With the first-round order set for the 2023 NFL Draft, here's my initial projection of how the first 31 picks will play out in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 27.
- 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.
- The order for Picks 30-31 is now locked in following the conclusion of Super Bowl LVII.
Bears fans will spend the next few months projecting trades down and debating Carter vs. Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. In this trade-free exercise, Chicago lands the most impactful interior rusher in the 2023 class.
Young's small frame and shoulder injury during the 2022 season are concerns, but his field vision and anticipation skills are elite. New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans also starred for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
With J.J. Watt's retirement, the Cardinals lose more than a third of their 2022 sacks. Anderson wasn't quite as explosive and productive this past season as he was in 2021, but he is this draft's most electric pass rusher.
It's easy to see how Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard would appreciate Levis, who oozes toughness, even if he's coming off a challenging 2022 season. If the Colts really want him, though, they might have to move up -- Levis will go high.
The SEC run ends with a long, toolsy, disruptive edge rusher out of the Big 12. Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe and Wilson could be a fearsome foursome up front in Seattle.
If the Lions stay here, why not use the pennies-from-heaven Rams pick on an eventual successor for Jared Goff? Trading down certainly has some appeal, but Stroud possesses some Goff-like traits from the pocket and could sit a year if needed.
If the Raiders go the veteran route to replace Derek Carr, adding more O-line help could be the play here. Johnson is powerful and loose with starting experience at guard and tackle.
The Falcons have fewer sacks (68) over the past three seasons than the Eagles had in 2022 alone (70). They still need help heating up the edges.
The Panthers certainly would need to have a starting-caliber veteran QB on the roster in order to make this pick, but Richardson has all the traits to be a Cam Newton starter kit to develop gradually.
Another "bonus" pick here, the Eagles can sit back and let a talented player fall into their laps. However, they tend to target certain positions in Round 1 -- and they love long, athletically gifted corners in the mold of Gonzalez.
Changes are coming on offense, and adding a dose of athleticism up front feels important. Jones moved nimbly in the two College Football Playoff games and could be Taylor Lewan's immediate replacement.
He's not J.J. Watt Jr., but Van Ness has decent strength and excellent growth potential, bringing a hockey-enforcer mentality to Houston's defense. Despite not starting for the Hawkeyes, Van Ness has borderline-elite burst for his frame.
Some might project him as an NFL guard, but I'm putting Skoronski in the "tackle until proven otherwise" category for now. He's not long for the position, and GM Joe Douglas has favored size and length there, but I think Skoronski could be an exception.
With the run on tackles happening prior to the Patriots' pick, I could see them pivot to a smart, competitive and versatile defensive back. Devin McCourty might be ready to retire, leaving a big leadership void.
This might be early for Mayer, who isn't every team's top-rated tight end. But he's rock solid across the board and would give Green Bay a quality middle-of-the-field pass catcher, which is a need.
Washington could go any number of directions here. But corner is a need, and Porter might be a big upgrade over Benjamin St-Juste in a division with big-play receivers such as A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb.
We likely won't know what range Bresee figures to land in until the medical portion of the NFL Scouting Combine. But if his reports come back clean, the former five-star recruit could go higher. The Steelers badly need D-line depth.
The Lions just struck gold with Illinois safety Kerby Joseph, so why not head back to Champaign to land one of the scrappiest, most instinctive corners in the draft. Witherspoon fits the Lions' mold -- and is a former roommate of Joseph's, to boot.
The Bucs certainly don't mind drafting long, athletic corners. The need will be higher if they don't bring back Jamel Dean and/or Sean Murphy-Bunting, both of whom are free agents.
The Seahawks are always good for a surprise in the first round, but the massive Ika could help fill a big void for one of the worst run-stopping defenses last season. Pete Carroll wasn't kidding when he said the front seven needs help.
The Chargers need another threat at wide receiver if this offense wants to add another dimension. It's a short drive from the facility to find some help in the game-breaking Addison.
I swear I'm not doing this geographically. The Ravens really could use another corner with size and ball skills, and this would not be a reach.
Patrick Peterson is a free agent, and the Vikings needed corner help last season with Peterson on the roster. Ringo isn't a first-round prospect for everyone, but he's gifted enough to gamble on here.
Jacksonville could use more help defensively, but adding a king-sized blocker and receiver for Trevor Lawrence makes a ton of sense. Washington reminds me of longtime Jaguar Marcedes Lewis.
Isaiah Hodgins opened eyes late in the season, and Wan'Dale Robinson will be back from a torn ACL, but adding a lengthy playmaker with burst and 50-50 skills makes sense.
It will be fascinating to see where JSN lands after injuries derailed his 2022 campaign. The Cowboys badly need receiver help, though, and could consider ending his slide here.
Would the Bills really draft a back in Round 1? If Devin Singletary walks in free agency, maybe. This offense needs another outlet, and Robinson is one of the top playmakers in this class, a spectacular all-around talent worthy of going much higher.
If they can't afford to keep Hayden Hurst in free agency, the athletically gifted Musgrave could slide right in as yet another weapon for this Joe Burrow-led offense that might not be able to pay everyone over the next few years.
The Saints could use the selection they picked up in the Sean Payton trade to get a QB, but in this mock, they get a mauling guard in case Andrus Peat doesn't return.
Running back isn't a spot I'd normally peg for Philly in Round 1, but at this point, what do you get for the team that has (almost) everything? An electric back and possible replacement for Miles Sanders if he walks in free agency.
There might be bigger needs elsewhere, but Juan Thornhill is a free agent, so safety is a spot Kansas City could address with this versatile playmaker offering length and hitting ability.