Here are the three teams we think will be in contention for the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which features top-end QBs and a potentially All-Pro level defensive player at the top of the draft.
The Houston Texans, the league’s third-worst team in 2021, could be in serious contention for the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 due to a multitude of reasons.
First, let’s start with the QB position. They will start the season with second year QB Davis Mills. While Mills played admirably last season, he is no sure bet to become a dynamic franchise QB at this time. In a conference with Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson, he is in the bottom tier of starting QBs in the AFC, if not one of the bottom few.
The Texans are coming off a 2021 season in which they “overachieved” despite winning just 4 games. They won two of their games against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who improved significantly over the offseason. Their other wins came against the Titans and the Chargers, two upsets may not be replicable in 2022. The Texans will have to battle the NFC East and the AFC West this season, which includes a game at home against Deshaun Watson and the Browns.
As for the Texans’ improvements, they added a lot of high upside players in the draft, but also a lot of players who have dealt with injuries and performance issues in the past. They drafted Derek Stingley Jr (coming off an injury), John Metchie III (coming off an injury), and Christian Harris (who has a long injury history). These are strong players if they can remain healthy and play to their ceilings. Stingley has only played in 10 games the past two seasons, while Metchie is coming off an ACL Tear.
The Falcons are coming off a season where they were equally poor on offense and defense. They lost WR1 Calvin Ridley to suspension, but added Drake London from USC in the draft. Atlanta’s standing here boils down to the QB position and their defense. They will have Marcus Mariota, who has started only one game in the past two seasons as their starting QB. We also may see rookie quarterback addition Desmond Ridder, who has not lost a home game since October 30th of 2015 as a junior in HS, at some point.
Mariota and Ridder will compete for the starting job, but the output of either could be minimal. Their weapons include London, Kyle Pitts (2021 first-round pick), Cordarrelle Patterson, and a multitude of possible WR2 and WR3 options that fall below the expectation from those position groups.
Defensively, they added three key pieces in the draft in Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Anderson and DeAngelo Malone. Each of those three could have an impact in 2022, but the expectation for this trio will not be significant in year one. Atlanta lost three defensive starters to free agency in Foyesade Oluokun, Dante Fowler Jr. and Duron Harmon, leaving younger and less proven players to take their spots.
They will face the daunting NFC West and AFC North in 2022, seeing the likes of the defending champs, and 2021 playoff teams of: Buccaneers, Cardinals, 49ers, Steelers, and improved teams in the Browns, Chargers and Ravens.
For the third team that is in contention for the number one pick in 2022, the question once again comes down to the QB position. They have talented playmakers across their offense with DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey, Terrace Marshall, and a solidified OL with Taylor Moton and Ikem Ekwonu anchoring the tackle positions.
It appears there will be a camp competition between Sam Darnold, who has struggled as a pro throughout the entirety of his career, and rookie QB Matt Corral, who they drafted in the third round.
Carolina’s defense should be strong and possibly stronger than they were last season. They will get Jaycee Horn back from injury with, which should help a secondary that was already quite impressive in 2021 (4th least passing yards allowed). Their problems on defense come with stopping the run and forcing turnovers. They were 18th in 2021 in rushing yards allowed and only forced 16 turnovers as a team, which was 26th in the NFL.
As previously stated, the offense will be the side of the ball that “makes or breaks” the season for the Panthers. They were bottom-three in points for, total yards, passing TDs, passing yards and INTs thrown last season. Once again, they will need to limit turnovers, create explosives with their returning weapons.
Their full season outlook, dependent on their QB decision, could be tough sledding on the offensive side of the ball. That said, they will too see the NFC West and the AFC North. These divisions feature major explosive offenses that have the ability to score points in chunks — characteristics that do not seem present in the current Panthers roster. They were the league’s fourth-worst team on 3rd down, and were 25th in the league in scoring TDs on Red Zone drives.