Way Too Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft

Matthew Durgin

It’s too early for this, but doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead. Order is decided by Super Bowl odds.

1. Houston Texans- Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

I was much more impressed with Young that I was with Stroud in 2021, so he gets the nod for the first overall pick at this point. Young’s not the biggest guy, but he has a strong arm with deadly accuracy. If the Texans are indeed this bad, it means Davis Mill isn’t the answer and it’ll be time to find a face of the franchise.

2. Detroit Lions- CJ Stroud, QB Ohio State

It’s not Stroud’s fault he was throwing to three first-round receivers last year, but it does mean he didn’t have to make too many throws. I do think he wasn’t as good as his stats dictate, but he was also a redshirt freshman. With another year of growth and continuing to show off his strong arm, Stroud will be a high pick. The Lions desperately will need a new signal-caller as they continue their rebuild.

3. New York Jets- Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama

Let me just start by saying that the Jets won’t be drafting in the top-five unless something goes wrong. They are going to be a 7-8 win team this year. Will Anderson is also the top player in this draft and will be the first overall pick should that team not have a need at quarterback. Anderson is Von Miller 2.0 and would have been the top prospect in this past draft. This is an unlikely scenario, but man would it be fun.

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

Smith-Njigba was the best receiver on a stacked Ohio State offense in 2021, and I would expect him to put up even bigger numbers in 2022. He doesn’t have great size but is a prolific route-runner who can beat you in just about every way. The Falcons need to continue to develop receivers as it seems Calvin Ridley isn’t in their long-term plans.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars- Brian Bresee, DL, Clemson

Coming out of high school, Breese had more hype than any other prospect in his class. He’s shown flashes of that skill at Clemson but tore his ACL early in 2021. Assuming he can stay healthy, there’s a strong chance he will be an All-American and top-ten pick. For the Jaguars sake, I hope Baalke is gone by the next draft. If he is, whoever has the longest arms will be the pick.

6. New York Giants- Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami

The top two quarterbacks are unanimous right now with Young and Stroud battling for the top spot. After that, there are plenty of options but no standouts. Van Dyke intrigues me but isn’t the prototypical quarterback in today’s game. He’s a decent athlete but loves to sit in the pocket and throw the ball with an exceptional touch. From an arm talent standpoint, he’s the best option here. Daniel Jones sucks and won’t be on the Giants next year. Thank God.

7. Carolina Panthers- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Matt Rhule’s seat is scorching hot so I don’t think there’s a chance he’s back next year. That means a new quarterback is on the way. Kentucky has a funky offense that’s not catered to showcasing a quarterback, but Levis still performed well. He does need to cut down on the turnovers there, but as he enters his second season as a starter I’m confident in that

8. Seattle Seahawks- Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

The Georgia defense was unfairly stacked last year and that’s why you shouldn’t even look at Carter’s stats from last year. They don’t tell the full story. Carter can do a little bit of everything and is versatile enough to play in any defense. The Seahawks seem content with Drew Lock, so rebuilding this poor defense could be the play. They also have a second first round pick to look at that position.

9. Chicago Bears- Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh

As of the time this article was released, I have no idea where Addison is playing next year. There are rumors of him going to USC, but regardless of where he plays, I fully expect him to ball out once again. He was Kenny Pickett’s go-to guy in 2021 and was electric anytime he touched the ball. The Bears need that kind of playmaker.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers- Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

There’s no clear-cut top offensive lineman for next year. Johnson Jr. fits the profile of a versatile and athletic guy from a big school, so he’s going to have plenty of chances to show how good he is. The Steelers offense isn’t all that good and they have no clear tackle for the future. Have to protect Pickett and Najee Harris.

11. Washington Commanders- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Baby Gronk was ready to play in the NFL coming out of high school. He has the size and the pass-catching ability to make an impact right away. Also, he’s from Notre Dame so you know he’s a solid run-blocker. The Commanders need more weapons if they think the Carson Wentz experience is going to work.

12. Philadelphia Eagles- Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

The running back position has close to no draft value now, but Robinson is a different animal. Seriously, he is probably the best skill player in college football right now. Ok, maybe it’s Smith-Njigba, but it’s close. If the Eagles are dedicated to Hurts, they need to find a stable running back who can carry the rock 20+ times a game.

13. Las Vegas Raiders- Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

By transferring to Alabama, expect Ricks to really take off as a player. He was very highly recruited and played well as a freshman in 2020. If he can stay healthy, he will develop into a lockdown corner. In the AFC West, you’ll need to find several good corners to keep up with those quarterbacks so expect the Raiders to improve on this part of the defense for years to come.

14. Minnesota Vikings- Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

We could be seeing a dominant Clemson defense in 2022. Murphy pairs with Bresee to form a strong one-two punch on the defensive line and can be a double-digit sack guy as a pro. The Vikings can’t rely on Danielle Hunter as he’s been injured and the subject to trade rumors. Have to get younger on that side of the ball.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints)- Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

It’s back-to-back years where the Eagles have multiple first-round picks. I was surprised that the team didn’t address the secondary in the early rounds this year, which means they’ll focus on it next offseason. Ringo is another Georgia defender who is an absolute stud. He’s best known for the pick-six in the National Title Game that all but gave Georgia the win.

16. Miami Dolphins- Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina

I remember watching Grimes in 2020 and the announcers salivating over the fact that Grimes left high school early and was starting for a very competitive North Carolina team. When you factor in his age and experience, Grimes has the pedigree of a first-round pick. The Dolphins need some depth and youth in the secondary, especially since Byron Jones has an out in his contract after this season.

17. New England Patriots- BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU

The brother of Azeez, BJ is the next Ojulari pass rusher to play in the NFL. BJ is best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker where he can use his speed off of the edge, though he does need to get stronger. Bill Belichick loves players who he can develop and mold into superstars. Ojulari fits that bill.

18. Arizona Cardinals- Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan

Like I said earlier, the tackle class doesn’t appear to be strong. Hayes is more experienced than most players on this list with 18 career starts at left tackle. He can take another step forward in 2022. The Cardinals need to eventually invest in their offensive line to protect Kyler Murray. If they don’t, things won’t end well.

19. Tennessee Titans- Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

After losing so much offensive production after the 2020 season, someone on North Carolina had to step up. That person was Downs, who had over 1,300 yards receiving as a sophomore. He’s small, but quick and is a big play waiting to happen. Without AJ Brown, the Titans will need all of the explosiveness they can get.

20. Indianapolis Colts- Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Yes, what you’re thinking is correct. Porter Jr.’s father is the long-time Steelers pass rusher and we are officially old. Porter Jr. is long and athletic and I thought he could have been a late first or early second-rounder if he came out this past year. Despite a strong roster, the Colts need a shutdown corner who has room to improve.

21. Baltimore Ravens- Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

Scouts love Boutte and he’s been hyped ever since he enrolled at LSU. I personally haven’t seen it yet, but LSU has had shaky quarterback play the last two years. Lamar Jackson needs more weapons and they just traded Hollywood Brown. That’s not good for his maturation as a passer so look for them to acquire cheap but talented pass-catchers over the next few years.

22. Cincinnati Bengals- Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

Phillips II is a big game player and he seems to be an excellent leader on top of it all. Guys with his makeup are valued highly because they’re able to play right away and see that they have a pretty high floor. If Eli Apple is still starting for the Bengals in 2022, they are doomed. Please be smart about this Cincy.

23. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)- Arik Gilbert, TE, Georgia

Gilbert has had an interesting career to this point, only playing in eight games in 2020 before not playing at all in 2021 as he transferred to Georgia. Despite the Georgia offense not being too pass-heavy and Gilbert being the second-best tight end on his own team, behind Brock Bowers, Gilbert is a mismatch nightmare. I’m not saying he’s Kyle Pitts, but he’s plays a similar style. Whoever is the quarterback for the Texans needs a playmaker like that.

24. Dallas Cowboys- Zion Nelson, OT, Miami

In my way too early mock draft for 2022, I had Nelson as a first-round pick. He probably would have been a Day 2 selection should he decided to come out but made the wise decision to return to school. Expect Miami to be very dangerous this year. He can be the left tackle of the future as the Cowboys can move on from Tyron Smith.

25. Los Angeles Chargers- Ainias Smith, WR, Texas A&M

I have trouble calling Smith a wide receiver because he is really just an offensive weapon. He’s lined up in the slot, out wide, and in the backfield. The Texas A&M quarterbacks have failed him, but he will be a better pro than college player. The Chargers need more weapons as they build around Justin Herbert.

26. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos)- Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina

We don’t think of Coastal Carolina as a powerhouse program, but they’ve won twenty-two games the last two years and a big reason for that is McCall. He’s an accurate passer with great mobility. I worry about his arm strength, but he has shown to be accurate down the field. The Seahawks will see him as a long-term developmental quarterback with massive upside.

27. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)- Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

Noah, the brother of Penei, is as physical of a linebacker as you’ll see. Despite being 250 pounds, he’s got quick feet and can rush the quarterback, as well as drop into coverage. Who knows if Tua is the guy at quarterback, but let’s assume he is. The Dolphins will love as many versatile defenders as possible.

28. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame

Joseph is another name that was featured in the way too early 2021 mock draft a year ago, but battled injuries on a bad Northwestern team. Now, at Notre Dame, he figures to play in a lot more big games and fill the Kyle Hamilton role on the defense. Despite drafting Jeff Okudah, the Lions secondary needs a ballhawk.

29. Green Bay Packers- Brenton Cox, EDGE, Florida

I’m sure the Packers are content with Gary and Smith as their edge rushers, but they could still use some depth at the position. I’m surprised Cox didn’t declare for the 2022 draft, but a big year can propel him into the top fifteen. He has the size and the production but just needs to take it to the next level as a pass rusher.

30. Kansas City Chiefs- Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

I really like Foskey’s game. He broke out in 2021 with eleven sacks, but I’m impressed with his run defending on the edge. I’m not sure if he ever becomes a superstar in the NFL, but I do think he becomes a very solid player. The Chiefs did draft George Karlaftis, but this will be Frank Clark’s last year as a Chief. They need more juice on the edge.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- DJ Uiagaelei, QB, Clemson

In his freshman season in 2020, Uiagaelei looked like a possible top overall pick. His blend of size, athleticism, and arm strength is special. However, as the full-time starter in 2021, DJ and the rest of the Clemson offense were horrible as he struggled with his accuracy and reading the field. Huge boom or bust potential. If you let him sit for a season or two under Brady though, he could turn into a high-level starter.

32. Buffalo Bills- Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Gibbs could very well become a running back in the NFL who catches 100 passes a year. He performed well in his two years on a crappy Georgia Tech team but now figures to be a huge part of Alabama’s offense. Talk about an upgrade. The Bills drafted James Cook in the second, but using him in a running back by committee approach will save his legs. Plus, you could theoretically use them both on the field at the same time.