Jeff Ratcliffe's 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
The dust has settled from NFL free agency, so let’s take another crack at a 2023 NFL Mock draft. A lot has changed since my first mock draft, but one thing remains the same: Mock drafts are an exercise in futility, as it’s essentially impossible to get even remotely close to correct on all your picks. So instead of worrying about that, we’re going to approach this mock as an academic exercise with a few parameters in place.
First, we aren’t going to worry about trades in this mock. We could have trades in future mocks, but we’ll keep the board static for this one. Thankfully, the Bears and Panthers have already shaken things up with their blockbuster trade for the No. 1 overall pick. With no other trades, our goal here is to 1) identify which positions teams are most likely to address in the first round, and 2) identify the top players likely to be on the board at the positions of need for each pick.
2023 NFL Mock Draft - 2.0
1. Carolina – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This one is very much up in the air between Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, but we’re opting for the Alabama product. Carolina made a power move up the board, and it’s easy to see them doing that for the best player in this class. Sure, Young is undersized, but he also possesses a Mensa-level football IQ and better tools than he often gets credit for.
2. Houston – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
With Young off the board, the decision is easy for the Texans. C.J Stroud has a prototype build and can make all the throws in the yard. He’ll step right into the starting job for DeMeco Ryan’s new-look offense.
3. Arizona – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
The Jonathan Gannon/Monti Ossenfort era begins with a pick on the defensive side of the ball. Will Anderson stood out on a team full of studs at Alabama and showed the ability to take over games.
4. Indianapolis – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
While this isn’t necessarily the best fit, it’s tough to see Indy not going quarterback in this spot with just Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger on the roster. Unfortunately, Anthony Richardson isn’t ready to start from the gate, so the Colts would likely have to bridge with Minshew if they did end up drafting the athletic freak out of Florida.
5. Seattle – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Well, hello. Arguably the best defensive player in the draft has seen his stock fall since an off-field incident that came to light a month ago. It’s easy to see Pete Carroll and John Schneider pouncing on the talented interior defensive lineman.
6. Detroit – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Lions continue to stockpile top-flight defensive talent and address a weakness with the top corner in the class. In Christian Gonzalez, they land a physical corner with plus size and the ability to make plays on the football.
7. Las Vegas – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
In the buildup to free agency, Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler said that the team may not have an “immediate answer” at quarterback. The Raiders did sign Jimmy Garoppolo in the time since that statement, but that doesn’t take them out of the quarterback market. With Garoppolo in place, Vegas wouldn’t have to force Will Levis on the field in Year 1. That would give him crucial time to develop his game.
8. Atlanta – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Falcons have several needs, but their secondary is at the top of the list. In Devon Witherspoon, they get a rock-solid corner who can start on Day 1 and help them get significantly younger at the position.
9. Chicago – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Justin Fields got a major weapon in DJ Moore, and now he gets some much-needed help along the offensive line. Peter Skoronski will give the Bears some versatility in terms of kicking inside to play guard or having him at tackle.
10. Philadelphia – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Is this a luxury pick? Of course it is. But the Eagles are in a luxury position after acquiring this pick from the Saints and still possessing their own pick at the end of this round. With Miles Sanders out of the mix, the Eagles have a hole to fill. Yes, they did sign Rashaad Penny, but he came to the team with little fanfare on a one-year deal. In Bijan Robinson, they’d land a true alpha with the potential to be one of the best backs in the league right from the gate.
11. Tennessee – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Titans bolster their offensive line with Paris Johnson. He’s far from a perfect prospect, but his athleticism and size are ideal for an offensive tackle.
12. Houston – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
It’s tempting to go wideout in this spot, but Houston has some value slip into their lap with Tyree Wilson. Wilson has elite size and the explosion to give offensive linemen fits on Sundays.
13. NY Jets – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
We have no idea when or even if the Aaron Rodgers trade will go down, but regardless, the Jets need to bolster their offensive line.
14. New England –Joey Porter Jr., CB Penn State
Corner was once a strength for the Patriots, but that just wasn’t the case this past season. In Joey Porter, not only do they get a guy with a football pedigree, but they also have a Day 1 starter who can hold his own in press coverage.
15. Green Bay – Lukas Van Ness, EDGE Iowa
This is an impressive edge class, so the Packers add some talent with Lukas Van Ness. Sure, he didn’t “start” for Iowa this past season, but he was clearly their best defensive player. His elite athletic traits were on full display at the Combine, as he posted a blazing-fast 4.58 in the 40-yard dash and showed major agility in the short shuttle (4.32) and the 3-cone (7.02).
16. Washington – Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
This may seem like a bit of a stretch for a guy who isn’t likely to play in 2023, but Hendon Hooker is every bit of a first-round talent. And Washington is in dire need of a signal-caller for the long haul. With Jacoby Brissett on the roster, the Commanders have a bridge to 2024 when Hooker will be fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered at the end of last season.
17. Pittsburgh – Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
The Steelers again stay in their own backyard with their first-round pick. In Calijah Kancey, they get an athletic freak who is capable of disrupting from the defensive interior.
18. Detroit – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
19. Tampa Bay – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Bucs address a position of need and manage to get a little value in the process. Myles Murphy isn’t a can’t-miss prospect, but his physical traits and freakish athleticism make him a very interesting draft-for-ceiling guy.
20. Seattle – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Somehow, Tyler Lockett will be heading into his age-31 season this year. This isn’t a pick to replace him, but rather to replenish the ranks in the Seattle wide receiver corps. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a little Amon-Ra St. Brown to his game, which would complement what they currently have in DK Metcalf and Lockett.
21. Miami – Forfeited
22. LA Chargers – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
While Smith-Njigba is arguably the better fit, the Chargers will likely be going after a wideout in this spot, as Keenan Allen’s future with the team is uncertain heading into this offseason. There’s a chance LA could move on from Allen. Quentin Johnston is not the same type of player as Allen, but he would give the team another big-bodied target for Justin Herbert.
23. Baltimore – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
While Lamar Jackson's future with the team looks very uncertain, the Ravens still have a major need to address at wide receiver. Addison failed to impress at the combine, but his polished route-running provides a solid complement to Rashod Bateman.
24. Minnesota – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
The Vikings go back to their old faithful move of taking a corner in the first round. Kelee Ringo is a playmaker who has very similar traits to current Vikings veteran corner Patrick Peterson.
25. Jacksonville – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Jags did tag Evan Engram, but Michael Mayer gives them an in-line complement to Engram’s move skillset. Mayer is not the most dynamic option, but he’s a rock-solid two-way guy with soft hands.
26. NY Giants – Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
Brian Daboll made things work at wide receiver this past season, but the Giants need to bring in more talent at the position. They get just that in the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner. Jalin Hyatt is blazing fast and would give the Giants a viable downfield threat.
27. Dallas – Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
With Dalton Schultz out of the mix, the Cowboys get themselves another tight end with the same first name. However, that’s where the similarities between Schultz and Dalton Kincaid end. Kincaid is a significantly more dynamic option who would give Dak Prescott another potent weapon in the passing game.
28. Buffalo – Brian Branch, S, Alabama
The Bills don’t have a ton of needs, so they get some value with the versatile defensive back. While listed as a safety, Brian Branch is more of a hybrid defensive back who can also play slot corner.
29. Cincinnati – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Protect Joe Burrow. That’s the mission statement in Cincinnati, so expect the team to address the offensive line. Darnell Wright can play at either tackle spot, but the Bengals need more help at right tackle. La’el Collins really struggled at the position last season.
30. New Orleans – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
The Saints enter the offseason very light along their defensive interior, so this is a logical place for them to go. Bryan Bresee still has developing to do, but his physical traits are exactly what teams are looking for at the position.
31. Philadelphia – O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida
The Eagles went with a luxury pick in Bijan Robinson, but now it’s back to business with one of the top interior offensive linemen in the class. Philly continues to stockpile talent along their offensive line.
32. Kansas City – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Chiefs have a type at wide receiver, and Zay Flowers is it. He’s a dynamic playmaker who you can use as a chess piece across the formation.