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June 29, 2022
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2-Round 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Will Anderson Jr. heads to Houston as Texans build around Davis Mills

Some people say that June is too early for a 2023 NFL Mock Draft. We say these people are wrong. While there’s a ton of projection, we don’t have the remotest clue of NFL team needs, and there’s an entire season of college football to play. We’re actually months into work on the 2023 NFL Draft, and mocks give an early opportunity to introduce the potential best players in the class and examine how they might fit in the NFL.

2023 2-Round NFL Mock Draft | 1-16

The order for this 2023 2-Round NFL Mock Draft is the inverse of the current Super Bowl odds. We don’t think your team sucks, the oddsmakers do! If you want to play general manager, the Pro Football Network 2023 Mock Draft Simulator is also equipped with this draft order. With that, let’s put the Houston Texans on the clock for this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

1) Houston Texans: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

The easy assumption is that if Houston is picking this early next April, then the Davis Mills experience has not been a pleasant one. However, June is a time for optimism and experimentation, so let’s actually assume that, somehow, it isn’t Mills’ fault that the Texans are picking first overall and that the franchise continues to build around the former Stanford quarterback ahead of what will be his third year in the NFL.

Considered a landing spot for the top edge players last year, the Texans instead strike for Alabama star Will Anderson Jr. with the first overall pick of this 2023 NFL Mock Draft. Boasting exceptional athleticism, power, and hand usage, Anderson is a devastating force around the edge and when attacking the interior. If only a portion of his ludicrous college production carries to the NFL level, the Texans will have a terrifying pass rusher for the first time since J.J. Watt was in his prime.

2) Atlanta Falcons: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

Despite boosting a depleted wide receiver room with Drake London in April, pass catcher could be a consideration here for the Falcons. Meanwhile, uncertainty over certain pieces of the offensive line could lead them to snag one of the class’ premier pass protectors.

Like with the Texans, it’s easy to assume a high pick in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft is the result of some mediocre QB play. However, I wouldn’t expect them to add a QB again next April. Instead, they add defensive reinforcements in the form of Georgia standout Jalen Carter.

After producing five first-rounders last April, somehow their junior defensive tackle is the best of the bunch. Carter possesses the tools to be a constant threat in all phases of the game. His combination of high-level athletic ability, incredible power and violence, and a pass-rush toolbox already brimming with moves should see him transcend traditional DT value.

3) Detroit Lions: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

While the Los Angeles Rams got a Super Bowl out of their quarterback swap, the Detroit Lions will have fared significantly worse if the oddsmakers’ current predictions hold true. Yes, we know that it isn’t quite as simple as that. However, it’s fair to say that Jared Goff isn’t going to be the QB to lead the Lions to the pinnacle of professional football. There’s an out in his contract in 2023, and it’s likely that he finds his way out of Ford Field.

In this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, the Lions replace Goff with Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. After a rocky start to his college career, Stroud has blossomed into an exceptional signal-caller. He boasts the size, arm strength, and creation capacity to be a success early in his NFL career.

Few college passers display his level of technical proficiency, accuracy, and mental fortitude. Watching Stroud unfurl passes to Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and a potential later addition in this mock would be a sight to behold.

4) New York Jets: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

New York Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton addressed the media this week sporting a “Big Bust” t-shirt and promising to “make them eat their words” when referring to his doubters. However, rumors that there’s a disconnect between the franchise and their left tackle have been circulating for months, with PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reporting back in December that Becton’s time in New York could be short-lived.

If that truly is the case, finding a new left tackle to protect Zach Wilson could be a key priority next April. Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. is yet to take a collegiate snap at tackle, with two years of guard experience, but he has the tools to excel there as he transitions this season.

At 6’6″, 315 pounds, and reportedly with 35.5″ arms, Johnson has the measurables. Furthermore, he’s strong, powerful, athletic, and has the football intelligence to read and react to the game at the highest level.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

Although the Jacksonville Jaguars added some pieces to the WR room in free agency this spring, they still lack a truly dynamic threat. While the fifth overall pick in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft suggests some improvement from last season, there’s clearly more to do to extract the most from Trevor Lawrence’s talents.

If you’re looking for a dynamic threat, look no further than Kayshon Boutte. The LSU wide receiver showcases elite acceleration, speed, and movement skills. With an alluring combination of excellent route running and devastating athletic prowess, Boutte can gain separation at the catch point and is also a dangerous after-the-catch threat.

6) Carolina Panthers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

How do the Carolina Panthers approach their QB conundrum this season? Sam Darnold is the presumptive starter, but there’s no reason to believe he can create more of a spark than last season. How long is it until the Panthers give Matt Corral a shot, and more importantly, how long will he get? Do they have enough faith in him to spurn a quarterback prospect next April?

The addition of a plethora of UDFA pass catchers, combined with some ambiguity over Robby Anderson’s future, suggests that wide receiver could very much be in play. Therefore, the Panthers snag Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

Noises from inside the Buckeyes say JSN is the best WR the program has produced in recent years. While that remains to be seen, there’s no doubting his incredible catch-point ability and his knack for creating easy separation.

7) New York Giants: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

After making additions to their WR room and offensive line this spring, if the New York Giants are selecting in the Top 10 again next April then we may finally have the answer to whether Daniel Jones is the long-term future of the franchise. There’s only so many consecutive seasons of failure that you can file away under “giving him a fair chance to succeed.”

Alabama QB Bryce Young should give the Giants more than a fighting chance to succeed. While he’ll battle size concerns during the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, Young is a born leader who is more than up to the task of leading a team under extreme pressure. Young’s poise for his age is uncanny. Not only does he possess sufficient arm strength to drive the ball downfield, but his ball placement is frequently impeccable.

8) Chicago Bears: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

A lot of Chicago Bears fans — and frankly, a large portion of non-Bears fans — were upset and surprised by a perceived lack of support for quarterback Justin Fields in last year’s draft. As such, OT and WR still project to be significant positions of need when Chicago gets back on the clock next April.

In this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, there isn’t a standout player available on the offensive line. But, there is a pass catcher worthy of consideration.

While he’ll suit up for USC this fall, Jordan Addison showcased his exceptional talents for Pitt last season. Although he might be considered slender, Addison has the hops to get up and challenge at the catch point while possessing a highly alluring athletic profile. His explosive speed not only allows him to stretch the field as a deep threat but also allows him to be a significant after-the-catch threat.

9) Seattle Seahawks: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

After deciding to let Russ cook in someone else’s kitchen, the Seattle Seahawks are the proud owners of two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. It would be fair to assume that they’ll strike for a quarterback with one of them, especially if they’re selecting this early. Despite early signs of a strong QB class, however, there is a substantial drop-off from Stroud and Young. Thus, ninth overall may well be too early with other talents on the board.

When you think of the best Seahawks teams of the Pete Carroll era, you think of suffocating and ferocious defenses. That is exactly what they’ll have if they strike for Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell. Although there are some improvements to be made in the coverage element of Sewell’s game, there are few scarier sights than the 6’3″, 250-pound linebacker flying into the backfield. He’s explosive, fast, and ludicrously physical.

10) Washington Commanders: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

Like the Seahawks, the Washington Commanders are in something of a “no man’s land” when it comes to the QB position in this mock draft. With Sam Howell squirreled away from last year’s class, there’s no urgency to overdraft. Carson Wentz is still under contract, although there is an out in 2023 if the Commanders want to cut bait. Two o-linemen, however, will be out of contract, and they could seek to replace them.

Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski could provide a significant upgrade for the Commanders’ offensive line. An impressive athlete, Skoronski has been deemed more technically astute than fellow former Wildcat Rashawn Slater. Yet, like Slater, size concerns — both frame and length — have raised questions about Skoronski’s potential NFL alignment. Best-case scenario, the Commanders get a long-term LT. Worst case, they upgrade the interior of their offensive line with a switch to guard, a significant position of need.

11) Pittsburgh Steelers: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

Considered a candidate for one of the top offensive tackles in last year’s class, the position might still be considered a need if Kenny Pickett has his struggles in his first season under center. We are, of course, presuming that the rookie beats out Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in this situation. However, with the two consensus top tackles off the table, Pittsburgh addresses a need here on the opposite side of the ball.

Plugging in Nolan Smith across from T.J. Watt would give the Steelers an incredibly potent and fearsome pass-rush force. Smith possesses great explosiveness, bend ability, and deceptive strength for his size. At 6’3″ and 235 pounds, that size may be a factor in his evaluation. However, a productive season while demonstrating some technical improvements should ease those concerns.

12) Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

The presumed motive behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ trade of one of their three first-round picks last April was that they’d position themselves for a quarterback next April. While that might be the case, the oddsmakers clearly feel that Jalen Hurts might not do a bad enough job this upcoming season, once again placing themselves in a strange QB purgatory in the mid-range of the first round of this 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

Although they added James Bradberry on a one-year deal, the Eagles still need to add a long-term playmaker in the secondary. Kelee Ringo could be that playmaker for them. At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Ringo boasts NFL size and length. He’s an incredible athlete for his size, with the speed and fluidity that you would expect from a smaller cornerback. With physicality and catch-point ability, Ringo could be the CB1 of the 2023 NFL Draft class.

13) Philadelphia Eagles: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Continuing with defensive improvements, the Eagles add Myles Murphy. The Clemson EDGE is a 6’5″, 275-pound wrecking ball who brings the size and strength to be a disruptive force off the edge at the NFL level. With Brandon Graham now in his mid-30s and out of contract at the end of the year, Murphy could step straight into his shoes as the Day 1 defensive end for the Eagles in 2023.

14) New England Patriots: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

The temptation to do something wild and out of the blue for the New England Patriots was almost too overwhelming. Something along the lines of adding an FCS linebacker. Perhaps a DIII fullback would be suitable for Bill Belichick’s draft strategy. Having mulled those options over, and exhausted my knowledge of DIII fullbacks, the Patriots instead address a position of need with a top-tier talent.

South Carolina has a low-key claim to be considered “DBU,” and Cam Smith looks set to continue the first-round heritage last seen with the Panthers’ selection of Jaycee Horn. Smith boasts size, length, and vertical explosion to be a nightmare at the catch point for opposing wide receivers. Unsurprisingly, Smith plays the game with the same brand of physicality as his former teammate.

15) Las Vegas Raiders: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

After winning the PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2019, running back Josh Jacobs has seen a decline in his play. Last season, Jacobs saw career lows for carries, rushing yards, average receiving yards per catch, and total scrimmage yards. The Las Vegas Raiders declined his fifth-year option and added running backs Zamir White and Brittain Brown in last year’s draft.

Jacobs and the Raiders are almost the poster boys for not taking a Round 1 running back. “So, why have you got the Raiders taking a first-round RB?” I hear you cry.

Bijan Robinson is no ordinary running back. He has the size, strength, and grit to be a workhorse back while possessing the vision and creativity to break off chunk plays with disturbing regularity. With exceptional pass-catching technique and the physicality to be proficient as a blocker, the Texas RB can be a spark plug for the Raiders’ offense.

16) Miami Dolphins: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

The Miami Dolphins invested heavily in the offense this offseason, adding significant pieces to the offensive line and wide receiver room. If Liam Eichenberg makes a successful transition to right tackle they’ll be just a center away from having an offensive line they can be happy with. Picking midway through the first round of this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, Miami’s not in a position to find that prospect with this pick.

Instead, they find a game-changing pass rusher to pair with Jaelan Phillips. Don’t sleep on Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey in this EDGE class. At times last season, Foskey looked unstoppable, a force on a mission to destroy the opposing QB. At 6’5″ and 260 pounds, Foskey has great size to be an NFL pass rusher. Furthermore, he’s long, explosive, and plays the game with impressive power.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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