2023 NFL mock draft 3.0: DeMeco Ryans' Texans take their QB — and Sean Payton's Broncos take one too
The college all-star games are under way, which means it’s officially draft season. You know what comes with draft season: mock drafts. Here’s a brand spanking new one for you beautiful readers that will lead to some healthy debate with no name-calling. Let’s be real, none of us have a crystal ball. Just trying to play out some scenarios and see what happens.
1. Chicago Bears
Georgia DL Jalen Carter
The Bears very well might trade this pick, but they aren’t doing so here because this mock draft does not predict trades. They keep Justin Fields and add a potential All-Pro defensive tackle in Carter. The Bears need to add some blue-chip talent to their roster and Carter certainly has a chance to be that.
2. Houston Texans
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
Houston has its head coach, now it has a quarterback to pair with DeMeco Ryans. Stroud is coming off the game of his life against Georgia in the College Football Playoff and has the skills to become the next franchise quarterback in Houston.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
The Cardinals just need to take whichever one of Jalen Carter or Anderson is available at their pick. Anderson falls to No. 3 and he’s headed to Arizona to try and help fix the pass rush.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Alabama QB Bryce Young
Jim Irsay hasn’t made a public decision on the Colts’ head coaching search, but whoever the Colts hire is going to need a quarterback. Young has concerns about his size, but he checks off just about every other box a quarterback needs.
5. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos)
Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
Seattle gets to cash in on the Russell Wilson trade here by taking a supremely athletic edge rusher in Wilson. He can bolster an already impressive core of young defensive talent. Wilson should gain a lot of popularity once he blows up the NFL scouting combine.
6. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)
Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a hot name right now and he fits with what the Lions need: just anyone who has the potential to be a net-positive pass defender. Gonzalez and Jeff Okudah would give the Lions a better chance to not have a comically bad defense at the start of next season.
7. Las Vegas Raiders
Kentucky QB Will Levis
Derek Carr is all but gone from the Raiders, leaving a huge void at quarterback for Vegas. With Tom Brady headed off into retirement, the Raiders will probably have to grab a new quarterback via the draft.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy
The Falcons have had an abominable pass rush for quite some time now, going back to the pre-Matt Ryan seasons. Murphy, or really any lineman with a pulse, can get them moving in the right direction.
9. Carolina Panthers
Florida QB Anthony Richardson
Carolina is in a place where it can take a swing at quarterback after hiring Frank Reich to be its head coach. Reich has helped develop a lot of quarterbacks during his time as a coach, but there might not be any as physically talented as Richardson. He needs marinating before he can reach his potential, but he has A+ traits to utilize.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints)
Alabama CB/S Brian Branch
The Eagles have a top-10 pick while they’re playing in the Super Bowl. Not fair. They can afford to use this pick as a luxury selection, adding Branch at this point to give them even more speed and versatility in the secondary.
11. Tennessee Titans
Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.
Tennessee needs to add some youth at tackle. Johnson has the potential to be a long-term starter at left tackle for whatever team selects him.
12. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)
Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness
The best defenses that DeMeco Ryans played on and coached had tremendous line talent. The Texans do not. Here’s a chance to remedy that with a fast-rising edge rusher from Iowa.
13. New York Jets
Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski
A quarterback falling here would be nice, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Jets can bolster their offensive line with Skoronski, who can start at either tackle spot and would give the Jets flexibility as far as their roster decisions go.
14. New England Patriots
Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
Witherspoon is an aggressive, athletic cornerback who loves to play downhill and isn’t afraid to make tackles in open space. Sounds perfect for a Bill Belichick defense.
15. Green Bay Packers
Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Smith-Njigba is a smaller wide receiver than the Packers usually add to their team, but they need talent at wideout. Smith-Njigba could be the eventual Randall Cobb replacement for Green Bay.
16. Washington Commanders
Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
The Commanders have a fair amount of needs all over their team, so they can take whatever player is ranked highest on their board. Porter would give the Commanders a cornerback who has real deal man coverage potential with a ton of athleticism to pair with it.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison
Kenny Pickett needs help up front. Harrison is a big, athletic tackle who has a high ceiling as far as his potential outcomes are concerned.
18. Detroit Lions
Clemson DL Bryan Bresee
More help for the Lions’ defense. Bresee has been a stalwart for Clemson and would pair well with Aidan Hutchinson for the long term in Detroit.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Georgia CB Kelee Ringo
Ringo has the ability to go much higher than this, but prospects fall every year in the draft. That’s a blessing for the Buccaneers who might need to add another cornerback to their roster this offseason.
20. Seattle Seahawks
USC WR Jordan Addison
The Seahawks have their quarterback for the next couple of seasons in Geno Smith, but they could get some insurance for the long term at wide receiver here. Addison makes sense as a complement to DK Metcalf and would form a damn good trio along with Tyler Lockett in the immediate future.
21. Los Angeles Chargers
Boston College WR Zay Flowers
The Chargers need some more juice at wide receiver with Keenan Allen slowing down toward the end of his career. Flowers was a big-play machine for Boston College and would fit well in that role.
22. Baltimore Ravens
TCU WR Quentin Johnston
The Ravens still need weapons for Lamar Jackson. If Rashod Bateman can stay healthy next season, he and Johnston would be a nice 1-2 punch that pairs well with Jackson’s skills
23. Minnesota Vikings
South Carolina CB Cam Smith
The Vikings got off to a great start in their first season with Kevin O’Connell, but they need to continue adding talent if they want to repeat their success from this past season. Smith is a nice option at this point in the draft and has starting upside for the Vikings’ next defensive coordinator.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Alabama CB Eli Ricks
The Jaguars take a dice roll here with Ricks, but if he pans out they will have an incredible 1-2 punch with Ricks and Tyson Campbell manning their cornerback spots.
25. New York Giants
Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
No matter who is playing quarterback for the Giants next season, they could use an upgrade at tight end. Mayer is the best all-around TE in the draft and would immediately become one of the Giants’ top targets.
26. Dallas Cowboys
Michigan DL Mazi Smith
Another super athletic defensive lineman for Dan Quinn to tinker around with in Dallas. Smith is a freak athlete at 330-plus pounds and should rise into first-round consideration if he performs as well as he’s projected to at the NFL scouting combine.
27. Buffalo Bills
Georgia OT Broderick Jones
Buffalo needs an upgrade on the right side of its line and gets lucky with a talented tackle prospect falling right into its lap at the end of the first round.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Ohio State OT Dawand Jones
Another year, another offensive line need for the Bengals. Jones is a massive tackle with pass-blocking upside.
29. New Orleans Saints (via San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos)
LSU EDGE BJ Ojulari
The Saints are back in the first round after they traded the rights for Sean Payton to the Broncos. Here they can get an edge rusher to either pair with Marcus Davenport or replace him if he leaves in free agency.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
North Carolina WR Josh Downs
Patrick Mahomes doesn’t need a first-round receiver, but it can never hurt to give the best quarterback in the game more quality weapons.
31. Philadelphia Eagles
Arkansas LB Drew Sanders
Sanders could be the best linebacker on the Eagles from Day 1. The strongest roster in the NFL upgrades one of its few positions of need.
(One first-round pick was forfeited by the Miami Dolphins as a result of the NFL's tampering investigation.)
Teams without a first-round pick
37. Los Angeles Rams
Texas RB Bijan Robinson
Robinson has the talent to go much higher than this, but it’s hard to figure out how the NFL will value these guys come draft day. The Rams would get an absolute steal here.
43. Cleveland Browns
LSU WR Kayshon Boutte
Boutte had an unceremonious end to his LSU career, but at his best he looked like a top-10 pick before things got derailed. His talent is worth it at this juncture for the Browns.
68. Denver Broncos (via Indianapolis Colts)
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker
Juuuuuuuust in case. Hooker is an older prospect, but he has a couple of nice traits as a passer that Sean Payton might be able to take advantage of.
100. San Francisco 49ers
Georgia S Tykee Smith
The 49ers' first pick in the draft comes with a depth safety for their defense.