Final 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears trade down one more time
Final NFL Mock Draft: Bears trade down one more time originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The amount of buzz and conflicting messages combined with varied speculation, means the 2023 NFL Draft is close to becoming a reality.
There are so many stories, sub-plots and angled misdirection emanating from this draft class, that it may become the most unpredictable first round we've seen in some time.
There are no consensus choices among the quarterback positions, arguably the best defensive player is mired in red flags and several teams have two first round selections they could use to manipulate the flow of talent.
I promised a rollercoaster all season, so step in and prepare for a wild ride.
NOTE: There are two proposed trades in this last mock between the Cardinals and Titans as well as the Bears and Patriots.
1. Panthers (via CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Ironically, the decision as to which player will be chosen at number one, is just as unclear as it was before the trade between the Panthers and Bears. Young is still slightly considered more creatively dynamic in the face of on-field adversity, so, I'll consider him the favorite for now.
2. Texans: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
The Texans potentially set the 2023 NFL Draft spinning on its head, as they boldly, albeit pragmatically, select the most accomplished pass rusher from this class. Anderson becomes the first defensive player off the board, providing Houston a cornerstone prospect to build around.
3. Titans (via AZ): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
It's possible Tennessee leaves nothing to chance and proactively springs ahead of the Colts, taking Levis out of the mix for other teams. Choosing Levis provides the Titans with more athleticism and competition in an eclectic quarterback room.
4. Colts: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Colts stand pat and take a chance on Stroud as he falls into their laps. Indianapolis settles on him being the quarterback with the least question marks as a potential franchise signal caller.
5. Seahawks (via DEN): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Undoubtedly, Carter's ability and potential make him worthy of a top five selection; but his actions are concerning and raise multiple red flags demanding meticulous scrutiny. Pete Carroll (head coach) will have to provide an environment conducive to Carter's emotional growth and maturation to make this pick sustainable.
6. Lions (via LAR): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Quick and agile for his size (6'6", 271 lbs), Wilson compliments his athleticism by utilizing his length (86 inch wingspan) to create leverage and manipulate blockers at the point of attack. The potential combination of Wilson and NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Aidan Hutchinson could become an unblockable tandem.
7. Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Raiders are virtually faceless at their cornerback position and desperately need immediate upgrades in that department. This long-limbed defender competes tenaciously for 50/50 jump balls, with an astounding 42 inch vertical that challenges the largest of catch radiuses.
8. Falcons: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Incumbent starting quarterback Desmond Ridder could definitely benefit from getting a day one starting slot receiver to expedite his growth as a passer. Smith-Njigba wastes little motion when leveraging defenders away from him, using angled cuts and smooth transitions into and out of his breaks on pass routes.
9. Patriots (via CHI/CAR): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon finished second in the Big Ten conference with 14 passes defended and added three interceptions on the season. His closing speed, high football I.Q. and concept visualization skills make him an intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators. According PFF (Pro Football Focus), Witherspoon is this season's top rated coverage cornerback with a 92.5 rating.
10. Eagles (via NO): Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Robinson averaged six yards per carry (6.1) and rushed for 18 touchdowns this season. NFL scouts are impressed with Robinson's entire repertoire as a complete running back, too. An adept pass catcher, Robinson also averaged 16.5 yards a reception with two receiving touchdowns.
11. Titans: Paris Johnson Jr, OT, Ohio State
Tennessee released offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, leaving a noticeable hole at left tackle to fill. An intelligent player who executes blocks well into the second level of defenses, he's the type of agile blocker required in today's more open offensive style of play.
12. Texans (via CLE): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Athletically gifted beyond imagination, Richardson's physical attributes bursts through most measurable metrics, exponentially increasing his potential to become a star in the NFL. Houston can afford gambling on taking Richardson because it has two first round picks within the first 31 selections.
13. Packers (via NYJ): Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Drafting Notre Dame's best and most accomplished tight end in school history, could only improve a passing attack that struggles on crucial downs in close games. Taking a top flight tight end would greatly enhance unproven quarterback, Jordan Love's immersion into the starter's role for the Packers' offense.
14. Bears (via NE): Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Darnell Wright played extremely well this past season for the Tennessee Volunteers, helping them to a double digit win total (11), the most in approximately 15 seasons since last winning 10 games in 2007. A physical blocker with a smooth drop step and lateral slide, Wright acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. It's possible the Bears may have drafted the best right tackle from this talented class of offensive linemen.
15. Jets (via GB): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Skoronski is a respected pro prospect who flashes day one starting potential. According to PFF, Skoronski is the highest rated pass blocker (92.4) in the nation.
16. Commanders: Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State
Porter flashes shut down cover corner ability by utilizing his six-foot-two frame to blanket receivers and challenge receptions. Scheme friendly, Porter is equally adept in man or zone coverages, plus, his physicality in the run game cements his all around defensive acumen.
17. Steelers: Broderick Jones, OL, Georgia
Excellent size (6'4", 311 lbs) and impressive arm length allow Jones to sting and neutralize power rushers. His quick feet and loose lateral movements help in keeping tempo with speedy edge defenders. Jones may be the most athletically gifted offensive line prospect in the 2023 draft class.
18. Lions: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
Kancey was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this past season, and one look at his game clips illustrate how truly disruptive a player he can be. His low center of gravity paired with an extremely well-fortified base and upper body strength, allow him to stay low and leverage against blockers' pad levels.
19. Buccaneers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
A long, rangy athlete at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Van Ness possesses enough size and athletic versatility to play inside or outside along the defensive line. Extremely quick when extending his arms, his length and suddenness generally catch blockers off-guard, helping him establish immediate leverage against most opposition.
20. Seahawks: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
Should Murphy fall into the mid rounds, any team selecting him may be getting an underappreciated talent that slipped through the cracks. Extremely aggressive at the point of attack, Murphy utilizes his brute strength to overpower opponents. His ability to rush the passer is equaled by his effectiveness and tenacity against the run.
21. Dolphins: Forfeited
The Miami Dolphins forfeited one of their two first-round picks (plus a third-round pick in 2024) for tampering surrounding Tom Brady.
22. Chargers: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
If any athlete helped himself at this year's NFL Combine, it was Smith. Posting a ridiculous 40-time of 4.39 seconds and showcasing a 41.5 inch vertical leap, Smith improved his draft status and turned any doubters into ardent believers.
23. Ravens: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Admittedly, this suggested pick has a "hometown feel" to it with Banks being native son of Baltimore. Blessed with 4.3 timed speed and a 42-inch vertical, Banks is a frenetic cover corner, who tackles aggressively in run support.
24. Vikings: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins is in the final year of his contract and will be 36 years old before the 2023 season ends. Getting a talented, mature leader with an accurate arm and unflappable poise like Hooker, could buffer the Vikings transition from Cousins' possible departure.
25. Jaguars: O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida
Torrence works well in space and does an excellent job of attacking the second level of defenses with effective consistency. He's powerful enough to move the pile and mean enough to do so with practiced prejudice.
26. Giants: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
As a boundary receiver, Johnston possesses NFL caliber size (6'3", 208 lbs), speed and a 40.5 inch vertical jump that should threaten opposing teams' coverage schemes. New York needs some size among its receiving corps and Johnston's expansive wing span would be most welcomed, especially in the red zone.
27. Cowboys: Bryan Breese, DL, Clemson
The Cowboys ranked 22nd in yards allowed per game (129.3) and during the playoffs, being unable to stop the run cost them these past two postseasons. Bresee plays with a brute force ugliness that doesn't apologize when making things difficult for opposing teams.
28. Bills: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
The 2021 Biletnikoff Award recipient's upside oozes with vast untapped potential that could provide an immediate impact. Addison is a scheme proof, quarterback friendly receiver, who can execute the entire route tree and merge seamlessly with any level of pass thrower.
29. Bengals: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Kincaid is an impressive receiver at the tight end position, having led his team in receptions (70), receiving yards (890) and aerial scores (8). The Associated Press selected him as an All-American due in part to him leading all FBS tight ends in receiving yards per game (77.3).
30. Saints (via SF): Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
In a conference dominated with elite athletes, especially in the defensive secondary, Forbes quietly performed as one the SEC's best pass defenders. He led the conference in interceptions (6), interception return yardage (174), and interceptions returned for touchdowns (3). Long-limbed, lean, lightning quick with speed for deep coverage, Forbes may be this draft's defensive diamond in the rough.
31. Eagles: Bryan Branch, S, Alabama
A physical player, Branch's tightly muscled core and strong lower body create significant torque when driving through opponents on his tackles. Branch is truly one of the best back end, hybrid defensive prospects in the upcoming draft.
32. Chiefs: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
According to Big 12 coaches, McDonald IV was a consistent force from the defensive perimeter, registering 28 sacks over the past three seasons. His talents were so widely respected by the conference's coaches, they voted him First Team All-Big 12 for his elite play during that span of time.
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