2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
By Riley Haltom
Well, the trade deadline has passed, players got moved, players have gotten injured, and stars have risen and fallen in college football. Players like Jalin Hyatt have gone from a borderline undrafted player to a bonafide superstar at Tennessee, and Will Levis has steadily fallen down my board with lackluster performance after lackluster performance. This time around, draft order is based on win percentage and projected playoff seeding.
Pick 1 - Houston Texans: QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State
Absolutely nothing has changed here. Davis Mills continues to be just okay, and Dameon Pierce looks great. Now, with a QB that can make things happen through the air while having a great RB to rely on, Pierce and Stroud can make each other better. The OL has been better than most expected, so Stroud is set up to succeed.
Pick 2 - Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Carolina has severely underperformed after their Baker Mayfield gamble. Despite some flashes in the pan from the offense, PJ Walker, Sam Darnold, or Baker are just not the guys. Carolina gets a potential franchise guy while saving a ton of money they can use to upgrade the defense and skill positions. DJ Moore will love having a reliable signal caller.
Pick 3 - Las Vegas Raiders: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Jalen Carter is the best player in this draft. Raiders need whatever help they can get at this point, and a star defensive tackle is a great first step. Can absolutely take over a game with his sheer ability and has good instincts to disrupt the passer.
Pick 4 - Pittsburgh Steelers: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Pittsburgh addressed CB at the trade deadline, but gave up Chase Claypool to the Bears in the same hour. Claypool had fallen to the fourth option in the offense for Kenny Pickett, behind Johnson, Pickens, and Friermuth. Steelers also need a RB, as Najee Harris has underperformed in every way, but they instead get one of the best players in the draft at a position of need. Will Anderson falling to 4 thanks to the early run on quarterbacks is the best case scenario for the Steelers, who get a guy to pair with TJ Watt off the edge.
Pick 5 - Detroit Lions: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
I’ve been all in on Hendon Hooker, but the age has kept me away from giving him a first round grade. I’m also not a fan of Levis, but the scouts seem to adore him. Lions move on from Jared Goff to land a potential franchise QB. Very raw, turns the ball over like no other, but the highlights are there. Paired with Amon-Ra and D’andre Swift, Detroit could have a scary offense.
Pick 6 - Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
Eagles don’t have a ton of needs, but getting younger along the defensive front could be very beneficial. Murphy is the best player currently available, so it makes sense for Philadelphia to capitalize. Elite spin-move and great at going from speed to power.
Pick 7 - Arizona Cardinals: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
With some guys likely to leave in free agency along the line, the Cardinals get a great prospect who has a ton of upside. Best offensive lineman in the draft and the first step to fixing a ton of issues with Arizona. Should settle in quickly, likely to start early on a bad offensive line.
Pick 8 - Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Prior to the Calvin Ridley trade, this is a receiver. But instead, the Jaguars get a great defensive tackle with a ton of burst off the line. The ACL injury is scary, but the upside he showed prior was all-pro level. Paired with Travon Walker, could be a scary prospect.
Pick 9 - Chicago Bears: OL Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
I’ve decided since my 1.0 draft that Justin Fields is the guy. But his offensive line is giving him little time to hit Claypool and Mooney. Upgrading there and getting one more weapon in round 2 makes this offense more stable. Great grit-and-grind type guy that coaches love. Will fit in nicely in Chicago.
Pick 10 - Green Bay Packers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
Is this finally it? Will Green Bay finally do it? I feel silly picking a WR here because it feels like the organization is bullish on not getting Rodgers a weapon. Johnston is athletically gifted and should be an instant NFL star, but this is Green Bay. You never know if they decide to get more defensive pieces.
Pick 11 - Seattle Seahawks (via HOU): CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Kelee Ringo is the best man corner in this draft. The sheer physicality off the line of scrimmage through the play that Ringo plays with is astonishing. Can get beat deep, but he’ll play through the whistle and refuses to quit on any play. Will be a frustrating matchup for any receiver.
Pick 12 - Detroit Lions (via LAR): CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Another physical corner, Porter is a bit more balanced on his zone-man skills. Great ball skills and makes for a great pairing with Jeff Okudah. Strong in press and a great tackler in the open field. Quick feet and good technique up and down the field. Side note, he loves that “are you not entertained?” pose.
Pick 13 - Houston Texans (via CLE): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Same concept as my 1.0 draft. Reuniting Stroud and Smith-Njigba could prove just as fruitful as Waddle and Tagovailoa in Miami, so the Texans take a flier on the explosive receiver. Is Smith-Njigba the best prospect at receiver? Not at all. But the built-in chemistry brings him up the board. Great at creating separation on deep balls and has strong hands. Can run routes all over the field and you can rely on him to make the catch. Primarily a slot guy, so if Metchie can go, and Cooks is willing to stay, Houston’s WRs could be a ton of fun.
Pick 14 - Indianapolis Colts: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Colts could go plenty of directions here, from OL to WR to even QB. But Michael Mayer has a strong case here. Assuming the Colts go their usual path of a veteran QB (see Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield), which has worked (Phillip Rivers) and has failed miserably (Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz), they need to upgrade at the tight end position. Mayer is a good blocker and has strong hands. Reliable red zone target and blocker, can be very versatile for whoever is coaching the Colts in 2023.
Pick 15 - Atlanta Falcons: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Cordarelle Patterson is getting older, and Tyler Allgeier or Caleb Huntley are not the answer at RB for the future. Instead, Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder get a great route runner, insane field-vision running back who can help Arthur Smith run the play action offense he wants to run. Hate RBs in the first round but Robinson is worth it. Talent is through the roof and has potential to be the second best running back in the division on day 1.
Pick 16 - Washington Commanders: CB Clark Phillips III, Utah
Corner is a big need for the Commanders, and Phillips is a strong prospect. Best zone corner in this draft, and can get beat in man pretty easily. However, his ball skills are great and he can read the quarterback well. Needs to improve when he’s not in press but has all the skills to be a top corner in a few years.
Pick 17 - New England Patriots: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Boutte has every measurable that you want in a WR. Has vertical to go over taller defenders, speed to burn them, and the technique to out-finesse them. Solid hands and good route runner. Wasn’t used as much as I’d like in 2022, but that doesn’t change his athleticism. Could go much higher.
Pick 18 - Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE BJ Ojulari, LSU
Back to back Tigahs? This could be Isaiah Foskey, but I prefer Ojulari. If he bulks up a bit without sacrificing his elite speed, this could be a steal. Has insane speed moves off the edge, a quick first step, and counters well. Can get the hands off him and bend past the tackles. Could be better against the run.
Pick 19 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OL Broderick Jones, Georgia
Honestly the Buccaneers desperately need help on their line. Rachaad White is the future there in the backfield, and Leonard Fournette needs some help as long as he’s there. And of course, chances are now that Brady stays a few more years. After some injuries and some free agency shenanigans, their 2022 line was awful. Broderick Jones has a ton of power, just needs to clean up technique.
Pick 20 - Denver Broncos (via SF): OL Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State
Denver has several guys going to free agency on the OL, so a prospect with a ton of upside at the tackle position makes sense. Definitely more comfortable with the run, but after being sniped on Jones, the better pass protector, Denver settles for a bit of a project. However, his run blocking is phenomenal.
Pick 21 - Los Angeles Chargers: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
Cam Smith isn’t great at press coverage and is an average tackler. Otherwise, this is a great cornerback prospect. He has great route recognition abilities and should be a starter for the Chargers in a few years, or even year one. Can play outside or inside, up and down the field.
Pick 22 - Tennessee Titans: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
I feel wrong picking Hyatt here, this feels too high, but the other options are Josh Downs and Jordan Addison, both most comfortable as slot receivers. Titans will want someone to pair up with Treylon Burks on the outside, and Hyatt offers that skillset. 2022 had Hyatt break out when he moved to the outside. Speed has been lacking from the Tennessee Titans since they let Cam Batson and Kalif Raymond walk, so Hyatt brings that speed. Hard worker, fits right in with the Titans staff. Hometown guy stays home.
Pick 23 - Seattle Seahawks: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Jordan Addison is probably my favorite slot receiver in this draft. With DK and Lockett on the outside, Addison compliments the two working on the inside. Great vertical threat, works well against zone, strong hands. Can basically do anything you could want a slot guy to do. Geno earned our respect and staved off a quarterback.
Pick 24 - Baltimore Ravens: WR Josh Downs, UNC
The run on wide receivers ends in Baltimore with Downs. Has great speed and vision, but small. Is a major catch and run threat, and can find the hole in zone coverage. Great match for Lamar and his tendency to create off-schedule throws.
Pick 25 - New York Jets: S Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame
Notre Dame with a pair of first round safeties in consecutive drafts. Needs to clean up his tackling but he has a ton of talent and feel for the position. Absolute ballhawk. With the premier offensive line prospects gone, Saleh will be happy to add to his defense.
Pick 26 - Dallas Cowboys: LB Henry To’o To’o, Alabama
The Cowboys need someone to play on the interior to free up Micah Parsons to focus on pass rush. To’o To’o can play off-ball or against the run. He is undersized, but plays with great instincts, particularly against the pass. A little more bulk and To’o To’o could be a monster for Dallas.
Pick 27 - New York Giants: CB Brian Branch, Alabama
Yet another member of that Bama defense flies off the board. The Giants need help in their secondary, and Brian Branch has a ton of talent. Ton of athleticism and size, just needs to clean up technique. Also great against the run. Doesn’t get many targets and still comes up with interceptions.
Pick 28 - Kansas City Chiefs: OL O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Orlando Brown has not been great, and the Chiefs are liable to move on. Torrence, traditionally a guard, has the ability and athleticism to slot over to tackle. His strength is the run, but he has the talent in pass blocking. Will be susceptible to speed rushers but that can be coached.
Pick 29 - Minnesota Vikings: DB Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Johnson can play anywhere in the secondary. Route recognition is sub-par, but everything else is there. Vikings need to prepare for the future in the secondary, and Johnson is by far the best player on the board at this point. Very quick and agile.
Pick 30 - Buffalo Bills: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
This is probably a reach for Gibbs, but he’ll be gone by the time the Bills pick again. Easily the second best running back in college football this season. Gibbs is a strong receiver and thus is a perfect match for the Bills. Great at planting and cutting, but lacks breakaway speed. I could easily see a safety or guard here as those are also big needs.
Pick 31 - Philadelphia Eagles: S Jordan Battle, Alabama
Jordan Battle has lifted himself above Jalen Catalon for me, so he locks in as the pick here. Battle has a great sense for defending the run, and excels in man coverage. He’s a bit of a project, but this pick is for the future. Battle could develop into a strong piece for Philadelphia.
I already feel more confident in this mock than my previous one. The trade deadline showed where several teams’ priorities lie. The next mock will be closer to the end of the season, so the draft order should be more final, besides perhaps the playoff teams. A ton of receivers and defensive backs went off the board, but several teams need help at those positions. Linebackers took a hit this time around, but Nolan Smith’s injury put me off sending him to some of the teams towards the backend of the first round. Stay tuned for 3.0.