• Colts swap with Bears for No. 1 pick: The Bears are in prime position to trade down, and Indianapolis pounces to snag Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
• Five QBs land in Round 1: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Stanford’s Tanner McKee go on Day 1.
• Texans add promising QB-WR pairing: Houston drafts Kentucky’s Will Levis and TCU’s Quentin Johnston with its top picks to form a strong offensive nucleus.
Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins
We have a new team with the No. 1 pick. After months of 2023 NFL mock drafts having the Houston Texans with the first selection, a Week 18 win over the Indianapolis Colts dropped them down to No. 2 overall and pushed the Chicago Bears into the top spot.
With the first 18 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft set, let’s dive into how things could play out.
1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
via mock trade with Bears
The Chicago Bears are sitting on a golden ticket. With a quarterback talent like Young in this class, the No. 1 overall pick is going to be in high demand. The Colts make too much sense to be the team willing to offer a sweetheart deal to the Bears because a) it would still allow the Bears to be in striking distance for one of the two blue-chip defensive line prospects in the class, and b) the Colts are desperate for a franchise quarterback after years of one-season rentals at the position.
2. Houston Texans: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis isn’t at all a bad consolation prize for the Texans. He’s already shown he can operate an NFL offense with two different offensive coordinators who have done the same in the league. Levis possesses elite physical tools with a laser of a right arm paired with an exceptionally quick release. He’s proven able to operate from tight pockets and under pressure. He averaged 9.2 yards per attempt on 82 pass attempts under pressure in 2022.
3. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Anderson has been a dog ever since his freshman year. He put up 207 pressures in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. Athletically, he’s in a similar tier with the Von Millers and Khalil Macks of football. It’s all there. The Cardinals have so many needs at this point that selecting the top player on the board is the way to go.
4. Chicago Bears: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
via mock trade with Colts
This has turned into an absolute dream scenario for the Bears. Head coach Matt Eberflus gets the best defensive tackle prospect of the PFF college era (since 2015 draft). Carter is the three-technique they’ve been looking for, one who earned a 91.0 run-defense grade and a 90.0 pass-rushing grade in 2022.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
Murphy is the most impressive athlete in this defensive line class. What he can do physically at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds is comparable to last year’s No. 1 pick, Travon Walker. The Seahawks have been desperate for an impact edge rusher for years now, and Murphy can be that player in time.
6. Detroit Lions (via Rams): DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
The Lions need to keep investing in a defense that is one of the NFL’s youngest. They’ve already found a pair of edge rushers in Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston IV, and now they form an exciting defensive tackle duo with Bresee sliding into the three-technique role with Alim McNeill at nose. Bresee came back from a torn ACL to earn a career-high 82.0 pass-rushing grade in 2022.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The Raiders are ready to hit the reset button at the quarterback position, and Stroud is just the player to help them do so. With his quick trigger and pinpoint accuracy, Stroud looks like arguably the draft class’ best fit for Josh Mcdaniels’ offense. He’s coming off the best performance of his career from a draft perspective, earning a 92.2 overall grade against Georgia in the playoff.
8. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Wilson is just what the doctor ordered for the Falcons’ defensive line. He’s the kind of edge-setter that their defense has been missing for some time. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder has a wingspan over 7 feet long and uses that length to consistently win the first-contact battle against offensive tackles. He racked up a career-high 50 pressures this past season.
9. Carolina Panthers: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Beggars can’t be choosers with three quarterbacks off the board already. The Panthers are certainly going to be the beneficiaries of a deep quarterback class. Richardson offers the kind of tools that can go No. 1 overall, but he will likely fall to this point because he lacks the polish and experience you see from most first-rounders. He earned an 80.1 overall grade in his first season as a starter.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints): S Brian Branch, Alabama
Branch is the kind of defensive back that is gaining value around the NFL. He can play the slot position at an elite level against both run and pass. He earned a 90.7 run-defense grade and an 86.4 coverage grade for Alabama this past fall. That would fit in perfectly in Jonathan Gannon’s defense — especially if C.J. Gardner-Johnson departs in free agency.
11. Tennessee Titans: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
With injuries having piled up over the years, there’s no certainty that the 31-year-old Taylor Lewan will be back in a Titans uniform next season. Johnson could rejoin former college linemate Nicholas Petit-Frere as the bookend tackles for Tennessee next season. In Johnson’s first year as the Buckeyes’ starting left tackle, he allowed only 14 pressures on 449 pass-blocking snaps.
12. Houston Texans (via Browns): WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Texans give their newly minted quarterback a receiver with a massive catch radius that’s easy to build rapport with. Johnston has 59 catches for 1,064 yards with six scores and 18 broken tackles this season, prior to the national championship game. He’s a unique big-play threat for a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, as he’s averaged 18.9 yards per reception in his career.
13. New York Jets: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Skoronski is the highest-floor offensive lineman in the class. He would slot in nicely at right tackle for the Jets next season. The true junior allowed only six pressures on 474 pass-blocking snaps this past fall in his third season as Northwestern’s starting left tackle.
14. New England Patriots: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Witherspoon was the best press-man cornerback in the country last season, and quite frankly, it wasn’t even close. On 113 snaps in press coverage this past fall, he allowed a grand total of one yard. That’s a guy who can play cornerback for Bill Belichick.
15. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
The Packers may very well be content going into 2023 with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs as their one-two punch after how strongly they came on down the stretch this season. They may not be as happy with the middling production they got from pending free agent Robert Tonyan at tight end, though. Mayer is a tremendous blocker and an ultra-reliable underneath route runner. He could be the chain-mover that quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs.
16. Washington Commanders: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Gonzalez is one of the most scheme-versatile cornerbacks in the class with a level of fluidity and explosiveness you rarely see in a 6-foot-2 player at the position. He picked off four passes and broke up six more in his first season with Oregon in 2022.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
Smith is the kind of heady defensive back that head coach Mike Tomlin will love. He brings with him some of the best ball skills at the cornerback position in the draft class. On 70 targets into his coverage over the past two seasons, Smith broke up 15 of them (21.4%) and picked off four more (5.7%).
18. Detroit Lions: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Lions have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and it could be intact for quite a while. At that point, it could make sense to put an elite talent like Robinson behind it and give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. Robinson set the PFF college single-season record with 104 broken tackles this past season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
The Bucs are likely to hit the reset button this offseason, so why not go for a big swing with their first-round pick? Smith is a high-end athlete who could learn a lot from Shaq Barrett about how to get the job done in the NFL as an undersized rusher.
20. Seattle Seahawks: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Ringo is a Pete Carroll cornerback if I’ve ever seen one. He’s an enormous 6-foot-2, 210-pounder who should run in the low 4.3s. Stick him at the line of scrimmage and let him beat up opposing receivers all day across from Tariq Woolen. For his college career, Ringo allowed a catch on only 47.8% of targets into his coverage.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
The Jaguars are looking to build a juggernaut offense, and getting Torrence in the fold can be a building block for just that. Torrence earned an 88.0 overall grade in his first season against SEC competition, as he didn’t allow a sack or hit all season.
22. Miami Dolphins (Forfeited)
23. New York Giants: WR Jordan Addison, USC
The Giants flat-out need a receiver who can get open. That’s the former Biletnikoff Award winner’s game. He racked up 2,468 yards and 25 scores over the past two seasons because of that. Addison is a player a team can start building a receiving corps around.
24. Baltimore Ravens: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Washington is a luxury piece. He has a skill set that you simply won’t find later in the draft. At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Washington is one of one. He racked up 426 yards on 27 catches (15.8 per reception) and earned a top-five run-blocking grade this season, prior to the national championship game. He could do damage in Greg Roman’s offense.
25. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
The Chargers have a lot invested in their receiving corps, but they badly need to add some dynamism to that position. And you don’t find dynamism like Zay Flowers’ in the second and third rounds. He racked up 1,077 yards on 78 catches for 12 scores this past fall.
26. Dallas Cowboys: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
If the Cowboys want to make their third-down packages unstoppable, Sanders is the guy who can bring that wish to life. At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Sanders has off-ball range with edge rusher-esque pass-rushing moves. He collected 11 sacks in 2022 just as a blitzer. Pairing that with the likes of Micah Parsons, Sam Williams and Demarcus Lawrence would be scary.
27. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
The Bengals haven’t been shy about drafting first-rounders who may not be starters out of the gate. Harrison could allow the Bengals to kick Jonah Williams inside in time. He allowed all of nine pressures on 447 pass-blocking snaps this past season at Oklahoma.
28. Minnesota Vikings: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is tied to Kirk Cousins for only one more season, and the Vikings’ roster is too good to where they won’t be getting the pick of the litter in a draft anytime soon. That could mean taking advantage of a deep quarterback class to start a year early on developing Cousins’ successor. McKee is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the draft class but was put in a lot of unwinnable situations on tape at Stanford.
29. Denver Broncos (via 49ers): CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Porter could very easily give the Broncos the league’s best press-coverage duo in time. Porter allowed all of 143 yards this past season and broke up nine of the 30 targets into his coverage. That would pair well with Patrick Surtain II.
30. Buffalo Bills: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
With Tremaine Edmunds set to become a free agent this offseason, the Bills may opt for new blood at linebacker. Simpson has elite range that would pair nicely next to Matt Milano. He allowed only 353 yards in the past two seasons combined.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
As hard as it may be to believe, Travis Kelce is going to be 34 years old next season. At some point, his play has to drop off. And athletes like Musgrave don’t come along every draft class. He’ll get to learn from the best to ever do it while also allowing the Chiefs to deploy a unique 12 personnel look.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba is a plug-and-play slot wide receiver. His reliability from that alignment would give the Eagles three sure-fire route winners. Smith-Njigba went for 1,595 and nine scores as a sophomore in 2021 before hamstring issues derailed his 2022 season.