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Mike Randle’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft – Final

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It is time. The 2023 NFL Draft is less than one day away, and we have finally started to get clarity on the litany of rumors that have circulated throughout social media for the past two months. Gathering information and trying to predict the first round is one of my favorite exercises of the sports year. This season brings even more uncertainty, as there are possibly five quarterbacks that could go in Round 1, with the overwhelming favorite for the first overall pick drastically changing in the past month. 

 

After dissecting and digesting all of the information from our vault of FTN resources, here is the second of my two Round 1 mock drafts. 

Mike Randle’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft — 2.0 

1. Carolina Panthers — Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Bryce Young is still the overwhelming favorite to be drafted first overall, sitting at -1000 on DraftKings. Young has canceled his upcoming pre-draft visits, and the former Heisman Trophy winner profiles as the best all-around quarterback in the draft. 

After watching Paolo Banchero make a historic odds move the night before the NBA Draft, bettors started believing the Reddit rumor about Will Levis. I’m ignoring that noise. Barring anything unforeseen, I should be cashing this bet from April 10 on PointsBet: 

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2. Houston Texans — Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

The key to an accurate mock draft is knowing when to believe the rumors and when to ignore them. I don’t believe the Texans, who are in desperate need of a quarterback, would pass on Will Levis here. Houston certainly needs a quarterback, and the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Levis is compared favorably to Buffalo’s Josh Allen. He has a superior arm but needs to work on accuracy and consistency. He is a polarizing prospect, but his supporters are certainly passionate. 

3. Arizona Cardinals — Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Reports are surfacing that  Arizona has Tyree Wilson higher on their board than Will Anderson, and still could take Paris Johnson Jr. as the best offensive tackle available. If Wilson goes No. 2, then I think it’s Paris Johnson at this pick. Tony Pauline also reported that teams have inquired about trading up with Arizona with the purpose of taking an offensive lineman. That would definitely be Johnson, cashing him as the third overall pick either way. 

4. Indianapolis Colts — CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State

The buzz around Anthony Richardson has cooled, and Kentucky’s Will Levis is now the favorite to go fourth overall to Indianapolis. However, suppose Levis is not there? 

The only quarterback in this class that could start this year is CJ Stroud. I don’t see him falling past the Colts, who would need to go the entire year with Gardner Minshew if they chose the athletic but raw, Anthony Richardson. 

5. Seattle Seahawks — Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama

If Seattle cuts Geno Smith next year, they will owe  him $17 million. Pete Carroll is 71 years old, and believes his team can contend in a weak NFC Conference. The Seahawks need help on the defensive line, and I think they pass on a quarterback for an elite pass rusher when Anderson unexpectedly falls.  

6. Detroit Lions — Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Let’s not overthink this. The Lions just traded away former No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah to Atlanta for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. Okudah started last season but was benched late in the year. He played in just 10 games his first two seasons with core muscle and Achilles injuries.

The Lions view themselves as a contender from the NFC North and a playoff team. They ranked just 23rd in pass defense DVOA last season (per Football Outsiders) and have the draft position to grab an elite quarterback.  I see Christian Gonzalez is a better overall prospect than Illinois Devon Witherspoon. Gonzalez is a better athlete, faster, and has a more accomplished resume. That is the exact profile that a playoff-hungry team like the Lions covet. 

7. Las Vegas Raiders — Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech

Wilson surprisingly falls as a result of the Paris Johnson Jr. move, falling into the lap of Las Vegas. 

8. Atlanta Falcons — Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

I’m staying with Bijan Robinson to Atlanta. While the Raiders have preached “best player available” all summer, the Falcons have lived that mantra every year, especially with the selection of tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick of the 2021 draft. This is the third year of head coach Arthur Smith’s contract, and the Falcons need to improve on their consecutive 7-10 seasons. They are a run-first team, with an offensive line that our own Dan Fornek ranked third in the NFL. They will not enter this season with fifth-round running back Tyler Allgeier as their leading rusher. Robinson is an incredible prospect and fits the offensive philosophy of Atlanta. Be true to who you are, and grab the best running back available in the last four years. 

9. Chicago Bears — Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

I talked with Bears beat reporter Jacob Infante, who said convincingly this is Carter’s floor. 

10. Philadelphia Eagles — Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Eagles fail to move up to acquire Paris Johnson, and pivot away from Northwestern guard Peter Skoronski when Witherspoon falls. 

 

11. Tennessee Titans — Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

I can’t see the Titans leaving this draft without a quarterback. Houston and Indianapolis will secure their signal-caller, Jacksonville has Trevor Lawrence, but Tennessee fails to match? Richardson could easily slide if the Colts prefer CJ Stroud. If Seattle passes at No. 5, Tennessee may not even have to trade up. 

12. Houston Texans — Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

When I talked with ESPN’s Houston Texans beat reporter DJ Bien-Aime, he stressed how the interior part of the Texans line needs help. Per Dan Fornek, the interior combination of Kenyon Green, Scott Quessenberry and A.J. Cann struggled, allowing a combined 117 pressures and 16 sacks on the season. Houston solves that problem with the best interior lineman in the draft. 

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

The irony of the Packers taking a first-round wide receiver in their first season without Aaron Rodgers is too good to pass up. Jaxon Smith-Njigba produced an incredible sophomore season, posting 95 receptions, 1,606 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns for Ohio State. He has superior agility, but only ran 4.53 at the Buckeyes Pro Day. He missed most of last season with a hamstring injury, and recent rumors have him falling on draft boards. The mock draft community seems much higher on Smith-Njigba than the NFL scouts and coaching staffs. The Jets are currently -280 at DraftKings to select an offensive lineman, so it’s just a matter of picking the right one. If the Jets do, in fact, trade for Aaron Rodgers, protecting the near-40-year-old year old quarterback is the absolute top priority. 

14. New England Patriots — Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

It’s very hard to project what the Patriots will do with their first-round pick. Their current DraftKings odds for First Drafted Player are +225 cornerback, +225 offensive lineman and +240 wide receiver. There is great value if we can solve this puzzle. Flowers is a local star from Boston College who impressed at the Shrine Bowl, and met with the Patriots in early-April. An explosive slot receiver would be a huge chess piece for an offense in need of playmakers. This would also cash Flowers at +500 to be the first wide receiver off the board. 

15. New York Jets — Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

The Jets are currently -280 at DraftKings to select an offensive lineman, so it’s just a matter of picking the right one. With the trade for Aaron Rodgers now official, protecting the near-40-year-old year old quarterback is the absolute top priority. 

16. Washington Commanders — Brian Branch, S, Alabama

Brian Branch is widely considered the best safety in the draft, with the Alabama pedigree as a bonus. As the most versatile defensive back in the draft, teams have been highlighting Branch’s ability to play outside cornerback, slot cornerback, or free safety. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about Branch, “Plug-and-play defensive back with every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career.” Defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera gets one of the safest picks in this year’s draft. 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers — Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Darnell Wright is a massive 6-foot-6, 335-pound Tennessee Volunteer, who earned high praise from ESPN’s Louis Riddick:

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has the Steelers taking Joey Porter Jr. While legacy is certainly attractive, solidifying their offensive line with a young quarterback takes precedence. 

18. Detroit Lions — Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia

 

20. Seattle Seahawks — John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

Several teams are eying the best center in the draft, and after fortifying their defensive line with Wilson, Seattle grabs a player they have spent significant time meeting. 

21. Los Angeles Chargers — Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa

 

22. Baltimore Ravens — Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

 

23. Minnesota Vikings — Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars — Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

 

25. New York Giants — Joe Tippman, C, Wisconsin

 

26. Dallas Cowboys — Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

 

27. Buffalo Bills — Mazi Smith, DE, Michigan

 

28. Cincinnati Bengals — Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

 

29. New Orleans Saints — Will McDonald, EDGE, Iowa State 

 

30. Philadelphia Eagles — Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs — Anton Harrison, OL, Oklahoma

Kansas City hosted Darnell Wright and Anton Harrison just a week ago, and the 21-year-old Harrison would replace Andrew Wylie at right tackle. He is a raw but talented prospect and is the Chiefs’ choice after Darnell Wright goes off the board earlier in Round 1. 

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