Way Too Early 2023 Mock Draft

If you’re the type of person who starts thinking about next Christmas on December 26, you’ve come to the right place. The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, which means it’s time to take a way, way too early look at next year with a 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

Obviously a lot will change over the course of this year. Our 2022 early mock had Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell as top 10 picks. Rattler lost his starting job and transferred while Howell just got picked in the fifth. But others like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingley and Evan Neal kept up their momentum. 

Think of this less as a prediction of the future and more of a first look at some of the guys who we’ll be talking about in six months. 

The draft order is based on the current Super Bowl odds. 

1. Houston Texans: Ohio State QB CJ Stroud

The best player in the 2023 class as we sit right now is Alabama DE Will Anderson. But history tells us if a quarterback shows enough to reasonably project as a potential franchise talent, the positional value will push them up the board. Stroud might not quite be there yet, but he’s close. This past class taught us progression isn’t always a given, especially at quarterback, but Stroud has every tool to have success.

He’s got good size and a strong arm. Like all Ohio State quarterbacks, he’s incredibly productive. In terms of playing style, he’s closer to the late Dwayne Haskins than Justin Fields. He’s not as big but he definitely skews toward being a pocket passer as opposed to a rushing threat. His highlight tape from 2021 has some real jaw-droppers in terms of throws.

2. Detroit Lions: Ohio State WR Jaxson Smith-Njigba

The NFL went nuts for receivers in the draft this year with the way the position exploded financially. It was a good class but not quite as good at the top as we’ve seen the prior two years. That’ll change in 2023 with multiple alpha receivers eligible, and Smith-Njigba might be the alpha of alphas. As a true sophomore, he dominated with 95 receptions, 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. Mind you, he was also sharing the field with two other first-round picks at receiver as well in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, and he was far and away the Buckeyes’ No. 1 threat. He’s good at just about everything you want your receivers to be good at, but his body control might be his best attribute. 

3. New York Jets: Alabama DE Will Anderson

If Anderson had been eligible for the draft this year, he probably would have been the clear-cut No. 1 pick (and frankly you could say that about the first two and the next tk players in the class that’s much stronger at the top at least than 2022). He ran roughshod over the SEC and finished the season with 17.5 sacks as a sophomore, showcasing his length, speed and strength to make opposing tackles look silly. If a quarterback or two steps up in 2023, it’s going to push Anderson down to an extremely lucky team. 

4. Atlanta Falcons: Georgia DT Jalen Carter

You’ve heard plenty by now about Georgia’s incredible 2021 defense and seen just how many starters from that unit were drafted last week. But a consistent refrain from scouts who watched the Bulldogs is that Carter, a sophomore last year, was the best player out of anyone on that side of the ball. He’s not the size/speed freak teammate Jordan Davis is but he’s no slouch at a sturdy 6-3 and 310 pounds and could go much higher.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Georgia CB Kelee Ringo

Ringo held his own as a redshirt freshman on Georgia’s defense, capped by his pick-six to help clinch a win in the national title game. He’s got terrific size at 6-2 and is rumored to run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. If he takes a step forward in 2022, those measurables and his pedigree on Georgia’s defense will get him drafted very, very high.

6. Carolina Panthers: LSU WR Kayshon Boutte

LSU didn’t wait long after Ja’Marr Chase left to hand out the No. 1 jersey again, and Boutte looked an awful lot like Chase blowing by defenders in that jersey the past two seasons. Injuries held him back last year but he still scored nine touchdowns in just six games. LSU has a long history of excellent receiver play and Boutte looks primed to continue that tradition. 

7. Seattle Seahawks: Clemson DT Bryan Bresee

Bresee was the No. 1 overall recruit in his class before signing with Clemson and turned in a freshman All-American season. He looked like he was picking up where he left off last year before a torn ACL ended his 2021 season. That’s undoubtedly a setback but if he can come back healthy, he is a talented interior defender in what is shaping up early as a strong class at the position.

9. Chicago Bears: Alabama CB Eli Ricks

Something to watch with Ricks is he was just arrested for speeding and marijuana possession. He also transferred from LSU to Alabama after his second season, though transfers are becoming more of the norm in college football and deservedly have less stigma than they used to. Like Ringo, he’s got great size and traits and is going from one SEC cornerback factory to another. 

9. New York Giants: Alabama QB Bryce Young

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, there will be a fascinating debate about Young next draft season. We’ve seen the NFL lowers its standards for size at the quarterback position buoyed by the success of Russell Wilson and the way the league has changed to embrace mobility while simultaneously protecting the quarterback via the rule book more than ever. Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield were No. 1 picks in back-to-back years when a decade before they would have been mid-rounders or even asked to change positions. 

So size isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker when it comes to Young. However, he is undoubtedly small. He’s listed at 6-0 and that might be a bit generous. Here he is at the Heisman ceremony with the other finalists: Aidan Hutchinson (6-6), Kenny Pickett (6-3) and Stroud (listed at 6-3). He also isn’t the elite athlete Murray was and clearly has more of a slight frame, so it’ll be interesting to see how the NFL projects him. 

10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Notre Dame Edge Isaiah Foskey

Foskey probably could have declared this year and joined a deep edge-rushing group but he elected to return for another season and try and improve his draft stock. And there’s a lot to like. He’s well-built at 6-5 and 260 pounds (listed measurements). He made the Freak List that the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman compiles for a reported 4.65 40-yard dash time with a 1.58 second 10-yard split. Behind Anderson, it’s pretty wide open at edge rusher and there’s room for a number of guys, including Foskey, to establish themselves. 

11. Washington Commanders: Texas A&M DB Antonio Johnson

We’re seeing more and more truly unique defensive backs enter the league as college football continues to be largely wide open. Johnson is 6-2 and 200 pounds with the athleticism to play outside corner. But the former safety broke out as a nickel defender in 2021 for the Aggies, shining especially against bigger receiving threats and showing the physicality to play in the box. NFL defenses prize those kinds of matchup pieces to counter what offenses are throwing at them every week, which could make Johnson an in-demand player. 

12. Minnesota Vikings: Georgia DE Nolan Smith

Smith was the top recruit by some outlets in the 2019 class that also included Thibodeaux, Evan Neal and Derek Stingley. He’s taken a little longer to find his footing but he also had flashes for Georgia in 2021. The numbers don’t look great on the surface with less than 10 sacks in three seasons but he had the second-highest pressure rate of anyone on the team, behind only Carter and ahead of the three linemen taken in the first round this year. He should have more of the spotlight in 2022 and a chance to assert himself in the first-round conversation. 

13. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints): Army DE Andre Carter II

Carter has a chance to become the highest-drafted player from one of the service academies since G Mike Wahle was a supplemental second-round pick in 1998. Carter was an AP All-American after a monstrous season where he recorded 15.5 sacks for the Black Knights. Army uses him as a standup edge rusher at 6-7 and 250 pounds, even dropping him into coverage where you really see that athleticism shine. 

14. Las Vegas Raiders: Oregon LB Noah Sewell

The younger brother of Lions OT Penei Sewell, Noah is seen in almost the same air as a prospect. He’s got throwback size at the position, listed at 6-3 and 251 pounds. He can run, though, and hit like a ton of bricks when he gets where he’s going. 

15. New England Patriots: Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski

Skoronski took over for Rashawn Slater at left tackle for the Wildcats right away as a true freshman and has acquitted himself well. He might face some similar questions as Slater about his best fit being inside as a guard due to his measurements but he’s just a clean prospect overall. As we look ahead at the next group of tackles, that’s hard to say. 

16. Philadelphia Eagles: Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.

Yes, this is former Steelers OLB Joey Porter’s son, the latest in a line of juniors who play defensive back (Asante Samuel Jr., Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain II, Antoine Winfield Jr.) to enter the same league their fathers played in. Penn State just churns out freak athletes, so if Porter tests well and turns in some solid tape, his measurables and bloodline will have him in the first round conversation. 

17. Miami Dolphins: Florida QB Anthony Richardson

Stroud and Young probably showed enough on tape that they would have been first-round picks had they been eligible to declare this year. The rest of the quarterbacks in this class have work to do, but have shown enough either in limited opportunities or with their traits that they could vault into the first round like we’ve seen with so many prospects before. Out of that bunch, there might be no one else with more potential than Richardson. 

His stats weren’t impressive in limited action as a redshirt freshman. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 529 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, with 51 attempts for 401 yards and three scores. But the traits with Richardson are just off the charts. He’s 6-4 and 236 pounds with a cannon for an arm and absurd athleticism. He might be the closest prospect we’ve seen to Cam Newton in a while, at least athletically. There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than being big, fast and throwing the ball a mile, but if he puts it together, he could be the No. 1 pick. 

18. Tennessee Titans: WR Jordan Addison

The best receiver in the country last year — at least per the people who pick the Biletnikoff Award — wasn’t anyone picked in the 2022 NFL Draft or even Smith-Njigba. It was Addison, who had an incredible 100 receptions, 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pitt in 2021. Now Addison is in the transfer portal and it’s not clear where he’ll play in 2022. USC is rumored to have an offer for $3 million out to him, which is more than players drafted in the second round will make. Welcome to college football’s brave new world. The only real question mark with Addison is size, as he’s listed at a slight 6-0 and 175 pounds. 

19. Arizona Cardinals: Florida DT Gervon Dexter

Dexter is just an enormous wrecking ball right in the middle of Florida’s defense that made life hard for opponents. He’s listed at 6-6 and 303 and there are times where even triple teams aren’t enough to knock him out of the way. 

20. Indianapolis Colts: Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke

Van Dyke took over the starting job after D’Eriq King was injured and after some rocky first outings really caught fire down the stretch and drew some people’s attention. He led Miami to wins in five of their final six games after a 1-3 start to the season, throwing for 20 touchdowns and just three picks in that stretch that included two wins over ranked teams. Van Dyke is another one of those names that could assert themselves as a first-round pick with another strong season. 

21. Baltimore Ravens: Clemson LB Trenton Simpson

A former highly-touted recruit, Simpson carved out a role right away as a blitzing linebacker and has 10 sacks in his first two seasons. He’s not as big as you’d traditionally expect an edge rusher to be but he’s a powerful player and we’ve seen an increased emphasis on pass-rush ability with linebackers in the first round the past couple of seasons. 

22. Cincinnati Bengals: Miami OT Zion Nelson

Looking around at some of the tackles being mentioned in the 2023 conversation right now, a lot of them have question about if they would fit better inside at guard at the NFL level. The word on Nelson is that he has the athletic ability to stick as a blindside protector, he just needs more refinement at this stage. 

23. Houston Texans (via Browns): Texas RB Bijan Robinson

We probably won’t ever see a running back go No. 2 overall again like Saquon Barkley, but Robinson is going to push hard to be in the teens next year. He has everything you could want from the position — size, vision, power, speed and receiving ability. He’s the best prospect to enter the draft at the position since Barkley. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Two running backs in the first round?? I’ll just say next year’s group could be special. Gibbs is a terrific receiving back who’s also a tough, explosive runner. He fits the modern archetype at the position extraordinarily well. He was already catching eyes at Georgia Tech his first two seasons but transferred to Alabama for his junior year. He could go nuclear as their best skill position player on offense. 

25. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): Kentucky QB Will Levis

A gunslinging, big-bodied, big-armed quarterback, Levis transferred to Kentucky from Penn State and broke out as the starter in 2021. There are things to clean up about his game but he absolutely could rise into the first round with a good season. 

26. Los Angeles Chargers: Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

After a tight end didn’t go off the board until 55 this year, the lowest in a long time, expect that to change in 2023. Mayer is the name to beat at the top of the class right now, as he has produced since his first day on campus as a true freshman. He was the leading receiver for the Irish in 2021 with 71 receptions, 840 yards and seven touchdowns. 

27. Miami Dolphins (via 49ers): Alabama LB Henry To’oto’o

To’oto’o already had established himself as a success at Tennessee before transferring to Alabama and becoming an impact defender for the Tide in 2021. He elected to stay for another season to chase a national championship at Alabama rather than declare for the draft. At 6-2 and 228 pounds, To’oto’o fits the modern mold of a linebacker who can cover tons of space underneath and in coverage, but he has a physical edge to his game as well. 

28. Detroit Lions (via Rams): Utah CB Clark Phillips

Utah has been sending a lot of quality defensive players to the NFL the past couple of seasons and Phillips could be next. He was eighth in the country with 11 pass deflections in 2021 and help up admirably against Ohio State’s battalion of receivers. He’s not as big as some of the cornerbacks getting hyped in this class but if the name of the game is covering guys, he’s in the mix. 

29. Green Bay Packers: TCU WR Quentin Johnston

There’s a clear top three in this class, but if this past offseason has been any indication there will be a few more guys who crack the first round at wide receiver. Johnston has the tools to be one of them. He’s a long, lanky receiver at 6-4 and 201 pounds. As you can imagine, that size is a tremendous weapon down the field and Johnston has averaged 20 yards a catch through his first two seasons. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Alabama WR Tyler Harrell

Alabama’s receiving corps is relatively open after losing two starters to the NFL again. There’s Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and former elite recruits Ja’Corey Brooks and JoJo Earle. Keep an eye on Harrell, though. The transfer from Louisville has blinding speed. Feldman talked to people who had him timed sub-4.2 seconds. It’s fair to take that with a grain of salt but it’s undeniable Harrell has the type of speed NFL teams have been bending over backward for recently. He had only 18 catches last season as a sophomore — but he averaged nearly 30 yards a catch and scored six times. 

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: North Carolina CB Tony Grimes

Grimes is one of the big-time recruits Tar Heels HC Mack Brown has been able to lure back to North Carolina. If things go right, he’s the type of guy everyone expects to only stay three years before heading off to the league. He’s got good size and athleticism for the position, it’s just a matter of continuing to develop. 

32. Buffalo Bills: Arkansas S Jalen Catalon

Catalon had some fans in the scouting community but did not have quite as strong of a 2021 season as hoped for and elected to go back to school. At his best, he’s a rangy and explosive safety with ball skills and instincts. At his worst, he misses tackles and his aggressiveness is exploited. 

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