By JOE HARRIS, OREGON SPORTS NEWS
It is mock draft season. Some compare this to the holiday season; however, I would argue that it’s actually more stressful. While buying gifts and shopping for the family can take it out of you, try going inside the minds of 32 NFL general managers. For the first time in a long time, there seems to be absolutely no indication as to who will be the first overall pick in the draft. We know it will be a quarterback. We don’t know which one. We know the Texans will need one at number two and that plenty of teams have called the Cardinals, who sit at number three. Without further ado, let’s predict the first ten selections of the 2023 NFL Draft.
1. Carolina Panthers (From Chicago) – CJ Stroud – QB – Ohio State
Stroud is my favorite quarterback coming out of this class, and I think Justin Fields is breaking the “Ohio State has bad QBs” stereotype. The Panthers traded a whole lot to move up to this spot, and I think they want a proven winner from the college level. While Bryce Young could be the pick here, the Panthers have been all over Stroud and his pro-day performance. This will be a pick that we talk about for a very long time, given the other quarterbacks available and what Carolina gave up.
2. Houston Texans – Bryce Young – QB – Alabama
This is a great spot for Houston to be in as they are likely happy with having either Stroud or Young, and they don’t have the pressure that the Panthers do to make the right choice. It’s hard to argue against Young when we’ve seen Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones, and Tua Tagovailoa all have recent success in the NFL. Young was maybe the best of all of those recent quarterbacks to come out, and while the size is an issue, there are always ways to bulk up the quarterback. The Texans fan base needs someone to lead them into a new era, and Young is the guy for that.
3. Indianapolis Colts (Trade with AZ) – Anthony Richardson – QB – Florida
The Colts have stunk ever since Andrew Luck retired because they’ve yet to find a reliable quarterback. It’s been a revolving door of old veterans, from Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. They want a young face, and they’ll trade up one spot to make sure that another QB-hungry team doesn’t leapfrog them. Richardson is the rawest QB in this draft but could be the most talented. I’m not sure if he is a Day 1 starter, but it’s hard not to get excited about him when you see how he can use his legs.
4. Arizona Cardinals (Trade with IND) – Will Anderson – EDGE – Alabama
How great is this for Arizona? They need a defensive guy, and they likely pick up a top-100 pick from Indianapolis by moving back a single spot in the draft. Arizona must improve their defense, especially with JJ Watt retiring. Anderson is a total beast and could be the face of their franchise for years to come if they develop him correctly. He had 34.5 sacks and over 60 tackles for losses in his dominant Alabama career.
5. Tennessee Titans (From Seattle) – Will Levis – QB – Kentucky
You know who isn’t afraid to make a trade? The Tennessee Titans. They traded AJ Brown last year in the draft, and they do it again to get a quarterback after falling out of love with third-round pick Malik Willis from a year ago. Tennessee gives Seattle the 11th overall pick, 2023 2nd, and 2024 3rd for this pick. Levis had some character questions about why he sat out both his team’s Bowl Game and the Senior Bowl, but he was excellent a season ago in an offense that was perfect for his game. The Titans can sit him for one year under Ryan Tannehill.
6. Detroit Lions (From LA) – Jalen Carter – DT – Georgia
No matter where Jalen Carter is drafted, it will be controversial. Google him if you are behind on all the details, but the matter of fact is that this is a guy who was considered the best overall pick in this draft, and the NFL has a history of sweeping things under the rug. If Carter can get it together and keep his act okay, then the Lions are getting a complete steal for Dan Campbell’s defense.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Gonzalez – CB – Oregon
Before signing Jimmy G, it looked like Vegas would be in the quarterback market in this draft, but they’ve bought themselves time. Gonzalez is the best cornerback in this draft and an immediate starter for teams. We saw what Sauce Gardener did for the Jets’ secondary a season ago in his rookie year, and the Raiders want in on that kind of production. After all, they play in a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Tyree Wilson – DE – Texas Tech
Tyree Wilson is a beast of a human being and will wreak havoc on NFC South quarterbacks for many years. The Falcons have added a whole lot in free agency and trades this offseason, so cornerback is no longer a need. Instead, they get a player who will get after the quarterback at a great speed and be all over the field when the ball is rushed against them.
9. Chicago Bears (From Carolina) – Peter Skoronski – OT/G – Northwestern
Skoronski is my favorite offensive lineman in the draft this year, and he went to college in the Chicago area, which is a bonus. The Bears traded back and picked up a haul when they moved out of the top pick. Their main priority from here has to be building around Justin Fields and ensuring he is protected better than any other quarterback in the league. This would be a big step in the right direction.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (From New Orleans) – Bijan Robinson – RB – Texas
This is a fun pick, and it’s one that we don’t see all that often anymore, but the Eagles LOVE their rushing attack, and Miles Sanders departed via free agency in the offseason. Robinson has been the best running back in college football for two seasons now and will get his chance to put up Saquon Barkley-type numbers at the next level. This Eagles offense would fit him perfectly and create an even scarier unit than they had a year ago.