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Matt Fitz's Penultimate 2023 NFL Mock Draft Has 4 QBs In The Top Five And Strives To Piss Off As Many Fan Bases As Possible

Stacy Revere. Getty Images.

Another 2023 NFL mock draft. Sorry to insufferably put an abbreviated form of my name in the headline. Apologies, too, for the hundred-dollar word that means next-to-last. 

I suspect those who have a problem with these things are something like Jim Carrey from that In Living Color Rocky sketch IRL.

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If you don't like my picks, at least you knew going in what my intentions were. Better to be upfront about it, I say. That's what all of us mock draft junkies try to do. Didn't you know? We make a concerted effort to ensure YOUR TEAM makes the wrong pick.

For this one, we're going through the whole first round, plus the first 10 picks of Round 2 because why the fuck not? Here's a link to my last mock, and for my Who Dey Nation people, here's a Bengals seven-rounder. Will have one more of each of those coming soon enough. Hence "penultimate"…

Aren't you intrigued as to why a smiling Will Levis is in the featured photo, considering he went 23rd overall in my last mock?

Giphy Images.
Giphy Images.

1. Carolina Panthers (via Bears) - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

No, Levis ain't going No. 1. Part of me wants to be intentionally incendiary and go with a hot take here. Young was trailing C.J. Stroud in the No. 1 overall pick odds until about a week ago, when he jumped into prohibitive favorite status following his visit with the Panthers. It could all be a smokescreen. Regardless, I'm penciling in Young to Carolina and it likely won't change.

2. Houston Texans - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

Scuttlebutt on the NFL streets suggests Houston is unlikely to select a quarterback at this spot. That's crazy to me unless they're tanking the season. Regardless, a Patriots GM and a defensive-minded head coach trying to bargain bin their QB situation…what do you expect? The Texans could get cute and take Tyree Wilson here. Wouldn't put it past them since they're allegedly not drafting a QB. Gonna go ahead and say it's Will Anderson for the time being.

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3. TRADE: Tennessee Titans (via Cardinals) - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Since most people believed a Young-Stroud top two was a mere formality, the speculation has been that the Titans would trade up for Anthony Richardson. With Stroud still available, I could see Tennessee going in that direction. He's the best pure passer in the draft. My only thing is, Stroud had such a loaded supporting cast at Ohio State, and that could be a problem if he lands in Nashville. The Titans have a lot of unproven skill guys outside of Derrick Henry, not to mention a patchwork offensive line.

4. Indianapolis Colts - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Nobody in this class is drawing more Carson Wentz comparisons than Will Levis. Then there's the rumor that Indy prefers Levis over Richardson. I'll laugh forever if overrated GM Chris Ballard goes down swinging with a Wentz-esque QB. To be clear, I think more highly of Levis than I ever did of Wentz. To me, Levis is more like Justin Herbert than any other signal-caller I could compare him to. Alas…his personality gives me Josh Rosen vibes. I think the Colts will do this. Not sure I would.

5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos) - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

HOOOOOOOOH. My QB1 is the fourth man off the board at the position. Going to the ascending Seahawks to learn behind a dude in Geno Smith who failed initially, sat for years to learn, and then fully seized his opportunity? What an ideal situation for Richardson. I think he's readier to play than he's given credit for. Live game reps should expedite his promising development. But oh well. Richardson is the type of personality and box office draw I suspect Seattle would have a hard time passing on.

6. Detroit Lions -  Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

All the defensive backfield upgrades Detroit made in free agency makes me think the pick here will be whoever is left on the board between Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson. Pairing the likes of Wilson with another high draft pick EDGE defender in Aidan Hutchinson would fire Dan Campbell up to say the least.

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7. Las Vegas Raiders - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon 

No secret Las Vegas needs to boost its secondary with a No. 1-caliber cornerback. That's where Gonzalez comes in. If I were the Raiders, I'd double up on cornerbacks, and even select a safety at some point on Day 2. Gonzalez would help the Maxx Crosby-led pass rush get home more often.

8. Atlanta Falcons - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

So many different directions Atlanta could go here. Seems like there was a conscious effort to revamp the defense in free agency. That frees up the run-heavy Falcons to help young QB Desmond Ridder out with a slot dynamo in Smith-Njigba. If Arthur Smith can keep that rushing attack rolling, Ridder should get some clean looks off play-action throwing to the likes of Drake London, Kyle Pitts and JSN who's third on my top-100 big board.

9. Chicago Bears (via Panthers) - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Help is needed everywhere on this Bears roster. Witherspoon would be my best player available at this juncture, so why not pull the trigger? He's a throwback, scrappy corner who can lock down one side of the field and obviously wouldn't have to move very far from where his college digs were. Witherspoon could give some attitude and star power to Chicago's defense, sort of in the spirit of Peanut Tillman.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints) - Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Before off-field issues hurt Carter's stock, he could've gone as high as the third pick, or even the second if the Texans wanted to go that way. Carter is only meeting with teams in the top 10. Any of those with two first-rounders (Detroit, Seattle, Philly) could feel more comfortable taking a flier on him. This feels like the floor of when Carter will hear his name called. The Eagles are excellent at developing defensive linemen, so Carter shouldn't be upset in the event that he slides this far.

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11. Arizona Cardinals (via Titans) - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

JPJ. Haven't seen Porter referred to as such. Feels like it's only a matter of time before that moniker catches on. Anyway, the Cardinals should go BPA on defense to kick off their draft, er, once they've traded down. I'm surprised Arizona hasn't traded the third pick yet. Might not happen until draft night. With the top two EDGE guys unavailable, Porter is a good choice.

12. Houston Texans (via Browns) - Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

Disappointed as Texans fans would be to come out of Day 1 of the draft without their new quarterback of the future, they could at least be in decent shape defensively with the combination of Will Anderson and Kancey. The Pitt star is often compared to Aaron Donald for good reason. Not saying he'll be the next Donald, yet Kancey is as disruptive of an interior pass-rusher as there is in this class and it's not particularly close. Anderson on the edge, Kancey on the inside? Nice recipe to help this Houston D make a leap.

13. New York Jets - Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

I really strive not to repeat picks in mocks. Alas, Skoronski to the Jets is one I just can't quit. He can probably play all five positions at the NFL level. Most expect him to kick inside because of a lack of prototypical length. At least with Skoronski in the fold, New York could experiment to get the best five on the field in front of Aaron Rodgers (he's still getting traded to Gang Green, right?) since Alijah Vera-Tucker is similarly versatile.

14. New England Patriots - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State 

My favorite left tackle in the draft right here. Johnson is a beast and held it down on C.J. Stroud's blind side this past season after a big transition from right guard. I suppose Johnson could play inside at the NFL level, yet that'd be a waste of his talent. He can more than hold his own at either left or right tackle. Lots of untapped potential there. That'd give New England flexibility on whether to move Trent Brown back to the right side or keep him where he played in 2022. I suspect Johnson's arrival would mean he's the left tackle of the future.

15. Green Bay Packers - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Tight ends aren't often worthy of a first-round pick if history is any indication. This class is loaded at the position. Many argue Mayer, despite lacking the high-end physical tools of some of his peers, is the safest bet to succeed in the pros. There's no denying his production as a pass-catcher. What's rare for someone who has 180 receptions in three years of college ball is a clear willingness to block. That's what Mayer brings to the table. It's why he's widely viewed as the most complete tight end. He'd be Green Bay's instant TE1 and a nice security blanket for new starting QB Jordan Love.

16. Washington Commanders - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

According to his Combine numbers, Banks is a literal all-time athlete at the cornerback position. That's saying something. I don't know how you can pass him up near the top of the draft if you need a corner. He's already advanced in coverage skills and isn't afraid to stick his nose in there to tackle as a run defender.

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17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Unless there's a huge run on offensive tackles before them, the Steelers should absolutely scoop up whichever tackle they like best here at No. 17. I like Jones' athletic profile and upside over, say, Oklahoma's Anton Harrison. The Georgia product plays with tenacity and physicality that fits the mold of prospect Mike Tomlin has to be seeking to upgrade Pittsburgh's suspect o-line.

18. Detroit Lions - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

It's weird that someone who's 6-3, 208 has such trouble in contested catch situations. Johnston has a tendency to lose focus and suffer from concentration drops, too. If he can just improve those hands and better leverage his size at the catch point, the sky's the limit for what Johnston can do. His YAC ability is extraordinary for someone so big.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Experience at both tackle spots serves Wright well entering the draft, not to mention that the Bucs are strongly considering Tristan Wirfs to move to left tackle. I love the way Wright carries himself. He plays with a nasty streak, has a strong anchor in pass protection and just needs to get a little more polished as a run blocker.

20. Seattle Seahawks - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

What a lift the Seahawks' front seven could get with Bobby Wagner returning, Boye Mafe looking to come on strong in Year 2 and Nolan Smith entering the mix. Smith's production at Georgia isn't outstanding. Don't hold that against him. It's a weird system the Bulldogs run and it clearly works but doesn't let one dude shine all that often. I really like the fit in Seattle for Smith.

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21. Los Angeles Chargers - Brian Branch, CB/S, Alabama 

What a fun player to plug in for Brandon Staley. The Bolts already have Derwin James as a Swiss Army Knife who can line up anywhere on any given snap. Staley could get really exotic with disguised coverages if Branch is LA's selection. He could wind up at safety, or in a more specialized slot role. Whatever the case may be, Branch's exceptional effort in run support and incredible tackling efficiency are strengths that should appeal to the Chargers.

22. Baltimore Ravens - Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Forbes only tipped the scales at 166 pounds during the Combine. That's beyond small. However, you can't ignore his ball production and high achievements in the SEC. He's bulked up some since that weigh-in. The hope is that continues and doesn't sacrifice any of his speed and quickness. The Ravens seem to have a knack for pouncing on excellent prospects other teams overthink. Happened in 2022 with Kyle Hamilton. Could be the case here with Forbes.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Rumors are flying around that Minnesota may cut Dalvin Cook. That could mean Alexander Mattison becomes the new feature back. You can argue the Vikings should draft all defense and that the first round shouldn't be an exception. Using a Day 1 draft asset on a running back is frowned upon these days, too. Bijan Robinson flies in the face of all that logic. If he's here, and you're really getting rid of Cook, you take Bijan.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

In his final season with the Gamecocks, Smith flexed into the slot and showed he could hold his own there. He's a longer, physical corner whose testing at the Combine was better than many expected. The Jaguars need a nickel badly. Smith could also possibly move to safety. Whatever the case may be, this is one of Jacksonville's better scenarios in the event Brian Branch isn't available.

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25. New York Giants - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

Giants fans, could I interest you in an Azeez Ojulari upgrade who's taller, stronger, almost just as lengthy and has bigger hands? Van Ness can line up inside when duty calls, too. Ojulari ain't big enough to do that effectively. Wink Martindale loves drawing up exotic blitzes. Giving him a versatile chess piece like Van Ness to move around makes New York's front seven much more interesting.

26. Dallas Cowboys - Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah 

Excuses for Dak Prescott would officially run out with this pick. A receiving trio of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup. AND Kincaid at tight end? Hot damn. That's enough offensive firepower to at least challenge the Eagles for NFC East supremacy. What a steal Kincaid would be at 26th overall. I doubt he lasts this long.

27. Buffalo Bills - Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

I've said before that it can take offensive tackles quite a while to adjust to the NFL and flourish. Welp, it's about to be Year 3 for Buffalo's Spencer Brown. Can't say he's been that impressive so far. Jones could easily step in, replace Brown in the starting five, and serve as a road grader of a run blocker for Josh Allen and the Bills' tailbacks.

28. Cincinnati Bengals - Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern

The Bengals fan in me would've loved to see Kincaid or Jones in this spot if they weren't selected the two picks before. Instead, Adebawore could see significant snaps in Cincinnati's rotation as a 3 technique and on the edge. He's a stunning athlete and a bigger-picture investment for a team that doesn't have a ton of glaring roster holes.

29. New Orleans Saints (via 49ers) - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Cameron Jordan turns 34 in July, Payton Turner has underachieved, and Marcus Davenport left in free agency. So yeah, New Orleans could use some help at defensive end now and in the future. Murphy would challenge to start and bring a little more juice to the Saints' pass rush.

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30. Philadelphia Eagles - O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida

Once Jason Kelce presumably retires after next season, the Eagles will kick either Cam Jurgens or Landon Dickerson inside to replace him. I assume it'll be Jurgens, which allows Torrence to fill in as the long-term starter at right guard. Philly enacted this sort of draft strategy last year with linebacker Nakobe Dean and even Jordan Davis to a degree (although he did get hurt). Those two are poised for a much larger role this year, especially Dean. Could be a similar path forward for Torrence. 

31. Kansas City Chiefs - Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech

This guy stuck out like a sore thumb among those who were invited to attend the draft. Granted, some top prospects prefer to chill with their families for the big night, but still. Only 17 invitees. White among them. Somebody must've promised him something. I have a sneaking suspicion it's either the Eagles or Chiefs. KC could kick White inside on obvious passing plays to rush alongside Chris Jones, but also hopefully start him on the edge opposite 2022 30th overall pick George Karlaftis.

First 10 of Round 2

32. Pittsburgh Steelers (via Bears) - Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa — A rich history of star linebackers with this franchise picks up again here with Campbell. Pittsburgh could go with Arkansas' Drew Sanders instead, but Campbell is more experienced, a more natural linebacker and boasts sensational athleticism in his own right.

33. Houston Texans - Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee — Wouldn't be surprised to see Hooker walk into Houston and start as soon as he's ready. If the Texans pass on a QB at No. 2, perhaps they trade into the first round to take Hooker before the 33rd slot. Either way, once he's recovered from that torn ACL, Hooker would be an upgrade over Davis Mills.

34. Arizona Cardinals - Steve Avila, OL, TCU — Arizona is staring down a multi-year rebuild. One top priority should be upgrading protection for Kyler Murray. Avila would be a Week 1 starter at guard and is an excellent pass protector.

35. Indianapolis Colts - Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State — I have Brents at 28th on my big board. He'd be a perfect fit in Colts DC Gus Bradley's base Cover 3 scheme.

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36. Los Angeles Rams - Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State — McDonald's bend around the edge seems to defy physics at times. The Rams need someone like him in the worst way. I shit you not, LA's two-deep depth chart at McDonald's position consists of three UDFAs and one seventh-round pick. Holy horror show, Batman.

37. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos) - Jordan Addison, WR, USC — Pete Carroll going to the Trojans well for an infusion of receiving talent? Sounds good to me. Give Geno Smith and (eventually) Anthony Richardson another weapon to work with. Addison is a tremendous route-runner who'd be a strong WR3 alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

38. Las Vegas Raiders - Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson — The Raiders should double down on defense and trust Josh McDaniels with his side of the ball. Bresee was banged-up in college but is a former top recruit who'd be a hell of a value pick early on Day 2. 

39. Carolina Panthers - Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan — Pairing Smith with the likes of Derrick Brown on the Panthers' interior d-line would be such a dynamic duo. It took a while for Brown to hit his stride in the NFL; Smith may have some early struggles in his own right and could benefit from someone like Brown to help him along. This is forever the tweet I will use to highlight some of what Mazi Smith is capable of…

40. New Orleans Saints -  Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College — Derek Carr would be a happy man. Hopefully Michael Thomas is healthy and Chris Olave builds on his promising rookie campaign. Adding Flowers to that mix would help the Saints' passing attack blossom into a truly formidable outfit.

41. Arizona Cardinals (via Titans) - John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota — This extra pick comes from the Titans' mock trade to move up to No. 3 overall. I was today years old when I learned who the fuck Hjalte Froholdt is. He's apparently in line to start at center for the Cardinals. GTFOH. They can't roll with him. Schmitz would be an instant upgrade and a stabilizing force up front to make sure everyone's on their assignments. An Avila-Schmitz duo on Day 2 wouldn't be the sexiest draft for Arizona, yet I'd still consider that a huge win for the embattled organization.

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