2023 NFL mock draft: Post-free agency 1st-round projections feature QB movement in top 3

We’re just about one month away from the 2023 NFL draft, and we’re in the thick of the pre-draft process. We’ve already seen a shakeup at the top of the draft with the Chicago Bears sending the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers, and there could be more trades on the way for teams desperate to land a quarterback.

With the first wave of NFL free agency in the books, we’re unveiling our second NFL Wires mock draft, which features plenty of quarterback movement inside the top seven, including a trade at No. 3 overall.

Our NFL Wire editors made their selections for the first round of the draft following the first couple of weeks of free agency:

1. Carolina Panthers (from CHI): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

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Since our last mock draft, the tide—ironically enough—has turned away from Bryce Young and towards Stroud.The Ohio State University star has become the odds-on favorite since Carolina acquired the No. 1 overall selection from the Chicago Bears two weeks ago—and for good reason. In what appears to be a three-horse race for the top pick, Stroud is seemingly the safest investment when also considering Young and Anthony Richardson. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound passer chucks the prettiest ball of the bunch, knows how to throw his targets open and walked away from Columbus with an elite level of production in his two years as a starter. He also left his pro day having made quite an impression on the Panthers, who sent a whopping 14 representatives to the event. – Anthony Rizzuti, Panthers Wire

2. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

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The Texans go with Young, who has the Alabama connection and has also shown the ability to do more with less. Although 5-10, 204 pounds, Young presumably has the leadership skills to lead Houston’s offense and be the face of the franchise. The former 2021 Heisman Trophy winner will be coming into a better situation as Houston’s offensive line is fortified for 2023, and Young will have weapons in receivers Robert Woods, Nico Collins, John Metchie, and tight end Dalton Schultz. Young also has the benefit of working with Bobby Slowik, who was part of the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive brain trust that allowed Brock Purdy to excel. Mark Lane, Texans Wire

3. Indianapolis Colts (from ARI): QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

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Trade details:

  • Cardinals receive: Nos. 4, 79, C Ryan Kelly

  • Colts receive: No. 3

In the first edition of this mock draft (pre-free agency), we had the Colts staying put at No. 4. That’s ultimately what they likely will do, but I wanted to see what it felt like to trade up one spot to secure a quarterback after both C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young were selected. Keeping the second-round pick (No. 35) is imperative and could be a deal-breaker for both sides, but the addition of Kelly in the trade may give the Cardinals an extra bump.

The pick essentially comes down to Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis. Both players check several boxes for the Colts while presenting challenges in development. However, we’re swinging for upside here. Richardson’s fit in Shane Steichen’s offense could eventually be what we saw with Jalen Hurts in 2022 and some. Considering Richardson’s elite arm strength, he has the upside to be a dominant dual-threat option at quarterback. His rushing ability gives him a floor to work with in an RPO-based scheme and could already give a Justin Fields level of production from the jump. Learning to be more consistent with his lower-body mechanics and adjusting velocity on touch throws are major keys in his development. The Colts need a new franchise quarterback, and Richardson has the highest upside in this class to become elite. – Kevin Hickey, Colts Wire

4. Arizona Cardinals (from IND): EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

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Perhaps the Cardinals could get more for moving back a pick, and there was technically another offer that would have netted a cornerback and a second-round pick, but that would have likely meant missing out on the best player in the draft. With this deal, the Cardinals fill their center position with a player that Arizona’s head coach and offensive line coach know, they pick up an extra Day 2 pick and still get the player they covet.

Anderson, after a 17.5-sack season in 2021, still hit double digits last season when every team focused on him. He has the length and athleticism. He plays with a high motor, has good football IQ, is a team player and had elite production against the best competition in college football. He feels like a can’t-miss player who has the potential to be absolutely special as a pass rusher. – Jess Root, Cards Wire

5. Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

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The Seahawks are clearly serious about overhauling their interior defensive line rotation this offseason. So far they have jettisoned all three 2022 interior starters, allowing Poona Ford to test the free agent market and releasing both Shelby Harris and Al Woods. They have added Dre’Mont Jones and brought Jarran Reed back, but they still need another big piece up front and Jalen Carter is far and away the best in this class. It’s a risk but the combination of Carter’s overwhelming potential and Seattle’s need is too much to resist. – Tim Weaver, Seahawks Wire

6. Detroit Lions (from LAR): DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

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Trade attempts in both directions just didn’t work out, so the Lions opt to roll with a long-term piece at a premium position in Wilson. His length and physical presence give the Lions a bookend to Aidan Hutchinson who can win both inside and outside. Wilson is coming off a foot injury that could slow his offseason, but the Lions have vets Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara to bridge the gap while the Red Raiders standout gets up to NFL speed. – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

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The Raiders get lucky here as Levis falls to them at No. 7. While Levis is an older QB prospect, he could sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo for a year and learn the offense. Levis has an outstanding arm and is mobile enough to keep defenses honest. However, he really needs to improve his accuracy and feel in the pocket in order to take the next step as a passer. If he can do that, Levis has Matthew Stafford upside in Las Vegas. – Marcus Mosher, Raiders Wire

8. Atlanta Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

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While TCU WR Quentin Johnston was an option here, the Falcons have spent top-10 picks on skill position players in each of the last two drafts. Instead, the team continues to revamp its defensive secondary by adding Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez to a group that features A.J. Terrell, Jessie Bates III, Richie Grant and Mike Hughes. With the top edge prospects off the board and no first-round QB prospects remaining, Gonzalez isn’t a bad consolation prize for what should be an improved Atlanta defense this season. Matt Urben, Falcons Wire

9. Chicago Bears (from CAR): OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

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The Bears have a glaring hole at right tackle, and after not addressing the position in free agency, it feels like a safe bet that Chicago will draft a tackle with one of their first selections. In our last mock, I had the Bears taking Paris Johnson Jr., so I’m changing things up here with Skoronski at No. 9. Skoronski would be an immediate upgrade for the Bears, although there is concern about his arm length as a tackle at the NFL level. GM Ryan Poles could certainly look to trade back again in the first round – if one of his top players isn’t on the board – and load up on some additional picks in the process. But in a year where protecting Justin Fields is paramount, drafting Skoronski – or any tackle – would be a solid move by Chicago. Alyssa Barbieri, Bears Wire

10. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO): RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

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The Eagles had the All-American running back in for a Top 30 pre draft visit, and he’s tantalizing enough to make GM Howie Roseman pull the trigger on a huge draft night selection.  Philadelphia has two first round picks and a Super Bowl roster that could take the next step with a dynamic running back on a rookie deal.  Robinson logged 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground last season for the Longhorns  while breaking 91 tackles, and he’d bring a Marshall Faulk-style smoothness to the running back position alongside Jalen Hurts.Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire

11. Tennessee Titans: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

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The Titans would be thrilled to see Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. fall into their lap at No. 11 overall, and that’s exactly what happened in this mock. Sure, the Titans signed Andre Dillard recently, but there’s no telling if he can be the long-term solution at the position and his presence shouldn’t preclude the Titans from taking a top left tackle in this draft, which Johnson is. If the Titans go this route and Johnson proves to be the plug-and-play starter many think he is, the team can slide Dillard over to guard, where he has experience, or even to right tackle if the team isn’t sold on 2022 third-round pick Nicholas Petit-Frere, who struggled in his rookie season. Mike Moraitis, Titans Wire

12. Houston Texans (from CLE): OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia

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New coach DeMeco Ryans had Nick Bosa when he was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. Now, Ryans gets a comparable edge defender to bring pressure from the outside. The Texans also have defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Jonathan Greenard under contract to help with Smith’s transition, but, make no mistake, the former Bulldog is Houston’s future premier edge rusher. – Mark Lane, Texans Wire

13. New York Jets: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

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The Jets are able to hang on to the No. 13 pick and add much-needed help at the offensive tackle position with the last of the presumed big three with Skoronski and Johnson off the board. Even with Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton still in the mix, Jones gives the Jets major stability at the position for years to come. At least they hope so. – Billy Riccette, Jets Wire

14. New England Patriots: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

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Yes, Jalen Mills is back, but it looks like he’s moving to safety. That leaves the Patriots with Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones and Jack Jones as their primary corners. As much as I’d enjoy the memes that would surely come from an all Jones affair in the defensive backfield, the Patriots need to continue fortifying the cornerback position. They do that here by going out and getting a tall, physical corner with the ability to jump to the top of the depth chart. Joey Porter Jr. is the kind of playmaker that could make meetings with the league’s elite receivers far less daunting. – Jordy McElroy, Patriots Wire

15. Green Bay Packers: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

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There was an attempt to trade down here, but we had no problem taking the top player on the board. Witherspoon is a top-10 talent in the eyes of many talent evaluators, and he plays a premium position, so getting him at 15 feels like a steal (similar to getting Rashan Gary at 12 in 2019). Sure, the Packers have Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas, but Douglas has the size and playstyle to transition to safety, and no team can ever have enough talent at corner. Shutting down opposing quarterbacks is one way to help ease the transition to Jordan Love. In this scenario, the Packers will be actively watching the second half of the first round to see if any of the top pass-catchers fall into range of a trade up. – Zach Kruse, Packers Wire

16. Washington Commanders: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

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The Commanders were hoping one of the top cornerbacks would fall here. But Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon and Joey Porter Jr. were all gone, leaving the Commanders to decide between other corners, such as Deonte Banks or Emmanuel Forbes. While Washington really likes both players, the opportunity to add the next best offensive tackle was an opportunity the Commanders could not pass on. Wright is a four-year starter in the SEC. That matters. He has played left tackle and right tackle and can even play guard. He projects as a right tackle for Washington. – Bryan Manning, Commanders Wire

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson

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With a run on offensive tackles and cornerbacks, the Steelers look to the best player available. Myles Murphy is a beast coming off the end, demonstrating tremendous explosion. In addition, Murphy has the requisite size and strength to set the edge and defend the run. Even with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith on the roster, Murphy as a third edge rusher is just too good to pass up at this point. – Curt Popejoy, Steelers Wire

18. Detroit Lions: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

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Detroit’s flurry of activity in free agency shores up the secondary for 2023, but the long-term remains scant; only newcomer Cameron Sutton and two-year starter Jerry Jacobs are under contractual control beyond 2023 of the CBs who will actually play. There is still work to be done at cornerback, and that leads to a premium athlete like Banks. At Maryland, Banks thrived in press man coverage and using his physicality and length to disrupt opposing passing games. That’s straight out of central casting for what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn wants in his outside CBs. – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Brian Branch, Alabama

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The Bucs could really use a left tackle in the first round, but unfortunately for them, so could everyone else. Tennessee’s Darnell Wright was probably the last one in play (and even then, he’s a right tackle), but he becomes a Commander in this mock draft — as a result, Tampa Bay looks to another one of its big needs. Both safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting have departed in free agency, so the Bucs pick Alabama’s Brian Branch to fill in those voids. Branch is a versatile weapon in the secondary who can play safety or corner, and he’ll be a great safety net (ha, get it) for the likely possibility that both Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan also leave the team in free agency. – River Wells, Bucs Wire

20. Seattle Seahawks: QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

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Sure, the Seahawks gave Geno Smith a three-year deal just a few weeks ago. However, they are also in a rare position to land a highly-ranked quarterback prospect in a strong class of them. Hooker comes with questions about his knee, but he won’t be expected to start this coming season anyway. When he was healthy at Tennessee his production was excellent. In the 24 games he played from 2021-2022 he totaled 58 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. It’s worth taking a gamble on that kind of promise. For now, Hooker can stand on the sidelines and learn under Smith until he’s ready. – Tim Weaver, Seahawks Wire

21. Los Angeles Chargers: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah

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The Chargers have been searching for a complete tight end since losing Hunter Henry a few years ago. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is also expected to run more 12 personnel, which means the position is imperative in the system. Kincaid is a prolific receiver with great hands who can win all over the field with his athleticism and play speed and can create yards after the catch, projecting as a passing game playmaker for Justin Herbert from Day 1. – Gavino Borquez, Chargers Wire

22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

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Baltimore hasn’t done much of anything during the 2023 offseason so far, and have yet to address their wide receiver position. Johnston is an athletically gifted wideout who stands at 6-foot-3 and has the tools to become a star at the next level. Slotting him in next to other pass catchers such as wide receiver Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews would be a great contingent of weapons for whoever is throwing them the ball at quarterback, whether it be Lamar Jackson or someone else. – Kevin Oestreicher, Ravens Wire

23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

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The Vikings have done a really good job this offseason in filling holes. One of the areas that they haven’t addressed is at WR2. Quentin Johnston would have been ideal here, but he cam off the board right before the Vikings picked at 22. Smith-Njigba plays a very similar style to Justin Jefferson. He’s a dynamic route runner who knows how to win in open space with nuance and quickness. Option routes will be dynamic for both players and whoever ends up being the quarterback of the future will be in great hands. – Tyler Forness, Vikings Wire

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

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The Jaguars have a duo of starting pass rushers already in place with Travon Walker and Josh Allen, but the latter is entering the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. Even if Allen is re-signed, Jacksonville finished near the bottom of the league in sacks and depth on the edges is severely lacking after Arden Key and Dawuane Smoot both hit free agency. In Van Ness, the Jaguars would get the kind of long, athletic rusher that general manager Trent Baalke covets and give their defense another exciting piece to build around in the front seven. Adam Stites, Jaguars Wire

25. New York Giants: C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

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After losing both Nick Gates (Washington Commanders) and Jon Feliciano (San Francisco 49ers), the Giants are without a true center. Ben Bredeson currently tops the depth chart but he’s more of a natural guard. With many other areas of need addressed via free agency, the Giants will have to turn their attention to the NFL draft. John Michael Schmitz is a common mock and viewed as an ideal fit but he’ll have to get used to moving a bit more if he lands with the Giants. Despite that sole adjustment, he’d be considered a plug-and-play starter for the Giants. – Dan Benton, Giants Wire

26. Dallas Cowboys: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

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There were a handful of choices here for the Cowboys, including USC WR Jordan Addison. His testing was poor, but he feels like one of those players who no one will remember why he fell once he gets into the league. But here, after conducting a one-off offseason where Dallas actually got better instead of treading water, they’ve allowed themselves to swing for the fences. The Georgia TE would’ve been used more if he wasn’t on a roster with the best TE prospect of the last 20+ years. Washington’s athleticism and size means he is the ultimate mismatch; capable of being stout as a blocker and dominant versus both linebackers and safeties on routes. – K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire

27. Buffalo Bills: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

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With Flowers and Jordan Addison still on the board, wide receiver is the easy pick. Flowers feels a better fit for the current Bills roster so we went his way. Flowers’ game is touted almost all-around, except  his route running could stand to improve. Enter Stefon Diggs as his teammate and exactly that should happen. Flowers can also be moved all around the formation, both in the slot and outside, which would give offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey some flexibility to be creative. Flowers met with the Bills at the 2023 combine. – Nick Wojton, Bills Wire

28. Cincinnati Bengals: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

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The Bengals could go with one of the best offensive tackles here (Dawand Jones or Anton Harrison) to provide insurance at right tackle, where La’el Collins continues to rehab and Jonah Williams requested a trade. Or, grab Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer to instantly start on a depth chart that lost three names to the market. But Kancey is a rare interior pass-rushing prospect Cincinnati hasn’t really seen since Geno Atkins. Adding that next to DJ Reader in a rotation with B.J. Hill could work wonders for a defense that needs help after losing both starting safeties as the organization starts to shift more money to the offensive side of the ball. Tackle, tight end and even running back can still get addressed on the market or later in the draft. – Chris Roling, Bengals Wire

29. New Orleans Saints (from SF): WR Jordan Addison, USC

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There wasn’t a defensive lineman I loved at this spot for the Saints, and it came down to Addison or Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer – a discussion Addison won thanks to his higher grade and pro potential. He tested poorly at the combine and doesn’t have a typical first-round frame at 5-foot-11 and 171 pounds, but Addison didn’t win with athleticism in college; he beat opponents with advanced route-running and reliable hands, which will translate against better athletes in the NFL. He’ll make an immediate impact as the third receiver behind Chris Olave and Michael Thomas, but it shouldn’t take long for him to become one of Derek Carr’s favorite targets. This class is so deep at tight end the Saints can wait and address that (and the defensive line) in rounds two or three. – John Sigler, Saints Wire

30. Philadelphia Eagles: DE Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

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The athletic pass rusher earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a redshirt senior last season after totaling 36 tackles and five sacks in 12 games. McDonald (6-3, 236 pounds) recorded 27 sacks in his final three years with the Cyclones. McDonald is an undersized edge rusher who has the speed and athleticism to be disruptive in the Eagles scheme.Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire

31. Green Bay Packers (from KC): WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

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Trade details:

  • Packers receive: Nos. 31, 134

  • Chiefs receive: Nos. 43, 78

Trade! The Packers move back into the first round (using the second-round pick acquired from the Jets in our Aaron Rodgers trade) to get Tennessee speedster Jalin Hyatt, a Will Fuller- or DeSean Jackson-like deep threat who would team up with Christian Watson to give the Packers two of the fastest and most dangerous deep threats in football. The speed duo will create big-play opportunities for Jordan Love and ensure the run game is always facing two-deep safeties. Hyatt is thin-framed, but his play speed is game-changing, and he’ll have value on manufactured touches in Matt LaFleur’s offense. The cost here is moving from No. 78 in the third round (a nightmare round for Brian Gutekunst) to late in the fourth round, but keep in mind: the Packers would still have their original pick in the second round (No. 45) and also eight picks (added fourth-rounder) on Day 3. – Zach Kruse, Packers Wire

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