It’s hard to believe but it’s been a full year of About Average Sports! I realize there have been some lulls here and there in terms of content, but I couldn’t be happier with all of the feedback and interaction I’ve had with all of you whether it be positive, negative or my favorite, simply being made fun of for my hot takes gone wrong. It’s only right that we’ve come full circle with my favorite column of the year – it’s time for the 2023 Mock Draft!
This year’s draft has the potential to be one of the most exciting in some time. The reason? There is absolutely no consensus on players value from the top of the draft down. Everything is in play. We may see 3 quarterbacks go in the first round, we may see 5. We may see a run on receivers early, we may see receivers drop down the draft board. I can tell you I don’t expect a lot of trades within the first 10 picks. The Carolina Panthers already traded with the Chicago Bears to move to the top of the draft board, the Jets and Packers have already made a deal, and the cost of moving up may simply be too costly in a year with so many question marks. That obviously could change if a quarterback needy teams sees an opportunity to move up and grab someone, but I don’t see that happening early. As always, this mock draft will simply follow the draft order without considering trades. There are 4 teams with two picks in the first round this year – The Texans, The Lions, The Eagles, and The Seahawks. The Miami Dolphins will be without a first round pick this year due to tampering with Tom Brady who is “retired” – cue Dr. Evil quotes meme.
So now with the stage set, let’s get to the fun – start the clock!
1. Carolina Panthers – Bryce Young – QB – Alabama – Let’s not overthink this here. Yes, Young is a little bit short size wise, but everything else he brings to the table is worth it. You can easily make the argument he’s been the best of the recent Alabama quarterbacks (Tua, Hurts, etc.) and the pro style offense he ran in college will translate perfectly into the pros. If the Panthers go in any other direction they’ll be making a huge mistake. Young is a natural born leader.
2. Houston Texans – Will Levis – QB – Kentucky – There have been rumors that the Texans aren’t very enamored with some of the QB choices including CJ Stroud, and that they may be looking to go with a defensive player (Tyree Wilson?) with this pick. Let’s look at this from a common sense perspective – you have the number 2 pick in the draft. When are you getting this kind of opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you have to take it. I do think the Texans may zag here though, and Will Levis may be the choice. Levis has all of the physical tools, great character and a rocket for an arm. His decision making has come under question but I also think you need to take a look at his supporting cast. Bad offensive line, so-so receivers…I’m not completely sold on him, but I think a team is going to fall in love with his physical tools.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson – Edge – Alabama – The Cardinals probably should think about going with a quarterback but after signing Kyler Murray to a very ill-advised deal that is simply not in the cards…no pun intended. Anderson is probably the safest pick in the draft. He’s a 3-year starter, has a natural ability to get to the quarterback, and he fills a need for the Cardinals. Critics of Anderson point to ridiculous arguments like “he lacks a dominant trait” or “he’s not as big as Myles Garrett” and to that I saw who cares? He produced for a premier program and would be a great fit in Arizona.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Richardson – QB – Florida – Richardson is one of the most polarizing players in the draft. He is one of the best athletes to ever play the position, has great size and is a threat on the ground. Yes he’s had some accuracy issues but I just can’t see him dropping out of the top 5. Colts owner Jim Irsay loves to make a splash and I think he would love to have Richardson on board as his quarterback of the future. He may not be a polished product right off the bat, but if he gets the right coaching, he can easily be the best player in this draft class.
5. Seattle Seahawks – Jalen Carter – DL – Georgia – Yes, Carter has had some legal issues off the field. Yes, there are some maturity concerns. I can promise you Pete Carroll and the Seahawks do not care one bit. There is an argument to be made that Jalen Carter is the most talented player in this draft class. I cannot see him slipping past the Seahawks here.
6. Detroit Lions – Christian Gonzalez – CB – Oregon – The Lions have the luxury of going in a couple different directions here including WR, but I think it’s way too early to pull the trigger on one of the wideouts with this pick. Christian Gonzalez is big, he’s fast, and he’s got incredible ball skills. I think he has the potential to be this year’s Sauce Gardner in terms of a rookie DB who will make an impact right away.
7. Oakland Raiders – Devon Witherspoon – CB – Illinois – The Raiders will think long and hard about a QB if one falls their way, but with Jimmy G. in the fold I think they go with the second best corner in the class in Devon Witherspoon. He’s received a lot of comps to Joe Haden, both in terms of the style they play and in terms of their intensity on the field.
8. Atlanta Falcons – CJ Stroud – QB – Ohio State – I think Stroud is the wild card in this draft. I can see him going as high as number 2 or slipping down draft boards – if he slips, it’s certainly not because of his talent. He’s got a great arm, is very accurate in the pocket, and shows a ton of composure. He’s not a very vocal leader however, and he’s tested poorly compared to some of his counterparts in terms of recognizing progressions. If he is here at 8 though, he is absolutely worth the risk for Atlanta who desperately needs a playmaker.
9. Chicago Bears – Peter Skoronski – OL – Northwestern – The Bears decided to trade the number 1 overall pick to the Houston Texans which is a clear sign of their faith in Justin Fields as their franchise quarterback. The Bears now desperately need to protect him in the pocket and Skoronski fits the bill perfectly. He can play tackle or guard in the pros and has fantastic footwork. His only knock is his arm length but that wouldn’t be enough to scare me off. I think he’s a future pro bowler.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – Tyree Wilson – Edge – Texas Tech – The Eagles are coming off a run to the Super Bowl, and even though they lost quite a few players in free agency, they’re also in a great position to restock due to having two picks in this year’s draft. I can easily see them taking an edge rusher in this spot, and if Wilson falls, they’re going to look to pounce. Calijah Kancey and Lukas Van Ness may also be in play, but Wilson is fast, explosive, and still growing into his frame.
11. Tennessee Titans – Paris Johnson – OL – Ohio State – The Titans are another team that can go in a bunch of different directions. They desperately need a quarterback but I don’t think one will be available to them with this pick unless they trade up. Quite frankly, they’re in one of the worst places that a franchise can be in which is in limbo. When that happens I always advise in blowing things up and starting from scratch. Johnson needs some refinement but he is extremely athletic and has nice size. His run blocking can use some work but he’s a great pass blocker and he has a good motor. He’d be a nice building block in Tennessee.
12. Houston Texans – Bijan Robinson – RB – Texas – Bijan Robinson is the most talented running back to come out of college since Saquon Barkley. Unlike Barkley who was stupidly taken with the second pick by a Giants general manager who shall not be named (I’m not bitter), Robinson will be taken where he should, in the 10-15 range. The Texans would be ecstatic to walk out of the draft with their QB of the future and arguably the most talented skill position player in the draft.
13. Green Bay Packers – Jaxon Smith-Njigba – WR – Ohio State – Smith-Njigba was a 5 star recruit out of high school and that translated to an exceptional collegiate career at Ohio State. Most of his tape is from the 2021 season where he was a monster down the stretch, and there are some injury concerns after only playing 3 games in 2022. That said, new quarterback Jordan Love is going to need weapons to be successful, and JSN can come in immediately and be effective out of the slot.
14. New England Patriots – – Calijah Kancey – DL – Pitt – The Patriots are another wild card team in terms of the draft. Last year they drafted Cole Strange in the first round who carried a 3-4th round grade. While I can easily see them taking an edge rusher like Tyree Wilson or Lukas Van Ness if they’re available, I think Kancey would be a great add to the Patriots defensive line. He’s fast, explosive, and even though he’s not close size wise, he’s received quite a few comps to Aaron Donald. They can’t possibly draft another tight end…right?
15. New York Jets – Broderick Jones – OL - Georgia – The Jets are thrilled to have QB Aaron Rodgers aboard, and with the rest of their offense in a good place, it’s time to address the offensive line. Jones is a good pass protector, can contribute in the ground game and has an attitude to his game. The Jets have a lot of question marks regarding health with their offensive line and Jones gives them the ability to immediately plug in someone who can play either tackle position right away.
16. Washington Commanders – Lukas Van Ness – Edge – Iowa – With Chase Young’s well detailed injury history, the Commanders look to take a chance on Van Ness who despite not starting a game in college, was extremely productive getting to the quarterback and finished All Big-10 Second Team. The Commanders may also look at Joey Porter Jr. here, but I think head coach Ron Rivera rolls the dice in what could be his last shot to turn the franchise around.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Joey Porter Jr. – CB – Penn State – This pick just makes too much sense. Porter Jr.’s father was a Steelers stalwart for years and Porter Jr. absolutely fills a need. He’s got fantastic size for a corner and he’s able to reroute both receivers and tight ends which is a great asset to have. He’s not going to be flashy but that’s not the Steelers way and head coach Mike Tomlin will jump at the chance here.
18. Detroit Lions – Jordan Addison – WR – USC – The Lions are without WR Jameson Williams for the first 6 games of the season due to a gambling suspension and Jordan Addison would be addition to a Lions receiving corps that can use the help. He’s not huge size wise but if he gets to play in space he is a threat anywhere on the field. He also has fantastic hands. If Addison is available here this should be a no-brainer.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Darnell Wright – OL - Tennessee – The Bucs are another team that has an abundance of needs and can go in a ton of different directions. As I mentioned before, when in doubt, blow it up and start from the inside out. Wright has a lot of physical tools and needs some refinement, but he’ll get that opportunity in Tampa Bay. He has the ability to play tackle or kick in to the inside at guard and is still improving. He can be a nice building block.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Myles Murphy – Edge – Clemson – While the Seahawks may look at a WR here, I think Murphy’s pass rushing abilities will be too tough to pass up, especially if they can pair him with Jalen Carter. He’s comped well to Bradley Chubb and his criticism has been that sometimes he responds better to a coach who is a motivator versus a disciplinarian. Pete Carroll would be a perfect match for Murphy’s style.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Quentin Johnson – WR – TCU – The Chargers are going to want to do everything they can to keep Justin Herbert happy and the best way to do that is with a new weapon at WR. Quentin Johnson can play on the outside, he has nice size, and he’s going to be a nice target in the red zone for for Herbert. He wasn’t as productive as some of his counterparts, but I think some of that was more schematic than anything.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Zay Flowers – WR – Boston College – The Ravens drafted Tyler Linderbaum and Kyle Hamilton last year, a sign that they typically don’t like to reach for skill position talent in the first round of the draft. This year is different however, and with QB Lamar Jackson’s status still in jeopardy, I think they’re going to do everything they can to appease him into coming back. Flowers runs great routes and is shifty enough to confuse defenders. I don’t trust that Odell Beckham Jr. can stay healthy for a full season and I think Flowers would be a great addition to allow Beckham to be a WR3 where he should be at this stage of his career.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Deonte Banks – CB – Maryland – I thought long and hard about drafting QB Hendon Hooker here but I think the Vikings view themselves as a team with one last window open to make a run in the playoffs. Banks has size, athleticism and maybe most importantly, he’s versatile in that he’s able to play in a variety of different coverage schemes. There is still some work to be done, but Banks would help the Vikings defense out right away.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – O’Cyrus Torrence – G – Florida – Interior linemen typically fall in drafts because most teams feel they can find a guard or center in the later rounds, but Torrence is an exception. His game tape is fantastic and he played some of his best games against the best competition, including Jalen Carter. He’s a monster of a man at 6’5 and 330 pounds and will be an impact starter on day one. The Jaguars would be wise to protect Trevor Lawrence who I believe takes the leap from good to great next season.
25. New York Giants – Brian Branch – S – Alabama – I think Torrence would be a great fit on my beloved G-Men but I just don’t think he’s going to slip that far. Brian Branch would be the best player on the board in this scenario and the Giants would be thrilled if he was available. He’s a great coverage safety and is a ball hawk threat anytime he’s on the field. He’s not the largest athlete in the world which may concern some, but considering he can play corner and safety, he’s going to be a tremendous asset to any team lucky enough to draft him. On a side note, for anyone asking if I think the Giants will draft a wide receiver, I don’t. I think that’s something that goes against Schoen’s philosophy in terms of position value. If they were to pick a receiver, Zay Flowers would be my guess.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Mayer – TE – Notre Dame – Sticking with our theme, the Cowboys are another team that can go in a million different directions – do they get weapons for Prescott, try to address their corner position or do they look to rebuild their offensive line? I think Jerry Jones is going to want to give Prescott his own version of Jason Witten with Michael Mayer. He’s a solid blocker, is strong and will be a great red zone threat.
27. Buffalo Bills – Jahmyr Gibbs – RB – Alabama – The Bills are a team that has been knocking on the door of getting to the Super Bowl the past couple seasons and would benefit greatly from an upgraded run game. Gibbs is a good route runner, is dangerous making lateral moves and would be a fantastic weapon out of the backfield for Josh Allen. He’s not the greatest blocker but the Bills wouldn’t need him to be.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Dalton Kincaid – TE – Utah – This should be a no brainer between either Kincaid or Mayer. The Bengals desperately need a tight end and it could be the difference that puts them over the hump in getting back to the Super Bowl. Kincaid is athletic, fast, and has incredible ball skills since he was a former basketball player. He also has room to grow. This would be a steal for the Bengals here.
29. New Orleans Saints – Dawand Jones – T – Ohio State – While the Saints can go in a couple different directions here, I have them going with Jones who measures in at an incredible 6’8 and 374 pounds. His size alone makes him impossible to move but he also has good feet for a player his size. There are some issues in terms of penalties but it’s nothing he can’t clean up at the next level.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Jalin Hyatt – WR – Tennessee – Hyatt would be a luxury pick for the Eagles here but they can afford it with two picks in the first round. He’s an explosive deep threat that would completely open the field up opposite AJ Brown and Devonta Smith. I think the Eagles would love to get a RB here but Hyatt can actually benefit the running game because it forces your defensive backfield to stay back and impedes their ability to blitz.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Bryan Breese – DL – Clemson – Breese is young and still growing as a player so while the production wasn’t always there, there are reasons to think that he will continue to improve. He battles double teams well and if he goes to Kansas City he’ll be in a great position to learn his craft and become a great run defender for a team that still has a couple holes on it’s defensive line.
Thanks for reading! Thursday night the real fun begins!