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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Pre free agency, version 5.0

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NFL predictions 2023
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy while talking to Terry Bradshaw after the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NFL free agency is getting started, and we had a trade at the top of the draft with the Bears getting a haul from the Panthers for the first overall pick. With all of that going on, we decided it was time to update the AMNY Sports staff NFL Mock Draft. 

This is a no-trades NFL mock draft, and much of it remains the same as version 4.0, which you can see here. Just like in that version we voted on each pick as a staff rather than assigning teams to individual writers. It caused a bit of a turnover in the middle of the draft, so dive in and let us know what you think. 

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2023 NFL Mock Draft: First Round

1. Carolina Panthers, 7-10: C.J. Stroud, QB Ohio State

The Carolina Panthers are rumored to possibly be trading back (what?) because there are a few quarterbacks that they like, but there are also a lot of dots connecting them to Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. He might not have the upside of Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, but he’s a bit of a safer bet and has the accuracy to thrive in a system led by former NFL quarterbacks Josh McCown and Frank Reich. 

2. Houston Texans, 3-13-1: Bryce Young, QB Alabama

Bryce Young could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft, but there are some concerns about his size at 6-foot, 190 pounds. The choice will likely be between Young and the more projectible but far more raw Will Levis. We’ll say the Texans go with the more NFL-ready option. 

3. Arizona Cardinals, 4-13: Will Anderson, EDGE Alabama

With head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim out in Arizona, the Cardinals could be looking at an overhaul. But, they also just saw the best player in the entire draft fall into their lap. With J.J. Watt retiring, they could use a new disruptor on the defensive line, so they take Anderson here. 

4. Indianapolis Colts, 4-12-1: Anthony Richardson, QB Florida

Another major change in our NFL mock draft as we had previously slotted Will Levis and then C.J. Stroud here. Either way, the Colts are going to take a quarterback but which one will depend on the new head coach, former Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Anthony Richardson impressed in the skills testing at the NFL Combine, and even though there are plenty of questions about his ability against live defenses, he seems likely to end up going to Indianapolis

5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos, 5-12): Jalen Carter, DT Georgia

The Seahawks make the playoffs and get a top-five pick, but we saw from their Wild Card loss to the 49ers that they still need an influx of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Jalen Carter has plenty of off-the-field questions stemming from his drag racing incident which resulted in the death of a teammate. However, Pete Carroll has taken players with character red flags before, and there is no doubting Carter’s talent, so we think he’s the play here. 

6. Detroit Lions (via Rams, 5-12): Tyree Wilson, EDGE Texas Tech

Another shake-up early in the draft with the Lions opting for Wilson over Devon Witherspoon, who we had going here as the top cornerback off the board. The Lions’ defense is a mess, but Aidan Hutchinson was a real find for them last year. Now they take an explosive rusher to put on the other side of him to help make some noise in the backfield. 

7. Las Vegas Raiders, 6-11: Will Levis, QB Kentucky

It’s highly unlikely that Levis will fall outside the top five with teams looking to trade up, but this is a no-trade NFL mock draft so Josh McDaniels could have the best overall quarterback in this class depending on your view. With Jimmy Garoppolo now in town, the Raiders can let Levis sit and learn for at least a year before turning the franchise over to him. When you’re drafting a player like Levis, that’s the perfect situation. 

8. Atlanta Falcons, 7-10: Myles Murphy – EDGE, Clemson

Atlanta has a ton of needs on the roster but none so more than in the trenches. The Falcons were 31st in the NFL in sacks last year, so grabbing Murphy to pair with Grady Jarrett on the interior could do wonders for this line. Murphy has some consistency concerns, but he’s a long and athletic defender that can be a problem for offensive lines if he reaches his full potential. 

9. Chicago Bears, 3-14: Peter Skoronski, OT Northwestern

The Bears added D.J. Moore and traded away a shot at a quarterback, so they are all in on Justin Fields. And rightfully so. Now they just need to protect him better. Peter Skoronski is an athletic tackle who has kept his quarterback clean and can play every position on the line. He’s a perfect fit in Chicago with their first pick in our NFL mock draft.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints, 7-10): Devon Witherspoon, CB Illinois

The Eagles’ defense let them down in the Super Bowl, and now there are rumors that they may be trading Darius Slay to free up cap space. Regardless, their secondary needs an influx of talent and Witherspoon is a day-one starter on the outside for a team that will need to replace a lot of talent on defense. 

11. Tennessee Titans, 7-10: Paris Johnson – OT, Ohio State

The Titans were hoping for Skoronski here but are fine to settle for Johnson to help protect number Malik Willis. He will be a good fit for the Titans on the right side, which is a huge need in Tennessee right now especially since Taylor Lewan was released at the start of the offseason.

12. Houston Texans (via Browns, 7-10): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR Ohio State

The Texans certainly need to protect new quarterback Bryce Young, but perhaps trading for Shaq Mason is enough for right now (they still have another pick). As a result, they can turn their attention to getting a weapon for Young and bringing in Smith-Njigba, who is the top slot receiver in this class. 

13. New York Jets, 7-10: Broderick Jones – OT, Georgia

If the Jets don’t trade this pick for a certain quarterback, they’ll look to solidify the offensive line. Since Skoronski and Johnson go quickly off the board following each other, the Jets pivot to Jones, who is a very good athlete and has excellent length. He is a powerful blocker in the run game and will be a day-one starter for New York.

The Jets select Broderick Jones in our NFL Mock Draft
Broderick Jones blocks on a passing play against South Carolina (wikimedia commons)

14. New England Patriots, 8-9: – Quentin Johnston, WR TCU

Bill Belichick saw the absolute beating Mac Jones took this season due to the lack of weapons, poor offensive line, and flawed coaching. He’ll look to rectify that this offseason and provide some level of positivity for their young quarterback. Johnson is arguably the best receiver in this draft and has been a pretty consistent selection for us in this  our NFL mock draft. 

15. Green Bay Packers, 8-9: Lukas Van Ness, DE Iowa

The Packers could use a wide receiver (and might be able to snag one if they land the Jets pick and leapfrog New England), but in this scenario, they pivot to defense with Johnson and Smith-Njigba off the board. Van Ness flirts as a top-10 talent in the Class of 2023 as an athletic and versatile edge rusher with inside/outside flexibility that can step in and play meaningful snaps right away.

16. Washington Commanders, 8-8-1: Christian Gonzalez, CB Oregon

It’s a strong corner class, and there are many people who have Gonzalez inside the top 10 (we did up until this version of our NFL mock draft). In a division where the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys all have top weapons at wide receiver (if we expect the Giants to solidify their receiving core) then the Commanders will need all the help they can get for a secondary that has struggled at times this year. 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-8: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

It’s a matchup made in heaven. Porter playing in the city his father made an all-pro career out of is too easy to predict. Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t the problem this season but help in the secondary is always needed when you have the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns in your division.

18. Detroit Lions, 9-8: Deonte Banks, CB Maryland

The Lions have a golden opportunity to build one of the more imposing, young defenses in football if the dominos fall as they are in this NFL mock draft. After taking a defensive lineman in the first round, they add a physical and aggressive corner here. Banks attacks the football with aggression and was trusted to cover top receivers this past season. Dan Campbell will love him. 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-9: Brian Branch, S Alabama

 Tampa Bay is poised to lose two of its best cornerbacks in Jamal Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, so adding talent in the secondary is crucial for them. Branch has the versatility to line up at safety or as a nickel corner. That will gives the Bucs matchup flexibility that will be very important for their defense. 

20. Seattle Seahawks 9-8: Tuli Tuipilotu, DE USC

After the Seahawks bolstered the interior by drafting Jalen Carter with the first pick in our NFL mock draft, they turn their attention towards the edge position, with Tuipilotu, who was one of the best pass-rushers in the country last year, registering 46 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. At 6’4″ and 290 pounds, he’s a massive human but has impressive athleticism for his size.

21. Los Angeles Chargers 10-7: Brian Breese, DT Clemson

The Chargers’ offense, led by Justin Herbert, is among the NFL’s most elite. They have adequate skill position players, and their offensive line is serviceable enough. But, their defense, particularly their run defense, is shakey. The team gave up the 5th-most rushing yards in the NFL this year (2,478) and needs to get stronger in the trenches. Breese is a long and explosive athlete who creates a ton of mismatches inside the defensive line; he’d be a great fit in Los Angeles.

22. Miami Dolphins 9-8: PICK FORFEITED

23. Baltimore Ravens 10-7: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

The Ravens need to get Lamar Jackson more weapons on offense if they’re going to keep him happy. Mark Andrews is a mainstay and Rashod Bateman should lock down one of the perimeter spots, but Jordan Addison would be a great addition as one of the best contested-pass-catchers in this class. He has excellent route-running, speed, and ball-tracking ability and could fill the hole left by the trade of Marquise Brown.

24. Minnesota Vikings 13-4: Cam Smith, CB South Carolina

The Vikings’ loss to the Giants showed that they can really use help in the secondary. They got burned by Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Richie James, and while we love the Giants here, that’s not a good look for a team that wants to be a contender in the NFC. Smith is a “twitchy” cornerback with good size who could be a solid boundary player at the next level. 

25. Jacksonville Jaguars 9-8: Michael Mayer, TE Notre Dame

Cornerback remains an option here in our NFL mock draft as the Jaguars look to build a secondary that can lock down the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills in the AFC. However, there will be options in round two, but it’s not every day you can add an offensive talent like Mayer, even with Evan Engram back in town.

26. New York Giants 9-7-1: Zay Flowers, WR Boston College

Daniel Jones has shown he is more than capable of being a solid quarterback in this league. Pairing him with a top receiving option will be key this off-season. There are few products in this draft as solid as Flowers, who had 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns on a mediocre Boston College team. He’s not the biggest receiver, but he is great over the middle of the field and can change the game with his speed. Brian Daboll will love him. 

Zay Flowers is an option for the Giants in our NFL Mock Draft

27. Dallas Cowboys 12-5: O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL Florida

The Cowboys are among the most well-rounded teams in the NFL, so they have a solid amount of freedom to take the best player off the board with this pick. Right now, that means replacing starting guard Connor McGovern, who left to join the Buffalo Bills. O’Cyrus Torrence is a big and physical guard who is dominant in the run game and has a strong anchor in pass protection.

28. Buffalo Bills 13-3: Jalin Hyatt, WR Tennessee

After adding McGovern, as mentioned above, the Bills don’t need to push an offensive lineman up their boards due to need so they can turn their attention to adding receiving help for Josh Allen. Hyatt possesses the deep speed that Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis lack and would be a great addition to the receiving corps. 

29. Cincinnati Bengals 12-4: Dalton Kincaid, TE Utah

Cincinnati was interested in Trey McBride in last year’s draft, so perhaps they’ll use an early pick on a tight end even with their talented receiving corps. Kincaid is basically a receiver in a tight end’s body and is a truly explosive playmaker. He would make this offense even more dangerous. 

30. New Orleans Saints (via DEN, via MIA, via SF): Calijah Kancey, DT Pittsburgh

The Saints recently saw Trey Hendrickson leave in free agency and will likely see the same thing with Marcus Davenport this off-season. Cam Jordan is their largest cap hit but is 33 years old and may not have many more years left in New Orleans. They need youth on the defensive line and the value here is in the interior with Kancey, who is a strong defender that showed elite athleticism at the combine. 

31. Philadelphia Eagles 14-3: Bijan Robinson, RB Texas

It’s hard to see Howie Roseman draft a running back in the first round, but he also won’t pass up on Bijan Robinson if he falls here in our NFL mock draft. Yes, we know Robinson likely won’t make it this long, but since we’re not projecting trades, we can’t say who will trade up to stop his fall. In this scenario, the Eagles snap him up and replace Miles Sanders without blinking. 

32. Kansas City Chiefs 14-3: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

The Chiefs have a few issues on the defensive line, outside of Chris Jones. George Karlaftis is showing improvement and Mike Danna is solid, but there’s a chance that one or both of Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap is not in Kansas City next year, so the Chiefs need some bodies at the edge position that could morph into a pass rush weapon. Smith has an appealing blend of size, length, power, and flexibility, and features a high ceiling that a team like the Chiefs will take a gamble on.

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