My final predictions for the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft are locked in. After breaking down the buzz, team needs, player evaluations and organization philosophies, here is who I think each team will take in the first round on Thursday night.
1. Carolina Panthers (from CHI) – Bryce Young QB, Alabama
On March 10th, when GM Scott Fitterer traded up for the first overall pick, it became evident that the Panthers were seeking their next franchise quarterback. After weeks of deliberation, Bryce Young established himself as their top choice.
2. Houston Texans – Tyree Wilson EDGE, Texas Tech
Recent reports suggest that GM Nick Caserio and the Texans will forego selecting a quarterback with the No. 2 pick, opting instead for the top edge rusher on their board. Caserio and first-year HC DeMeco Ryans choose the edge prototype, Wilson, over the top pass rusher from Ryans’ alma mater, Will Anderson Jr.
3. Arizona Cardinals – Paris Johnson Jr. OT, Ohio State
First-year GM Monti Ossenfort has interest in trading down from no. 3, but instead decides to stay put and select DJ Humphries’ successor at left tackle, ensuring long-term protection for Kyler Murray.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis QB, Kentucky
GM Chris Ballard’s projected quarterback board: Bryce Young, Lamar Jackson, Will Levis, CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson. In this scenario, Ballard, first-year HC Shane Steichen, owner Jim Irsay, and the Manning family all buy into Levis’ upside.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from DEN) – Jalen Carter DT, Georgia
With Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. still on the board at No. 5, this is an ideal scenario for the Seahawks. GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll, having done extensive research on Carter, opt for the higher-graded player on their board.
6. Detroit Lions (from LAR) – Will Anderson Jr. EDGE, Alabama
Will Anderson Jr., Devon Witherspoon, and Jalen Carter are all viable options for the Lions at No. 6. If the Texans, Cardinals, and Seahawks pass on Anderson, the Lions would seize the opportunity to pair him opposite last year’s first overall pick, Aidan Hutchinson.
7. Las Vegas Raiders – Devon Witherspoon CB, Illinois
After carefully evaluating this year’s signal-callers, GM Dave Ziegler and HC Josh McDaniels prioritize their more immediate need—cornerback—and pass on the best available quarterbacks.
8. ***TRADE*** Tennessee Titans (from ATL) – Anthony Richardson QB, Florida
There is plenty of smoke connecting Richardson to the Titans this late in the process. After thoroughly evaluating this year’s quarterback prospects, GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel opt for the player with the highest ceiling. The Titans jump up three spots in trade with the Falcons, a team that has publicly expressed interest in moving out of pick 8. If the Titans leave the first round with a quarterback, Ryan Tannehill’s days in Tennessee could be numbered.
9. Chicago Bears (from CAR) – Peter Skoronski OT, Northwestern
The versatility of Skoronski, who can play four positions along the offensive line, might be too valuable for GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus to pass up. The No. 9 spot for the Bears is considered the floor for Jalen Carter.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO) – Nolan Smith EDGE, Georgia
GM Howie Roseman has reportedly been making calls about moving up from no. 10, in case top pass rushers Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr. fall out of the top six. If the Eagles do stay put, their pick will likely come down to Nolan Smith, Peter Skoronski, or Bijan Robinson.
11. ***TRADE*** Atlanta Falcons (from TEN) – Lukas Van Ness EDGE, Iowa
If the Falcons’ team-building strategy under second-year GM Terry Fontenot follows his time with the Saints, they may target an edge rusher like Van Ness, who’s size and athletic traits resemble historical Saints pass rushers more so than the local product, Nolan Smith. Aside from pass rusher, Bijan Robinson is also in play for the Falcons.
12. Houston Texans (from CLE) – Bijan Robinson RB, Texas
Caserio opts for grade over need again, passing on available quarterbacks (Anthony Richardson and Hendon Hooker) in favor of the top “graded” player left on their draft board.
13. Green Bay Packers (from NYJ) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR, Ohio State
Will the Packers finally draft a first-round skill position player just days after trading Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? The latest sportsbook odds suggest so, which would be a wise move by GM Brian Gutekunst, who should do everything he can to maximize the probability of Jordan Love’s success.
14. New England Patriots – Christian Gonzalez CB, Oregon
In this scenario, Belichick nabs the best player available, at a premium position, and a position of need. If Gonzalez were to fall out of the top 10, look for a team like the Steelers to be interested in jumping ahead of the Patriots for the Oregon product.
15. New York Jets (from GB) – Broderick Jones OT, Georgia
Offensive line and defensive line and the top priorities for GM Joe Douglas. After acquiring Aaron Rodgers in exchange for a bevy of draft picks, including a conditional 2024 second-round pick that could turn into a first, the Jets are candidates to trade down from this spot depending on the draft board.
16. ***TRADE*** Minnesota Vikings – CJ Stroud QB, Ohio State
With Kirk Cousins entering the final year of his current deal, the Vikings are a dark horse team to select a quarterback in the first round. Reports of team brass making calls about trading up from the 23rd pick confirm their interest in signal callers. With only five picks in this year’s draft, it will be a challenge for analytically-minded GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to sacrifice picks to move up. However, with the Commanders looking for 2024 draft picks, the Vikings decide to mortgage the future Cousins’ potential successor.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darnell Wright OT, Tennessee
The Steelers are reportedly a team to watch in a trade-up scenario should one of the top offensive tackles (Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright) or cornerbacks (Christian Gonzalez) start to fall on draft night.
18. Detroit Lions – Michael Mayer TE, Notre Dame
While GM Brad Holmes and HC Dan Campbell have shown interest in quarterbacks, the team brass decided to support, rather than challenge, incumbent starter Jared Goff.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Anton Harrison OT, Oklahoma
The Buccaneers have a glaring hole at left tackle, and Anton Harrison is the last remaining starter-caliber tackle in this year’s class. Position scarcity pushes Harrison into top 20 consideration.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Deonte Banks CB, Maryland
GM John Schneider is known for his propensity to trade down. While they could do so with the No. 20 pick, if they stay put, expect them to bolster their defense by selecting a cornerback like Deonte Banks.
***DOLPHINS FORFEITED FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK (NO. 21)***
21. Los Angeles Chargers – Jordan Addison WR, USC
Current Chargers wide receivers coach Chris Beatty recruited Addison to play at Maryland, then to Pittsburgh. Once Beatty left Pitt, Addison transferred to USC. Adding a pass-catching weapon for Justin Herbert is likely the move at no. 21.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Zay Flowers WR, Boston College
Connecting the dots: Out of the 288 people that Lamar Jackson follows on Instagram, two are wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft class: Zay Flowers and Tank Dell. Flowers, like Lamar Jackson, hails from South Florida. The Ravens also brought Flowers in for a top 30 visit.
23. ***TRADE*** Washington Commanders – Emmanuel Forbes CB, Mississippi State
Amid a change in ownership, it’s difficult to imagine the Commanders making a bold move for a quarterback. GM Martin Mayhew has expressed interest in trading down from the No. 16 pick. In a division where you have to beat the Eagles, speed and ball skills are prerequisites for cornerbacks in the NFC East.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Brian Branch CB, Alabama
The most significant area of concern for the Jaguars’ defense is the nickel corner position. Branch, who played the ‘star’ role in Alabama’s defense as a hybrid slot/safety, is an ideal fit.
25. New York Giants – Joey Porter Jr. CB, Penn State
After addressing the offensive and defensive lines early in the 2022 draft, GM Joe Schoen and HC Brian Daboll are likely to target positions farther away from the ball—cornerback and wide receiver. The Giants would end Porter Jr.’s draft day slide if he’s available at 25.
26. Dallas Cowboys – O’Cyrus Torrence OG, Florida
Owner Jerry Jones could opt to make a splash (like trading up for Bijan Robinson) or choose a more conservative approach by filling the team’s biggest hole at left guard with O’Cyrus Torrence.
27. ***TRADE*** Houston Texans (from BUF) – Hendon Hooker QB, Tennessee
The Bills are in a prime situation to trade out of the 27th pick, as GM Brandon Beane himself even acknowledged. If the Texans decide to pass on a quarterback with their first two picks, it could be because they covet Hendon Hooker, whose stock was affected by a season-ending knee injury.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Jahmyr Gibbs RB, Alabama
Without any glaring holes on the roster—aside from Joe Mixon’s status—the Bengals bolster their running back room by selecting the exceptionally fast Jahmyr Gibbs. At pick 28, running back, tight end, cornerback, defensive line, and offensive line are all viable options.
29. New Orleans Saints (from SF) – Myles Murphy EDGE, Clemson
GM Jeff Ireland and HC Dennis Allen aim to rebuild a defensive line that has lost a considerable amount of talent over the last few offseasons. Murphy embodies the height-weight-speed-length prototype typically coveted by Ireland and his staff.
30. Philadelphia Eagles – Calijah Kancey DT, Pittsburgh
The Eagles’ defense relies on a defensive line rotation that can quickly get up-field. The defense made a Super Bowl run with a veteran-filled line; now it’s time to address the long-term depth at the position.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Quentin Johnston WR, TCU
The Chiefs might consider trading up for a receiver (like Zay Flowers), but in this scenario, they stay at 31 to draft an X receiver desperately needed on the roster.