To get a better picture on the depth at each position and which teams are most incentivized to trade up/down in the 2023 NFL Draft, I did a three round mock draft while listing team needs from this column by Sosa. This piece is meant to be digested team-by-team, not pick-by-pick. It includes some trades, particularly in the first part of the draft and with QBs.
After doing this exercise, I believe:
There's a clear dropoff at OT after the top-5.
There's more depth at CB and TE.
There's a steady group of EDGE, DT, and RB.
There aren't many highly-ranked prospects at S, WR, or LB.
Beyond that, I'm hyper focused on the top-12 picks, as that's where the QBs likely go and because the Texans have two of those selections. For now, I have it:
Panthers - Bryce Young
Texans - Will Anderson
Raiders (via ARI) - CJ Stroud
Colts - Anthony Richardson
Seahawks - Tyree Wilson
Eagles (via DET) - Jalen Carter
Cardinals (via LV) - Christian Gonzalez
Texans (via ATL) - Will Levis
Bears - Paris Johnson Jr.
Lions (via PHI) - Devon Witherspoon
Titans - Peter Skoronski
Falcons (via HOU) - Nolan Smith
It's not the selection I'd make, but the markets tell us it's very likely the Alabama QB goes up top. Afterwards, Carolina desperately needs a receiver, preferably who can play in the slot with some athleticism. Well, have you seen the Ole Miss product? They brought him in for an official visit.
1. Bryce Young - QB1
39. Jonathan Mingo - WR6
93. Zach Harrison - EDGE15
The organization is split on their QB evals beyond Bryce Young, who is likely gone. Ownership could force a QB up top, after abandoning the city with terrible rosters and tons of turnover in recent seasons. If so, I lean Stroud > Levis because of my own evaluations on each player. Quite frankly, I don't think it's even close. The other idea is that if they draft QB at 2nd overall, they hurt the Cardinals' trade value at 3rd overall, so they could trade up using their 12th overall pick to draft their favorite defensive player.
With that said, coach DeMeco Ryans loves his pass rushers, so he could convince ownership that a Tier 1 EDGE > Tier 2 QB (if that's what their evals suggest). This is what the markets slightly believe will happen. Whether it's Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson is unknown, explaining a near even split between Anderson, Wilson, Stroud, and Levis in the 2nd overall markets. What a time to be alive.
2. Will Anderson - EDGE2
8. Will Levis - QB4 (Trade via ATL: 8th for 12th, 104th, 161st)
33. Mazi Smith - DT4
65. Daiyan Henley - LB4
73. Devon Achane - RB3
They want to trade down because they have the worst roster in the NFL (and could be out-right tanking if Kyler Murray's ACL needs time). Will the NFL view the available QBs enough to trade up in front of (or with) the Colts? Possibly! The other out would be if a defensive-minded team feels strongly about Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson, or Jalen Carter. They get bailed out here. Afterwards, it's best player available at premium positions, including at receiver following a Day 2 DeAndre Hopkins trade.
3. Traded to LV (7th for 12th, 109th, 141st, 2024 2nd)
7. Christian Gonzalez - CB1
34. Quentin Johnston - WR4
66. Luke Wypler - IOL5
91. Jakorian Bennett - CB15 (via BUF trade: DeAndre Hopkins, 180th for 91st)
96. Jaelyn Duncan - OT10
They've been linked to literally every QB, most recently with Will Levis. I'll stick with consensus boards and my own evaluations by giving them the Florida dual-threat. Coach Shane Steichen maximized Jalen Hurts' thicc skill set, giving me hope for Richardson's ceiling potential long term.
4. Anthony Richardson - QB3
35. Felix Anudike-Uzomah - EDGE7
79. Tyler Scott - WR10
It seems like Seattle is content with making Geno Smith the temporary face of the franchise after a sweet 2022 season, especially with their roster improving while the NFC's depth is weak. The 71-year-old Pete Carroll goes all in with best player available all draft.
5. Tyree Wilson - EDGE2
20. Jordan Addison - WR2
37. O'Cyrus Torrence - IOL1
52. Drew Sanders - LB3
83. Zacch Pickens - DT7
I believe Detroit is snooping around the QB market because they don't have a legit QB2, nor do they have Jared Goff guarantees beyond 2023. If the right one falls, they should send it. If not, they can build a much deeper roster by doing something like this, where they draft best player available early before getting the fifth-year option for their potential 2024 starting QB:
6. Traded to PHI (6th for 10th, 62nd)
10. Devon Witherspoon - CB2 (via PHI)
18. Lukas Van Ness - EDGE4
30. Hendon Hooker - QB5 (Trade via PHI: 30th for 38th, 81st, 152nd)
55. Cedric Tillman - WR7
62. Tucker Kraft - TE6 (via PHI)
Las Vegas has $10M in Jimmy G guarantees in 2024 and only has pseudo OC Brian Hoyer as their QB2 right now. That's why they're visiting with most of the top QB prospects, including Hendon Hooker who Tony Pauline reported was their QB3. If they skip out on the top QBs, I could see a trade up into the late first for Hooker. Instead, I'm linking Vegas to Stroud, as they were one of the teams who were interested in trading up to 1st overall when the Bears held the pick.
3. CJ Stroud - QB2 (Trade via ARI: 7th for 12th, 109th, 141st, 2024 2nd)
38. Darnell Washington - TE3
70. Darius Rush - CB12
100. Chandler Zavala - IOL7
Atlanta has done some work with QB prospects, so I'm not ruling out a big swing there. If that doesn't happen (the more likely scenario), then the Falcons desperately needs to add pass rush help after re-working their entire secondary with free agency and trades.
8. Traded to HOU: 8th for 12th, 104th, 161st
12. Nolan Smith - EDGE3 (via HOU)
44. BJ Ojulari - EDGE9
75. Henry To'oto'o - LB5
After trading down, they've been linked heavily to Jalen Carter and offensive linemen. They value length and need tackles more than interior linemen right now, so I lean Johnson over potential OG Peter Skoronski. Afterwards, it's best player available. They have a bunch of holes, particularly with their pass rush.
9. Paris Johnson - OT1
(As a reminder, they traded *Chase Claypool* for 32nd overall)
53. Tuli Tuipulotu - EDGE11
61. Derick Hall - EDGE12
64. Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson - CB11
This will be confusing to track, but Philadelphia is usually active with trades, especially this year with only six total picks and a roster that's this close to winning a Super Bowl. Here, they go up for a blue chip player at a position of need once Jalen Carter slightly falls due to character concerns. Philly has an established locker room, including two key defensive stars from Georgia. In fact, Jordan Davis is considered a mentor of Carter. Afterwards, they re-coup lost picks by trading out of 30th overall, where teams call to pick up that fifth-year option. Forgive me for the chaos.
6. Jalen Carter - DT1 (Trade via DET: 6th for 10th, 62nd)
30. Traded to DET (30th for 48th, 81st, 152nd)
48. Keion White - EDGE10
81. Zach Charbonnet - RB4
94. Nick Herbig - LB6
New GM Ran Carthon only has six picks to work with and has plenty of holes to fill. Unless a QB slides, Tennessee probably plays the long game. CJ Stroud and Paris Johnson have Vrabel connections with Ohio State, but they're gone, leaving the Titans with ideal culture and positional fit in Northwestern LT/OG Skoronski. It's been weird to see this organization struggle in the trenches.
11. Peter Skoronski - OT2
41. Cam Smith - CB6
72. Marvin Mims - WR8
The Rodgers trade most likely comes before the Jets are on the clock at 42nd overall. That will end this madness, thankfully. Beyond that, the Jets can sure up the offensive line or deepen the defensive line, as coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas love to do.
13. Darnell Wright - OT3
42. Trade: Aaron Rodgers for 42nd overall, a 2024 3rd that can turn into a 2nd based on if the Jets make the playoffs with Rodgers playing half the snaps in 2023, a 2025 3rd that can turn into a 2nd based on if the Jets make the playoffs with Rodgers playing half the snaps in 2024. The Jets are worried Rodgers retires or isn't himself. The Packers want to be rewards if Rodgers is that dude still. Both parties get that with conditionals spread across the next two seasons.
43. Joe Tippmann - IOL2
Despite the drama, Mac Jones needs more support. Getting a legit OC is a start, but the OL and WR rooms were a mess last year, too. If Downs falls because of his size, he could eat in the slot with McCorkle's quick release. Has New England had a volume hog in the slot before? I forget.
14. Broderick Jones - OT4
46. DJ Turner - CB7
76. Josh Downs - WR9
Some teams have elite analysts. Green Bay is one. Check out this post from Justis Mosqueda on a potential big board for them based on historical thresholds and team needs. I used that post to come up with this return:
15. Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR1
42. Adetomiwa Adebawore - EDGE8
Trade: Aaron Rodgers for 42nd overall, a 2024 3rd that can turn into a 2nd based on if the Jets make the playoffs with Rodgers playing half the snaps in 2023, a 2025 3rd that can turn into a 2nd based on if the Jets make the playoffs with Rodgers playing half the snaps in 2024. The Jets are worried Rodgers retires or isn't himself. The Packers want to be rewards if Rodgers is that dude still. Both parties get that with conditionals spread across the next two seasons.
45. Luke Musgrave - TE5
78. Antonio Johnson - S2
Coach Ron Rivera will have to prove to new ownership that he should stick around, which means win now moves in the draft. Bijan slides a bit because other NFL teams use analytics, but that's not the M.O. of this regime, especially with Round 1 grades drying up in this range. Afterwards, this defense can use help in the secondary. All of their money goes to the line.
16. Bijan Robinson - RB1
47. Tyrique Stevenson - CB8
97. Jartavius Martin - S4
They kept the OC, so the only way to improve this offense is to get breakout years from their rookie-contract players. Get Kenny Pickett help at OT no matter what for instance. Harrison is a boom-bust player, but OTs could go even earlier than people expect because the depth in Round 2 isn't as solid.
17. Anton Harrison - OT5
32. Bryan Bresee - DT3
49. Trenton Simpson - LB2
80. Tank Dell - WR11
I don't know what Tampa Bay's plan is. Their roster is old, expensive, and wants out. Yet their coaching staff and GM could be fired after this year if they stink. Do they stay in win now mode? Or do they realize that the Tom Brady all in roster is worth flushing out? I do the latter here, by trading a premium veteran for a pick while dodging a trade up for the QBs.
19. Myles Murphy - EDGE5
50. Matthew Bergeron - OT7
82. Cameron Mitchell - CB14
95. Isaiah McGuire - EDGE16 (Trade via KC: Mike Evans for 95th overall)
Coach Brandon Staley believes his CBs couldn't tackle last year, leading to chaos on defense. Pay attention to which Day 1-2 CB prospects are physical. Beyond that, it's time to phase out Gerald Everett and potentially Austin Ekeler.
21. Michael Mayer - TE1
54. Kelee Ringo - CB9
85. Gervon Dexter - DT8
Baltimore needs to replenish their secondary and offensive line, after those being strengths for the past few seasons. That will be a challenge with only two picks inside the top-123 overall. They are a trade down team, but I didn't want to go overboard with trades in this exercise.
22. Deonte Banks - CB3
86. Jayden Reed - WR12
With only six total picks, it'll be difficult to find a long-term QB as they slowly fade out of the Kirk Cousins era. Instead, the most realistic upgrades will come at WR and CB, where new DC Brian Flores will need athletic bodies to run his man-heavy scheme.
23. Joey Porter Jr. - CB4
87. Rashee Rice - WR13
For a young roster, there aren't too many glaring needs here. Best player available is the move, as they have years to chase AFC Championship appearances on Trevor Lawrence's rookie deal.
24. Brian Branch - S1 (or CB5)
56. Keeanu Benton - DT5
88. Roschon Johnson - RB5
Caught between a rebuild and win now with Daniel Jones contract, New York can go in a bunch of directions. Before the draft ends, they definitely need to find interior offensive line depth, as DJ is likely a sum of his parts signal caller.
25. Emmanuel Forbes - CB5
57. John Michael Schmitz - IOL3
89. A.T. Perry - WR14
Coach Mike McCarthy wants to run the ball more often, so let's find some pieces that'll help with that. Michael Mayer likely doesn't pass Dallas, though he doesn't likely make it that far either. Their work on TEs this pre-draft process is notable following Dalton Schultz's departure. Kincaid is a zone beater but with more athleticism than Schultz. Avila has been heavily linked to Dallas, too. It's just a matter of him making it this far. His teammate, Kendre Miller, is a favorite sleeper of mine. He didn't test due to injury, but he's a Power 5 early declare with production and short-area burst. His size complements franchise-tagged Tony Pollard well.
26. Dalton Kincaid - TE2
58. Steve Avila - IOL4
90. Kendre Miller - RB6
There are marginal upgrades at CB, DT, and OL ready for the taking, but the real obvious holes are at LB (no Tremaine Edmunds) and WR2/3. There aren't consensus Round 1 LBs, so we'll have to dot connect here instead. Jack Campbell has the athleticism to play the Edmunds' role, and arguably more importantly, he's training with Luke Kuechly, who played for this entire Bills' regime in Carolina. Afterwards, the Bills make their Super Bowl splash by trading a fringe Day 3 pick for DeAndre Hopkins, who clearly wants to play for a contender.
27. Jack Campbell - LB1
59. Julius Brents - CB10
91. Trade via ARI: DeAndre Hopkins, 180th for 91st.
They lost starters on defense and there are TEs in this range who would fit this offense beautifully, but in this version, they take best player available. Kancey has rare athletic traits. He just won't fit every defense because of his size. Cincy legend Geno Atkins was only a couple inches and pounds bigger than Kancy, so maybe they'll role the dice with the pass-rush only tackle. For more on the Bengals, check out this Bengals big board from Joe Goodberry.
28. Calijah Kancey - DT2
60. Sam LaPorta - TE5
92. Sydney Brown - S3
New Orleans can lock onto just a few players and make power moves, so mocking them can be a relative challenge. Flowers is loved by everyone, but his profile (size, production, college, role) isn't one of a top-20 player usually. I'm very curious to see where he goes in Round 1. Beyond that, the Saints defense line is a major issue by their high standards. I don't see them leaving these picks without a thicc DT/EDGE. Most of those bigger bodies aren't available at 29 when I'm mocking.
29. Zay Flowers - WR3
40. Jahmyr Gibbs - RB2
71. Isaiah Foskey - EDGE13
It's these three positions for Kansas City. The good news is they aren't restricted by body types at any of them, giving them best player available flexibility. McDonald is too small for some teams but can be in the Chiefs' edge rotation. Jawaan Taylor can play left or right tackle, so BPA at tackle, too. To spice things up at receiver, Mike Evans is welcomed to the squad to round out a rather petite WR depth chart.
31. Will McDonald - EDGE6
63. Tyler Steen - OT8
95. Trade via TB: Mike Evans for 95th overall.
This roster literally needs three dozen players before they start training camp. It'll be a sight to see, especially without many high-value picks. I anticipate the defense to absolutely tank, while coach Sean McVay plays Madden with new pieces on offense. Getting Matthew Stafford to return post-surgery is a win, but he must be protected better.
36. Jalin Hyatt - WR5
69. Blake Freeland - OT9
77. Andre Carter - EDGE14
This OL hasn't been solved yet, and the focus has to be keeping Tua upright. Both of these picks move in that direction.
51. Dawand Jones - OT6
84. Luke Schoonmaker - TE7
Denver certainly needs another outside corner, but beyond that, Sean Payton likely wants physicality in the trenches. That's how he built teams around his QB in New Orleans at least. The curve ball could be trading away a receiver for a Day 3 pick or drafting a RB if they have bad news on Javonte Williams' torn knee. For now, we don't galaxy brain.
67. Cody Mauch - IOL6
68. Clark Phillips III - CB13
Cleveland has traded for and drafted all of the pieces they need on offense, so winning in the trenches defensively is the next on their radar. For more on the Browns, check out Clevta's big board specifically for the Browns.
74. Siaki Ika - DT6
98. YaYa Diaby - EDGE17
Teams are calling about Trey Lance, and while a trade is certainly possible, I think the Niners would rather have more clarity on Brock Purdy's partially torn elbow before trading away a potentially high-upside QB. With few major holes on the roster, they're best off gathering talent at QB. For more on the 49ers, here's The Athletic's big board specifically for their roster.
99. Garrett Williams - CB16
101. Byron Young - EDGE18
102. Brenton Strange - TE8