With the NFL season wrapping up this weekend with the Super Bowl -- have you heard of it? -- it seems as good a time as any for my first NFL mock draft for 2023, and while I've always loved this time of year, this season's draft takes on a bit of added significance for me.
I'm a Chicago Bears fan. The team has never had the No. 1 pick in my lifetime, and while I'd much rather the Bears were playing in the Super Bowl, having the No. 1 pick is an excellent alternative. Particularly when they might already have their franchise QB in Justin Fields.
Now, I do not expect the Bears to make the draft's first pick. I believe they will trade the pick, and that's what I have them doing in my first mock. As a point of order going forward, while some like to include trade details in their mocks, I don't. I find them to be beside the point. I care more about why the teams are making the trade than how much value they put on the picks.
In this mock, the Indianapolis Colts are moving up to draft a QB instead of playing veteran QB Roulette. General manager Chris Ballard has made no secret of his willingness to do so, and it strikes me as a logical starting point in my first attempt this year.
Remember: there are only 31 selections in this mock draft because the Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick due to tampering.
For more extensive draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
Mock Trade from Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
There is no obvious No. 1 QB in this class, but based on the Colts' prior choices at QB, I have a hard time believing they'd go for the smaller Bryce Young. Stroud has his weak spots, but his performance against Georgia in a loss may have been the most impressive of his career, and there's no doubting his decision-making and accuracy in a clean pocket.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
We'll hear a lot about Young's slight frame in the coming months, and I'll understand the concerns. That aside, there's a playmaking ability about Young once the ball is snapped that none of the other QBs in this class showed as consistently as Young did during his time at Alabama. He may be small, but whatever "It" is, Young has it.
Mock Trade from Arizona Cardinals
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
The most polarizing QB in the class heads to Carolina as the Panthers trade up to get him. Levis gets compared to Josh Allen because they have similar styles and concerns coming out of college. We've seen how much Allen has improved in the NFL, but the concern is those kinds of improvements are more exception than rule.
Mock Trade from Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
The question in Chicago all winter has been Carter or Will Anderson Jr.? Head coach Matt Eberflus has openly discussed how vital the 3-technique is to his defense, so until the Bears address it via trade or free agency, I'm operating under the assumption they'd take Carter over Anderson. And there's good reason to. Players like Jalen Carter don't come around often, and there isn't much more valuable to a defense than a player who can blow things up from the interior.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
Anderson is probably the safest bet in this draft. Maybe he doesn't go on to a Hall of Fame career or become a perennial Pro Bowler, but the odds are good he's going to be an added-value player at a premium value position. So, for the Seahawks to land him at the fifth spot would be a godsend for a team in need of upgrades to its defensive front.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
I love Bryan Bresee. There are injury concerns because of time missed while at Clemson, but while he may not have the ceiling of Jalen Carter, Bresee has an excellent chance of being a disruptive force on the interior. He's strong, big, moves quickly and seems to have a better understanding of the position already.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
Skoronski is polarizing. I've talked to people who believe he can be an above-average left tackle in the league without question, and I've talked to people who believe he'll have to kick inside due to not having the ideal length. I'm probably more in the latter camp, but I'm not convinced in either direction. All I know is that when I watched him at Northwestern, he held up well against the best pass-rushers he faced, including a guy going in a couple more picks.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 271 lbs
Wilson was a monster for the Texas Tech defense the last two seasons and could prove to be an excellent pass-rusher in the NFL. He certainly has the size and motor to do it, but how he performs in workouts and at the combine could make or break him. There are concerns about his speed and whether or not he'll be quick enough to beat NFL tackles consistently.
Mock Trade from Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 275 lbs
There's more projection to Van Ness at this point than production, but the projections are fun. He spent the 2021 season on the interior of Iowa's defensive line before moving to end in 2022. He overpowered people at times, but he's also quick and fluid enough to get by blockers. He still needs work on his overall technique and time to figure out what teams are trying to do against him, but that's the case with most young pass-rushers.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Illinois • 6'0" / 180 lbs
After the 2021 season, I thought Witherspoon would be a player who could become a second-day pick after another season. Then he blew up in 2022 as part of an Illinois defense that was one of the best in the country. He played in a man-heavy scheme and matched up well. While he's not the biggest, he's long and plays with the angry demeanor and short memory you want in a defensive back. He'd fit right in with the rest of the Eagles defense.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Ohio State • 6'6" / 310 lbs
The Titans need to make upgrades on their offensive line, and Paris Johnson is somebody who could prove to be a cornerstone left tackle. As an Ohio State Buckeye, Mike Vrabel will have all the intel he needs on Johnson. I could also see the Titans going after a WR or pass-rusher here.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Ohio State • 6'1" / 200 lbs
JSN rarely played in 2022 due to a hamstring issue that refused to go away, but for my money, he's still the best WR in this class. He might not be the biggest or the fastest, but everything he does is smooth. Keep in mind he played on an Ohio State team with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in 2021, and JSN was the best of the three. Houston hopes pairing him with Bryce Young speeds up the rebuild.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Jones is still learning the position, but he's an athletic freak. He also plays angry, which is something I love in an offensive lineman. I don't know that you'll want him starting at LT from Day 1, but he could have the highest upside of any tackle prospect in the class.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Murphy's so talented that I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up in the top five. He played primarily in a 4-3 at Clemson, but there isn't a scheme he can't find a home in and be a productive player.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Mayer will step onto the field as your starting tight end from Day 1. He's excellent in the passing game and will be a matchup nightmare for defenses, but he also has the size and ability as an in-line blocker.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Oregon • 6'2" / 201 lbs
I'll be honest, after transferring to Oregon this season, it took me a while to figure out whether I thought Gonzalez was a great draft prospect because of his ability or if it was due to the rest of Oregon's secondary being terrible. I'm leaning toward Gonzalez being good. Like Witherspoon, he's not the strongest, but he's long, athletic and has tremendous instincts for the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
This would be perfect, wouldn't it? Joey Porter Jr. being drafted by the team where his father was an All-Pro for eight years, in the same state he went to school in. I know local beat writers would be grateful for the obvious storylines. The Steelers would be pretty happy with an incredible player, too.
Round 1 - Pick 18
BJ Ojulari EDGE
LSU • 6'3" / 250 lbs
Ojulari is a player who will likely have a much better NFL career than college. His entire time at LSU was spent with different defensive coordinators asking him to do different things, so he never had the chance to show what he could do. I see a lot of upside in Ojulari as a pass-rusher, and that's likely how he'll earn snaps early in his career. Playing alongside Aidan Hutchinson would speed up the process.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Florida • 6'4" / 232 lbs
Whether Tampa addresses it in free agency or trade, Anthony Richardson makes sense as a long-term play at the QB position. Personally, I wish Richardson had spent another year in college developing, but it's hard to pass up the chance to be a first-round pick. The tools are there. The refinement is not. Given time and the right combination of system and coach, Richardson could be a steal.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Florida • 6'5" / 347 lbs
Torrence will be viewed differently by teams depending on what kind of run schemes they use, but the Seahawks need to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. Torrence is an excellent run-blocker who could provide immediate help.
Round 1 - Pick 21
USC • 6'0" / 175 lbs
Addison won the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's best receiver while playing with Kenny Pickett at Pitt. Then he transferred to USC, where he had another excellent season. Keenan Allen isn't getting younger, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Chargers move on this offseason. Addison doesn't have Allen's size but does many of the same things in the passing game.
Round 1 - Pick 22
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
Baltimore's never-ending quest to find a receiver to pair with Lamar Jackson continues with Johnston. He's not the most fluid athlete nor the most polished route runner, but Johnston is a nightmare on slants underneath and can get over the top of a defense. I think he'd pair well with Lamar.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Mississippi State • 6'0" / 180 lbs
I know other talent evaluators like Forbes, but I believe I'm the high man on him. That's fine with me. I love him. He sometimes gets too aggressive, but it's understandable, given how good his hands are. He's a playmaker who can play in any number of schemes.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Alabama • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Not the most pressing need for Jacksonville, and I wouldn't be shocked to see them go corner instead of safety. If the Jaguars go with Branch, they'll be getting a safety who has shown to be more comfortable as a defender in the box but has improved his ability to cover out of the slot.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Zay Flowers WR
Boston College • 5'9" / 182 lbs
Honestly, Flowers was the only reason to watch Boston College the last couple of years. Opponents knew he was the primary option on offense, and they still struggled to stop him. He's small, and he'll drop a pass occasionally, but he's electric with the ball in his hands. He's a receiver with the capability of scoring from anywhere on the field. He'd be what the Giants thought they were getting in Kadarius Toney.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Cam Smith CB
South Carolina • 6'0" / 188 lbs
The Cowboys saw firsthand what can happen to your defense after a few injuries to your corners and will be looking to add depth. Enter Cam Smith, who, like seemingly every other corner in this class, is a bit lean but mean as hell. He also showcases excellent instincts and can make plays on the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas A&M • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Some teams will look at Antonio Johnson and have no idea what position he plays. Others will look at him as a guy who can play anywhere. It's an eye-of-the-beholder situation, as the Aggies played Johnson at safety, in the slot, and occasionally at linebacker. A good defensive coordinator can figure out all sorts of ways to use him.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Oklahoma • 6'5" / 315 lbs
There's been plenty of attention to the QBs and WRs Oklahoma has produced over the years, but the Sooners have shown themselves to be a tackle factory as well. Harrison is the latest. I'd like to see him get stronger, but he's got great length and moves incredibly well.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
I don't know that running back is where the Saints want to start the draft, but Alvin Kamara is the only back under contract on the roster, and he could be suspended for a portion of 2023. The Saints could consider moving on, and Robinson is a fantastic player who could step right into Kamara's role.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
I can't say for a certainty I know what position Smith will play in the NFL, but what I do know is how he'll play in the NFL. He will play with a violent temperament and not take a snap off. He's a selfless player who is just as happy taking on a block to allow a teammate to make a play as he is making the play himself. Wherever he ends up, it's only a matter of time until he has a C on the front of his jersey.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Minnesota • 6'4" / 310 lbs
There's been plenty of talk about the Kelce brothers ahead of the Super Bowl, but the Eagles will face a question about what they do with Jason Kelce after the Super Bowl. This is not a great class for centers, but Schmitz impressed a lot of people at the Senior Bowl and could prove to be the easy succession plan for the Eagles.