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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Matthew Freedman’s Post-Aaron Rodgers Trade Version (12.0)

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Matthew Freedman’s Post-Aaron Rodgers Trade Version (12.0)

It’s Tuesday, Apr. 25. It’s the week of the NFL draft, and yesterday the Packers traded QB Aaron Rodgers to the Jets. As part of that trade, the two teams swapped picks in Round 1 (Nos. 13 & 15).

So, you know, it’s time to publish another mock.

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.

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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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

I expect much to change with my mock over the next two days. Be warned.

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

Capitulation complete. Young is now -1000 to go No. 1 overall (at DraftKings). I can no longer mock QB C.J. Stroud here — especially since he’s losing steam across the board.

And I’m also not buying the idea that the Panthers are taking QB Will Levis at No. 1.

2. Houston Texans: Tyree Wilson (EDGE – Texas Tech)

I entered this past weekend planning to have QB Will Levis at No. 2 in my updated mock.


But increasingly I’m seeing reports that the Texans are fine with taking a defensive player at No. 2 because they don’t think any of the quarterbacks likely to be available is worth the pick.

Lance Zierlein is more plugged into the Texans than anyone else in the national media. He nailed both of the Texans’ first-round picks last year. And in Zierlein’s most recent mock, he had the Texans taking EDGE Tyree Wilson at No. 2 and skipping QB C.J. Stroud, who at the time was the favorite to go No. 2.

Here are a couple items I’m taking from that.

  1. EDGE Will Anderson isn’t the locked-in No. 1 defender, and it’s possible that the Texans prefer Wilson.
  2. The Texans aren’t sold on a passer after Young, and as a result the “best available player” on their board is probably a defender — and they might consider taking that player instead of a quarterback.

I’m buying both points — especially the idea that the Texans could take a defender at No. 2 and then hope/try to get a quarterback with their No. 12 pick, either via a trade-up scenario or a player-falling-down-the-board situation.

And I can see how Wilson might be the higher-rated player on some teams’ boards relative to Anderson. While Anderson has the higher floor, Wilson might have the higher ceiling thanks to his athletic profile.

Anderson still goes ahead of Wilson in 88% of sharp mocks, but Wilson is now a -125 favorite to be the first defensive player drafted (at FanDuel), and in this instance I believe the market has moved faster than the mocks.

Over the next couple days, I expect to see more mocks pivot to Wilson as the No. 1 defender in the draft.

3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson (EDGE – Alabama)

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, and I don’t like compounding chaos with randomness.

So let’s say that EDGE Tyree Wilson is off the board and the Cardinals are stuck with this pick. In that case, Anderson is an easy pick, although I think that DT Jalen Carter, CB Christian Gonzalez and maybe even OT Paris Johnson would be in play.

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

Levis is now favored ahead of QB Anthony Richardson in the head-to-head market (-380 vs. +285 at DraftKings) as reports have circulated that the Colts prefer Levis and see him as more of a pro-ready prospect.

He’s a +120 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 now 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 in this iteration for a several reasons.

  1. The Seahawks 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 36% of my sharp index has Carter to the Seahawks.

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.

I can easily see myself moving off Carter-to-Seahawks in my next mock, but for now I’m slotting him here.

And who knows? If enough sharp mocks move toward Richardson, I might as well. I have no shame.

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 we still think he can be an NFL press-man cover corner. (Check out his FantasyPros scouting report.)

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 -225 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 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.

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 Skoronksi — although I have heard a lot of buzz about OT Darnell Wright at No. 9 and was extremely tempted to slot him here.

I’m not going with Wright yet. I lean toward Johnson if he’s available at No. 9. He has the earlier draft position in sharp mocks, and the superior over/under in the betting market. But Wright might be my choice in the final mock.

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.

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

The Texans get their quarterback. I could see 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 -435 to be the No. 1 wide receiver selected (at BetRivers).

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.

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)

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

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

18. Detroit Lions: Calijah Kancey (DT – Pittsburgh)

The Lions pass on DT Jalen Carter at No. 6 but still get a potential difference maker at the position. A physical marvel, Kancey might be Aaron Donald 2.0.

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

20. Seattle Seahawks: Lukas Van Ness (EDGE – Iowa)

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison (WR – USC)

Addison’s former wide receivers coach at Pittsburgh — where Addison won the Biletnikoff Award before transferring to USC — is now the positions coach with the Chargers, who have hosted only one first-round receiver on a top 30 visit … Addison.

He’s bunched together in a tight tier with WRs Zay Flowers and Quentin Johnston, but for now I’ll go with Addison as the No. 2 receiver in the class almost purely because of circumstances.

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

23. Minnesota Vikings: Zay Flowers (WR – Boston College)

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. He’s higher in the sharp index, and I think the Cowboys will see a little bit of young Jason Witten in Mayer’s well-rounded game.

27. Buffalo Bills: Quentin Johnston (WR – TCU)

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

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 Bills could use another body at the position: No. 1 WR Stefon Diggs is making some noise about his contract, and No. 2 WR Gabriel Davis didn’t progress the way that the team hoped he would last year.

Johnston gives the team another playmaker for QB Josh Allen.

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

29. New Orleans Saints: Myles Murphy (EDGE – Clemson)

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

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Will McDonald (EDGE – Iowa State)

Players on the Borderline of Rounds 1-2

Here are players I considered for inclusion in my mock draft. I expect this list to get shorter the closer we get to the draft.

More Mock NFL Drafts

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