The 2023 NFL Draft is coming up quickly, April 27th to be exact is when the first round begins and every team will look to make upgrades and fill holes in their roster. Some teams needs are more obvious than others. To prepare for this upcoming draft, I did a mock, or practice draft to see where certain players will land and the reason why for the team’s selection. Two important things to mention: this will be the first of three articles that covers ten picks at a time (1-10, 11-21, 22-31) and more importantly these are strictly predictions for what could happen. With that being said, the Carolina Panthers are on the clock.
Pick Number One: Carolina Panthers, CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Carolina Panthers acquired the number one overall pick from the Chicago Bears a few weeks ago and they are in need of improving the most important position: quarterback. They have gone through a rotating door of quarterbacks since 2019: Baker Mayfield, PJ Walker, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold just to name a few. Stroud is the best quarterback available in this year’s draft class according to most scouts. In his junior year at Ohio State, Stroud was spectacular as he threw for 3,688 yards, 41 touchdowns and just six interceptions in the regular season and led the Buckeyes to the semifinals of the College Football Playoff against Georgia. He has a great arm and his decision making is second to none. It’s almost a no-brainer this former Ohio State star goes at number one overall.
Pick Number Two: Houston Texans, Bryce Young, Alabama
Like the Carolina Panthers, the Houston Texans are in need of establishing the quarterback position. Young is another highly coveted quarterback in this year’s draft. The former University of Alabama star Do not be surprised if Commissioner Roger Goodell announces two consecutive quarterbacks to start this year’s draft. The last time quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks was in 2016 when the Los Angeles Rams selected Jared Goff, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles selecting Carson Wentz. Young has an ability to elude pass rushers and still keep his eyes downfield to find receivers. The one glaring weakness with Young is his size and he’s only 5’10, 204 lbs, which was similar to
Pick Number Three: Arizona Cardinals, Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Carter is the highest rated defensive prospect according to most draft experts. Although he has found himself in off-season turmoil, the expectation is that he will be a top ten pick in this draft. The former defensive lineman from the University of Georgia has a quick first step and is an elite pass rusher. For the Arizona Cardinals, they are looking to re-tool their defense after the loss of future Hall of Famer JJ Watt. The majority of the defense is in the re-building stage so getting Carter would be a great pick. Despite missing a few games last season with knee and ankle injuries, he still played 13 games accumulating 32 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Pick Number Four: Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
There are a few options the Colts could choose from but Richardson is a good fit because he is a big, physical quarterback similar to Cam Newton: 6’4, 232 lbs and the use of his legs to scramble and elude pressure is his greatest strength. Last season, Richardson ran for 654 yards on 103 carries and nine touchdowns. His ability as a passer will have to improve over time as he prepares to take the reign as an NFL starting quarterback. Indianapolis is still a few years away from being a true contender in the AFC but putting their draft stock into Richardson will be a step in the right direction.
Pick Number Five: Seattle Seahawks, Will Anderson Jr, DL, Alabama
The Seattle Seahawks struggled mightily on defense last season, but putting pressure on the quarterback was not of major concern as they finished eighth in total sacks last season. However, they allowed the third most rushing yards per game at 150. Anderson Jr. is a good run defender, not great but will be able to make an impact right away with any team that needs an upgrade on their defensive line. He’s right up there with Jalen Carter as far as an elite defensive lineman. In 2022, Anderson won the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defender and the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is the award given to the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Pick Number Six: Detroit Lions, Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State
Porter Jr. is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Joey Porter. Safe to say defense runs in the family. The Detroit Lions are in need of help in all defensive areas as they finished last in total defense last season. They gave up the most yards per game at 392. They also ranked in the middle of the pack in most interceptions forced, only creating 12 the entire season. Porter Jr. was very good in college when he played at Penn State forcing eight pass breakups last season. Scouts say his one of biggest strengths is he has good length and recovery to cut underneath routes.
Pick Number Seven: Las Vegas Raiders, Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Like the Lions, the Las Vegas Raiders are searching for help in their secondary. Devon Witherspoon might be the guy for them. Last season at Illinois, he won the Big Ten’s award for Best Defensive Back in the conference. His stats from last season: 41 tackles, 17 passes defensed and three interceptions. He also allowed a completion rate of 34.9%. The Raiders need help at the cornerback position as they gave up the fourth most passing yards per game at 243. With many question marks surrounding the roster, especially on defense, they could use all the help they can get.
Pick Number Eight: Atlanta Falcons, Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons are in need of upgrading their defense, especially their defensive line. They finished second to last in sacks with 21 on the season. Murphy should be able to help with that as he accumulated 17.5 total sacks in his three years at Clemson. Scouts believe his greatest strength is his quick first step and has an elusive spin move to escape run blocking. The challenge for him is to avoid an occasional tendency of riding on pass blocks that go past the pocket and he does not have much of an inside counter move.
Pick Number Nine: Chicago Bears, Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Bears are in desperate need of improvement in every single way, but primarily on the offensive line. They allowed the fourth most sacks in the league with 58. No, that is not a misprint. They also finished last in passing yards not even getting to 3,000 and their star quarterback Justin Fields had battled a shoulder injury throughout the season. If the Bears are going to go anywhere and be a competitive team, it starts with improving the offensive line. Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski is ideal for them in the sense that he can play at a guard position and his biggest strength is he’s very good at using his hands primarily as a way to attack defensive lineman. If the Bears opt to pass on Skoronski, I would be stunned.
Pick Number Ten: Philadelphia Eagles, Tyree Wilson, Edge Rusher, Texas Tech
Despite a foot injury that ended his 2022 season in December, Wilson was phenomenal for Texas Tech this past season accumulating 61 total tackles and seven sacks. The Eagles are in need of a good pass rusher as they lost defensive lineman Javon Hargrave to the San Francisco 49ers and linebacker T.J Edwards to the Chicago Bears in free agency. Wilson has several strengths but his greatest strength according to scouts is he has elite size and a massive wingspan. Wilson is 6’6, 271 lbs. He would fit in very well with the reigning NFC champions. Additionally, he has the great ability to a wreck any running play with a hard back-end crash.
This is the first of three parts of a mock draft that I will be writing about leading up to the draft later this month. Part two will feature picks 11-20. Stay tuned.