It is hard to believe that it has already been two weeks since the 2023 NFL draft. That means it is one of my favorite times of the year as we all begin to dive into the next draft class and start to familiarize ourselves with the top prospects in the class. It is always a ridiculous process. Every year, there are several players in these way-too-early mocks that will end returning to school, falling in the draft or going undrafted all together. Yet we all love to dive right in.
I took a slightly different approach this year. Typically, I will put together my mock for right after the draft. This year, I waited a couple of weeks so I could familiarize myself with some of these top prospects. I haven’t watched much to this point. It has mostly been highlights, or a game or two from each of the players I have in this mock.
I did my best to project out for what team needs would be when the 2024 draft rolls around. Also, if you don’t like the draft order, take it up with Vegas Insiders. I used the reverse order of their Super Bowl odds to determine which team is selecting where. Let’s dive in. The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock.
1. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Williams, QB, USC
I don’t really care about the salary cap implications involved with moving on from Kyler Murray. The Cardinals should be looking to upgrade at the position if they end up with the No. 1 pick. Williams is essentially a bigger, slightly less agile, version of Murray. Getting a young QB on a rookie contract and likely landing some sort of future draft capital in exchange for Murray, feels like the best move.
2. Arizona Cardinals via Houston Texans – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
If you are going to add Williams, you might as well give him the best receiver in the draft to throw to. Harrison has the chance to be one of the highest graded receiver prospects ever, rivaling Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson. He is bigger than his father, but possesses all of his dad’s great traits. He will be one of the better receivers in the league from the moment he is drafted. Especially with DeAndre Hopkins on the way out, this feels like a no-brainer.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
The Colts believe they have their franchise quarterback. Now, they have to protect him. That was their biggest flaw in building around Andrew Luck. Indianapolis’ once great offensive line has taken some major steps backwards in recent seasons. Fashanu would give the Colts a franchise left tackle to pair with some really good interior players. The Penn State tackle might have been the top player as the position selected in 2023 had he decided to come out. I love his movement skills and size.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Drake Maye, QB, UNC
The Tom Brady era has ended and his successor does not appear to be on the Bucs roster. If Tampa is drafting in the top 5, it is safe to assume the Baker Mayfield experiment did not work. Maye has all the physical tools to be a great NFL quarterback. He had a strong 2022 campaign, but will need to back it up in 2023 for general managers to fully get behind him. We have seen too many quarterbacks dazzle in their second year only to disappoint when it is time for NFL teams to start paying attention.
5. Tennessee Titans – Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
While this likely isn’t the biggest need on the Titans draft board, especially after ignoring the defensive side of the ball completely in the 2023 draft, Bowers is a special talent. He is an elite blocker and an elite receiver. He will give Mike Vrabel that bit of nastiness in the run game while also making Will Levis’ life under center much easier. Tennessee needs offensive weapons and Bowers is the best one on the board in this mock.
6. Washington Commanders – Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
This is unquestionably a lot of projection at this stage regarding Ewers, but the running for QB3 in this draft class is wide open. Ewers has a big arm and the physical tools to wow scouts. He will need to show improved accuracy in his second season at the helm, plus the ability to stay healthy. Washington will likely be searching for a new franchise quarterback if it is picking in the top 10, barring something truly spectacular from Sam Howell in a losing effort.
7. Atlanta Falcons – Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
Another draft has come and gone and the Falcons have still done relatively little to address their major need at pass rusher. They added quality players this offseason, but no one who really profiles as a sack artist. Verse burst on the scene in 2022 with the Seminoles after transferring in from Albany. He likely would have been a top-20 selection this past season, so I think projecting him in the top 10 seems like a safe bet. He had nine sacks and consistently performed for Florida State.
8. Chicago Bears via Carolina Panthers – Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
Build in the trenches. That has to be what Ryan Poles continues to champion moving forward. After taking Darnell Wright to play on the right side, adding Alt to man the left would give Justin Fields all the protection he needs. Alt is a rock solid player who is steady in both the run and pass game. He has room to grow as a run blocker, but should have the size and length to excel in the NFL at tackle.
9. Los Angeles Rams – Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
It is almost inconceivable that we are having this conversation given where Nix stood two years ago. He was supposed to be Auburn’s savior. Instead, he flamed out and transferred to Oregon. Nix flourished under Kenny Dillingham. Now, he will get the chance to try out former UTSA offensive coordinator Will Stein’s system. If Nix can show that last season was not a fluke, I think he will garner legitimate NFL intrigue. For a Rams team headed for a rebuild, he could be the centerpiece of whatever comes next in Los Angeles.
10. New England Patriots – Emeka Ebuka, WR, Ohio State
It is time to get Mac Jones some weapons. The Patriots QB enters another season with a subpar supporting cast on offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster will likely be his No. 1 receiver. Ebuka would give New England a bonafide playmaker with great speed and quickness. I know the Patriots don’t typically draft receivers in the first round, but if they believe in Jones, they need to put him in position to succeed.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
Pittsburgh lucked into landing Joey Porter Jr. at the top of the 2nd round this year. Pairing him with another tall corner would completely revamp the Steelers’ secondary. McKinstry is a proven commodity in the SEC and should be Bama’s top cover man this year. His name will be in the mix to be CB1 a lot this summer.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Kalen King, CB, Penn State
Las Vegas surprised a lot of people by electing to pass on the cornerback position in the draft several times before taking Jakorian Bennett in the 4th round. The Raiders desperately need help in the secondary. King could follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned Porter and find himself in the mix to be one of the top corners taken come 2024. He will get a chance to take all the top matchups now with Porter in the NFL.
13. Chicago Bears – Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
After going offensive line, the Bears can turn to the defense where they are in need of some pass rushing presence. Latu certainly brings that in spades. He brings an array of moves to get after the quarterback and displays an excellent first step. He has room to grow as a run defender, but he would be a welcome addition to the Chicago def
14. Green Bay Packers – J.C. Latham, OT, Alabama
David Bahktiari isn’t getting any younger and the Packers always seem to be dealing with offensive line injuries. Latham would give the Packers a long-term answer at the position. He started at right tackle in 2022 and is widely expected to take over the left side in 2023 with Tyler Steen in the NFL. If he can show he can hold his own in the SEC on that side, this might wind up being too low of a spot to project him.
15. New York Giants – Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
Daniel Jones is the guy in New York for now. The Giants added Jalen Hyatt to give him a field-stretching target, but this roster still lacks a clear No. 1 option at receiver. Odunze can fill that void. He has a big frame at 6’3″ and put up some monster numbers in 2022. He will have every chance to prove he is a first round talent playing with Michael Penix Jr. again this season.
16. Seattle Seahawks – Jer’Zahn Newton, DL, Illinois
Seattle has a massive void at defensive tackle unless 4th-round pick Cameron Young really surprises as a rookie. Al Woods and Quentin Jefferson are both now in New York. Newton is a bit undersized, but turned a lot of heads this past season. Illinois seems to be producing a lot of NFL-caliber defensive talent right now, so teams will certainly be paying attention this season.
17. Minnesota Vikings – Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
I contemplated a quarterback here. Michael Penix Jr., Shedeur Sanders and a few others could be in the running. For now though, I will go with a big need the Vikings just created by trading away Za’Darius Smith. Turner was overshadowed by Will Anderson Jr. on the Alabama defense this past season, but he should be the focal point this year. He has a similar build to his former teammate, but has a long way to go to match his production.
18. Denver Broncos – Maason Smith, DL, LSU
Denver’s defense is shaping up well, but they lack a proven presence on the interior of that defensive line. Smith is coming off an ACL injury in the season opener that cost him all of 2022. He flashed his upside as a freshman in 2021. He brings great size at 6’6″, 310 pounds. If he can stay healthy, he should be a force on that LSU defense that also features Harold Perkins.
19. New Orleans Saints – J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
The Saints could go a number of directions here, but after losing Marcus Davenport and with Cam Jordan turning 34 this year, some youth is needed on the edge. Tuimoloau is part of a super talented Ohio State defensive front. He has a polished spin move to disengage from defenders and displays good burst off the edge. He has all the physical traits, but needs to turn that into more production this season to solidify the hype around him.
20. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns – Jeremiah Trotter, LB, Clemson
Houston does not have its own first-round selection, but still has one more pick from the Deshaun Watson trade. This is probably not the biggest need for the Texans, but DeMeco Ryans is a former linebacker and comes from a team that has had some of the best in the league at the position. Trotter could easily become one of the top 5 off-ball linebackers with his speed, skill and instincts. He is the highest-rated player on my board left at this point.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas
The Chargers have found a way to make it work at tight end over the past few years. They have largely leaned on journeyman veterans. It might be time to find a long-term answer. Sanders is a big-body target who is already setting records for tight end play at Texas. Finding another weapon for Justin Herbert is always a worthwhile investment.
22. Miami Dolphins – Raheim Sanders, RB, Arkansas
Yes, Miami did draft Devon Achane this year. I like him as a player, but I’m not sure he is an every down back at his size. Miami ranked in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards, touchdowns and first downs. Sanders could plug the hole they have at running back. He is an enticing blend of size and speed. Plus, he is a proven receiver as well. He should check every box for a team looking for a complete running back.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cooper Dejean, CB, Iowa
Tyson Campbell has been great, but Jacksonville still lacks depth in its cornerback room. Dejean was a 1st-team All-Conference selection on an Iowa defense that was one of the best in the nation. His playmaking skills were on full display with three interceptions returned for touchdowns as well. He has the requisite size to play the position in the NFL and should get plenty of opportunity to prove himself against quality competition in the Big Ten this year.
24. Detroit Lions – Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State
A former five-star recruit, Sawyer is still coming into his own on the Ohio State defense. He put together a solid season with 4.5 sacks in 2022 and showcased some impressive play strength in the process. If he can form more of a plan when rushing the passer and show some more variety in his pass rush moves, I think he will find a way into the first round. For Detroit, pairing Sawyer with Aidan Hutchinson would give them a scary duo off the edge.
25. Baltimore Ravens – Michael Hall Jr., DL, Ohio State
The Ravens defense line has deteriorated over recent years. There is a chance recent draft picks Justin Mandubuike and Travis Jones step up this year and put to rest the concerns, but as of now, Baltimore needs an upgrade. Hall impressed with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss after seeing limited game action during his redshirt freshman season. He is a bit undersized at 6’2″, but I believe he is versatile and relentless. Those are two traits the Ravens tend to value.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Tre’Veyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State
The Ohio State run continues. The Buckeyes are loaded this year. Henderson is the latest running back to turn heads in Columbus. Injuries limited to just 111 touches in 2022, but he dominated in 2021 as a true freshman. He is a well-rounded back with good wiggle and burst. Dallas did well the last time they took a running back out of Ohio State. If Tony Pollard signs a long-term deal, no need to go running back, but this move could make a lot more sense financially.
27. Green Bay Packers via New York Jets – Andrew Mukuba, S, Clemson
Perhaps this pick stays with the Jets, but if New York is selecting this late in the first round, there is no way they keep the pick. Meanwhile, the Packers found a short-term fix at safety with the signing of Jonathan Owens, but Mukuba could solve the long-term issue. He already has 21 starts under his belt entering his junior season. With good size and impressive production, he could wind up being a very solid contributor on the backend for Green Bay.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Calen Bullock, S, USC
It’s a mini run on safeties. Bullock has a chance to be the first USC defender drafted in the first round since Adoree’ Jackson in 2017. Entering his junior year, Bullock has generated a ton of buzz with seven career interceptions, including five in 2022. He is huge for the position at 6’3″ and is not afraid of contact. The Bengals could pair him with Dax Hill after losing Jessie Bates in free agency.
29. Buffalo Bills – Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
Wide receiver might not seem like the biggest need for Buffalo, but Stefon Diggs is getting older and Gabe Davis is in a contract year. Worthy is a proven scorer, with 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons. There is some concern over his size, Texas lists him at 164 pounds, but he can stretch the field and has no problem playing over the middle.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
It is hard to predict where the 49ers will go, but if San Francisco is drafting this late again, I have to imagine quarterback is off the table. They will have to make a decision on Trey Lance, but for now, he is still on the roster. The team did just decline Javon Kinlaw’s fifth-year option though, which means defensive lineman could be a need. Mesidor is a versatile player who could play defensive end or kick inside to tackle. He had some great production with seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in his first season with Miami.
31. Philadelphia Eagles – Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
Philadelphia is notorious for drafting for need one year before they actually need to. That could be the case here with Lane Johnson recently turning 33. He signed a big extension, but if retires, the Eagles will need some help at the position. Suamataia started all year for BYU at right tackle after transferring from Oregon. He will likely slide over to the left side with Blake Freeland now in the NFL. That type of versatility is something teams covet.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
Patrick Mahomes is coming off a stellar year despite losing his top receiver in Tyreek Hill. Kansas City also drafted Rashee Rice in the second round this year. I still believe receiver is the position to target. Franklin would give the Chiefs another big-body receiver capable of stretching the field. He has a good sense for where to settle down against zone defense and catches the ball away from his body. There is a reason he became Bo Nix’s favorite target in 2022.