2023 NFL Mock Draft: Kevin Fielder’s Mock Draft 2.0
Mock Draft season is officially upon us.
There is no football to be played, no free agents to sign (yet), and there’s nothing else to talk about. As a result, you’ve likely read mock drafts from places you’ve never seen before.
In many ways, the mock draft is the perfect thought experiment for the NFL. Even if none of the mock drafts in February will be accurate, they still serve their purpose.
For this mock draft, we’ll be exploring scenarios. I do not hold a crystal ball, and I can’t tell you what a team is thinking about in their war room. As a result, we’ll be treating this as a way to explore what teams might get aggressive and what needs they might fill.
1. Indianapolis Colts (via Chicago): Kentucky QB Will Levis
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Trade details: Chicago trades 1.01 to Indianapolis for 1.04, 2.35, 2024 1st round pick, and 2024 3rd round pick
I don’t know if I love Will Levis, but I’m not an NFL general manager. Although the national opinions on Levis are split, NFL teams will likely fall in love with Levis. He has all the physical tools to be a superstar, but he’ll have to get more consistent.
Trading up for Levis is risky, but the Indianapolis Colts need to swing for the fences. With former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their next head coach, that risk comes in a quarterback with the physical skillsets to shine.
2. Houston Texans: Georgia DT Jalen Carter
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The Houston Texans need a quarterback, and this pick is the perfect spot to do it, but let’s go in a different direction. On the off-chance that the Texans don’t fall in love with any of the quarterbacks in this class, bolstering their defense is a sound strategy for this pick.
Jalen Carter is a disruptive interior defensive lineman with one of the highest upsides in the NFL Draft. He’ll also lock down the interior defensive lineman position for the foreseeable future for the Texans while providing new head coach DeMeco Ryans the elite talent that’s hard to pass up.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Alabama EDGE Will Anderson
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The Arizona Cardinals recently hired Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their head coach, which offers a clearer sign of their defensive philosophy.
Will Anderson is a no-brainer pick to fit Gannon’s scheme. He’s an elite pass rusher who can disrupt quarterbacks in multiple ways and create havoc in the backfield. Although the Cardinals have addressed pass rusher in last year’s draft, the likes of Myjai Sanders shouldn’t prevent them from taking a high-end pass rusher like Anderson.
4. Chicago Bears (via Indianapolis): Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
Missing out on Will Anderson and Jalen Carter is a nightmare scenario for the Chicago Bears, but Tyree Wilson is still a good consolation prize.
Wilson might not have the same upside as Anderson, but his versatility and size are unique. He’ll need to clean up his pass rush moves and find different ways to win as an edge rusher, but there is a clear base to work with. For the Chicago Bears, Wilson could boost the pass rush potential of their defensive line.
5. Carolina Panthers (via Seattle): Alabama QB Bryce Young
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Trade Details: Seattle trades 1.05 to Carolina for 1.09, 3.93, 4.114, and a 2024 2nd-round pick
The Carolina Panthers would be licking their lips at this situation. Four picks down, one quarterback taken, and a team in Seattle who would be willing to trade down. The package to move up might be more expensive in reality, but this is a solid base.
Regardless, new Panthers head coach Frank Reich gets his man. Although Bryce Young is undersized, he’s a quick processor who fully understands how to play quarterback. Pairing him with Reich would allow Young to maximize his talents while limiting the challenges that being undersized brings.
6. Detroit Lions: Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
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The Detroit Lions need a cornerback. That hasn’t changed in the few weeks since their season ended, and it will not change until they add another defensive back.
Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez fills that need. Gonzalez is a lengthy corner who excels in press-man coverage because of it. Considered by many to be the best cornerback in the draft class, Gonzalez will immediately fill a significant hole in the Lions’ defense.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
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After choosing to part ways with long-time starting quarterback Derek Carr, the Las Vegas Raiders are back in the market for a starting quarterback. This position could be addressed via free agency or trade (Aaron Rodgers?), but finding a long-term option feels like a no-brainer.
C.J. Stroud enters the league ready to start from day one, allowing the Raiders to address the position. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Stroud has the prototypical size for a quarterback. He pairs that with great instincts and accuracy to be a franchise quarterback.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Georgia OT Broderick Jones
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A Georgia-born prospect to the Atlanta Falcons? Seems like a match made in heaven. Combine that with the Falcons’ need for offensive line help, and this pick seems like a no-brainer.
Drafting Broderick Jones is a two-fold move for the Falcons. Not only does it give the Falcons a young and potentially game-changing piece to their offensive line, but it also allows them to get out of Jake Matthew’s contract. Matthews is the highest-paid Falcon, but they could release him for just over $11 million in dead cap.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via Carolina): Alabama S Brian Branch
Sep 24, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) pursues Vanderbilt Commodores running back Ray Davis (2) during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Seahawks’ first draft pick will likely come on the defensive side of the ball. It was their weakest link last season, and adding young talent to the room should be a priority. Among the places the Seahawks could choose to address comes in the secondary, particularly at the nickel cornerback position.
Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant’s rookie seasons were impressive, but neither are nickel cornerbacks. Brian Branch would solve that need and maximize the role of Woolen and Bryant. He would also give the Seahawks a chess piece in the secondary, allowing defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt to move him across the field.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
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Despite making it to the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles still have to make decisions on the defensive side of the ball. Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are among their free agents on defense, and they likely can’t sign all of them.
Selecting Devon Witherspoon seems like a likely option with those pending free agents. Not only is he impressive in man coverage, but he’s tremendous when the ball is in the air, which separates him from other prospects. Selecting Witherspoon not only gives the Eagles a day-one starter but also allows them to solidify their cornerback room for the foreseeable future.
11. Tennessee Titans: Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski
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Can you name the starting left tackle of the Tennessee Titans? What about their starting left guard? If you said Dennis Daley and Aaron Brewer, you’d be correct.
Regardless of if you knew those names, there is no arguing that the Titans need an upgrade at both positions. While they can’t address both in this spot, they can go a long way in upgrading one spot. Questions have been raised about Peter Skoronski’s NFL fit, but it won’t matter if it’s tackle or guard for the Titans. Wherever he starts, he’s an immediate upgrade along their relatively weak offensive line.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Houston): Florida QB Anthony Richardson
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Trade details: Houston trades 1.12 to Tampa Bay for 1.19, 3.82, and a 2024 1st round pick
Anthony Richardson is an interesting case study for the NFL Draft. Some believe he could go in the top five, while others think he will fall down the draft board. Ultimately, Richardson has the highest upside of any draft prospect but will have to find a way to put it all together at the next level.
In this mock, Richardson’s fall is ended by a team with a unique quarterback situation: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady’s retirement doesn’t come as a surprise, but it does make this situation real for Tampa Bay. They could choose a veteran option, but Richardson’s fall down the draft board creates an interesting scenario. The draft capital to move up might be too expensive for the Buccaneers, but it’s worth it for a talent like Richardson.
13. New York Jets: Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.
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The New York Jets have put a lot of focus on their offensive line, but the job isn’t done yet. Although Alijah Vera-Tucker has shown promise at guard, the injury history of Mekhi Becton is concerning. Even if Becton does return and stays healthy, their left tackle options aren’t inspiring.
Enter Paris Johnson, Jr. The former Ohio State Buckeye offers tackle and guard versatility but best projects as a left tackle in the NFL. He’ll probably need more experience at left tackle, but his size and athleticism offer plenty of promise.
14. New England Patriots: Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy
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The New England Patriots have Matthew Judon, so taking another pass rusher might not be an immediate need. Still, Bill Belichick hasn’t been afraid to take players that fit his scheme over needs.
Myles Murphy is a perfect example of this. Murphy is a rare combination of athletic traits and size. Although he’s not a super bendy player, he’s an edge rusher that can fit in any front, allowing him to find a lot of roles in the NFL.
15. Green Bay Packers: Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
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The Green Bay Packers do not have many good pass-catchers. While Christian Watson’s rookie year shows someone the Packers can build around, you aren’t going to win with just one good weapon.
Michael Mayer will help regardless of who the quarterback is. The Notre Dame tight end is bringing prototypical tight ends back. He’s an impact in the blocking game and can be a mismatch across the middle of the field. Although he’s not particularly dynamic, his 6-foot-4 frame means he doesn’t have to be.
16. Washington Commanders: Penn State CB Joey Porter, Jr.
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The Washington Commanders need another cornerback, point blank. While the Commanders could address that position in different ways, addressing it earlier is better for the Commanders.
Joey Porter Jr. is a perfect way to address the position. He’s a physical monster with the length to play man coverage as an outside corner. He’d start immediately for the Commanders on the boundary and fill a huge need on their defense.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Florida OG O'Cyrus Torrence
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The Pittsburgh Steelers could go a lot of ways with this pick. Upgrades at cornerback and wide receiver are needed, but the Steelers should continue to fortify their offensive line.
O’Cyrus Torrence is an immediate upgrade over Kevin Dotson and would start immediately. His ability to dominate in the run game would help a team that struggled against the run, while he would also help protect Kenny Pickett along the interior of the line.
18. Detroit Lions: USC WR Jordan Addison
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The Detroit Lions could go Bryan Bresee here, but let’s look at the offense. D.J. Chark is an unrestricted free agent and will have a long list of suitors when he hits the open market. Chark’s departure would leave Josh Reynolds as their second wide receiver, which is hardly inspiring.
Jordan Addison is a polished wide receiver with positional versatility and polished route running. Those two things make Addison an NFL-ready wide receiver who would be a good fit next to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
19. Houston Texans (via Tampa Bay): TCU WR Quentin Johnston
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Quentin Johnston is a dude. At 6-foot-4, he has more than ample size for the position, and he combines that size with an ability to make impressive catches and get open.
Even though the Texans did not select a quarterback with their first pick, getting a potential alpha at wide receiver is critical. Brandin Cooks is a looming departure, meaning the Texans should make this move come through the NFL Draft.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Clemson DT Bryan Bresee
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After going with a defensive back with their first draft pick, the Seattle Seahawks choose to continue upgrading their defense with Clemson’s Bryan Bresee.
Shelby Harris and Al Woods are over 30 years old, creating a need for the Seahawks. Although Bresee has some durability concerns, limiting his playing time over the years, he would add an explosive option to the Seahawks’ defensive line.
21. Miami Dolphins: Forfeited
The Miami Dolphins forfeited their draft pick after an NFL investigation revealed that the team violated the league’s policies regarding tampering.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Boston College WR Zay Flowers
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The Los Angeles Chargers need more explosiveness at wide receiver, and, to quote Lightning McQueen, “I am speed.” Flowers is one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft, allowing him to be a deep threat at the next level. His size is a concern, but the Chargers have plenty of size at the position with Mike Williams.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
The Baltimore Ravens need to stop neglecting the wide receiver position. Nothing against Rashod Bateman, but he’s a complimentary wide receiver in the NFL.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba battled a hamstring injury last season, but he’s an immediate contributor when healthy. He might be limited to the slot in the NFL, but he’s highly technical, allowing him to carve a role.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness
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The Minnesota Vikings have other needs, but this is a deep class at cornerback. While they could draft one in the first round, going best player available is a sound strategy for a defense with plenty of needs.
Lukas Van Ness is a versatile player who can play as both a 3-4 defensive end and linebacker. Van Ness’s best fit for the Vikings, though, will come as a defensive end, where he can utilize his power and a quick first step to create havoc. If you’re looking for a comparison, think of a Great Value brand Jared Allen.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: South Carolina CB Cam Smith
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have more questions than answers at cornerback outside of Tyson Campbell. Even though it’s a deep class, the Jaguars should do themselves a favor and select a cornerback who fits their scheme.
South Carolina’s Cam Smith is a scheme-versatile player, but his best fit might come in a zone-based scheme. Playing in a zone defense would allow Smith to use his aggressiveness wisely while maximizing his ability to make plays in coverage.
25. New York Giants: Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
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You can never have enough players who can pressure the quarterback. Last season, the New York Giants struggled to get many sacks, creating more pressure on their defensive backs.
While Nolan Smith isn’t fully developed as a pass rusher, being an impressive athlete at his size can’t be passed up. As he looks to get more consistent as a pass rusher, Smith can still make plays in the run game and coverage.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Georgia TE Darnell Washington
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Darnell Washington was built in a lab, and you can’t convince me otherwise. At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Washington looks more like a basketball player than he does a tight end. Regardless, he showcases a rare blend of blocking and pass-catching potential, allowing him to be a two-way player for the Cowboys.
Tight end may not be the most pressing need for the Cowboys, but the impending departure of Dalton Schultz opens up the position. Washington feels like a perfect replacement, especially with the Cowboys wanting to establish the run.
27. Buffalo Bills: Ohio State OT Dawand Jones
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Dawand Jones is built like a tree. He’s not like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, though. He’s more like a redwood. Standing at a whopping 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, Jones turned heads at the Senior Bowl. Whether it was him dominating position drills or having the longest wingspan in Senior Bowl history, Jones looked like a literal monster.
That strong showing in Mobile will inevitably push Jones into the first round because teams can’t pass that up. The Buffalo Bills seem like a fit here because it would allow Spencer Brown to start at left tackle.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison
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The Cincinnati Bengals still need an offensive tackle. Although they addressed the position last season with La’el Collins, the work shouldn’t be done.
After the disappointment of last season’s AFC Championship Game, the Bengals can address the offensive line in the first round. In this case, Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison is a developmental option who can become a consistent part of their ongoing offensive line rebuild.
29. New Orleans Saints: WR Jalin Hyatt
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Jalin Hyatt falling to the bottom of the first round may come as a surprise, but it seems possible with his limited route tree and production. Still, Hyatt will likely go in the first round because you can’t teach the speed he brings onto the football field.
The New Orleans Saints need additional wide receivers, especially with the uncertainty around Michael Thomas. Jalin Hyatt would add an extra level of explosiveness to their offense.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: LSU EDGE BJ Ojulari
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The Philadelphia Eagles have two good edge rushers in Hasson Reddick and Josh Sweat, but you can never have enough people to create pressure. BJ Ojulari has size concerns, but he’s an explosive pass rusher who can play immediately. Even if he’s limited to a pass-rushing role in the NFL, it’s hard to argue with his upside.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: North Carolina WR Josh Downs
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We can’t keep letting the Kansas City Chiefs get away with this. After winning the Super Bowl, the Chiefs get a dynamic wide receiver at the end of the first round. JuJu Smith-Schuster and MeCole Hardman are free agents, meaning the Chiefs might have to do another retool of the position.
Downs might be undersized, but his dynamism will help him shoot up draft boards. In this case, he lands in a perfect spot with Kansas City, who can mold him into the player they want him to be.