Is it really that time again? It feels like just yesterday that I sat down to pen my first NFL mock draft of the 2023 NFL Draft cycle when in reality it was six weeks ago—long enough to give everyone else on the TDN Scouting staff a spin, but short enough for me to find myself writing my second edition as we are still looking to wrap up Week 1 of the college football season.
Despite the smallest of sample sizes (0-2 games played, depending on the prospect), the early returns from this college season do bear fruit in some of the decisions that are made throughout this NFL mock draft. It was fun, but challenging, to sit down and write a second mock so tightly to the front of the college season, where narratives are born and players are allowed to declare themselves. But I enjoyed the challenge and I sincerely hope you enjoy the result.
As always, the draft order for the early portions of the season is dictated by BetOnline’s Super Bowl odds—so no, Houston, I don’t have an axe to grind with you. Here is my second 2023 NFL Mock Draft, complete with a move that surprises even me at No. 2 overall. Let’s get it!
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Crabbs 2.0
1. Houston Texans
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE, Alabama
As much as it pains me to keep the Texans out of the quarterback rat race that is about to unfold behind them, Houston has a luxury that many teams don’t… time. The team is sitting on a treasure trove of draft picks, is likely to continue to be non-competitive as they continue their rebuild, and possesses a roster that is currently devoid of talent. Let’s avoid the year-two hardships we expect in Chicago for Justin Fields and make sure when we draft a quarterback, we’re ready to accommodate him. That makes Will Anderson Jr., the No. 1 player eligible for this year’s draft, the obvious choice to get things started.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Anthony Richardson QB, Florida
Surprise! I’ll tell you this… if Anthony Richardson plays to the standard that he set this weekend against a very good Utah defense, I have a hard time believing the NFL will showcase any level of restraint with his evaluation. The dude was like Superman against the Utes. I’ll be honest, I came into this season needing to see more from Richardson. “He’s only thrown 66 pass attempts, I need a bigger sample size,” I said. Well, I got one. And boy was that a fun display.
Is this a bit of a knee-jerk reaction? Probably. But he’s got a head-to-head showcase against Will Levis this weekend (which I expect Florida to win) and September is the time of year when early narratives are carved. So why is Atlanta ready to take a quarterback? Because Arthur Smith won’t have much time to fix things if the Falcons regress to owning the No. 2 overall pick in year two of his regime after trading away Matt Ryan.
3. Seattle Seahawks
CJ Stroud QB, Ohio State
Seattle at No. 3 overall was a team that I strongly considered for Georgia IDL Jalen Carter. But then I asked myself if Seattle was in the same shoes as Houston with the need to be patient. And I don’t think that’s the case. I think the defense will be pretty good (although they are young) and the skill positions are at a point where they’re ready to compete. Oh, right, and they just drafted bookend tackles. Yeah.
So why CJ Stroud? I know the team has played with a shorter quarterback before in Russell Wilson, but do they want to go that route AGAIN with Bryce Young? Maybe not. And for that reason, I gave them Stroud.
4. Chicago Bears
Peter Skoronski OT, Northwestern
This will continue to be a “draft the best fit on the offensive line you can find” spot. Justin Fields has shown a lot of bright flashes this preseason, but how frequent will the flashes be when we’re playing for keeps? How do we get the flashes to be more frequent? By improving the cast around him. General manager Ryan Poles, as a former offensive lineman himself, will surely value the opportunity to land a pass protector for his quarterback.
5. New York Giants
Will Levis QB, Kentucky
This pick stays chalk from my first NFL mock draft to my second, and it all goes back to the brain trust in New York trying to find their own version of Josh Allen. Will Levis has a lot of the same kinds of tools in his bag and the Giants need to find an identity and a direction. This puts those two things in line with the areas of importance for Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen.
6. Carolina Panthers
Bryce Young QB, Alabama
You better believe Carolina is going to jump at a quarterback if they get the chance after all this hoopla and investment in signal-callers. If the Panthers finish at No. 6 overall, odds are Baker Mayfield couldn’t stave off the issues in Charlotte. And whether the team is ready for a quarterback or not (I think they are from a talent perspective), they’ll be picking one.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jalen Carter IDL, Georgia
Poor, poor Jalen Carter. My guy did nothing aside from serving a key role in destroying and disassembling the Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon and he falls from No. 2 overall to No. 7 overall in my update. But let me be clear: Carter might be the second-best prospect overall in this year’s draft and his slide here is because of the quarterback run more than anything else.
For Jacksonville, the team gets a disruptive presence up front to pair with all the defensive additions this past offseason, giving the team a more well-rounded pressure group to attack opposing offenses.
8. Detroit Lions
Myles Murphy EDGE, Clemson
Aidan Hutchinson and Myles Murphy? Detroit is suddenly very much cooking with gas. Yes, the team has Charles Harris. Yes, the team drafted Josh Paschal on day two. No, neither of those two players are stopping me from bringing in Murphy and assembling a duo that can threaten Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Justin Fields on every play in the NFC North.
Detroit is just now turning the corner out of being a team that is building a foundation and instead is ready to create a winning edge. This can be it.
9. New York Jets
Kelee Ringo CB, Georgia
The Jets adding Kelee Ringo one year after adding Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is the same spirit as the Lions drafting Murphy a year after Hutchinson. Gardner and DJ Reed are a fine cornerback duo, but Ringo’s skill set paired with Gardner’s outside frees Reed up to play inside, where his stature and play can be more dynamic. And that, my friends, is creating a winning edge. The athleticism and size of the perimeter players in Gardner and Ringo are hard to overlook.
10. Washington Commanders
Michael Mayer TE, Notre Dame
Logan Thomas has been a productive player when he’s been on the field and Washington is carrying three other tight ends: John Bates and rookies Cole Turner, and Armani Rodgers. But hear me out: Washington could transition away from Thomas for just $3.5M in dead cap this offseason and get an upgrade at the position.
Michael Mayer is a proven volume target—Thomas has caught more than 18 passes just once in his career. If Carson Wentz is going to stick, he’ll need a player at tight end to lean on. Mayer can be it.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jaelyn Duncan OT, Maryland
I thought about drafting a cornerback here, but for Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris to be their best versions of themselves, they’re going to need to make sure the offensive line is operating at a high level. The team liked Dan Moore and Chuks Okorafor enough this past offseason to skip addressing the position with newcomers, but Jaelyn Duncan would be a hard addition to pass on. He’s got size, length, and athleticism—all the makings of an impact starter on the offensive line.
12. New England Patriots
Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR, Ohio State
New England finds themselves in an unenviable position—questions about whether their supporting cast for Mac Jones has regressed too much or not have lingered all offseason. Well, how about adding arguably the best route-runner in football to help fix that problem?
Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s value to Ohio State was on clear display on Saturday night (even if Smith-Njigba’s production wasn’t) as the offense stumbled through a stretch of the game without their star receiver after a nasty hit on the sideline before an epic 95-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter put the game on ice for the Buckeyes.
13. Houston Texans (via CLE)
Kayshon Boutte WR, LSU
Again, my mission for the Texans is clear: Get enough players in-house so that when you’re ready to onboard a young quarterback, you’ll be ready for that moment. That means getting more dynamic players for QB John Doe to throw to.
Kayshon Boutte is dynamic with the ball in his hands and one of the most explosive receivers eligible for this year’s class. I’m not a math guy, but 1+1=2, which means Boutte would be a great addition to a lacking skill group.
14. Arizona Cardinals
Cam Smith CB, South Carolina
Arizona could go Jordan Addison here. They could go Andrew Vorhees. Heck, they could go Trenton Simpson based on recent history (I kid, I kid). But can we please address the cornerback position? Trayvon Mullen is a nice swing at the position as a trade made at the start of the season that has my intrigue, and Byron Murphy can ball, there’s no question of that. But Murphy is best suited inside, which leaves Marco Wilson as the other man on the outside—and Wilson is no Cam Smith.
You play in a high-flying division with a lot of great receivers. It’s time to get the stopping power needed to compete.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)
Trenton Simpson LB, Clemson
Philadelphia added a big-time player in Nakobe Dean in the 2022 NFL Draft at the linebacker position. He has been great thus far this preseason, but the other spot is currently manned by LB Kyzir White—who is in Philadelphia on a one-year contract.
Trenton Simpson can offer a lot of coverage and pressure value to a defense that wants to be able to play in space and congest throwing windows. As far as I’m concerned, this is a perfect fit for Jonathan Gannon’s defense. Simpson can step into White’s spot and give the team a long-term answer and LB duo.
16. Tennessee Titans
Jordan Addison WR, USC
Tennessee is suddenly hurting for some playmakers in the passing game. Gone is Jonnu Smith. Gone is AJ Brown. Gone is Julio Jones. And in their place? Well, you’ve got two rookies this year in TE Chig Okonkwo and WR Treylon Burks. And you’ve got Robert Woods, coming off a major injury. In adding Jordan Addison, the Titans get a separator in the passing game who can win one-on-ones as a route-runner. I’m not sure you can say that about either Okonkwo or Burks right now as players.
17. Minnesota Vikings
Bryan Bresee IDL, Clemson
Minnesota has some fierce defenders at their disposal but a disruptive interior defender has seemingly evaded them for quite some time. The team traded for Ross Blacklock this summer in an effort to add some athleticism to the interior, but a player like Bryan Breese would up the ante to a whole different level. Pairing him with Danielle Hunter on the defensive front? That’s going to cause some problems.
18. Las Vegas Raiders
Andrew Vorhees IOL, USC
The Raiders will be a popular choice for interior linemen on both sides of the ball. Breese would have been the choice had he been on the board, but Andrew Vorhees is stylistically a great addition on the other side of the ball. Putting Vorhees next to Kolton Miller and potentially 2022 rookie Dylan Parham would suddenly give the Raiders the kind of juice they had on the line when they were at their best with Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson inside.
19. Indianapolis Colts
Isaiah Foskey EDGE, Notre Dame
What better type of player to replace an expiring contract in Yannick Ngakoue than a pass rusher who wins in some of the same ways? Isaiah Foskey is a speed rusher who is on a mission this season to prove he’s a more complete player. If he does, he may not make it to No. 19 overall.
20. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)
Gervon Dexter IDL, Florida
Seattle getting a double dip of first-round choices in this NFL mock draft puts them in a position to address both sides of the ball and the team lands a tremendous fit for their physical front. Putting Gervon Dexter on the same line as Al Woods, Bryan Mone, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, and Poona Ford (extension pending) gives Seattle the kind of tone-setting front that can consistently win the line of scrimmage.
21. Dallas Cowboys
Noah Sewell LB, Oregon
Replacing Leighton Vander Esch has been on the Cowboys’ radar for a little while now and getting to dial in another physical hammer makes all the sense in the world. Noah Sewell allows the Cowboys to have the flexibility to continue moving Micah Parsons around as they desire, meaning they’re maximizing two roles on the defense with one addition.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Bijan Robinson RB, Texas
The Eagles drafting a linebacker and a running back in the first round of an NFL draft may not feel like a very “Howie Roseman” thing to do, but let’s consider the status of the Philadelphia roster. They’ve got a highly competitive roster with a lot of viable long-term pieces to tie themselves to. We may not have the clarity we need on Jalen Hurts, but if the Eagles are picking here, odds are Hurts took some degree of a step forward. So why not get elite players to complement what already exists on the roster?
There’s no such thing as a guaranteed elite pick—especially in the 20s—but positional value meets an upgrade opportunity with Bijan Robinson, who is a blue-chip player.
23. Baltimore Ravens
Quentin Johnston WR, TCU
Quentin Johnston was a pick I made for the Ravens in my previous NFL mock draft and I’ll be doing it again, thank you very much. Vertical receiving ability in a bigger frame to play on the outside is the perfect mix to layer into the Ravens’ passing attack as they attempt to find the right balance of weapons to place around QB Lamar Jackson—you know, assuming he’s going to be there long-term. To be continued…
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Brandon Joseph SAF, Notre Dame
The Jessie Bates III contract situation may have blown over for the 2022 season but I would expect we will be hearing about this again come the winter. The good news? Brandon Joseph seemed to have taken a step toward rehabbing some of the negative reps he put on tape in 2022 with a strong first performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes as the man patrolling the back end of Notre Dame’s defense. I thought the tackling and range looked as they should, and that pairs with high-level ball skills to create a promising package.
25. Miami Dolphins (via SF)
Antonio Johnson SAF, Texas A&M
The Dolphins’ coverage is a vital piece of how they choose to conduct business defensively and having a safety like Antonio Johnson who can cover would offer continued personnel flexibility. Do not sleep on Byron Jones as an aging contract (he’ll start the year on PUP after offseason surgery) and Miami also has Nik Needham (their starting slot) and Eric Rowe (their third safety) as expiring contracts this coming season. Johnson could fill both roster spots in one.
26. Green Bay Packers
Nolan Smith EDGE, Georgia
The Packers dip into the Georgia Bulldogs pool again because hey, why not? The wide receiver class is once again loaded and once again the run in the first-round misses Green Bay, so adding on a hybrid linebacker type to add into the mix alongside Preston Smith and Rashan Gary gives the Packers some added flexibility on the edge.
27. Los Angeles Chargers
Broderick Jones OT, Georgia
Los Angeles is in great shape at the left tackle position. But right tackle? Consider it open season. And, fun fact about Broderick Jones, he played his first snaps on offense at right tackle against South Carolina in 2020.
Jones is a mauler with great athleticism and appears to only be scratching the surface of how good he can be as a player. Methinks that he can be really damn good, even as he embarks on his first season as a starter for the Bulldogs.
28. Detroit Lions (via LAR)
Brian Branch SAF, Alabama
Another defensive player for the Lions? Absolutely. The overhaul needed in the aftermath of Matt Patricia’s departure is real, and Brian Branch is a versatile weapon defensively who can move all around the formation and play in both base and sub-package sets. Time will tell how 2022 third-round pick Kerby Joseph develops, but he can co-exist with Branch even if Joseph turns into a hit—Branch can live in the slot and as a second-level defender in sub.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
Christian Gonzalez CB, Oregon
Kansas City loves them some toolsy corners. With the passing attacks in Denver, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, they better be sure they’ve got enough horses to defend the pass. Christian Gonzalez is a superb athlete who moves much smoother than a player of his size and stature probably should. Those guys don’t last long.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Joey Porter Jr. CB, Penn State
Speaking of big corners, find me someone who loves long cornerbacks more than Todd Bowles and Jason Licht. I dare you. And Joey Porter Jr. might just be the longest corner I’ve ever set eyes on.
Carlton Davis, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Zyon McCollum are currently the ONLY Tampa Bay secondary players under contract beyond 2022. Porter Jr. was electric in his debut for 2022 against Purdue, breaking up six passes and logging eight tackles in a thrilling win. Helping the cause on those PBUs? You guessed it: his length. I’m just saying…
31. Buffalo Bills
Henry To’o To’o LB, Alabama
The big question of whether or not the Bills retain LB Tremaine Edmunds is the motivating factor for this selection to end the first round of this NFL mock draft. Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard are locked in, but is Bernard a long-term answer as a top-two linebacker for the Bills or is he the third linebacker for certain gameplan weeks? Henry To’o To’o is highly instinctual and well-rounded as a linebacker and would be a complement to Milano.
What did you think of the second edition of Kyle Crabbs’ 2023 NFL Mock Draft? Let us know what you think on Twitter and Instagram. and stay tuned next week for the next edition of TDN’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft series.