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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Matthew Freedman’s Final Version (13.0)

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Matthew Freedman’s Final Version (13.0)

It’s Thursday, Apr. 27 — Day 1 of the 2023 NFL draft, which means it’s time for my final mock of the year.

Here are my previous 2023 mocks.

Over the past three years, I’m the No. 1 mocker in the FantasyPros Accuracy Contest. Over the past four years, I’m No. 2. For obvious and selfish reasons, I prefer the three-year window.

Historically, I’ve done well betting on the draft.

  • 2019: 54-29 (+17.7 units)
  • 2020: 124-88 (+26.2 units)
  • 2021: 158-140 (+32.0 units)
  • 2022: 70-50 (+29.3 units)

Check out my 2023 NFL draft prop card to see all the bets I’ve made to date. As I make more bets, I will post them first in the NFL draft channel in our FREE BettingPros Discord and then write up my bets for publication. To get my draft bets as quickly as possible, join Discord — because I plan on making a lot of bets today.

In determining team needs, I’ve consulted Andrew Erickson’s excellent free agency and draft breakdown. For player insight, I’ve perused Matthew Jones’ unrivaled scouting reports.

A note: My early mocks include lots of analysis, but I no longer have time to editorialize the way I’d want, so this piece is pretty much picks plus assorted notes. If you want something with more substance, check out all our other mock drafts.

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Mock Draft Methodology

Mock drafts are equal parts science and art with a splash of luck. For me, this is the general order of operations and/or priorities.

  • Identify likely first-rounders and try to put as many of them as possible in the mock.
  • Slot players within their probable draft ranges.
  • Order players accurately by position.
  • Match players with teams relatively likely to draft them.

All of that might sound obvious, but based on the majority of mocks in the industry it’s not apparent to most mockers — and if it is then it’s not easy to do.

The typical mocker (in my opinion) goes through the exercise with perfection in mind, trying to match each player precisely with his team and draft position.

That’s not what I do. I know I can’t be perfect. I’m trying to be good enough.

Framed differently: I try to maximize my odds of being right about the generalities, not the particulars.

With that in mind, I don’t have any trades in the mock, as trades are almost impossible to predict. They’re randomness on top of chaos. My sense is that if I try to be “realistic” by including trades my mock will be more inaccurate — so no trades.

One note: The closer we get to the draft, the likelier my mock is to focus less on team needs and more on the overall odds of players going in Round 1. Remember, the first priority is to mock as many first-rounders as possible on Day 1. Everything is secondary to that.

Final NFL Mock Draft Updates

Here are some notes related to how various versions of my mock will be by graded by the industry.

  • I am participating in three different mock draft contests, all of which measure accuracy differently. The same mock could do well in one contest and just OK in another one, so I don’t focus much on the details of each scoring system.
  • The version published and broken down here is the one officially graded by Huddle Report and (probably?) NFL Mock Draft Database. It has already been submitted to Huddle Report, the deadline for which was this morning at 12:59 am ET. I don’t know when NFL Mock Draft Database’s deadline is. Presumably, it’s at 8 pm ET today, whenever the draft starts.
  • Today, I will likely post an updated (though pseudo-unofficial) version of my mock on Twitter and link to that tweet in this section. This updated mock is the one that I will enter in the FantasyPros contest, which has an 8 p.m. ET deadline today.
  • Why an unofficial mock after my final one? I want the people who look at all our mocks and who use the FantasyPros consensus mock draft tool to have the best and most recent information available to them all the way until the No. 1 pick is announced. Plus, I intend for my mock to have utility in the betting market, where timeliness is paramount.

UPDATE: I’ve posted an updated mock on Twitter, now that QB C.J. Stroud is a massive favorite to go No. 2.

Note: The Dolphins forfeited the No. 21 pick because of the team’s “impermissible contact” with QB Tom Brady and HC Sean Payton when they were respectively under contract with the Patriots and Saints. Rather than list that missing pick below, I have moved what would have been Picks 22-32 to Picks 21-31.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

2023 NFL Mock Draft

1. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young (QB – Alabama)

Young is now -2000 to go No. 1 overall (at DraftKings).

Remember a couple days ago when Reddit tried to convince us that the Panthers are taking QB Will Levis at No. 1?

That feels like it was a month ago.

2. Houston Texans: Will Anderson (EDGE – Alabama)

I’m pivoting from EDGE Tyree Wilson to Anderson, who’s a +150 favorite at DraftKings.

The Texans seem fine with the idea of taking a defender at No. 2 and then hoping/trying to get a quarterback with their No. 12 pick, either via a trade-up scenario or a player-falling-down-the-board situation.

So this pick likely comes down to Wilson or Anderson.

I leaned toward Wilson in previous mocks because of his athletic profile, but Anderson was more productive in college and looks like the safer pick.

Anderson goes ahead of Wilson in 76% of my sharp mock index.

3. Arizona Cardinals: Tyree Wilson (EDGE – Texas Tech)

Maybe a team will trade up to No. 3, but increasingly it seems like the Cardinals might be stuck with this pick. Remember: Quarterbacks are regularly mocked too high. If the Texans — who need a quarterback — opt not to take one at No. 2, then that could be a sign that the NFL values the passers less than anticipated, as was the case last year.

Plus, I don’t project trades in mocks: The draft is already hard enough to predict.

So let’s say that EDGE Will Anderson is off the board and the Cardinals are stuck with this pick. In that case, Wilson is an easy pick, although I think a number of mocks have pivoted to OT Paris Johnson at No. 3 over the past couple days.

4. Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis (QB – Kentucky)

Levis is now favored ahead of QB Anthony Richardson in the head-to-head market (-400 vs. +280 at BetRivers) as reports have circulated that the Colts prefer Levis and see him as more of a pro-ready prospect.

He’s a +150 favorite to go No. 4 (at BetMGM).

5. Seattle Seahawks: Jalen Carter (DT – Georgia)

I’ve been highly resistant to mocking Carter to the Seahawks because of the excellent analysis of Rob Staton.

And both Daniel Jeremiah and Todd McShay have indicated that various sources do not believe the Seahawks will go with Carter at No. 5.

But I’m giving Carter to the Seahawks for several reasons.

  1. They have a need at the position.
  2. This pick fits Carter’s expected draft range.
  3. Carter is a top-five (if not top-three) talent.
  4. Staton is sharp — but a lot of plugged-in reporters think Carter-to-the-Seahawks is likely. In a recent “Peter King’s Football Morning in America,” he writes this: “It’s become almost a cliché, how many team officials think the Seahawks will take Carter with the fifth overall pick.”

This past weekend, when Peter Schrager was “working the phones” with various general managers one of the refrains he heard was that Carter would not fall out of the top six — and I’m interpreting that as a sign that the Seahawks and Lions are both eyeing him.

The Seahawks are notoriously hard to mock, but an astounding 68% of my sharp index has Carter to the Seahawks at No. 5. No player has a higher match rate with a team except for QB Bryce Young at No. 1 to the Panthers at 100%.

QB Anthony Richardson has gained some steam as a potential candidate to the Seahawks at No. 5, and they could take a quarterback — but they didn’t last year when they had way more uncertainty at the position. If the Seahawks were really thinking about a quarterback at No. 5, I doubt they would’ve re-signed Drew Lock to be their backup.

What Andy Dalton was to the Saints last year, Lock is to the Seahawks this year: The sign that the team isn’t thinking about quarterback in Round 1.

Carter is now a -180 favorite to go No. 5 (at FanDuel).

6. Detroit Lions: Devon Witherspoon (CB – Illinois)

I have pivoted from CB Christian Gonzalez to Witherspoon.

In my opinion — and I say this as someone who tries to predict the future — Gonzalez should be the first corner selected given his experience (three years starting), 2022 production (four interceptions), size (6-1, 197 pounds), athleticism (4.38-second 40-yard dash), age (turns 21 in June) and recruitment pedigree (four stars).

Gonzalez looks like the kind of corner the NFL prioritizes: He’s long, fast and physical. With his blend of characteristics, he has the potential to be the next Patrick Surtain or maybe even Jalen Ramsey.

Gonzalez played in a zone scheme in college, but I believe he still has the skills to be an NFL press-man cover corner.

As for Witherspoon, he’s older, smaller, slower and less pedigreed than Gonzalez. Mocking him ahead of Gonzalez gives me a headache.

But Witherspoon is now a -250 favorite to be the No. 1 corner (at Caesars). And that makes sense for a few reasons.

  1. The Lions have a need at the position after trading away CB Jeff Okudah.
  2. Witherspoon was a man-heavy corner in college, so he fits the scheme.
  3. He’s a tenacious player, which is likely to appeal to kneecap-biting HC Dan Campbell.

So Witherspoon it is.

7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez (CB – Oregon)

HC Josh McDaniels indicated at the annual NFL meetings that the Raiders are likely to “take the best football player” (per NFL Media), and they also need all sorts of help at corner, so Gonzalez is a natural fit.

Could the Raiders take a quarterback? Yes.

But McDaniels needs to start winning this season or he’s unlikely to be with the team in 2024, and using a first-round pick on a player to sit on the bench behind QB Jimmy Garoppolo — while likely a good long-term move — is unlikely to result in more 2023 victories. Plus, I doubt Garoppolo would’ve reunited with McDaniels if he were under the impression that he could be Trey Lanced in Las Vegas.

And the Raiders also have longtime McDaniels disciple QB Brian Hoyer. Sure, they need a quarterback … but they don’t actually need a quarterback.

I also think OT Paris Johnson is a possibility at No. 7. The Raiders could use offensive line help.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson (RB – Texas)

I was early to Robinson at No. 8, and I’m sticking with it here.

I increasingly believe that Robinson — universally regarded as one of the true top-tier talents in this class — will go higher than he’s commonly mocked. He’s comparable as a prospect to the running backs who have gone in the top 10 over the past decade, and Falcons HC Arthur Smith feels like the kind of guy who would prioritize the position given the success he had as the Titans offensive coordinator with RB Derrick Henry.

Plus, after acquiring CB Jeff Okudah from the Lions, the Falcons seem less likely to take a cornerback.

EDGEs Nolan Smith and Lukas Van Ness are options here if the Falcons pass on Robinson.

9. Chicago Bears: Paris Johnson (OT – Ohio State)

If EDGE Tyree Wilson or DT Jalen Carter don’t fall to No. 9, the Bears could trade back with maybe the Titans or Texans — more on that soon — but they could also stay put and take an offensive tackle to help protect QB Justin Fields.

In this situation, I’ll go with Johnson, who is more of a traditional choice relative to the short-armed OL Peter Skoronski — although I have heard a lot of buzz about OT Darnell Wright at No. 9 and was extremely tempted to slot him here.

But Johnson is almost universally regarded as the superior prospect, and he goes ahead of Wright in 96% of my sharp index.

10. Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith (EDGE – Georgia)

I believe the Eagles want DT Jalen Carter, but if he doesn’t fall down the board — and if the Eagles don’t trade with the Titans or Texans or someone else (again, more on that soon) — then I could see them drafting Carter’s teammate and reuniting him with former Georgia Bulldogs DT Jordan Davis and LB Nakobe Dean.

The Eagles love investing in the trenches, and Smith feels like the kind of high-floor/high-ceiling player they’d snag.

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Richardson (QB – Florida)

If QBs Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud fall down the board, it’s not hard to imagine the Titans and/or the Texans trading up for them, but they might not need to do so, and even if they do trade up a lot of these team/player matches could still hit.

The Titans go with a quarterback in 68% of sharp mocks — and they’ve been linked to Richardson way more than to Stroud.

With Richardson, they could have an absolutely dynamic ball-control rushing attack.

12. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud (QB – Ohio State)

The Texans get their quarterback. I can envision them trading up to Nos. 8-10 to get Stroud, but that might not be necessary because the teams with those picks aren’t likely to draft a passer, and the teams after them seem settled enough at the position.

Given the recent (negative) buzz around Stroud, I can see him falling outside the top 10 and going as the No. 4 quarterback in the class. It happened to his Ohio State predecessor, QB Justin Fields.

13. Green Bay Packers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)

After his excellent combine, Smith-Njigba is -455 to be the No. 1 wide receiver selected (at FOXBet).

Now that the Packers no longer have QB Aaron Rodgers, they finally draft a pass catcher in Round 1. The football gods know what they’re doing.

Tight end is a possibility at No. 13 — but it does feel a tad early for TEs Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid, especially in a class that is deep at the position.

14. New England Patriots: Peter Skoronski (OT – Northwestern)

A lunch pail player with a hardhat name, Skoronski has the versatility to play tackle and guard and the nastiness to be an above-average starter.

He feels like the kind of player HC Bill Belichick would like.

OT Broderick Jones — a more conventional tackle option — is also in play at No. 14.

15. New York Jets: Broderick Jones (OT – Georgia)

The Jets need offensive line help to protect new franchise QB Aaron Rodgers: LT Duane Brown turns 38 years old this year, OTs George Fant and Cedric Ogbuehi are free agents and OLs Mekhi Becton (knee) and Alijah Vera-Tucker (triceps) suffered season-ending injuries in 2022.

Jones entered college with five stars and was widely regarded as a top-two offensive tackle in his recruitment class. After redshirting his first year and opening his second season as a rotational player, Jones closed out his freshman campaign with four starts at left tackle, and then as a sophomore he made 15 more starts on the blindside — and didn’t allow a single sack all season.

16. Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr. (CB – Penn State)

The Commanders have a need at the position, although OTs Darnell Wright and Anton Harrison are options.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darnell Wright (OT – Tennessee)

18. Detroit Lions: Lukas Van Ness (EDGE – Iowa)

The Lions find a strong pass rusher to pair with 2022 No. 2 pick EDGE Aidan Hutchinson.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anton Harrison (OT – Oklahoma)

20. Seattle Seahawks: Myles Murphy (EDGE – Clemson)

Murphy has the kind of athletic profile that would appeal to the Seahawks, and his addition helps them continue to rebuild the defensive line after taking DT Jalen Carter at No. 5.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)

I have pivoted back to Flowers as my No. 2 wide receiver, although he’s in a tight tier with WRs Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston.

22. Baltimore Ravens: Deonte Banks (CB – Maryland)

That Banks is a local product is just an added bonus.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison (WR – USC)

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Branch (S – Alabama)

The Jaguars are a hard team to project, but they could use help in the secondary, Branch has some positional versatility and he’s likely to go in Round 1.

25. New York Giants: Emmanuel Forbes (CB – Mississippi State)

Yep, Forbes in Round 1.

I don’t love it. But as much as the Giants could use a wide receiver — like Quentin Johnston — they could use a cornerback even more, and I can no longer ignore Forbes’ Round 1 buzz.

26. Dallas Cowboys: Michael Mayer (TE – Notre Dame)

I still have Mayer marginally ahead of TE Dalton Kincaid as the No. 1 player at the position, but they are basically tied in my sharp index. I think the Cowboys will see a little bit of young Jason Witten in Mayer’s well-rounded game.

27. Buffalo Bills: Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – Alabama)

Nothing the Bills do would surprise me. They’re hard to mock.

I now think that Gibbs has a better than 50% chance to go in Round 1 (as much as that pains me to say), and this spot makes some sense: The Bills have been drafting backs in the top-100 for years, seemingly always on the search for a lead back, and Gibbs has uncommon ability as a receiver, so he’s not just a runner: He’s another playmaker for QB Josh Allen.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton Kincaid (TE – Utah)

A week ago, it was chalky to give the Bengals a tight end. It has become far less common in mocks over the past few days, but they have a need at the position, and this draft range generally fits for Kincaid.

29. New Orleans Saints: Calijah Kancey (DT – Pittsburgh)

I’m skeptical that the Saints would actually take Kancey because of his relatively smallish size, but they need a defensive tackle and get a potential difference maker at the position. A physical marvel, Kancey might be Aaron Donald 2.0.

Also in play here are DT Bryan Bresee and EDGE Will McDonald. I can imagine either of them flexing into this spot in my “unofficial update.”

30. Philadelphia Eagles: Bryan Bresee (DT – Clemson)

The Eagles don’t get DT Jalen Carter at No. 10, but they get a strong player at the position here.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU)

And long gone are the days when Johnston was a chalk pick to the Texans at No. 12. He’s no longer a Round 1 lock.

But the Chiefs could use another body at the position, and Johnston is still greater than 50% to go on Day 1 (in my opinion).

He gives the Chiefs something they could use at wide receiver: Prototypical size.

Players on the Borderline of Rounds 1-2

Here are the borderline players I seriously considered for Round 1.

And here are the borderline players I marginally considered.

More Mock NFL Drafts

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