Days before commissioner Roger Goodell takes the stage in Kansas City and announces the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, there is still great uncertainty as to how this will unfold.
The Panthers, who traded up with the Bears to claim the No. 1 overall pick, have yet to publicly affirm their selection to open this draft. The Texans, who lost out on the top selection, are now a great mystery with the second overall pick – and will set off a domino effect at the top of the first round.
The Cardinals, owners of the third pick, could still seek a trade down with a team seeking a quarterback – or Arizona may just stand pat and select the best defensive player available. The Colts are looking to secure their future at quarterback with the fourth pick. The Raiders, Titans, Buccaneers and more could make a move for a quarterback as well.
There’s little clarity as to where embattled Georgia defensive lineman prospect Jalen Carter will land. There is a group of talented tackles that are difficult to differentiate, and several wide receivers who could become game-changing players at the next level. It’s a draft that’s deep and fascinating from the first pick on down.
Here is how this intriguing 2023 NFL Draft could take shape with the first round on Thursday night.
Be sure to follow along with Audacy Sports’ coverage of the NFL Draft.
Note: For the purposes of clarity, this mock draft does not include any trades.
1. Carolina Panthers – Quarterback Bryce Young, Alabama
The Panthers seemed to make their move up with the Bears for the No. 1 overall pick without a clear-cut choice in mind. That decision now seems to be made as Young is expected to be the top selection in this draft, with Carolina moving for the player widely believed to be the top quarterback in this class. Though he is undersized at quarterback, Young proved himself at Alabama as the Heisman Trophy recipient in 2021 and All-American and the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2022.
2. Houston Texans – Quarterback Will Levis, Kentucky
The Texans entered the regular-season finale in January holding position for the No. 1 overall pick before connecting on a wild fourth-and-20 touchdown late in a game against the Colts to lose out on the top spot in this draft order. Houston is now forced to take the second pick in this draft – and will go for its second choice at quarterback in Levis.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Linebacker Will Anderson, Alabama
This draft truly becomes interesting at the third overall pick for the Cardinals, who are secured at quarterback with Kyler Murray. Arizona is seeking a potential trade partner in need of a quarterback and could execute a deal down for a team interested in either Stroud or Anthony Richardson. But the Cardinals cannot go wrong by selecting the top defensive player in this entire class, the dynamic Anderson.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Quarterback C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Colts general manager Chris Ballard has struggled to solidify the position of quarterback since the sudden and stunning retirement of Andrew Luck just prior to the 2019 season. Indianapolis will be pleased to come away with Stroud, a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year with the Buckeyes. There will be a decision to make on Richardson, who suddenly is the last of those four prized arms still available.
5. Seattle Seahawks – Defensive Lineman Jalen Carter, Georgia
Superagent Drew Rosenhaus has made it clear to the NFL world that his embattled client Carter will go within the top 10 of this draft. Once considered a prized prospect, Carter was charged with reckless driving involved in a fatal January crash. It will take a team with great stability to bring in Carter, and the Seahawks boast that with head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
6. Detroit Lions – Cornerback Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Witherspoon is considered a dynamic playmaker at cornerback, and that’s just what the Lions need after seeing their playoff hopes gashed by a bottom-dwelling defense. Witherspoon was an All-American with the Fighting Illini and immediately would transform Detroit’s secondary.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Quarterback Anthony Richardson, Florida
The surprising turn of events with the quarterbacks at the top of this draft left Richardson to fall, but not too far. The Raiders made the bold decision to part ways with quarterback Derek Carr this offseason and will find their long-term future at quarterback in Richardson with the No. 7 overall pick. The most fascinating quarterback prospect in this class will land in Las Vegas.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Edge Rusher Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
It’s possible that Wilson could land with the Texans with the second overall pick if Houston elects not to select a quarterback. The Falcons certainly would be thrilled to see him still on the board for the eighth overall pick, bringing Atlanta a dynamic presence for its defensive front.
9. Chicago Bears – Offensive Lineman Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Bears general manager Ryan Poles has prioritized taking the best player available, and that would be Skoronski. Though it’s not clear whether his future in the NFL is at guard or tackle, Chicago is willing to select a player rather than a certain position. There’s a strong case to be made that Skoronski has the highest floor of any player in this first round.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – Tackle Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
The Eagles have done excellent work over the years building contenders through the trenches. There are a number of ways for general manager Howie Roseman to go, but Philadelphia is best suited selecting the top offensive lineman available. That would be Johnson, a three-year starter at Ohio State and an All-Big Ten tackle.
11. Tennessee Titans – Wide Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The Titans could very well be a team looking to trade into the top 10 and select a quarterback – perhaps to the Cardinals with the No. 3 overall pick or with the Bears at the No. 9 slot if a quarterback has fallen that far. But Tennessee needs weapons if Ryan Tannehill is returning as the starter. In Smith-Njigba, the Titans would be selecting the first wide receiver off the board.
12. Houston Texans – Wide Receiver Quentin Johnston, TCU
After landing Levis with the second overall pick, the Texans will take a weapon for him at wide receiver in the TCU standout Johnston, who boasts prototypical size at 6-foot-3 and blazing speed to match. Suddenly, Houston has building blocks in place on offense.
13. New York Jets – Tackle Darnell Wright, Tennessee
The Jets seem almost certain to take a tackle with the 13th overall pick; it’s a just a matter of which one. Wright could land with the Bears in the ninth pick but would be a strong fit for the Jets, who must bring protection for their quarterback. Speaking of which, look for Aaron Rodgers to land in New York by Day 2 of this draft – better late than never.
14. New England Patriots – Edge Rusher Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
As Bill Belichick and the Patriots look to reboot as a contender this season, they’ll find a promising piece for their defense in Van Ness. Though he never started a game at Iowa, Van Ness emerged as one of the brightest defensive prospects in this draft class.
15. Green Bay Packers – Tight End Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
As the Packers begin the Jordan Love Era in Green Bay, they’ll need to offer him a chance at immediate success. Mayer is the most polished tight end prospect in this draft class and could bring instant impact for Love and the Packers’ offense.
16. Washington Commanders – Cornerback Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
There’s a good chance Gonzalez will be selected well prior to the Commanders go on the clock with the 16th pick, but Washington certainly wouldn’t hesitate if he was still available. Gonzalez brings 4.38 speed and prototypical size and is considered near even with Witherspoon as the top cornerback in this class.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Defensive Tackle Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
For a second straight year, the Steelers will select a Pitt Panther in the first round – first with quarterback Kenny Pickett in 2022 and now Kancey with the 17th overall pick. He’s an undersized defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh who brings explosiveness and a high motor to the NFL. Does that sound familiar?
18. Detroit Lions – Running Back Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Lions look like they could be the top team in the NFC North this season, and perhaps for years to come. In selecting Robinson with the 18th pick, Detroit would be leaving little doubt of its place as a contender. Many believe that Robinson would immediately become one of the top running backs in the NFL once drafted.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tackle Broderick Jones, Georgia
The Buccaneers have a number of ways they could go with the 19th pick but will find the upside of Jones as a building block for their future. He’s a developmental prospect with plenty of promise for Tampa Bay.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Edge Rusher Nolan Smith, Georgia
After landing Carter with the No. 5 overall pick, the Seahawks will make another investment for their defensive front with the exciting athleticism of Smith. At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Smith logged a 4.39 time on the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Wide Receiver Jordan Addison, USC
It’s not so much a draft pick as a plea for the Chargers to get prized quarterback Justin Herbert the help he needs on offense to continue his evolution. Los Angeles cannot go wrong in bringing in the gifted USC product Addison.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Could the Ravens be a team to shake up the draft with a trade up for a quarterback? Given the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson’s future in Baltimore, it’s a looming possibility. Instead, the Ravens add to their secondary with Porter, the son of former rival Joey Porter Sr.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Cornerback Deonte Banks, Maryland
Rather remarkably, the Vikings finished with a minus-3 point differential last season despite a 13-4 overall record. It means Minnesota must add to its defense, and Banks is the type of player who can offer that needed upgrade.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Edge Rusher Myles Murphy, Clemson
The Jaguars broke through as the AFC South winners last season in part due to a loaded defensive front. That unit can continue to ascend with the selection of Murphy, a first-team All-ACC pass rusher last season at Clemson.
25. New York Giants – Wide Receiver Zay Flowers, Boston College
After making a long-term investment in quarterback Daniel Jones, the Giants can bolster their arsenal by selecting Flowers, who was an All-ACC wide receiver with nine touchdowns last season. He would be an ideal fit in New York’s budding offensive identity.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Defensive Lineman Bryan Bresee, Clemson
It would be surprising if the Cowboys attempted an aggressive trade into the middle of the first round to select the prized running back Robinson. But if Dallas does stand pat with the 26th pick, Bresee would be an impact addition to the defensive line.
27. Buffalo Bills – Safety Brian Branch, Alabama
The Bills seem well set in the secondary with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at safety, but they won’t shy away from a game-changing talent in Branch who can play a versatile role as a rookie in Buffalo’s secondary.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Tight End Dalton Kincaid, Utah
The Bengals are preparing to break the bank for quarterback Joe Burrow. With that comes the pressure to build a young, cost-controlled core around him. Kincaid was an All-Pac-12 tight end last season who posted 70 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns.
29. New Orleans Saints – Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, Saints
Under the watch of head coach Dennis Allen, the Saints have built a top-10 defense. Forbes would bring New Orleans a potentially promising player for that defensive identity. Last season, Forbes produced six interceptions, including three returned for a touchdown.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Guard O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
The Eagles will go with a second offensive lineman in the first round in Torrence, who played his entire college career without allowing a single sack. It’s another important addition for Philadelphia to keep the offensive line sustainable for the long term.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Wide Receiver Josh Downs, North Carolina
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has done excellent work keeping a strong cast around superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. With the last pick of the first round, the Chiefs could deal down – but will bring Mahomes another weapon in the wide receiver Downs.