There will be 31 players taken in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, but teams usually have about 20 players with first-round grades in April. Mock drafts are more or less a look at players with the potential to find themselves in that conversation. In today's thought exercise, I explore a few new names as well as an evolving quarterback pecking order.
The draft order below was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds, but in reverse order. These are your team's betting odds of winning a Lombardi Trophy this season.
Without further ado, let's kick this off!
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • Jr • 6'3" / 218 lbs
The presence of Desmond Ridder is not going to be enough for Atlanta to bypass on its top quarterback target regardless of what he may or may not show by the end of the year. Stroud gives the Falcons a fresh start and a chance to elevate recent investments in Kyle Pitts and Drake London.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Seattle's future is not with Geno Smith despite the upset he pulled in Week 1. Young is a reliable trigger man who Pete Carroll can feel comfortable executing the game plan. Will the California native be able to hold up in the Pacific Northwest?
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • Jr • 6'4" / 243 lbs
Is Houston more comfortable with Davis Mills? Or would it be willing to take a chance on Kentucky quarterback Will Levis in this spot? In this scenario, the Texans stick with the incumbent and bring in the talented Anderson to rush the passer.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • Sr • 6'3" / 232 lbs
Carolina takes another blindfolded swing at the quarterback piñata. Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold could theoretically be gone after the season, leaving Levis to fend off second-year quarterback Matt Corral.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Northwestern • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Left tackle Braxton Jones' play has been encouraging to start the season. They have former first-round selection Alex Leatherwood to potentially develop and maybe Teven Jenkins is not a lost cause. There are a lot of moving pieces, but adding more to the offensive line and letting the best five take the field is what is best for Justin Fields.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • Jr • 6'3" / 300 lbs
Carter sliding to No. 6 overall is an ideal scenario for New York. Carl Lawson, Micheal Clemons and Jermaine Johnson II form a good rotation on the edge. Quinnen Williams next to Carter along the interior is terrifying. San Francisco has always valued depth along the defensive line, and it is reasonable to think Robert Saleh brought a similar philosophy to the Jets.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 210 lbs
Washington's defense is not as good as it was two years ago and what many have held out hope for the past two seasons. Ringo has the size and speed to be a tremendous talent. He would significantly upgrade the secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Jr • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Jacksonville has to be considering alternatives to the contracts given to Christian Kirk and Zay Jones this offseason. The Jaguars did what was necessary to support Trevor Lawrence presently but need a long-term solution at the position. Smith-Njigba can be part of that solution.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Texas A&M • Jr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
To poke a hole in my own projection, general manager Brad Holmes comes from a Rams organization that has made a living on identifying starting defensive backs on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. He may not value the position this highly, but Johnson is a versatile and physical player who makes a lot of sense on a Dan Campbell-coached team.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Myles Murphy EDGE
Clemson • Jr • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Murphy is a special talent, and Tennessee should be grateful that he fell this far. He brings more possibilities to that Titans front, allowing Jeffery Simmons to move around and create pressure from various points along the defensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Ohio State • Jr • 6'6" / 310 lbs
The quarterbacks have missed a number of opportunities down the field, which could be a result of multiple shortcomings. One narrative at play is a lack of trust in the offensive line. If Pittsburgh is able to upgrade that unit, it would not only create holes for running back Najee Harris but allow Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett the time to stand in the pocket and deliver downfield to Chase Claypool, George Pickens and Diontae Johnson.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Clemson • Jr • 6'3" / 240 lbs
New York would love to have a lockdown man coverage cornerback, but without one available, it turns to a versatile linebacker. Simpson can drop into coverage, fit run gaps or use his quickness to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Round 1 - Pick 13
LSU • Jr • 6'0" / 205 lbs
Boutte and LSU have clashed a bit this season. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has never deterred from taking a big personality at the position, from Randy Moss to Antonio Brown. The selection of Boutte, however, represents a longer commitment, and they need someone to step up and make an impact in the pass game.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • Soph • 6'5" / 305 lbs
First and foremost, thoughts and prayers to the Bresee family as they deal with the passing of Bryan's sister, Ella. He will have an opportunity to not only carry on her legacy in the NFL but make an impact with his platform.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Georgia • Soph • 6'4" / 310 lbs
Rookie Bernhard Raimann could prove to be the left tackle of the future for Indianapolis, but it is too early to reach that conclusion despite some flashes in a small sample of playing time. The development of Raimann would allow the franchise to address other needs in the first round.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 16
Florida • Soph • 6'6" / 312 lbs
Houston selected Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. with its first selection and now addresses the interior defensive line. Over a two-year period, the Texans would have added cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., safety Jalen Pitre, Anderson and Dexter. Head coach Lovie Smith would have to be thrilled with that outcome.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Texas • Jr • 6'0" / 220 lbs
Robinson's talent warrants this level of investment, and Arizona may be quirky enough to do it. The Cardinals have been unpredictable in their decision-making, and the depth chart presents a clear path to playing time.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Cam Smith CB
South Carolina • Jr • 6'0" / 188 lbs
The idea of selecting Smith at this point in the first round is honestly a bit rich for my taste, but at about the midpoint in the first round, there is less confidence in the available talent. Smith can be a reliable option in that Philadelphia scheme long after James Bradberry is gone.
Round 1 - Pick 19
USC • Jr • 6'0" / 175 lbs
Dallas needs another pass catcher to support CeeDee Lamb. The return of Michael Gallup could cure some of the team's issues, and rookie Jalen Tolbert could develop, making this selection unnecessary. However, Tolbert may not develop as quickly as the organization needs, and Jerry Jones is not shy about adding firepower.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Notre Dame • Jr • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Cincinnati will soon have a choice to make between Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The most likely outcome is that Boyd is the odd man out. The addition of Mayer helps negate some of the loss in pass production. The franchise could still target the offensive line considering its early-season struggles.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Josh Downs WR
North Carolina • Jr • 5'10" / 175 lbs
Justin Jefferson has established himself as one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Downs was dominant in his debut, but an injury has prevented him from returning to the field. He is dangerous after the catch and would be a great compliment to Jefferson.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 23
Jaquelin Roy DL
LSU • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
I truly believe Seattle found some quality players along the offensive line, in the secondary and to rush the passer as part of the most recent NFL Draft. Roy would go a long way towards fortifying the interior of that defensive line.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 24
Round 1 - Pick 25
TCU • Jr • 6'4" / 215 lbs
Johnston to Baltimore has been a popular match because his size is exactly what that offense needs in the pass game. There is a lot more for Johnston to show before he has earned his place in the first round but, once again, there is a path for him to arrive at that point.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Jahmyr Gibbs RB
Alabama • Jr • 5'11" / 200 lbs
Gibbs is a talented player who deserves first-round consideration, but positional value may not allow it. Los Angeles has been using a similarly versatile running back in Austin Ekeler. Plus, Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes from New Orleans, which has deployed Alvin Kamara in a comparable capacity.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 27
Florida • Soph • 6'4" / 232 lbs
Richardson has a lot to work on before he becomes the quarterback many think he can become. However, if he is able to show a modicum amount of that potential this season, then it will be enough for a team to take a chance on him. Detroit is an ideal situation because the presence of Jared Goff allows Richardson time to learn on the bench.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Maryland • Jr • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Maryland has not played any Power 5 competition for fans to become familiar with Jarrett's game. He has the upside to be an early-round selection. Green Bay has historically bypassed the idea of taking a wide receiver in the first round, but maybe that is part of the reason it finds itself in the current predicament.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Eli Ricks CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'2" / 190 lbs
The LSU transfer has not done much for Alabama to this point, but the reality is that there are not 32 players who have solidified their placement in the first round. There are another seven months for it all to play out, but Ricks is one with the potential to be in this position.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Arik Gilbert TE
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 255 lbs
I debated whether or not Gilbert would make the first round because he has not done much of anything for Georgia this season. At the end of the day, his size and athletic profile are going to entice a team in the first round if he gets it together by season's end.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Penn State • Soph • 6'6" / 321 lbs
Orlando Brown Jr. is playing out the franchise tag in Kansas City, and it did not sound as though the two parties were close to an agreement on a contract extension. If the lineman is similarly stingy in contract negotiations next season, then I could see the franchise going in another direction.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Brian Branch CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 193 lbs
If I am being honest with myself, the pick lacks creativity. It is one that I have made multiple times in a row, but it just makes so much sense. Branch is a great fit for what Buffalo asks of its safeties.