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.
Watch the Stroud episode of Scheme with Josh McCown. Watch McCown's interaction with Stroud after the Pro Day. Or just watch the tape and realize that Stroud is 1st overall worthy prospect -- he's my QB1. I'd handicap this as 80% likely, with Young soaking up a large majority of the leftovers. The markets (-330 aka 80% odds) agree... His expected draft position: 1st.
NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein has connections to Houston (he had CB Derek Stingley at 4th overall last year as a bold call), and he mocks Young here. I'd say there's a 75% chance of this happening. The markets agree (-225 aka 69% odds)... His expected draft position: 2nd.
Arizona's roster is a disaster, so they'll want to trade back. But does the NFL like the QB prospects enough to trade in front of the Colts? I very slightly lean them making this pick despite them wanting a trade down. If they stay, it seems that the best available players are on defense, where they have a defensive head coach.
EDGE1 Will Anderson is the obvious choice (-130 odds to go 3rd overall) and was mocked here by Daniel Jeremiah, but EDGE2 Tyree Wilson (+1800) and CB1 Christian Gonzalez (+3000) were linked to the Cardinals by NFL insider and reliable mock drafter Benjamin Allbright... and I wanted to slightly mix things up here... Gonzalez played far more zone coverage than CB2 Devon Witherspoon, and this coaching staff's background favors more zone players. At extremely long odds, Gonzalez to Arizona checks boxes. This could be a trade-down pairing, too. Fun fact: Gonzalez's brother-in-law is Cardinals QB David Blough... His expected draft position: 7th.
GM Chris Ballard said they don't have to trade up to get the QB prospect they want, and I 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. This pick was made in Daniel Jeremiah's mock, too. Richardson's odds of being the QB3 in the draft sit at -175... 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. It's enough for me to lean non-QBs as Pete Carroll looks to compete in a much weaker NFC West. Anderson is the consensus top-ranked defensive player with Jalen Carter's off-field issues dropping him, and he's a perfect fit for Seattle's No. 27 EPA allowed defense... His expected draft position: 3rd.
Detroit added NCB Cameron Sutton and CB2 Emmanuel Moseley this free agency, but Moseley is on an one-year $6M contract, while CB1 Jeff Okudah is going into the last year of his contract. Witherspoon is a man corner with some Dan Campbell dog in him. Even though Carter is ranked higher on consensus boards, I don't see the Lions breaking their culture for him. Daniel Jeremiah mocks Witherspoon here, too. He's +165 to be the first CB drafted... His expected draft position: 11th.
There have been three DTs to go top-10 in the last decade, but Carter's profile is that good and the position is quietly one of the highest-paid. I don't see him having a major fall in a poor draft class. As a reminder, DT Jeffery Simmons tore his ACL pre-draft and beat a women on film, yet still went 19th overall just a few years ago.
The Raiders, as you know, aren't afraid of risk and don't have the luxury of swinging for singles given their lackluster roster. As for QB, the Raiders were interested in the first overall pick, but that doesn't mean they like Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. Jimmy Garoppolo's contract is fully guaranteed in year one and will be fully guaranteed if he's on the roster on the third league year in 2024. Even if they move on, the Raiders would swallow $11M while saving $13M. This is a two year deal in my opinion... His expected draft position: 8th.
Atlanta was last in adjusted sack rate on defense last year, and they haven't addressed that void in major ways this offseason... His expected draft position: 6th.
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, making him a quality bet at -125 odds to be the first OL to be drafted. 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.
Philadelphia will always build through the trenches, and their current biggest need is at guard, where Skoronski could project best at given his threshold-lacking arm length. Some believe he could be an All Pro on the interior, with the chance of being good enough to play left tackle still. That's insurance on LT Jordan Mailata... His expected draft position: 9th.
I'm not ruling out a Ryan Tannehill trade and a Will Levis pick here, but I'll stop the galaxy braining and go with a massive team need filling at receiver. Boom-bust prospect Treylon Burks is by far their best receiver. That's nowhere near good enough, and JSN isn't going to bust, which is why he's -250 to be the first WR in the draft... His expected draft position: 12th.
NFL analyst Lance Zierlein also had this one. The team need makes a ton of sense, especially with 49ers DC Demeco Ryans coming to town to coach. If LVN needs to develop as an unproven pass rusher, Houston won't mind in their early stages of a massive rebuild... His expected draft position: 15th.
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: 19th.
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... His expected draft position: 13th.
A true in-line TE with receiving numbers, Mayer would fill a major void left by the losses of Robert Tonyan (receiving) and Marcedes Lewis (blocking). He's -125 to be the first TE in the draft... His expected draft position: 22nd.
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: 16th.
Their current starting left tackle is a 2021 4th rounder, and they need to maximize the offensive talent to get the most out of Kenny Pickett's cheap contract. Harrison is a nimble left or right tackle from Oklahoma. Of note, this is the first player in my mock that wasn't in Daniel Jeremiah's mock draft. That feels not great... His expected draft position: 18th.
I'm a fish and slide Kancey in here, partially because of team need but also because Lions GM Brad Holmes can draw some (inaccurate) comparisons between Kancey and Aaron Donald from his days in Los Angeles. Daniel Jeremiah had this, too... His expected draft position: 29th.
If Levis was loved by the NFL, he would've declared after his redshirt junior year in 2021 (his best season), especially because that was a horrendous QB class. He's regressed since then. After tweeting out I thought he'd fall, I had multiple highly respected analysts confirm a slide is possible. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah mocked this exact slide to Tampa, who are either tanking or hoping to upgrade on Baker Mayfield. It caught my eye that they haven't traded their top WRs and even re-signed players I thought they'd let walk. Perhaps this GM and HC are worried about their job security, rather than tanking for Caleb Williams (which is the smart choice of course)... His expected draft position: 5th.
Still ranked inside Daniel Jeremiah's top-10 prospects and even mocked to this exact spot, the worries of Addison dropping in the draft have been exaggerated. In fact, I don't hate +800 odds of Addison still going as the WR1. His tape is good, and WRs are getting smaller in general. The Seahawks address the DL early with EDGE Will Anderson, then get Geno Smith another weapon as Tyler Lockett approaches an age cliff. Plus, Pete Carroll may or may not have a USC connection... His expected draft position: 21st.
The Chargers go best player available often, and those most plugged into the draft really like Kincaid, who caught 16 passes against my Trojans. Kincaid would be an upgrade to the exact Gerald Everett role... His expected draft position: 25th.
Baltimore can't be serious with Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, and Devin Duvernay as Lamar Jackson's top receivers. Adding Johnston gives them size and yards after the catch ability, even if I'm iffy on his overall profile. This analytics-based front office will certainly value this highly-paid position and his early-declare status. Maybe that'd be enough for Lamar to sign an extension with Kenroy Francis' approval... His expected draft position: 18th.
WR or CB is the goal, and Porter is the best player available... His expected draft position: 14th.
After losing RT Jawaan Taylor, it's unclear if Walker Little is ready for a starting role on the other side. If they want a straight forward projection, then Wright makes a ton of sense. He played both left and right tackle at Tennessee, and likely could kick inside, too... His expected draft position: 23rd.
Let's keep the 5'9" WR party going. You can watch our player breakdown on him here... His expected draft position: 27th.
A great athlete at a position of need... His expected draft position: 38th.
They've been linked to DeAndre Hopkins, a signal they're ready to expand on receivers. Hyatt could play the slot in some formations, or play outside when Stefon Diggs needs to go inside. His speed would be a dream fit for Josh Allen's arm. He's the opposite of Gabe Davis... His expected draft position: 35th.
A fantastic athlete, Banks earned big bucks from the NFL Combine and would fill a team need for the otherwise built Bengals... His expected draft position: 26th.
Cameron Jordan is 34 years old, and this is the worst EDGE depth New Orleans has had in years. This would be a great value versus ... his expected draft position: 17th.
Early declare Power 5 edge rushers are strictly in the Eagles' wheelhouse... His expected draft position: 46th.
Right tackle is wide open, and Jones is an absolute unit... His expected draft position: 45th.
Here are the positions sorted by how much the top-15 players make per year, and how many first rounders I mocked at them:
Also in consideration: QB Hendon Hooker, TE Darnell Washington, OG O'Cyrus Torrence, EDGE Will McDonald, DT Bryan Bresee, S Brian Branch, CB Kelee Ringo, CB Cam Smith, CB Emmanuel Forbes.