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Eddie Brown

2023 NFL mock draft: First-round projections

A scary injury to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has forced the NFL to essentially press pause on the regular season, and rightfully so. Here's hoping we hear Hamlin has a clear path to a full recovery soon.

Reigning national champion Georgia will defend its title against upstart TCU next Monday and bring another college football season to a close.

The final order of the 2023 NFL draft is starting to take shape and after Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's CJ Stroud added to their impressive stockpile of game tape with memorable performances in the Sugar and Peach Bowls respectively, the contenders for the top overall pick are also becoming clear.

Quarterbacks Young, Stroud, and Kentucky's Will Levis will compete with two elite pass rushers, Alabama's Will Anderson and Georgia's Jalen Carter to hear their name called first in prime time on April 27 in Kansas City (likely by the Houston Texans).

My evaluations of these five players (and hundreds of other potential pros) will be about 90 percent complete once the games are all in the books, with the combine (especially the health evaluations) and pro days being the final pieces of the puzzle.

With a little over a month left in the NFL's season, there's still some time before we kick this draft process into high gear.


This is an attempt at figuring out the best players available in this season's draft class, and which teams they'd match up well with considering the current draft order courtesy of The closer we get to draft day, the more I'll attempt to match what teams will actually do with their draft picks as opposed to what I believe they should do.

Last season, I tied for the most accurate NFL draft prognosticator in print, according to The Huddle Report. I was also tied for ninth overall (out of 158) for 2022. I'm fourth overall (out of 159) over the past five years.

The draft has become the Super Bowl of the NFL's second season — the NFL doesn't have an offseason — and a mock version of said draft is meant to educate, perhaps even entertain. At very least, it helps you pass the time.

Follow me on Twitter @UTEddieBrown so we can continue the conversation.

Here's an updated version of my 2023 NFL mock draft:


— 1. Houston (2-13-1) — Bryce Young, QB, Alabama, Jr.

Coming from the Patriots, general manager Nick Caserio never experienced what it was like to have the top overall pick, or need a quarterback really, but the position has to be at the top of his offseason list of priorities. Young has showcased an elite level skill set for two straight seasons, this year with fewer playmakers surrounding him. One of those playmakers was John Metchie, who missed his rookie season for the Texans while being treated for leukemia. Metchie caught 96 balls for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns his junior year at Alabama with Young under center. Of course, Young's size (6-foot, 195 pounds) will be debated, but barring a team trading up for one of the elite defenders, he is the odds-on favorite to be chosen with the first pick after throwing for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-20 Sugar Bowl victory over Kansas State. Top needs: QB, WR, DL

— 2. Chicago (3-13) — Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama, Jr.

The questions around Justin Fields have subsided. There are shades of Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas and future Hall of Famer Von Miller in his pass-rush approach, but Anderson is equally adept at defending the run. I'd have no qualms with him going first overall. GM Ryan Poles wouldn't hesitate to take the explosive pass rusher after trading away Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn this year. Top needs: WR, DL, LB

— 3. Seattle from Denver (4-12) — Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia, Jr.

What if I told you the most talented player on a historically-great Bulldogs defense that saw five prospects selected in the first round wasn't even eligible for the draft after last season? Carter is a scheme-wrecker and can attack an offense from any position on the defensive line. The Seahawks run defense has been a glaring weakness and will need to be addressed if they plan on challenging the 49ers in the NFC West — defensive tackle Poona Ford will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Top needs: Edge, DT, QB

— 4. Arizona (4-12) — Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson, Jr.

The offensive and defensive lines are both very problematic, but with JJ Watt retiring and Zach Allen facing free agency, the Cardinals will need to replenish the pass rush immediately. Murphy features very similar dimensions/traits to 2022 No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker. Top needs: OL, Edge, DB

— 5. Indianapolis (4-11-1) — CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio St., Jr.

GM Chris Ballard has tried to address the quarterback position through the trade market. There will be some options in free agency, but he'll likely have to draft one regardless. Despite dealing with several injuries at wide receiver, Stroud didn't miss a beat this season and nearly beat the defending national champions with 348 yards and four TDs, while showcasing his scrambling ability (he's a traditional pocket passer). Top needs: QB, WR, CB

— 6. Detroit from L.A. Rams (5-11) — Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson, So.

I won't besmirch Jared Goff too much here, he has had a fine season, but I'm still not convinced he's the long-term answer at quarterback for a promising young Lions team. However, there's more work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. Bresee was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 recruiting class. He showed flashes of dominance as a true freshman in 2020, but only played 152 snaps in 2021 before tearing his ACL. He's bounced back in an impressive way and would pair nicely with Aidan Hutchinson going forward. Top needs: QB, LB, DB

— 7. Atlanta (6-10) — Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech, Sr.

The Falcons simply can't pressure the quarterback. Wilson was one of nine players in the FBS to produce 60 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks before suffering a season-ending broken foot against Kansas. He's a physically gifted, ascending pass rusher who is explosive off the ball and powerful enough to make an immediate impact at the next level. Top needs: Edge, WR, DB

— 8. Las Vegas (6-10) — Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern, Jr.

The Raiders are a darkhorse in a potential QB derby for this draft, but regardless of who's under center, the protection will have to improve. Skoronski took over for Rashawn Slater as a true freshman in 2020 and the offense didn't miss a beat. Some scouts may say his size better suits him to play guard, but they also said that about Slater. Top needs: OL, DL, QB

— 9. Carolina (6-10) — Will Levis, QB, Kentucky, Sr.

An attempt to trade for Deshaun Watson failed. Recycling Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield has failed as well so the Panthers will once again be in the market for a signal-caller. Levis' senior season was a mixed bag compared to his impressive 2021 campaign, but he features the combination of arm talent, size (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) and mobility that usually sparks the imagination of an offensive coordinator. Top needs: QB, OL, TE

— 10. Philadelphia from New Orleans (7-9) — Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas, Jr.

GM Howie Roseman added former All-Pros Quinn (via trade) and Ndamukong Suh as stop gaps on the defensive line, but there isn't a top tier interior prospect on the board here. Few things are certain at this point, but I'm fairly positive the Doak Walker Award-winning Robinson will be the first running back selected. Miles Sanders is set to test free agency and could command a significant investment after his breakthrough 2022 season. Top needs: DT, DB, Edge

— 11. Tennessee (7-9) — Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio St., Jr.

The Titans recently fired GM Jon Robinson, so I'll have to re-calibrate my approach once they find a long-term replacement, but the new hire will have to address a porous pass defense, a lack of offensive weapons and a brittle offensive line. Johnson could very well end up in the top-10 depending on how the draft order shakes out. He was the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle prospect in the 2020 recruiting class and has thrived at both left tackle and right guard for the Buckeyes. Top needs: OL, CB, WR

— 12. Houston from Cleveland (7-9) — Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU, Jr.

The Texans have needs everywhere, but adding Johnston to a young offensive core that includes Young, Metchie, Dameon Pierce and Nico Collins would form a solid foundation. He does Deebo Samuel-like things, forcing missed tackles when he has the ball in his hands, but he's 6-foot-4, 215 pounds — Samuel is four inches shorter. Top needs: QB, WR, DL

— 13. N.Y. Jets (7-9) — Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia, So.

The Jets' best two offensive lineman (Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker) have been hurt and the rest are facing free agency after the season. Jones hasn't allowed a single sack this season. Top needs: QB, LB, OL

— 14. Washington (7-8-1) — Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida, So.

Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz and Sam Howell (this Sunday's starter) won't prohibit the Commanders from seeking a quarterback. Especially one that might remind coach Ron Rivera of Cam Newton — not necessarily his fashion sense — his former MVP signal-caller in Carolina. Richardson is the wild-card in this QB class. His range is anywhere from first overall pick — I expect scouts and coaches/coordinators to fall in love with his traits (i.e. ceiling) — to a Day 2 selection. Top needs: CB, OL, QB

— 15. Pittsburgh (8-8) — O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida, Jr.

Uncharacteristically, the Steelers have had a problematic offensive line for a few years now. Torrence was an elite prospect at Louisiana, and he didn't miss a beat after transferring into the SEC. Top needs: OT, DB, WR

— 16. Green Bay (8-8) — Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame, Jr.

The further we get outside of the top-10, the harder it will be to pass on Mayer. The Irish pipeline at tight end to the NFL continues to flourish. Mayer isn't as explosive as Kyle Pitts, but his receiving acumen, size (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) and toughness put him just a tick below Pitts as a prospect. Both Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis will be free agents. Top needs: DL, S, TE

— 17. Detroit (8-8) — Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn St., Jr.

The son of former All-Pro linebacker Joey Porter would pair with former top-three pick Jeff Okudah and hopefully address a leaky pass defense for the Lions. Junior's athleticism and talent pops when you watch him, but he'll need to refine his technique and develop more consistency to pay off his potential — his aggressive nature is a gift and a curse. Top needs: QB, LB, DB

— 18. Seattle (8-8) — Brian Branch, DB, Alabama, Jr.

The Seahawks knocked it out of the park twice by drafting corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant in April. Jamal Adams hasn't quite met the standards he set for himself in New York since being traded to the Pacific Northwest. Adams will be 28 next season and will be returning from a season-ending quad tear after suffering a season-ending torn labrum in 2021. Branch can play anywhere in the secondary and is one of the surest tacklers you will find in a defensive backfield. Top needs: DT, QB, S

— 19. Jacksonville (8-8) — Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon, So.

The Jaguars' defense has had its moments this season, but is still short a few pieces. Gonzalez has the size (6-2, 200) and physical traits that make most scouts salivate, and the Colorado transfer has answered all questions regarding ball production (four interceptions). Top needs: DL, CB, WR

— 20. Tampa Bay (8-8) — Jared Verse, Edge, Florida St., Jr.

Most of the Buccaneers current defensive line is facing free agency once again. Verse, a transfer from FCS-level Albany, is a powerful pass rusher who lives in the opponent's backfield — he's among the nation's leaders with 16.5 tackles for loss. Top needs: QB, DL, DB

— 21. New England (8-8) — Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina, Jr.

Jonathan Jones will be a free agent and is deserving of a raise, which usually means the Patriots will let him walk. Smith was Jaycee Horn's successor and maintained Horn's excellence for the Gamecocks. So much so, quarterbacks have essentially avoided him this season. Top needs: WR, OL, CB

— 22. N.Y. Giants (9-6-1) — Jordan Addison, WR, USC, Jr.

The G-Men have dealt with many injuries and much disappointment at wide receiver since they traded Odell Beckham Jr. The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner is a silky smooth route runner and has the speed to challenge a defense at every level. Top needs: WR, QB, OL

— 23. Baltimore (10-6) — Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia, So.

The Ravens biggest priority this offseason will be to extend Lamar Jackson and potentially add more weapons on offense so he doesn't have to break his back carrying the team going forward. Next in line might be replacing Marcus Peters if he walks in free agency. As a red-shirt sophomore, Ringo's size/speed combination is still developing, but he'll compete to be the first cornerback selected next year if he decides to leave school. Top needs: CB, WR, Edge

— 24. L.A. Chargers (10-6) — Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon, So.

The Chargers defense has improved the last month, but still can't stop the run and GM Tom Telesco likes to collect linebackers. The younger brother of Penei — the No. 7 pick overall in 2021 — has a knack for finding the ball, and the ability to punish a ball-carrier at the point of attack. Top needs: DL, LB, OL

— 25. Cincinnati (11-4) — Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma, Jr.

Joe Burrow might actually match the brilliance of his final collegiate season in the NFL if the Bengals ever get this offensive line right. Harrison features the prototypical size and movement skills of starting left tackle in the NFL. He'll need to polish his technique (but he's already very good in pass protection) and buy-in to an NFL strength program in order to unlock the next level. Top needs: T, DB, DL

— 26. Minnesota (12-4) — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio St., Jr.

Adam Thielen will be 33 next season and the Vikings have a potential out in his contract after this season. The Buckeyes had two receivers drafted in the first 11 picks last April and Smith-Njigba out-produced both as a sophomore. An injury-riddled season has dampened his draft stock, but if he checks out during the draft process, he likely won't be available here. Top needs: DB, WR, OL

— 27. Dallas (12-4) — Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama, Jr.

The Cowboys have a choice to make at running back in the offseason with Tony Pollard facing free agency. Pollard is due a significant raise and they're already paying Ezekiel Elliot handsomely. Something has to give. There's bell-cow, dual-threat potential with Gibbs. He features electric speed with pass-catching ability and an advanced route tree. Top needs: DB, WR, OL

— 28. Denver from San Francisco (12-4) — Isaiah Foskey, Edge, Notre Dame, Jr.

The Broncos will seek a replacement for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb this offseason. Foskey's versatile skill set, size and power would have likely made him a Day 2 selection had he entered the draft last season. He's worthy of a first-round pick this time around. Top needs: OL, Edge, WR

— 29. Buffalo (12-3) — Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M, Jr.

Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are aging gracefully, but aging nonetheless. Poyer is a free agent after this season with Hyde's contract expiring after the 2023 season. Johnson is a rangy, versatile impact tackler whose size (6-3,195) and athleticism will allow defensive coordinators to get creative. Top needs: WR, S, LB

— 30. Kansas City (13-3) — Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia, Sr.

Chris Jones is essentially the Chiefs' pass rush. Smith, a former five-star recruit, is athletic enough to make plays from sideline to sideline. A refined approach to rushing the passer is needed to unlock his unlimited potential. It remains to be seen how his season-ending pectoral tear will affect his draft stock. Top needs: T, WR, DL

— 31. Philadelphia (13-3) — Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah, Jr.

James Bradberry has been great, but he only signed a one-year deal. The Eagles may not possess the cap space to retain his services after this season. Phillips features a smaller frame, but his ability to mirror and match routes, plus his explosive athleticism and ball skills (six interceptions) more than make up for it. Top needs: DT, DB, Edge

— NOTE: The NFL announced in August that the Miami Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick following an investigation into whether the team violated league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.

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