EDITOR'S NOTE: This mock was published prior to the Packers agreeing to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Jets in a deal that involves several 2023 draft picks.
The intrigue heading into the 2023 NFL Draft revolves around the top quarterback prospects. Alabama QB Bryce Young's decision to cancel his remaining pre-draft visits earlier this week has fueled speculation that Carolina favors the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner at No. 1 overall. Chatter that the Texans might not pick a passer with the second overall selection has muddied the draft waters a bit.
Surprises seem to abound in the draft when the QB pecking order is not quite set in stone with the event just around the corner. So, in this seven-round mock, I project some potential shockers that could prove to be prophetic (or way off base) as more information trickles out leading up to the draft.
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.
The Panthers choose an intelligent, humble leader in Young, who will make plays from the pocket despite his lack of size while also evading pressure and finding targets downfield on the run.
The Cardinals secure the pass rusher they desperately need. Anderson's strength at the point of attack and closing speed make him a formidable foe. A team may procure this pick in a trade with Arizona at some point between now and next Thursday, but in recent years, movement within the top-six selections has happened well in advance of the draft.
Stroud's accuracy and strength from the pocket should make him the young starter the Colts desire, but only if they improve their offensive-line play and receiving corps.
Wilson's length, athleticism and versatility give him a chance to excel in a Seahawks defense that transitioned to a multiple-front scheme last year.
The Raiders have long been looking for a stopper in the secondary. Gonzalez's ball skills and supreme athleticism give him a chance to earn that title early in his NFL career.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has not been shy about trading draft picks since taking on the job last year. Richardson's potential as a dual-threat playmaker validates the hefty price Minnesota pays to jump up the board: the 23rd overall pick, a 2023 third-rounder (No. 87) and a 2024 first-rounder. (The Vikings also probably trade down in the fourth round to regain a selection.)
Torrence provides brute force up front in the run game, which should intrigue the run-first Titans -- and yet, his nimble feet belie his 330-pound frame.
Smith's speed made headlines at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his surprising power and ability to win with his hands are just as impressive. He'll be a leader and effective pass rusher and run defender for the Texans.
New England needs a left tackle, and Jones is just scratching the surface of his potential on the outside. I project the Patriots to trade two fourth-round picks to the Rams (who currently do not possess a selection between Nos. 77 and 167) to snag Brian Branch in the second round if he falls out of the first, like other former Alabama safeties Landon Collins and Xavier McKinney.
The Packers' offensive line must be at its best to protect quarterback Jordan Love and give him an effective running game. Johnson can play right guard (where he started in 2021) or tackle this fall if David Bakhtiari is able to play in 2023, then transition to the left side if the veteran moves on after the season. If the Packers aren't able to wrestle the 13th pick away from Jets GM Joe Douglas in a trade for Aaron Rodgers, they settle for New York's two second-rounders (Nos. 42 and 43) and add a pass catcher and defensive lineman.
Head coach Ron Rivera finds an outside corner capable of locking down receivers on the perimeter -- ultimately helping the team's pass rush. Porter will also play a strong role in the run game.
After passing on Jalen Carter at No. 6, the Lions find a difference-maker on the defensive line at this spot. The comparisons between Kancey and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald -- both former Pitt stars -- seem unfair, but I think Kancey has the juice to at least be a very good starter in the league.
Tristan Wirfs shifts to left tackle for 2023, allowing Wright to handle edge defenders on the right side, as he did last year for the Volunteers.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Bills attempt to turbo-charge their offense to keep pace with the Bengals and Chiefs in the AFC, trading the 27th overall pick (along with a third- and fifth-rounder) to the Seahawks to secure Addison. Smooth in his routes and able to slice through defenses, Addison becomes a favorite of Josh Allen by the time next season's playoffs roll around.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH MINNESOTA VIKINGS
The Eagles could view Adebawore as a defensive end in the Brandon Graham mold or as a 3 technique; he has the athleticism to play either spot.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Chiefs trade a 2023 third-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick to Jacksonville to move up the board for a receiver. Flowers is a great fit, featuring the ability to win downfield and eat up zone coverage with his quickness after the catch.
Daniel Jones gets a downfield weapon in Hyatt, who can work outside or slide inside, depending on how the Giants want to utilize him.
Simpson excels in attacking plays from off the ball but also flashes the closing speed to chase quarterbacks, spelling Micah Parsons in that role if needed.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BUFFALO BILLS
Mauch's ability to play all five positions up front will be valued by the Seahawks. He could line up initially at guard, where his athleticism, intelligence and nasty attitude as a blocker will stand out.
Mayer will be an excellent pro, blocking well and providing Joe Burrow a reliable target in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Quarterbacks are often pushed up boards by draft enthusiasts, but I'm sticking with Hooker landing in Las Vegas late in Round 1. The trade up costs the Raiders the 38th overall pick, a 2023 fourth-round selection (No. 109) and a 2024 fourth-rounder -- a bundle that could prove to be a bargain if the former Tennessee passer's knee is healthy, and if he becomes as proficient at making plays on the fly as he is working with a clean pocket.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
By moving down in this swap with the Chiefs, Jacksonville acquires additional picks to assist in its climb up NFL power rankings while still nabbing a much-needed cornerback to replace Shaquill Griffin. Forbes' 166-pound frame could knock him into the second round, but the Jaguars could also be enticed by the way the ball just seems to find him.