I said I wouldn’t do a real one. I lied. I’ve been way too jacked up this week to think about anything else, and I love hearing and coming up with off-the-wall predictions. I’ll follow this up with an autopsy report on all the ways I was wrong, because like literally every mock drafter in existence, I will be wrong. So here it is, the first ever The hell going on Mock Draft!
With the first pick, in the 2023 NFL Draft…
1. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Look, this is happening. If you’re a Panthers fan, learn to accept it. I don’t bet on this stuff, but I do know being -2000 a day befoer the draft means the sportsbooks already know. Not that I think sportsbooks rely on insider info to set their odds, but, since it’s actually legal for them (and you) to do so… Look, my point is I like my kneecaps. And unless Young does a bong hit on Twitter tonight, he’s going to Carolina.
2. Tennessee Titans (trade): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Off-the-wall prediction number one. I don’t think the Texans want Levis, and I think the Titans very much do. A few weeks ago, it seemed like Tennessee could possibly sit where they are and get Levis at 11, but those days are long gone. Somehow his stock has shot up in the past week, and if Tennessee thinks he’s being seen as top 5, they’ll need to make a bold move to go get him. It’ll likely cost them pick 11, pick 41, and next year’s 1st. Such is the price for a franchise QB. Though I do think putting mayo in coffee should lower his value.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama
I was tempted to start a run on QBs here and have someone trade up, but I feel like if Levis goes 2, everyone else will be pissed enough and say screw it, we’ll take what comes to us. All the deals the Cards were listening to will shrivel up when Tennessee jumps them, and no one will answer their calls about a trade back. Oh darn, now they’ll have to take a generational edge rusher. This is Von Miller in talent and attitude. Just take him and appreciate double-digit sacks for the next decade.
4. Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Once upon a time, I thought Indianapolis would go after Lamar Jackson, but then Lamar decided to sign an extension with Baltimore in the 11th hour before the draft. Stroud is good enough to start early, and with Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman, Jr. and Alec Pierce (don’t sleep on him), he’s got some really good weapons around him from the start.
5. Seattle Seahawks: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Anthony Richardson needs years. Plural. He’s an immense talent with a skyhigh ceiling, but if he’s forced into it too early, he’ll flop. With Geno Smith under contract for 3 more years, he’ll have those years and Seattle has a perfect situation to groom him into the offense. 5 years from now, we’ll be talking about letting Richardson cook, but hopefully without the annoying PR firm.
6. Detroit Lions: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
I don’t buy the Lions wanting a QB. Even with Stroud still available, Jared Goff looks good, and there’s a reason he was once picked 1st overall. Dan Campbell has built something special, and Goff is a big part of it. Upending that now with a QB controversy wouldn’t be a smart move. Jalen Carter at 6 is a steal, and putting him on the same line as Hutchinson is Madden-level stacking.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
With the top 4 QBs off the board, Vegas will shore up a huge weakness with the best corner on the board. And he’ll get some of the best practice reps possible, lining up against Davante Adams and his impeccable routes. I need to see clips of that. Go easy on the kid, Te.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech
Falcons have some great pieces in place on offense (I like Desmond Ridder more than most), but they badly need help on defense. Tyree Wilson adds an immediate, every down pass pressure and edge set. Atlanta will surprise a lot of people this year.
9. Chicago Bears: Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa
This is high for Van Ness, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears try to trade down again. They need defense, but the top 10 grades for front-7 players are gone, and secondary is the only spot on defense where they’re solid. The only other options would be one of the offensive tackles, and I don’t think they’ll use this much draft capital on the offensive line while Justin Fields is still developing in the offense. Van Ness is more of a pick 20-30 talent, but it’s a set-and-forget pick that’s valuable for a team with so much transition.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Peter Skoronski, OT/IOL, Northwestern
We still don’t know where Skoronski will fall on an NFL roster. What we do know is he can fit multiple spots, and what better place to do that than with last year’s runner-up. As much as I’ve seen Bijan Robinson and other skill players mocked here, I’m convinced Philly will stick to their guns and continue investing their most significant draft capital into the trenches.
11. Houston Texans (trade): Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Without the injury, he’s top 5, maybe even considered for 1st overall. More below.
12. Houston Texans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Might as well talk about these together. Flip them if you want. Perfect situation for Houston who gets future draft capital from Tennessee even as they get the QB they want and the best WR in the draft. This would be a significant haul for the Texans and set up their offense for years to come.
13. Green Bay Packers: Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia
When the Packers flipped pick 15 for pick 13 as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade, it felt like a lot of people pushed it under the rug like some insignificant throwaway. It’s not. I’m still looking for a draft value chart to latch onto, but most concur this was a 100 point value gain, which translates to a late 3rd/early 4th round pick. It’s possible they made the move to have a shot at Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but that’s out in this universe. My first thought after the trade was to jump the Jets and Pats for an offensive tackle… lots still available. But ultimately, I think it was just a move to add options. If no one falls that they like, they can trade back with an extra 100 points in value. They can have their pick of the tackles. Or, they can do what happened here and wait to see who falls. Packers love Georgia defenders.
14. New England Patriots: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
When the Pats are successful, they have good TEs. Well, and Tom Brady. But Tom had good TEs. Mayer isn’t the best receiving TE in the draft, but he’s the most complete. He’s day 1 ready as a blocker and receiver. Classic Bill Pick.
15. New York Jets: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
J-E-T-S would be ecstatic if things play out this way and they get to be the beginning of a run on tackles. As many weapons as the Jets have ready to go for Rodgers, their offensive line is shaky. That said, Jets fans, as a Packers fan, I’ll let you in on a little Rodgers knowledge… there is no QB in the league better at hiding poor offensive line play. He can make it work. However, it’ll work far better if you lock down his blindside the way David Bakhtiari did for so many years so he can put that out of his mind. Jones has some work to do as a run blocker, but the priority is protecting Rodgers and perhaps, someday, Zach Wilson.
16. Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
This is good value at a position of need. OT and TE are also spots they could look with value available there as well, but Gonzalez is too intriguing to pass up. If Hooker is still here, or if one of the other 4 QBs fall, they could jump all over that. But I think they’re content going into their first year of new ownership with a high character and underrated talent guy like Jacoby Brissett.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter, Jr., CB, Penn State
I mean, if he’s still here, is there any doubt? It’s just too poetic to not happen.
18. Detroit Lions: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Trading T.J. Hockenson last season left a gap in their offense when they needed it late in the season. Kincaid is a Dallas Clark-like receiving tight end right out of the gate. Like others around this spot, they also have offensive line needs. But Kincaid is just too good of a value this far down.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Paris Johnson, Jr., OT, Ohio State
This team has so many needs, and rebuilding should always start in the trenches. Johnson is a well-rounded player who can slot in at RT right away and/or LT eventually. Don’t be surprised if Tampa looks for a trade partner to move back. They need to reload with young talent and in that position, quantity of picks is more important than quality.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson
With already 4 edge rushers off the board, it really shows you the high-end depth of this class. Murphy is a top 10 pick in a lot of other drafts. I also think he’s better than Van Ness, but this is more about what I think teams will do, not what they should do. Solid pickup at a position of need if they can get Murphy this low. However, with some good OTs and a certain RB still around, they may be fielding a lot of calls for this spot.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
It’s just too tempting. Don’t be surprised if Ekeler gets traded for a day 2 pick at some point, especially if they draft his replacement on day 1. Bijan fills in immediately and becomes a 1st round fantasy pick in PPR leagues. I don’t think RB will be used in their offense the way it was in former OC Joe Lombardi’s offense, but Justin Herbert is too used to having that safety net.
22. New York Giants (trade): Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Baltimore picks up the first and last picks of the 5th round and flip 1st round spots with the Giants. They currently have a WR room heavy on slot guys and need someone like Addison who has the ability to move around. His route running will get him on the field early, but his size will limit him unless he can add 20 pounds without sacrificing speed. He could’ve gone higher if he raised his 40 time at USC’s Pro Day, but inclement weather ruined that.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
Secondary is a huge need for Minnesota, and Branch is the kind of hybrid player they can move around to fit their needs. He’s been undervalued in a lot of places because he’s more of a slot corner than safety, but he has the capacity to fill any spot in the secondary. That has a lot of value against the variety of offenses around the league.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Another great value at a position of need. Banks blazed a 4.35 40 at the combine and he’s easily the best athlete of the top corners. This is a position where you can draft based on athleticism because with enough speed and quickness, a player can make up for their mistakes. As they slow down in their careers, their instincts make up for it. With a 1.49 second split, Banks informed teams that even if he gets beat, he’ll catch up fast.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Hedging my bet here. If Lamar comes back and plays on the franchise tag (highly doubt anything longterm gets done), signing Odell Beckham, Jr. just isn’t enough. They’ll have Rashod Bateman back, Mark Andrews is a top 3 TE in the league, and Devin Duvernay can burn (4.39 40 with 1.51 split). Flowers has similar speed but with better routes. Even if Baltimore gets Deandre Hopkins before or during the draft, they still need someone like Flowers who can both stretch the field and play slot.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Kancey on the same line as Micah Parsons just doesn’t seem fair. He’s undersized, of course, but that hardly matters on NFL defenses these days. He may not be eating up blockers against the run, but he’s so disruptive as a pass rusher. Stick him right next to Parsons and make offensive lines pick one.
27. Buffalo Bills: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
I don’t know how Gabe Davis turned one playoff performance into making everyone think he’s a starting WR. He’s not. Josh Allen needs someone who can actually take some pressure off Stefon Diggs. Johnston’s workout numbers really hurt his projection, and his tape seems to show him unwilling to use his size advantage. But the latter can be taught.
28. Los Angeles Rams (trade): Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Rams make their way into the 1st round by swapping picks 36 and 69 for picks 28 and 92 with Cincinnati. LAR needs to find a left tackle solution and Joe Noteboom isn’t it. Harrison is an immediate upgrade to keep Matthew Stafford upright. It’s also possible they trade into the 1st for a QB if one of them drops, but I don’t see the point if they can’t protect him.
29. New Orleans Saints: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State
NO’s defense is getting old. Anudike-Uzomah will be a nightmare on turf for QBs and OTs. This is also a good spot for them to consider trading back. They have a ton of holes to fill, so stacking picks would be a good idea.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
Jason Kelce is coming back for another year, but this is probably his last run. With Jalen Hurts now locked down, this is a great time to groom Kelce’s replacement. Schmitz could start for a lot of teams right away, but center is the kind of position that takes time to fully grasp in the NFL.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
Give Andy Reid ALL the slot receivers. Ask him if he cares. There are plenty of big WRs and TEs later in the draft. Reid and Mahomes want quickness. Perhaps you’re saying, but he only ran a 4.48 40. Which is fair, but that’s speed. Slot receivers aren’t running 40 round routes down the field. The 40 time included a 1.49 10 yard split, faster than every receiver taken so far. In other words, his top speed may be slightly limited, but he gets to it in a hurry.
Don’t Be Surprised If…
- The Packers package one of their 2nds to move up from 13. Based on most value charts, that could get them as high as 6, though it’s doubtful the Lions flip with them. If they do move up, Peter Skoronski really wants to be a Packer.
- The Chiefs trade out of the 1st and day 1 ends in a chorus of boos from the home crowd.
- The Cowboys move back into the end of the 1st for a tight end.