Welcome to my NFL Mock Draft 3.0. The college football season is quietly getting close to the end of the regular season. Prospects are rising and falling down NFL draft boards due to their performances this season. NFL teams are showing who they are as they near the halfway point of their season.
I do not mind spoiling one tidbit before you indulge in my latest NFL mock draft. There are NO RUNNING BACKS in round one. Yes, I am the running back guy and love the position more than anyone, but I wanted to hit priority needs for teams. Let’s dive into my latest NFL mock draft.
The Texans are trying to rebuild this organization post-Deshaun Watson. Davis Mills has been ok, but he does not look like a franchise QB. Securing the first overall pick signifies a changing of the guard, especially if a new coaching staff is hired. Bryce Young is the ultimate playmaker. He is the engine of Alabama’s offense. His accuracy, improvisational skills, and pocket presence is the real deal. Young gives them a leader at the helm with outstanding experience and pedigree.
The Panthers bypassing one of the best passers in the class would be a bold decision. C.J. Stroud is an accurate pocket passer that has enough mobility to make plays with his feet. The Panthers have a young, talented defense and their offense has the pieces to be a threat in the NFC South. Improving the level of play at the QB position is vital for their success.
The Raiders are a team no one expected to be this high in the draft order before the season. One of the biggest reasons the Raiders have been underwhelming is their defense. Chandler Jones is too expensive to have one sack. Maxx Crosby remains the lone pass rusher to focus on. Myles Murphy brings a quick, smooth, and bendy rush off the edges. Defensively, they need to be improvement and Murphy is a step in the right direction.
The Kenny Pickett era is in full swing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Going forward, the main objective is building around Pickett. That should begin with the offensive line. Their current starting tackles have allowed a combined 41 pressures, 29 hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. That is not ideal for any quarterback. Broderick Jones is a physical and athletic offensive tackle. He can help improve the pass protection for Pickett but also add some attitude to their run game for Najee Harris. Games are won and lost in the trenches.
The Lions have built a nice foundation on the offensive side of the ball. Even with Jared Goff at QB, they rank inside the top 10 in the major offensive categories. Aidan Hutchinson is making a strong case for DROY. That being said, the Lions have one of the worst defenses in the league. Picturing Will Anderson Jr. and Hutchinson on the same defensive line should strike fear in the hearts of opposing QBs. Anderson Jr. is known as the terminator. His ability to wreck blocking schemes is unreal. How can you help a struggling secondary? Boost your pass rush and force uncomfortable passes!
The Cardinals have been struggling offensively. Defensively, there are issues to be addressed too. The main area of concern is the edge pass rush. They selected Cam Thomas and Myjai Sanders on day two of the 2022 NFL Draft and neither has made a huge impact. J.J. Watt and Zach Allen have been the most impactful defenders and I expect both to be retained or for the team to attempt to, at least. This leaves the edge position as a priority. Tyree Wilson is a physically imposing and versatile defender. He can align inside with his hand in the dirt similar to Watt or stand up in a two-point stance off the edges. This defensive front needs a “GUY” to unleash versus opposing offensive lines. Wilson has the traits and frame to become that player.
Impact players are what the Jaguars need this offseason. The trade for wide receiver Calvin Ridley lowers that position on the list of needs. The interior of their defensive line needs an influx of talent. Adding Jalen Carter will give this defense a threat on the interior and both edges. Imagine a 3rd-and-long with Josh Allen, Travon Walker, and Carter staring down your quarterback. Scary isn’t it?
In year three of Justin Fields’ career, the Bears must go all-in to build a talented offense around him. That is what I decided to do! Quentin Johnston would add more explosion and speed to this passing attack. Johnston, Chase Claypool, and Darnell Mooney would surely keep teams in two-high shells. Finally, Fields would have dangerous weapons at his disposal to open up the entire field.
I am certain this pick will receive the normal, “Green Bay does not draft wide receivers early” response. I do not care! This team did not add more talent at the wide receiver position for Aaron Rodgers. Jaxon Smith-Njigba would provide a reliable and consistent young target. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are big and explosive vertical receivers but struggle with routes and drops. Their skill sets would mesh well with Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba could work the short and intermediate regions of the field from the slot as Rodgers hoped Randall Cobb would.
The Eagles have two first-round selections and Jalen Hurts is proving to be worth a nice payday. With that in mind, there are expiring contracts on the defensive line, and replenishing the talent pool is crucial to their defensive system. Bryan Bresee is a good athlete with a 300-pound frame. He plays with good power at the point of attack and can collapse the pocket on passing downs. I do not believe we have seen the best of Bresee. Playing alongside Jordan Davis sounds unfair for opposing offensive lines.
Geno Smith has been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season. His level of play at the moment should deter Seattle from selecting another quarterback. Their interior defensive line is an area of concern. Gervon Dexter Sr. is a big-bodied DT that can attack single gaps and generate interior pressure for opposing quarterbacks. If Smith is going to be the QB for the present and foreseeable future, continuing to build up this defense to complement him is key.
As I mentioned earlier with their first pick in this NFL mock draft, the Lions are performing well offensively. The defense is one of the worst in the league. Cam Smith adds swag and attitude to this secondary. He is a sticky and light-footed cornerback that excels in man coverage. He does not mind mixing it up in the run game, either. I believe he would pair well with Jeff Okudah to help stop the bleeding defensively.
Bryce Young is the new face of the franchise and he needs more help in this Texans offense. Jordan Addison could step into the WR1 role if vacated by Brandin Cooks. Hopefully, John Metchie III returns to the field with a clean bill of health and reunites with his college quarterback. Adding more weapons should be a high priority for this organization.
There are a few teams that need a new face at quarterback but their roster is not ready for that move. The Colts have recycled older, past-their-prime quarterbacks for a few seasons. It is time to hit the reset button at the position. Will Levis possesses every physical tool/trait you want in a franchise quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback has one of the strongest arms in college football. He can make all of the throws. Combined with the talent on this Colts offense, he can develop into a big-time signal-caller.
I do not know who predicted that the Falcons would be leading the division at this point of the season but here we are. Despite some concerns at QB, their defense is growing but are a few pieces away. A.J. Terrell is one of the better young CBs in the league. The depth behind him leaves a lot to be desired. Insert Christian Gonzalez on the opposite side of Terrell and be happy. Gonzalez is an elite-caliber athlete with the speed to carry receivers vertically paired with sticky and fluid transitions in man coverage. This would give the Falcons two athletic, young corners for their defense.
The Commanders have shown signs of life. They traded away unhappy CB William Jackson III to the Steelers and need to add to the secondary. Joey Porter Jr is a talented and athletic corner with reach. He is comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage in press alignment or in zone coverage. He is a tough player with NFL bloodlines.
I know what you are probably thinking. “Where is the help for Mac Jones… or Bailey Zappe?” I could see Bill Belichick’s eyes wide open seeing the athletic and versatile Trenton Simpson on the board. Simpson could work in coverage to disrupt passing lanes, blitz through the A-gaps, and rush off the edges. This LB room lacks an explosive playmaker and Simpson fills that role admirably.
The Bengals spent a good amount of cash to improve their offensive line—it is not the worst in the NFL, as some would believe. Jonah Williams has been a problem all season as Joe Burrow’s blindside protector. Investing in a younger, more athletic option with a higher ceiling seems like a great idea. I can confidently say, Olumuyiwa Fashanu is the biggest riser this season. He has a rare combination of height, weight, arm length, and athleticism. He is currently 19 years old, meaning he has not even scratched the surface.
Mr. Steady Eddie himself, Isaiah Foskey’s stock remains in the first round. Foskey could form a dangerous trio with a healthy Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Foskey is an athletic, long edge rusher that can drop into coverage as well. You can never have too many edge rushers in this pass-heavy league. Retooling this defensive front can help them return to a high level of play, regardless of who is under center—this team is due for a reset at the QB position with Tom Brady’s contract expiring.
The Broncos are going with a more youth-driven movement after trading away pass rusher Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins. Recouping a first-round pick was pretty clutch. This roster has a few areas that require improvement but the interior offensive line comes first here. Starting OG Dalton Risner has an expiring contract this offseason and his play has not warranted an extension. Peter Skoronski has the body/frame of a guard but plays LT. His movement skills and quickness give him positional flexibility. He would be a great fit alongside LT Garett Bolles to protect Russell Wilson in the pocket.
The Chargers need more talent offensively around star QB Justin Herbert. Injuries are piling up this season and the depth is not ideal. Michael Mayer would receive advantageous and favorable matchups at the TE position with the other weapons healthy. His route-running and ability to get open in the middle of the field will add a much-needed element to this passing attack.
Lamar Jackson’s future in Baltimore is unknown—maybe he signs a long-term deal or receives the franchise tag. While not doing that could a major black-eye on the Ravens’ organization, not providing him with quality wide receivers is just as bad. Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, when healthy, were becoming a formidable duo. This offense needs more to complement Lamar Jackson. Kayshon Boutte would add another outside threat with the ability to play in the slot as well. Boutte is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. This trio could become a well-rounded group of receivers, something Jackson has never had.
Continuing to improve this Seahawks defense remains a priority. Jordyn Brooks is a solid young and athletic linebacker. There is room for improvement next to him. Noah Sewell is a physical downhill-thumping LB that is a nice complement to Brooks’ skill set. The more this team becomes balanced, the more dangerous they will be.
Mekhi Becton is out again with an injury and the Jets bypassed drafting a tackle this past April. Zach Wilson is elusive to evade and create with his feet but that should not be a routine activity. Paris Johnson Jr. is a good fit for this zone-blocking offense. His athleticism and long limbs allow him to reach upfield defenders and maintain leverage on pass sets. The Jets need stability on the front lines and this pick helps that cause.
Another wide receiver for the Chiefs? Yes! They have three wide receivers on expiring contracts. Zay Flowers fits this offense well due to his speed, route-running, and RAC ability. He can create with the football in his hands and is dangerous in space. Giving Patrick Mahomes a cost-efficient, explosive weapon seems like a fair idea.
The NFC East is surprisingly more competitive than originally expected. Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense could use another receiving weapon, but in a division with the Eagles and their loaded offense, the more help in the secondary the better. Placing Eli Ricks opposite of Trevon Diggs spells interceptions. Dallas would have a dynamic pass-rush package and two cornerbacks with plus ball skills to reel in passes.
What will the Giants do at quarterback? Daniel Jones is a better version of himself with Brian Daboll at the helm. Not to forget the improved offensive line as well. The wide receiver position is one of the worst in the league. No matter who is taking snaps under center, they will need an improved receiver room. Rashee Rice has been one of the best and most productive receivers in college football. He can provide them with a potential WR1-caliber prospect for Daboll to feature in his offense.
Taylor Lewan is out of the season with another injury and he could be a cap casualty after the season. I have a hard time believing the Titans will bring him back into the fold. Jaelyn Duncan is strong and athletic with good range in his pass sets. He can fit the run-first offense the Titans pride themselves on.
Here is the biggest twist of this NFL mock draft. The Vikings have one loss this season and look to be headed toward the playoffs. Kirk Cousins’ contract has a void after the 2023 season. Anthony Richardson is a physically-gifted athlete with a rocket arm. He is inexperienced as a first-year starter for the Gators but the ceiling is tantalizing. Imagine him being molded by head coach Kevin O’Connell before taking over an offense with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and T.J. Hockenson. I can hear the Skol chants now!
What do you give a team that has everything? A potential replacement. Safety Jordan Poyer is over the age of 30 and his contract is expiring after this season. Christopher Smith’s skill set resembles Poyer’s. Smith is a versatile safety that has experience as a cornerback. He can play in two-high shells and walk down into the nickel. If Poyer were to walk away via free agency, Smith would be a nice replacement to fill his shoes.
James Bradberry will be a free agent after the season. It will be difficult for the Eagles to re-sign him if the market value skyrockets due to his outstanding performance this season. Kelee Ringo would be a nice addition to this secondary to step into the role left by Bradberry. Ringo combines elite vertical speed, height, and weight. The Eagles play a good mixture of man and zone that makes Ringo a nice fit.
What did you think of the third edition of Damian Parson’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft? Let us know what you think about this or any of our NFL Mock Drafts on Twitter and Instagram and stay tuned next week for the next edition of TDN’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft series.
Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer is one of the most enticing receivers in the class…
Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman isn’t getting enough attention in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson is the most intriguing signal-caller in the 2023 NFL Draft.
After starting the 2022 season 3-7, the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin pulled…
The success of running back Israel Abanikanda has drawn the spotlight back to Pitt once…
Oklahoma tight end Brayden Willis was one of the most efficient red-zone weapons throughout the…