Draft week is upon us, and I have my final First-Round Mock. This will be a predictive mock based on what I have been hearing the past week, and it best represents what will occur on Thursday night. You can catch my reaction to these picks live on the DynastyNerds Youtube channel. Co-host Tim Martens will join me as we cover nights one and two of the NFL draft. Our full panel of guests will provide you with some of the quickest dynasty reactions to the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Carolina Panthers (from CHI): QB – BRYCE YOUNG
This will be the easiest pick of the 31 first-round selections. Bryce Young is the best quarterback in the draft, and the Panthers moved decent draft capital to put themselves in this position. Stroud was the odds-on favorite at one point, but rumors are out that the Panthers finally finished their evaluations, and Young is it. Bryce canceled all his remaining predraft visits, and the Vegas odds have shifted significantly. Expect the Alabama quarterback to hear his name first on Thursday.
- Houston Texans: QB – WILL LEVIS
Now this is where the fun begins. The draft truly begins at two in 2023. Rumors are swirling all over the place surrounding Houston. The most recent rumor is that ownership has mandated that Nick Casserio and the company select a quarterback with their first pick. All signs point to Will Levis being the guy if that is the case. There may be too much bad blood between David Mulugheta and the leadership in Houston; he is the agent that represents both Deshaun Watson and C.J. Stroud. Vegas odds have also shifted recently to reflect Will Levis landing in Houston.
- Indianapolis Colts: QB – CJ STROUD
I am surprised that Indianapolis hasn’t made this move already, but perhaps they are waiting until draft night to see which quarterback is left. In this scenario, they are surprised that CJ Stroud is still available with the third pick. In this case, the move only costs them a pair of mid-round picks. At that small cost, the Colts can potentially end the wild ride they have been on since Andrew Luck announced his retirement during a preseason game all those years ago.
- Arizona Cardinals: EDGE – WILL ANDERSON
This draft is a dream scenario for the Arizona Cardinals as they can add additional draft capital while also drafting arguably the best defensive prospect in this class. Arizona finished bottom-ten in the league in pass rush last season with JJ Watt on the team; he has since announced his retirement. Working on the defense makes perfect sense in what may be a lost season without Kyler Murray. New head coach Jonathan Gannon was Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator last season so this move would play right into that. Will Anderson could be a cornerstone of this new regime in the desert.
- Seattle Seahawks: DL – JALEN CARTER
One of the advantages of having multiple first-round picks is that you can feel comfortable taking on some risk with those picks. No other prospect in the top ten defines risk more than Georgia’s defensive lineman Jalen Carter. I’m not saying the teams draft to combat their division, but the NFC West is a bit of a two-horse race between San Francisco and Seattle. What does San Francisco do best? They run the ball all over the place. Jalen Carter would be the perfect tool to counter this. And it comes at the perfect time, as Seattle allowed the third most rushing yards in the league last season.
- Detroit Lions: CB – DEVON WITHERSPOON
Many would be clamoring for Anthony Richardson here to sit for a year and learn behind Jared Goff. However, with the departure of Aaron Rodgers to the AFC, the window for the Lions is wide open. This may be a hot take, but adding two starters in the first round of this year’s draft puts them on the same level as the 49ers and Eagles regarding contention for the NFC title. The team recently gave up on the Jeff Okudah experiment, and I have Witherspoon as CB1 on my board; I can only hope the Lions feel the same. If not Witherspoon, I would expect Gonzalez to be the pick here.
- Las Vegas Raiders: QB – ANTHONY RICHARDSON
The slide finally ends for this class’s last of the ‘big four’ quarterbacks. The Raiders must be happy here getting a quarterback without having to part with additional draft capital. Richardson can be brought along slowly as Jimmy Garappolo will start to begin 2023. In a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the only way to compete is by taking swings at ceiling outcome-style prospects. Anthony Richardson may not be polished right now, but his ceiling outcome would easily have him competing with his peers in the AFC West.
- Atlanta Falcons: RB – BIJAN ROBINSON
Make no mistake; Bijan Robinson may be the best pure football player in the 2023 draft. Unfortunately, he plays the running back position which is a position that is currently being devalued across the league. This pick may stir the most discussion out of all the top ten selections. Although not officially, the Atlanta Falcons have met with Bijan throughout the pre-draft process. Arthur Smith wants to run an offense that refuses to pass the ball; they threw 150 times less than the league average in 2022. With Bijan, Arthur Smith can recreate his offense from Tennessee with Derrick Henry.
- Chicago Bears: OL – PETER SKORONSKI
Ryan Poles is the king of the Windy City. Not only did he trade back, picking up a future first and wide receiver DJ Moore, but he also grabbed a franchise offensive lineman in the draft. I say offensive lineman because I don’t know what position Chicago projects Skoronski at the next level. His arms are a little short for a traditional tackle, but he will easily translate into one of the best guards in the league. These things can all be decided once Skoronski is in the building, but regardless the Bears upgrade along the offensive front.
- Philadelphia Eagles: CB – CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ
The rich get richer as the Eagles take advantage of the Chris Olave trade-up last year with a top-ten pick, despite being the Super Bowl runner-up. If you look at this roster, it is complete from the bottom to the top. The best move here is to take the best player on the board, arguably Oregon corner Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is extremely athletic; he ran a 4.8 40-yard dash. Darius Slay will turn 32 this year, and Gonzalez can take a red-shirt year to learn the position before taking over a role in 2024. Great players on cheap contracts are how dynasties are made.
- Tennesee Titans: OT – PARIS JOHNSON
There is a lot of smoke around Tennessee being in on this quarterback class, but they miss out on how this draft plays out. Thankfully, elite-level players are still left on the board, and Paris Johnson Jr from Ohio State fits a need. Paris Johnson would pair up with fellow Buckeye Nicholas Petit-Frere to form the future bookends of this Titans offensive line. Tennessee is a franchise lacking direction right now, but getting a starter at left tackle is never a bad move, regardless of where your franchise sits.
- Houston Texans: EDGE – TYREE WILSON
Houston addressed the offensive side of the ball at the top of the draft, and now they can pay homage to new head coach DeMeco Ryans with a selection along the defensive line. Tyree Wilson has been an extremely late riser during this pre-draft process, and I can easily see him going higher than this. Now while Ryans is used to working with Nick Bosa, and no one in this class is even close to that level, he does get a 6’6”, 275 lbs freak which he can mold into an elite edge rusher. Texans fans must be ecstatic with this draft and cannot wait until 33 to see where Nick Casserio goes next.
- Green Bay Packers: WR – JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA
Aaron Rodgers is off to New York, and it’s finally time that Green Bay invests in an offensive weapon for new starting quarterback Jordan Love. Green Bay must decide on Love’s fifth-year option as early as next week. After that, they will have two seasons to decide if he is worth a lengthy extension. There is no better way to get a good evaluation on a quarterback than to put elite-level talent around him. Jaxon Smith-Njigba falls into the tier of elite talent for me.
- New England Patriots: S – BRIAN BRANCH
Brian Branch was designed to be drafted by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Being an Alabama defensive back, there is a good chance he already knows the playbook! Nick Saban is the best defensive backs coach in the country, and NFL front offices should pay attention to the talent he puts out. No one knows this better than his good friend up in New England. Branch also has the flexibility to play slot corner, which will probably be his role in year one.
- New York Jets (from GB): OT – DARNELL WRIGHT
The New York Jets are all in with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers this week. That said, the team no longer has time to wait for Mekhi Becton to get healthy. Becton has missed most games since being selected in the first round in 2020. This move gives the Jets flexibility in deploying their players along the offensive line. Darnell Wright has proven himself in the SEC against Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson, both players already selected in the first round.
- Washington Commanders: CB – DEONTE BANKS
The Washington Commanders need a cornerback, and they are lucky that some really good ones are still left on the board. Banks is a big physical corner who will set the tone for the defense. He has shown flexibility to play in both press and off coverages and could be a mainstay despite any shakeups that may occur with a new owner being brought into the franchise.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: OT – BRODERICK JONES
The Steelers are another team needing a tackle and continue a run of a tackle/corner-dominated first round. Kenny Pickett has shown glimpses of being a starter at the NFL level in his rookie year. The priority for Pittsburgh should be to put enough around Kenny to make a confident contract decision before his rookie deal is up. The wide receiver group and running back room are among the best in the league, and the trenches are the next area to address. Broderick Jones earned his reputation playing against some of the best in the SEC and took his talents to Steel City.
- Detroit Lions: EDGE – LUKAS VAN NESS
Brad Holmes continues building the defense that Dan Campbell has been dreaming of. First, he gets an elite-level secondary addition, and now they get to add along the defensive line. Lukas Van Ness can pair up with last year’s first-rounder Aidan Hutchinson to form a dynamic duo that teams must account for the next few years.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G – O’CYRUS TORRENCE
Tampa Bay went all in and won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady. However, now is the time for the reset. By making the playoffs last year, Tampa played themselves out of this quarterback class. They are left rolling out Baker Mayfield as the starter for 2023 on a roster with holes everywhere. This draft class is about building for the next quarterback in 2024. O’Cyrus Torrence is my number-one guard in the draft, and placing him next to Tristan Wirfs will lock up the left side of that offensive line for years to come.
- Seattle Seahawks: TE – DALTON KINCAID
Seattle picked again in the first round and decided to address the offensive side of the ball after grabbing Jalen Carter earlier. With Noah Fant entering a contract year, a player that wasn’t even drafted by this franchise, it makes perfect sense to grab Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid is still recovering from a back injury and could use his rookie season to recover and learn the offense. Once on the field, though, he will be a big difference-maker in the Seahawks’ passing attack.
- Los Angeles Chargers: CB – JOEY PORTER JR
The J.C. Jackson signing last offseason was a disaster, and Los Angeles is still in the corner market. As luck would have it, the 2023 corner class is extremely deep, and the Chargers can grab themselves a starter despite picking in the 20s. Joey Porter Jr played at Penn State, so you know he is a freak athlete. He also has a family pedigree; his father is a long-time NFL legend in Pittsburgh. One of the longer corners in the class, he is an immediate upgrade for the Chargers’ defense.
- Baltimore Ravens: EDGE – NOLAN SMITH
Much mystery surrounds Lamar Jackson and how his contract will eventually be resolved. The two sides will reach an agreement, and Lamar will be a Raven for at least the 2023 season. With that out of the way, Baltimore is free to take the best available player here, who also happens to fill a need. Nolan Smith was a mainstay on an elite Georgia Bulldogs defense and will fit right into Baltimore’s 3 – 4 scheme.
- Minnesota Vikings: QB – HENDON HOOKER
Kirk Cousins is in a contract year, and the new coaching staff/front office may be preparing for life without him. The Justin Jefferson extension looms on the horizon, and getting a bit cheaper at quarterback for the next few seasons would be a huge help. Hendon Hooker is still recovering from an ACL injury and would be best served sitting a year to both recover and learn the league. Kirk Cousins will play out 2023 and step aside as Hendon Hooker takes over the starting role for 2024 and beyond.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: T – ANTON HARRISON
Trevor Lawrence proved himself a franchise quarterback when he led Jacksonville to a historic comeback win over the Chargers in the wildcard round last season. Now the priority should be to build an offense around him. The move for Calvin Ridley went a long way to secure the wide receiver group; the next step should be the offensive line. The Jaguars have a pair of second-rounders starting at tackle currently, and I can see Harrison beating them out for playing time as early as the first month of the season.
- New York Giants: C – JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ
Many may be clamoring for wide receiver here, but the class and the roster simply don’t align. The Giants have several ‘smaller’ receivers, which the 2023 class seems quite heavy on. I also don’t have Quentin Johnston graded as a first-round prospect. New York can grab one in the second round when looking for a bigger receiver. For now, they add the best center in the class and give Daniel Jones some much-needed help along the offensive line.
- Dallas Cowboys: TE – MICHAEL MAYER
Despite many knocking on his athleticism during the pre-draft process, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is still a first-round talent. And if you think Jerry Jones is letting the Cowboys offense begin 2023 with Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson at tight end, then I have news for you. Mayer profiles very similarly to Jason Witten, and Jerry is probably salivating at adding Witten back into the offense. Dak’s best years were with a strong supporting cast around him, so adding offensive weapons should be a priority for Dallas.
- Buffalo Bills: WR – ZAY FLOWERS
Buffalo has been searching for the WR2 next to Stefon Diggs for a few years now, and Gabe Davis is about to price himself off the Bills’ roster for 2024. Luckily for Buffalo, the second-best wide receiver in the class awaits them at 27 in Boston College’s Zay Flowers. Flowers is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, and his yards-after-catch abilities are second to none in this class. He would be the perfect compliment to Stefon Diggs and may be enough to get Buffalo over the playoff hump and into the Super Bowl.
- Cincinnati Bengals: TE – DARNELL WASHINGTON
Operation protect Joe Burrow is still ongoing in Cincinnati. Over the past several years, they have made several additions along the offensive line, but this draft provides a new approach to beefing up the pass protection unit. Georgia’s tight end Darnell Washington is elite when blocking tight ends. His frame is even similar enough to an offensive lineman that there have been talks about converting him to tackle. Regardless of how he projects, Darnell Washington is a freak athlete that would be a worthwhile pick for 32 NFL teams.
- New Orleans Saints: DI – CALIJAH KANCEY
After a million transactions, the New Orleans Saints find themselves back in the first round of the NFL draft thanks to trading a retired head coach to the Denver Broncos. The Saints can use an injection of fresh talent along the defensive line and grab a player mentioned in the same breath as Aaron Donald during the pre-draft process. Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey not only played at Aaron Donal’s alma mater but is a very similar prospect. Both are considered undersized at their position, but both are high-motor players that can make an extreme impact along a defensive front. Kancey would slide in perfectly in New Orleans’ 4 – 3 defensive scheme.
- Philadelphia Eagles: DL – ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE
Howie Rosman has a history of building the Eagles through the trenches, and at the end of the first round, he can add a developmental player who can be a difference-maker one day. ‘Ade,’ referred to by those intimidated by his name, is quite the interesting prospect on the defensive front. The Northwestern prospect has played almost every position along the defensive line throughout his college career. His power and arm length hint at him being a powerful interior rusher at the next level, but it’s not impossible to say that he can’t project as an edge rusher. Adetomiwa and Jordan Davis can make up the future of the interior for the Eagles’ defense.
- Kansas City Chiefs: T – DAWAND JONES
It feels so recent that Mahomes ran for his life in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After that, Kansas City vowed never to let that happen again and invested heavily in the offensive line. Well, just a few years later, most of those players are gone, and there is a glaring hole at the right tackle position. Ohio State’s Dawand Jones is the perfect right tackle who has the size to lock down and anchor that side of the offensive line. Brett Veach was able to hit on Creed Humphrey in the draft just a few years ago and is hoping to repeat that with this selection here.
The NFL draft is happening tonight! This was my take on how the first round of the 2023 NFL draft will play out. Predicting/projecting the NFL draft is one of the hardest things to do in this industry, but that is why so many of us are obsessed with it. We will be live on our Youtube channel tonight and tomorrow night, covering the first three rounds of the NFL draft. We have a full panel of guests and will provide some of the most instant dynasty reactions you can find. Join us both nights as we will be taking and answering questions throughout!
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