With 2023 NFL Free Agency nearly completed, we can now look ourselves in the mirror when building a 2023 NFL mock draft. This is what I think what will happen a month before the Panthers are officially on the clock. I'll add odds when applicable, and will frequently reference expected draft position from GrindingTheMocks.
I've been on C.J. Stroud at 1st overall since the trade, but with the markets leaning Young at -450 odds, let's build a mock with the more creative signal-caller going 1st. And for the record, I don't think this is completely settled despite the heavy odds. Let's see how Stroud's official visit goes first... His expected draft position: 1st.
NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein has connections to Houston (he had CB Derek Stingley at 4th overall and G Kenyon Green last year as bold calls), and he reports the Texans are split on Stroud. He believes most likely, it'll be Stroud still, but Will Anderson has a near perfect grade. Ownership usually dictates if a QB is required, which I think it is here. This aligns with most NFL team draft boards, too. There's a reported gap between the top two QBs and the rest of the position. On top of that, NFL Network's James Palmer reports the Texans are only looking at Young and Stroud at 2nd overall (aka no Anthony Richardson sneakiness)... His expected draft position: 2nd.
Arizona's roster is a disaster, and they are in negotiations for a trade back. Does the NFL like Will Levis or Anthony Richardson enough to trade up in front of the Colts? Certainly possible. If not, the Texans could make both sides of their building happy by taking the QB at 2nd and then trading up from 12th overall for a nearly perfect EDGE evaluation. That would make DeMeco Ryans happy. Houston has 12 picks to work with and are desperate for franchise players... His expected draft position: 3rd.
GM Chris Ballard said they don't have to trade up to get the QB prospect they want, and I (somewhat) believe him! It's already risky to draft the most boom-bust player in the draft. It's extremely risky for another team to trade future picks to do so. Richardson and Jalen Hurts aren't exactly the same players, but there are rushing similarities that former Eagles OC and current Colts HC Shane Steichen can lean into. Gardner Minshew received high-end backup money to bring him along. ... His expected draft position: 4th.
Geno Smith's contract is in line with average starters in 2023 and also includes roster bonuses and guaranteed money in 2024. Plus, Drew Lock is making $4M this year, and Pete Carroll wants to win now, not rebuild. He's old!!! It's enough for me to lean non-QBs as they look to compete in a much weaker NFC West. Carter has character concerns to address, but he's not taking top-30 visits with teams outside of the top-10 picks because they're that confident he's going high. As a reminder, DT Jeffery Simmons tore his ACL pre-draft and hit a women on film, yet still went 19th overall just a few years ago. That has since worked out... His expected draft position: 6th.
Detroit added NCB Cameron Sutton and CB Emmanuel Moseley this free agency, but Moseley is on an one-year $6M contract and Jeff Okudah was traded. Witherspoon plays like a Dan Campbell guy, and after his pro day is now listed as the favorite to be the first corner selected at -220 odds. Meanwhile, the Lions odds of drafting a corner with their first pick is at -250... His expected draft position: 8th.
I'm torn on the Raiders. They've done their homework on QBs, and Josh McDaniels said his goal is to find a young franchise QB who has the toughness to last. So why did they sign (oft-injured) Jimmy Garoppolo to a contract that's fully guaranteed in year one and would be fully guaranteed if he's on the roster in the third day of the new league year in 2024? Well, maybe bad organizations make poor decisions! Levis certainly is tough and handled a pro-styled offense at Kentucky, one that McDaniels likely covets given his notoriously hard playbook. Levis' odds of going 7th overall are at +1000... His expected draft position: 9th.
The entire secondary was revamped this offseason, but applying pressure remains a major weakness. The Saints, where GM Terry Fontenot comes from, always had a deep edge group. Wilson gets that party started... His expected draft position: 6th.
I think the Bears would love Jalen Carter if he dips, but he doesn't here. Instead, another team that originally trades down comes back up the board for a target player. Arizona's secondary is a stone cold disaster, and there's a tier drop from the top two to the rest of the class per consensus mock drafts. Trading out of 3rd overall but still getting Witherspoon or Gonzalez is as close of a win as they can hope for... His expected draft position: 7th.
Philadelphia will always build through the trenches, and they do so again here (after trying to trade down, given they only have six draft picks). Van Ness needs development, but he hits the athleticism thresholds the Eagles like. His odds of going 10th overall are +750... His expected draft position: 12th.
Only having six draft picks while having a million roster needs works against the Titans ability to trade up for a QB. Instead, they let the board fall to them and go best player available. Skoronksi is a Vrabel minded player with positional versatility. He could be an All Pro guard or push gambled-on LT Andre Dilliard. Before new GM Ran Carthon hand picks his QB next offseason, he gets this suddenly poor OL back on track... His expected draft position: 11th.
If the Bears are set on OL, they have room to move down from 9th overall, which is what happened here. Chicago was last in adjusted sack rate on offense (largely because of Justin Fields). They addressed the interior, but their current starting left tackle was a 5th-round pick last year. Johnson checks every box as an upside left tackle, while Peter Skoronski isn't as good of a fit, given his middling size and this offense's run-heavy identity... His expected draft position: 10th.
It appears that LT Mekhi Becton is back on track, so the Jets will turn to adding to the defensive line. Smith is rising on consensus boards and would provide speed to a sturdy interior defensive line. Daniel Jeremiah, who is plugged in with the Jets' brass, agrees... His expected draft position: 17th.
New England couldn't protect Mac Jones last year, and they've only put bandaids on to stop the bleeding this offseason. Jones is a great athlete with upside as a redshirt sophomore from Georgia. One of my favorite angles is Jones +170 to be selected after 13th overall... His expected draft position: 13th.
The best way to troll Aaron Rodgers out the door is by going with a first-round receiver. JSN isn't going to bust, which is why he's -250 to be the first WR in the draft. He also complements explosive-based receiver Christian Watson in this offense... His expected draft position: 14th.
Washington's new GM drafted six different RBs in the first three rounds as the Lions GM or assistant GM. With Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson leading the Commanders to a 29th-ranked finish in YPC last year, this would be the perfect excuse to draft a "blue chip" player with Ron Rivera coaching for his job. Can't you hear the "run the ball, don't turn the ball over, and win with defense" quotes already??? His expected draft position: 19th.
This young skill group needs a better OL this year. Some offseason moves addressed the interior line, but both tackle spots are open for upgrades. Wright is an ass kicker, obviously fitting right in with Pittsburgh's identity. I can see Wright going even earlier than this, too... His expected draft position: 20th.
They took their top corner at 6th overall, then find Aidan Hutchinson a running mate here with a rocked up EDGE player out of Clemson... His expected draft position: 16th.
Year one into a rebuild with a dreadful cap situation, the Bucs can go in a million directions with this pick and with draft weekend trades (potentially including Mike Evans and/or Chris Godwin). This wouldn't be a sexy pick, but Branch fills a need and would mesh well with coach Todd Bowles... His expected draft position: 24th.
The 5th overall pick likely goes to the defensive line, but Geno Smith needs one more weapon to compete for an NFC Championship run this year, especially given Tyler Lockett's size and age. Addison would play the slot as a rookie, maximizing his skillset. I hear Pete Carroll may have connections to USC, too ... His expected draft position: 21st.
I mocked the link of Jordan Addison to the Chargers WR coach last time, but Addison may go ahead of the Chargers pick. If so, Kincaid makes sense as an upgrade on Gerald Everett. We've seen the Chargers value TE for decades, and Kincaid provides pass-catching insure to oft-injured WRs Mike Williams and Keenan Allen... His expected draft position: 26th.
With only six draft picks including no 2nd rounder, the Ravens decide to trade down with the Chiefs coming up for the only remaining consensus 1st-round OT prospect. Harrison played LT at Oklahoma, allowing Jawaan Taylor to stay on the right side. The Chiefs can add size to their WR room on Day 2, where the big guys are hiding... His expected draft position: 31st.
CB Andrew Booth and slot CB Byron Murphy need a third running mate at corner, especially with new DC Brian Flores running a ton of man coverage... His expected draft position: 26th.
Evan Engram is on a one-year franchise tag, one he hasn't even signed yet. Coach Doug Pederson has utilized TEs over the years, and Mayer provides a more well-rounded skill set compared to Engram. This would be a long-term move for the offense at a position that takes years to develop, especially with Mayer only being 21 years old... His expected draft position: 25th.
After adding one million small slot receivers in recent offseasons, the Giants finally make a power move at receiver with the 6'3"/207 pound Johnston. His profile isn't perfect, but late 1st round is when the boom/bust profile begins to make more sense... His expected draft position: 18th.
The Jones family has prioritized the OL for years, and this is the shallowest it's been in a while. Torrence is a guard, and thanks to the flexibility of Tyler Smith, he'll fit into the starting lineup... His expected draft position: 26th
There's so much hype on Flowers, but small, senior receivers from non-powerhouse schools typically don't get in the middle of the first round. That's good news for Buffalo, who is desperate for yards after the catch players. He'd slide into the slot in 3-WR sets. It's a great scheme fit and a more appropriate draft value at 27th overall... His expected draft position: 22nd.
He's not as physical, but Geno Atkins isn't that far off (size wise) from Kancey, who won't be liked by many defensive coaches because of his outlier lack of weight and length. He does provide some juice as a pass rusher for the inevitable matchups against Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and other top AFC QBs... His expected draft position: 29th.
Cameron Jordan is 34 years old, and this is the worst EDGE depth New Orleans has had in years. I really wanted to find an edge here, but Will McDonald is far smaller than the typical Saints 4-3 DEs and the rest of the bigger edge prospects aren't mocked in this range. Instead, the interior line gets addressed with a 3-tech to pair with 1-tech Khalen Saunders... His expected draft position: 28th.
The Eagles are fine with trading down (to 48th overall), especially with only six draft picks right now. The Lions added Witherspoon and Murphy to round out an upgraded defense earlier in this mock draft, before finding a cheap replacement to Jared Goff after 2023. Goff doesn't have guaranteed money following this year, so Hooker can rehab and learn an NFL offense this year before getting his shot to start in 2024, saving Detroit around $30M in cap space. Hooker was brought in for a visit. Both Daniel Jeremiah and Ian Rapoport believe it's more likely that Hooker goes first round now... His expected draft position: 32nd.
Baltimore only has six draft picks, so they accept a mid-round pick to move back, while still getting a solid and highly-athletic prospect in Banks at a position of need... His expected draft position: 23rd.
Also in consideration: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Jalin Hyatt, OT Dawand Jones, C John Michael-Schmitz, DT Mazi Smith, EDGE Keion White, EDGE Will McDonald, EDGE Felix Anduke-Uzomah, LB Drew Sanders, LB Jack Campbell, CB Kelee Ringo, CB Cam Smith, CB Emmanuel Forbes.