The NFL draft is almost here.
You’ve read the latest mock drafts from ESPN gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, and even one in which they collaborated.
Now it’s time for our NFL Nation reporters to share their expertise on the 2023 NFL draft as we close in on Round 1 Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC, ESPN App).
NFL Nation reporters played general manager for the teams they cover and executed a first-round mock on Tuesday night. By the end, there were four quarterbacks taken — including three in the top four picks — and four wide receivers, though none was taken in the top 10. Trades were not allowed.
Here are the full results:
David Newton’s pick: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Carolina traded up from No. 9 to have a shot at Young, and the pre-draft process only strengthened the decision. Start with Young’s processing skills that general manager Scott Fitterer called “over the top.” Then there’s his leadership and proven ability to make plays when things break down. Durability due to his size (5-foot-10, 204 pounds) is the only concern, but Fitterer and coach Frank Reich repeatedly downplayed it. This from Fitterer says it all: “He’s just, like, chill. Nothing’s too big for him.”
DJ Bien-Aime’s pick: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
There’s a lot of buzz about the Texans passing on a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick, but Stroud’s upside could change the trajectory of the Texans. Also, it’s hard to envision the Texans running it back with Davis Mills, who was tied for the most interceptions this past season (15). In Mills’ two seasons as a starter, he ranks 32nd in QBR (36.5), 30th in passing touchdown to interception ratio (1.32) and 30th in yards per attempt (6.6).
Josh Weinfuss’ pick: Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama
The odds are high that Arizona will move down from the third overall pick and stockpile more selections. But if the Cardinals stay at No. 3 and aren’t in need of a quarterback, picking the best defensive player in the draft could kick-start a pass rush that lost most of its juice the past two years. Anderson is the type of player the Cardinals could build a defense around under defensive-minded first-year coach Jonathan Gannon.
Stephen Holder’s pick: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Colts can’t come away from this draft without addressing their long-running quarterback need. Picking fourth overall gives them the best opportunity they’ve had to do that since picking Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. This choice was difficult. The Colts love Will Levis as well, but the thinking here is they bet on Richardson’s rare traits and immense upside — an approach GM Chris Ballard has emphasized in the past.
Brady Henderson’s pick: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
This might be one of the hardest draft decisions general manager John Schneider has faced in Seattle — or one of the easiest, depending on how he feels about Carter the individual. As a player, Carter is exactly what the Seahawks have been trying to find for years, an interior defensive lineman who wreaks havoc against the run and pass. He fills their most glaring hole on either side of the ball. Carter’s also a big gamble given the concerns about his maturity and practice habits. But he might be the best player in the draft, so the reward — and the need — outweighs the risk.
Eric Woodyard’s pick: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
The Lions desperately need help on defense, particularly against the run after allowing 5.2 yards per rush (30th) last season. With Wilson, the Lions are adding another elite pass-rusher to pair with 2022 No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson (whose 9.5 sacks led all rookies last season) and 2022 sixth-round pick James Houston (whose 8.0 sacks were second most among rookies). Hutchinson was the most double-teamed edge rusher in the NFL last season, and Wilson could certainly help in that department.
Paul Gutierrez’s pick: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Raiders have long prided themselves on their cornerbacks, boasting the likes of Willie Brown, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, Terry McDaniel, Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha, despite swinging and missing in the first round on Fabian Washington, D.J. Hayden, Gareon Conley and Damon Arnette. Las Vegas, which ranked 29th in pass defense last season, is betting the 6-foot-1, 197-pound Gonzalez — with his unique blend of physical traits, blazing speed and cover-corner sensibilities — fits with the former group of corners.
Michael Rothstein’s pick: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The adage says you can never have enough corners — especially good corners. While Atlanta added Mike Hughes in free agency and Jeff Okudah via trade, with the way this draft board fell, Witherspoon became a fairly obvious option for Atlanta to take. He can play inside or outside, giving the Falcons depth and a player who can compete for a starting spot at either position. While Peter Skornoski and Paris Johnson Jr. could make a lot of sense here, too, Witherspoon’s talent and toughness make him a smart pick in this mock for Atlanta.
Courtney Cronin’s pick: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Chicago’s top priority remains building around quarterback Justin Fields. Improving his pass protection is vital to encouraging the growth the Bears expect out of the third-year quarterback, and by selecting the draft’s top offensive lineman, the team improves one major offseason concern. Skoronski’s arm length (32 1/4) presents questions about where he’ll fit best, but if the Bears slot him in to start at left tackle and move Braxton Jones to right, the O-line is already in better shape. Chicago could also play Skoronski at guard before eventually moving him to tackle.
Tim McManus’ pick: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Eagles’ approach to roster construction is straightforward: build from the inside out. In Johnson (6-foot-6, 313 pounds), they get a player with rare size and physical traits who would provide needed tackle depth in the short term and a succession plan for when Lane Johnson calls it a career. Johnson also played guard at Ohio State and could potentially slide inside while he waits to secure a starting tackle spot.
Turron Davenport’s pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Titans are desperately in need of firepower on offense, so why not add a receiver who many view as the best of the group. Smith-Njigba is a smooth operator who consistently creates separation and is capable of getting yards after the catch. Adding Smith-Njigba to line up on the outside opposite of Treylon Burks with Kyle Philips in the slot gives Tennessee a solid trio of wideouts.
12. Houston Texans (via CLE)
DJ Bien-Aime’s pick: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
When developing a young quarterback, the team must provide him with weapons to optimize his growth. In recent memory, we’ve seen what talented receivers have done to help young quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert develop, as all became Pro Bowl players. Flowers’ explosiveness and dynamic ability could be beneficial for No. 2 overall pick Stroud.
Rob Demovsky’s pick: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Here is how it always seems to work: Teams do for the next guy what they should’ve done for the previous one. The Packers never used a first-round pick on an offensive skill player to help Rodgers, but they’ll do it for Jordan Love. The first-round receiver drought continues (21 years and counting), but at least now they have a playmaking tight end.
Mike Reiss’ pick: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No need to overthink it. The Patriots need more blue-chip players, and Robinson, by all accounts, is one. There is no question if he played a more premium position, he wouldn’t be available at this point. Having Rhamondre Stevenson and Robinson as a one-two backfield punch — and even playing at the same time, given Robinson’s standing as an elite pass-catcher (no drops in 2022) — forms a foundation with which the offense can start to think about keeping up with the Bills, Bengals and Chiefs in the AFC.
Rich Cimini’s pick: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Jets’ biggest need, quarterback, was filled when they finalized a trade for Aaron Rodgers on Monday. The offensive line, which used 18 different combinations last season, needs a long-term answer at left tackle. Duane Brown, 38, and oft-injured Mekhi Becton are entering the final years of their respective contracts. Jones is raw (only 19 college starts) but has excellent upside. Priority No. 1: protect Aaron Rodgers.
John Keim’s pick: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
There’s a good chance Washington will aggressively look to trade back, knowing there are other linemen and players the Commanders like still on the board. However, with Wright, they land a player who is considered physically gifted and has what the Commanders love: position flexibility. They could insert him at left guard or they could put him at right tackle, where he shined this past season. In the latter scenario they would move free agent signee Andrew Wylie from right tackle to one of the guard spots along with Sam Cosmi to form a strong front.
Brooke Pryor’s pick: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The debate between going corner or offensive tackle at 17 was moot when the Commanders snagged Wright, taking four premium offensive tackles off the board before the Steelers’ pick. If the board falls this way — and the Steelers don’t trade up — Porter is a no-brainer. The Steelers love players with close familial ties to the NFL, and they need a corner of the future to anchor the position. Porter more than checks both of those boxes as the son of former Steelers standout linebacker Joey Porter and the best press corner in this year’s draft.
18. Detroit Lions
Eric Woodyard’s pick: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Here’s another strong pick to upgrade the Lions’ defense. On paper, this isn’t a luxury pick like some of the other skilled prospects who were on the board during the first round, but the Lions would be building on a strong foundation of young guys to help improve the run defense, which allowed the most yards before contact per rush (3.4) of any team in the league. Kancey is explosive as a pass-rusher and disruptive against the run.
Jenna Laine’s pick: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
While offensive tackle and edge rusher are the Bucs’ biggest draft needs, general manager Jason Licht said he “wouldn’t be afraid to take another quarterback.” Oklahoma offensive tackle Anton Harrison would be a solid fit for new offensive coordinator Dave Canales’ wide zone scheme, but in this scenario, Levis at No. 19 was too good to pass up. This makes for a true three-way competition to be Tom Brady’s successor with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask.
20. Seattle Seahawks
Brady Henderson’s pick: Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
With Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe seemingly better suited for rotational roles, the Seahawks need a starter at outside linebacker opposite Uchenna Nwosu. They can plug that hole with another Georgia Bulldog, and as with Carter at No. 5, they don’t have to reach to do so. Kiper ranks Smith as the 13th-best prospect, so there’s great value in getting him at No. 20. Smith ran a blazing 4.39 40 at the combine and is known as a strong run defender despite being a bit undersized at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds.
Lindsey Thiry’s pick: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
The Chargers are on the verge of signing quarterback Justin Herbert to a massive extension, so it only makes sense to ensure that they surround their franchise player with targets. An argument can be made for a speedy wide receiver, but tight end is a position of need and Mayer fits the bill.
Jamison Hensley’s pick: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Ravens fill their biggest void by taking one of the more well-rounded cornerbacks in this draft. Banks is fast (4.35 in 40), experienced and tough as a tackler. Baltimore needs an immediate starter at cornerback because Marcus Peters remains a free agent. This is a rare in-state selection for the Ravens, who haven’t drafted anyone from Maryland since wide receiver Torrey Smith in 2011.
Kevin Seifert’s pick: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
In this scenario, with four cornerbacks already taken, the Vikings would do everything they could to trade out of this pick. It’s possible they would want Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker here, but if they have to make a selection, they’ll most likely look to fill their gaping roster hole at cornerback. Forbes might not be a natural press corner, but defensive coordinator Brian Flores would make it work.
Michael DiRocco’s pick: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
The Jaguars lost right tackle Jawaan Taylor to Kansas City, but Walker Little is expected to step in as the starter. Left tackle Cam Robinson is coming off a knee injury and this is likely his last season in Jacksonville. GM Trent Baalke did not restructure Robinson’s contract and the team can save $17.75 million by releasing him after 2023. Taking Harrison gives the Jags Robinson’s replacement a year early.
Jordan Raanan’s pick: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
With five cornerbacks off the board, this was a tough decision between Johnston and USC’s Jordan Addison after the Giants put a ton of pre-draft work into the top of the wide receiver class. In the end, Johnston was the choice because he brings something they don’t have on the roster: size (6-foot-3) and more vertical playmaking ability. They can never have enough playmakers for quarterback Daniel Jones, especially after they signed him to a $160 million contract this offseason.
Todd Archer’s pick: Will McDonald IV, DE, Iowa State
Pass rush is the strength of the defense at the moment, so this pick is a little redundant, but at No. 26, you’re left at the mercy of the board. Don’t rule out a tight end (Darnell Washington, Sam LaPorta), but McDonald is the type of player defensive coordinator Dan Quinn loves due to his speed and length, and Quinn worked out McDonald. A defense can always use more pass-rushers.
Alaina Getzenberg’s pick: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Taking a linebacker to fill the hole left behind by Tremaine Edmunds’ departure was contemplated, and Lukas Van Ness dropping was quite intriguing for a Bills front office that likes to invest up front, but ultimately, adding Addison gives quarterback Josh Allen another top weapon and upgrades the wide receiver room. He can immediately contribute as the team’s starting slot receiver but also has the ability to play outside, providing flexibility for the future.
Ben Baby’s pick: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
The Bengals started their defensive revamp by adding defensive tackle DJ Reader in 2020, a move that paved the way for a defense that has been crucial to back-to-back deep playoff runs. But with Reader on an expiring deal and the offense set to command a large chunk of the salary cap in future years, the Bengals have to find cost-effective ways to keep the defense strong. Bresee can be a rotational player in Cincinnati’s defense this season before moving into a starting role in 2024 and beyond.
Katherine Terrell’s pick: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
Van Ness could be a steal at this point in the draft, and he also fills a need after the departure of Marcus Davenport. Saints fans might not rejoice at another first-round pass-rusher, but Payton Turner remains a question in Year 3 and Cameron Jordan will turn 34 this year. The 6-foot-5 Van Ness, who had 13.5 career sacks in two college seasons, fits their prototype of taller defensive ends, and he could quickly find a spot with a team that likes to rotate its rushers.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Tim McManus’ pick: Adetomiwa Adebawore, DE/DT, Northwestern
The Eagles lost Javon Hargrave in free agency, and with Brandon Graham (35) and Fletcher Cox (32) in the back end of their careers, the defensive front needs some attention. Adebawore played both inside and out at Northwestern. He has the kind of position versatility and physical traits (his 4.49 40-yard dash was the fastest among players over 275 pounds since 2003, per Next Gen Stats) this organization is drawn toward.
Adam Teicher’s pick: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
Even after drafting George Karlaftis in the first round last year and signing free agent Charles Omenihu this year, the Chiefs could use help on the edge. The Chiefs see Omenihu as a good fit alongside Chris Jones on the interior on passing downs, leaving an opening on the outside. Murphy is a well-rounded player who can help there, but he is versatile enough to contribute in any situation.