2023 NFL mock draft: Post-free agency edition
Rosters around the NFL look a whole lot different after the first wave of free-agent signings and trades to kick off the offseason.
While every organization will try to claim that they simply draft the best player on the board, the flurry of moves will no doubt have an impact on how teams approach the early stages of the upcoming draft.
Here's an updated look at how we see the first round playing out.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
We'll probably go back and forth on this one until draft day. As things currently stand, Young has just as strong a case to be the No. 1 pick as anyone else. Even with the size concerns, which make him an all-time outlier at the position, he's still the best quarterback in this draft. The Panthers get the potential superstar they were seeking when they traded up with the Bears.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
While the Panthers sent a whopping 14 people to Stroud's pro day at Ohio State, the Texans only had three in attendance. That shouldn't make people think Houston would pass on the Buckeyes star, though. If Young goes first, Stroud is the clear choice to take over the Texans' offense.
MOCK TRADE: Colts move up from No. 4 in deal with Cardinals
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Moving up one spot is unconventional but perhaps necessary for the Colts to prevent another team from jumping them for Richardson. Sending a mid-round pick to the Cardinals is a small price to pay to ensure that you land this year's most captivating quarterback. Richardson, one of the most athletic quarterback prospects in draft history, could flourish in a similar offense to the one Shane Steichen ran with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
MOCK TRADE: Cardinals move down from No. 3 in deal with Colts
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
The Cardinals take advantage of being the only team in the top four that doesn't need a quarterback. Trading down one spot still allows them to take the top defensive player on the board: Alabama's Anderson. Arizona ranked 23rd in sacks per game last season, a problem Anderson should fix after posting a whopping 34.5 in three seasons with the Crimson Tide.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Jalen Carter would garner significant consideration here, but the Seahawks making a free-agent splash with Dre'Mont Jones takes care of the three-technique spot for the foreseeable future. Wilson's freak athleticism on the edge would be another major addition to a new-look defensive front.
Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The Lions take advantage of Carter falling due to off-the-field issues to grab the Georgia star at No. 6. Detroit was 28th in the league last year in points allowed, but pairing Carter with Aidan Hutchinson gives the Lions one of the most exciting defensive line duos in football.
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Signing Jimmy Garoppolo will help the Raiders avoid forcing a quarterback pick if their top-ranked signal-callers are already off the board. The defense still needs all the help it can get, and the supremely athletic Gonzalez would finally give that group a potential lockdown cornerback.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
The Falcons were 29th in the league in passer rating allowed last season and need a ton of help in the secondary to fix that. Enter Witherspoon, who instantly brings physicality and solid ball skills to the position. The Illini star is also arguably the best run-stopping corner in the draft.
Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Bears being unwilling to meet the price tags of top free agents on the offensive line and instead choosing to do their spending elsewhere makes it appear likely that this becomes their focus early in the draft. Adding Johnson as a cornerstone left tackle would be a major step in improving the protection for Justin Fields.
MOCK TRADE: Lions move up from No. 18 in deal with Eagles
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Lions read the draft board and move up to grab the quarterback of the future in Levis. There are plenty of questions surrounding the Kentucky star's ability to start on Day 1, but that won't be an issue with Jared Goff still clearly QB1 in Motown. Levis will be able to sit for a season and get acclimated to the professional game behind the veteran passer. Dan Campbell will love the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder's toughness to match his impressive arm talent.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Quarterback could have been an option for Tennessee if Levis made it to this spot, but addressing a dreadful passing attack should be a priority either way. Smith-Njigba's route-running ability could be a strong complement to the physicality of 2022 first-rounder Treylon Burks in the Titans' receiving corps.
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
After grabbing Stroud at No. 2 to reset the offense, the Texans grab a game-breaker on defense with Van Ness. The Iowa star posted 13.5 sacks in two seasons - despite not starting - and also blocked two kicks in his final collegiate campaign. Van Ness' ability to play both inside and out makes him an attractive pick at No. 12.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The Packers have their sights set on this pick to complete the seemingly inevitable Aaron Rodgers trade, but we don't see the Jets budging on that. Landing the Hall of Fame quarterback for some combination of mid-round selections and/or future conditional picks and using No. 13 to make a major upgrade at offensive tackle would be a perfect scenario for New York.
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
The Patriots need receiver help, but No. 14 seems too high for Bill Belichick to reach for someone with Smith-Njigba off the board. New England is very likely to trade back from this pick, but a twitchy edge-rusher with big upside like Murphy could make them stay.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
We know the Packers aren't big on drafting receivers in the first round. But what about an elite tight end prospect who can also be a plus contributor as an in-line blocker in the run game? Adding a weapon like Mayer would be key for Jordan Love's development as he steps into the starting role with Rodgers on the way out.
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
The Commanders will be looking to make life as easy as possible for new starting quarterback Sam Howell. Adding Kincaid to a list of pass-catchers that includes Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson is a good way to do that. Kincaid starred in his final season at Utah, highlighted by an outrageous 16-catch, 234-yard performance versus USC.
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
This is going to be one of the more popular mid-first-round connections you're going to see throughout the draft cycle, and for good reason. The Steelers desperately need help in the secondary, Porter is a potential stud at the next level, and his father was a star pass-rusher in Pittsburgh before later coaching on Mike Tomlin's staff.
MOCK TRADE: Eagles move down from No. 10 in deal with Lions
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
The Eagles trade back from No. 10 and opt to beef up the defensive line with Smith out of Georgia. Smith missed the end of the Bulldogs' second straight national title-winning season but absolutely dominated the combine. He threw down a ridiculous 4.39 40-yard dash at 238 pounds while also posting 41.5 inches in the vertical jump and 10-foot-8 in the broad jump.
Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The tackle spot opposite Tristan Wirfs is far and away the Bucs' most glaring need heading into the draft. Whether Wirfs settles in at left or right tackle going forward, Jones is an appealing bookend option to give the offensive line a second young cornerstone.
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
With Geno Smith back in the fold, the Seahawks can keep the quarterback happy by adding an electric weapon in Addison. The 2021 Biletnikoff winner as college football's best receiver is a smooth route-runner who offers a ton of after-the-catch ability. The trio of Addison, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett could prove to be a handful for opposing defensive units in 2023.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
This is a fun spot for the consensus No. 1 running back and one of the best overall players in this draft. Austin Ekeler requesting a trade creates a massive need at the position, but the reality is that the Chargers needed to find a way to get better at running between the tackles regardless. Robinson helps them do exactly that, along with everything else you could possibly want from a running back.
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
For the third time in the last five drafts, the Ravens go with a wide receiver in the first round. Johnston's ceiling might be the highest of any pass-catcher in the draft, as the 6-foot-3 TCU star showed off a 40.5-inch vertical at the combine. That's exactly the type of big-play weapon the Baltimore offense has been lacking.
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The Vikings moving on from Adam Thielen creates a major void opposite Justin Jefferson, and there hasn't been any urgency to fill it to this point in free agency. Flowers would be an outstanding fit alongside one of the game's premier receivers.
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
The Jaguars sent their cornerbacks coach to Branch's pro day for an individual workout, fueling speculation that he's the target at No. 24. The Alabama star has outstanding instincts on the field and showed he's comfortable at numerous positions while with the Crimson Tide.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Giants have been one of the NFL's busiest teams this offseason, making important additions at wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker. Defensive back still stands out as an area of need, though, and Banks, whose stock is on the rise after an impressive combine performance, would fit in nicely.
Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt
An undersized defensive tackle from Pitt with explosive quickness on the line? No, he's not Aaron Donald, but Kancey is a very solid value for the Cowboys at No. 26. Kancey's 4.67 40-yard dash at the combine was the fastest by a defensive tackle since 2006. That's the type of eye-popping athleticism that will be very appealing to Jerry Jones.
Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan
There have been some rumblings about the Bills being in on DeAndre Hopkins, so we're going to go out on a limb and assume they find a way to fill a need at receiver in the coming weeks. Such a move would clear the way for the Bills to focus on the interior defensive line in the first round. Smith has every-down potential.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Playing Washington as an in-line tight end is essentially adding a sixth offensive lineman to the fold. Given the Bengals' issues in protecting Joe Burrow, that could be a very attractive proposition. The 6-foot-7, 270-pounder is an absolute mauler in the run game but also flashed outstanding athleticism in limited targets while at Georgia.
Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
The Saints' defensive line lost several key pieces in free agency. If winning now is the idea, as their other moves indicate, those spots have to be filled with pro-ready players. Bresee fits the bill.
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
For the second straight year, five different Georgia players are taken in the opening round of the NFL draft. The Eagles took Jordan Davis in the first round last year and already grabbed Smith earlier in the night in our mock. Ringo makes it a trio of first-round Bulldogs the last two years for Philly, with the talented corner bringing solid physicality and athleticism to the position for the NFC champs.
Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Chiefs let Orlando Brown walk in free agency and signed Jawaan Taylor as his replacement at left tackle. Drafting Wright to play on the opposite side would round out a fantastic front five.