2023 NFL Mock Draft 5.0

1. Panthers- Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Leave it to the Panthers to trade the farm for a guy smaller than Kyler Murray, and to leak their interest in him so much that there's very little suspense or excitement going into draft day. There's still time to hope for some craziness tonight, but if the expected happens, I'll still gladly root for my fellow short king.

2. Texans- Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech

As we all know, the Texans have proven to be a rather incompetent franchise in recent years, and this draft is setting up to be no different for them. Rather than take the QB2 of this class, who many would argue should have gone 1st overall, supposedly they aren't sold on any of the QBs in this class not named Young. That's already bad enough in itself, but what's worse is that instead of taking arguably the best edge-rusher in this class in Anderson, they're probably going to take the more unproven player in Wilson instead. Even though Anderson is clearly the better pick, I could see them going with Wilson since he has the length that their HC prefers in his edge-rushers, they're one of the few teams to have cleared Wilson medically, and their GM did something similar last year when he took the athletic and injury-prone Stingley over the safer pick in Gardner. There are also some rumors that the Texans could take Levis here, which I could see them being dumb enough to do, but I think it's likelier that they take whoever they think is the best pass-rusher here and then use the 12th pick to get their QB.

3. (Trade from Cardinals to Titans)- C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Even though all the intrigue tonight starts with what the Texans will do, I'm personally more interested to see what happens with the Cardinals' pick. Because even though they've been quite open about wanting to trade down, supposedly not many teams are interested in paying the required cost. And if they do stay put, rumor has it that they could do something crazy like take Johnson Jr here. However, I'm still predicting them to take a slight discount to trade down, since they're supposedly "desperate" to move down, and they simply have too many needs to fill to stay put here.

All the rumors this week point to the Titans trading for this pick, and even though I could easily see them trading down instead to address all of their needs, this trade does make sense for several reasons. The first is that the Tannehill is on the last year of his deal, and the Titans are rumored to have lost faith in Willis, so they do need to find his replacement sooner rather than later. The second is that they supposedly love Stroud and have him as their QB1, so it would make sense for them to make this trade to avoid their divisional rival in the Colts getting him. The third is that the Titans' HC is from Ohio State, and is very close with Ryan Day, so he should have a positive outlook on Stroud despite his low S2 score. The final reason this deal makes sense, is because the Cardinals' new GM was hired from the Titans, so the familiarity between them is already there, which establishes a level of trust between them similar to how the Bears' GM was more comfortable taking our deal than waiting on the Texans because he trusted Fitterer more.

4. Colts- Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

I really hope the Titans, or any team for that matter, do end up trading with the Cardinals, because I can almost guarantee that Stroud would be the pick here if he made it this far, and the Colts do not deserve that type of luck. However, if the Colts miss out on the top two QBs, it really is a toss-up what they'll do here. They are rumored to like Levis over Richardson due to him being more NFL-ready, and I will concede that Levis seems to fit their preferred type better than any QB in this class, but I have my reasons to doubt this rumor. The first is that the Colts are in no shape to contend anytime soon, so Levis being ready to start Day 1 won't necessarily help them win more games. The second is that the Colts front office is historically very good at keeping their draft plans a secret, so I find it hard to believe that they would leak their interest in Levis given how the Texans could easily draft him knowing they can't count on him falling to 12, or the Titans could trade up to get him. With all that being said, I still wouldn't be surprised to see Levis be the pick here, but I think Richardson makes more sense for them because their GM is rumored to love his traits, he has the arm strength and mobility to excel in Steichen's offense, and he can sit for a year or two with Minshew as their bridge QB until he's developed enough to start.

5. Seahawks- Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama

This is one of the picks that the Seahawks received from the Broncos in the Wilson trade.

The Seahawks desperately need to pick the best defensive player available if they ever want to recreate their Legion of Boom, so getting arguably the best edge-rusher in the class here makes sense for them. Given Seattle's history with taking on troubled players, this would also be a good fit for Carter, but their front office has put more of an emphasis on character in recent years, and they don't really need an interior D-lineman after signing Jones, so it would make more sense to address their edge defense instead.

6. Lions- Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

This is one of the picks that the Lions received from the Rams in the Stafford trade.

The Lions did a great job of using Free Agency to fill most of their defensive needs, however one thing they still need is a true playmaker in the middle of their D-line, and getting a talent like Carter here is just what they need. While it's tough to predict whether the Lions would take a chance on a guy with character concerns like Carter, he does fill a huge a need for them, and their GM did say that he came away "feeling better" about Carter after their last meeting.

7. Raiders- Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

A lot of people believe that the Raiders will trade-up for a QB, but considering their plethora of needs on defense, paired with the fact that they have a solid starter in Jimmy G, and I think it's more likely that they stay put here. So instead, it would make sense for them to get the best CB in the class here to help them defend against the likes of Mahomes and Herbert.

8. (Trade from Falcons to Texans)- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Supposedly the Falcons have already called teams below them about a trade down, so considering they have several needs to fill, and the best defensive players are already off the board, it would make sense for them to move down here.

There is simply no way the Texans can come out of this draft without their franchise QB. Considering their GM is already on the hot seat for an organization that has fired three coaches in three years, he cannot expect Davis Mills or any player picked outside of the 1st round to save his job. With that in mind, I could see them trading up for whichever of the top 4 QBs fall, and Levis makes sense for them since he already has familiarity with their OC's system. You might be wondering why the Texans didn't just stay at their natural pick of 12 and let Levis fall to them, which could happen, but I think it's likelier that they move up a few picks to prevent a lurking team like the Vikings trading up for him before their pick.

9. Bears- Paris Johnson Jr, OT, Ohio State

I could see the Bears trading down here if none of the players they like fall to them, but supposedly their GM is "zeroing in" on Johnson Jr, which makes sense considering they need to surround Fields with as much protection as possible, and Johnson's versatility as well as experience playing with Fields should make him a good fit for them.

10. Eagles- Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia

This is one of the picks that the Saints sent to the Eagles as part of their trade-up last year.

I could easily see the Eagles try to trade down, but supposedly they "love" Smith, so it could be hard for them to pass on him here.

11. (Trade from Titans to Cardinals)- Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

If the Cardinals were able to orchestrate a successful trade down, there are a number of options that they could go with this pick. However, I think Gonzalez represents the best value since some regard him to be the best CB in this class, and the Cardinals are in desperate need of a new CB1 after losing their two best CBs in Free Agency.

12. (Trade from Texans to Falcons)- Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa

This is the pick that the Browns sent to the Texans as part of their trade for Watson, and I am projecting them to trade it to the Falcons as part of their trade-up for Levis.

The Falcons have tried and failed to find a franchise edge-rusher for as long as I can remember, so getting the next best one here is a must for them.

13. Packers- Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson

This is the pick that the Jets swapped with the Packers as part of the Rodgers trade.

I have to admit that I was originally going to predict the Packers to draft either Branch or Mayer, since S and TE are arguably their two biggest needs, until I did some research, and learned that every player drafted by their GM in the first 2 rounds of the draft has had a Raw Athletic Score (RAS) of at least 8.63. Branch's and Mayer's scores fall well below that, so unless their GM is willing to give up his love for athletes, I could see them addressing a different position here instead. Considering that Rashaan Gary is their only reliable pass-rusher, and he is not only coming off a season-ending injury but is also going into a contract year, it would make sense for them to get another edge-rusher, especially since Murphy has the height and RAS that they desire.

14. (Trade from Patriots to Steelers)- Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

In the past 23 drafts, no team has executed a draft day trade more than the Patriots, and that's mainly due to Belichick's love for trading down, so I could see them doing so again here.

Supposedly the Steelers are looking to trade up for one of the top OTs to help protect Pickett, to the point where they've already discussed a trade with the Bears and Titans. However, the Bears obviously wouldn't trade down if they themselves want an OT, and in this scenario the Titans traded up. So, the Steelers do the next best thing and trade up a few spots with the Patriots, which allows them to jump other OT-needy teams like the Commanders and Jets for their new franchise LT.

15. Jets- Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

This is the pick that the Packers swapped with the Jets as part of the Rodgers trade.

The Jets don't have many needs, however they do have a lot of question marks on their O-line due to injury and sub-par play, so it would make sense to get a versatile O-lineman like Skoronski here to be a plug-and-play starter wherever he's needed to protect Rodgers.

16. Commanders- Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

The Commanders would love to get an O-lineman here to help protect whoever their starting QB ends up being next year, but unfortunately for them the best ones have already been taken. So instead of reaching for that position, they should instead address the other side of the ball. Their defense rarely ever plays up to their potential, and a lot of that has to due with their mediocre secondary, so getting a versatile defender like Branch here makes sense for them. It also doesn't hurt that they typically love to draft players from Alabama.

17. (Trade from Steelers to Patriots)- Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State

The Patriots' 3 biggest needs are arguably OT, WR, and CB. Considering the two best OTs have already been taken, this will pick would most likely be one of the other positions, and I gave the edge to CB since Belichick historically struggles at drafting WRs. While they do have some solid talent at CB, unfortunately all of them are undersized and better suited in the slot, so getting a tall CB1 like Porter Jr makes sense for them.

18. Lions- Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Even though the Lions did sign some quality DBs in Free Agency, most of them are only on 1-year deals, and they just traded Okudah to the Falcons, so getting the next best CB here makes sense for them.

19. Buccaneers- Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Considering the Bucs' O-line was a big reason why their offense sucked last year, and they only got worse when their starting LT retired, it would make sense for them to get the next best O-lineman here to give whoever their starting QB is next year the best chance of succeeding. Wright especially makes sense for them since he can compete for either of the starting OT spots, so they could keep him at RT and transition Wirfs to LT if necessary.

20. (Trade from Seahawks to Giants)- Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Traditionally the Seahawks love to trade down, especially in the 1st round, so I could see them doing so again here after staying put with their top 5 pick.

The Giants showed that they're willing to be aggressive in order to build a contender around Jones by trading for Waller, and considering their GM came from the franchise that traded a 1st round pick for Diggs, I could see them trading up above the other WR-needy teams to get whoever they deem to be the best WR in this class. While Flowers isn't exactly the true WR1 they need, they do love drafting players from Boston College, and he would make a great deep threat to pair with Jones' arm.

Dolphins (Forfeited)

This is the pick that was taken away from the Dolphins due to their owner's tampering with Brady and Payton.

21. Chargers- Dalton Kincaid, TE, Notre Dame

The Chargers really could have used a deep threat like Flowers as another weapon for Herbert, but unfortunately for them the Giants wanted him more. So, instead of reaching for a different WR from this weak class, I could see them getting Herbert a different type of weapon instead. While Everett has been a solid TE for them, he doesn't provide the upside of a true TE1 like Kincaid would, and it doesn't help that this is the last year of his deal, so they could let him leave in Free Agency next year, or cut him now to save money. Even though Mayer is typically seen as the TE1 of this class, I could see the Chargers prioritizing Kincaid instead because of his receiving ability and similarity to Moore's former TE in Schultz.

22. Ravens- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Even though the Ravens are typically a run-first team, and did just sign OBJ in Free Agency, they're trying to become a more balanced team by improving their passing attack, and can't rely on OBJ to stay healthy. With that being said, getting arguably the best WR in the class here would be a huge boost for their passing game, especially since none of their current receivers are suited to play in the slot.

23. (Trade from Vikings to Eagles)- Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Supposedly the Vikings are considering a trade-up for a QB, but I think they would only do that if one of the top 4 were to fall, and in this scenario none of them even make it out of the top 10. So, considering the best players at their positions of need (QB, CB, D-line) are off the board, paired with the fact that they don't have another pick until the 3rd round, and I could see them trading back here like they did last year.

Yes, I know that this is early for an RB, especially when the Eagles' run game practically carried them to the Super Bowl, but there are several reasons why this makes sense. The first is that Robinson is seen as a Barkley-esque talent, so he could very well end up being the BPA available here, and the Eagles don't have many pressing needs so they could afford a luxury pick like this. The second is that the Eagles' haven't had a true RB1 in a long time, especially since they just let their best RB in Sanders leave in Free Agency, and they can't expect Hurts to be their sole source of rushing yards. The final reason is that the Cowboys are rumored to be very interested in Robinson after cutting Zeke, so it would be in the Eagles' best interest to avoid having to play him twice a year by trading up for him here.

24. Jaguars- Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

The Jaguars have a solid CB1 in Campbell, but after cutting their other starting CB in Griffin, they could use some more help at the position.

25. (Trade from Giants to Seahawks)- Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

Considering the Seahawks' best LB is currently a half-retired Bobby Wagner, getting a versatile talent like Sanders here makes sense for them.

26. Cowboys- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

After trading for Cooks and Gilmore, the Cowboys surprisingly don't have many needs. However, after letting Schultz leave in Free Agency, they could use a new TE1, and getting arguably the best TE in the class here is good value for them.

27. Bills- Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

This pick makes sense for the Bills for several reasons. The first is that they just lost one of their starting LBs in Free Agency, and since their HC will be taking over defensive play-calling due to their DC retiring, it would be a good idea to get the next best LB here to avoid their defense regressing. But Campbell especially makes sense for them since he has gained a lot of Kuechly comparisons, and the Bills' GM was part of our front office when we drafted Kuechly.

28. Bengals- Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

While the Bengals could definitely use a true CB1, or even a TE here to replace Hurts, unfortunately for them the best ones have already been taken. So, considering they don't have many other needs, they could use a luxury pick on a talent like Gibbs here. He makes sense for them since some teams have him rated as the best RB in this class, so this would be good value here at the end of the 1st, and this would allow them to finally cut Mixon. Not only Gibbs be an upgrade as a receiver over Mixon, but getting out of Mixon's contract would also allow them to save money for Burrow and Chase's upcoming extensions.

29. Saints- Keion White, Edge, Georgia Tech

This is the pick that the 49ers sent to the Dolphins as part of their trade-up for Lance, who then traded it the Broncos for Chubb, who then traded it to the Saints for Payton.

Considering the Saints just lost Marcus Davenport in Free Agency and now are relying on an aging Cam Jordan as their sole source of pass-rush, it would make sense for them to get the next best edge-rusher here.

30. (Trade from Eagles to Vikings)- Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

Due to the fact that the Vikings refused to extend Cousins' contract and are letting him play out the last year of his deal, it seems very likely that they'll end up drafting his successor this year. However, in what round and who will they select has created much speculation. Some believe that the Vikings could trade up as high as the 2nd pick for Levis, while others think that the Vikings will just stay at 23 and pick Hooker. I do think that the Vikings would pounce on one of the top 4 QBs if they fell far enough, but unfortunately for them I don't see that happening. So, considering they only have 5 picks in this year's draft, it made more sense for them to trade back and still get Hooker, who can now sit and develop for a year before he's ready to start.

31. Chiefs- Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

While the Chiefs have plenty of receiving talent for Mahomes to work with, they did just lose their two best WRs in Juju and Hardman in Free Agency, so it would make sense to get him another weapon here. Supposedly the Chiefs are very high on Johnston since they want to get a big outside WR for Mahomes, so if they aren't able to swing a trade for Hopkins, I could see them taking Johnston here instead.

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