With less than a month remaining until the 2023 NFL draft, there’s little left but the waiting.
April has arrived, and almost all of the noteworthy pro days have already passed. While the circuit produced some fun moments – such as Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson hitting the roof with one of his passes – it’s unclear exactly how the past few weeks have altered teams’ plans. But with the big event in Kansas City, Missouri, drawing near, much of the first round still seems to be in flux.
With that said, here’s our latest NFL mock draft:
(Note: The Miami Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.)
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
At the completion of Ohio State’s pro day, Panthers quarterbacks coach Josh McCown congratulated Stroud and playfully said the two would find a court to play HORSE when the passer was in Charlotte. While that’s likely little more than banter, the 6-3, 214-pounder still sizes up as the kind of composed distributor prepared for the challenge awaiting him in Carolina. Sure, Frank Reich and Co. said Bryce Young’s stature wouldn’t be disqualifying, and Reich also mentioned that Anthony Richardson had several plays that “scream top pick.” For now, though, Stroud still gets the nod here.
2. Houston Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Texans chairman Cal McNair told reporters at the NFL annual league meeting that the team would be asking “a lot” of its next quarterback, whom the organization expects to be its face of the franchise. Hard to imagine someone better suited to handle those expectations than Young. After all, the 5-10, 204-pound passer took the reins to Nick Saban’s operation and delivered a Heisman Trophy, making composure in the face of chaos his calling card in the process. Houston should be in a fine position with either Stroud or Young, but the latter stands out as a particularly attractive catalyst given the inauspicious outlook for the rest of the roster.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson, DE/OLB, Alabama
A trade here could still reshape the rest of the top 10, though it’s difficult to envision exactly who the buyer would be. There’s no problem for the Cardinals in staying put, though, especially with a premier defensive talent such as Anderson waiting in the wings. A one-man game wrecker since he first stepped on the field at Alabama, the 6-4, 253-pounder looks like the best bet of any prospect in this draft to be a multiple-time Pro Bowl selection.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Talk about odd pairings. Richardson, a 6-4, 244-pound passer with 4.43-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a spotty college resume, hardly seems like the kind of quarterback that Chris Ballard would want to stake his career on after the Colts GM was unmoved by so many other young passers in recent years. At this point, though, Ballard needs to make a big swing, and his options at No. 4 might be somewhat limited. Regardless, the Colts should take comfort in knowing that new coach Shane Steichen looks like a strong candidate to accelerate Richardson’s development given his work tapping into Jalen Hurts’ rushing ability while fine-tuning the quarterback’s play as a pocket passer.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) – Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Pete Carroll and Co. made a lot of noise about checking on the top quarterbacks, taking selfies with all four of the highest-rated passers at their pro days. Unless Seattle trades up, however, it’s hard to buy into this as more than due diligence given the re-signings of Geno Smith and Drew Lock. So long as the Seahawks are comfortable with what they find on Carter after the unanimous All-American pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing, there’s little question that his value would stand above the other options at this slot.
6. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) – Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
A 6-6, 271-pound edge rusher who blows up plays in the backfield and has a wingspan just short of NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo sounds like the kind of player that Dan Campbell could only dream of. Wilson will be an imposing matchup for any opponent, but his refinement as a pass rusher will determine whether he can become an accomplished sack artist or merely someone who pushes the pocket.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
This slot could be an inflection point for quarterbacks in the first round. If the Raiders aren’t ready to pull the trigger on what very likely will be the fourth signal-caller off the board, there’s plenty of reason for them to take a long look at Gonzalez. At 6-1 and 197 pounds with enviable speed and agility, he warrants consideration as a defensive prospect in the same top tier as Anderson and Carter.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
Calais Campbell is a nice late addition for a defense desperate for talent in the front seven, but the 36-year-old can only do so much for a group that has managed just 39 sacks in the last two years, by far the lowest sum of any team in that span. Atlanta shouldn’t expect double-digit sacks from the get-go with Murphy, but the 6-5, 268-pounder can lean on his knack for generating pressure and stuffing the run as he sorts out how to develop a more effective pass-rush plan.
9. Bears (from Panthers) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Seems like this is the starting point for a run on offensive linemen, and it could be sparked by Bears GM Ryan Poles, a former offensive tackle himself. A smooth mover with an ideal frame for the position, Johnson is adept at keeping edge rushers in front of him, though NFL defenders will likely try their hand early at charging right through him.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints) – Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
Even with Brandon Graham returning alongside Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick, there’s no such thing as too many premier pass rushers for Howie Roseman. Smith’s usage at Georgia made his ability to rack up sacks somewhat of an unknown, but his top-tier speed and agility combined with his tenacious style suggest he’ll make bigger waves in the NFL as he’s utilized in more favorable manners.
11. Tennessee Titans – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
It might seem strange for GM Ran Carthon, a former NFL running back who spoke out against “Golden State Warriors football” when characterizing his commitment to the ground game, to make his first-ever pick a wide receiver. But the shifty Smith-Njigba would aid the Titans’ bully ball approach by keeping the attack on schedule and consistently picking up first downs for Ryan Tannehill and Co.
12. Texans (from Cleveland Browns) –Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
DeMeco Ryans is accustomed to working with a formidable defensive front built with premium draft picks, so it would only make sense to give the former 49ers defensive coordinator the same kind of building blocks as he embarks on this new challenge as head man of the Texans. Though his pass rush is essentially all bull rush at this point, Van Ness would offer athleticism befitting a player nicknamed “Hercules” for Ryans to mold.
13. New York Jets – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Holding onto this selection in the prolonged Aaron Rodgers trade negotiations would no doubt help Joe Douglas boost the supporting cast for his expected quarterback. Skoronski is the kind of savvy, stabilizing presence who could be a reliable Day 1 starter at left tackle or the interior.
14. New England Patriots – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
It’s been a bit of an odd offseason for Bill Belichick, who had to walk back an uncharacteristic remark at the annual league meeting to emphasize the team was not resting on its laurels. Grabbing Jones, a pass protector on the rise who would extend the theme of enhancing the support system for Mac Jones, would serve as a welcome return to form.
15. Green Bay Packers – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
No matter how optimistic Green Bay brass is about starting the Jordan Love era, equipping a little-used quarterback with an underdeveloped and erratic receiving corps should be cause for concern. A rookie tight end might seem ill-equipped to alleviate that issue, but Mayer has rare ability to haul in even the most difficult catches.
16. Washington Commanders – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
In setting up a quarterback competition between 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell and journeyman Jacoby Brissett, Washington has made clear that it will not be a team that intends to throw upwards of 35 times per game. It would make sense, then, for the Commanders to double down on their offensive vision with Robinson, who looks capable of stepping in as a focal point of the attack.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
One of the more underrated signings in free agency was the Steelers’ stealthy addition of offensive guard Isaac Seumalo. A fitting follow-up would be to draft Wright, a mauler as a run blocker who has made significant strides in the passing game.
18. Lions – Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt
Being selected by Brad Holmes, the Lions GM and former ace Rams personnel man, would only amplify the comparisons of Kancey to Aaron Donald, another undersized Pitt product and menace in the middle. No team should expect a similar trajectory to that of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but Kancey’s ample explosiveness is something that Dan Campbell would surely covet for his burgeoning defensive front.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Credit Todd Bowles for setting proper expectations at quarterback, as the Buccaneers head coach said last week he’s “not looking for a guy to come in and be Superman.” Still, if a top passer tumbles, Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield shouldn’t preclude Tampa Bay from taking a shot. A dynamic passer on the move with the arm strength to rifle throws into tight windows, Levis would give the Buccaneers something more than a stopgap solution for the post-Tom Brady era.
20. Seahawks – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
One year after hitting it big with Tariq Woolen in the fifth round, Seattle can round out its stellar secondary with the second of its two first-round picks. The 6-3, 193-pound Porter Jr. is another supersized cornerback who routinely finds a way to get his hands on passes thrown his way.
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Even after hanging onto Keenan Allen this offseason, the time for the Chargers to reconsider the composition of their receiving corps has arrived. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could find plenty of ways to create mismatches with Kincaid, whose separation skills would set him apart in a group of pass catchers that largely relies on Justin Herbert throwing jump balls.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Darius Slay revealed this weekend on his podcast that he was “this close” to linking up with Baltimore before returning to the Eagles. That pursuit should make clear that a team that has been otherwise nearly motionless in free agency is on the hunt for a cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey. In this scenario, the Ravens follow up last year’s Kyle Hamilton selection by again landing another dynamic playmaker in coverage who drops further in the first round than many expected.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
With Byron Murphy in and Patrick Peterson out, the bottom line hasn’t changed much for a Vikings secondary that’s still significantly undermanned. Brian Flores would no doubt appreciate Banks’ rugged approach to matching up with receivers as well as the fluidity he demonstrates to stick with them.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
There’s something special brewing in Jacksonville thanks to a roster rife with young talent at critical positions. What’s missing, however, is the kind of all-purpose playmaker on the back end. Enter Branch, a do-everything defender whose pedestrian testing numbers distract from his prowess in finding the ball at every turn.
25. New York Giants – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Think it’s fair to say that the receiving corps was a point of emphasis for Big Blue this offseason? By adding tight end Darren Waller and receivers Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder – and re-signing Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins and Sterling Shepard – it’s evident that GM Joe Schoen was intent on throwing resources at the issue. Still, the 6-3, 215-pound Johnston would add a different dimension to a collection of pass catchers rife with undersized, short-area targets.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
With the trades for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks addressing their most pressing needs, the Cowboys are a difficult team to peg in the draft. While injuries prevented Bresee from producing at the level expected of a former No. 1 overall recruit, the 6-6, 298-pounder – if healthy – could serve as the punishing interior presence capable of further elevating Dan Quinn’s defense.
27. Buffalo Bills – Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Making life easier for Josh Allen is the throughline for all of Buffalo’s offseason plans. A dynamic slot receiver who can threaten defenses at all three levels and lessen the quarterback’s reliance on Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis would certainly align with that mission, and Addison fits the bill.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Snagging Orlando Brown marked a significant step in the mission to improve Joe Burrow’s protection, but the job isn’t quite complete, especially with Jonah Williams’ fate unclear. Going with a pair of former Sooners in Brown and Harrison would give Cincinnati the pair of bookend tackles it has long sought.
29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco 49ers via Dolphins and Broncos) – Keion White, DE, Georgia Tech
The substantial draft investment in Marcus Davenport didn’t pay off, but that shouldn’t preclude New Orleans from taking another chance on a supersized athlete at edge rusher. Like Davenport, White is still figuring out the position after beginning his collegiate career at tight end. But if the 6-5, 285-pounder can learn how to better disengage blockers after initial contact, watch out.
30. Eagles – Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
James Bradberry and Darius Slay’s returns push cornerback down the list of short-term concerns for Philadelphia, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the future given that the two starters are 30 and 32, respectively. A ball hawk to his core after recording 14 interceptions (including six pick-sixes) at Mississippi State, Forbes could be an understudy early and learn how to properly channel his aggressiveness in the pros before taking on a starting role.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
It’s good to be the defending champions, as the Chiefs have enviable flexibility entering the draft. Though Kansas City looks comfortable trusting in Kadarius Toney and 2022 second-rounder Skyy Moore to handle bigger roles next season, Flowers would be an enticing option to pair with Patrick Mahomes given his explosiveness both as a deep target and run-after-catch threat on quick hits.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.