It’s only been two short months since the Super Bowl, but it feels like the NFL season has been over forever! For us fantasy football degenerates who are longing for some kind of action, the 2023 NFL Draft is thankfully only a few weeks away. We’re deep in the trenches at Fantasy Alarm, analyzing potential first-round draft picks for every team. Who will your favorite NFL team select? Will C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young go No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers? Who will take a chance on Jalen Carter? Which team will land Bijan Robinson as he vaults up dynasty fantasy football rankings? I’m here to give my thoughts and make predictions for the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s not beat around the bush and get to our first 2023 NFL Mock Draft ahead of the fantasy football season. Be sure to check out Dan Servodidio's breakdown of the top NFL Draft Quarterback prospects to get some more insights.
2023 NFL Mock Draft 1st Round
Pick 1 – Carolina Panthers: CJ Stroud, Ohio State, QB
There are two very good quarterbacks available for the Panthers to take with the first overall pick, with CJ Stroud and Bryce Young being neck-and-neck statistically. Stroud edges out Young here due to his better completion percentage and size advantage, especially when you consider that head coach Frank Reich hasn’t started a quarterback measuring under 6-foot-2 in his entire career.
Pick 2 – Houston Texans: Bryce Young, Alabama, QB
Even with C.J. Stroud off the board, the Texans still land their franchise quarterback in Bryce Young. Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 after leading Alabama to a national championship the year before. There may be some concerns about his height and durability at the NFL level, but Young's level of play for the Crimson Tide speaks for itself.
Pick 3 – Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, Alabama, Edge
The Cardinals have a lot of issues, but their pass rush is in real trouble, especially with the retirement of J.J. Watt. The selection of Will Anderson fills this void. While at Alabama, Anderson was a two-time winner of the Bronco Nagurski Trophy for the nation’s top defender, and no defender in the entire NCAA finished with more pressures than him in that time. New head coach Jonathan Gannon is bringing a different defensive philosophy to town and Will Anderson will be a cornerstone of that plan.
Pick 4 – Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, Florida, QB
This is a high-risk, high-reward pick but, let’s face it: the Colts have to take a quarterback here. After years of putting veteran quarterbacks *ahem* out to pasture, Indy is in dire need of a signal caller. Richardson does need development as a passer, but his athleticism is something you rarely see. In fact, he measured as the most athletic at the combine EVER. Richardson would fit perfectly into Shane Steichen’s heavy RPO scheme, and, although he does need to improve on his accuracy issues, he’s the best bet to be the Colts’ franchise quarterback.
Pick 5 – Seattle Seahawks: Jalen Carter, Georgia, DL
Jalen Carter may have dropped down draft boards after his legal issues and poor showing at his pro day, but Seattle won’t let him drop any further. The Seahawks allowed an average of 152 rush yards per game last season, and Carter would automatically help shore up their run defense. He’s also an effective pass rusher, grading higher than any other interior lineman in the power five college football conferences in 2022. There may be some red flags, but you can’t pass up on his talent.
Pick 6 – Detroit Lions: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois, CB
The Lions were everyone’s favorite underdog last year, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump to make the playoffs. This was due largely in part to their pass defense that gave up the third-most yards per game in the league. Brian Duker turned that around after being promoted in the middle of last season, and Detroit will look to help him more with Devon Witherspoon. He was an absolute STUD at Illinois, finishing near the top of the NCAA in completion percentage allowed, incompletions, and passer rating allowed. Witherspoon is a huge get for Detroit, especially after the strange ending to the season for Jeff Okudah that saw him sitting at the bench for portions of Week 16 and 17 before reportedly hurting his elbow in practice before Week 18.
Pick 7 – Las Vegas Raiders: Peter Skoronski, Northwestern, OT
The Raiders' offense will look quite a bit different this year with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, and if they want him to succeed, they need to shore up their offensive line. Enter Peter Skoronski. He has the versatility to play anywhere on the line, so even though he played tackle at Northwestern, he will be able to slot over to guard and fill a big need for Vegas. They could opt for a defense piece here, but after using the franchise tag on Josh Jacobs and bringing in Jimmy G, it makes sense to get their offense in order first.
Pick 8 – Atlanta Falcons: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon, CB
The Falcons have gravitated towards the shiny new toys in the first round of the past two drafts, but they have some pretty glaring needs on defense, leading me to believe they’ll switch gears and draft a top defensive prospect. Christian Gonzalez is arguably the top corner in this year’s draft class, and he would fill a big gap on a defense that ranked 26th in coverage last season. While he does allow a higher completion percentage than some other defensive backs in the class, he’s an expert tackler and can play well in any scheme.
Pick 9 – Chicago Bears: Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech, Edge
The Bears got a haul for the number one overall pick, and they can still end up with a primo player to address their needs on defense with edge rusher Tyree Wilson. Chicago ranked dead last in pressure grade last year, and although they could go with an offensive lineman here, the value you get with Wilson is unmatched. He played as both an inside and outside linebacker in college, and that versatility will go a long way on a defense that is missing several key pieces. What’s more? Wilson has already visited the Bears twice throughout the pre-draft process.
Pick 10 – Philadelphia Eagles: Lukas Van Ness, Iowa, Edge
If I did this draft two weeks ago, I would have had the Eagles taking a cornerback, but with the re-signing of James Bradberry and Darius Slay, that positional need falls down the board a bit. With that signing, their need shifts toward showing up their pass rush after losing Robert Quinn in free agency, and Lukas Van Ness fits the bill. For a guy his size (6’5”), this guy can MOVE, posting a 4.58 40 time at the combine, and his flexibility is unmatched. Philadelphia is about as complete a team as you can get, and Van Ness just makes them that much better.
Pick 11 – Tennessee Titans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, WR
After losing Robert Woods in free agency and trading away AJ Brown in last year’s draft, Tennessee’s wide receiver room is as thin as a wet paper sack. They need help on the offensive line, but if they’re going to compete in the AFC South, they need more weapons, and that’s where Jaxon Smith-Njigba comes in. He’s one of the cleanest route runners in several years, averaging over four yards per route run, and although he was limited by injury, all doubts were quieted after his performance during the pre-draft process. Pairing him with Treylon Burks would be an absolute nightmare to cover (even if it would also be a nightmare for my dynasty shares of Burks).
Pick 12 – Houston Texans: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State, OT
Now that they have their quarterback, the Texans have opted for some protection for him with Paris Johnson Jr. out of Ohio State. Last season, Houston had one of the worst offensive lines in the league, ranking 28th in pass protection, and they can’t afford for their new franchise quarterback to take a beating. Johnson is versatile enough to rotate between guard and tackle, and his technique is already highly developed. If the Texans want to keep their quarterback off the ground, Johnson is their guy.
Pick 13 – New York Jets: Broderick Jones, Georgia, OT
If Johnson gets sniped, look for the Jets to take Broderick Jones at lucky number 13. Mekhi Becton has the talent, but he’s missed a majority of the last two seasons due to injury, preventing the line from really gelling. Jones could be the glue in this jello mold. While at Georgia, Jones was a bulldozer, using his thick lower body to relocate defenders with ease. Assuming Gang Green can get something done to bring in Aaron Rodgers, protecting him will be a number one priority.
Pick 14 – New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr., Penn State, CB
New England wasn’t bad in coverage last season, but they weren’t exactly great, and that’s not characteristic of a Bill Belichick-coached team. Joey Porter Jr. could change all that. In 2022, Porter didn’t allow a single touchdown and he disrupted passes like the Hulk, and in a stout AFC East, that’s exactly what the Patriots need. Would Porter be happy with that? Well, it would definitely make for some interesting soundbites with his father’s well-known disdain for the franchise.
Pick 15 – Green Bay Packers: Quentin Johnston, TCU, WR
At long last, the Packers are finally taking a wide receiver in the first round! After losing several key pieces to free agency, Green Bay’s receiving corps is flatlined…they currently have a total of five receivers on their depth chart. Quentin Johnston is a monster receiver, measuring in at 6’4”, and he has the type of physicality that haunts defenders’ nightmares. Yes, there is some uncertainty at the quarterback position, but the Pack has to get some depth on the roster first.
Pick 16 – Washington Commanders: Anton Harrison, Oklahoma, OT
Washington was ranked near the bottom of the barrel in both run-blocking and pass-protection last season, and if they’re handing Sam Howell the reins to the offense, they have to give him some protection. Anton Harrison won’t be great in run-blocking, but he’s pretty phenomenal in pass protection, only allowing one sack, eight hurries, and zero hits in 2022. Harrison is also a D.C. native, so that’s always a fun storyline.
Pick 17 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh, DL
There’s something about homecomings that make you feel warm and fuzzy, and for the second straight year, the Steelers are taking one of their own in Calijah Kancey. If you haven’t heard the Aaron Donald comparisons by now, you have to own real estate under a rock. They put up nearly identical testing numbers at the combine, they have the same measurables, went to the same school…the list goes on. While the expectations are lofty, Kancey does look every bit the part, and Pittsburgh needs help in the pass rush department.
Pick 18 – Detroit Lions: Bryan Bresee, Clemson, DL
Aiden Hutchinson turned out to be a major disruptor in his rookie season on the edge, but Detroit is still lacking pieces to stop the run. In 2022, they gave up the fourth-most rushing yards per game, and Bryan Breese could be the solution to securing the interior. Although he excels as a pass rusher, he’s versatile enough to play inside, and his quickness can cause an avalanche in the running lanes. The Lions find another piece of the puzzle with this pick.
Pick 19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Levis, Kentucky, Quarterback
Levis was once considered a top-ten pick, but a combination of Anthony Richardson’s ascension and a poor showing at his team interviews knocked Levis down the boards. Still, Tampa Bay is desperate for a quarterback after Tom Brady’s retirement, and they would have another year to develop Levis behind Baker Mayfield. During his time at Kentucky, Levis was up-and-down, but his arm strength is astronomical, so with time, he could develop into a franchise player. And, after all, it can’t hurt to take a chance on a developmental piece when your only two quarterbacks are Mayfield and Kyle Trask.
Pick 20 – Seattle Seahawks: Zay Flowers, Boston College, WR
The Seahawks have a few needs on defense, but the class is so deep, it’s likely that they’ll defer to a later round to address them. With their second pick in the first round, Zay Flowers would finally deliver a reliable third option at receiver. He was outstanding at Boston College, averaging 13.8 yards per reception and 12 touchdowns in 2022. There’s also a prior connection to Geno Smith after a video surfaced of the two training together a few years ago. All in all, it couldn’t hurt, as Tyler Lockett is one of the older receivers in the league.
Pick 21 – Los Angeles Chargers: Nolan Smith, Georgia, Edge
Nolan Smith could have been considered higher in the draft, but the class was so deep, he’s delivering a miracle to the Chargers at pick 21. Smith is hashtag FAST, running a lightning-fast 40 time of 4.39 at the combine…yes, you read that right. His numbers weren’t great in 2022 after an injury-shortened his season, but there’s no denying the athleticism he would bring to the table. Khalil Mack could likely be a cap casualty in 2024, so bringing Smith on would add some insurance to the Bolts’ defense in a stacked AFC West.
Pick 22 – Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Addison, USC, WR
The Ravens have a lot of needs and very few picks to address them with, so I think they go big here and take Jordan Addison at 22nd overall. Even though his numbers weren’t as impressive after transferring to USC last season, there’s no denying his talent. During his last season at Pittsburgh in 2021, Addison won the Biletnikoff Award for the best receiver in the nation after torching the turf with nearly 1600 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is as precise a route runner as you’ll get, and while James Proche and Devin Duvernay are adequate, they’re not really starting caliber. Addison takes Baltimore’s passing game to the next level.
Pick 23 – Minnesota Vikings: Drew Sanders, Arkansas, LB
There are lots of options here for the Vikings, but after the release of Eric Kendricks and the uncertainty surrounding the rest of their run defense, look for Minnesota to take Drew Sanders. His profile in college wasn’t great up until last year, as he was buried in the depth chart at Alabama, but once he transferred to Arkansas, he broke out in a big way (and no, I’m not just saying that because of my fandom). During the 2022 season, Sanders recorded 11 sacks, 39 pressures, and 63 tackles, and he especially thrives when thrown in blitz packages.
Pick 24 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Branch, Alabama, S
The Jaguars have a decent amount of depth at the safety position, but when a multi-purpose player falls this far, you have to grab him. Brian Branch can play at every position, but he excels in the slot where the Jags were particularly weak last year. He’ll be an excellent addition to a team that is looking to make a deep playoff run in 2023.
Pick 25 – New York Giants: Myles Murphy, Clemson, Edge
While the Giants’ defense did make improvements in 2022, it was still pretty mediocre. To make things worse, their depth chart is extremely thin, with only three defensive ends on their roster. Myles Murphy was a beast during his time at Clemson, possessing size and speed rarely seen from an athlete his size. His technique has room for improvement, but the athleticism is something you can’t teach.
Pick 26 – Dallas Cowboys: Mazi Smith, Michigan, DT
Jerry Jones and Co. addressed some of their needs in free agency with the addition of Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore, but there is still work to be done on the defensive line. Mazi Smith was born to play nose tackle, possessing extreme upper body strength and using that to create a brick wall for runners. In 2022, Smith ranked sixth in run stops, and he would be a huge help to a defense that ranked 21st in rush yards per game.
Pick 27 – Buffalo Bills: Bijan Robinson, Texas, RB
Falling this far has nothing to do with Bijan Robinson’s talent; it’s just that the position isn’t as valuable as it used to be. Robinson has been most often compared to Saquon Barkley with his versatility and explosiveness, and during his college career, he forced the most missed tackles in recent memory. The Bills did acquire Damien Harris in free agency, but he’s never been an every-down back, and Buffalo needs an actual bell-cow to round out their offense. They may have more pressing needs, but when a player of this caliber drops this far, you have to take him.
Pick 28 – Cincinnati Bengals: Deonte Banks, Maryland, CB
The Bengals have depth at the cornerback position, but no one really jumps off the page as a shutdown corner, especially with Chidobe Awuzie recovering from an ACL tear suffered midseason. Deonte Banks was as pure of a shutdown as you could get, only allowing a 43% completion rate, and when he did allow catches, he was an effective tackler. With the offseason departure of Jessie Bates and Eli Apple, the Bengals could definitely use a big playmaker in their secondary.
Pick 29 – New Orleans Saints: O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida, G
After adding some important pieces to their offense with Derek Carr and Jamaal Williams, the next step for the Saints is to add some protection. O’Cyrus Torrence was a standout guard at Florida, earning a PFF run grade of 89.9 and allowing no sacks in 2022. He’s a powerful big man with huge hands, and although the Saints still have plenty of depth, he’s not a bad pick to develop for the future.
Pick 30 – Philadelphia Eagles: Daiyan Henley, Washington State, LB
The Eagles drafted Nakobe Dean to fill the hole at middle linebacker last year, but that’s where the depth ends. Daiyan Henley would be the perfect piece to add to Philly’s defensive arsenal. His missed tackle rate of only 5.2% is next level, and although he’s new to playing middle linebacker, the numbers speak for themselves. He is older, finishing last season as a fifth-year senior, so that may be the only knock on his skillset.
Pick 31 – Kansas City Chiefs: Josh Downs, North Carolina, WR
With Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster both gone in free agency, Kansas City has to add some weapons for their half-billion-dollar man at quarterback. Downs is the prototypical slot receiver, earning a relatively low yards-per-catch, but he has the ability to turn those catches into points with 11 touchdowns in 2022. He’s undersized, but when has that ever stopped Patrick Mahomes?
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Related NFL Links:
- 2023 NFL Draft Top Quarterback Prospects: Bryce Young & C.J. Stroud Headline the Rookie QB Class
- 2023 NFL Free Agent Tracker
- 2023 NFL Offseason Recap
- 2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Strategy: NFL Team Stacks to Target in Best Ball Drafts
- Quick Out Fantasy Football Podcast: Dynasty Fantasy Football Wide Receivers