Just like that, the 2022 NFL season has flashed by in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl 57. That means the draft order is set, and all 32 teams have turned their attention to the offseason.
While free agency and the trade market will impact every team’s needs, it’s never too early for a 2023 NFL mock draft. My second mock draft of the year will include six hypothetical first-round trades, including two within the first three picks.
Be sure to check out my previous mock draft as well.
There are only 31 first-round picks in this year’s draft. The Miami Dolphins had to forfeit their first-round pick after an investigation revealed they violated league policies.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Houston Texans receive pick 1. Chicago Bears receive picks 2, 33, 73, 2024 third-round pick.
1) Houston Texans (via Bears) – Bryce Young (QB – Alabama)
Despite DeMeco Ryans’ comments about the quarterback situation, the Texans would be foolish not to trade up for Bryce Young. Not only will they land the best quarterback prospect this year, but the Texans can also keep him away from the division-rival Indianapolis Colts.
2) Chicago Bears (via Texans) – Jalen Carter (DL – Georgia)
Chicago will have plenty of trade offers for the No. 1 overall pick. However, moving down one slot while acquiring three Day No. 2 draft picks is the dream scenario for the Bears. Jalen Carter is arguably the best player in the draft class. He will make a massive impact on the defense as a rookie.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Tennessee Titans receive pick 3. Arizona Cardinals receive picks 11, 41, 2024 first-round pick.
3) Tennessee Titans (via Cardinals) – C.J. Stroud (QB – Ohio State)
Here is the first curve ball of the mock draft. The Titans have to know Ryan Tannehill can’t get them to the Super Bowl, while Malik Willis didn’t show much as a rookie. By trading up for C.J. Stroud, Tennessee secures their franchise quarterback while keeping him away from their divisional rivals picking next.
4) Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis (QB – Kentucky)
Will Levis is the most polarizing quarterback in this year’s draft class. Some love his natural skillset, while others think he will be a bust. If the Colts can’t trade up for Young, don’t be surprised if they stay put and take Levis with this pick.
5) Seattle Seahawks (via Denver) – Will Anderson (EDGE – Alabama)
This scenario is a dream come true for the Seahawks. Will Anderson would have been a top-three pick in the draft if not for the quarterback run. While Seattle spent a second-round pick on Boye Mafe last year, he had only three sacks as a rookie.
6) Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles) – Devon Witherspoon (CB – Illinois)
If one of the top three quarterbacks slides to Detroit with this pick, there will be a decision to make. However, the Lions turn their attention to the defense with all three off the board. Detroit has three cornerbacks set to hit the open market next month. Meanwhile, Devon Witherspoon is climbing up draft boards. The Lions can’t have too many good cornerbacks with Justin Jefferson in the division.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Green Bay Packers receive picks 7, 38. Las Vegas Raiders receive Aaron Rodgers.
7) Green Bay Packers (via Raiders) – Tyree Wilson (EDGE – Texas Tech)
Everything points to Aaron Rodgers becoming a Raider once he returns from his darkness retreat. Any deal for the future Hall of Famer will include this pick. Meanwhile, Green Bay struggled to get pressure on the opposing quarterback once Rashan Gary suffered a torn ACL. Tyree Wilson has as much potential upside as any edge rusher in the draft class.
8) Atlanta Falcons – Keion White (EDGE – Georgia Tech)
Keion White isn’t a well-known name among common NFL Draft fans. The Georgia Tech edge rushing had a career-high 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss last year. However, he has been playing defense for only the past few years after starting his career as a tight end. It might take a year or two of development, but White could become a steal for the Falcons.
9) Carolina Panthers – Anthony Richardson (QB – Florida)
Panthers fans won’t want to hear this but don’t be surprised if Carson Wentz signs with the team this offseason. Frank Reich and Wentz have a history together, and the veteran would give the team options. However, that won’t stop them from drafting a quarterback in the first round. Anthony Richardson probably needs to ride the bench during his rookie season. Yet, the former Gator has as much upside as any quarterback this year.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans) – Christian Gonzalez (CB – Oregon)
Philadelphia has several free agents this offseason and will need to sign Jalen Hurts to a massive extension. Therefore, James Bradberry has likely played his final down for the Eagles. Furthermore, Darius Slay is a free agent after the 2023 season. Gonzalez would step in as a starter this year while replacing Slay as the No. 1 cornerback in 2024.
11) Arizona Cardinals (via Titans) – Peter Skoronski (OL – Northwestern)
While passing on Anderson was a tough call for the Cardinals, their roster is more than one player away from contending. Therefore, moving back and adding multiple picks was the right move for the franchise. Meanwhile, the team has nine offensive linemen set to hit free agency next month, including three starters. Whether Peter Skoronski starts at tackle or guard, he is the first piece in rebuilding Arizona’s offensive line.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Pittsburgh Steelers receive pick 12. Houston Texans receive picks 17, 80, 2024 fourth-round pick.
12) Pittsburgh Steelers (via Houston, Cleveland) – Joey Porter Jr. (CB – Penn State)
The Steelers rarely trade up during the NFL Draft. However, the team will be aggressive when they want a specific player. With several cornerback-needy teams picking ahead of them, Pittsburgh moves up for the Penn State star. He is the son of former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
13) New York Jets – Paris Johnson Jr. (OT – Ohio State)
Yes, the quarterback position needs to be addressed this offseason. However, so does the offensive tackle spot. George Fant is a free agent, while Duane Brown is almost 38 years old and entering the final year of his deal. Meanwhile, Mekhi Becton has struggled to stay healthy since his rookie year and will likely have his fifth-year option declined this offseason.
14) New England Patriots – Brian Branch (DB – Alabama)
While New England has used their past four first-round picks on offense, it’s time to buck the trend. The Patriots have five defensive backs hitting the open market next month, including safeties Devin McCourty and Jabrill Peppers. More importantly, Brian Branch’s ability to play all over the secondary will quickly catch Bill Belichick’s attention.
15) Green Bay Packers – Bijan Robinson (RB – Texas)
Before the entire fantasy football world and Packers nation come for me on Twitter, there is a reason for this pick. After the Packers trade away Rodgers, they will cut or trade Aaron Jones. While AJ Dillon is a starting-caliber running back, he can’t do what Jones does in the passing game. However, Bijan Robinson can do it and much more. Furthermore, Dillon is a free agent after the 2023 season. Green Bay likes to use multiple back, so don’t be surprised if Robinson is the pick here if they move on from Jones.
16) Washington Commanders – Broderick Jones (OT – Georgia)
Assuming you believe Ron Rivera that Sam Howell will be Washington’s starting quarterback, the Commanders won’t consider moving up during the draft for one. Instead, the last first-round graded offensive tackle falls into their lap. Charles Leno Jr. could be a cap casualty, while Samuel Cosmi could get moved inside to guard. Broderick Jones will start as a rookie for Washington, whether at left or right tackle.
17) Houston Texans (via Steelers) – Dalton Kincaid (TE – Utah)
Over the past two years, the Texans have invested multiple Day No. 2 picks at wide receiver. However, they haven’t spent more than a fifth-round pick on a tight end over the past few years. A rookie quarterback’s best friends are a consistent running game and a reliable tight end. Dalton Kincaid is rising up draft boards after totaling 70 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns last season at Utah.
18) Detroit Lions – Drew Sanders (LB – Arkansas)
Even after using their first draft pick on defense, the Lions return to the well. They found a steal in the sixth round last year in Malcolm Rodriguez. However, leading tackler Alex Anzalone is a free agent. Detroit needs to give Rodriguez a running mate at linebacker, and Drew Sanders is the perfect candidate.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Emmanuel Forbes (CB – Mississippi State)
With Tom Brady riding off into the sunset again, the Buccaneers have a massive hole at quarterback. However, they will address that problem through free agency or by trade. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has several upcoming free agents in the secondary, including cornerback Jamel Dean. Furthermore, Antoine Winfield Jr. is heading into the final year of his rookie deal.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Dallas Cowboys receive pick 20. Seattle Seahawks receive picks 26, 90, 2024 third-round pick.
20) Dallas Cowboys (via Seahawks) – Michael Mayer (TE – Notre Dame)
Last year the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz as the two sides couldn’t agree to a long-term deal. Given the reports that Dallas will use the franchise tag on Tony Pollard this offseason, Schultz could end up elsewhere in 2023. With several potential tight end needy teams picking ahead of them, the Cowboys move up to secure their replacement for Schultz.
21) Los Angeles Chargers – Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)
The Chargers reportedly could move on from Keenan Allen this offseason, given their salary cap situation. Even if the veteran returns next year, Los Angeles could use another wide receiver with Mike Williams‘ injury history. A year ago, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was considered a top-10 pick. However, an injury-plagued 2022 season pushes the Ohio State star right into Justin Herbert‘s huddle.
22) Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Addison (WR – USC)
Baltimore had arguably the worst wide receiver core in 2022. Rashod Bateman was playing well before he suffered a season-ending foot injury. However, the starting spot opposite him needs upgrading. When the Ravens traded away Marquise Brown, they didn’t do anything to replace him. That needs to change this offseason. If the team doesn’t add a veteran, expect them to use their first-round pick on a wide receiver.
23) Minnesota Vikings – Jalin Hyatt (WR – Tennessee)
Minnesota might have the best wide receiver in the NFL. However, they need to upgrade the rest of the unit. Adam Thielen could be a cap casualty, while K.J. Osborn has never had a 700-receiving-yard season. It’s a weapons league, and Minnesota needs to add one to keep defenses from doubling Justin Jefferson every play.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Murphy (EDGE – Clemson)
The run on wide receiver momentarily stops with the Jaguars on the clock. After adding Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Calvin Ridley over the past year, Jacksonville has one of the better wide receiver units in the NFL. However, they have two edge rushers scheduled to hit the open market next month. Furthermore, Josh Allen is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Adding depth is a must for the Jaguars.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
San Francisco 49ers receive picks 25, 100. New York Giants receive Brandon Aiyuk.
25) San Francisco 49ers (via Giants) – Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU)
While everyone expects Tee Higgins to get traded, Brandon Aiyuk has a better chance of getting moved. The 49ers already have invested plenty of money in Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Furthermore, they have to sign Nick Bosa to a long-term contract this offseason. Meanwhile, the Giants need to give Daniel Jones a No. 1 wide receiver. They also have the cap space needed to give Aiyuk a massive long-term deal. Johnston would be an excellent replacement in San Francisco.
26) Seattle Seahawks (via Cowboys) – Trenton Simpson (LB – Clemson)
Even after using their earlier pick on defense, the Seahawks down double. Last year was the first time Seattle didn’t have Bobby Wagner since he got drafted in 2012. While Jordyn Brooks played well, he could use some help. Pairing Trenton Simpson with Brooks would give Seattle two outstanding three-down linebackers.
27) Buffalo Bills – Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)
Last year we had six first-round wide receivers. We could see another five or six get drafted on Day No. 1 this year. Zay Flowers has risen up draft boards lately and is in the mix to get picked late in the first round. Buffalo has one of the best in the NFL with Stefon Diggs. However, Gabriel Davis disappears too often while the rest of the receiving corps are role players.
28) Cincinnati Bengals – Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – Alabama)
Joe Mixon had a down year, averaging only 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. More importantly, the Bengals will need cap space to sign Higgins and Joe Burrow to contract extensions. Cincinnati could save up to $10 million by releasing Mixon this offseason. Even if he returns for 2023, it will likely be his last year. Gibbs can either come in as the featured starter as a rookie or split the backfield work with Mixon.
29) New Orleans Saints (via Denver, Miami, San Francisco) – Bryan Bresee (DL – Clemson)
Six months ago, no one would have thought Bryan Bresee would be available this late in the first round. However, his draft stock has slipped, and the Saints are happy about it. The team is in an awful position with the salary cap. Furthermore, they have multiple defensive tackles set to hit the open market. Bresee has as much upside as any defensive tackle in the draft class not named Carter.
30) Philadelphia Eagles – O’Cyrus Torrence (iOL – Florida)
Philadelphia values its offensive line. They have used a first or second-round pick on the offensive line in three of the past four drafts, including two straight. More importantly, the Eagles have several upcoming free agents, including starting guard Isaac Seumalo. If O’Cyrus Torrence happens to slide to their second first-round pick, expect the former Gator to become an Eagle.
31) Kansas City Chiefs – Darnell Washington (TE – Georgia)
Travis Kelce is the top tight end in the NFL and potentially the best ever at his position. However, he turns 34 years old in October and won’t be around forever. More importantly, the Chiefs used more 12 personnel sets this year. Darnell Washington had limited production at Georgia but would turn into a star with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.
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