Last year's NFL Draft was relatively poor by quarterback standards. Just one (Pitt's Kenny Pickett) was selected in the first round. The 2023 class is a significant upgrade, and five could go in Round One this year.
In the run up to the Draft, Carolina made a blockbuster trade with Chicago to move up to No.1 and give themselves the best chance of taking their quarterback of the future. C.J. Stroud of Ohio State seemed to have the edge. In recent days, with revelations of poor process testing from Stroud, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young seems to be the favourite to be picked first.
Four teams - Houston (No.2 and No.12), Seattle (No.5 and No.20), Detroit (No.6 and No.18) Philadelphia (No.10 and No.30) have two picks in the first round, armed with trade bait that could propel them up the draft order to secure that game-changing player. Green Bay and the New York Jets swapped first round picks in addition to later round picks in the Aaron Rodgers trade and I would expect to see more trades on Draft Day. For the purposes of this draft, I am not making any trade predictions.
There will undoubtedly be more trades to be made and futures to be decided. A landmark day in college football and for the NFL as the Class of 2023 hope to secure their place in the NFL.
Let's see what happens. Five quarterbacks off the board, five receivers, four corners and three tight ends go on Thursday evening. Here is my 2023 NFL first round mock draft:
1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago) - Bryce Young - QB, Alabama
The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is the pick of a strong quarterback class. Smart, mobile, reads defenses well and extremely quick to process his options. He'll need that in the NFL. Carolina banks its future on the talented Alabama signal caller.
2. Houston Texans - C.J. Stroud - QB, Ohio State
Despite some negative press recently about Stroud and his apparent poor processing test scores, he remains a top-tier quarterback who shone in the College Football Playoff semi-final against Georgia. Houston could take a pass rusher here, but my money is on Stroud, they need a quarterback.
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson - EDGE, Alabama
J.J. Watt has retired. In comes a ready made replacement and arguably the best player in college football. Alabama's Anderson, scourge of SEC offenses, slots neatly into the Cardinals' defense.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Richardson - QB, Florida
Panthers' head coach Frank Reich thought Richardson could be a No.1 pick. He is a raw, freak of an athlete with potentially the highest ceiling of all quarterbacks in this class. Ideally would sit behind a starter but has all the tools - strength, power, speed and a huge arm - to be a star.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) - Jalen Carter - DL, Georgia
Character issues mean he will slip from a consensus top three pick a few weeks ago and could fall further. Seattle under Pete Carroll looks like a good home for Carter.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams) - Tyree Wilson - EDGE, Texas Tech
Wilson is an explosive pass rusher who will give Detroit a fearsome pass rush alongside last year's top pick Aidan Hutchinson.
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Paris Johnson Jr. - OT, Ohio State
The Raiders could move up to take a quarterback here, to learn behind Jimmy Garoppolo, but I think they will choose to protect their new investment with Johnson, the best offensive tackle in this class.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Devon Witherspoon - CB, Illinois
Rumours that Bijan Robinson could be the pick here, and Atlanta have loaded up on offense in recent drafts, but here they take the best cornerback in the draft, Illinois defensive back Witherspoon.
9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina) – Peter Skoronski - OT, Northwestern
The Bears already have their quarterback of the future in Justin Fields and select Skoronski, the best tackle available.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans) – Bijan Robinson - RB, Texas
The rich get richer. Bijan Robinson, the outstanding Texas running back with great pass-catching ability gives an already-frightening Eagles' offense another dimension. It seems almost unfair.
11. Tennessee Titans – Will Levis - QB, Kentucky
Levis could be taken in the first four picks, and Las Vegas at No.7 might grab him. I think he falls slightly to No.11, where the Titans snap up the Kentucky quarterback with a huge arm and odd taste for mayonnaise in his coffee as Ryan Tannehill's successor.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland) – Lukas Van Ness - EDGE, Iowa
Having picked their quarterback and No.2, the Texans, with needs all over the field, shore up their defense with the explosive Iowa edge rusher Van Ness.
13. Green Bay Packers (from New York Jets) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR, Ohio State
The Packers spend their slightly elevated first round pick with the first wide receiver in the draft and Green Bay's first wide receiver pick since 2002. Ohio State's Smith-Njigba is a polished route-runner and gives Jordan Love a receiving trio he can grow with alongside the newly selected Buckeye, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
14. New England Patriots – Zay Flowers - WR, Boston College
The talented Flowers stays local and is a great fit for New England's offense, giving Mac Jones another weapon to throw to.
15. New York Jets (from Green Bay) – Broderick Jones - OT, Georgia
New York instantly adds insurance for their new quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
16. Washington Commanders - Christian Gonzalez - CB, Oregon
The Commanders might be in the market for a quarterback, so might be a team that trades up or has some interest in Hendon Hooker in this spot. However, Washington picks Gonzalez to shore up their secondary in the competitive AFC East.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Joey Porter, Jr - CB, Penn State
Porter, like his father, who had a great NFL career, is a competitive, skilled defensive back and great value at No.17.
18. Detroit Lions - Michael Mayer - TE, Notre Dame
The Lions traded former first-round pick T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota last year. With their second first-round pick, Mayer adds muscle and pass-catching ability to the Lions' front line. The Notre Dame tight end is a great fit for Dan Campbell's aggressive Lions team.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Brian Branch - S, Alabama
Rebuilding post-Brady, Tampa Bay restocks on defense. With Devin White threatening to move on, the Bucs add Branch, an Alabama veteran who can also provide needed leadership.
20. Seattle Seahawks - O'Cyrus Torrence - OL, Florida
It's all about the trenches for the Seahawks in Round One. Having added the best defensive lineman in Jalen Carter with the fifth pick, O'Cyrus Torrence from Florida is the best interior lineman in the draft and a great selection here.
21. Los Angeles Chargers - Jordan Addison - WR, USC
The Chargers stay in-city and take USC's Jordan Addison as the second receiver off the board. Addison has helped Kenny Pickett and Caleb Williams have carer years in Pittsburgh and L.A. Here, he adds to Justin Herbert's arsenal.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Deonte Banks - CB, Maryland
Receiver would have been my pick here until Baltimore won the Odell Beckham stakes. With Beckham lined up at wideout, the Ravens switch to defense and take Deonte Banks from Maryland, the fourth corner to go in Round One.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Hendon Hooker - QB, Tennessee
The clock is ticking for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. Having attempted and failed to find a replacement for Cousins in Kellen Mond two years ago, the Vikings try again in 2023. Hendon Hooker, coming off an impressive season at the helm in Tennessee is the fifth quarterback to be selected in the first round.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Nolan Smith - EDGE, Georgia
Unfamiliar territory for the Jags having picked at No.1 overall for the last two years. With Trevor Lawrence coming of age and some decent offensive weapons back in Travis Etienne and Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville turns to defense and you can't go wrong with a Georgia player. Step forward edge rusher Nolan Smith.
25. New York Giants – Jalin Hyatt - WR, Tennessee
With Daniel Jones safely secured at quarterback, New York gives him a signing bonus in the form of lightning-quick receiver Jalin Hyatt. The Tennessee receiver will stretch defenses in the NFC East.
26. Dallas Cowboys - Dalton Kincaid - TE, Utah
How the Cowboys would have loved Bijan Robinson to be available here in the wake of Ezekiel Elliott's departure. Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama could be the pick, but Dalton Kincaid is the best pass-catching tight end in this year's class and adds another dimension to Dak Prescott's offense.
27. Buffalo Bills - Jack Campbell - LB, Iowa
Tremaine Edmunds is off to Chicago. Buffalo plugs the gap with Campbell, an athletic linebacker from Iowa who can slot straight in.
28. Cincinnati Bengals - Luke Musgrave - TE, Oklahoma State
Cincinnati has exercised the fifth-year option on Joe Burrow's contract, and continues to build an electric offense around him. Luke Musgrave, an athletic tight end is the latest piece in the Bengals' Super Bowl puzzle.
29. New Orleans (from San Francisco) - Myles Murphy - EDGE, Clemson
The departure of Marcus Davenport to Minnesota means New Orleans use their first-round pick on the productive Myles Murphy. Murphy registered 18.5 sacks in his three years' leading Clemson's defense.
30. Philadelphia Eagles - Steve Avila - C, TCU
Steve Avila was the lynchpin of the CFP finalist TCU's offensive line. He adds more bulk and physicality to an already impressive Eagles front five.
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Quentin Johnston - WR, TCU
The first-round concludes with back-to-back Horned Frogs being taken. Johnston is a physically imposing receiver who will give Kansas City an additional deep threat to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.