• Four QBs go top 10: CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis and Tanner McKee are off the board within the first nine picks of this 2023 NFL mock draft.
• Jaxon Smith-Njigba lands with Titans: While the Ohio State star has been sidelined with an injury, it’s nothing that should affect his draft stock.
• Cowboys pair Jared Verse with Micah Parsons: The Florida State edge defender would form a monster tandem with Dallas’ star pass-rusher.
Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins
Get ready for strong quarterback and defensive line classes in the 2023 NFL Draft. While there may not be a ton of sure-fire first-rounders at the moment, we have over half a college football season for the draft picture to sort itself out.
Here’s how I see the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft playing out as things stand.
Note: Draft order is based on Super Bowl odds
1. Houston Texans: QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State
The track record of Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL is a talking point, but it doesn’t have any bearing on Stroud’s success at the next level. He plays the position differently than Dwayne Haskins or Justin Fields ever did. His average time to throw of 2.69 seconds through Week 5 of the college football season is nearly a half second faster than Fields’ average at Ohio State. Stroud fits the bill of an NFL pocket pass.
2. Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama
Anderson is the safest pick in the draft. He may not qualify as a generational prospect, but he boasts an elite all-around physical skill set. Anderson’s 97 pressures since the start of 2021 are the most in college football.
3. New York Jets: DI Jalen Carter, Georgia
On last year’s stacked Georgia line that included now-NFL players Jordan Davis, Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt, it was Carter who earned the highest pass-rushing grade … as a true sophomore. He already has seven pressures on only 47 pass-rushing snaps this season, although he’ll likely miss time with an MCL injury.
4. Chicago Bears: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
At 6-foot and 194 pounds, Young won’t tick all the boxes physically. When he steps on the field, though, he ticks boxes left and right. He’s already earned a 91.3 overall grade this season without the two top-50 draft picks he lost at receiver from last season.
5. Washington Commanders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Hailing from a pro-style offense with all the physical tools you could want at the position, Levis is an evaluator’s dream. It’s worrisome that he has more turnover-worthy plays (six) than big-time throws (three) this season, but a prospective team is likely banking on what he could become. He could even learn for a year behind Carson Wentz if the Commanders choose to bring the veteran back (what not to do, of course).
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: DI Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Bresee is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound physical freak built to play on the Steelers’ defensive line. He has 11 pressures in three games this season, and the arrow only continues to point up for the former No. 1 overall recruit. Put him next to Cameron Heyward and watch quarterbacks crumble.
7. Carolina Panthers: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
Murphy’s floor is probably still a top-10 pick with just how absurdly powerful he is for a defensive end. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, he isn’t getting moved off the ball one-on-one. A slow start to the season for Murphy has given way to nine pressures the past two weeks.
8. Atlanta Falcons: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Perhaps Skoronski isn’t the most physically gifted tackle in the class, but he is easily the most technically refined. He’s on pace for one of the stingiest pass-blocking seasons in PFF College history. On 241 pass-blocking snaps this year, Skoronski has allowed only two pressures. He’ll fit in perfectly across from Jake Matthews.
9. Detroit Lions: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
The Jared Goff era in Detroit may be coming to a close after this season. McKee is one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in the class. He possesses a live arm at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds and has made big strides in his decision-making from Year 1 to Year 2. That shows in his two turnover-worthy plays this season after he made 15 a year ago.
10. New England Patriots: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Gonzalez is a bit of a project at the cornerback position, but he gets to learn from the best as a New England Patriot in this mock. The Colorado transfer has rebounded nicely after a tough opener against Georgia. Over his past four games, he’s allowed only nine catches on 21 targets for 88 yards with a pick and three pass breakups.
11. New York Giants: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
The edge need is obvious in New York. The former top recruit in the 2019 class, Smith routinely shows that highly touted athleticism. He’s the ultimate weapon against option runs, as he can chase backs to the sideline with ease. He’s still putting it together as a pass-rusher, but you already see it in the run game, where he’s earned a 90.9 grade since the start of last season.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints): EDGE Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
Foskey is a long, powerful pocket-collapser who has steadily improved every year of his career. At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, he has the goods to continue that in the NFL. His 16 pressures in four games are already halfway to his pressure total from a season ago. He can learn from and take over for Brandon Graham in time.
13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns): WR Jordan Addison, USC
Addison has risen to the top of a disappointing wide receiver class so far this season. His crisp, explosive route-running ability has translated nicely to USC’s offense. He’s already caught 29-of-34 targets for 442 yards and six scores in five games.
14. Arizona Cardinals: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Cardinals give quarterback Kyler Murray more help in the form of one of the best pass-catching backs we’ve seen in the PFF College era. Through five games this season, Robinson already has 10 catches for 188 yards and a score to go along with the most broken tackles in college football as a runner (40).
15. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Jaguars still need an alpha, No. 1-type wide receiver. Johnston has that kind of ability at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He’s also been damn near impossible to bring down, amassing 32 broken tackles on 67 catches for his college career.
16. Tennessee Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba has been sidelined this season with a nagging hamstring injury, but it’s nothing that would affect his draft stock. He showed enough of what he could do last year when he racked up 95 catches for 1,595 yards and nine scores from the slot for the Buckeyes’ offense.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
Another Buckeye goes in the first round, and this time it’s right-guard-turned-left-tackle Paris Johnson Jr. His foot speed has shined on the edge, where he’s allowed only three pressures on 152 pass-blocking snaps this season.
18. Indianapolis Colts: BC Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Ringo fits the size-speed bill that the Colts look for in defensive prospects. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound cornerback has low-4.3 speed that leaves him unbothered by deep threats. He’s been a touch inconsistent to start the year, however, with 11 catches allowed on 16 targets for 159 yards.
19. Dallas Cowboys: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State
Verse is another Florida State defensive end transfer rising into the first round. He carries serious juice at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds, and his get-off is right up there with Will Anderson’s. It’s earned him an 89.8 pass-rushing grade already this season after he transferred from Albany. Putting him across from Micah Parsons would be unfair for opposing tackles.
20. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State
Fashanu is one of the biggest risers this season, considering he played all of 85 snaps prior to 2022. He’s only allowed six hurries on 176 pass-blocking snaps this season for an 87.8 pass-blocking grade.
21. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos): EDGE Andre Carter, Army
Carter hasn’t been able to replicate his dominance from a season ago because now he has every team game-planning specifically to take him away after his breakout season. The 6-foot-7, 260-pounder tied Aidan Hutchinson for the highest pass-rushing grade in the country last year (93.4).
22. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
It’s not shaping up to be the offensive line class we’ve seen in years past, which means the Bengals take the hometown tight end to give Joe Burrow more weapons. Mayer ranks second in the country this season with 22 catches through Week 5 and has caught six of his nine targets in contested situations.
23. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco 49ers): LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has a knack for putting athletes in a position to succeed, and there are few more impressive athletes in this draft class than Simpson. His ability to cover wide receivers at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds is a sight to behold. He’s playing more traditional linebacker this year after being in the slot last year, and he’s allowed only 76 yards on 15 targets.
Miami Dolphins (Forfeited)
24. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
The Vikings add another long edge rusher to the fold to keep the heat on opposing quarterbacks. Wilson is a freakishly long 6-foot-6, 275-pound edge rusher who is only scratching the surface of what he can do on the field. He’s notched 27 pressures already through five games this season as he continues to climb up draft boards.
25. Baltimore Ravens: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
The Ravens love hybrid coverage players, and Johnson may be next in that line. He’s a 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback slot. That’s not something you see every day. Johnson is a threat closing to the football and has allowed only 314 yards on 80 targets since the start of last year. That’s less than four yards per attempt.
26. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams): DI Siaki Ika, Baylor
Ika is the kind of three-down nose tackle that every team is looking for. He’s racked up 41 pressures on 377 pass-rushing snaps since the start of last season, and at 6-foot-4 and 358 pounds, he eats one-on-one in the run game. That weight will be worth monitoring, though, as Ika is up from last season.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (FL)
The Bucs are looking at two impending free agent cornerbacks with not a ton of cap space to maneuver. That means adding another press cornerback to the fold. Stevenson looks like a mini linebacker at 6-foot and 214 pounds. He is punishing from a press alignment. He’s allowed only nine catches on 32 targets for 145 yards on 173 press coverage snaps since the start of last season.
28. Green Bay Packers: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina
Downs is that level of electric in the open field where teams can forgive his size concerns (5-foot-10, 175 pounds). He’s racked up 230 yards on 22 catches with four scores in three games this year. He can be the Randall Cobb replacement in the Packers’ offense.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
Another Northwestern first-rounder? It’s possible with how gifted Adebawore is athletically for a 6-foot-2, 280-pounder. He already has 15 pressures and an absurd 12 run stops through five games this season. That will pair nicely with George Karlaftis.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Darius Slay, who is on the books for $26 million in 2023, could very well be a cap casualty. Even if he’s not, the Eagles are in a position to be forward-thinking with their draft strategy. Porter has been lights out to start the year with only nine catches allowed on 22 targets for 89 yards in addition to an FBS-leading eight pass breakups.
31. Buffalo Bills: DI Keondre Coburn, Texas
Coburn has been a massive riser in 2022. He looks like a completely different player from the four years prior. He’s already matched his career high with 16 pressures through five games. At 6-foot-2 and 343 pounds, Coburn is the nose tackle pass-rushing threat that could be the cherry on top of the Bills’ elite defensive line.