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Mock Draft
NFL Draft

Mocking The Mock Draft: Best, Worst Picks From MDM Mock

  • Justin Melo
  • February 8, 2023
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All but two NFL franchises have officially begun putting their offseason plans in motion. Luckily for the fans of those 30 franchises, Draft Network has you covered with our weekly NFL mock draft series. 

I’ve been selected to dissect our latest 2023 NFL mock draft, which was auto-selected by our new-and-improved Mock Draft Machine (MDM), which has been available for beta testing by our premium subscribers for approximately two weeks. This iteration of our NFL mock draft series was overseen by in-house scout Kyle Crabbs, but not completed by him.

January’s TDN100 update has served as a reference point for both the MDM’s NFL mock draft and my analysis. A post-Senior Bowl TDN100 update will shortly be revealed. I’ve identified my favorite selections, value picks, and the best overall prospect not selected. I also have some question marks. Let’s dive into our latest 2023 NFL mock draft.

Favorite pick: C.J. Stroud QB, Carolina Panthers (No. 9 overall)

Many have been speculating that the Panthers will have to trade up from their No. 9 overall selection in order to draft their quarterback of the future. Landing C.J. Stroud with the ninth pick without forfeiting future draft capital would be a massive victory for Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer.

The Panthers recently hired Frank Reich to be their new head coach. Reich is an offensive-minded leader and former NFL quarterback. Reich would relish an opportunity to work alongside a prospect such as Stroud who has provided high-level flashes of accuracy and anticipatory throwing throughout an illustrious career at Ohio State.

The Panthers are well-positioned to compete for the NFC South division title in 2023. The division is there for the taking following Tom Brady’s retirement. Pairing Reich and Stroud would usher in an exciting era of Panthers football.

Best Value: Broderick Jones OT, Kansas City Chiefs (No. 31 overall)

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has made a habit of replacing outgoing production via cost-effective rookies. Up to seven rookies, including Isiah Pacheco, George Karlaftis, and Trent McDuffie, have contributed to the Chiefs’ run to Super Bowl LVII. The Chiefs do it again here by drafting Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones. Jones would replace Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown is set to become an unrestricted free agent and the Chiefs may be hesitant to pay him $20-plus million annually via the long-term extension Brown so obviously desires. Brown hasn’t enjoyed a particularly impressive season in Kansas City. His mauling services may be better utilized on a run-heavier offense. Jones would immediately slot into the Chiefs’ starting lineup to protect Patrick Mahomes‘ blindside. 

The Chiefs can’t keep getting away with this!

Biggest Question Mark: Anthony Richardson QB, Seattle Seahawks (No. 20 overall)

The Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Geno Smith are expected to agree on a long-term extension this offseason that keeps Smith in Seattle for the foreseeable future. Would the Seahawks really double down at quarterback by selecting Anthony Richardson? I understand the thought process but I am not sure Seattle will travel down that road.

This is the same franchise that stood steadfastly by Smith last summer. The Seahawks refused to draft a signal-caller in 2022 despite having multiple opportunities to draft the likes of Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis in the middle rounds. Would they turn around and draft a developmental prospect like Richardson after Smith repaid their faith in him by producing a Comeback Player of the Year-worthy season?

The Seahawks qualified for the postseason thanks to an impressive 9-8 record. They were easily defeated 41-23 by their arch-nemesis San Francisco 49ers on wild-card weekend. The Seahawks are better served using their first-round selection to either continue building around Smith or on the defensive side of the ball. Drafting Richardson isn’t going to close the gap in the NFC West.

Best Scheme Fit: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Tennessee Titans (No. 11 overall)

The Tennessee Titans are expected to reinforce their run-first identity after promoting passing game coordinator Tim Kelly to the role of offensive coordinator on Tuesday. Kelly, who spent the 2022 season on Tennessee’s offensive staff, also worked alongside Mike Vrabel in Houston. Kelly is inherently familiar with Vrabel’s preferred approach. That makes Paris Johnson Jr. an excellent fit in Tennessee. 

Johnson played college football at Ohio State, which happens to be Vrabel’s alma mater. The Titans drafted another former Buckeye offensive lineman last season in Nicholas Petit-Frere, who serves as their starting right tackle. The Titans are looking to replace left tackle Taylor Lewan this summer. Johnson is a plug-and-play left tackle with the movement skills necessary to quickly acclimate to Tennessee’s zone-based approach.

Best Player Not Selected: Cam Smith CB, South Carolina

A total of five cornerbacks were selected in the MDM’s first-round mock. South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith surprisingly wasn’t one of them. Perhaps the MDM has player fatigue.

Smith is a confident and physical cornerback. A twitchy athlete with the long speed necessary to run step-for-step with opposing receivers, Smith should confirm his first-round status during March’s NFL Scouting Combine. I’d personally be shocked if Smith was still available in the second round of April’s draft.

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Justin Melo