2023 NFL Mock V2.0 - Free Agency Edition
We're now well into the Pro Day circuit with quite a few having already taken place and we now have more info on some of the top prospects as well as our first bit of movement with the Panthers jumping way up trading the #9 pick, the #61 pick (second round), WR D.J. Moore, their 2024 first-round pick, and their 2025 second-round pick for the first overall pick.
With Free agency also in full swing, team needs are changing by the minute and then there's the annual Aaron Rodgers watch (He's still wearing green in 2023, just potentially a different shade).
Bryce Young - QB - Alabama - Until we get more information about how the Panthers' front office is thinking, Bryce Young has to be the choice. With that said, there are those who think that the Panthers like all of the top four QBs equally and wouldn't be against trading down if the right situation/offer came along enabling them to still get a QB and recoup some of the draft capital that they spent moving up.
Previous Selection (Chicago) - Jalen Carter - IDL - Georgia
C.J. Stroud - QB - Ohio State - I honestly feel that Houston is good with whoever (Young or Stroud) is available to them at the second pick. Either way, they get their QB of the future. Stroud makes every throw you'll want or need him to make, he can run when the situation calls for it and he takes care of the ball. Would I like to have seen him come back for another year and gain that experience? Yes, I would, but he's not.
Previous Selection - Bryce Young - QB - Alabama
Tyree Wilson - EDGE-DE - Texas Tech - While Wilson didn't close the gap between himself and Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr as I predicted, I think he had a good showing. Watching him in interviews and in front of the press, I get the impression that he's a humble, hard-working player who is going to be a fan favorite wherever he's drafted. His Pro Day workout is scheduled for March 29th so that's his next chance to make up ground. Regardless of what happens at his Pro Day, I feel like Wilson is the better fit for Arizona with J.J. Watt retired and DE Zach Allen signing with Denver. This could also be a place for a QB-needy team to trade into if they like the available QBs.
Previous Selection - Wilson
Anthony Richardson - QB - Florida - I still don't feel that Richardson is worth picking in the first round. Regardless, he will, almost certainly, be selected in the first round. GM Chris Ballard needs to get this pick right, he's seven years and umpteen QBs into this job and I feel like drafting Richardson would just be the final nail in his coffin, though, to be fair, any QB he drafts that doesn't pan out will be that nail.
Previous Selection - C.J. Stroud - QB - Ohio State
Jalen Carter - IDL - Georgia - If Carter slides down to Seattle at #5 I don't know if the Seattle War Room can get the pick to the podium fast enough. The Seahawks DID sign free agent DT Dre'Mont Jones who, like Carter, has the ability to play inside or outside so it remains to be seen if they feel they need to add more to their line. If they feel that Jones is enough you'll likely see EDGE/LB Will Anderson Jr. selected here. *Edit*
So ESPN has reported that Carter has shown up to his Pro Day at Georgia opting to only do position drills which he didn't finish because he was out of breath and cramping. At this point, you have to wonder if Carter is trying to lose money. It's the biggest (and most public) job interview in his life and he's pissing it away. I feel like I'm going to have to revisit this in the next mock, unless, you know, he hijacks a school bus next week.
Previous Selection - Will Anderson Jr. - EDGE/LB - Alabama
Will Anderson Jr - EDGE/LB - Alabama - If Anderson falls this far, I'll be a little surprised. Detroit, on the other hand, will be shocked. It's not precisely a position of need, but a line with Aidan Hutchinson and Will Anderson on either side is nothing to be sniffed at.
Previous Selection - Devon Witherspoon - CB - Illinois
Peter Skoronski - OT - Northwestern - With the Raiders needing help at both IOL and RT, Skoronski feels like a good choice with a lot of evaluators feeling that he'll end up inside if he doesn't succeed at tackle. I've got no issue with that though I feel that at RT he won't be facing the elite athletes he would at LT and will be able to slot in just fine. The Raiders could also take a CB, EDGE, or IDL depending on who is available.
Previous Selection - Skoronski
Paris Johnson Jr. - OT - Ohio State - I still feel that this is a spot where the Falcons could trade down several spots and still get an impact player at a position of need or if the slide of Jalen Carter happens, they would be thrilled to keep Carter in-state and at a position of real need. Carter is already gone in this draft so we have to move to another position of need and Paris Johnson feels like a good place to start. I briefly considered Bijan Robinson here, though I generally draft RBs as the last piece prior to entering a contention window.
Previous Selection - Johnson
Myles Murphy - EDGE/DE - Clemson - I don't know if Chicago's feeling was that Carter's pending legal issues would see him drop down to them at #9 or if they were OK with whoever might be available and if Carter was one of them, great. In this instance, Carter is long gone and the top two tackles are also off the board so I'm going with Myles Murphy who needs some development but has the physical tools to develop into a top-tier EDGE rusher.
Previous Selection - Jalen Carter - IDL - Georgia (@ #1)
Nolan Smith - EDGE/LB - Georgia - For the second year in a row Philly takes someone who shows up and out at the Combine. Smith is going to be that EDGE that you'll have to account for on every play as well as be a force against the run. Hopefully developing his pass-rush moves makes him a more complete player but even if he doesn't, his motor runs hot and he gets where he's going with bad intentions. If the Iggles go another way I like RB Bijan Robinson or one of Joey Porter Jr. or Devon Witherspoon at the corner.
Previous Selection - Bryan Bresee - IDL - Clemson
Jordan Addison - WR - Southern Cal - Just like last time, it came down to the third-best offensive tackle or the best wide receiver, and just like last time the pick is Jordan Addison. This pick could also be Quentin Johnston or Jaxson Smith-Njigba, it really depends on who the Titans' Front Office likes the best. Another option, one that I didn't delve into this time around, was the possibility of the Titans could take Will Levis. Tannehill isn't long for the NFL and Malik Willis didn't set the world on fire last year so why not take Levis and give him a year to adjust to the NFL?
Previous Selection - Addison
Jaxson Smith-Njigba - WR - Ohio State - If I'm Houston, I certainly explore the possibility of a trade down into the high teens/early twenties where I could possibly pick up an extra pick or two and get more value for my selection. We know I don't futz with trades so I'm just giving the Texans' new QB a familiar face to ease him into the league. I have my doubts about JSN, but if he can be two-thirds of what he was in 2021, the Texans' future looks much brighter.
Previous Selection - Myles Murphy - EDGE - Clemson
Broderick Jones - OT - Georgia - Jones did nothing to hurt himself at Georgia's pro day and still looks to be on track to find himself selected in the first round in 2023. Certainly, Aaron Rodgers has to be thrilled with this selection (maybe?), giving him blindside protection for the duration of his stay in the Big Apple. Jones has a lot of room to develop but between his excellent size and the measurables that he's already shown off, I can't imagine betting against him.
Previous Selection - Jones
Christian Gonzalez - CB - Oregon - Another pick where nothing needs to change, the Pats have lost WR Jakobi Meyers and added WR Juju Smith-Schuster so debatably a wash there, and while cornerback is far from the Pats' biggest need, we know that Belichick can't pass up a bargain in the draft any more than my mom can at a yard sale. Gonzalez is just that sort of bargain.
Previous Selection - Gonzalez
Lukas Van Ness - EDGE - Iowa - Green Bay doesn't draft receivers in the first round. So there goes WR and TE. If they want an OT they would be advised to trade down and get value. That leaves us with EDGE as the biggest need they could fill and that's what Van Ness does.
Previous Selection - Van Ness
Will Levis - QB - Kentucky - Once the Levis slide began, Washington fans held their breath but finally got their future at #16. I like Levis, his frame is ideal, he's mobile, and his arm talent (a phrase I hate) is great. It's the mental things that can't be measured that have me concerned, not to mention the dip in Levis' 2022 performance without his favorite 2021 receiver Wan'Dale Robinson.
Previous Selection - Joey Porter Jr. - CB - Penn State
Devon Witherspoon - CB - Illinois - I realize I'm going against sentiment here, both because he played at Penn State and because of those who want him to join the team his father played for. Whoever the Steelers take at this selection will get a chance to spend some time learning from FA signee Patrick Peterson and manning the slot for a couple of years.
Previous Selection - Quiten Johnston - WR - TCU
Bryan Bresee - IDL - Clemson - It came down to Bresee Vs. Joey Porter Jr. with this pick, but, the thought of being able to have Bresee and Will Anderson, AND Aidan Hutchinson wreaking havoc up front was just too much to pass up. I still have concerns about Bresee taking plays off but if any HC not named Belichick can keep him in line it would have to be Dan Campbell. Bijan Robinson would have been in play here had the Lions not signed David Montgomery away from the Bears.
Previous Selection - Jaxson Smith-Njigba - WR - Ohio State
Joey Porter Jr. - CB - Penn State - This is, as much as anything, a value pick for Tampa. Yes, they need a lot, and no, they haven't said the magic word (rebuild) yet, but Porter represents more value than just about any player left on the board other than Bijan Robinson. Some feel that Porter is a bit more scheme-specific than I do, but his size and ability to play press man overshadow that for me.
Previous Selection - Cam Smith - CB - South Carolina
Zay Flowers - WR - Boston College - With Jalen Carter already in their pocket I'm turning to the offensive side for this pick. I like Quinten Johnston, but with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf already set at the outside receiver positions I like the idea of giving Geno and the Seattle offense a player who has that big play dynamic in him. While Flowers lacks size and his run-blocking may leave a lot to be desired, he's a player that is just electric in space and can produce at all levels of the route tree.
Previous Selection - John Michael Schmitz - IOL - Minnesota
Bijan Robinson - RB - Texas - I projected Robinson here before the Chargers' RB Austin Eckler requested to make a trade for himself to another team and while I'm not so egotistical to think I drove that reaction, players tend not to request trades out of the blue unless they're hearing something or unhappy with the team's direction. The Bolts made the playoffs in 2022, so we're left with Eckler hearing something. Quentin Johnston might be another option here as well.
Previous Selection - Robinson
Quentin Johnston - WR - TCU - Unless we see a blockbuster trade involving Lamar Jackson, I feel that the Ravens will be targeting a receiver with this pick. I took Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt in the last mock, but only because I thought they would want an outside receiver, and the rostered wideouts look to be primarily slot receivers. Johnston is big, tall, and fast. While he needs to be more consistent catching the ball, he gives Jackson a legitimate vertical threat that can't be ignored.
Previous Selection - Jalin Hyatt - WR - Tennessee
Jalin Hyatt - WR - Tennessee - With Adam Thielen released and me feeling dubious about the fit of the available IOLs, Hyatt feels like a solid pick to put opposite Justin Jefferson and let him take the vertical routes (and attention). Hyatt (or rather his coaches) will need to develop his route tree but as a vertical threat, he might be the best in this class. Combine that with his speed and ball skills and an 800+yd/7+TD rookie season seems very much on the table.
Previous Selection - Deonte Banks - CB - Maryland
Darnell Wright - OT - Tennessee - At this stage, last season's division championship notwithstanding, I'm feeling like protecting Trevor Lawrence and opening running lanes for Travis Etienne should still take precedence over other needs like adding a WR (which they did when Calvin Ridley's suspension was lifted) or a TE (they Franchise tagged Even Engram). Wright had a great week at the Senior Bowl and has shown the ability to play either tackle spot on the line.
Previous Selection - Anton Harrison - OT - Oklahoma
John Michael Schmitz - IOL - Minnesota - The trade for Darren Waller, at least on the surface, covers the need for a TE and the top receivers are gone as are the top CBs, and Nolan Smith, the top linebacker, so all of that leads us to the interior line. The Giants' depth chart shows only Ben Bredeson at center, and he played left guard last season. Schmitz isn't going to step in and be a road grader but he's smart, has a solid anchor, and gets good hand placement on his man.
Previous Selection - Nolan Smith - EDGE/LB - Georgia
O'Cyrus Torrence - IOL - Florida - With the trades for CB Stephon Gilmore and WR Brandin Cooks, the 'Boys addressed a couple of their bigger needs this off-season; the interiors of both lines have yet to be addressed so I can only think that those will be draft concerns. Torrence fits the Cowboys' O-line scheme and should open up big holes for RBs Tony Pollard and Ronald Jones.
Previous Selection - Torrence
Adetomiwa Adebawore - IDL - Northwestern - To clear up some confusion, Adebawore is listed as both an EDGE and as a DT depending on what site or evaluator you're looking at, they're both right though - Adebawore played about 3/4 of his snaps on the EDGE last season but he has the build and strength to move inside at the NFL level. After turning in the best time for any player over 280lbs at the Combine in the 40-yard dash (4.49s) he grabbed scout's attention and they got a repeat at Northwestern's Pro Day on March 14.
Previous Selection - Cody Mauch - OT/IOL - North Dakota State
Cam Smith - CB - South Carolina - I seriously considered taking Dalton Kincaid here as I feel he aligns better with what the Bengals want out of a TE, however, the exodus from the Cincy secondary leaves things a little bare so Cam Smith gets the nod. Yes, Smith is a little on the lean side and he can be overly aggressive when jumping routes, but I think that on the whole Smith will fit in quite well with the Bengals' secondary taking advantage of the havoc their front four creates.
Previous Selection - DJ Turner - CB - Michigan
Michael Mayer - TE - Notre Dame - This pick was going to be RB Jahmyr Gibbs as a hedge against Alvin Kamara's being suspended to start next season. That went to the wayside when New Orleans signed Jamaal Williams away from the Lions so, instead, we go back to giving Derek Carr another weapon.
Previous Selection - Same
Calijah Kancey - IDL - Pitt - I like Kancey here, it feels like a Goldilocks fit - "just right". He's playing next to Jordan Davis, in a gap penetration scheme, and he'll be expected to cause problems in the interior. . . IF, if he can make the leap to the next level. He's not terribly big (6'1", 281lbs), and unless he proves to be the second coming of Aaron Donald (who he's already endlessly compared to) there's the chance that the guards playing against him simply swallow him up, never to be seen again.
Previous Selection - Jahmyr Gibbs - RB - Alabama
Felix Anudike-Uzomah - EDGE - Kansas State - With Frank Clark gone it feels like the right time for the Chiefs to add another EDGE who can learn situationally and then take the next step in year two, similar to how George Karlaftis did in 2022. Productive in college with a solid motor and good flexibility Anudike-Uzomah will need to make that next step as a pass rusher to make his mark in the NFL.
Previous Selection - Keion White - EDGE - Georgia Tech