The offseason is here for over half of the league, which means a whole lot of fans will be turning their attention to the 2023 NFL draft and the leadup to it. There are a handful of quarterbacks that might go in the first round, but a pair of defensive linemen have a great chance to get the festivities started with the first overall pick.
Here’s a mock draft for you that will undoubtedly be torn to shreds by the time the draft actually rolls around.
The Bears will consider all options here, but moving on from Justin Fields right now wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Can’t go wrong here with Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia’s Jalen Carter, but the Crimson Tide edge rusher kicks things off here. He has a chance to be a dominant edge rusher immediately in the NFL.
C.J. Stroud might have locked up QB1 status after his incredible performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff. The Texans desperately need to find a stabilizing presence at quarterback and Stroud has all the tools to be that guy.
The Cardinals just need to pick who the Bears don’t pick. They could use Anderson or Carter, but Carter falls into their laps here. He’s a dominant player at a position of need, easy selection.
This is probably a bit high for Levis considering what he accomplished this past season, but the NFL is going to be high on him once draft season really starts. He’s got the physical upside to be a long-term starter, which the Colts desperately need.
The Seahawks can bolster their defensive line with the pick they got from the Russell Wilson trade. Myles Murphy gives their defensive line another high-upside, young player to develop alongside players like Tariq Woolen and Jordyn Brooks.
Jared Goff has performed well enough as the Lions’ quarterback, but they need a smidge more to really put them among the NFL’s elite. Bryce Young is small for a quarterback prospect, but he has all the skills that teams look for in their franchise quarterback.
With the top three quarterbacks off the board, the Raiders can upgrade another spot on their offense. Paris Johnson Jr. has all the traits to be a long-term starter and can slide in immediately as the starter at right tackle.
No team has fewer sacks than the Atlanta Falcons over the past two seasons. Their pass rush has been an issue for almost a decade now, and it’s time to get serious about fixing it. Tyree Wilson is a freak athlete that can play a couple positions on the defensive line, but he’ll make his money on the edge in the NFL.
The Panthers could take a dice roll at quarterback here with Anthony Richardson, but instead they take the top cornerback off the board in Georgia’s Kelee Ringo. Ringo and Jaycee Horn would give the Panthers a top cornerback duo to grow with over the next few years.
Philadelphia has this pick thanks to the Saints and they can bolster their defense even further. James Bradberry and Darius Slay were incredible in 2022, but they’re both older cornerbacks and it can never hurt to have young talent at that position. Enter Cam Smith.
The Titans could use some insurance at tackle, depending on what happens with Taylor Lewan. They can cut him rather easily and they need a long-term left tackle to replace him at some point. Peter Skoronski can be that guy for them.
Brandin Cooks wants out from Houston, which means they’ll need a new top wideout for their new franchise quarterback. Quentin Johnson had a quiet national title game, along with the rest of TCU, but he’s talented and would be a nice fit with Stroud as the Texans build out a supporting cast for him.
The Jets might be tempted to take QB Anthony Richardson here, but they might opt for a veteran option instead of another young passer that needs time to develop. So here’s Brian Branch, who can provide a lot of versatility at slot cornerback and safety for head coach Robert Saleh.
Broderick Jones can bring some stability to the Patriots’ offensive tackle situation. He’s a hard-nosed run blocker that could fit at either tackle spot in New England.
The Packers need to figure out their post-Aaron Rodgers situation again. Keeping Jordan Love around might create a difficult cap situation for them, so they might as well restart the rookie contract clock on a quarterback. Richardson has top 1 percent physical attributes, but he needs some time before being the face of a franchise. Sitting behind Rodgers could be beneficial for him.
16. Washington Commanders
With Daron Payne set to hit free agency, here’s another first round defensive lineman to potentially replace him. Breese would fit in well on a Commanders defensive line that already has a lot of talent.
Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris need help up front. Anton Harrison is a talented offensive tackle prospect who has the athleticism to grow into a beast for the Steelers.
18. Detroit Lions
The Lions got their quarterback, and luckily, a strong supporting cast to buoy a young quarterback. Now they can turn their attention to a defense that was among the worst in the league by adding Joey Porter Jr. at cornerback.
There aren’t really any quarterbacks left for the taking here, so the Buccaneers can add to their depth on the edge with Isaiah Foskey from Notre Dame. Foskey and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka could give the Buccaneers two solutions at edge rusher.
20. Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Lockett won’t play forever and the Seahawks could use a talented third receiver anyway to make their offense really pop. Jaxon Smith-Njigba didn’t play much this season for Ohio State due to a hamstring injury, but he’s still regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
After spending the first overall pick on a defensive lineman last year, here’s a cornerback to help stabilize the back end of Jacksonville’s defense. Clark Phillips has the click-and-close ability to play slot for the Jaguars if they need him to.
Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka got the Giants’ offense moving in the right direction, but they could still use some help at receiver. Jordan Addison is a talented, experienced receiver that can start for the Giants right away.
Lamar Jackson’s future with the Ravens is up in the air, but they still need to improve some spots on offense. Here, they pick O’Cyrus Torrence from Florida to give Tyler Linderbaum a long-term running mate on the interior.
Shoring up the run defense would be tempting here, but the Chargers have a gift falling into their lap with Michael Mayer. Justin Herbert could use a dependable weapon at tight end and gets it here.
The Cowboys need to find someone to play with Trevon Diggs, and Christian Gonzalez has the height and length that Dan Quinn likes in his cornerback prospects — assuming he’s still coaching in Dallas come next season.
Cincinnati doesn’t have a whole lot of needs, so here’s an opportunity to get even faster on defense with the addition of Trenton Simpson. Simpson and Germaine Pratt would complement each other nicely.
Mazi Smith might not be in many first-round mocks right now, but he’s a supreme athlete for his size and should fly up boards following the NFL combine. Smith made Bruce Feldman’s freak list prior to the season and looks to be the next freak athlete Michigan puts into the NFL from their defensive line.
A pass rusher to pair with Randy Gregory next season to give the Broncos arguably the most complete defense in the NFL.
29. Buffalo Bills
Another year, another running back being mocked to the Bills. However, Bijan Robinson is probably one of the 10 most talented players in the entire draft. The only reason he falls here is due to positional value.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs need another talented, cheaper contract at wide receiver. Josh Downs can provide that along with Kadarius Toney as the Chiefs continue to figure out what their future looks like at the position.
31. Philadelphia Eagles
A linebacker to fill out the Eagles defense even more. Linebacker is the only unit on the Eagles defense that isn’t strong, so here’s an immediate impact starter.
(One first-round pick was forfeited by the Miami Dolphins as a result of the NFL’s tampering investigation.)
Teams without a first-round pick
37. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams suddenly have a lot of holes to fill just a year after winning the Super Bowl, but a starting left tackle would be a nice place to start as they try and get their offense moving back in the right direction.
41. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans found a nice receiving option at tight end in Juwan Johnson, but that shouldn’t stop them from adding someone as talented as Darnell Washington in the draft. Washington can block like an offensive lineman and has untapped receiving potential for the next level.
43. Cleveland Browns
A big-play wide receiver to give the Browns’ offense an explosive option on the perimeter.
53. Miami Dolphins
Luke Wypler might end up going higher than this by the time the draft rolls around, but he’s a young, talented center that would likely be an upgrade from Connor Williams at center.
100. San Francisco 49ers
A potential long-term starter to pair with Talanoa Hufanga on the back of their defense.