2023 First Round Mock and Actual Draft


#1: Carolina Panthers

Mock: The Panthers currently have the first pick, and it’s really no surprise who they are going to draft. Alabama QB Bryce Young fills the need for a signal-caller, and is the most logical choice.

Actual: The Panthers drafted Alabama QB Bryce Young at 1. Young has the highest potential of any QB in this draft, and is probably the least likely to become a bust. The Panthers just improved their chances of winning big games, and the rest of the NFC South should be nervous.

#2 (and #12): Houston Texans

Mock: The Texans have picks 2 and 12. Pick 2 is going to be Ohio State QB CJ Stroud, the best QB available at this pick and arguably the best QB in the draft. Pick 12 is going to be Georgia DE Nolan Smith, who, combined with free agent signing Sheldon Rankins, will make the Houston defense decent, if not necessarily better.

Actual: The Texans drafted Ohio State QB CJ Stroud at 2, and then traded up from 12 to 3 to draft Alabama LB Will Anderson. Both of these are solid picks if they succeed in the NFL, but Stroud has a lower ceiling than Anderson. (Just look at his stats against Northwestern last season.) If he does well, this pick will be great. If not, well . . . the Texans Texan’d again.

#3: Arizona Cardinals

Mock: The Cardinals have the world in front of them at 3rd overall, but this pick cannot solve all of their many problems. However, they can cross one concern off the board with Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson, who provides a truly solid pass rusher for the Cardinals as they attempt to become relevant for the right reasons.

Actual: The Cardinals originally sat at 3, before trading down to 12, then back up to 6, where they drafted Ohio State OT Paris Johnson. The Cardinals made a solid pick, although considering their horrid roster, it was kind of hard for them to do worse. Johnson will give Kyler Murray solid protection, and is a relatively safe pick.

#4: Indianapolis Colts

Mock: The Colts sit at pick 4. Similar to the Panthers, the biggest need in Indy is at QB. Kentucky’s Will Levis is probably going to be the best QB left at 4, and he could signify a true replacement for Andrew Luck, despite being about four years late.

Actual: The Colts drafted Florida QB Anthony Richardson at 4. Richardson is a project who will need at least one season to blossom, but if he does, he could be in the same dual-threat conversation as Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. However, despite that high ceiling, Richardson also has a fairly low floor, especially when looking at his college stats.

#5 (and #20): Seattle Seahawks

Mock: The Seahawks have a pair of first rounders, at 5 and 20 respectively. At the fifth pick, Alabama LB Will Anderson is the logical choice to improve the D-line, and Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence at the 20th pick would provide O-line help needed for the resurgent Geno Smith.

Actual: At 5, the Seahawks took Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, who provides this secondary with even more talent. At 20, the Seahawks drafted Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. This offense has loads of talent around Geno Smith, and the Seahawks look set for another playoff push.

#6 (and #18): Detroit Lions

Mock: The Lions are one of a few teams to have multiple picks stacked up. Despite ending up on the outside of the playoff tent this year, they can make a run to the postseason if they draft Oregon CB Christian González at 6 overall and Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer at 18. Both of these players will fill holes left on their respective sides of the ball, and help the Lions take a weakened division.

Actual: The Lions traded down from 6 to 12, and drafted Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs, but stayed at 18 and took Iowa LB Jack Campbell. Both of these picks are solid, especially Campbell. The Lions definitely hit the nail on the head, and with Gibbs now complementing David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift, the Lions could trade one of them (aka Swift) for even more capital.

#7: Las Vegas Raiders

Mock: The Raiders have glaring issues all over the team, but a particular issue is the secondary. Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon would certainly fix that issue as a solid addition to Johnathan Abram, as well as other defensive players like Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby.

Actual: The Raiders drafted Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson at #7. While not the best option for the Raiders, Wilson is a solid pick, and when combined with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, could still help solidify the Raiders defense.

#8: Atlanta Falcons

Mock: The Falcons sit at pick 8, and with the defense being a major concern, Georgia DT Jalen Carter makes perfect sense. A local kid with All-Pro potential, Carter would fill major gaps in the Atlanta defense.

Actual: The Falcons drafted Texas RB Bijan Robinson. While this pick means the Falcons offense just got better, they really didn’t need Robinson. It was the horrid defense that Atlanta needed to prioritize, and they waited until later in the draft to address it.

#9: Chicago Bears

Mock: The Bears traded down from 1 to 9, but landed DJ Moore in the process. This essentially fills their WR need, but their horrid O-line still needs work. Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski fills this excellently. Going to college on the other side of town, as well as being one of, if not the best OT in the draft, will make the Bears more willing to take him so they can finally protect Justin Fields.

Actual: The Bears traded down from 9 to 10 with the Eagles, and drafted Tennessee OT Darnell Wright. While not the best OT in the draft, Wright will be a massive help to Justin Fields, who will now enjoy the privilege of having enough time to actually throw the football.

#10: Philadelphia Eagles

Mock: The Eagles have a pair of picks, at 10 and 31, respectively. At 10, Texas RB Bijan Robinson is the logical choice, as Miles Sanders is gone. At pick 31, Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes is a solid secondary complement to James Bradberry and Darius Slay, both of whose times in Philly could be ending.

Actual: The Eagles traded up from 10 to 9 with Chicago and drafted Georgia DT Jalen Carter. They also stayed at 30 and took Georgia LB Nolan Smith. The Eagles have plenty of UGA defensive players, and since most of their defense left in free agency, these players will fill those gaps and keep the Eagles in contention.

#11: Tennessee Titans

Mock: The Titans are in rebuilding mode, and part of any good rebuild is finding an offensive line cornerstone. Ohio State OT Paris Johnson is arguably the best lineman in the draft, and Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, or whoever the Titans have at QB will greatly appreciate Johnson’s blocking abilities.

Actual: The Titans made a solid pick at 11 with Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski. The probable replacement for Taylor Lewan, Skoronski is a solid OT who will protect the QB, whether it be Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis or [Ed. Note—noted person who should not be allowed within 500 yards of mayonnaise, coffee, or bananas] Will Levis.

#13: Green Bay Packers

Mock: The Packers currently hold the 13th pick, which they obtained by trading Aaron Rodgers. With Jordan Love officially calling the shots, he will need all the help he can get. Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba fits perfectly. Fast and with excellent hands, he will fully fill the hole left by Davante Adams, and give Jordan Love the ability to make a name for himself.

Actual: The Packers took Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness at #13. The Packers are not helping their QB, which is the reason why one of the teams’ greatest QBs just left a week ago. Who’s shocked? While Van Ness is fine, he probably won’t be able to make up for the inevitable struggles this team will have.

#14: New England Patriots

Mock: The Patriots still have yet to find a true WR, but the 14th pick could hold the answer. North Carolina WR Josh Downs would fit perfectly in Bill Belichick’s system as a main target for Mac Jones.

Actual: The Patriots drafted Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez at #17, which is a confusing pick to say the least. While the rest of the division has excellent receivers, the Patriots themselves don’t, and with a lack of trust in Mac Jones as QB, drafting a WR1 should have been the priority.

#15: New York Jets

Mock: With Aaron Rodgers in town, the offense in New York is probably more or less fixed. With the 15th pick, the Jets should turn to the defense and draft Iowa LB Jack Campbell. His talents are obvious, and will be an excellent fit, especially considering Robert Saleh’s defensive experience.

Actual: With the 15th pick, the Jets drafted Iowa State DE Will McDonald. While it is not their most dire need, another solid defensive lineman does provide some help. The Jets have all the talent needed for a championship team, but whether they can actually play like one remains unknown.

#16: Washington Commanders

Mock: The Commanders sit at pick 16, and improving the secondary is a big priority. South Carolina CB Cam Smith would fit well with Ron Rivera’s system. The Commanders need all the help they can get, and Cam Smith would be a key part of the rebuild.

Actual: The Commanders drafted Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes at #16, showing that the new ownership is already taking this team in the right direction. Forbes is a solid player that can contribute from day one, and the Commanders, with a few offensive tweaks, could shock the rest of the division . . . but they won’t, of course.

#17: Pittsburgh Steelers

Mock: While Levi Wallace is solid, the Steelers secondary could get better. Alabama S Brian Branch is an excellent complement who could make the Steelers a better team, and if he is available at 17, Pittsburgh should pick him up.

Actual: The Steelers drafted Georgia OT Broderick Jones at 14, trading up with New England. This is a solid pick, as Kenny Pickett needs more protection than he did last year, and Jones can provide that. The Steelers will still finish in the bottom half of the division, but could be on the uptick.

#19: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mock: The Buccaneers have the 19th pick, and with Baker Mayfield in town, their QB issues are at least temporarily solved. However, with Gronk retired and Cameron Brate a free agent, Utah TE Dalton Kincaid makes sense if the Buccaneers want a shot at something better than third place in the division.

Actual: Tampa drafted Pitt DT Calijah Kancey at 19. While not the best DT in the class, Kancey is still solid enough to start a few games this season. The Buccaneers did an okay job with this pick.

#21: Miami Dolphins

Friends don’t let friends violate ÑFL anti-tampering policies.

#22: San Diego Chargers

Mock: With this pick, the Chargers should select talented Clemson LB Trenton Simpson to complement Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack very well.

Actual: The Chargers did not do that, but they still hit the nail on the head at 21, drafting TCU WR Quentin Johnston. Johnston, along with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, can provide Justin Herbert with a solid trio of targets that will allow them to win important games.

#23: Baltimore Ravens

Mock: The Ravens have a glaring need at WR, and with the 23rd pick, Boston College WR Zay Flowers fits the bill. An excellent route runner, Flowers would give OBJ a solid complement and Lamar Jackson another solid target.

Actual: Baltimore hit it out of the park by drafting Boston College WR Zay Flowers 22nd overall. Flowers and OBJ will provide Lamar Jackson with a solid duo, which could help give the Bengals a run for their money.

#24: Minnesota Vikings

Mock: The Vikings currently sit at pick 24. With the defense being a major liability, especially the secondary, it only makes sense for the Vikings to take a shot at Maryland CB Deonte Banks. Banks will help fill in the gap that injured players like Andrew Booth Jr. left.

Actual: The Vikings originally had the 24th pick, but moved up one to 23 because of the Dolphins being forced to forfeit their pick. The Vikings took USC WR Jordan Addison, who is a solid replacement for Adam Thielen and a complement to Justin Jefferson. While I think the secondary was a bit more of a pressing concern, I like this pick.

#25: Jacksonville Jaguars

Mock: The Jaguars don’t have any glaring needs, but if they want to take the next step in becoming true contenders, TCU WR Quentin Johnston would be the biggest help. He would provide Trevor Lawrence with an elite deep threat, in addition to the solid set of weapons Lawrence already has.

Actual: The Jaguars drafted Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison at 27. Trevor Lawrence now has the protection he needs, and if the defense can up its game even by a slight amount, the Jaguars could easily take the division and make another playoff push.

#26: New York Giants

Mock: The Giants don’t have many dire needs in the draft, but taking an extra WR at 26 to help Danny Dimes would be nice. USC’s Jordan Addison, an elite prospect, will give the Giants an extra edge that could allow them to potentially thwart the Eagles from taking another division crown.

Actual: The Giants traded up from 26 to 24 with the Jaguars, and drafted Maryland CB Deonte Banks, a decent corner that can shore up the shaky Giants secondary. Overall, the Giants did okay here.

#27: Dallas Cowboys

Mock: The Cowboys have built a solid team this offseason (what a shame it will still not get out of the divisional round), but it could always get a little bit better. Clemson DE Myles Murphy would provide a counterpart to Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. That could finally give the Cowboys a shot at winning the division on their own merit, for a change.

Actual: The Cowboys actually did fairly well in round one by taking Michigan DT Mazi Smith at #26. Smith is an equally solid addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons, who will doubtlessly help the Cowboys embarrass themselves even more when they lose in the playoffs.

#28: Buffalo Bills

Mock: The Bills could use some help on the defensive line, and with the 27th pick, Michigan DT Mazi Smith would definitely help fill the gap. The Bills still need work elsewhere, but this is a must if the Bills want to actually win the conference this time.

Actual: The Bills surprised most people by using the 25th pick on Utah TE Dalton Kincaid. It’s not that Kincaid is a bad player by any means, but the Bills don’t have a need for a tight end. However, now that they have a replacement for Dawson Knox, the Bills could use him as trade capital.

#29: Cincinnati Bengals

Mock: The Bengals have the 29th pick. With Hayden Hurst now in Carolina, another target for Joe Burrow would be ideal. Georgia TE Darnell Washington is the best TE still available at 29, and would fit well with Zac Taylor’s system.

Actual: The Bengals added a solid defensive player at #28 in the form of Clemson DE Myles Murphy. Along with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, the Bengals defense may have just taken a step from above average to borderline elite.

#30: New Orleans Saints

Mock: The Saints currently have the 30th pick, and despite not having any major concerns, Clemson DT Bryan Breese is a solid prospect that would provide a solid player, and a complement for the ever-older Cameron Jordan.

Actual: What do you know? The Saints did draft Clemson DT Bryan Breese at 29. Breese could be a day one starter on the already solid Saints defense. Dennis Allen’s defensive experience should also expand Breese’s already impressive talents.

#32: Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs: The Chiefs will select Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs will provide the Chiefs with a true RB1, something they hit-and-missed-at with Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020. Gibbs has amazing potential, particularly through the air, which is somewhat uncommon among current running backs.

Chiefs: The Chiefs didn’t really have a lot of work to do this offseason, but since most of it was probably on defense, taking Kansas State DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah is a great idea. This pick should pan out well, but luckily for the Chiefs, their defense should still be fine if Anudike-Uzomah fails to catch on in the NFL.

#0: Everyone Else

The Rams, 49ers, Browns, Dolphins and Broncos did not have first-round picks this year.