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NFL Mock Draft 2023: Edition 1 (Way-Too-Early Edition)

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Following three chaotic days in Las Vegas, the 2022 NFL Draft process has concluded. The Draft is always a long haul and this year's event was particularly interesting, with the lack of a clear No. 1 selection throughout much of the lead-up. With 2022 complete, it's time to begin the very early stages of 2023, and what better way to start it than yet another mock draft? Obviously, plenty is going to change over the next 12 months, but this mock serves as a starting point for which players and teams to watch this fall and beyond. With 2023 looking like a much stronger year for quarterbacks, expect QB-needy teams to have their eyes on the college game early and often over the coming months.

1. Houston Texans

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Expect Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud to have quite the competition, battling to be the first QB off the board in 2023. My money is on Young, who won the Heisman in his first full season as starter, despite throwing to a depleted, injured Alabama receiver corps. He should have another marvelous season in 2023 and checks off plenty of boxes for any NFL team. Houston is riding Davis Mills to begin the year, but I suspect they'll be daydreaming of their next signal-caller before it's all said and done.

2. Seattle Seahawks

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Although Seattle hasn't torn it all down just yet, I have serious doubts they'll be a contender in 2022. Instead, they should be in the market for a new quarterback now that Russell Wilson is a Denver Bronco, and they couldn't go wrong with Stroud. For a big chunk of 2021, Stroud was the Heisman frontrunner and he offers ideal size, impressive athleticism, and elite arm talent. Playing in a loaded offense that includes the nation's best receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, I expect another big year before he becomes a high NFL Draft pick.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama

With all due respect to Aidan Hutchinson, it should have been Will Anderson that was the defender invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City. Anderson has been simply unstoppable since the moment he stepped on campus in Tuscaloosa, and will spearhead another elite Tide defense. While the quarterbacks will likely dominate the 2023 NFL Draft conversation, it's Anderson that is the most pro-ready right now.

4. Detroit Lions

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Ohio State's wide receiver room included two first-rounders (Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson), plus another who took a pit stop at Alabama before turning pro (Jameson Williams). Yet, the most impressive player in that room last fall was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who shattered various records en route to a monster 2021. He enters this season as the Biletnikoff Award frontrunner and a likely Top 10 pick next spring.

5. Atlanta Falcons

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Behind Young and Stroud, there's no clear No. 3 QB in the 2023 NFL Draft, but one is sure to emerge this fall. Perhaps that could be Will Levis, who was awfully impressive in his first season at Kentucky after beginning his career at Penn State. He's got the skill set to fit in just about any NFL offense and would be a reasonable pick for an Atlanta organization beginning life after Matt Ryan, even with Desmond Ridder now in town.

6. New York Jets

Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Georgia had 15 players drafted last weekend, with a big chunk of them coming on the defensive side of the ball. That will require some reloading from Kirby Smart and this staff, but the way they've recruited, there's always talented waiting for their opportunity. That includes defensive linemen Jalen Carter, who is likely to play a Jordan Davis-esque role on this 2022 Georgia team before becoming a high Draft selection.

7. Carolina Panthers

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Carolina could look a lot different by this team next year, with Matt Rhule on a flaming hot seat and a murky quarterback situation. No matter what happens, NFL teams always need playmakers, and Notre Dame's Michael Mayer fits that role. Mayer was the primary playmaker on the Irish offense last fall as a true sophomore and could be even better this season. He could be the next Greg Olsen for a Carolina team searching for proven pass-catchers.

8. Washington Commanders

Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh

Maybe Carson Wentz will regain his old form this year in Washington, but I find that scenario unlikely. The more likely outcome is that the Commanders will be picking in the Top 10, but with all top quarterbacks off the board, they find another way to propel their passing attack forward. Jordan Addison's future is a huge question mark right now after rumors broke that he was going to transfer from Pitt, but the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is a proven commodity.

9. New York Giants

Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama

No matter the future of Daniel Jones in New York, the Giants have to upgrade their receiver corps. Thankfully, 2023 looks like another banner year for receivers, even with Smith-Njigba and Addison gone. I expect Jermaine Burton to be the next Jameson Williams, emerging as a bonafide superstar playing with Bryce Young in a one-year stop.

10. Chicago Bears

Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

Clemson losing Bryan Bresee to a torn ACL early on was a killer for that defense, but he expects to be 100 percent this fall. Formerly the nation's No. 1 recruit, Bresee is an absolute giant on the line who has flashe star potential. He would be a no-brainer at pick ten for a Chicago team looking to upgrade their pass rush.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State

It's early, but this 2023 offensive line group doesn't look as strong as past editions. Even so, Paris Johnson is a Top 15 prospect who has demonstrated elite pass-blocking potential, even if he still has some growing up to do. Now that Pittsburgh hopes to have their franchise QB in Kenny Pickett, they choose to protect him by adding the Buckeye product.

12. Miami Dolphins

Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

Much like Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith is likely to benefit in a big way from Georgia's defensive losses. He's a former five-star recruit who has had his moments in Athens, but is still waiting on the true breakout. As a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, he's a terror off the edge who would add some menace to Miami's front seven.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans)

Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

I was surprised Philadelphia did not address the cornerback position in this Draft, but that leaves an obvious need looking ahead to 2023. Eli Ricks outplayed Derek Stingley in 2021 at LSU and now moves to Alabama, where he looks to be the next great Tide cornerback. 

14. Las Vegas Raiders

Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

The Raiders didn't have a first-rounder in 2022 as a result of the Davante Adams trade, but they will be back in 2023. While the offense has some questions, the defense has more, particularly in the front seven. Enter Oregon's Noah Sewell, another former high-profile recruit with elite closing speed and fabulous instincts.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson

Philadelphia doesn't have an obvious need with their second first-round selection, at least right now. But, NFL teams are always looking to upgrade their pass rush and Myles Murphy would do just that. Not to be overshadowed by Bryan Bresee, Murphy has actually been the more productive player since the pair arrived on campus at the same time.

16. Minnesota Vikings

Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

Justin Jefferson is well on his way to superstardom, but the rest of Minnesota's receiver corps has some questions. Adam Thielen is 31, and it may make financial sense for the Vikings to move on from the fan favorite next offseason. If that's the case, Minnesota adds another LSU wide out in Kayshon Boutte, who has been tremendous the last two seasons despite suspect QB play.

17. Indianapolis Colts

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

The Colts upgraded their offense by adding Matt Ryan and they have one of the game's top running backs in Jonathan Taylor, but the offensive line needs some work. I wouldn't be shocked if they invest in O-Line early with Northwestern's Peter Skoronski, a bulldozing tackle who seems to fit Indianapolis.

18. New England Patriots

Malachi Moore, DB, Alabama

New England's aging secondary needs an infusion of young talent. Enter Malachi Moore, who wasn't quite able to build on an impressive 2020 this past fall, but remains a future NFL talent. He can play either cornerback or safety at a high level and his range allows the Patriots to be more creative with what they do defensively.

19. Houston Texans (from Cleveland)

Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

After snagging their franchise quarterback with Bryce Young earlier, Houston pairs him with a top-tier playmaker in Josh Downs. Even as UNC struggled in 2021, Downs was one of the true breakout stars of the season and would immediately upgrade a Texan receiver group that is extremely underwhelming at the moment.

20. Arizona Cardinals

Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (FL)

Kyler Murray's future in Arizona appears uncertain but either way, Arizona could use an upgrade along their offensive line. Expect Zion Nelson to be a name on the rise this fall, as he'll benefit from the hiring of Mario Cristobal and the rest of this Hurricane staff. 

21. Tennessee Titans

Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

Sure, Tennessee replaced A.J. Brown with Treylon Burks, but the receiver corps remains an issue. Robert Woods looks like he'll be the top guy, but he's 30 years old and coming off a torn ACL. The Titans add a dynamic young weapon to pair with Burks in Marvin Mims, who is set to become the next in a long line of Oklahoma wide outs making the jump to the NFL.

22. Los Angeles Chargers

Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

The Charger secondary wasn't necessarily bad last season, but just consider who they are facing in the division: Pat Mahomes, Derek Carr, and now Russell Wilson. They will have to ensure they have reinforcements at the ready and Kelee Ringo offers great value here. Even though he was awfully inconsistent in his first significant action, he flashed serious upside.

23. Baltimore Ravens

Dontay Demus Jr., WR, Maryland

Baltimore's decision to move on from Marquise "Hollywood" Brown made financial sense, but leaves them perilously thin at receiver. Rashod Bateman is a prime breakout candidate, but don't be shocked if the Ravens invest in the position early on next spring. Dontay Demus is a first-round talent from nearby Maryland, assuming he can recover from the season-ending injury that cost him the final three months of 2021.

24. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)

Jarrett Patterson, OL, Notre Dame

Seattle may have selected Charles Cross in the first-round last weekend, but that doesn't mean their work on the offensive line is done. With a franchise QB under center in C.J. Stroud, they add a proven blocker in Notre Dame's Jarrett Patterson, who can play just about anywhere on the line and becomes the next Irish linemen to make the jump.

25. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco)

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Bijan Robinson is already considered one of the best players in college football and yet, I'm not sure he's even had his true "breakthrough" just yet. Expect a dominant 2022 from the true junior and for him to assert himself as a true first-round talent, no matter how the running back position is valued in the NFL Draft.

26. Cincinnati Bengals

Derick Hall, DE, Auburn

Although he had earned playing time in 2019 and 2020, this past fall was a breakout season for Auburn end Derick Hall, who led the team with nine sacks. He's hoping to build on that with another productive year, which is likely to vault him into first-round consideration. Cincinnati has invested heavily in their offense as of late, so defense gets its turn.

27. Green Bay Packers

Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Trying to imagine which direction Green Bay is going in any mock is difficult enough, let alone one a whole year out. Sure, they finally invested in the receiver position in the 2022 Draft, but it's a group that could still use an infusion of young talent. TCU's Quentin Johnston is a physical, 6'4" perimeter receiver who has big play ability, as he averaged 22.1 and 18.5 yards per carry in his first two seasons on campus.

28. Dallas Cowboys

Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina

The Cowboy secondary has been infamously streaky over the past decade-plus and they are likely to have several members hit the free agent market next offseason. They get a potential replacement here in the form of Tony Grimes, who enrolled early at UNC prior to the 2020 season, meaning he'll be particularly young when he enters the NFL.

29. Buffalo Bills

Arik Gilbert, TE, Georgia

Arik Gilbert is one of the most fascinating players in college football. He was the highest-rated tight end recruit in 247Sports history and flashed potential in 2020 at LSU before transferring. He arrived at Georgia last offseason but didn't play a single snap for the Bulldogs in the fall. Since then, he's reportedly had a tremendous spring and is worthy of a first-round selection. In fact, if Gilbert plays a full slate of games in 2022, this spot is likely far too late.

30. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams)

Brandon Joseph, DB, Notre Dame

Detroit continues to use the picks acquired in the Matt Stafford deal to bolster both sides of the ball, this time addressing their defensive backfield. Who knows, by this time next year, Jeff Okudah's future in Detroit could look particularly bleak, and Brandon Joseph was highly productive at Northwestern before announcing a transfer to Notre Dame this offseason.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami (FL)

Tom Brady may be back for the time being, but Tampa has to think about their long-term future at that position. Enter Tyler Van Dyke, a name that could shoot up draft boards if he's able to build on a promising first season as starter in 2021. 

32. Kansas City Chiefs

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Well, this would be terrifying. Jahmyr Gibbs, who began his career at Georgia Tech before moving on to Alabama, is an electrifying playmaker who reminds me of Reggie Bush. He would add just another dangerous weapon to this fearsome Kansas City offense.

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