smith-Njigba had a breakout 2021 campaign with over 1600 yards receiving and a record-setting Rose Bowl. Prior to the start of this season, Smith-Njigba was a bonafide top 10-15 pick in 2023 if he built off an impressive season. But he was limited to four games due to a hamstring injury and decided to skip Ohio State’s CFP game to get healthy and train for his draft preparation. Rashod Bateman has shown flashes, but he’s missed parts of his first two seasons due to injury and the Ravens are desperate for WR talent – and need to make it a priority to get Lamar Jackson some more help.
25. Dallas Cowboys – Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M – The Cowboys defense has blossomed in year two with Dan Quinn at the helm calling the defensive plays. They were middle of the road this year in team total touchdowns allowed(23), 8th in passing yards allowed(200.9), and 4th in sacks with 54. Trevon Diggs had a solid campaign with 14 passes defended, but both starting safeties(Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker) could be playing elsewhere next season. Wilson is a free agent and Hooker has a potential out in 2023 that would result in $850,000 of Dead Cap money(per Spotrac).
26. Cincinnati Bengals – Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma – There is not a huge need for the Bengals on the offensive line as there was as recent as 2020, when Joe Burrow tore up his knee midseason because he was throwing behind swiss-cheese. Cincinnati has rebuilt since then with Ted Karras and Alex Cappa signed as free agents at Center and RG, respectively, shoring up the interior of the pocket. OT La’el Collins was signed last offseason for 3 years, but the Bengals would save 6 million dollars in cap space if Collins were released as a post June 1st candidate(Spotrac). Harrison is athletic with nimble feet and a strong pass protector.
27. Denver Broncos(via Dolphins thru 49ers) – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech – Wilson has freakish length, and is also strong and physical. His play on the field stood out for Texas Tech this season, but is still very raw and will need to be coached up as a pass rusher. He has the size, length, and body type to be a dominant edge rusher if he can develop this part of his game. Baron Browning has made a huge jump in his second season and 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonnitto will be counted on to take a second-year leap next season, but the Broncos continue to invest in their defensive front, like they always have.
28. Minnesota Vikings – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina – Smith is a good-sized corner at 6’0/188 and finished with 24 passes defended during his time at South Carolina. Smith is a versatile corner, having played both outside and as a nickel back the last two seasons. He could slide into a similar role in the NFL and has the skills to play a key role in his rookie year. Minnesota is set to have three CBs, including Patrick Peterson, hit free agency and also lost Andrew Booth Jr to IR this season.
29. Buffalo Bills – Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama – Buffalo continues to stack talent with this selection of Gibbs – whom is often referred to as “mini” Alvin Kamara . Yes, Buffalo did draft James Cook, but Gibbs is a premier talent in a class that lacks potential star power. He and Bijan are in their own tier of this RB class. Devin Singletary is an unrestricted free agent, and Gibbs would be a dynamite upgrade to the only missing piece on the Bills’ offense.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina – Kansas City made a midseason trade for former Giants WR Kadarius Toney to mixed results. Toney has dealt with injuries once again this season, but has shown flashes of a dynamic weapon. Enter Downs – who can slide in as the full-time slot or Z receiver and thrive in an offense that predicates itself on pushing the ball downfield with explosive plays. Downs would be a good fit in this electric Chiefs offense.
31. Philadelphia Eagles – BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU – Knowing the Eagles’ draft philosophy, it’s more likely that they trade out of this pick and acquire additional picks on day two. However, since it’s too early to predict any trades, we will go with the “best player available at a position of need” scenario and select Ojulari. Ojulari is a lengthy and bendy edge rusher that can get home. The front four will be a priority this offseason with the impending number of free agents that could be elsewhere next season. His brother, Azeez, plays for the Giants so there’s also the chance for a brotherly reunion twice a year.