• Anthony Richardson goes to Atlanta at No. 8: While the Falcons do have 2022 draft pick Desmond Ridder in the fold, Richardson makes too much sense if he falls to Atlanta.
• Panthers' choice at No. 1 still a mystery: Many have Alabama's Bryce Young as the top 2023 quarterback prospect, but Carolina goes with C.J. Stroud in this mock.
• Lions address the future with Tanner McKee: Detroit uses the No. 81 pick on the Stanford product, who would be entering Year 3 when Jared Goff's contract expires.
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If you haven’t heard, the 2023 NFL Draft features quite the quarterback class. Four quarterbacks are in the top 10 on the PFF draft board, and two more are in the top 100. Come draft day, I fully expect Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson to be top-10 picks, while Hendon Hooker and Tanner McKee will likely come off the board on Day 2.
Here’s how I see the class playing out on draft day.
Pick No. 1: Carolina Panthers — C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Who exactly the Panthers intend to draft is still anybody’s guess. There being reports of them still trying to wheel and deal the No. 1 overall pick, however, suggests that they may not intend to draft the quarterback who sits atop the PFF board — and almost every other media board — in Bryce Young.
Stroud makes sense as a safer bet for a team in search of a franchise quarterback. He possesses easily the best fundamentals of any of the top quarterbacks and brings a high floor with the accuracy he showed at Ohio State (highest on-target rate of any quarterback in the class last year).
Pick No. 2: Houston Texans — Bryce Young, Alabama
Young is exactly the kind of franchise-changing personality the Texans have been looking for since the Deshaun Watson saga went down. His underdog mentality despite his pedigree — a five-star recruit and the quarterback of one of the most successful high school programs ever and one of the most successful college programs ever — is the exact kind of crazy that makes the elites the elites. His 93.0 passing grade over the past two seasons was the highest in college football.
Pick No. 4: Indianapolis Colts — Will Levis, Kentucky
The Colts are in an interesting spot where they are getting at best the QB3 in the class, but at the same time they need to start that player immediately. So in a debate between two toolsy quarterbacks, Levis laps Anthony Richardson in terms of NFL readiness. That’s not surprising given who Levis was coached by (former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen and former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello) and his age (turns 24 in June).
Levis finished fourth in the country last year in passing yards under pressure from the pocket (707), which will serve him well behind the rebuilding Colts offensive line.
Pick No. 8: Atlanta Falcons — Anthony Richardson, Florida
If any coach is going to appreciate Richardson's awe-inspiring dynamism, it’s the one who schemed the run-heaviest offense in the NFL last season. The Falcons' 50.8% run rate last year was 3.3 percentage points clear of the Bears for the top spot. And that was with a relatively modest rushing threat in Marcus Mariota at the helm. Now imagine what that would look like with a 6-foot-4, 244-pounder who runs a 4.43-second 40-yard dash running the show. That’s definitely something that Arthur Smith would be into even if the Falcons still have last year’s third-round quarterback, Desmond Ridder, in the fold.
Pick No. 68: Denver Broncos — Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
While the Broncos are tied to Russell Wilson contractually for at least the next two seasons, that doesn’t mean they can’t give themselves other options. Hooker possesses some similar play style elements to Wilson in his mobility and glorious deep-ball touch. It would be a perfect situation for Hooker to develop for a couple of years under Sean Payton while letting the Wilson experiment run its course, especially considering Hooker may not even be available as a rookie after his ACL tear.
Pick No. 81: Detroit Lions — Tanner McKee, Stanford
The Lions and general manager Brad Holmes have a franchise-defining draft in front of them, holding pick Nos. 6, 18, 48, 55 and 81. The big question will be what to do at quarterback. On one hand, Jared Goff is only 29 years old and had a tremendous bounce-back season in Year 2 with the Lions. On the other hand, we’ve seen this story play out before with Goff and the Rams (and his cap hits are more than $30 million in each of the next two years).
The crux will be the sixth overall pick. Detroit was gifted it with the Rams bottoming out this season, and they may be in position to secure one of the top four quarterbacks in the class with it. The sixth pick could also net them a blue-chip defender for a unit in desperate need. At that point, there are not five starting spots available for their five top-100 picks and the roster becomes far too good to realistically be in the mix for next year’s quarterback class.
McKee would make sense for the Lions in that he plays the position similarly to Goff and shouldn’t have much of a learning curve with the NFL readiness he showed at Stanford. He is not only a cheap insurance option this season, but he’ll also be entering the vaunted Year 3 of his rookie deal when Goff’s contract is set to expire.