2023 NFL Mock Draft: Which QB will go first in unpredictable year?

The 2023 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and it seems we know less about what’s going to happen than we’ve known in any other year. There have been rumors about 3 or 4 different quarterbacks going #1 overall, and it’s possible that none of them are even the best player on the board. This post will be my attempt at what I think is going to and/or should happen on Thursday night. While I have included 7-round mocks for the Patriots in the past, I feel it’s hard to forecast this draft beyond Day 2 or possibly even Day 1, so I’ll be sticking to my 1st round projections for this post. I did not watch a huge amount of film this year, so most of my projections are based off team need and fit combined with when players are expected by most to go.

1Bryce YoungQBAlabamaI still think the Panthers could be torn between Young and C.J. Stroud. Stroud put up better numbers in college and I feel he’s the better pure passer. He at least has Frank Reich on his side. Young, however, may be better fit for the modern NFL with more mobility and more recently, better S2 test scores. Concerns about Stroud’s football IQ and even personality have been raised, and I think that’ll break the tie for the Panthers.
Will Anderson Jr.EDGEAlabamaThe Texans don’t seem thrilled by any QB not named Bryce Young, at least enough to take them at 2. I have them trading down as the Falcons move up for a guy who’s arguably the best player available. Atlanta has a bigger need at pass rusher than most other teams, so I feel like they would be willing to outbid other competitors and grab their top line edge rusher of the future.
3Devon WitherspoonCBIllinoisWith Anderson off the board, this pick could be a bit of a wild card. With a strong class of corners, I think this is a good opportunity for Arizona to fill a big need of their own. The Cards lost Byron Murphy to free agency and already lacked depth at the position when he was around. As the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and a Consensus All-American, Witherspoon has the resume of a future star corner. 
4C.J. StroudQBOhio StateSome teams have taken Stroud off their boards with the football IQ concerns. However, the Colts are one of the more desperate teams for a young QB. Given their track record of filling this gap with veteran talent, I think they’d prefer an NFL ready option over a QB that might take more time to develop like Will Levis or Anthony Richardson. 
5Paris Johnson Jr.OLOhio StateThere’s been some buzz about the Seahawks taking a QB, but I think addressing the offensive line is more urgent need for them. I see them slotting Johnson in at right tackle and shifting other linemen inside. This will provide Geno Smith with a pair of the best young, developing tackles in the NFL between Johnson Jr. and Charles Cross.
6Christian GonzalezCBOregonWhile I see Witherspoon as the top corner in the class, I do think Gonzalez is worthy of a top 10 draft pick. The Lions lost Amani Oruwariye in free agency and traded Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, so the role of #1 corner is wide open in Detroit. While he may take some time to reach his potential, I feel Gonzalez is capable of growing into that role.
7Joey Porter Jr.CBPenn StateThe Raiders have lacked an elite corner for years. Even with Witherspoon and Gonzalez gone, I still think they take the opportunity to get one. Porter Jr. has the chance to be almost as good or possibly even better than the two corners picked ahead of him, and that’s a chance I think the Raiders will be willing to take.
Anthony RichardsonQBFloridaThe trade down will put the Texans in perfect position to get their potential QB of the future without reaching. Richardson is going to take some time to develop, but with the Texans in the process of rebuilding, the hope would be that Richardson can grow alongside his teammates to set the Texans up for success in a few years. The Texans don’t seem to like Stroud, and realistically they would still be at a disadvantage in the AFC South with Stroud at QB. Taking Richardson 6 picks later is a better value for them.
9Tyree WilsonEDGETexas TechWilson has reportedly been rising up draft boards to the point where some believe he will be taken before Will Anderson Jr. While it’s possible this hype is a little overblown, I still see no way he falls out of the top 10. The Bears did add to their defense this offseason, but it’s still in their best interest to take the best defensive player on the board. They still have a way to go after how much last year’s defense struggled.
10Lukas Van NessEDGEIowaBrandon Graham isn’t getting any younger, the Eagles don’t really have much depth behind him. Van Ness is another member of this stacked pass rushing class that’s reportedly rising up draft boards. He’d likely be the best value for the Eagles to fill this need here.
11Jalen CarterDLGeorgiaCarter claims he’s only visiting teams with a top 10 pick. Wouldn’t it be ironic if he goes right after at #11? The Titans do have an elite duo up front in Jeffery Simmons and Teair Tart. However, they lack depth behind those two. Despite some potential off-the-field concerns, it may be hard to pass up on a guy who’s arguably a top 10 talent if there’s any room for him. Carter would definitely be able to find a starting job next to Simmons and Tart in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme. They could make for a legendary trio.
12Jaxon Smith-NjigbaWROhio StateSure, the Texans may have brought in Robert Woods and Dalton Schultz in the offseason. Regardless, nobody on their roster is going to be their #1 receiver of the future. Smith-Njigba would provide Richardson with an easy top target out of the gate with potential to become an elite slot receiver like Cooper Kupp or Amon-Ra St. Brown in the near future. He is coming off an injury from this past season, but should be good to go for 2023, at least to some degree. Besides, the Texans aren’t exactly in win-now mode.
13Quentin JohnstonWRTCUJohnston was the clear #1 option in TCU’s offense and at 6’3”, he has the size of a true #1 outside guy in the NFL as well. Much like how Mike Evans carried Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M back in 2013, I don’t think Max Duggan and TCU would have cracked the national championship without Johnston. Johnston has the potential to follow Evans’ path, making an immediate impact and becoming the top target for his team as a rookie. The Packers may have Christian Watson, but it remains to be seen what he can do against top tier corners. Bringing in a guy who played tougher competition in college could be a smart move.
Will LevisQBKentuckyWith no clear standout option for them at this spot, I have the Patriots trading down and seeing who falls. I have them sending the pick to Tampa Bay who will take the opportunity to find their long term answer at QB. The Bucs do claim they have confidence in Baker Mayfield as their starting QB, but I feel this will be a one year solution that allows Levis to sit and develop. By 2024, Levis should be ready to take the reigns. I don’t think the Bucs will be expecting him to fill Tom Brady’s shoes, but he still has potential to at least become the franchise guy.
15Peter SkoronskiOLNorthwesternWith Aaron Rodgers on the roster; the Jets don’t exactly have any pressing needs. Rodgers originally wanted his left tackle, David Bahktiari, to come with him in the trade, so taking a top tier tackle seems like a logical first move with Rodgers under center. Depending on how Mekhi Becton develops, Skoronski could either fill his role or play opposite him.
16Deonte BanksCBMarylandThere’s a bit of a drop-off at corner after the top 3 in the class go off the board. However, this has been a big need for the Commanders for years, who continue to give up big games to WRs. Paired with Kendall Fuller, Banks should hope to help put a stop to that in the upcoming season.
17Broderick JonesOLGeorgiaThe Steelers have had offensive line problems for years. With Kenny Pickett under center, it’s time they finally address it and get him his left tackle of the future. I don’t think there’s too big a dropoff from Johnson Jr. or Skoronski to Jones, so Pittsburgh should be satisfied if he falls to them.
18Dalton KincaidTEUtahWhile he doesn’t come up big every game, Kincaid at his best can completely take over a game. He’s one of the most dangerous receiving weapons we’ve seen in a while, especially at tight end. He was one big reason Utah owned USC this year: in their first matchup he had 15 receptions for a whopping 217 yards and a score. The Lions traded T.J. Hockenson after a rough start last season, but now they’re in win-now mode and bringing in another dynamic receiving tight end could help their case. He’ll have the chance for more of those “boom” games, especially with Jameson Williams out for the first six.
Zay FlowersWRBoston CollegeThe Patriots need to do something to help Mac Jones in a crucial prove-it year, and I feel adding a WR is the best they can do for him. Would he be better off with a clear cut #1 WR? Probably. However, Flowers is very similar to the types of receivers Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien have worked with in the past, and I feel that with the right coaching, the Pats can develop Flowers into that #1 guy. Despite his small size, he aspires to be more than just a slot receiver, and the Pats can rotate him and JuJu Smith-Schuster in and out of the slot. This pick allows Flowers to stay closeby after some time at Boston College and be in a system that plays to his strengths and allows him to flourish.
20Cam SmithCBSouth CarolinaWith the Seahawks addressing o-line at 5, I think corner is really the only other pressing need to address. I originally had them taking Kelee Ringo here, but he seems to be falling down draftboards of late. Cam Smith seems like a safer bet to go this early in the first round. He comes in hoping to finally provide the Seahawks with long term answers at the position.
21Bijan RobinsonRBTexasIt appears Austin Ekeler is on the outs within the next year. Besides, the Chargers have been trying to get an early-down complement to him for years. Bijan Robinson may start out as that if Ekeler sticks around, but he’ll be able to become the every-down workhorse and possibly even an elite RB in the future. He’s considered the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and I don’t think a team like the Chargers that has questions about their future at the position would want to pass up on a guy like him. It’s very rare that running backs are worth a first round pick at all, but Robinson is definitely an exception.
22Darnell WrightOLTennesseeIt appears the Ravens are at least operating under the assumption that Lamar Jackson is staying after the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. Under that assumption, why not get him some extra protection? Ronnie Stanley is locked in at left tackle for the foreseeable future, but right tackle has been a hole since the departure of Orlando Brown. Wright should most definitely be capable of filling that spot.
23Emmanuel ForbesCBMississippi StateForbes has been rising up draft boards since the Combine, and as a Consensus All-American, he probably should have been considered among the better corners in the class all along. The Vikings may have added Byron Murphy in free agency, but I feel Forbes would be the more likely #1 corner in the long term. 
24Brian BranchSAlabamaThe Jags have been able to fill out most of their defensive depth chart over the last few years, but they still are lacking solid starters at safety. Branch has the potential to become the anchor not only for the Jags safety room, but possibly their entire secondary. While corners are more valuable than safeties in general, I feel Branch could wind up having a better career than some of the corners taken before him.
25Jordan AddisonWRUSCThe Giants may have brought in Darren Waller to be their top target, but the WR room doesn’t really have any clear standout names. While Addison would likely rotate with other Giants receivers like Sterling Shepard, Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, and Darius Slayton early on, he could eventually have the potential to stand out from that crowd.
26O’Cyrus TorrenceOLFloridaThe Cowboys just took Tyler Smith in last year’s draft, but with the loss of Connor Williams offensive line continues to be a need for the Cowboys. I have them shifting Smith back to right tackle and taking Torrence, who’s arguably the best interior lineman in the class. I could also see them rolling with a tackle like Anton Harrison or Dawand Jones, but Torrence seems like the slightly better value.
Jack CampbellLBIowaThere aren’t many first-round worthy linebackers, but after the loss of Tremaine Edmunds, it’s one of Buffalo’s only pressing needs. Campbell was receiving first round buzz at one point or another and I think a linebacker-needy team like the Bills may be willing to take the chance this late into the round. It’s possible they shift gears to Drew Sanders or Trenton Simpson, but I still believe in Campbell as the top linebacker in the class.
28Kelee RingoCBGeorgiaWhile I do think a lot of corners have surpassed Ringo on teams’ boards, I don’t see Ringo falling as much as some others do. The Bengals have been looking for a #1 corner for a while now, and while Ringo may be a raw prospect and a risky pick, I think he has upside after the success he has had at Georgia as a 2-time national champion.
29Nolan SmithEDGEGeorgiaI don’t see as many edge rushers going in Round 1 as some people do, but the Saints could use someone to pair with Cameron Jordan and they wouldn’t pass on a guy like Nolan Smith if he falls. Smith led the charge on national champion Georgia’s pass rush, and some teams have him much higher than this on their boards. It could be a golden opportunity for New Orleans as other teams pass due to lack of need.
30Anton HarrisonOLOklahomaThe Eagles o-line has been good for years, but it’s unknown how much longer the veterans like Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce will last. The Eagles just lost depth at tackle when Andre Dillard left in free agency, and even if he doesn’t start right away, it’s time they line up their plans for their starting tackles of the future. Harrison definitely has the potential to be a part of that.
31Jalin HyattWRTennesseeEven with Cedric Tillman on the same team, Hyatt was top 5 in FBS in receiving yards and TDs. Having Hendon Hooker at QB definitely helped things, but going from Hooker in college to Mahomes in the NFL would be a very smooth transition. Hyatt was the clear #1 WR for a strong Volunteers team, and I think he has the potential to do the same for the Chiefs. The Chiefs may have WR depth with Ka’darius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Richie James, and Skyy Moore on the team but Hyatt would stand out from that crowd. Hyatt wouldn’t even necessarily have to face top corners all the time; Travis Kelce would distract enough defensive attention that Hyatt can thrive alongside him. This is a great landing spot for any WR, but I think Hyatt would fit especially well here.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and I hope you all enjoy the draft on Thursday. I’ll be streaming live on The Master Plan YouTube.

In other news, if you’re in the area, there will be a booth with Boston Sports Mania merchandise to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism tonight at Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, MA. Either way, you can still get your merch online or make a direct donation to the Foundation at this link.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s