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NFL Mock Draft
NFL Draft

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Defensive Line Difference-Makers

  • Kyle Crabbs
  • November 23, 2022
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Mid-November is upon us and you know what that means. The true gift of the holiday season is that we have a fairly definitive set of tiers for our NFL mock drafts—and this is the week we kick things up a notch. This NFL mock draft will be a two-round adventure, with Round 1 dropping Sunday night and then the second round getting added somewhere in the middle of the week. So teams like Miami and Los Angeles and New Orleans can rejoice in knowing this NFL mock draft will give you, too, something to be angry about.

This NFL mock draft looks fairly different from the last one I conducted, not just because of the evolving draft order but also because of the names. The college football season is nearly complete—meaning film resumes are nearly done evolving—and boy, oh boy, have we seen some players rise through the ranks with quality play. I’m excited for you all to dig in.

So without further adieu, welcome to my latest jaunt through the 2023 NFL Draft order.

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Kyle Crabbs 4.0

NFL Mock Draft

1. Houston Texans

C.J. Stroud QB, Ohio State

The Texans’ rebuilding effort is seemingly not going to take any significant steps forward for the rest of the season. And while there are plenty of needs across the roster, the team has a lot of draft capital yet again—leaving them capable of drafting for the QB position here at the top of this NFL mock draft. Of all the quarterbacks, C.J. Stroud has the best mix of attributes, physical traits, and production—he’s the most direct projection to the NFL. And because of that, he’s the choice for the Texans here.

NFL Mock Draft

2. Carolina Panthers

Bryce Young QB, Alabama

The Panthers’ hunt for a quarterback has been a tireless affair and, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for it to be over. Not nearly as much and Panthers fans and Dave Tepper are, but I’m going to do my “1/11th” here and mock Bryce Young to Carolina. He’s a huge name, a uniquely gifted passer, and has followed up his huge Heisman campaign with another successful year. Young is more of an outside-of-structure passer than Stroud, so having a strong supporting cast will be an important emphasis for the Panthers. I think they’ve got a good shot to get it right with the offensive line the Panthers have in place.

NFL Mock Draft

3. Chicago Bears

Peter Skoronski OT, Northwestern

The Bears have ample young pieces up front but they need to find the right blend of skills and players to optimize their offensive line. That’s why I like a local option in Peter Skoronski, as he’s got the positional versatility to play a number of spots up front and allow the Bears to truly get their best five on the field.

NFL Mock Draft

4. Las Vegas Raiders

Will Anderson Jr. EDGE, Alabama

The Raiders spent a whole lotta money to overhaul their pass rush room anddddd… it didn’t work. So with the No. 4 overall pick, landing Will Anderson Jr. feels like an obvious maneuver for the Raiders to secure another rush threat to pair with Maxx Crosby moving forward. Consider this strictly BPA.

NFL Mock Draft

5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)

Tyree Wilson EDGE, Texas Tech

This is just too much of a fit for me to ignore—Seattle has historically loved some big, long, dense defensive linemen. Tyree Wilson is what the Seahawks hoped they were going to get when they drafted L.J. Collier with a first-round pick. I say go back to the well and go get the guy you hoped to find the first time, John Schneider.

NFL Mock Draft

6. Detroit Lions (via LAR)

Jalen Carter IDL, Georgia

The Lions hit with their 2022 addition to the defensive front in Aidan Hutchinson, but he’s going to need some more help for this Lions’ defense to turn things around. How about a freakish hybrid player that could play all over the front to pair with Hutchinson and help carve out a clear identity for the Lions up front, much like they already have on offense?

NFL Mock Draft

7. Houston Texans (via CLE)

Myles Murphy EDGE, Clemson

Centerpieces on both sides of the football with two top-10 picks? Surely this, plus the rest of the 2023 collection and the whole 2022 draft class, will be enough to kickstart this Texans reclamation. Myles Murphy is the third defensive lineman off the board but he’s got one of the highest ceilings with his raw physical abilities.

NFL Mock Draft

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

Olu Fashanu OT, Penn State

Pittsburgh ranked 31st in points scored, 28th in yards, 23rd in yards per carry, and 32nd in net yards per attempt entering this weekend. Kenny Pickett was sacked on 8.5% of his dropbacks too. Najee Harris averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Each player on the Steelers’ offense (and coaching staff) shares varying degrees of blame. But Pittsburgh, point blank, needs to be better up front. And no offensive lineman has a high ceiling for the Steelers to tap into than Olu Fashanu.

NFL Mock Draft

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jordan Addison WR, USC

Jacksonville traded for WR Calvin Ridley at the trade deadline and will get him back in the mix for 2023 after he finishes serving his suspension for gambling. He’s a great addition to the wide receiver room, but he, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones can’t be “the guys” for this wide receiver room. They need more if things are going to get right with Trevor Lawrence. So let’s really invest in the position by adding the best receiver in the class. Jordan Addison was having a delightful season before an injury interrupted things—but he is very much back and balling for the Trojans after a big win over UCLA this weekend.

NFL Mock Draft

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)

Bryan Bresee IDL, Clemson

Howie Roseman, you sly dog. The Eagles kicked one of their future first-rounders from 2022 down the road and have landed on a goldmine. If they don’t trade the pick for a king’s ransom, landing Bryan Bresee to play inside and next to Jordan Davis gives the Eagles a phenomenal interior duo. Fletcher Cox is slowing down and Javon Hargrave is currently an expiring contract.

NFL Mock Draft

11. Arizona Cardinals

Christian Gonzalez CB, Oregon

The Cardinals entered the weekend 30th in points allowed and were in the bottom tier of the NFL with 17 touchdown passes allowed ahead of MNF versus the 49ers. Meanwhile, Christian Gonzalez has taken the next step at Oregon. The ball production, tackling, and confidence are there. He’s got a very strong case to be CB1 and the Cardinals certainly have the need to go this route. Gonzalez would be an asset on the outside and help boost the secondary as names like Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf, Cooper Kupp, and Brandon Aiyuk await in the NFC West.

NFL Mock Draft

12. Green Bay Packers

Quentin Johnston WR, TCU

Green Bay’s offensive attack has started to show signs of life from rookie WR Christian Watson. But imagine how much better this could look with ANOTHER guy on the other side who wins in all the same ways. Big, physical wide receivers to help in the run game that can also win vertically in one-on-one situations are a good recipe for explosive plays. I know Romeo Doubs is lingering but he wouldn’t stop me from investing in a talent like Quentin Johnston for this offense.

NFL Mock Draft

13. Detroit Lions

Joey Porter Jr. CB, Penn State

The Lions already snagged an interior defender earlier in this NFL mock draft with Carter, but now they get a chance to grab an elite athlete on the perimeter to help this defense out. Joey Porter Jr. has the length, physicality, and man cover skills to pair with Jeff Okudah to give the Lions a duo on the back end to go with their new duo on the front end.

NFL Mock Draft

14. Indianapolis Colts

Will Levis QB, Kentucky

The Colts can be the beneficiaries of the struggles in Lexington offensively over the past few months and get a signal-caller that many considered to be a probable top-10 pick in Will Levis. Levis still has ample traits and reasons to be optimistic, but he’s a more high-variance projection now amid the struggles with poor execution and appearing to press to make big plays amid a poor offensive line. For Indianapolis, we can make this commitment and finally put to bed the QB carousel.

NFL Mock Draft

15. Atlanta Falcons

Kelee Ringo CB, Georgia

The Falcons’ offensive identity is unsurprisingly rooted in running the football and winning the line of scrimmage. They’ve got enough pieces in place for me to look to the other side of the ball and their biggest weakness, the secondary. The Falcons have youth on their side up front but their cornerback room has little beyond A.J. Terrell and Isaiah Oliver in the long term. Kelee Ringo is a freakishly big corner with excellent speed to play on an island.

NFL Mock Draft

16. Los Angeles Chargers

Paris Johnson Jr. OT, Ohio State

Why Paris Johnson Jr. for the Chargers in this NFL mock draft? I love this fit because of Johnson’s resume. He’s played right guard and now left tackle—and the Chargers need someone to step in at the right tackle position long-term. Johnson has the experience to play on the right side and the tackle position is the obvious need and priority to get fixed for Justin Herbert.

NFL Mock Draft

17. Washington Commanders

Cam Smith CB, South Carolina

Washington has an unenviable task of finding the right balance to contend with the NFC East—there’s a whole lot of winning football being played. But adding a competitive corner like Cam Smith, who was awesome against Tennessee, to Washington’s ranks gives me the warm and fuzzies, especially playing behind that defensive line.

NFL Mock Draft

18. New York Jets

Brian Branch SAF, Alabama

D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner? Terrific. But the safety room is, in my eye, where this Jets defense can take the next step. So putting the best safety in the class for my money into the mix where he can play low, in the slot, on the second level, and everywhere in between is a no-brainer.

NFL Mock Draft

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Derick Hall EDGE, Auburn

The Buccaneers have a slew of needs, none bigger than the quarterback position. But who would you fancy here in the top 20? So instead, let’s have a conversation about the edge rush group in Tampa Bay. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been effective in spurts but rookie top pick Logan Hall has floundered this year and now Shaq Barrett is out with an Achilles injury. The team desperately misses Jason Pierre-Paul too. I think Auburn’s Derick Hall has the potency to play on the edge and do so effectively to help improve this team.

20. Denver Broncos (via SF)

Dawand Jones OT, Ohio State

The Broncos have a need at right tackle that has lingered for a while now, and if Denver is going to find the right balance of “cook” for Russell Wilson, they’re going to need to be able to run the ball. (Somewhere, Pete Carroll is cackling diabolically). Enter Dawand Jones, who can reset the line of scrimmage with the best of them. Jones is a right tackle with the Buckeyes too, so there is little concern about asking him to learn to switch sides.

NFL Mock Draft

21. Seattle Seahawks

John Michael Schmitz OC, Minnesota

Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas, and John Michael Schmitz, oh my! I love this fit for Seattle and their warm embrace of pounding the rock. This is a perfect fit to help Kenneth Walker III, Geno Smith, and Co. set the tone each week and be a headache to defend.

NFL Mock Draft

22. New England Patriots

Isaiah Foskey EDGE, Notre Dame

Matthew Judon is enjoying a heck of a season. And as the Patriots’ defense continues to loom as the identity of the team, we’ll need to make sure we have the pieces for this defense to live up to this standard. Aside from Judon, the team’s edge group has a promising young player in Josh Uche and then more of an in-line player in Deatrich Wise Jr. who is most prominent in tighter alignments. Isaiah Foskey gives the team another definitive explosive threat off the edge.

NFL Mock Draft

23. Cincinnati Bengals

Broderick Jones OT, Georgia

The Bengals get a very different type of player to challenge Jonah Williams—Broderick Jones doesn’t have the same modest length and he’s a much more potent player from a raw power perspective. Whether Cincinnati is looking to protect Joe Burrow or pound the rock with Joe Mixon, Jones appears to be an upgrade.

NFL Mock Draft

24. Buffalo Bills

Rashee Rice WR, SMU

The Bills’ offense is still a little bit too much of Stefon Diggs or bust on the perimeter. Gabe Davis posted impressive numbers in the AFC divisional round vs. the Chiefs last year and he’s on pace for a career year this season, but he’s a very “boom or bust” player with just a 50% catch conversion rate this season. A more dynamic option opposite of Diggs makes this offense even more dangerous, so I’m penciling in Rashee Rice in the NFL mock draft.

NFL Mock Draft

25. Baltimore Ravens

Bijan Robinson RB, Texas

Stop. Hear me out. The Ravens’ rushing attack is the centerpiece of what they do. Lamar Jackson has a heavy hand in it. But what about the rest of it? J.K. Dobbins has fewer than 200 touches in three seasons and will be in a contract year in 2023. Kenyan Drake was signed off the street and is currently the only player on the Ravens’ roster not named Lamar who is over 200 rushing yards. Baltimore’s leading non-QB rusher last season was Devonta Freeman with 576; he was also signed off the street that season. Bijan Robinson is a monster and him with Jackson in the backfield is nightmare fuel.

NFL Mock Draft

26. Tennessee Titans

Jalin Hyatt WR, Tennessee

Tennessee’s offense may have popped close to a 30 burger on the Packers on Thursday Night Football, but they’re woefully lacking in explosiveness on the outside. Jalin Hyatt can resolve some of that strain and putting him into a run-heavy offense that would prompt middle-of-the-field-closed coverage and one-on-ones down the field is a dream come true.

NFL Mock Draft

27. Dallas Cowboys

Michael Mayer TE, Notre Dame

The last time I did an NFL mock draft, I got all galaxy brained and put Robinson to the Cowboys. I’m a little more on the beaten path this time around as Dallas looks to replace Dalton Schultz, who is playing this season on the franchise tag. Could that guy be Jake Ferguson? Possibly. But I wouldn’t let Ferguson stop me from landing a player like Michael Mayer for this offense.

NFL Mock Draft

28. New York Giants

O’Cyrus Torrence IOL, Florida

The Giants are playing bully ball and boy oh boy, find me a better candidate to play bully ball than O’Cyrus Torrence. He’s an interior lineman, yes. But he’s a great fit for New York’s approach with Saquon Barkley to create movement and gouge you on the ground.

29. Miami Dolphins

[Pick forfeited]

NFL Mock Draft

30. Minnesota Vikings

Devon Witherspoon CB, Illinois

Devon Witherspoon is one of my favorite risers of the season. He’s a super physical corner who tackles well and is a staple of Illinois’ stingy pass defense. Putting him in Minnesota with Andrew Booth and Chandon Sullivan allows Minnesota to brace for the end of the Patrick Peterson era… whenever that may be.

NFL Mock Draft

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Jahmyr Gibbs RB, Alabama

The Chiefs and Jahmyr Gibbs deserve one another. Let Isiah Pacheco be the early-down ball carrier and let Gibbs roam on third downs and in the slot. Please. I need it like I need air.

NFL Mock Draft

32. Philadelphia Eagles

Clark Phillips III CB, Utah

Philadelphia targeting a corner after nailing down Bresee in the early portions of this draft makes a lot of sense. The Eagles’ secondary is playing excellent ball but James Bradberry is only with the team on a one-year deal.

NFL Mock Draft: Round 2

NFL Mock Draft

33. Houston Texans

Darnell Washington TE, Georgia

With a commitment in place for a young quarterback, Houston would be wise to ensure they’ve got the assets to build upon the running game and passing game to stay balanced. Darnell Washington achieves that.

NFL Mock Draft

34. Pittsburgh Steelers (via CHI)

Henry To’o To’o LB, Alabama

Myles Jack and Devin Bush aren’t long-term answers for Pittsburgh based on their recent play. Henry To’o To’o is a sharp, instinctual LB to play behind the Steelers’ talented front.

NFL Mock Draft

35. Carolina Panthers

Kayshon Boutte WR, LSU

Carolina has quietly stacked together a solid offensive line. With the choice of Bryce Young in Round 1 of this NFL mock draft, they would do well to build out a dynamic receiving corps around him.

NFL Mock Draft

36. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)

Trenton Simpson LB, Clemson

Seattle lands another hybrid, mismatch defender with incredible athletic gifts. There are few defenses I’d trust to get more out of Trenton Simpson’s unique skill set than this one.

37. Los Angeles Rams

Anton Harrison OT, Oklahoma

Saying the Rams’ offensive line has been a disaster this season would be putting it lightly. Anton Harrison gives the Rams a different option at left tackle and opens the door for Joe Noteboom to play inside if needed.

38. Cleveland Browns

Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR, Ohio State

Amari Cooper has been an excellent find for the Browns. And while there may be more pressing needs on the defensive line, Cleveland has clearly signaled their team identity is falling on the offensive side of the football. So it’s best to ensure there are as many quality pass-catchers as possible.

NFL Mock Draft

39. Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Johnson SAF, Texas A&M

Pittsburgh is facing a potential transition at safety with Terrell Edmunds. Penciling in Antonio Johnson gives the Steelers exponentially more versatility in coverage.

NFL Mock Draft

40. Jacksonville Jaguars

Tucker Kraft TE, South Dakota State

Doug Pederson loves himself some good tight end play. So with Evan Engram on an expiring contract, I’m giving the team a highly talented pass catcher to groom with Trevor Lawrence.

NFL Mock Draft

41. Las Vegas Raiders

Gervon Dexter Sr. IDL, Florida

The Raiders need more teeth in the middle of the trenches on both sides of the ball. Gervon Dexter Sr. is a formidable addition to man the heart of the defense.

NFL Mock Draft

42. Arizona Cardinals

Brandon Dorlus IDL, Oregon

J.J. Watt’s versatility is dangerous and Brandon Dorlus could learn quite a bit from a veteran like Watt to help maximize his own potential.

NFL Mock Draft

43. Green Bay Packers

Jared Verse EDGE, Florida State

The Packers moved on from Za’Darius Smith without ever having a firm succession plan in place. Jared Verse has played his way into top-50 consideration and would pair well with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.

44. New Orleans Saints

Anthony Richardson QB, Florida

The Saints’ cap management makes it difficult to envision them ever getting a chance to successfully nail down a QB of the future. Anthony Richardson is the right kind of bet to take here in this NFL mock draft with talented receivers already in place.

NFL Mock Draft

45. Detroit Lions

Noah Sewell LB, Oregon

Another Sewell in Detroit? I don’t mind if I do… and this mauler in the middle pairs well with other draft choices (Aidan Hutchinson in 2022; Jalen Carter and Joey Porter Jr. in this NFL mock draft) to suddenly give Detroit ample young defensive talent.

NFL Mock Draft

46. Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Vorhees IOL, USC

That right guard spot sure has been a problem! Surely a bully like Andrew Vorhees would fit right in between Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith.

NFL Mock Draft

47. Atlanta Falcons

Sean Tucker RB, Syracuse

Don’t we think it is high time Atlanta secures themselves a DUDE in the backfield? Falcons fans may not love it, but with three rushers (four including the QB) between 335 and 500 rushing yards), there are plenty of carries to go around. And that means an upgrade opportunity for the identity of this football team.

NFL Mock Draft

48. Los Angeles Chargers

Mazi Smith IDL, Michigan

Did you watch the Chargers “defend” the run on Sunday night? How about any of the last six games, as they’re averaging 175 rushing yards allowed per game over that stretch. Mazi Smith improves the heart of the line and, by default, the run defense.

NFL Mock Draft

49. Washington Commanders

Cameron Ward QB, Washington State

I know we’re all hot and bothered by the Taylor Heinicke train right now, but I couldn’t resist the chance to put such a physically gifted thrower into the mix here and give Washington a chance to develop a franchise QB. Cameron Ward isn’t that yet, but he could be.

NFL Mock Draft

50. New York Jets

Jaelyn Duncan OT, Maryland

The Jets are a weird team to mock for. They’ve got a lot of young players, but the tackle position doesn’t feature them—New York has aging vets in George Fant and Duane Brown, plus an unknown variable in oft-injured Mekhi Becton.

NFL Mock Draft

51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jordan Battle SAF, Alabama

Fun fact: Antoine Winfield Jr. and Nolan Turner are the only safeties under contract beyond this season.

NFL Mock Draft

52. Seattle Seahawks

Cooper Beebe IOL, Kansas State

A big, physical interior OL certainly feels like it is right up Seattle’s alley. Pairing Cooper Beebe with the 2022 rookie tackles and first-round mock choice John Michael Schmitz gives Seattle a super exciting group up front.

NFL Mock Draft

53. New England Patriots

Zay Flowers WR, Boston College

The Patriots need more offensive firepower. They’ve got the horses in the run game, for certain, but Zay Flowers is the kind of receiver this offense doesn’t really have at the moment. His addition would bring balance to the WR room.

NFL Mock Draft

54. Cincinnati Bengals

Garrett Williams CB, Syracuse

The Bengals are thin on corners after an injury to Chidobe Awuzie, which is a nice reminder that you can never have enough quality options at the position.

55. Carolina Panthers (via SF)

BJ Ojulari EDGE, LSU

The Panthers already have one lean, dynamic pass-rusher in Brian Burns, but a second player of the same skill set would certainly morph this team’s pass-rush unit dramatically.

NFL Mock Draft

56. Buffalo Bills

Henry Bainivalu IOL, Washington

The Bills currently have a short-term answer at guard in Roger Saffold. Henry Bainivalu is smooth and athletic, making him a viable replacement.

NFL Mock Draft

57. Tennessee Titans

Cody Mauch IOL, North Dakota State

The Titans currently have Aaron Brewer starting at a guard spot. Imagine the damage this front could do with a mauler like Cody Mauch in his place instead.

NFL Mock Draft

58. Dallas Cowboys

Mohamoud Diabate LB, Utah

Dallas’ linebacker room could certainly use another contender to start as Leighton Vander Esch plays out his one-year deal. With a run on interior DL earlier in the round, this value makes more sense at this point of the NFL mock draft.

NFL Mock Draft

59. New York Giants

Xavier Hutchinson WR, Iowa State

The Giants thought they may have a big-bodied playmaker in Kenny Golladay but that hasn’t materialized. Xavier Hutchinson can step in for the reps being played by David Sills to offer an upgrade at WR.

60. Chicago Bears (via BAL)

Josh Downs WR, North Carolina

Chicago has some size thanks to N’Keal Harry and Chase Claypool, but after landing a starter in the first round to play in the trenches;, adding a shifty playmaker to win underneath and vertically alike with quickness is a needed addition.

61. Miami Dolphins

DJ Turner CB, Michigan

As we said with Cincinnati, Miami is finding out the hard way this season that there’s no such thing as too many good corners. Injured CB Byron Jones may be reaching the end of his tenure with the team as Miami faces the prospect of paying much of their young, non-injured core.

62. Detroit Lions (via MIN)

Colby Wooden EDGE, Auburn

Another defensive player? Yeah, I’ve seen the depth chart in Detroit. Colby Wooden is a toolsy addition that gives the Lions more punch up front.

NFL Mock Draft

63. Kansas City Chiefs

Felix Anudike-Uzomah EDGE, Kansas State

Quick, who is No. 2 on the Chiefs in sacks after Chris Jones’ 9.0? Did you guess veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap? Good for you…but cornerback L’Jarius Sneed wasn’t a bad guess either—he’s third and 0.5 sacks behind Dunlap.

NFL Mock Draft

64. Philadelphia Eagles

Nolan Smith LB, Georgia

Consider this the “luxury pick of a player too good to be here” selection. Nolan Smith can learn from and eventually replace Haason Reddick has the hybrid rush linebacker in this Eagles’ defense.

 

What did you think of the fourth edition of Kyle Crabbs’ 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.

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Kyle Crabbs