6. Detroit Lions – Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The fall stops at No. 6 for Jalen Carter. The No. 2 rated player on my Big Board is a mystery right now with legal issues still lingering. However, if Carter is cleared, this will be the biggest steal of the draft for any team.
The Lions have re-shaped the secondary this offseason; a superstar-caliber player alongside Alim McNeill is the final piece to turning the Detroit defense into an above-average group. Carter disrupts the pocket and blows up gaps in the run game; he is a perfect fit for Dan Campbell’s Lions.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Will Levis is in strong consideration for Vegas, but this mock draft goes in a different direction. The Raiders need all kinds of help on defense, and I believe a pillar in the secondary is a great place to start. Patrick Graham loves a lengthy, versatile cornerback, and Gonzalez more than fits the bill. A day one starter for the Silver & Black.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Nolan Smith set the NFL Combine on fire during a jaw-dropping workout in front of the football world. He won’t wait long to hear his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft, and in this mock draft, Smith stays in-state, becoming a Falcon.
Smith brings a run-stuffing prowess unprecedented for a player of his size and has untapped potential as a pass rusher. The Falcons need help in both areas, so Smith kills two birds with one stone.
9. Chicago Bears – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
The Bears have spent the offseason building up the roster around Justin Fields. DJ Moore is his latest weapon, but after losing David Montgomery to the Lions, a spot has opened up in the backfield.
Khalil Herbert is a serviceable ball carrier for Chicago but is best fit for a No. 2 role in an offense. Bijan Robinson is capable of commanding the backfield with his elite vision, patience, contact balance, and receiving chops. Fields will have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in 2023.
10. Washington Commanders (via PHI) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
A trade! The Commanders signed Jacoby Brissett and have stated their interest in giving Sam Howell a fair shake at quarterback. But Will Levis falling to No. 10 overall throws a wrench in these plans.
While I am not the biggest Levis guy in the world, his arm talent and ability to improvise are enticing. If a coach can rein in his wild tendencies, the Kentucky fireballer could put up gaudy numbers throwing to Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel.
11. Tennessee Titans – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Titans would consider Levis if he had made it to them, but Washington leap-frogged them, so that is out the window. Instead, Tennessee fills a more immediate need by taking Broderick Jones and slotting him into Taylor Lewan’s vacated spot on the line. Jones is raw, but he is a plus-blocker in the run game right now and has elite potential in the passing game.
12. Houston Texans – Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
DeMeco Ryans went offense earlier in the mock draft, but he can’t resist tabbing Calijah Kancey as the key cog to his new defensive line. Kancey boasts inside-out versatility and should boost the Houston pass rush from the moment he arrives.