Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, bringing the end of the college football regular season with it. Resumes are nearly locked in for each 2023 NFL Draft prospect, and the draft order is beginning to take form as well. Who are the favorites to go on day one? Find out in NFLMocks’ latest mock draft!
As is the case most years, quarterbacks dominate the headlines. Bryce Young and CJ Stroud have been in No. 1 overall discussions for over 12 months; neither has taken themselves out of those conversations with their 2022 play.
Will Levis, Hendon Hooker, and Anthony Richardson have all witnessed a roller coaster ride in 2022 in terms of NFL Draft stock. At different points this season, each guy has heard his name in top 10 debates.
The two best players in the class, for my money, reside on the defensive side of the ball. Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter are the types of prospects that a defensive coordinator can game-plan an entire defense around.
The cornerback and wide receiver groups do not possess a true blue-chip prospect but have loads of starter depth on the boundary. The same can be said for the tight end, safety, and linebacker positions.
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Running back is the best group from top to bottom in this class. I have a handful of franchise RB grades and a few more on the cusp of entering that realm. Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Blake Corum garner most of the praise, but guys like Sean Tucker, Devon Achane, and Zach Evans all hold their weight.
The offensive line features Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr. up top as left tackles; both will come off the board on day one of the 2023 NFL Draft. Center John Michael Schmitz owns a late first-round grade from me and has a great chance to sneak into the back half similar to Tyler Linderbaum in 2022.
Using the current draft order from Tankathon, the top three teams (Texans, Raiders, Panthers) could all be in the market for a new quarterback this offseason. The Eagles, Seahawks, Lions, and Texans are all owed a pick in the top 10 from the Saints, Broncos, Rams, and Browns respectively. We are in store for a wild NFL Draft!
Now that we have an idea of the strongest and weakest points of the 2023 NFL Draft class, let’s attempt to predict how the first round of the event will unfold! The Houston Texans are now on the clock…
1: Houston Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The Houston Texans thought they might have found a steal in third-round pick Davis Mills. Unfortunately, Mills’ play in 2022 has proven otherwise. The former Stanford Cardinal lacks the type of precision and arm talent necessary to be a leader of the franchise in the NFL.
Bryce Young lacks the ideal size of Davis Mills, but he makes up for it in every other aspect of being a quarterback. Young is a player that leads by example with his strong work ethic and determination to improve week in and week out.
The Crimson Tide quarterback and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner brings pinpoint accuracy, mobility, and a clutch gene that compares to the likes of the late Kobe Bryant. Two former Alabama signal-callers are in league MVP discussions in 2022; look for the Texans to take note of that and add Bryce Young as the centerpiece of their rebuild.
2: Las Vegas Raiders – CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Derek Carr and the Raiders lost to the Indianapolis Colts at home this weekend, against an interim head coach that just took over the mantle in Indy. This led to an impassioned and heartbreaking speech from Carr, who expressed his love for the franchise and his wish that everyone in the building felt the same way.
That speech, as heartfelt and authentic as it was, will not keep the front office from looking at upgrades at quarterback this offseason. Early reports say that the Raiders are enamored with CJ Stroud, and the fit would make a lot of sense on the surface.
Stroud thrives as a pocket passer and possesses the accuracy that Josh McDaniels looks for to run his scheme effectively. The Buckeye quarterback struggles against pressure, so Vegas needs to improve the offensive line, but with a healthy stable of weapons, Stroud could step in and produce immediately for the Black & Silver.
3: Carolina Panthers – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Is it really possible that we see a repeat of the 2021 NFL Draft where three quarterbacks went in the top three? Given the teams currently sat atop the draft board, I answer that question with a resounding yes in this mock draft.
The Carolina Panthers have dealt with poor quarterback play since Cam Newton’s prime. The reclamation projects did not work under Matt Rhule; with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold slated to be free agents, it is increasingly likely that whoever is the head coach in Carolina in 2023, will have the ability to select their own signal-caller.
Will Levis is far from a perfect prospect. What he lacks in polish and decision-making, he makes up for with pristine physical traits and the track record of handling a complicated offensive scheme.
Levis has been running a variation of the west coast offense, popularized by Sean McVay. This immediately will earn Levis favor as a prospect with a slew of teams. Perhaps the Panthers reunite Will Levis with his play caller from 2021, Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen?