This year’s draft is reminiscent of 2021, with several quarterbacks headlining the first round intrigue. Two years ago, three quarterbacks were selected with the first three picks for only the third time in draft history—and two more went off the board in the top-15. Similarly, the 2023 class boasts five potential first-round quarterbacks, but with much less certainty on where they may end up.
The landscape of the NFL is marginally different now. There are many more teams possessing top-10 picks that also have established veteran QBs, though the eventual need for a young passer lingers in the background. Only a few with a pressing need are in the position to capitalize on it. And, unlike in 2021, many are debating if any of the quarterback prospects truly stand out from the others, just as Trevor Lawrence did.
In a quarterback-driven league, this uncertainty makes the draft such a unique spectacle year after year. Although entirely impossible, I always make an attempt to project who each team will pick.
1. Carolina Panthers (via Bears): Bryce Young, Quarterback, Alabama
After a bizarre quarterback carousel featuring Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker, and Sam Darnold last season, the Panthers lock down their first surefire franchise quarterback since the Cam Newton era. Young’s poise with the football and strong field-awareness place him on a top-10 QB trajectory.
2. Houston Texans: Tyree Wilson, Edge Rusher, Texas Tech
While many expect a quarterback, the explosive pass-rusher Wilson has emerged as the favorite to lead new head coach DeMeco Ryan’s young defense.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., Edge Rusher, Alabama
Landing Anderson is the dream scenario for the Cardinals, who are in desperate need of a pass rusher. Anderson has been viewed as a top defender in this draft class for several seasons.
4. Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, Quarterback, Ohio State
New head coach Shane Steichen hopes to recreate the dynamic offense he built in Philadelphia as offensive coordinator. Stroud fits the bill with elite poise and decision-making, giving the Colts a long-term solution at QB.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): Jalen Carter, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
The Seahawks plan to prioritize their defensive front this week. Carter is the highest-rated interior D-line prospect in many years, yet will likely fall outside the top-three picks due to an off-the-field incident.
6. Detroit Lions (via Rams): Devon Witherspoon, Cornerback, Illinois
After trading away cornerback Jeff Okudah, Detroit’s focus shifts to Witherspoon, a highly aggressive and physical defender. He is a perfect fit for Dan Campbell’s kneecap-biting scheme.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, Cornerback, Oregon
The Raiders retained many of their offensive stars this offseason, thus it is imperative they zone in on the defensive side of the ball. Gonzalez brings promise to a weak secondary that faces Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert each twice a year.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, Running Back, Texas
While they certainly need to improve their pass-rush, Atlanta seems content with second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder at the helm this year. Robinson continues the trend of adding elite offensive talent in the first round (Drake London ’22, Kyle Pitts ’21).
9. Chicago Bears (via Panthers): Peter Skoronski, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern
New GM Ryan Poles has put together a stellar offseason, but the protection for Justin Fields still must improve. A mere half-hour drive brings the versatile Skoronski, who can play guard or tackle, down to Soldier Field from Evanston.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints): Lukas Van Ness, Edge Rusher, Iowa
Howie Roseman has a history of adding linemen on both sides of the ball in the first round. Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, he continues the formula with rising star Van Ness.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Richardson, Quarterback, Florida
Although Tennessee lacks the proper infrastructure for a young quarterback, Richardson’s athleticism and potential is too elite to pass on. The Titans may have to trade into the top-10 to land him.
12. Houston Texans (via Browns): Will Levis, Quarterback, Kentucky
The Texans cannot leave this draft without a long-term quarterback option, and similar to the Titans, may have to trade up. They are rumored to be interested in Levis, who emerged as a top prospect last season at Kentucky.
13. Green Bay Packers (via Jets): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
How ironic—after several years of passing on top receivers with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers waste no time grabbing the best in the class for Jordan Love.
14. New England Patriots: Paris Johnson Jr., Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Beyond Matt Patricia, a significant reason for Mac Jones’ regression last season was the poor play of New England’s two tackles, Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn. At last, the Patriots land a consistent piece on the O-line to give Jones enough time to throw.
15. New York Jets (via Packers): Broderick Jones, Offensive Tackle, Georgia
The Jets would love to add yet another receiver for Aaron Rodgers, but getting him protection is a more pressing need. Jones compares well to the athletic Andrew Thomas, his predecessor at Georgia and potential NYC-counterpart at the Giants.
16. Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback, Penn State
In an NFC East ridden with receiving talent, the Commanders simply must improve in the secondary. They are rumored to have zeroed in on Porter with this pick.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Deonte Banks, Cornerback, Maryland
Banks, who played with Mike Tomlin’s son at Maryland, has risen up draft boards over the last two months. The Steelers have needed a big and physical corner for quite some time.
18. Detroit Lions: Calijah Kancey, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Kancey has drawn some ambitious comparisons to Aaron Donald for his speed as a defensive lineman. While Kancey may not be an all-time great just yet, the Lions have positioned themselves well with two core defenders (joining projected #6 pick, CB Devon Witherspoon).
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darnell Wright, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
The Bucs enter somewhat of a rebuilding stage after Tom Brady’s retirement. If Brady couldn’t succeed with last season’s poor offensive line play, whoever wins the starting job won’t either. Wright is viewed as the draft’s top right tackle, which may allow star Tristan Wirfs to switch to the left side.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Nolan Smith, Edge Rusher, Georgia
Similar to the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks are well-positioned for a playoff berth by adding two core defenders while already having a very talented offense.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Dalton Kincaid, Tight End, Utah
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have struggled with injuries over the years, so the Chargers would be wise to add a young piece to Justin Herbert’s receiving corps.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers, Wide Receiver, Boston College
As each day passes, it becomes increasingly likely that Lamar Jackson is the quarterback of the Ravens next year. If Jackson’s lack of talented receivers was once a complaint, it no longer has merit with Mark Andrews, Odell Beckham, former first-rounder Rashod Bateman, and this year’s speediest receiver in the mix.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, Wide Receiver, USC
Without Adam Thielen, the Vikings’ non-Justin Jefferson receivers are far less menacing. Addison’s size and speed have been critiqued, but he was undoubtedly a top-tier playmaker and route-runner at USC last season.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Branch, Safety, Alabama
Branch’s awareness and vision essentially make him the closest thing to a “defensive quarterback.” The Jags showed significant promise at the end of last year, and they have gotten even better heading into this season.
25. New York Giants: Myles Murphy, Edge Rusher, Clemson
The Giants would prefer a receiver or offensive lineman here, but they find themselves in a difficult spot in the draft order. The team has shown some interest in Murphy, who could go anywhere from the top-10 to early second round.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Michael Mayer, Tight End, Notre Dame
Jerry Jones rarely passes up a golden opportunity to bring star power to his offense (see: CeeDee Lamb ’20). With all their eggs in the Dak Prescott basket, Mayer is the perfect fit to improve the receiving group and replace Dalton Schultz.
27. Buffalo Bills: Drew Sanders, Linebacker, Arkansas
A key part of the Bills’ success in recent seasons was middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who signed with the Bears this offseason. The Bills cannot head into the season, in an even better AFC East than last year, without filling that need.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Jahmyr Gibbs, Running Back, Alabama
With uncertainty about Joe Mixon and the departure of steady backup Samaje Perine, the Bengals continue to surround Joe Burrow with talent with the draft’s fastest running back.
29. New Orleans Saints (via Broncos/49ers): Bryan Bresee, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
The Saints are well-positioned to take a defensive lineman, with many fringe-first-round defenders available (Will McDonald IV, Adetomiwa Adebawore, etc.). Bresee, the number-one recruit in the nation in 2020, stands out for his athletic build.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: O’Cyrus Torrence, Offensive Guard, Florida
Adding Torrence helps solidify Philly’s offensive line as the best in the league once again. The Eagles remain elite in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Anton Harrison, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
The Chiefs must keep Patrick Mahomes healthy to avenge their title this season. Big ticket free-agent signing Jawaan Taylor and the promising Harrison on each end of the O-line is very reassuring.
—Hendon Hooker, projected to be the fifth quarterback selected, is considered a second-round pick in this mock draft.
—The Miami Dolphins must forfeit the 21st pick due to tampering violations. There are only 31 first-round picks in 2023.