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Matt Fitz's Final 2023 NFL Mock Draft That Feels Considerably Less Accurate Than Last Year's Because This Draft Is About To Be NUTS

The day has arrived! One last 2023 NFL mock draft to get us to Thursday night.

Tune in for The En Eff El Draft Show. I'll be on to break down the Bengals' options with the 28th overall pick and give my take on who they end up selecting. Can't wait.

Getting the sense that I could go 1-for-31 on accuracy across all these picks. Cheah and I nailed the first seven picks of last year's draft. Steve finished fifth overall in accuracy and I finished 34th out of 1,379 submissions on the NFL mock draft database.

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…But are mocks really about being correct? Or are they about having fun? I'm split. I don't really have a strong opinion either way. The 2022 draft was a lot easier to project than this one. 

That's it. I've decided. I'm throwing caution to the wind. So expect at least one trade — or two!

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

Seems like a foregone conclusion. I'm unmoved by a Reddit user's claim that Will Levis has told family and friends he'll be the No. 1 overall pick. WILL (ha-ha-hee) believe it when I see it. Size and slight frame are major red flags for Young. Doesn’t seem to matter in the eyes of talent evaluators. Young’s special field reading, processing and leadership abilities are enough to sway Carolina to take the plunge.

2. Houston Texans - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech  

Peter King mocked Tyree Wilson to Houston. Let's roll with that. Seems like the Texas Tech star is gaining steam in recent weeks to be chosen over Alabama's Will Anderson Jr., who's the media darling. I wish the Texans would do what I want them to do. Alas. I get why DeMeco Ryans would covet Wilson's superior length and strength as a more prototypical 4-3 defensive end over Anderson. I KNOW. Modern NFL schemes are multiple and hybrid and don't often settle on 3-4 or 4-3. I'm merely passing along what the widespread perception is.

3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

There are needs pretty much everywhere on this roster. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a cornerback for the Cards, but ex-Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon saw firsthand how effective Philly was at building along the line of scrimmage. That should give Anderson the nod over the top corners.

4. Indianapolis Colts - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

What a dream scenario for Indy if it falls this way — and I still get the sense that GM Chris Ballard will fuck it up. All the rumors about Levis' soaring stock have enough smoke around them to believe. Levis is my clear-cut QB4. He has horrible pocket awareness. Andrew Luck, who the Colts have failed to adequately replace since his abrupt retirement, was similar to Levis in that he was "tough" and took unnecessary hits. Also think Levis is a first-team, All-Pro weirdo. Can’t imagine a world where Indy opts for Levis over CJ Stroud but that's where it feels like we're headed.

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5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos) - Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Character concerns have seldom scared Pete Carroll away from a prospect. If anyone’s going to take a risk on Carter early, I suspect it’s Seattle. Provided he keeps his head on straight and shakes off some personal red flags, Carter has the ability to become one of the sport’s elite interior defensive linemen within a couple years.

6. Detroit Lions - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

I stopped mocking Witherspoon to Detroit for a little while. Now he's the betting favorite to go sixth overall to the Lions. It’s the best city-team identity-player fit in the entire first round in my opinion. GM Brad Holmes shouldn’t overthink this one. Witherspoon is perfect for the culture Dan Campbell is building.

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

The Raiders could use a CB1 in Gonzalez to help Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones out in the trenches. Las Vegas may roll the dice on Jalen Carter if he’s here. Seems like Josh McDaniels has "his guy" at QB in Jimmy Garoppolo, so it's a no-go on Stroud or Anthony Richardson.

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8. TRADE Tennessee Titans (via Falcons) - CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Trades are virtually guaranteed to torpedo mock draft accuracy but fuck it, let's have some fun. Although the Titans drafted Malik Willis last year, he was far from ready to play as a rookie and may never excel as a starter. Ryan Tannehill being sent to Atlanta to reunite with Arthur Smith makes sense. It'd be a matter of figuring out contract restructures, cap hits, etc. On the Titans' side of things, Stroud is a far more viable successor to Tannehill than Willis and should be ready to start Week 1. Tennessee would just need to bring in another veteran backup to help Stroud's transition to the NFL.

9. Chicago Bears (via Panthers) - Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern 

Justin Fields needs better protection. Why not go after an in-state product in Skoronski who can play anywhere in the trenches the Bears want him to? This dude is drawing comparisons to Cowboys All-Pro Zack Martin. Whether Skoronski ends up at tackle or guard, a blocker of his caliber is worth the ninth overall pick to me. 

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints) - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Bijan Robinson is flat-out special. There aren’t a lot of "obvious" fits for him in the first round. I’m pretty excited to see what a talent like Rashaad Penny can do behind the Eagles’ loaded o-line and with Jalen Hurts' threat to run the ball. Imagine a 1-2 backfield punch of Bijan and Penny on a one-year prove-it deal. That can take some of the running burden off of Hurts.

11. Atlanta Falcons (via Titans) - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Casey Hayward was released this past Friday. I assume A.J. Terrell will get a lucrative extension. Unclear why that hasn’t happened yet. Newly acquired corner Jeff Okudah may not get his fifth-year option picked up. In any event, tough to expect him to be a high-end starter off a rocky start in Detroit. With that much uncertainty at such a key position group in Atlanta, Porter is a logical choice to take Hayward’s spot in the starting lineup.

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12. TRADE Minnesota Vikings (via Texans) - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Since the Lions and Seahawks have picks at 18th and 20th respectively and could move into this spot, it'd take a hell of an enticing offer from Minnesota to get up to 12. I blogged about a rumor that the Vikings could trade all the way up to No. 2 for Will Levis. Since he's gone, they could opt for an even toolsier QB prospect in Richardson to be Kirk Cousins' heir apparent. As awful as the Vikings' defense is, they can use the rest of the draft to address it. I'd love to see Richardson slinging it to Justin Jefferson. Editing this at the 11th hour, we have a little more information trickling in. One from a prominent NFL agent who doesn't represent Richardson, another from an ESPN insider.

13. Green Bay Packers - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State 

I pride myself on keeping up well with all 32 teams. I barely know anyone from the Packers’ pass-catching group outside of rising sophomores Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. New Green Bay QB Jordan Love needs better weapons. Give him a slot phenom like Smith-Njigba, and it’d open up everything else for Watson on the outside. JSN is my WR1 and No. 3 overall player.

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14. New England Patriots - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Back in 2018, the Pats used a first-round pick on another Georgia left tackle in Isaiah Wynn. That didn’t really pan out. Jones has a good chance to hit thanks to his athletic profile. For those who like Paris Johnson Jr., Bill Belichick has drafted only one Ohio State player compared to seven from Georgia since taking over in Foxborough in 2000. And nine from Michigan for that matter. Hmm…

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(Please someone in the comments, I beg you, take this 100% seriously and tear me a new one)

15. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

It’s a murky situation at the tackle positions for Gang Green. Johnson started at right guard for Ohio State in 2021, so he could begin there and flex out to either tackle after this year. Or get on with it and be the left tackle from the jump. The Jets’ defense is pretty damn loaded as is. Fortifying the trenches for Aaron Rodgers should be a top priority for New York on Day 1. Johnson is my ninth-rated prospect overall, OT1, and could go as high as No. 3 to Arizona. This slide is less about Johnson and more about how the quarterbacks and other positions fell. I pounded the table pretty hard for Paris at third overall in this rumors blog from five days ago.

16. Washington Commanders - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

I can’t stop mocking cornerbacks to Washington. Don’t think I’ve done anything different in every single mock. That tells me the Commanders should be leaning heavily that way. Banks would be a hell of a get at pick 16. Plus, low cost of moving! I’m sure Washington’s area scouts have kept a close eye on Banks this past year.

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17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

The mentality with which Wright plays makes him my second-favorite city-team identity-player fit after Witherspoon to Detroit. Since he played right tackle in 2022, I suspect that might knock Wright down some boards. In Pittsburgh’s case, there’s a real shot Wright could return to his 2021 post of left tackle, where he'd have more financial upside.

18. Detroit Lions -  Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia 

Off-the-charts testing at the Combine offset some of the concerns about Smith’s lackluster size. He plays way bigger than you’d expect a 238-pound EDGE prospect to. His strength lies in run defense. Smith has very real untapped pass-rushing potential. Joining a Lions D that already has two promising QB harassers in Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston is a fun scenario for Lions fans to rally around.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brian Branch, CB/S, Alabama

The run on tackles hurts Tampa Bay. Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison is a bit rich for me with the 19th pick. Todd Bowles would love a fundamentally-sound, physical slot guy like Branch. Perhaps the Bucs trade up in Round 2 to get Harrison if he keeps sliding. 

20. Seattle Seahawks - Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami

There’s always at least one first-rounder we never see coming. Surprise draft invitee Keion White might be the guy. Or maybe it’s Tyrique Stevenson. Found it interesting that Stevenson was among the five prospects NFL Network’s Peter Schrager listed as guys who’ll go higher than consensus mock drafts based on conversations with GMs. I like the idea of Seattle going with a boundary cornerback to pair with Tariq Woolen. I’d personally prefer Kansas State’s Julius Brents. Instead, I’m in on Stevenson as the blindsiding pick of the first round based on Schrags’ intel.

21. Los Angeles Chargers - Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Austin Ekeler is unhappy in LA and wants to be traded. The Chargers might as well salvage a Day 2 pick for Ekeler and roll with Gibbs as their new do-it-all back who had 103 receptions in three college seasons, including a team-high 44 at Alabama in 2022. That's right. Bryce Young is a Jahmyr Gibbs checkdown merchant!! KIDDING.

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

Weighing only 166 pounds at the Combine hurt Forbes’ stock in the eyes of the greater draft community. However, he’s already packed on some extra weight since then. Baltimore does so well with picks in this range on an annual basis. You can’t ignore Forbes’ nose for the football and how productive he was as a three-year SEC starter (14 INTs, SIX pick-sixes, 20 passes defensed).

23. Houston Texans (via Vikings) - Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

I'd feel worse about Houston doubling up at defensive end here if not for a couple things. First, the Texans' most promising incumbent, Jonathan Greenard, is entering a contract year and played only eight games last season. Greenard's best stretch was in 2021 when he had eight sacks in 12 games. Houston has the 33rd, 65th and 73rd picks — not to mention whatever assets they'd gather in a hypothetical trade with Minnesota. Murphy had 76 pressures in his final two years at Clemson. If DeMeco Ryans can get the most out of Tyree Wilson and Murphy, what a tandem that'd be. 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

Starting to think Kancey’s size and position might push him down draft boards a touch. The Jags could get a game-changing interior rusher to complement an already-talented front seven with the likes of Josh Allen and 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker on the edge.

25. New York Giants -  Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Wide receiver is too tempting to neglect with a physical freak show like Johnston waiting for his name to be called. I realize the G-Men added to their group this offseason. It's not enough in my opinion. Johnston's tools are that of a legit WR1. If he can cut down on drops and get coached up to be a little tougher on contested catches, New York could have a superstar on its hands.

26. Dallas Cowboys - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Dalton Schultz’s departure leaves a clear need at tight end in Dallas. Many argue Mayer is the best player at the position in this class. Hard to debate that. He’s definitely the most complete in terms of pass-catching production and willingness to run block. Multiple comparisons to Jason Witten out in the draftnik community. That even further suggests Mayer is an ideal fit with the Cowboys.

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27. Buffalo Bills - Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

What a fun pairing this would be. Hyatt’s pure deep speed with Josh Allen’s stupid-strong arm? Forget about it. Good luck containing Hyatt on those deep balls with defenses having to account for Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Allen’s ability to run and extend plays. Compelling alternatives for the Bills at the position include Boston College's Zay Flowers and USC's Jordan Addison. Hyatt's fit with Buffalo in particular gives him the nod.

28. Cincinnati Bengals - Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

My final Bengals mock has Jahmyr Gibbs to Cincinnati. For this exercise, the dream scenario of Dalton Kincaid falling happens. In addition to rewarding Joe Burrow with a historic new contract, Duke Tobin and the front office could get him yet another playmaker. Kincaid is a tight end who can split out wide and win. That’s rare. That’s how special he is at the catch point and as a route-runner. I hesitate to compare anyone to Travis Kelce but uhh…yeah. Dalton Kincaid. He’s legit. Wouldn’t mind me some Darnell Washington either.

29. New Orleans Saints (via 49ers) - Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College 

To keep pace in the NFC South, New Orleans needs to revamp its offense. With Derek Carr under center, Chris Olave coming off an excellent first season and Michael Thomas hopefully healthy, the Saints could add Flowers to the mix and become a potent passing attack.

30. Philadelphia Eagles - Steve Avila, OL, TCU

With experience at center and guard, Avila can either step in for a presumably retiring Jason Kelce in 2024, or take over for Cam Jurgens if he kicks in to center. I honestly don’t know what to do for the Eagles here. Their roster is such an embarrassment of riches everywhere. Maybe Howie Roseman wheels and deals an earlier draft pick or two for a star player.

31. Kansas City Chiefs - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

For a guy who played mostly inside and projects to play EDGE at the NFL level, I’m a little surprised Van Ness is being so hyped up. That hints at the type of ceiling many believe he has. That innate inside-out versatility makes Van Ness an appealing fit in Kansas City. He can rush inside next to Chris Jones and team with George Karlaftis to wage all-out, bull-rushing trench wars on opposing offensive tackles.

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