NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bryce Young goes to Houston Texans at No. 1, Carolina Panthers go QB at No. 8

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

• Texans make Alabama's Bryce Young the No. 1 pick: While Young's size will be concerning for some teams, it's hard to overlook his production with the Crimson Tide.

• Kentucky QB Will Levis lands in the top five: The Indianapolis Colts attack the quarterback position by selecting Levis, who transferred to Kentucky and built up his draft stock.

• TCU's Quentin Johnston goes as WR1: The Tennessee Titans pair now-rookie Treylon Burks with Johnston, who can be the downfield athlete the offense is missing.

Estimated Reading Time: 15 mins

With the final days of December upon us, it’s time for many teams to–oh, who am I kidding, no one reads these intros.

You know what time of year it is, and you know why you’re here. Let’s take a look at some potential targets for your favorite team with my first mock draft of the 2023 draft cycle.

1. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

With Young measuring in at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, some teams won’t think the former Heisman winner is a “no-brainer” at the top due to size concerns. But it’s a quarterback-driven league, and no quarterback has made more magic happen in college football in the past two seasons. He’s been responsible for 81 touchdowns over that span with elite PFF grades of 92.2 and 91.0 in back-to-back campaigns.

2. Chicago Bears: DI Jalen Carter, Georgia

On a defensive line that featured Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Nolan Smith, Carter felt like the best of the bunch during Georgia’s historic national championship run. He continued that elite play in 2022 and has a good case for the best overall talent in this class, regardless of position, with elite burst and rare strength. He’s posted pass-rush win percentages above 16.0% in each of the past two seasons.

3. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama

Anderson wasn’t as much of a finisher in 2022 as he was in 2021. Part of the reason for that is because of the insane bar he set the year before with 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. That would be tough for any player to replicate. The other is that he’s still working on his pass-rush repertoire outside of relying on his athletic gifts. But make no mistake, his burst, flexibility and speed-to-power abilities are the kind you bet on in the top five of a draft class. He’s still the player who recorded 208 pressures over the past three seasons.

4. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson

The Cardinals have to make an investment in the trenches. With no ideal offensive line selection this high, we look to the defensive side of things. Murphy is quite the athlete for a player who is 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, with the Athletic's Bruce Feldman noting that Murphy has run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard dash at around 280 pounds. He also sports 70.0-plus grades in all defensive categories (run defense, pass rush, coverage). Arizona will need a big splash on the defensive line with J.J. Watt retiring, and Murphy fits the bill.

5. Indianapolis Colts: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

Levis’ stats won’t jump off the page from either of his two seasons at Kentucky after he transferred from Penn State. But much of that this past year can be attributed to how much pressure he was under. Levis was pressured on over 37% of his dropbacks, which was well above average. But his size and arm strength do pop when you throw on the film. He’s also tough as nails when picking up yards on the ground. For as much as people fight it, he’s destined for the top 10, and Indianapolis feels like an ideal landing spot as they rebuild that offense.

6. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State

Verse is one of my favorite players in this class. Previously at FCS Albany, Verse transformed his body during the COVID-impacted season and gained 40 pounds, jumping from 210 as a redshirt freshman to 250 as a junior. He was named an all-conference player that season before transferring to Florida State. In his lone season in the FBS, he not only didn't look overwhelmed, but he also dominated when healthy. He looks and feels like a total package edge rusher.

7. Detroit Lions (via LAR): DI Bryan Bresee, Clemson

The Lions would love to get their hands on Jalen Carter, but the Rams getting a few extra wins down the stretch this season will likely prohibit that. But fret not, Lions fans. Bresee is another uniquely gifted three-technique who has the burst of athleticism, size and strength to be a perfect fit for one of Detroit's biggest needs along the defensive line. His presence will allow Alim McNeill to stay in his true home as a nose tackle while freeing up the edge rushers.

8. Carolina Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

The Panthers are one of the most quarterback-needy teams in this draft after cycling through Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker and then back to Darnold over the past two seasons. As of now, they’re in range for a quarterback. But if they win the NFC South, they might not be. Stroud is a realistic possibility for where the Panthers are currently drafting as a quarterback with a ton of production in the Ohio State system over the past two years. There are concerns with Stroud about when things get off script and he has to improvise (not much of a scrambler), but the Panthers have to take a shot at the most important position — one they have yet to nail down.

9. Las Vegas Raiders: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

The Raiders are a complete mess, and this pick could go in so many different directions. If they move on from Derek Carr, they’ll be in the quarterback market. But what we know for sure is they need defensive line help. Wilson’s game may be inconsistent, but the 6-foot-6, 275-pound edge player brings a rare combination of size (7-foot wingspan), flexibility and explosiveness to the table.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

This is a total luxury pick for the Eagles. Cornerback James Bradberry is thriving this season opposite Darius Slay, but Bradberry is only on a one-year deal. If the Eagles let him walk, they’ll have the chance to replace him with a top cornerback in this draft. Ringo is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds with 4.3-4.4 speed. That size-speed combination won’t make it out of the top 15.

11. Houston Texans (via CLE): OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

The Texans could certainly go with a wide receiver here, and none have gone off the board yet in this mock. But the better investment could be in a player like Skoronski, who has been as steady and reliable as they come at left tackle for Northwestern this year. He has inside-outside versatility to play tackle or guard, and with as much success as Tytus Howard was having at guard filling in for the injured Kenyon Green, a hypothetical offensive line for 2023 could be Laremy Tunsil and Skoronski at tackle with Green and Howard on the interior — forming a sudden major strength for their new quarterback. Skoronski recorded an elite 92.4 pass-blocking grade and gave up only one sack in 2022.

12. Seattle Seahawks: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Seattle loves big athletes — see Tariq Woolen. What if they had another big athlete opposite Woolen in Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez? At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Gonzalez has smooth movement skills for a player who also brings size and length as a strength. He added even more ball production to his resume this year with nine forced incompletions and four interceptions. Gonzalez feels like a top-20 pick now.

13. Tennessee Titans: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

The Titans are in a tough spot. They fired their general manager during the season and since then have been on a skid that will likely force them to miss the playoffs. The offense has not played at the level necessary of a playoff team, and the passing game is the main culprit. They drafted Treylon Burks in the first round of last year, but there’s no need to stop there. Johnson can give Tennessee a downfield athlete the offense is desperately missing. 

14. New England Patriots: WR Jordan Addison, USC

The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner ran some of the best routes in college football. While Addison is on the slimmer side (listed at 6-foot, 175 pounds), he’s hard to guard for how good his change of direction is. He’s a route-running savant the Patriots could use to create easy throwing windows.

15. New York Jets: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

Yes, yes, I know, the Jets need a quarterback. But I feel as though the team is more in shape for a veteran to come in and help them right away as opposed to drafting another quarterback they have to invest time in. If they go that route, the offensive line is likely where they will look. Though they haven’t given up on Mekhi Becton, all the time missed due to injury means you can’t count on him, either. George Fant took a step back this year and Duane Brown is 37 years old. If a versatile offensive lineman like Paris Johnson Jr. is available when the Jets are on the clock, they should jump at the chance to draft him.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

After drafting what could be their franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett in the first round last year, the Steelers need to fix their offensive tackle woes. Broderick Jones started at left tackle for the first time this year, and it was clear he was still adjusting to how to best brace for and counter better pass-rush moves, but he checks a lot of the size and athleticism boxes, as well as shows good flexibility in his base to stay low at the snap. Those are all signs of an offensive tackle worth taking a chance on in the late teens.

17. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

No, it's not technically a wide receiver, but this pick might help the Packers the most with both Johnston and Addison off the board. Mayer’s limited straight-line athleticism will curb how high he will be drafted, but he was one of the most reliable pass catchers in all of college football over the past few seasons, so I’d expect him to be an immediate impact player in Green Bay’s offense. Mayer was the highest-graded tight end in the country this year with a 91.7 receiving grade.

18. Detroit Lions: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

The Lions need a lot of help on defense, and after addressing the interior defensive line with their first selection in this mock draft, setting their gaze on shoring up the secondary would be next on the list. Enter Joey Porter Jr., a boundary cornerback with good size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and a ton of ball production in the form of forced incompletions. 

19. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

Cam Smith has that edginess and attitude you love from a man coverage outside cornerback. Though he didn’t have the same kind of success as his former teammate Jaycee Horn, Smith is cut from the same cloth. The Jags have a good outside cornerback in Tyson Campbell, but the other side of the secondary needs an upgrade. Campbell and Smith would form one heck of a young cornerback duo in Duval. 

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia

A lot could be different in Tampa Bay in just a few months. The Buccaneers could have a major need at quarterback, cornerback, offensive line and more. But I opted to go with Nolan Smith here, one because I feel like the Bucs will appreciate his leadership for the Georgia defenses the past two years, and two because they do need a lot of help in the pass-rush category. He’s a lighter pass rusher at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, but he’s a former No. 1 overall recruit for his athletic gifts and is a much better run defender than almost anyone you’ve seen playing at that weight on the line of scrimmage, earning an 82.6 run-defense grade with 10 solo stop and four tackles for loss in 2022.

21. Washington Commanders: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

The Commanders have a big need at offensive tackle. Harrison is one of the most experienced players in this draft class, with over 2,000 snaps at left tackle. He has been the Sooners' left tackle for three seasons after starting in his true freshman year. He’s not the strongest offensive tackle you’ll see in this class, but his smoothness in pass protection is a big-time calling card for the next level. In each of the past two seasons, he’s graded above 83.0 in pass protection.

22. Forfeited (Miami Dolphins)

23. New York Giants: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

Anthony Richardson is going in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. That’s not a question worth asking, in my opinion. The questions are how high, and to what team. Even with his current inconsistent accuracy (63.8% adjusted completion percentage), his athletic ability as a runner and his incredible arm talent make it feel like he won’t even last this long in the order. If he does, I’d love to see a coach like Brian Daboll get the chance to mold him.

24. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

The Chargers need speed at the receiver position. Though Flowers might not be the exact kind of outside cornerback burner who immediately comes to mind, turn on the tape and you’ll see explosiveness and separation at all three levels. He’s going to jump up draft boards after the all-star circuit in January. 

25. Baltimore Ravens: CB Clark Phillips III, Utah

Marcus Peters will be a free agent this spring, and with all the money the Ravens might have to shell out for quarterback Lamar Jackson and linebacker Roquan Smith, Peters might not be back in Baltimore. In comes Phillips, the undersized yet ball-hawking outside cornerback from Utah who feels like a great rookie option to play on the outside opposite Marlon Humphrey. Phillips tallied six interceptions, five forced incompletions and four defensive touchdowns in 2022.

26. Denver Broncos (via SF/MIA): OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

The Broncos are in all sorts of trouble. They fired their head coach after less than one season and are staring down the barrel of a struggling quarterback on a bad contract. At this point, the only chance they have to save the situation is getting the right coach this offseason. On top of that, upgrading the offensive line with a mauler like Torrence certainly wouldn’t hurt, either, as Dalton Risner is set to become a free agent. 

27. Dallas Cowboys: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

This might feel low for the kind of production Smith-Njigba racked up back in 2021. But he didn’t play much football in 2022 and doesn’t boast top-tier athleticism. That will likely relegate him to a slot-only role in the NFL, but that doesn't mean his savviness still can’t stand out. The Cowboys need that kind of underneath player to compliment CeeDee Lamb and hopefully a better version of Michael Gallup in 2023.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

The Bengals are one of the more complete teams in the NFL, outside of their offensive tackle spot being a bit of a letdown this season. If they can take a chance on a tackle at the back end of the first round, it would be well worth it. Wright played this past season at right tackle for the Vols, and he did so with a ton of power, weighing in at 335 pounds. He’s not just a bruiser, either, with just three pressures allowed on 93 pass sets this season.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Cody Mauch, North Dakota State

Chiefs offensive tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie have had a rough go of it in 2022, consistently placing in the bottom 10 for pressures allowed at their position. Mauch is an intriguing replacement for one of them. He’s a former walk-on tight end who put on 80 pounds during his early years at North Dakota State to now be one of the most athletic tackles in the class. He’s an eraser in the run game, but for as well as he moves, his pass protection does need work. He earned just an 80.6 pass-blocking grade this season against lesser competition.

30. Minnesota Vikings: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

The Vikings' projected offseason shows they’ll have a big cornerback need, especially with Patrick Peterson getting up there in age as a 32-year-old pending free agent. Witherspoon has been one of the best outside cornerbacks in the country this season, with an elite 92.6 grade in coverage and only 206 yards allowed all year. He now oozes first-round potential because of it. 

31. Buffalo Bills: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

The Bills need a slot receiver, but how can they pass on Bijan Robinson in this scenario? Robinson in the backfield would alleviate the need for quarterback Josh Allen to carry the ball so much and take so many hits, plus Robinson can make an impact in the passing game, as well. There’s a good chance the NFL picks Robinson higher than this, as he is one of the best football players in this class. But if he makes it here, it’s an incredible fit.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: DI Siaki Ika, Baylor

The Eagles' defensive line could look a lot different next season, as Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh are all set to hit free agency. They do still have Jordan Davis, and pairing one uniquely gifted big man with another in Siaki Ika feels like a move the Eagles would love to make if they can. At 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, Ika has impressive burst as a pass rusher to get up on interior offensive linemen to dictate contact.

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