2023 NFL Mock Draft

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.

2022 NFL Mock Draft

On Thursday night, front office executives for the 32 NFL teams will convene in war rooms all over the country. It’s an annual tradition with a profound effect on the league, unfolding live in front of the millions watching across multiple television networks. It’s the three-day event that changes the lives of brilliant athletes and their families. It’s the most challenging stage of constructing an NFL roster, but also the most rewarding. It’s the most anticipated part of the offseason, with the first game still months away. It’s the NFL Draft.

Here’s how the first round could play out on Thursday night:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
The Jaguars won’t overthink this one, will they? Hutchinson is the most pro-ready prospect in the draft, bringing a tenacious work ethic and elite pass-rushing ability. He dominated opposing offenses in his senior year at Michigan, racking up 14 sacks and earning Big Ten Most Valuable Player. After finishing near the bottom of the league in sacks last season, Hutchinson fills a glaring need at pass rusher. (Also considered: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia)

2. Detroit Lions – Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty
The first shocker of the night comes early! Many analysts project the Lions to bolster the defense with this pick. But that wouldn’t be any fun. The Lions have been awfully quiet during the quarterback carousel this offseason, despite being completely unwilling to commit to Jared Goff in the long term. Although it may be perceived as a bit of a reach, Willis is the leader, dual-threat, kneecap-biting quarterback that Dan Campbell loves, with plenty of room for growth. If the Jags choose Travon Walker first overall, this pick will undoubtedly be Aidan Hutchinson. (Also considered: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia)

3. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
This is a tough pick to project, given that the Texans have needs at every position. Walker is the draft’s best run-stopper at edge rusher and is among the best at shedding blocks. Having a top-notch run defense is especially important for a team that faces both Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor twice a year. Another reason for this pick is general manager Nick Caserio’s history of selecting Georgia players. As director of player personnel for the Patriots, Caserio drafted two former Bulldogs in the first round in 2018 (Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel). (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

4. New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Once viewed as the surefire top pick, Thibodeaux has fallen down draft boards due to overblown concerns about his work ethic and commitment. However, his intangibles and production at Oregon are undeniable. Thibodeaux and Carl Lawson can become the league’s next intimidating pass-rushing duo, similar to what head coach Robert Saleh had with the 49ers. (Also considered: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati)

5. New York Giants – Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Earlier this offseason, Giants owner John Mara asserted, “We’ve done everything possible to screw [quarterback Daniel Jones] up since he’s been here.” If the Giants are committed to Jones, their first priority must be the offensive line, which has been nothing short of a disaster in recent years. With high-level experience from his days at Alabama, Neal has proven he can hold his own against premier pass rushers. Facing DeMarcus Lawrence and Chase Young twice a year is no small task. Neal will be at least a 10-year starter in the NFL, book it. (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

6. Carolina Panthers – Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
It’s hard to believe that the Panthers are sold on Pickett, given the team’s on-again, off-again commitment to Sam Darnold, reported interest in Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo, and workouts with many of the draft’s best offensive linemen. Despite that, Pickett boasts elite arm talent and scrambling ability that opens up an offense. Head coach Matt Rhule will be out of a job if the team underperforms again this season, so it is vital that he finds a quarterback he can trust. It is worth considering that Rhule recruited Pickett while coaching at Temple, and Panthers owner David Tepper is a longtime donor to the football program at Pitt. (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

7. New York Giants – Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati
As of now, cornerback is not a glaring need for the Giants, but it appears that they won’t be keeping starter James Bradberry at his current contract. Enter “Sauce” Gardner, who didn’t allow a single touchdown in three seasons at Cincinnati. The Giants will value his swagger and leadership, especially after losing captain Jabrill Peppers in free agency. (Also considered: Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State)

8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Wilson is the most explosive playmaker in the draft, drawing comparisons to Davante Adams and T.Y. Hilton. He would instantly become the top receiver in a depleted Falcons offense after the team lost top wideouts Calvin Ridley (suspension) and Russell Gage (free agency) this offseason. Atlanta won’t make the playoffs this season, but Wilson is the perfect investment for long-term production on offense. (Also considered: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame)

9. Seattle Seahawks – Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, NC State
After trading away Russell Wilson, the Seahawks would love to see Malik Willis fall to them at this pick. This, however, is very unlikely to happen. Throughout the Wilson era, Seattle failed to field a top-tier offensive line. Ekwonu is widely considering top-five talent, so Pete Carroll and company should not waste a second pondering any other option unless they have identified their next franchise quarterback. (Also considered: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU)

10. New York Jets – Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC
It’s a real possibility the Jets trade this pick to San Francisco for All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel, who recently requested a trade. However, if the Jets don’t acquire Samuel, there is a solid chance this pick will be a receiver. London’s unique size and speed allow him to haul in contested catches and make plays after the catch. His skillset will maximize Zach Wilson’s potential, particularly with the deep ball. Don’t look now—the Jets’ rebuild is actually coming together quite well. (Also considered: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU)

11. Washington Commanders – Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
The Commanders are not far off from being contenders. They have a well-respected coach, a top-three front-seven when healthy, and two rising stars on offense in Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin. However, they lack the “glue” players that hold it all together. Hamilton is the best safety in the draft due to his size, football IQ, pass-coverage prowess, and tackling skillset. Safeties are generally undervalued (see Derwin James in 2018) in the draft, causing him to fall outside the top-10. (Also considered: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama)

12. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback, LSU
The Vikings are loaded with stars on offense, but a high-powered offense means nothing if your opponent matches every score. Stingley was once considered the indisputable best corner in the draft, but an injury-plagued final season at LSU and the emergence of Ahmad Gardner changed things. Without Davante Adams, the Packers suddenly look more vulnerable in the NFC North. The Vikings can capitalize by adding Stingley and shoring up a secondary that has struggled in years past. (Also considered: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia)

13. Houston Texans – Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State
The Texans are going to prioritize the trenches in the draft. Cross was an outstanding pass blocker in two starting seasons at Mississippi State and would be an immediate starter at right tackle opposite Laremy Tunsil in Houston. When the Texans inevitably move on from Tunsil in the coming years, Cross can slide over to left tackle. The Texans need foundational pieces to have a successful rebuild, and few players are more valuable than a reliable tackle. (Also considered: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama)

14. Baltimore Ravens – Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
After missing out on Za’Darius Smith in free agency, the Ravens still have a hole at edge rusher opposite 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh. Johnson posted double-digits in both sacks and tackles for loss on the way to winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Florida State last season. The Ravens have greater needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, but Johnson’s talent and potential are too great to pass up. (Also considered: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia)

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Longtime starter Fletcher Cox is likely entering his final season in Philadelphia. The Eagles, who have a history of selecting defensive linemen and edge rushers in the early rounds, have the perfect opportunity to find Cox’s replacement with this pick. Davis was the driving force of Georgia’s defense on the way to their National Championship victory. His unreal speed and athleticism at over 340 pounds were on full display at the Combine last month. (Also considered: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington)

16. New Orleans Saints – Trevor Penning, Offensive Tackle, Northern Iowa
The Saints could opt for a quarterback with one of their two first-rounders, but by drafting for needs — particularly at receiver and offensive/defensive line — they have a solid chance of contending for a Wild Card spot this season. Penning garnered attention at the Senior Bowl for finishing every block with authority on every down he played. He will have huge shoes to fill after longtime starter Terron Armstead left for Miami this offseason. (Also considered: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia)

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, Offensive Guard, Boston College
Last year, the Chargers found a generational left tackle in Rashawn Slater in the first round. The Chargers have a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert and many weapons surrounding him, but the right side of the offensive line could improve. Johnson is coveted for his versatility in the interior offensive line, with experience at guard and center. His ability to sustain blocks will keep Herbert upright for years to come. (Also considered: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M)

18. Philadelphia Eagles – Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Would the Eagles really take a receiver in the first round for the third year in a row? Definitely. Last year, general manager Howie Roseman leapfrogged the Giants to select Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith. They won’t have to move up to land Smith’s former teammate. Before tearing his ACL in the National Championship, Williams flaunted his blazing speed and elusiveness for the Crimson Tide. Quarterback Jalen Hurts will be thrilled to have another weapon as the Eagles look to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. (Also considered: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah)

19. New Orleans Saints – Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
After locking down Jameis Winston’s blindside protection with Trevor Penning, the Saints and new head coach Dennis Allen continue to bolster their offense. Michael Thomas will be back on the field for New Orleans this season, but there aren’t many other receiving threats besides the former All-Pro wideout. Olave is close with Thomas due to their Ohio State connection. He also happens to be the best remaining receiver on the board. Olave joins the Saints after breaking the record for most touchdown receptions in Buckeyes program history (35). (Also considered: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss)

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Desmond Ridder, Quarterback, Cincinnati
It appears Ridder will be a first-rounder after rising up draft boards in recent weeks. He reportedly made a strong impression on many teams leading up to the draft. His mobility outside the pocket, as well as leadership traits, stand out the most. The Steelers will definitely consider moving up for a quarterback if one falls, but in this mock, both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett came off the board in the top six. Nonetheless, Ridder is a great fit that will mesh well with Mike Tomlin. (Also considered: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M)

21. New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, Cornerback, Washington
The Patriots’ defense was exposed in their 47-17 Wild Card loss to the Bills, proving they need to get younger and faster. On top of that, J.C. Jackson’s departure in free agency left a gaping hole in the secondary. If McDuffie falls, then Bill Belichick should draft him without hesitation. He has all the tools to succeed in New England’s man-to-man-oriented defense due to his aggression and speed. (Also considered: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia)

22. Green Bay Packers – Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
The Packers’ receiving corps will look much different next year after trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas and letting Marquez Valdes-Scantling walk. Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard remain, but neither should be the number one receiver. Burks has drawn comparisons to A.J. Brown for his size, speed, and route running. With Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, Burks could potentially put up some high-level stats right away. He would also be viewed as an initial favorite for Rookie of the Year. (Also considered: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia)

23. Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The Cardinals posted a respectable amount of sacks last season, but leading pass rusher Chandler Jones signed with the Raiders in free agency. Considering J.J. Watt’s extensive injury history, Arizona should address this position in the early rounds. Karlaftis could be selected as early as the top 15 picks, but the domino effect of two quarterbacks in the top-10 pushes him into the late first round. (Also considered: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson)

24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, Offensive Guard, Texas A&M
In the last two drafts, Jerry Jones put off taking an offensive lineman in the first round, opting instead for CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons. Losing starters at left guard and right tackle forces his hand this year. Green’s versatility — with experience at both guard and tackle — fits perfectly in their offense. This allows the coaching staff to try Green at different spots on the line in training camp. (Also considered: George Pickens, WR, Georgia)

25. Buffalo Bills – Andrew Booth Jr., Cornerback, Clemson
Star cornerback Tre’Davious White may miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from knee surgery. Additionally, Levi Wallace joined the Steelers this offseason. Buffalo cannot afford to be weak at this position after all three division rivals enhanced their receiving corps this offseason. Booth is a popular pick for the Bills among draft experts, given his success in man-to-man coverage at Clemson. (Also considered: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida)

26. Tennessee Titans – Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah
It is always difficult to project who the Titans might draft, given that they tend to field a well-rounded roster every season and get the most out of their Day Two and Three draft picks. A guard to replace Rodger Saffold could be in the cards, but the only two first-round caliber guards were already selected. Taking Lloyd means taking the best player available, and there’s no shame in that! He dominated opposing offenses at Utah last season, proving his reliability in blitzes and pass coverage. (Also considered: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa)

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Tampa has not yet re-signed veteran Ndamukong Suh, meaning they want to get younger on the defensive line. 350-pound Vita Vea has been a one-man wrecking crew at nose tackle since entering the league in 2018, but he needs a running mate in the trenches. Wyatt differs from Vea with much more lateral quickness and mobility. (Also considered: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington)

28. Green Bay Packers – Bernhard Raimann, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay once and for all. He is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, but on the other hand, the roster has taken a step back this offseason. Six picks earlier, they landed Treylon Burks as a new weapon, so now it’s time to add some protection. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are dependable on the left side of the offensive line, but the right side has been too inconsistent. Raimann, a former tight end, is a great long-term option at right tackle. (Also considered: Boye Mafe, DE, Minnesota)

29. Kansas City Chiefs – Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Florida
Just like the Packers, Kansas City has also lost several key members of their roster this offseason. Although they need a receiver to replace Tyreek Hill, general manager Brett Veach won’t force the issue if there isn’t one available. Elam brings impressive size and physicality to the cornerback position, which the Chiefs coveted from Charvarius Ward before his departure last month. (Also considered: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State)

30. Kansas City Chiefs – David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
Ojabo could have gone in the top-10 if he hadn’t suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his Pro Day. Even if he cannot play right away, the Chiefs can afford to wait. He could be the steal of the first round, assuming he thrives in the NFL as he did for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Placing Ojabo alongside Frank Clark and Chris Jones will elevate this defense tremendously. (Also considered: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan)

31. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyler Gordon, Cornerback, Washington
Two Washington cornerbacks go in the first round! Gordon did not receive the same recognition as his teammate Trent McDuffie, but he has the raw athleticism to develop into a starter. Cincinnati’s two greatest needs were on full display for the world to see in the Super Bowl, at both offensive line and cornerback. The Bengals spent a ton of money improving the line, but cannot go another year with Eli Apple starting in the secondary. (Also considered: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa)

32. Detroit Lions – Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia
The Lions started off this mock draft by shocking the world with Malik Willis, and now they close it out with one of the draft’s top defenders. Dean played a critical leadership role at the center of the defense in Georgia’s title run. He is a top-10 caliber player, but linebackers are often overlooked for linemen or skill positions in that area of the draft. Dan Campbell will love to have Dean anchoring his defense. (Also considered: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan)

2021 NFL Mock Draft

Millions are watching. Waiting. Anticipating. Speculating. Booing. Cheering. One decision can change the spirit of an entire city. Strategy and unpredictability encapsulate the night. Lifelong dreams are achieved. Of course, for football executives, prospects, and fans, this all refers to the first night of the NFL Draft.

Nothing changes the trajectory of a team quite like draft night. With five quarterbacks expected to be taken in the top-10 picks, this notion is especially true. Some teams may make a luxury pick. Others must manage their roster’s needs. Thursday will be filled with twists and turns, all while shaping the league’s future.

Here’s how Round 1 could play out:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This is a no-brainer, as Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect in years. NFL Network reported that he is already learning the team’s playbook. His unique combination of height, athleticism, decision-making, and accuracy can transform his new team. New head coach Urban Meyer will bring out the best in Lawrence.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets moved on from Sam Darnold and are now counting on Wilson to navigate the team. After an explosive pro day by Wilson, this pick is pretty set in stone. He is the most dynamic quarterback in this year’s draft, but will still need the proper weapons and protection to succeed in a challenging AFC East.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU via MIA): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan has proven time and time again that he has a type at the quarterback position (see: Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Ryan). After moving up from pick 12 to 3, the Niners take the quarterback that fits the Shanahan offense best. Sure, NDSU’s Trey Lance and Ohio State’s Justin Fields may have a higher ceiling, but Jones also had a great season at Alabama on the way to a National Championship. Jones showcased strong awareness and pocket presence all season.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Falcons’ pick will shape the direction of the first round. They could pick Matt Ryan’s successor here, but they recently restructured his contract. Instead, they decide to strengthen their receiving corps alongside Julio Jones (?) and Calvin Ridley. This is an especially important decision with Jones reportedly on the trade block. Pitts is a rare talent at tight end that can extend an offense to new heights.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The main priority for the Bengals is improving the offensive line, but Chase was Joe Burrow’s top target in college. Their familiarity and proven success on the field can guide this difficult decision. The team lost longtime star receiver A.J. Green in free agency and must replace him. In the end, the Bengals pass on Oregon tackle Penei Sewell for Chase’s impressive speed and size.

6. Miami Dolphins (from PHI): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins would have loved to land Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase at this pick, but Smith is a great addition as well. Despite concerns about his size, Smith had a historic season at Alabama and was the Heisman Trophy winner. His quickness and precise route-running will be utilized well with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leading the offense.

7. Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
New head coach Dan Campbell preached toughness and passion in his introductory press conference in January. The Lions are in the process of rebuilding a roster with needs across the board. In this case, they go with the best available player. Sewell, the best tackle prospect in several years, will be an elite pass protector for Jared Goff.

8. (MOCK TRADE) New England Patriots (from CAR): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Mock Trade: Patriots send picks #15, #120, and CB Stephon Gilmore to Panthers for #8
After a disappointing 2020 season, Bill Belichick paid many top-tier free agents and holds a much higher draft pick than in recent years. For the Patriots, if there was ever a year to identify and trade up for your quarterback of the future, this would be the one. Fields has ties with Cam Newton and can develop under him for a season, which would be a small move to develop his promising skillset.

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
General manager George Paton recently indicated that the team will be looking for competition with Drew Lock at the quarterback position, so they brought in Teddy Bridgewater via trade. However, that cannot stop them from developing their quarterback of the future. Ultimately, Lance’s playmaking ability will make up for his lack of quality and quantity of experience at NDSU. His incredibly high NFL ceiling is often compared to that of Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Cowboys have shared clips of their pre-draft interviews on social media. One of which was Horn’s, where he confidently described why he was the draft’s number-one cornerback to Stephen and Jerry Jones. His character and confidence are a perfect fit for the team and their culture. Most evaluators consider Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II to be the better cornerback, but Horn brings tremendous physicality to a position of need for Dallas.

11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
General manager Dave Gettleman added Kenny Golladay in free agency, but he needs to continue to improve the receiving corps to put Daniel Jones in a position to win games. Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater will be heavily considered at this pick, but Waddle’s playmaking ability after the catch is unmatched in this draft.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from SF via MIA): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Historically, the Eagles have not selected pass-catchers in consecutive drafts. Although finding weapons for Jalen Hurts is an area of need, it would be inexcusable to pass on Surtain in this spot. Pairing Surtain with veteran Darius Slay would instantly improve a secondary that has to face Dallas’ explosive offense twice a year. His anticipation and ball skills stand out among many other top corners in the draft.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers struck gold with Justin Herbert in last year’s draft, but were lucky to keep him healthy with such an underwhelming offensive line. The Bengals were in a similar situation, but it did not turn out as great for Joe Burrow (torn ACL). Under new head coach Brandon Staley, the Chargers have a chance to be fringe contenders, contingent on Herbert’s availability. Slater’s versatility will translate well to the NFL.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
If Darrisaw wasn’t available, the Vikings could look to add to a depleted pass rush. However, the team lost tackle Riley Reiff to the Bengals in free agency and must prioritize protecting Kirk Cousins with Darrisaw’s athleticism. He is an elite run blocker as well, which will benefit Dalvin Cook significantly.

15. (MOCK TRADE) Carolina Panthers (from NE): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Mock Trade: Patriots send picks #15, #120, and CB Stephon Gilmore to Panthers for #8
Sam Darnold is on his way to Charlotte with the hope that he outperforms Teddy Bridgewater’s 2020 numbers. The team only selected defensive players in the 2020 draft, but the departure of veteran tackle Russell Okung leaves a big hole on the offensive line. In this mock trade, the Panthers move back and are still able to address their top need. Vera-Tucker can play both tackle and guard for Matt Rhule’s offense.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Now without Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick, the Cardinals must cement the cornerback position for the future. They could consider Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley in this spot, but his back injury history makes him a risky pick. Newsome is a good leader for the team’s young secondary. His coverage skills will set Vance Joseph’s defense up for immediate success in a tough NFC West.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Throughout their time in Vegas, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have been known to take players from big-name schools. Enter Micah Parsons. If the Raiders can get past the character concerns that have been brought up during the draft process, they are getting a top-five talent. Parsons’ blazing speed and elite tackling ability will instantly improve a defense coming off a lackluster 2020 season.

18. Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
Successful management in recent years has given the Dolphins the luxury of four picks in the top-50 this year. First, they addressed a need at receiver. Now, they land the draft’s best pass rusher. Paye came to the United States from Guinea when he was six months old, making for one of the most interesting player backgrounds in the draft. As an edge rusher, his quick first step off the line of scrimmage poses a threat to offenses.

19. Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Washington has drastically improved their front-seven in the early rounds of recent drafts (see: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Chase Young), but they have yet to find a dynamic middle linebacker. Owusu-Koramoah is one of the most versatile players in the entire draft, as he can extend out to safety in certain sets. In an NFC East that is once again up for grabs, Washington is sure to have the division’s top defense come September.

20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Bears barely made the playoffs last season with Mitchell Trubisky. Ultimately, it cost them a realistic chance at drafting his replacement. As a result, 33-year-old Andy Dalton is expected to start in September. They have to get him some protection. Starting right tackle Bobby Massie is no longer in the equation. Jenkins’ main experience at Oklahoma State was at right tackle, where he was highly productive. He could be a great successor to Massie.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Colts benefited significantly from Carson Wentz’s disastrous season last year, as they acquired him at a low cost if he plays well. However, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes Philadelphia did. Wentz was sacked a career-high 50 times despite only playing in 12 games last season. After longtime blindside tackle Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement, Cosmi can immediately step in to protect Indy’s new franchise QB.

22. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
General manager Jon Robinson got the chance to observe Bateman firsthand at his pro day a few weeks ago. The team lost Corey Davis to the Jets in free agency and released Adam Humphries, creating a need at the position. Bateman is talented enough to go much higher in this draft, though the many other top receivers will prevent that from happening. He is everything the Titans need opposite A.J. Brown and is sure to have some highlight plays along the way.

23. New York Jets (from SEA): Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
Phillips’ extensive injury history, particularly involving concussions, holds him back from being a top pick. He could be well worth the risk for Robert Saleh and his new defense. Phillips is one of the best edge rushers in this class and will fit will in an already talented front-seven. This is a great scenario for the Jets with their second first-rounder.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers will be watching closely when the Dolphins pick at #18 and the Jets pick at #23, as both teams must address running back at some point in this draft. As a result, this makes Pittsburgh a potential trade-up candidate. In this case, Harris is available for the team to replace James Conner. Harris played a pivotal role in Alabama’s title run last season, both as a rushing and receiving threat.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR): Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
After taking Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars shift their focus to the secondary in back-to-back first rounds. The team took Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson ninth overall in 2020 and can now add Moehrig with the pick they acquired in the Jalen Ramsey trade. Moehrig brings great awareness and presence in both the run and pass game.

26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Originally, the Browns had a glaring need at edge rusher opposite Myles Garrett entering this draft. They temporarily addressed it two weeks ago by signing Jadeveon Clowney. Collins’ skillset precisely fits what Cleveland is looking for to further improve the defense. Not only can he play edge rusher at times, but he provides the pass coverage abilities needed at middle linebacker.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
The Ravens enter the draft with receiver, edge rusher, and offensive line being their most critical needs. With two first-round picks, they can fill two of those gaps early on in the draft. They will be ecstatic to see Oweh be available, as the Ravens are known for benefiting from the best available players falling. His speed and overall upside fit Baltimore’s style of play defensively.

28. New Orleans Saints: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Top corner Marshon Lattimore’s status is uncertain and the team lacks much depth behind him. Their chances of beating Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in both regular season matchups are much slimmer this year, but improving the secondary will put them on a better track. Farley’s stock dropped when he recently had a medical procedure on his back. However, his success at Virginia Tech will instantly translate to the NFL if he stays healthy. His size will be a threat in stopping opposing offenses.

29. Green Bay Packers: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
It’s no secret that Aaron Rodgers is unhappy with how the Packers have treated him in recent years. The team shockingly moved up to select quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last year. In return, Rodgers went and won league MVP. If they are looking to please him with this year’s draft class, they will take a wide receiver first. In this case, Moore has risen up draft boards in the last month and is the best available fit at the position in Green Bay.

30. Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The Bills have only minor needs on each side of the ball, including running back. However, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss do not have the same explosiveness as some of their fellow offensive skill players. Etienne’s range of skills fit well in Buffalo’s backfield. He could be the factor that puts in Buffalo over the top in a competitive AFC East.

31. Baltimore Ravens (from KC): Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
The Ravens moved tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs just days before the draft. They acquired the #31 pick, among others. After addressing their need at edge rusher a few picks earlier, they can add a tall, physical receiver in Marshall. Led by Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, and Marshall, this receiving corps is much improved from last season.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
The Buccaneers are a trade-back candidate, but it is likely that several quality edge rushers will be available at the end of the first round. Jason Pierre-Paul could depart next free agency cycle, so Ojulari would have a year to develop before replacing him in the starting lineup. This is a luxury, best-available player pick for a team that has very few needs on both sides of the ball. He is a talented pass rusher with a lot of potential for growth.