Tulane Hullabaloo’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft

Jake Blancher, Associate Sports Editor

NFL draft
Matthew Tate

Now just days away, the 2023 NFL Draft is a much anticipated night for both players and fans alike as rumors give way to reality. These are The Hullabaloo’s expert predictions for what will happen on day one, as the first 31 picks unfold — the Miami Dolphins were stripped of their first round selection this year. 

1. Carolina Panthers, via Chicago Bears: Bryce Young, quarterback, University of Alabama

During his tenure in Indianapolis, head coach Frank Reich saw six different week-one starters at quarterback in as many seasons. Horrified by the thought of another revolving door at the position, Reich — now with the Carolina Panthers — immediately traded up so he would be able to have his pick of the quarterback litter. Bryce Young is a profoundly decorated prospect, who won the Heisman Trophy and is next in line of the first-round pick Alabama quarterbacks lineage. What Young lacks in size, he makes up for in football IQ and playmaking ability.

2. Houston Texans: CJ Stroud, quarterback, Ohio State University

In his two years as the primary starter for the Texans, Davis Mills has been unequivocally mediocre. It’s time for a complete rebuild in Rocket City, and after hiring head coach Demeco Ryans, acquiring quarterback CJ Stroud is the next piece. The former Buckeye is a pocket passer with exceptional accuracy but must improve on his improvisational ability to find success at the next level.

3. Predicted Trade from Arizona Cardinals to Las Vegas Raiders: Anthony Richardson, quarterback, University of Florida

It seems unlikely that the Raiders let Derek Carr fizzle out of Las Vegas in dramatic fashion just to replace him with another middling veteran. Instead, the Raiders move up for Anthony Richardson, who can take a “redshirt” and sit behind Jimmy Garroppolo for a season. If there is anything the Raiders love more than trading top draft picks, it’s selecting raw prospects with blazing speed — a mold in which Richardson certainly fits

4. Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis, quarterback, University of Kentucky

The vestiges of Reich’s quarterback negligence results in yet another quarterback selection at the top of the draft. This Bluegrass state product has prototypical size and incredible arm strength, but occasionally struggles with timing and accuracy. Levis takes I-65 north and hopes to be the next great signal caller at Lucas Oil Stadium.

5. Seattle Seahawks, via Denver Broncos: Will Anderson Jr., edge rusher, University of Alabama

Another Crimson Tide alumnus with a laundry list of accolades, Anderson has utterly dominated collegiate offensive lines for the past three seasons. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll is exhilarated at the opportunity to revamp his defense and pick Anderson — who is just the second player to ever win the prestigious Bronko Nagurski Award twice, which is awarded to the best defensive collegiate player.

6. Detroit Lions, via Los Angeles Rams: Jalen Carter, defensive tackle, University of Georgia

Considered by many to be the most talented player in the entire draft class, Carter’s stock is tainted by his off-field legal troubles and character concerns. The two-time national champion fortifies a young and talented team that won eight of their final 10 games in the 2022 season.

7. Predicted trade from Las Vegas Raiders to Arizona Cardinals: Tyree Wilson, edge rusher, Texas Tech University

Last season, the Cardinals were ranked a bottom 10 team in sacks. Then, they lost both of their starting edge rushers — Zach Allen to the Broncos and JJ Watt to retirement. Defensive-minded head coach Jonathan Gannon strengthens the depleted pass rushing corps with Tyree Wilson, a defender with freakish height, weight and wingspan who also is a plus run defender.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Nolan Smith, edge rusher, University of Georgia

The “dirty birds” are another team plagued by a horrible pass rush, ranking second to last and last in terms of sacks over the past two seasons. Nolan Smith set the NFL Draft Combine ablaze with a 4.39 second 40-yard dash, the second fastest time for an edge rusher in the past two decades, outrunning the likes of running backs Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. The former No. 1 recruit in the nation stays in the Peach State to bolster their defensive line.

9. Chicago Bears, via Panthers: Paris Johnson Jr., offensive tackle, Ohio State University

Guiding the team with the worst record and most cap space entering free agency, general manager Ryan Poles executed a myriad of moves to improve the roster. One position they did not address, however, is offensive tackle. This is especially shocking considering the Bears ranked dead last in passing yards and fourth to last in sacks allowed in 2022. Quarterback Justin Fields has shown more than flashes of being a franchise quarterback, and his protection is paramount for the Bears success in 2023. Poles opts to solidify the offensive line, reuniting the former teammates in the process.

10. Philadelphia Eagles, via New Orleans Saints: Devon Witherspoon, cornerback, University of Illinois

Even after losing key starters to free agency, the Eagles still featured among the most talented rosters in the league. However, many of their best players are on the wrong side of 30 and are sure to regress in the near future. Witherspoon is a lockdown cornerback that you can put on an island without a second thought. He is a more than ample replacement for when the Eagles inevitably lose one of their tricenarian Super Bowl cornerbacks in James Bradberry and Darius Slay.

11. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronski, offensive tackle, Northwestern University

The Titans are a team that would have loved for one of the top four quarterbacks to fall to them. Unfortunately, none do and they decide to protect whoever ends up as their next signal caller, whether it be Ryan Tannehill or Malik Willis. Skoronski is an elite and explosive lineman with flexibility to play guard at the NFL level.

12. Houston Texans, via Cleveland Browns: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, wide receiver, Ohio State University

Smith-Njigba’s astounding 2022 Rose Bowl performance was one of the single best games for a wide receiver in college football history, recording 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Who was throwing him the ball throughout the nationally-televised bowl game? CJ Stroud. Texans’ general manager Nick Caserio jumps at the opportunity to reunite the dominant duo, adding a supremely skilled receiver to a lacking corps.

13. New York Jets: Broderick Jones, offensive tackle, University of Georgia

Assuming a trade for Aaron Rodgers is completed sometime before the 2023 season, as is heavily rumored, Gang Green will need to keep the 39-year-old, four-time MVP upright. It is time to find a replacement for Mekhi Becton, the absolutely giant tackle who showed great promise in his rookie season before missing the near entirety of the past two seasons from repeated injury to his right knee. Jones is an agile tackle that can secure Rodgers’ blindside for potentially the remainder of his career.

14. New England Patriots: Bijan Robinson, running back, University of Texas

In terms of raw talent, Robinson is a top five player in the class. However, the running back position in recent years has devalued like NFTs, with many claiming that no player at the position is ever worth a first-round pick. Luckily for Robinson, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is far from orthodox. Robinson is as surefire of a prospect as they come.

15. Green Bay Packers: Zay Flowers, wide receiver, Boston College

The Packers lost Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan, who ranked first and third in receiving yards on the team last year, from an already weak skill position group. Jordan Love, who will likely become the full-time starting quarterback next season, will need to be surrounded by NFL-quality receivers if the Packers want to put up wins. Flowers is a slippery slot receiver that should complement Christian Watson on the boundary.

16. Washington Commanders: Christian Gonzalez, cornerback, University of Oregon

The Commanders are yet another team that hoped for the opportunity to nab a top quarterback. Gonzalez is the pick instead, a player with ideal height, length, speed and strength for the position. 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter Jr., cornerback, Penn State University

Cornerback was already a weak position in 2022 for the black and yellow, and it is now even weaker after losing their best one, Cameron Sutton, to the Lions. They are elated to select Joey Porter Jr., a physical and feisty cornerback — not to mention the son of a four-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion linebacker for the franchise in the early 2000s. The storyline is just too good to pass up.

18. Detroit Lions: Brian Branch, defensive back, University of Alabama

After whiffing on cornerback Jeff Okudah in the 2020 draft, the Lions need to bolster their secondary. They add Branch who hails from a pedigree of impressive Alabama defensive backs. Branch is incredibly versatile with the ability to play week one at either safety position, boundary cornerback or slot cornerback.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darnell Wright, offensive tackle, University of Tennessee

The Buccaneers released Donovan Smith, leaving undrafted free agent Brandon Walton to start at right tackle. Darnell Wright is a plug-and-play right tackle, who will be a mainstay at tackle opposite All-Pro Tristan Wirfs for years to come.

20. Seattle Seahawks: John Michael Schmitz, center, University of Minnesota

Carroll and general manager John Schneider started the long overdue process of rebuilding their offensive last year when they selected Charles Cross in the top 10 and Abraham Lucas in the third round. These selections paid immediate dividends, as journeyman Geno Smith experienced a breakout season in Seattle, earning him the Comeback Player of the Year Award and his first career Pro Bowl nod. Here they opt for the top center in the draft to further fortify their offensive line, a move that Russell Wilson longed for during his tenure in Seattle.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jalin Hyatt, wide receiver, University of Tennessee

The juxtaposition between Justin Herbert’s cannon for an arm and the profound lack of speed from the Chargers receiving corps is borderline comical. Hyatt is a burner with the ability to break loose for a long touchdown on any given play. He accrued 15 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards in his breakout 2022 campaign, with his best game coming against Alabama where recorded 207 yards and five touchdowns in a thrilling Vols victory.

22. Baltimore Ravens: Lukas Van Ness, edge rusher, University of Iowa

While not quite the size of the monstrous but recently departed Calais Campbell, Van Ness certainly holds his own at the point of attack. He fits perfectly into the Ravens 3-4 defensive scheme, with flexibility to play as not only a primarily five-technique off the edge but also an interior three-technique on pass-rushing downs.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison, wide receiver, University of Southern California

With the decade-long, uber-dependable Adam Thielen no longer on the squad, the Vikings thoroughly lack wide receivers to line up opposite phenom Justin Jefferson. The University of Pittsburgh transfer has some teams concerned for his slender frame, but his elusivity and ability to play either in the slot or as a Z receiver has head coach Kevin O’Connell eager to bring him to the Norsemen.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kelee Ringo, cornerback, University of Georgia

Ringo is best known for his performance in the 2022 National Championship where he intercepted Bryce Young and returned it for a touchdown to halt a potential game-tying score to secure the Bulldogs their first title this century. He has great height, weight, speed and physicality for the position, but occasionally gets sloppy in his footwork and hip rotations downfield. 

25. New York Giants: Quentin Johnston, wide receiver, Texas Christian University

Rookie head coach Brian Daboll certainly earned his Coach of the Year Award for his work in 2022. He led an offense consisting of a skill position group, headlined by Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins alongside Daniel Jones, and a lackluster offensive line to a 9-7-1 record and a playoff victory. Here they take Johnston, an integral part of the TCU team that made the national championship through his ability to separate and leverage his great catch radius. Johnston would instantly become the best receiver on Big Blue’s corps with potential as a true No. 1 receiver as compared to their current myriad of complementary players.

26. Dallas Cowboys: Dalton Kincaid, tight end, University of Utah

America’s Team lost a lot of offensive prowess this offseason with Ezekiel Elliot, Dalton Schultz, Noah Brown and Connor McGovern all no longer in Dallas. Kincaid helps recuperate some of these losses through his great agility and ability to be a volume pass-catcher at the next level.

27. Buffalo Bills: Drew Sanders, linebacker, University of Arkansas

The Bills’ kryptonite each of the past three seasons was the inability of their defense to impede the AFC’s premiere quarterbacking talent. The loss of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will only serve to exacerbate this deficit for the upcoming season. Drew Sanders, thankfully for Brandon Beane, is the perfect replacement. He has the versatility to line up all over the defensive front, excelling as both a pass rusher on the edge and shooting interior gaps to stuff the run.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Calijah Kancey, defensive tackle, University of Pittsburgh

The Bengals are in a similar position to the Bills in the sense that they have been just a hair away from a Super Bowl and are hoping to field a squad similar to last year. They lost both of their starting safeties to the NFC South, but have last year’s first-round pick Daxton Hill to replace one of them. To no avail, they were hoping for Brian Branch to fall to them to fill the other void at safety. Instead, they select the best player available, Calijah Kancey, an undersized defensive tackle who can frequently sniff out the quarterback from the interior. Undersized Pittsburgh defensive tackles just seem to have a way to work out in the NFL.

29. New Orleans Saints, from San Francisco 49ers via Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos: Darnell Washington, tight end, University of Georgia

Of all the prospects that have been described as athletic due to their unique combination of height, weight and speed, none fit the bill better than Washington. He is a staggering 6’7”, 264 pounds and ran a 4.64 second 40-yard dash. These three metrics are nearly identical to Rob Gronkowksi, who is often considered to be among the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Washington can serve as a dependable security option for Derek Carr, playing much the same role as Darren Waller during his tenure in Las Vegas.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: Myles Murphy, edge rusher, Clemson University

When the roster is as talented across the board as the Eagles are, they can afford to get the best player available. In this case, his name is Myles Murphy, a raw prospect that can learn how to become a more effective pass-rusher under the tutelage of the league’s best in Brandon Graham and Haason Reddick.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Keion White, edge rusher, Georgia Tech University

It would be inaccurate to report that the Chiefs’ success was not in large part due to the game’s best quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But certainly a modicum of their success last year must be attributed to their pass rush which recorded the second most in the league with 55. Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap combined for nine of those sacks, neither of whom will be wearing red and yellow next season. White has a similar profile to Van Ness in their ability to line up all across the defensive line depending on the packages. He looks to be the first Yellow Jacket first-round pick in over a dozen years.

Leave a Comment