I know some are saying to themselves, “Really? A 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft! REALLY! A 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft!” I would say to those this is more of an exercise and a start to the evaluation of the new crop of eligible prospects or for some prospects a continuation in the evaluation process. We have nearly a year to go so I wanted to give my 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft before the college football season got under way, post 2022 NFL Draft. What do teams still need going into their offseason programs and upcoming training camps? Well let me see if I can solve some of those questions and concerns with the available crop of 2023 draft eligible college prospects. Maybe I will enlighten you on a few names you are unfamiliar with and others not so much.
1. Atlanta Falcons – Will Anderson – EDGE/OLB – Alabama Twitchy, explosive and versatile. The best player for the past two years in college football. As well of a draft they had in 2022 the Atlanta Falcons must continue that with adding an immediate impact player.
2. Houston Texans – Bryce Young – QB – Alabama The first quarterback off the board in this 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft. Bryce Young has all the accolades at the most important single position in football. He is proven and the coolest cat in the pocket when things are failing apart. The only way I don’t see the Texans getting a quarterback here is if Davis Mills balls out.
3. Detroit Lions – CJ Stroud – QB – Ohio State His ability to put the ball where he wants with the proper touch as well as his athletic ability to either keep plays alive or get what’s there with his legs gives the Lions something they don’t quite have with Jared Goff.
4. Seattle Seahawks – Will Levis – QB – Kentucky Big, strong, athletic kid who can be a part of what Seattle wants to do which is run the ball. What comes with a team who wants to run the ball? Play-action and Levis is excellent when turning his back to the defense and getting his head around and finding the open man.
5. New York Jets – Jalen Carter – DL – Georgia The violence and disruptions he causes up front is so fun to watch. With the Jets implementing that Cover 3 defense, you have to get to the passer! What better way than from either defensive tackle positions.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kayshon Boutte – WR – LSU It was cute and all that the Jaguars decided to sign Zay Jones and Christian Kirk but they are still lacking a true #1 wide receiver for their franchise player in Trevor Lawrence. Kayshon Boutte is always a catch away from going the distance, so decisive and explosive in the open field.
7. Carolina Panthers – Tyler Van Dyke – QB – Miami New coaching staff! New quarterback! Their guy! What better way to get a guy who in my early evaluation of Van Dyke has no limitations physically. He took a sliding Miami team and put them on his back and carried them. It was stated by former UM coach, they didn’t restrict him on the playbook from his first start.
8. Chicago Bears – Quentin Johnston – WR – TCU Finally the Bears address the biggest need on the team with a guy in Quentin Johnston, who can win on the outside with quicks and speed as well as 50/50 balls. Not a guy who is going to wait but attack the ball in the air.
9. New York Giants – Kelee Ringo – CB – Georgia Physical, feisty, fast and attacks the ball in the air! This is a dream scenario for the New York Giants and Don Martindale. As we know, Martindale likes to leave his cornerbacks on an island and Ringo would be right at home.
10. Washington Commanders – Blake Freeland – OT – BYU This is one mystery I think most had with the Commanders not addressing the need of offensive line this past offseason. Well I have that taken care of that here with possibly the best pass protecting offensive tackle coming out.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Paris Johnson Jr. – OT – Ohio State I know there are mixed reviews on what the Steelers are up front on the offensive line for the upcoming season. I think I’m on the fence, but with this pick I can come off the fence and be ok with what they look like with Paris Johnson Jr. who is moving to left tackle for the Buckeyes this college football season. His natural position. When those feet and hands match you are not getting around him.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Nolan Smith – EDGE/LB Georgia Reviewing the Za’Darius Smith signing the Vikings have an out after this year with only a 3.3 mil cap hit of dead money. Hence the selection of Nolan Smith who I believe may have the highest celling at the position of edge/outside linebacker. We may never know until he is unleashed from the restraints of the Georgia defense. What I do know is he is the best edge defender in college football!
13. Philadelphia Eagles – Eli Ricks – CB – Alabama Formerly of LSU, Ricks played a ton of off coverage and zone with the Tigers. He’d fit right at home with the Eagles and what they do on defense. Keep everything in front of you and make the tackle. Ricks is someone who will attack the ball and look to make a play. Something lacking on this defense. We will get more man looks with him now at Alabama, so this may change the perception of some after this upcoming college football season of what Ricks is truly capable of.
14. Las Vegas Raiders – Bryan Breese – DL – Clemson I’m truly intrigued by Breese’s versatility (can one gap or two gap) and love his lateral movement. He can get to plays that I don’t think he is suppose too and causes so much disruption up front. This is an add that would keep Max Crosby and Chandler Jones in favorable one-on-one matchups.
15. Miami Dolphins – Bijan Robinson – RB – Texas I know there are a ton of running backs on the roster and that is how the Shanahan/McDaniel thought process goes in regard to the running back position as they are all similar. But let me tell you not one of them are of the talent of Bijan Robinson. They each may have an element of him but he is the entire package. Explosive, patient, elusive, fast and that’s to name just a few of his talents. I dare to say he may be better than anyone from that very impressive 2017 NFL draft class at the RB position.
16. New England Patriots – Jaxon Smith-Njiba – WR – Ohio State We can give kudos and congratulations to the Patriots as we know they built a dynasty. But the one position we know they have lacked even during the dynasty at times was the wide receiver position. This is the pick that begins to close that open wound of an eyesore that is the wide receiver room. JSN (Jaxon Smith-Njiba) is savvy, calculated, reliable, and dynamic with the ball in his hands.
17. Tennessee Titans – Josh Downs – WR – UNC Prototypical small receiver with speed to burn. Downs will be an absolute nightmare for any linebacker, safety or cornerback. Robert Woods, the newly added Treylon Burks and Josh Downs gives this Titans offense some variety and thus some issues defenses will have to contend with other than Derrick Henry and the run game.
18. Houston Texans – BJ Ojulari – EDGE – LSU Complements of the DeShaun Watson trade, the Texans are needing more than edge setters for their defense. Insert, BJ Ojulari the younger brother of Azeez Ojulari, 2nd Round 2021 NFL Draft pick. Ojulari is the epitome of speed to power from the edge with a bevy of moves. Ojulari opposite Greenard would be a nice tandem of book-edge players.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Zion Tupuola-Fetui – EDGE/OLB – Washington Howie Roseman has done a masterful job this past offseason both in the draft as well as in free agency. Using voidable years to manipulate the cap, he was able to keep the defensive line in tack. Whether those players retire or are outright released in 2023, Philadelphia will need someone to come in and make an immediate impact. Zion Tupuola-Fetui can do this and do this consistently and effectively. He is a playmaker and a production machine. Even after coming off an Achilles injury last year he appeared to be the same player once re-entering the lineup.
20. Baltimore Ravens – Noah Sewell – ILB – Oregon Looking at this Ravens roster particularly at the second level they are missing a more consentient linebacker who is going to be where he’s supposed to be and make plays. While Patrick Queen who hasn’t quite lived up to what I think his potential can be, he may finally come out of his shell by slotting Noah Sewell right next to him. Our first inside linebacker off the board in my 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft. While Queen’s game is more predicated on his traits and attributes Sewell’s is based on instincts and play recognition.
21. Arizona Cardinals – Joey Porter Jr. – CB – Penn State This is when board meets HUGE need! Porter Jr. is a big, physical comer who has that click and close you want from the position. Along with his ability to play in the slot. See ball go get ball guy minus the production.
22. Seattle Seahawks – Jarrett Patterson – C – Notre Dame This pick is the continuation of what they did in the 2022 draft when they added Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas at left and right tackle respectfully. Jarrett Patterson is very adept at peeling off blocks, finding the free man and turning and sealing defenders off.
23. Los Angeles Chargers – Michael Mayer – TE – Notre Dame One of the few teams in the league who don’t have any concerns or upgrades needed if they stay healthy. If we want to nit-pick we could go with the offensive line or wide receiver but lets split the difference and get someone who can contribute on both ends. Michael Mayer is a big man who uses his body well to shield off defenders. He’s also a load to bring down once he gets going in the open field. He also holds up well when he plays with good leverage and gets his arms extended as an in-line blocker.
24. Miami Dolphins – Isaiah Foskey – EDGE/OLB – Notre Dame Out of all the top edge/outside linebackers he may be the best in coverage and making it tough for those he is covering whether in man or zone. He is willing to put hands on folk either knocking them off their route or taking them away entirely as an option. He has the least amount of tools of all the top edge/outside linebacker prospects but the tools he possesses are extremely well refined and used to perfection.
25. Indianapolis Colts – Will Rodgers – QB – Miss St. The first ever freshmen to start for Mike Leach. This speaks to his maturity and understanding of what it takes to play the position. Throwing for over forty seven hundred yards and thirty-six touchdowns and nine interceptions. An effortless thrower who will give his guy a chance to make a play.
26. Dallas Cowboys – Kyu Blu Kelly – CB – Stanford A longer, more physical and fast corner who attacks the ball in the air. Kelly is not the play maker Trevon Diggs is, but why can’t he be? He had eleven pass break ups and two interceptions last season. Tied for ninth in passes defended in the country in 2021 per https://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/individual/38 . Food for thought Cowboy fan.
27. Cincinnati Bengals – Myles Murphy – EDGE – Clemson Another rotational piece to the defensive line that could use more talent as they go for another Super Bowl run. Myles Murphy is a power edge player who is a extremely hard to get off his spot when defending the edge.
28. Detroit Lions – Jordan Battle – S – Alabama Head Coach Dan Campbell and General Manger Brad Holmes are putting together “a stick.” I have said and will continue to say versatility is the new safety and Jordan Battle is the definition of this very phrase. He can cover on the back end, in the slot and come down in the box to defend the run. He would bring the work in progress of the Lions defense that much closer to completion as well as multiple.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Addison – WR – USC Jordan Addison who played a good bit in the slot for Pittsburgh, can do the same here. I know he doesn’t fit the type of receiver the Packers look for being only 6’0 175 lbs. but has the production and hardware (2021 Biletnikoff Award) you want from the position as well as some short area quickness that allows him to win at the line of scrimmage and in the slot.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Derrick Hall – EDGE/OLB – Auburn Frank Clark out Derrick Hall in. We all know Steve Spagnuolo loves to be multiple on defense and throw the kitchen sink at the opponent. Hall gives you this as he was used in a multitude of ways for the Auburn Tigers in that front seven. Stand up rusher, hand in the ground, inside and out, as well as dropped into coverage and matched up man to man to backs and tight ends.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trenton Simpson – LB – Clemson We know Lavonte David can’t play forever and with him getting up there in age (32) you have to ask yourself, “Who will replace him?” Simpson has the same sideline-to-sideline and backside clean up ability David had coming out of college. What separates college David from NFL David is his play making ability. Could Trenton Simpson have a similar professional trajectory for the Bucs?
32. Buffalo Bills – Henry To’o To’o – LB – Alabama With Tremaine Edmunds in the last year of his deal here is his replacement in To’o To’o. He has what Edmunds lacks, instincts! Athleticism and physical traits can only get you so far at the linebacker position. If you don’t have instincts you will eventually become a liability.
I will do several more installments of the 2023 Way too Early Mock NFL Draft once training camp is under way and before the college football season begins.
Since you are here go ahead and check out CPGM Headley’s ONE Question out of the 2022 NFL Draft series broken down by division: