Free agency definitely shook up the draft boards for many teams across the NFL. But with about a month to go, the draft is still a priority for many teams as they look to fill key positional needs. Check out my latest NFL mock draft after the first initial free agency wave and see what playmakers I have your team selecting.
The Panthers’ coaches and front office have attended pro days for both Bryce Young and C.J . Stroud. But from connecting all of the dots, Stroud appears to be their guy. Stroud is the QB with the highest upside and would have a great support system around him with QB coach Josh McCown and Jim Caldwell on staff. Panthers fans get ready for the C.J. Stroud era in Carolina.
The Texans have been relatively quiet just doing their due diligence and trying to figure out which quarterback will be available for them to draft with the second overall pick. In this situation, the Texans are able to draft Alabama QB Bryce Young, a QB who, in most people’s eyes, is the best in the draft and has proven himself the most over the duration of his collegiate career. Young paired with head coach DeMeco Ryans will be able to change the culture in Houston and finally start to move forward with a much-needed rebuild.
With the first two teams selecting quarterbacks in this NFL mock draft, the Cardinals have the opportunity to draft Will Anderson Jr., a player that some think is the best overall in the class. This Cardinals defense has struggled to find an identity over the past few years and I fully expect Anderson to come in and implement a culture of effort, intensity, and a passion for winning.
The Colts have their option of the two toolsy quarterbacks in Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. The Colts opt to go with Levis here. The intrigue of Levis’ tools plus his experience playing in an NFL offense will give him a slight edge over Anthony Richardson. New head coach Shane Steichen has proven to develop dual-threat quarterbacks in his time at Philadelphia too.
While quarterback is not a glaring immediate need, Pete Carroll can’t pass up on the idea of drafting one of the most athletic quarterbacks to ever enter the draft. Richardson needs to develop and sitting behind Geno Smith is the perfect situation for him. And don’t be surprised if you see some creative packages for Richardson throughout his rookie year.
Jalen Carter’s off-the-field situations are starting to make people wonder if he will slide in the draft but I don’t believe so—Carter’s talent is just too good to pass up. I also believe an organization with a strong-willed head coach like Dan Campbell will be a good environment for Carter to develop as a pro and address the things that need to be addressed.
The Raiders exited the quarterback race early and opted to sign a familiar face for Josh McDaniels in free agent Jimmy Garoppolo. This gives the Raiders the opportunity to rebuild a roster that is recovering from some draft classes that were complete misses. Christian Gonzalez is a smooth man-to-man corner that has plus-level ball skills and should be a day-one starter for this Raiders defense.
The Falcons were aggressive on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. This allows them to continue to add young pieces to their offense. While GM Terry Fontenot has taken young offensive weapons in the past, he opts to draft an offensive lineman in this NFL mock draft: Georgia’s Broderick Jones. Jones is an athletic, physical mauler who has a tremendous upside. He also has positional versatility and can kick down to play guard if need be.
Ryan Poles has been making all the right moves in free agency, trading down from the No. 1 pick and receiving great compensation. The Bears let David Montgomery go in free agency and Poles decides to fill that void by drafting Bijan Robinson. Robinson is an elite-level back and a true difference-maker at the RB position. A backfield with FIelds and Robinson should place a lot of stress on defenses.
It appeared that the Eagles were going to need to address the corner position early in this draft but they re-signed James Bradberry and Darius Slay. That frees up the Eagles to draft Myles Murphy. Murphy has the potential to be a great edge rusher in the NFL and helps bring youth to an aging position group for the Eagles.
The Titans’ strength quickly became a weakness. Under Mike Vrabel, the Titans were one of the most physical teams and could consistently run the football at will. Injuries and free agency have left this offensive line depleted and they must address it. The Titans select versatile offensive lineman Peter Skoronski with this pick. Skoronski steps in and immediately fills a void.
The Texans continue to add to the offensive side of the football and draft the receiver with the most upside in the class, Quentin Johnston. Johnston is an explosive athlete that also has the measurables to develop into a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Adding Johnston to this receiving corps will give the Texans a good group moving forward.
The Jets are close to landing Aaron Rodgers, but now they have to surround him with as many pieces as they can because the Aaron Rodgers window in New York appears to be small. In this NFL mock draft, they take OT Paris Johnson Jr. to help protect the star QB. Johnson is a plus-level athlete and should develop into one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.
Bill Belichick has made it clear that he is going to construct this team in the manner that he sees fit. That starts with a sound defense. The Patriots have a solid defense but Belichick can’t pass up on drafting a versatile defensive end with pass-rush upside. Lukas Van Ness has the tools to quickly become an impact starter in the NFL and this scheme fits him perfectly.
It’s not a receiver, but the Packers draft an offensive weapon for Jordan Love to help surround him with as many pieces as possible. Luke Musgrave has as much upside as any true tight end that has come through the draft in the last 10 years. He should immediately step in and be a reliable receiver in the middle of the field that could become a security blanket for Love moving forward.
The defensive line for the Commanders in one of the best in the NFL, but their secondary is one of the worst. They address that issue and select Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a good athlete that plays physical. He will be a much-needed upgraded to a secondary that needs help.
The Steelers’ secondary has been made up of veteran players on one and two-year deals and that has provided mediocre results. It’s time for the Steelers to make a real investment in the secondary and draft a cornerback. With this pick, they go with Maryland CB Deonte Banks, a player that can play both man and zone and has shown to be one of the better athletes in this class.
The Lions’ offense played well with Jared Goff at QB last year but they need to continue to add weapons. Last year, they traded away tight end T.J. Hockenson, so they can take TE Michael Mayer to fill a void. Mayer is a well-rounded TE that can offer production in the passing game but also productivity in the run game.
The Buccaneers can go multiple different ways with this pick, but I believe Todd Bowles opts to go with the defense. They draft Joey Porter Jr. to add to a cornerback room that needs improvement. This defense is aging quickly and pieces like Porter help them build for the future.
The Seahawks continue to add to this offense by selecting Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba paired with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett makes for a good complementary piece and gives Smith yet another option while also allowing them to build for the future when they decide to transition to Richardson.
The Chargers could go defense here but they decide to go with TE Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid is the TE1 for a lot of people in this draft because of his ability to make plays down the field and his run-after-catch ability. Those are two things that the Chargers need from the tight end position. Kincaid paired with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams should continue to give QB Justin Herbert a nice trio of weapons.
Tyree Wilson’s injury has prevented him from being able to eat throughout the process and is a big reason why I believe he will fall. The Ravens stop the slide. Calais Campbell was released earlier in the free agency period and Wilson is a good young piece to help fill that void. This is the perfect scheme to showcase WIlson’s talents.
The Vikings need a receiver opposite Justin Jefferson but they also need an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line. With this pick, they decide to upgrade the offensive line and draft John Michael Schmitz from Minnesota. Schmitz has the skill and motor to easily be a 10-year starter for the Vikings.
The Jaguars lost their starting tackle to the Kansas City Chiefs and need to find a replacement. Darnell Wright is a versatile tackle that has played both LT and RT. Wright should be able to step right and play at a high level, helping the Jaguars take their offense to the next level.
The Giants made one of the bigger splashes of the free agency period trading for Darren Waller to give Daniel Jones some weapons. They follow that up here by drafting Zay Flowers. Flowers is an explosive player that can align in multiple positions on the field. This should immediately give Jones a target to throw the ball to as he is a guy that can take a five-yard pass for 50 yards.
The Cowboys have done a good job so far strategically adding veteran pieces to this team, especially with the trade for Stephon Gilmore, which eliminated the need to draft a corner early. The Cowboys decide to address another defensive need and draft IDL Calijah Kancey. The Cowboys have shown that they prefer defensive tackles who may be smaller in stature but are athletic and can make plays. That’s exactly what Kancey is. Kacey has the opportunity to become a disruptive player along the defensive front.
The Bills need to be able to run the football and take more pressure off of Josh Allen to carry the team every week. They’ve already addressed the RB position and signed Damien Harris from the Patriots. Now, they need to address the offensive line issue. With this pick, they draft interior offensive lineman Joe Tippmann. Tippman is an athletic offensive lineman that is an asset in the run game as well as in pass protection.
The Bengals are coming up on the time where they are going to have to start paying some of their superstar players or letting some walk. One player I believe will eventually be a “cap casualty” is RB Joe Mixon. In preparation for that day, the Bengals draft Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs is an explosive playmaker that is a great asset as a RB but also as a receiver.
The Saints have swung and missed multiple times on trying to find the eventual replacement for Cam Jordan, but with every year that passes, this becomes more and more of a pressing need. They take another swing at it in this NFL mock draft and go with Auburn edge rusher Derrick Hall. Hall has great measurables and flashes the potential to be a really good edge rusher in the NFL, he just needs refinement of his game.
The Eagles made the decision to let arguably the best safety in football last year, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, walk and sign with a new team. They have to fill the hole if they want to make another run at the Super Bowl. Brian Branch is a player that is versatile in alignment and can just flat-out make plays.
The Chiefs appear to just be hitting their stride at the start of a dynasty. They’ve done a masterful job of adding new young pieces and addressing the right positional needs. With this pick, they continue to add to the defense and draft Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith. Smith is an elite-level athlete that, if put in the right situations, can develop to one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
NFL Mock Draft: Round 2
The Steelers continue to be calculated in addressing team needs and are able to address the OT position with one of the best pass-protecting OT in the draft.
The Texans went offense in the first round, but with this pick, they address their defensive needs by selecting Clemson IDL Bryan Breese.
The Cardinals continue to add to their defense by adding players with elite-level qualities and select CB Kelee Ringo, a player who has Pro Bowl upside if he can put it all together.
The Colts’ receiver room is full of big-bodied receivers and they need to mix it up. Drafting Jordan Addison here will give Levis a versatile receiver corps for him to deliver the ball to.
The Rams are hoping that they can get another few years out of Matthew Stafford, but that all starts with his health and their ability to protect him. Matthew Bergeron has the skill set to step right in and be a big upgrade for the Rams.
The Seahawks continue to add young pieces to this offensive line with one of the most physical, road-grading interior offensive linemen in the draft.
The Raiders freed up cap space by trading Darren Waller and with this pick, they are able to draft a player with great upside while they figure out how to allocate money to other positions to fill out this roster.
The Panthers need another pass rusher outside of Brian Burns and they address that need by adding one of the most explosive edge rushers in this draft.
The Saints feel like they have a QB for the next few years with the signing of Derek Carr and they continue to add pieces around him with vertical threat Marvin Mims Jr.
The Titans addressed their offensive line issue in the first round and with this pick, they add speed to the receiver room.
The Jets traded Elijah Moore and draft his replacement, Josh Downs, who is one of the most detailed route-runners in this draft.
While this isn’t an immediate need, the Jets can’t pass up on the opportunity to find another long, competitive corner that could run and cover. Julius Brents and Sauce Gardner should immediately give the Jets one of the best corner tandems in the NFL.
The Falcons draft the fastest player at the combine and pair him up with A.J. Terrell, giving the Falcons a corner tandem that athletically can match up with most receiving duos in the NFL.
After using their first-round pick on an offensive weapon, the Packers use this pick to address the defensive line and draft a physical interior player in Michigan DT Mazi Smith.
This pick is rather simple for the Patriots. They like man-to-man corners who can cover and turn the ball over and that’s exactly what Emmanuel Forbes is.
With Eric Bieniemy running the show, he is going to want a dynamic TE. Sam LaPorta is not talked about much but he is one of the most versatile tight end prospects and has the upside to be a key contributor to a passing offense.
The Lions have done a good job adding free-agent pieces to this secondary in the offseason. They continue to do that with this pick by drafting CB Garrett Williams.
The Steelers’ linebacker position has needed to be upgraded for the past couple of years. They address that by drafting Drew Sanders. Sanders can play stack linebacker but can also rush the QB off the edge, fitting the mold of a traditional Steelers LB.
Due to age and injury, the Buccaneers’ offensive line unit went from a strength to a weakness. With this pick, they address this unit and draft OT Jaelyn Duncan.
The Dolphins have two of the fastest receivers in the NFL on the outside but they need someone that can effectively work the middle of the field. Tucker Kraft can fill that void.
The Seahawks address the IDL position by drafting Siaki Ika, a plus-level run-stopper.
The Bears have made the offseason about surrounding Justin Fields with pieces. They continue that trend in this NFL mock draft by taking an offensive lineman who can protect Fields and also add to the run game.
With this pick, the Chargers select CB Kyu Blu Kely to add much-needed depth to this cornerback room.
The Lions made do with the LBs they had last year, but now it’s time to add guys with upside. Daiyan Henley is a plus athlete in pass coverage that also has developmental upside against the run.
The Jaguars have solid edge pieces on defense, but they need to find a true dominant interior defensive lineman. They attempt to fill the void by drafting Keeanu Benton.
The Giants have attempted to fix the tackle positions for this offensive line in years past. Now, it’s time to work on the interior parts of this offensive line.
In an open NFC, the Cowboys continue to add pieces to their offense by drafting Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson, a player who has been very productive throughout his collegiate career.
The Bills need a more versatile receiving option outside of Stefon Diggs. Tank Dell is an explosive playmaker that can also work the intermediate portions of the field.
The Bengals’ CB room has needed an upgrade over the past couple of years despite the team’s success.
The Bears’ defense needs players with upside and playmaking ability. That’s exactly what they get with versatile defensive lineman Keion White. White is a player that can play on the interior but also as an edge rusher.
The Eagles have lost some key pieces defensively so far this offseason and they need to fill those holes. With this pick, they add to the LB room with Alabama LB Henry To’oTo’o.
The Chiefs have made a continued effort to get better defensively through the draft and they continue that by adding Jordan Battle.
What did you think of the seventh edition of Keith Sanchez’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft? Let us know what you think about this or any edition of our NFL Mock Draft series 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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