1. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Williams, QB, USC
I don’t think Arizona can pass on a potentially generational quarterback talent in Caleb Williams. The Cardinals still have Kyler Murray, and while it’s been an up-and-down relationship over the last few years, he still has value and might be served better on a team closer to contending. Williams, listed at 6’1” and 220 lbs., brings better size to the position without sacrificing mobility. The USC quarterback on a rookie contract for the rebuilding Cardinals makes the most sense here. He is the perfect draft pick for any franchise.
2. Arizona Cardinals (from Houston) – Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
Pairing your newly selected franchise quarterback with an elite outside receiver sets the tone immediately in Arizona. At 6’4”, Marvin Harrison Jr. emerged last season as the best receiver in college football despite not being draft eligible until 2024 in a season he posted a 77-1,263-11 receiving line. Things would drastically have to change for the Ohio State wideout to fall outside of the top five. He is as sure as it comes right now.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame
The Colts got their quarterback in the 2023 draft with Anthony Richardson and now give him a franchise left tackle in Notre Dame’s Joe Alt. He was arguably the top tackle in college football last season allowing only eight pressures in 13 games – less than a 1% pressure rate. Per PFF, Alt’s 91.4 blocking grade ranked first among Power 5 players at the position. Alt is probably the best tackle prospect in a handful of years and will be an immediate impact player on day one.
4. Tennessee Titans – Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Fashanu was a surprising returner for his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, but I don’t expect that to hurt his draft stock. There are a lot of needs the Titans need to fill, but building around their offensive line is a good start. With Will Levis potentially in the future, giving him a reliable offensive line could help him recapture the magic of his 2021 season. Fashanu is the best player available and fills a need long-term for the Titans. Win-win.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
By the time the draft rolls around in April, Maye could be the consensus second-overall player off the board but projects as QB2 and a top-five pick today. The Bucs lose Tom Brady for the 2023 season but get the chance to reload with the prototypically-sized passer in Drake Maye.
Maye has elite mobility at 6’5”, a great arm, and the ability to push the ball downfield consistently, evidenced by his 97.5 deep passing grade on PFF. He can operate outside of structure and deliver accurate passes on the move. NFL teams will fall in love with him throughout the process.
6. Chicago Bears (from Carolina) – Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
The Bears have a few options here, but Alabama’s Dallas Turner can be a game-breaker on day one for Chicago. He’s been living in the shadow of Will Anderson Jr. for the last two seasons but has the potential to break out in 2023 on a national stage. This is probably the range you’ll see him in mocks, and while I think he still has work to do, his potential is higher than almost anyone at the position. His explosiveness of the edge and raw athleticism gets him into the top ten in this draft.
7. Atlanta Falcons – Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
In the non-early-mock world, I would project Atlanta into the top three to get Drake Maye, but alas, this is what we’re working with. Instead, they get a player who can immediately impact their defense in Jared Verse. Verse and Turner are 1A/1B at the EDGE position, with the case being made for either. Verse, the one-time Albany transfer, opted to state at Florida State for another season but would have assuredly been a top pick in the 2023 draft regardless. I thought the Falcons may have targeted Tyree Wilson at eight (he went seventh to the Raiders) before going Bian Robinson but Verse is the player I prefer and they get him 2024.
8. New England Patriots – JC Latham, OT, Alabama
The Pats have a lot of holes to fill on their roster currently. They need help on the interior defensive line, which made Jer-Zhan Newton an interesting selection here, but would it surprise anyone to see Bill go for another Alabama player in JC Latham? This move helps the tackle position and fills an obvious need for on the line, especially in keeping Mac Jones upright. The only concern here is that he’s clearly outside the “top two” in Alt and Fashanu.
9. Washington Commanders – Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
I really like Quinn Ewers, but to land in the first round, he has work to do. An up-and-down season last year following a clavicle/shoulder injury, Ewers was spectacular in limited time against Alabama in week two, and his tape is littered with high-end throws. Ewers was an elite high-school recruit, one of the few to ever have a perfect 247 rating.
He will be surrounded by talent at Texas and will have Steve Sarkisian to guide the ship. Mocking him here is a risk, but there’s a reason he was highly regarded less than two years ago.
10. Los Angeles Rams – Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
The Rams need a lot of help across the board, with Les Sneed with the “f— them picks” attitude of the last 7-8 years, but they get a supremely talented player in McKinstry. After trading away stalwart Jalen Ramsey, McKinstry can step in and operate as a shutdown corner almost immediately. The First Team All-SEC corner is the best player at the position in his class. In my estimation, McKinstry is possibly a top-five talent, and was second in forced incompletions in 2022 (18), and getting him here would represent phenomenal value for the Rams.
11. Green Bay Packers – Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
I love Emeka Egbuka and think he would’ve been the top receiver in the 2023 draft. He’s an exceptional talent at the position but is overshadowed by uber-prospect Marvin Harrison Jr. on the same team. This isn’t like the Packers, who have gone 21 straight drafts without selecting a WR or TE round one. Egbuka fits the prototypical mold of the “new age” NFL WR at 6’1” and 190 lbs. and has elite YAC ability with versatility. He has the potential to be a true primary option in any offense.
12. Chicago Bears – Kalen King, CB, Penn State
The Bears grabbed an explosive EDGE rusher with the Panthers’ pick and go back to defense with Kalen King. I expect this to be a very popular mocked pick in the next few months but for good reason. The Bears need a playmaker at corner, and King is the premier shutdown option in this draft. One-on-one, he’s almost unbeatable. He ranked first in the nation with an 18.3 passer rating allowed in single coverage per PFF. He was the better of the two (Joey Porter Jr.) Penn State corners last year and could make a case to be a locked-in top-ten selection come next April.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jer’Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
Steelers filled a huge need in the 2023 draft with the selection of Broderick Jones, and while it’s tempting to double up at tackle here, it’s probably more of a luxury pick than one that could be an impact player. I think my favorite option here is going with Jer’Zhan Newton to build out the defensive line. The Illinois prospect is another player who could go even higher come draft time but is a disruptive force inside.
As shown in the clip above, Newton is a player who can get after the quarterback, evidenced by his 59 pressures, a number that led the Power 5 in 2022. He’s one of the most versatile players at the position in the class and brings high-end bend and overall athleticism.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Maason Smith, DL, LSU
Athleticism is the calling card here, and Smith has it in spades. We only have a year of tape to watch Smith, but his spectacular freshman season gave him Freshman All-American honors, and he should be fully healthy in 2023. At his size, 6’6”, 310 lbs., Smith profiles as another disruptive lineman who can get after the quarterback (had 4 sacks in 9 games as a true freshman) and can bring game-changing potential to the Vikings. I know some Viking fans want a quarterback, but I hope they don’t reach here.
15. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson
Linebacker isn’t a premier position in the NFL draft, and for good reason. However, Trotter excels in the one area that bucks the mold, pass coverage – taking after his father in that respect. He led the nation among LBs with an 89.7 coverage grade and didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage. He can also get after the quarterback, bringing versatility in both phases of the game. He’s the top LB in this class and a chess piece for the Raiders’ defense.
16. Seattle Seahawks – Leonard Taylor, DL, Miami
Seattle could use a quarterback here but reaching on a questionable talent isn’t how they win. Defense is the calling card for the Pete Carrol Seawhawks, and loading up here will do the trick. In 2023 they added Devon Witherspoon and Derrick Hall. This time they go interior and take Leonard Taylor out of Miami. A true breakout in 2022, Leonard can be incredibly disruptive in the middle, evidenced by his 8.5 tackles for loss and 19.5% pass rush win rate.
17. New York Giants – J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
I think the Giants should go defensive line here. Tuimololau is my top EGDE remaining, and he would be a good fit alongside last year’s selection in Kayvon Thibodeaux. These two could wreak havoc for offensive lines in the NFC East, and while internal defensive line is likely going to be an issue, I expect New York to tackle that in Round 2 or 3 in what is a deep DL class. Tuimoloau is extremely raw and can be inconsistent at times; his freakish athleticism and upside make him a risky but high-reward pick here.
Tuimoloau’s game against Penn State was a true breakout performance. We just need to see more of that in 2023, and he will be a bonafide stud and first-rounder.
18. New Orleans Saints – Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
Defense is going to be a need for the Saints, and while I think there’s a good chance they trade up for a Kalen King type, waiting and taking Trice is a good consolation prize. He hasn’t been a popular mock candidate yet, but I expect him to shoot up boards after a potentially dominant 2023 season. He plays alongside Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who is a quality edge in his own right but has been outplayed by Trice in two seasons despite having higher name-brand recognition. Trice led the nation in pressure rate last year (19.9%) and could do the same in 2023. An underrated prospect and one who should be a bigger name soon.
19. Houston (From Cleveland) – Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
Suamataia has been a hot name for a few seasons following a transfer from Oregon, but he’s lived up to the bill. Suamataia started only one game with the Ducks before heading to BYU. As a first-time starter, he showed the upside that made him a 5-star recruit and steps into the LT role for the Cougars with the loss of Blake Freeland. Expect him to rise up boards this year, potentially fighting for a top-ten selection at the end of the season if he continues what made him a Second-Team All-Freshman in 2022.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Fisher, OT, Notre Dame
Jacksonville could go defense here, and I think there are a few good options in Denzel Burke, Jason Marshall Jr, and Shemar Turner. Ultimately, the ability to draft a high-end tackle for Trevor Lawrence overrules. Fisher is going to be overshadowed by Joe Alt but is a very good player in his own right and will likely fall due to not playing left tackle. That shouldn’t be an indictment on Fisher as he’s behind an elite prospect, but it will likely cause him to fall some in the draft, which makes this a great value for the Jags at 20. He might be stuck behind Robinson for a year, but Fisher could be the future as he marinates at RT in year one.
21. Denver Broncos – Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
By now, you should know Penn State is probably going to be a good team in 2023 with all of these first-round picks. Chop Robinson (elite name) is an underrated EDGE who could slide into the Broncos’ D day one and help generate pressure against the AFC West quarterbacks they’re up against twice a year. Robinson, a Maryland transfer, should have a huge role for this defense in 2023, and with his explosiveness, he can consistently win reps. He’s a player who is a true wildcard in this first round, but another good season at Penn State could elevate him due to his elite pass-rush ability.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Jason Marshall Jr., CB, Florida
This is a projection, but if he doesn’t go earlier (I liked him to the Jaguars), I can see him going here to Baltimore. I’ve also seen him ranked behind Cooper DeJean and Denzel Burke, which I don’t agree with, but lots of mocks will show the rankings as such. Marshall is a better player than what we’ve seen thus far but is closer to a developmental prospect than a bonafide producer as of now. I expect a breakout season this year, given his size and athleticism. Once it comes together, he’s another player who can go much higher.
23. Detroit Lions – Michael Hall, DL, Ohio State
The Lions have been building a solid roster around both sides of the line and get even better with the selection of Michael Hall here. Hall is another player who has a wide range of outcomes in the first round, but given what we currently know, 24 feels closer to his floor than his ceiling.
Pairing Hall with Aidan Hutchinson along the line would be a huge advantage for the Lions as they look to take over the division in the next few years. Hall, who was a part-time player for the Buckeyes, should feature heavily after playing only 266 snaps in 2022 but managed an 11% pressure rate when lined up on the interior.
24. Los Angeles Chargers -Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
I don’t know if I expect Bowers to fall this far in the draft, but there’s a legit concern he measures in at 6’2” and 230 lbs. Even with his elite athleticism and production through two years, that’s a tough sell for most teams. The Chargers, who could simply decide to go all-offense, would be a fun landing spot for Bowers. With TE here, the Chargers sacrifice a potential game-breaker on defense for a certain mismatch on offense.
The play below demonstrates exactly what Bowers can do and what his strong suits are at the catch point and leveraging his athleticism.
25. Miami Dolphins – Cooper Beebe, OG, Kansas State
This is a very good offensive line class, and while guards aren’t highly prioritized, Beebe is currently in line to be a first-rounder. He is the best natural iOL in the class right now, and with Miami’s run-blocking scheme, he could be a perfect fit. He hasn’t allowed a single sack in 770 straight pass-blocking snaps, dating back to 2021. They’re also losing potentially three linemen who are in contract years, making this a need entering the 2024 draft. Beebe will likely be the only iOL selected in the first round, but he absolutely deserves it.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Andrew Mukuba, S, Clemson
Mukuba is one of my favorite players in the country and would be a fun fit with the Cowboys. They need secondary help at safety, and Mukuba is the best in the class. He has the athleticism that allows him to excel in coverage and stay with the receiver, especially when operating downfield. He does need to be more consistent with his physicality and pre-snap reads. Still, he should be totally healthy following injury issues in 2022 and, in my estimation, will be a first-round selection in 2024.
27. Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets) – Graham Barton, OT, Duke
Barton doesn’t have the name recognition that most do in this class, but the Duke tackle is a very good player and a potential anchor for the Packers. He has elite athleticism, but at 6’4”, length is a potential issue. If the downside for Barton is a high-end guard at the next level, that shouldn’t force him outside of round one, as his production has been exceptional.
He might be a better guard in the right scheme, given his foot speed (shown below), but if the technique is there, I’m not ready to write him off as a tackle as he has the athleticism to make up for it.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Raheim Sanders, RB, Arkansas
I wanted to go WR here, but I think the Bengals could be targeting Rocket Sanders, the Arkansas RB. Sanders has shown the ability to operate efficiently in both phases of the game. Sanders entered the Razorbacks program as a receiver and is one of the best size-adjusted athletes at the position in his class. This is certainly a luxury pick, and I would not be surprised if they did go receiver (Malik Nabers stands out here). Sanders will be a fun check-down option for Joe Burrow.
29. Buffalo Bills – Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
I don’t know if I would personally take Nabers here, but I do think he should be in first-round consideration. A wildly productive sophomore year at LSU puts him firmly in the top 40-50 range, and a team like the Bills that needs WR help could snag him at the end of the first. He brings high-end competitiveness and good contested catch skills, giving Josh Allen another reliable receiving option.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
Another receiver I don’t love mocking in the first but one that makes sense. Worthy is a speed asset and can open up room for AJ Brown and Devonta Smith to operate underneath. If he can improve his consistency, especially his hands, the wire-framed receiver can regain the lure that he had during his incredibly productive true freshman season. Worthy has a slim frame, and that’s a concern but elite speed is there with a likely low 4.3 come combine time. With consistency, this might be a low-end projection.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Connor Cloby, OG, Iowa
I hate mocking so many guards in the first, but Colby, like Beebe, is another player who is an asset in this specific scheme. Similar to what is being run in Miami, Colby will leverage his athleticism to be an effective pull for the 49ers in the run game. He has a good size for the position at 6’6” but could benefit from additional strength. Athleticism won’t be a question, but getting stronger could turn him into one of the game’s better right guards.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Malik Benson, WR, Alabama
We’re going to get incredibly hot here. Malik Benson is a freak talent transferring from Junior College to Alabama. The Chiefs can operate with a subpar receiver room, given the excellence of Patrick Mahomes. The addition of a raw talent like Benson could be attractive. He has elite size-adjusted speed, given his 10.44 100M at 6’1”, and averaged 28.6 yards per reception at Hutchinson last season. He’s in line to be a starter for the Tide, and a strong season could vault him into first-round draft consideration, given his profile. I like Benson a lot, and the Chiefs will too.