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Jarrett Bailey

2023 NFL mock draft, 1.0: Colts leapfrog Texans to land their QB

The Chicago Bears are gearing up for an important offseason, which includes free agency (where they’re projected to have $118 million in salary cap space) and the 2023 NFL draft (where they have the first overall pick).

With Chicago having the No. 1 overall pick, they essentially control the draft. Considering the Bears have their franchise quarterback in Justin Fields, general manager Ryan Poles is expected to trade back from first overall — and he’ll have no shortage of suitors.

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Still, there’s bound to be plenty of shakeup in the first round of the draft across the league, especially as a handful of teams will be looking to land a franchise quarterback.

With that said, here is my first-round mock draft 1.0 — complete with trades — as we begin the trudge to April.

NOTE: The Miami Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick in the 2023 draft.

* denotes a projected trade

Indianapolis Colts (from Chicago Bears)*: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Colts watched the Texans have success with Deshaun Watson while they started five different quarterbacks in five consecutive season openers. They won’t let their division outbid them, and will get aggressive to move up to No. 1.

Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

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With Bryce Young gone, the Texans get the next quarterback on the board and take Stroud, who put on a tremendous show in his swan song with the Buckeyes vs Georgia in the College Football Playoff.

Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

The Cardinals need a game-wrecker at edge, especially after J.J. Watt’s retirement. He has been the best edge rusher over the last two seasons, netting 27 sacks over that span.

Chicago Bears (from Indianapolis Colts)*: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

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Carter would wreak havoc on offensive interiors, and be the anchor of the Bears front seven in the same way Quinnen Williams has been for the Jets.

Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson

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Seattle actually had 45 sacks, and Darrell Taylor had a good season. However, they could use an upgrade on the other side over Cody Barton.

Detroit Lions: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

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The Lions have a fantastic offense, and should focus on building up their defensive backfield with potentially elite, young talent.

Las Vegas Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

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The Tom Brady to Vegas rumors are alive and well. Regardless of who is taking snaps, the Raiders offensive line was tumultuous- get a franchise tackle to protect your quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens (from Atlanta Falcons)*: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I still see the Atlanta Falcons being the team that lands Lamar Jackson, trading the No. 8 pick and a king’s ransom of other picks to Baltimore for the former MVP. However, the Ravens will walk the path of bringing in a veteran quarterback (Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill) and get them some much-needed help at receiver by taking Johnston.

Carolina Panthers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

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Levis is my favorite quarterback of this class. In terms of raw talent and intangibles, he has the most pro potential. A new head coach (perhaps Shane Steichen or Ben Johnson) and Levis could end up being the duo that helps Carolina be a player in the division, alongside Jackson and Arthur Smith in Atlanta.

Philadelphia Eagles: LB Noah Sewell, Oregon

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Inside linebacker is really the only weak point of the Eagles defense, and they address that with Sewell, the best in his class at his position. The rich get richer.

Tennessee Titans: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

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The Titans offensive line was uncharacteristically bad this season, and it looks as if Taylor Lewan has played his final snap in Tennessee. 

Houston Texans: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Two positions that can change the direction of a franchise are quarterback and edge rusher. The Texans get a quarterback at No. 2 and address their defense at No. 12 and hope both hit and become franchise pillars to lead them out of this dark spell.

New York Jets: S Brian Branch, Alabama

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Lamarcus Joyner is 32 and finished the season on IR. The Jets can get better, and younger, at the position and keep making their secondary one of the best in football by taking Branch.

New England Patriots: WR Jordan Addison, USC

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The last Patriots receiver taken in the first round was traded to the Bears for basically nothing. Hello, N’Keal Harry. While drafting has notoriously not been a Bill belichick strong suit, he has to do something to give his offense a legit option outside. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor aren’t keeping defensive coordinators awake at night.

Green Bay Packers: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

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The David Bakhtiari injury had Green Bay’s tackle position in a state of flux. With the long-term future of the position in question, taking Jones is a safe pick.

Washington Commanders: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

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The Commanders have zero depth at inside linebacker, and not much proven talent at the position, either. Simpson would almost certainly be a day one starter.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

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This would be the most Steelers pick ever. They love having family connections on the team (they have two Watt brothers, two Heyward brothers, and had two Edmunds brothers at one point). Bringing in the son of one of the best defenders in team history would fall right in line with that. All of that aside, Porter is the best pure cornerback in the draft, especially in man-to-man situations- this would be a heck of a steal at No. 17.

Detroit Lions: DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

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I like Isaiah Buggs, but more so as a rotational piece rather than a guy who plays the vast majority of snaps. Bresee would start alongside Alim McNeil, while Buggs could be a valuable plug-and-play type player.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina

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Jamel Dean is an unrestricted free agent this coming spring, and the Bucs were a middle of the pack team in terms of dropback success rate for opposing quarterbacks.

Seattle Seahawks: iOL O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida

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The Seahawks were last in the league in success rate in the run game, and a lot of that has to do with the lack of talent on the offensive interior.

Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

The Chargers need speed on offense, as well as more talented receivers not named Keenan Allen or Mike Williams. Both of Justin Herbert’s top targets missed time with injury this season, and the offense wasn’t as successful as years past in light of the lack of depth and talent on the perimeter. Smith-Nijgba would be almost unfair to plug into this Chargers offense that, with the right offensive coordinator, could light up scoreboards in 2023.

Baltimore Ravens: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

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The Ravens pass defense continued to be a big problem for them, even while Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were healthy. The front seven masked those issues down the stretch, but Baltimore needs help on the back end.

Minnesota Vikings: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

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Richardson is the draft darling of several analysts because of his dual threat abilities. However, he is still incredibly raw, and going to a place where he can sit for a season would do him well.

Jacksonville Jaguars: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

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Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins have both come alive in the second half of the season for the Jaguars. Can they do that for a full season is a big question Cisco is just 22, and will certainly be a hopeful focal point of the defense for the foreseeable future. Jenkins is approaching 30, though, and the Jags would be smart to have a young safety be brought in, worked into sub-packages and three-safety sets, and eventually take over to play alongside Cico.

New York Giants: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina

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The Giants need to get Daniel Jones a true No. 1 on the outside. Isaiah Hodgins and Richie James are good stories, but they are better secondary options rather than go-to targets in an offense. Downs would be a nice addition to help give New York a more respectable wide receiver room.

Dallas Cowboys: LB Henry To'oTo'o, Alabama

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Leighton Vander Esch is likely gone after this season, and he is a far cry from what he was a few seasons ago when he and Jaylon Smith looked like a revolution. They have guys like Jabril Cox, but he is more of a situational player rather than an every-down linebacker. To’oTo’o would fill a need in the middle.

Cincinnati Bengals: CB Clark Phillips III, Utah

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The Bengals have one of the weaker cornerback units in football behind Chidobe Awuzie. Phillips would have a chance to start opposite Awuzie with Mike Hilton playing nickel.

Denver Broncos: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma

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The Broncos gave up the most sacks in the NFL with 63. Russell Wilson was a problem this season, but he also needs better protection.

Buffalo Bills: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

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Look what a dominant running back did for the 49ers. It’s the one thing the Bills offense is lacking, and Robinson would make them that much more dangerous.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU

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JuJu Smith-Schuster is a free agent this spring, and the Chiefs don;t have a ton of talent at the position. It’s a proven fact that Patrick Mahomes can make just about anyone look great, so Boutte could find success in Kansas City’s offense.

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Eli Ricks, Alabama

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

James Bradberry is set to hit free agency after this season. It’s certainly possible Philadelphia brings him back, but if not, they should go with a corner in the draft. Ricks would be a good pick here.

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