NFL Draft: First round mock draft
Aidan Thomas | Thursday, April 27, 2023
The NFL Draft is starting. Every year, the draft is a source of hope for bottom-feeder teams that are looking to rebuild, and a starting point for contenders to fill missing pieces on their championship-hopeful rosters. The first round is Thursday night, and with it comes some of the most exciting prospects in college football. But beyond the first round, the draft provides seven chances, more or less for some teams, to draft immediate contributors for their roster.
The Jets got the offensive and defensive Rookies of the Year in the first round last year. The Chiefs found running back Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round steal who ended up scoring in their Super Bowl victory. The gems are there to be found, but so are plenty of busts. With that being said, here’s a crack at an ideal first round for all teams picking Thursday. Look out for an ideal second and third round mock to come out before the second day of the draft. The number next to each team represents the first pick that team has in the draft.
Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB
Don’t overthink it. You traded a package, now go get the best quarterback in the draft.
Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR (12th pick)
Kickstart your rebuild with the next-best quarterback, and pair him up with his college receiver, and probably the best receiver in the class.
Arizona Cardinals: Jalen Carter, DL
The Cardinals are more likely to move this pick, but getting the best defensive lineman for a team that could use the help in the trenches isn’t a bad idea. Look for them to trade down and secure one of the top offensive linemen in the class, however.
Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB
The Colts missed their chance at Young or Stroud by not trading up, and they need to secure a quarterback. I think the drop-off after Richardson is too great to not pick him up at No. 4.
Seattle Seahawks: Will Anderson, Edge, O’Cyrus Torrence, OG (20th pick)
The Seahawks will salivate if they get the best edge prospect in the class at No. 5, addressing their biggest position of need. Additionally, Torrence might be the best interior offensive lineman available, so this would be a fantastic Thursday night for Seattle.
Detroit Lions: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Dalton Kincaid, TE (18th pick)
If I’m picking a way-too-early defensive rookie of the year right now, it’s Gonzalez. The Lions failed with the Jeff Okudah pick and get a redo here. Later in the first round, look for them to target Kincaid to replace T.J. Hockenson … or Michael Mayer if the Notre Dame product slips.
Las Vegas Raiders: Peter Skoronski, OT
Skoronski is the best tackle in this class, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. The Raiders get the protection they need for new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with a well-spent seventh pick.
Atlanta Falcons: Devon Witherspoon, CB
The Falcons will gladly take Gonzalez if he falls, but Witherspoon is ranked higher on many draft boards. He brings high-end talent to a shaky Atlanta secondary.
Chicago Bears: Calijah Kancey, DL
The Bears could go in a lot of different directions here, including maybe Tyree Wilson or Paris Johnson. But I love the raw athleticism of Calijah Kancey, and the Bears could get an absolute stud for their defensive line.
Philadelphia Eagles: Tyree Wilson, Edge, Bijan Robinson, RB (30th pick)
This is maybe too ideal. But who’s taking Bijan Robinson? The Eagles may go after him with the No. 10 pick, but I wouldn’t. Get a premier edge-rushing prospect, like Wilson, and then focus on running back later, where mid-round prospects offer more bang for your buck. But, in some mocks, Robinson slips due to the concern about drafting running backs early. Could the Eagles get both?
Tennessee Titans: Paris Johnson, OT
The Titans need a tackle, and Johnson is pretty clearly the second-best in the class. Grab him, worry about the rest (which is a lot for the Titans) later.
Green Bay Packers: Michael Mayer, TE
The Packers need a tight end. Mayer is the best in the class, despite some analysts overthinking this one. Get new quarterback Jordan Love a solid rookie weapon with your first pick.
New England Patriots: Zay Flowers, WR
If Johnson, Witherspoon or Gonzalez slips down to this pick, I like the Patriots to snag one of them. With those three gone, New England goes to the receiver position and gets Zay Flowers. He’s my way-too-early offensive rookie of the year pick right now and a local product out of Boston College.
New York Jets: Broderick Jones, OT
You just got Aaron Rodgers. Protect him at all costs. Unless you want Zach Wilson quarterbacking again.
Washington Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., CB
Quarterback? Maybe, but I don’t like Will Levis … at all. Instead, the Commanders address the secondary, which is another major need, and Porter is a great prospect overshadowed by Gonzalez and Witherspoon.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Darnell Wright, OT
Protect Pickett. The Steelers got a promising look at Kenny Pickett last year, and now it’s time to protect him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Levis, QB
I don’t like Will Levis. But without this pick, it’s Kyle Trask right now for Tampa Bay, and is that any better? Levis probably goes in the first round, even if I don’t love his pro prospects, and this might be the best fit.
Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR
Addison is an electric weapon that could fuel a Los Angeles offense that was really good but ran into trouble with Keenan Allen’s injuries and Mike Williams’ inconsistencies at receiver. He’s a young talent who spent his final collegiate season in Los Angeles.
Baltimore Ravens: Quentin Johnston, WR
Give Lamar a weapon. That’s it.
Minnesota Vikings: Deonte Banks, CB
More cornerbacks? I think it’s a really deep cornerback class, and the Vikings need help at the position.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Murphy, Edge
A great edge prospect, and the Jaguars should jump at the chance to get him if he’s available at No. 24.
New York Giants: Josh Downs, WR
This is a reach for Downs, and I’m expecting the Giants to aggressively try and land one of the top four receivers by trading up. But they just extended Daniel Jones, and now it’s time to get him a first-round type of weapon. They could also go offensive tackle for the second season in a row, but I think receiver is the better pick.
Dallas Cowboys: Mazi Smith, DT
Mazi Smith or Bryan Bresee? I could see Dallas going with either option here, but defensive line is a good spot to get value late in the first round, especially with the top four corners and top five receivers all off the board.
Buffalo Bills: Bryan Bresee, DL
The Bills could also use interior offensive line help and receiver help, but I’m not sure there’s value there with any of the available prospects. Bresee boosts a defensive line that needed some upgrading and depth anyways.
Cincinnati Bengals: Anton Harrison, OT
The Bengals need a first-round talent at offensive tackle, and Harrison provides that. This is a great fit if Cincinnati can land the Oklahoma product.
New Orleans Saints: Nolan Smith, Edge
Smith could go much higher, but I like the potential of the Georgia product going here. I think there’s more explosive and dynamic prospects that go earlier, but as far as a late first-round addition, Smith is great value.
Kansas City Chiefs: Lukas Van Ness, Edge
The Chiefs might want to go wide receiver, but I don’t think there’s six first-round receivers out there. I don’t even think there’s five, but I could see some teams getting desperate. Edge is another position where the Chiefs could improve, and Van Ness is the best available at this point.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.