Breakdowns

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Way Too Early Projections

CJ Stroud, 2023 NFL Mock Draft

It’s a tradition unlike any other…

To post a 2023 NFL Mock Draft a full calendar year early is, to be entirely clear, a fools errand. Here at The 33rd Team, we debated the wisdom of doing so, knowing that players will return to school, get injured, have ups and downs, transfer or have some other unforeseen issue , and this mock will look completely different in six months when it will still be almost entirely wrong.

Then, former NFL executive and The 33rd Team Co-Founder Joe Banner told a story on our Wednesday Huddle. He talked about how, in the days following up to the NFL Draft while he was in Cleveland, the team did work on the next year’s draft simply because they were nonplussed about the current crop of quarterbacks.

Sound familiar?

In that spirit, as teams around the league passed on quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, we look ahead. While Georgia reloads a defense that saw a record number of players go in the first round, we look ahead. As the NFL continues to prove, re-prove and prove again that the importance of the wide receiver position is evolving, we look ahead.

Knowing full well that even getting one of these picks correct would be a miracle, our 2023 NFL Mock Draft:

**2023 NFL Mock Draft Order decided using Super Bowl Futures Odds as of 4/30/22**

2023 NFL Mock Draft

1. Houston Texans — Bryce Young (QB Alabama)

The debate between Young and Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud will likely rage for most of the 2022 college football season. Is this pick “calling my shot” that Young is the better prospect? Not in the slightest… However, when you look at Texans’ Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton’s offensive scheme and history of QBs he has worked with (Alex Smith, Kyle Orton, Andrew Luck, Chad Pennington, et al.), it’s pretty clear this team will want to run the ball, be efficient on offense and control the field on third downs.

Both top QB prospects can do that, but—months out—and things between these two young men being relatively equal, I’m going with the Heisman Trophy winner coming off a National Championship appearance.

WATCH: Is Bryce Young Too Small to Ball? Former NFL Executives, Coaches and QBs Break Down His Game

2. Atlanta Falcons — C.J. Stroud (QB Ohio State)

All the above said, from this distance, Stroud looks to be the better prospect. He’s a couple of inches taller than Young and more than a couple of pounds heavier. Both QBs have insane levels of production and will likely be in the discussion for every relevant award. Both QBs have incredible talent around them as you’ll see in the rest of this mock draft. Moreover, both are considered exceptional young men and natural leaders.

What separates them for this 2023 NFL Mock Draft? Stroud has more physical tools and even better ball placement than Young. Many will question, though, whether he (along with Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields) can break a long trend of Ohio State quarterbacks who have struggled at the next level.

3. New York Jets — Will Anderson Jr. (EDGE Alabama)

In a 2023 NFL Draft with viable QB talent and after a 2022 NFL Draft without it, it’s notable that the best player in the class is likely going to fall a few picks. Will Anderson Jr. would’ve been the top pick this past weekend and doesn’t have much in way of warts to his game. He’s as much of a freakish athlete as Jacksonville Jaguars’ Travon Walker (1st overall) and he’s got the polish and production of Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson (2nd overall).

4. Detroit Lions — Anthony Richardson (QB Florida)

As fervent as the discussion about the top two quarterbacks is going to be, the discussion of who No. 3 is going to be should be just as heated. I’ve gotten to see Richardson up close as I coach high school football about an hour from Gainesville and have attended spring practices. New Florida head coach Billy Napier and his staff are going to simplify things for the young passer and open the field while absolutely flooring the gas pedal of this offense. Richardson clearly has the physical tools to be a top prospect and the tape is going to match in 2022.

5. Seattle Seahawks — Jalen Carter (DL Georgia)

Georgia’s defense isn’t going anywhere, which is something we used to say about the Seahawks’ defense which game up 265.5 passing yards per game last season. That was second-worst in the NFL and miles away from anything resembling a “Legion of Boom.” Enter, Jalen Carter. He’s a freakish athlete at well over 300 lbs and has the ability to singlehandedly change the way teams are able to move the ball.

READ MORE: Analysis for EVERY 2022 NFL Draft Pick

6. Carolina Panthers — Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR Ohio State)

Even in a talented 2022 wide receiver class, we didn’t see a pass catcher go quite this high. Smith-Njigba has the physical ability and well-rounded game to push into this kind of rarified air. Consider the fact that two of Smith-Njigba’s teammates went in the early first round this year and this is the guy NFL teams are truly salivating over, and you start to get the picture. He’s 6’0″, around 200 lbs, a pristine and explosive route runner who can both take the top off the defense or utilize the big cushion defensive backs are forced to give him to be an electric playmaker after the catch.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Paris Johnson Jr (OT Ohio State)

At 6’6″ and just over 300lbs, Johnson bulked up and played primarily guard this past season for Ohio State. Even as a fish out of water, he was able to secure Second-Team All-Big Ten honors. Moving forward, he’ll be the team’s top tackle and has the physical prowess, pedigree and polish to be a Top 10 lineman in the NFL Draft.

8. Chicago Bears — Jordan Addison (WR Pittsburgh?)

There’s some irony in talking about where Jordan Addison is going to play in 2023, while the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner is in the transfer portal and is likely rumored to be leaving Pittsburgh and headed to elsewhere—though a return to the Panthers is an option. He’s smaller than you’d like for a top receiver in the NFL, but continues a recent trend of eschewing top-end traits for elite route running and catching ability.

9. New York Giants — Bryan Bresee (DT Clemson)

If the Giants are drafting in the Top 10 again in 2023, the Daniel Jones experiment would almost certainly be over, but with so little clarity in the class after the two top passers, it’s difficult to see four passers at the top of the draft from this far out—though, it’s certainly a possibility. Here, instead, the Giants grab an interior defensive line player who is coming off an injury but likely to be one of the top physical testers next spring.

READ: The Best Returning Defenders in College Football

10. Pittsburgh Steelers — Joey Porter Jr. (CB Penn State)

I’m not positive Porter Jr. is better than the next handful of cornerbacks on the board, but I know that if I have a chance—even a year out—to mock Joey Porter’s son to the Steelers, I’m gonna go for it. Porter has an NFL-ready frame and more than enough athleticism to play at the next level. He chose to return to Penn State for this upcoming season and will be the feature piece for what should be one of the Big Ten’s top defenses.

11. Washington Commanders — Eli Ricks (CB Alabama)

Ricks is the new normal when it comes to elite football talent. He’s a product out of IMG Academy in Florida, who got a five-star rating, went to LSU and became an All-American before entering the transfer portal. Now at Alabama, Ricks is the same kind of über-athletic, lanky corner that Alabama sends into the NFL on a conveyor belt.

12. Philadelphia Eagles — Nolan Smith (EDGE Georgia)

Anyone who watched this year’s NFL Draft prospects from Georgia knows what I’m talking about when I say that Nolan Smith is a very distracting dude. He made it very difficult to write notes on any of their prospects because Smith kept showing up on the tape. He’s heading up the depth chart and will be a future player this season. Honestly, in a few months, we might be talking about him in the Top 5 picks.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans) — Myles Murphy (DL Clemson)

This feels low for a guy I think could end up going No. 1 when all is said and done. I don’t have rock solid proof on tape that he’s the best defensive end in the class or even on his own defensive line, but that tape could easily show up over the course of this college football season and the testing will follow. Here, he falls to an Eagles team that gets back-to-back picks and just massively upgraded their pass rush.

14. New England Patriots — Malachi Moore (S Alabama)

He didn’t have the best sophomore year last season, but he’s a premier athlete in the middle of a really good defense. He can play multiple positions at may end up as more of a nickel defender at the next level, because he’s loose and fluid enough to stay in man coverage, but also has burgeoning ball skills with the ball ahead of him. The ‘Bama-to-New England pipeline stays strong.

15. Miami Dolphins — Ryan Hayes (OT Michigan)

He started all 14 games for Michigan in 2021 and elected to return after being selected Second-Team All-Big Ten. The former tight end is a legit 6’7″ and while he’s maybe a little light for an elite tackle prospect at just over 300lbs, there’s a really good chance he packs on another 5-10 lbs of muscle over the next few months.

16. Las Vegas Raiders — Kelee Ringo (CB Georgia)

If I was betting right now on the top CB to be taken in the 2023 NFL Draft, Ringo would probably get my hard earned cash. He’s sticky in coverage with good ball skills and has made big plays in big spots for the Bulldogs.

17. Minnesota Vikings — Michael Mayer (TE Notre Dame)

A throw-back No 1-style passing target from the tight end position, Mayer is a walking mismatch and there are probably only a few handfuls of defenders in the NFL who would be able to line up and cover him one-on-one.

18. Tennessee Titans — B.J. Ojulari (EDGE LSU)

The Titans have worked to rebuild their offense this offseason and in the draft, but that defense has always been a big piece of their identity. Ojulari is another one of those players that feels really low, but (as you can see) this class currently has a lot of those kind of names. He had a good season last year, but has a chance to truly be a game changer for new LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly and his staff.

19. Arizona Cardinals — Trenton Simpson (LB Clemson)

Once upon a time, a player like Simpson would’ve been called a tweener, because explosive athletes who were even a little undersized found themselves out of favor with NFL coaches. Now, players like this are highly coveted, and if you’re getting the feeling like Clemson’s going to have a heckuva defense in the coming year, you would be correct. Simpson provides linebacker size with defensive end pass rushing ability and near-defensive back speed.

20. Indianapolis Colts — Phil Jurkovec (QB Boston College)

I’m not 100 percent comfortable putting Jurkovec as a first-round QB in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, but the potential is all there. He’s 6’5″, has more than enough size and a strong enough arm to push the ball down the field in the NFL. He’s coming off an injury and needs to mature his game a little bit, but he also fits the Colts’ profile of a quarterback and has the traits Frank Reich has worked magic with in the past.

21. Baltimore Ravens — Bijan Robinson (RB Texas)

A running back in the first round? Yeah! We’re going with two of them! Robinson is one of the top handful of prospects on just about everyone’s big board a year out. He’s got gamebreaking speed, fantastic balance in and out of his cuts and great hands for a back. He’ll look awfully good in a backfield next to Lamar Jackson.

22. Cincinnati Bengals — Kayshon Boutte (WR LSU)

Boutte didn’t play with Joe Burrow at LSU, but this 2023 NFL Mock Draft pick rectifies that situation. Boutte has nice speed and excellent run after the catch ability. He dealt with an injury last season, but he’s going to be a focal point with the ball in his hands quite a bit for the new coaching staff.

23. Houston Texans (via Cleveland) — Jahmyr Gibbs (RB Alabama)

A transfer for Georgia Tech, there’s so much talent in the Alabama backfield that there’s a legitimate chance he finds himself on the back of the depth chart because even the most talented players need to fight for playing time on a roster where everyone’s rocking four and five stars. Gibbs is already impressing on campus for the Crimson Tide and would step into the Houston roster as a gamebreaking athlete who can run, catch and return kicks.

24. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco) — Noah Sewell (LB Oregon)

Sewell is a big, powerful linebacker in the mode of what San Francisco might’ve picked had they kept this pick, and that works out well for the former 49ers coach leading this Dolphins team. Look for Sewell to have a breakout season with former Georgia Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning taking over for the Ducks.

25. Dallas Cowboys — Cam Smith (CB South Carolina)

Earlier, I mentioned how No. 1 wide receivers are getting smaller in the NFL thanks to wide open spread schemes that favor route running and separation. Cam Smith is the antidote. Yeah, at 170lbs, he’s lighter in the shorts than NFL teams might like, but he’s one of the best coverage guys in college football

26. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver) — Spencer Rattler (QB South Carolina)

Back-to-Back Gamecocks! Rattler, who’s been a Gamecock for all of 25 minutes, was the top person on a lot of these lists last season and then played poorly and wound up getting benched and transferring. Now, with a fresh start, he has a chance to put those elite natural tools on display.

27. Los Angeles Chargers — Josh Downs (WR North Carolina)

A smaller, but explosive athlete, Downs was Sam Howell’s top target in 2022 and probably overtargeted in an offense that stuttered and stopped at times. All he does is get wide, wide open and then catch the ball. He fits a niche in the Chargers’ offense that features some much bigger bodied athletes.

28. Green Bay Packers —Brandon Joseph (S Notre Dame)

Joseph might be the best safety in college football next season and was an All American for his original Northwestern team. Replacing Kyle Hamlton isn’t easy, but Joseph has the ability to do it and then head north because the Packers absolutely refuse to draft a receiver in the first round.

29. Detroit Lions (via LA Rams) — Jordan Battle (S Alabama)

Battle elected to return to Alabama this season and likely could’ve been a Top 50 pick if he’d come out. Instead, the Bama defense looks like it’s going to be absolutely stacked, and the Lions take yet another defensive player who fits their gritty, leadership mold.

30. Kansas City Chiefs — Isaiah Foskey (EDGE Notre Dame)

Another defender who elected to return to school, Foskey has had multiple 10-sack seasons and has a pretty great nose for the ball and for jarring it loose from the other team. The Chiefs continue to rebuild their defensive front after taking George Karlaftis in 2022.

READ: Kansas City a BIG Winner of the 2022 NFL Draft

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marvin Mims (WR Oklahoma)

Easily one of the top returning receivers in college football, Mims is just now ascending to the starting lineup, and it’s possible there’s some rockiness in that offense with questions at the quarterback position. That said, the young wideout has been more and more productive the more Oklahoma has featured him in their passing attack and he’d be a good addition to round out the Bucs’ passing attack.

32. Buffalo Bills — Peter Skoronski (OT Northwestern)

The Bills have invested a ton into their offense over the past couple of seasons, and if they’re picking No. 32 in our final 2023 NFL Mock Draft, that means it’s all worked out. The offensive line still needs some work, however, and Skoronski gives them one of the most battle tested and polished offensive linemen in the nation.