We're a little over halfway through the NFL season, and let's face it, there are fans of certain teams who are already looking ahead to the offseason to see how they can dig themselves out from the bottom of the league.
Going off the current Tankathon order for this 2023 NFL Mock Draft — with the full understanding the draft order will change on a weekly basis — this seemed like a suitable time to get a feel for how each organization might attack the first round. Probably won't have another of these till the end of the regular season at least, so if you're a Jay Cutler-invoking "DOOOOOOOOON'T CAAAAAAARE" troll, take solace in that.
I do my best to be objective. I mostly base mock selections on what I think each team's front office would do, as opposed to what I would personally do. I'd say it's about a 75-25 split formula in the imperfect science of my mock draft decision-making. You have to throw in wild cards to make it interesting, of course, which I do. Especially with the Giants at 28th overall. STAY TUNED!
IMPORTANT: Bear in mind, I hate your team and that's why I'm picking the totally wrong player on their behalf.
1. Houston Texans - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
On optics alone, I could see the Texans giving Lovie Smith one more year to turn it around, talk themselves into Davis Mills being a pretty good starting quarterback, and just loading up on defense to see what they can do. That starts with Will Anderson. He's simply one of the best EDGE prospects of all-time. I don't really care what's happened this year. He had 101 total tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 2021. WTF even is that? A man worthy of the No. 1 overall selection, that's what.
2. Las Vegas Raiders - Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
"Unblockable" is a term that gets thrown around often. It's obviously not applicable to anyone because if you couldn't block a dude, he'd make a tackle on every single play just about. Jalen Carter comes close to reaching that status. He's stupid quick for a 310-pound behemoth, and his lack of eye-popping production is a result of how loaded Georgia's defense is and the nature of the position he plays. Suffice it to say, Carter would transform the Raiders' d-line alongside Maxx Crosby.
3. Carolina Panthers - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
No team seems to need a quarterback as desperately as the Panthers. I'm not in love with Bryce Young's lackluster size. What I do dig is his experience against elite competition, his poise under pressure, sixth sense of when to step up in the pocket and when to bail, his accuracy, timing, anticipation, football IQ, and knack for manufacturing plays out of structure. You can't rest against this guy. He's crafty. He's a gamer. He's a potential culture-changer. Carolina should sprint in with the card and make Young the new face of the franchise.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints) - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
I could see Howie Roseman fucking around and trading this pick for some superstar player just because he can. Roseman loves to wheel and deal as many in Philly know very well. He did it in last year's draft with a much lower pick and nabbed AJ Brown from the Titans. What a move that was. Should the Eagles retain this spot, and not fleece somebody moving up for a QB, Murphy is a viable option. The reason I see a trade here is because I don't even know what to do. Philadelphia is so loaded everywhere.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Quentin Johnston WR, TCU
Crazy ball skills, off-the-charts physical tools (6-4, 215), explosiveness and vision after the catch…the list goes on as far as what to like about Johnston's game. In the event the Jags' season goes this far south, they could at least give Trevor Lawrence an exotic weapon to help unlock new levels to his game in Year 3. Johnston just needs to improve his overall consistency to transform into a legit WR1 and the best at his position in the 2023 class.
6. Chicago Bears - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Injuries have plagued Smith-Njigba's 2022 campaign. His services aren't entirely necessary for the Buckeyes since they're up to their eyeballs in stupid-good wide receivers. Don't forget, though: The last time he was really himself, Smith-Njigba put up 15 catches for 347 yards in the Rose Bowl. Chicago now has a size-speed freak in Chase Claypool to complement deep threat Darnell Mooney. What blossoming franchise QB Justin Fields needs is a true possession receiver. That's where Smith-Njigba would come in.
7. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos) - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Uchenna Nwosu has added a spark to Seattle's pass rush, and the Seahawks just drafted Boye Mafe in Round 2 this year. Still, I'd like to see them invest more in that area. Wilson is the ultimate quarterback harasser, and is worth the selection here since Clemson's Bryan Bresee, while an impressive force on the interior, isn't an elite-enough run stopper to justify as Seattle's choice.
8. Detroit Lions (via Rams) - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Some players and cities seem destined to be together. Will Levis and Detroit feel like that ideal combination, don't they? It's not dissimilar to Josh Allen and Buffalo, particularly when you consider how raw and physically gifted Levis is. One positive for the Kentucky signal-caller is he has multiple years in an NFL-style offense. He'd be landing with a Lions team that has one of the best up-and-coming play-callers in Ben Johnson. Presuming Detroit doesn't fire its coaching staff and Johnson doesn't get a lead gig elsewhere, Levis would land in the NFL with a good scheme, a stout o-line and a talented cast of pass-catchers who'll feature — don't forget! — Jameson Williams. Sounds sweet to me, even if I'm not personally this high on Levis and like at least two, maybe three QBs in this class better than him as an overall prospect.
9. Houston Texans (via Browns) - Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Touched on him a little before. You get a group of Will Anderson, Jonathan Greenard, Jerry Hughes and Bryan Bresee together to rush the passer, and you're cooking with some serious gas on the Texans defense. Bresee was 247Sports' top recruit in the country in the class of 2020, and with a little more refinement to his game, he has the upside to be a truly elite defender inside.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
What better way to put Kenny Pickett's mind at ease than to give him an instant plug-and-play starter at left tackle? That's what Skoronski would be for Pittsburgh. His background at Northwestern very much fits the the Steelers aesthetic. Just a solid, high-floor prospect who you can't really go wrong with.
11. Detroit Lions - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Exit TJ Hockenson to the rival Vikings, enter Michael Mayer. You typically only see one, maybe two tight ends drafted on Day 1 every year, so it has to be a special player at the position to merit such consideration. Mayer fits the criteria. A real weapon with the ball in his hands who's also a more than willing blocker and has an NFL-ready body. Again, perfect player-city fit for Detroit here.
12. Atlanta Falcons - CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
I think most Falcons fans would be thrilled at the sight of CJ Stroud sitting in the green room for longer than expected, wondering when he might hear his name called. Getting Bryce Young and Stroud in the NFC South with the Bucs' Tom Brady in 2023 could be such a dope, changing of the guard type of moment. You know, provided the two rooks are actually good. Stroud is likely to get dinged for the Ohio State QBs who've failed in the NFL before him. I agree that makes him a challenging evaluation, yet I do see arm talent and command of the offense in spades. Maybe Stroud can help Atlanta unlock what should be a lethal duo of big-bodied playmakers in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Or at least Arthur Smith can perhaps trust the Heisman Trophy favorite more than Marcus Mariota.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Injuries to the offensive line are more to blame for the Cardinals' issues in that area. I really don't like their personnel at cornerback. They could stand to improve there, and that's why I'm giving them Cam Smith here. Maybe you'd like him to be a little thicker (6-0, 188). Otherwise, Smith is an excellent cover corner who can man the boundary and even flex inside if necessary.
14. Green Bay Packers - Jordan Addison, WR, USC
FINALLY! THE PACKERS DRAFT A RECEIVER IN THE FIRST ROUND! These guys love to bring aboard bigger guys on the outside. Here they go with a twitchier separator in Addison. Following a 100-catch season at Pitt, the numbers for Addison at USC haven't been quite as flashy. No matter. He's still an obvious first-round talent and someone who Aaron Rodgers should be able to count on right away.
15. Indianapolis Colts - Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Thriving at an SEC program. Beating Alabama. Bringing the Volunteers back. Hendon Hooker has had a hell of a two-year run and is only continuing to progress in 2022. If you're the Colts, you MUST take a swing at this position. For fuck's sake. Do SOMETHING, Chris Ballard. Not another one-year stopgap option, please. Hooker's age might scare some teams off, which is dumb. Modern fitness and training advancements make that number more obsolete than it used to be. Plus, the COVID situation created some outliers and older prospects anyway. Hooker is a baller and would infuse this Indianapolis franchise with some hope.
16. Washington Commanders - Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
With most of the more obvious quarterback picks off the board, Washington could do worse than to add a top-flight cornerback to its secondary. In the aftermath of how disappointing prized free agent William Jackson III was, Ringo a longer, stronger DB who'd help Commanders fans forget that whole fiasco.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Only once since 2014 (15th) have the Chargers finished in the top half of rushing yards in a single season. Their offensive strategy is sorta like, "IDK MAN. Hey Justin Herbert! Wing it and convert 3rd and long or when we recklessly go for fourth downs!" While I don’t love using a first-round pick on a running back, Bijan Robinson is the type of tone-setting force and special runner the Bolts could really use to help Herbert out. Robinson is a great theoretical complement to the undersized Austin Ekeler, who’s a free agent after next season.
18. Cincinnati Bengals - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Given that 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill has seldom seen the field, I don't mind the Bengals picking a guy who might not play much to start. Current left tackle Jonah Williams will be playing on his fifth-year option. Cincinnati is gonna justify starting him any which way. I think I've seen enough to say the Bengals need to upgrade at this key spot for Joe Burrow's sake. Additionally, Jones is a more cost-effective route than extending Williams. That's vital as Cincy gears up to pay Burrow, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase in the next couple years.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida
A lackluster rushing attack and poor interior line play are reasons why the Bucs are only 5-5 to date. Tom Brady needs better than that in front of him to extend his impossibly long career, or at least to continue playing at the level he's accustomed to. An in-state product like Torrence is just what Tampa needs. Torrence is a total road grader in the running game who tips the scales at 346 pounds, could slot in next to returning center Ryan Jensen and learn a lot from veteran guard Shaq Mason.
20. Denver Broncos (via 49ers) - Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
The defense is so damn good in Denver. Were I the Broncos, I'd move off the perpetually disappointing Jerry Jeudy before picking up his fifth-year option, get what you can in a trade, and spend another premium pick on a wide receiver. Downs is as exciting a playmaker as there is at this point in the draft other than Tennessee's Jaylin Hyatt, who I figure might go later. The two years' worth of production for Downs gives him the edge for me here. He gives off Percy Harvin-like vibes, minus the rushing element.
21. New England Patriots - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
When in doubt, either a trade back or some sort of hybrid defender feels like the odds-on favorite for what the Patriots will do at any given point of a draft. I could see Bill Belichick imploring Smith to bulk up a bit and then lining him up all over the place to confuse the hell out of his inferior coaching adversaries. Smith is another Georgia guy who lacks the standout production because of how many future NFLers he shares the field with. Also because he suffered a torn pec and is out for the rest of the season. Don't let that fool you. I'd be shocked if he wasn't a first-round pick even with the recent injury.
22. Seattle Seahawks - Andrew Vorhees, OL, USC
Imagine if after all the complaining Russell Wilson did about the Seahawks' offensive line, they use three top draft picks to nail three decade-long starters. That might happen should the 2023 draft fall this way. Seattle has first-year phenoms Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas crushing it at left and right tackle respectively. They need help inside, so I could see Pete Carroll going back to the USC well for Vorhees to fill that role.
23. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Mekhi Becton's dicey future and the revolving door at the left tackle spot should lead the Jets to address that position in particular in some form or fashion this offseason. I like the idea of acquiring Johnson, who's successfully moved from right guard in 2021 to left tackle now without a hitch. Even in the event that he struggles on the outside, Johnson could always swap with uber-versatile Jets lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
24. Buffalo Bills - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Kind of a surplus addition here. Buffalo is like Philadelphia in the sense that there aren't a ton of holes on the roster. I could maybe see them spring for o-line help. Then again, the Bills might be better off looking to the open market to address that prior to the draft. Other than lack of ball production (one career INT) and the need to improve as a run defender, there's a lot to like about what the 6-foot-2 Porter can do in coverage.
25. Baltimore Ravens - Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
With Odafe Oweh having a quiet Year 2, Baltimore is leaning heavily on aging vets Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul for help on the edge. Carter's stock might be down a bit since he, well, plays for Army and is not having nearly the statistical marvel of a season this year (three sacks) as he did a season ago when he racked up 15.5 sacks and 17 TFL. Feels like a classic Ravens move to land someone like Carter and watch him grow into a double-digit sack artist.
26. Tennessee Titans - Cooper Beebe, OL, Kansas State
Although I assume the Titans will pay Nate Davis to stay, there's no guarantee of that, and fellow incumbent guard Aaron Brewer is a restricted free agent and could be upgraded upon. Beebe is sound in pass protection, which feels like the area Tennessee needs the most help in. Beyond that, Beebe is the type of fiery competitor Mike Vrabel would love to have in his locker room.
27. Dallas Cowboys - Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Time for the 'Boys to look to the future at left tackle. Tyron Smith is just too damn injured too often, great as he is. Fashanu is a young, budding star who's already a polished pass protector with a massive ceiling. Whether he's mentored by Smith or steps in to start Week 1, the Nittany Lions standout is the long-term blindside protector Dak Prescott could use.
28. New York Giants - Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
I know, kinda crazy right?? CREDIBILITY GONE! Some of you will say that. Oh well. So many different directions the G-Men could go here. Kansas State EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah comes to mind, as does LSU wideout Kayshon Boutte. Hell, they might be able to get Boutte here and just snag Bo Nix late in Round 2 (boldfacing this so Giants fans don't yell at me too hard). But I’m preparing for the possibility that the Giants don't retain Daniel Jones. Even if they do, nothing like lighting a fire under his ass by bringing in a toolsy, talented, dual-threat former No. 1 recruit. Nix has dealt with immense hype, failed to meet it, battled tons of adversity and overcome it to shine at Oregon. Sounds like pretty ideal preparation for the New York media, right? I’d see his dual-threat skill set fitting nicely in Brian Daboll's system, based on how the coach has molded Danny Dimes in 2022.
29. FORFEITED PICK (Miami Dolphins)
30. Minnesota Vikings - Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
I'm so tempted to shoehorn Washington Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. into the first round and do whatever I can to discredit Kirk Cousins' 8-1 start at the controls of the Vikings offense. Alas, Penix's rap sheet of injuries is too extensive, and Captain Kirk isn't going anywhere as far as I can tell. We therefore go with another explosive pass-catcher in Hyatt to pair up with Justin Jefferson. What a combo that could be!
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
Eleven sacks a season ago and 7.5 this year. The Chiefs could do worse than add Anudike-Uzomah to the mix, especially with Frank Clark sucking again and rookie George Karlaftis not anywhere near up to snuff. I never got the love affair with Karlaftis in the prior draft. I begrudgingly put him as a second-round guy on my big board but didn't see it with him. Anudike-Uzomah could be a steal at No. 31 and push to start immediately.
32. Philadelphia Eagles - Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The Eagles benefited from Nakobe Dean's stunning tumble through the 2022 draft. Even so, he's a backup at the minute and in lieu of other positions of dire need as I mentioned before, Philly might as well go with Simpson here to fill out a more dubious part of their depth chart. Simpson and Dean are similar in that both are excellent in pass coverage and can manufacture sack production as blitzers. The idea of pairing them together along with T.J. Edwards sounds like a lot of fun.