We’ve reached the NFL’s midseason point, which means it’s time for another mock draft. This is my first update since before the season, and Georgia once again has four first-round picks, although two of the prospects are new this time around.
Meanwhile, Alabama and Ohio State tie the Bulldogs for the most first-rounders (four each) and account for the first three picks of the mock. Clemson is the only other school with more than two prospects listed below.
In fact, these four powerhouse programs account for eight of the first nine picks.
While the actual results of the first round in 2022 included only one quarterback (Kenny Pickett, No. 20), and zero running backs or tight ends, this iteration has four quarterbacks, two running backs and two tight ends.
As is always the case with mocks this far out, there is much that can and will change between now and April 27, but here’s an assessment of where things stand after Week 9 of the NFL season.
Note: Draft order is based on current standings, per Tankathon. And there are only 31 picks because the Dolphins have forfeited their first-round pick in 2023.
1. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Following a better-than-expected rookie season in 2021 from Davis Mills, Houston’s front office wisely bypassed a relatively lackluster quarterback class to focus on other areas of concern in ’22. Even though the Texans remain in (the early parts of) rebuilding mode, they shouldn’t pass on Young if they end the season with the rights to the top pick, especially with Mills failing to show significant year-over-year improvement.
Young’s slight stature—he’s listed at 6’0″ and 194 pounds—is the obvious knock, but he’s a smart and accurate passer with many strengths that warrant this selection. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has the poise, awareness and instincts to create out of structure when plays break down. His calm demeanor and confidence allow him to play at his best in the game’s biggest moments and elevate the play of those around him.
2. Carolina Panthers: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Lions’ Week 9 win over the Packers guarantees (in this mock) that Carolina will get either Young or Stroud with this pick. Perhaps Matt Corral, the 94th pick in 2022, will eventually turn out to be the team’s long-term solution at quarterback, but it’s unlikely that they’d pass on a quarterback in this scenario. Stroud benefits from elite offensive talent around him, but he is an accurate passer who throws with touch and anticipation.
3. Las Vegas Raiders: Will Anderson Jr., edge, Alabama
Maxx Crosby is one of the league’s most disruptive edge rushers, but Chandler Jones will turn 33 years old in February and Clelin Ferrell, the fourth pick in 2019, will be a free agent next offseason. Anderson’s current production has dipped some (seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss) compared to last year’s dominant season (17.5 sacks and 34.5 TFLs), but he is a true difference-maker who is elite against both the pass and run. Not only is he likely to be the first non-quarterback drafted, but he’s the top overall prospect on my board.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia
The Steelers currently project to have their highest pick since selecting Terry Bradshaw with the No. 1 pick in 1970. Carter, the most talented player on a defense that included five first-round picks in 2022, has the talent to be a top-five pick in April. Stout against the run and disruptive as an interior pass rusher, Carter is light on his feet for a 310-pounder with the explosive movements, body control and powerful hands to make plays behind and up and down the line of scrimmage.
5. Detroit Lions: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
With Sunday’s win over the Packers, the Lions went from the first pick (and their choice of quarterback) to the fifth pick (and the QB3 in this mock). While Levis didn’t do himself any favors with a recent three-interception performance against Tennessee and needs to improve his accuracy and consistency, he has an outstanding blend of size, arm strength and mobility with the experience of playing in a pro-style offense.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints): Myles Murphy, edge, Clemson
It always feels safe to slot a defensive lineman to the Eagles, but Murphy could end up a top-five pick in April. Both Brandon Graham and newcomer Robert Quinn are on the wrong side of 30 and slated for free agency after this season. Listed third on Bruce Feldman’s annual Freaks List, Murphy has a quick first step for a 275-pounder and uses his power and length well to rush the passer and defend the run. Through 34 career games, Murphy has 36 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Several Cardinals cornerbacks are slated to become unrestricted free agents following the 2022 season, including Byron Murphy. Ringo is a former five-star recruit with an elite combination of size (6’2″, 205 pounds) and speed (4.35 40-yard dash). In addition to his elite speed and closing burst, he plays physically at the line of scrimmage and in run support. His interception on Saturday highlights the strengths of his game and makes him my CB1.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryan Bresee, IDL, Clemson
I slotted a receiver to the Jags in my first mock, but they have boosted their 2023 wide receiving corps depth chart by trading for suspended former first-rounder Calvin Ridley. With Bresee, they would get a disruptive and versatile interior defender. The former top overall high school recruit has a nonstop motor and an outstanding blend of size, power and quickness.
9. Chicago Bears: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Bears should have done more in the draft and free agency to support the development of second-year quarterback Justin Fields, but trading for Chase Claypool at the deadline helps even if they paid a hefty price. This pick would help to improve one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Johnson started at right guard last season for the Buckeyes, but he has shifted to his more natural left tackle position in 2022 and has played well. The former five-star recruit has outstanding size, length and movement skills.
10. Green Bay Packers: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Skoronski’s grandfather, Bob Skoronski, is a member of the Packers Hall of Fame. Since replacing Rashawn Slater, who opted out of the 2020 season, Skoronski has started every game at left tackle. Lack of arm length may ultimately lead to a move inside, but the former five-star recruit is technically sound with the foot quickness, balance and versatility to play all five offensive line positions. Per PFF, Skoronski has allowed only five pressures on 383 pass-blocking snaps so far this season.
11. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): Tyree Wilson, edge, Texas Tech
Geno Smith has played better than any other NFC West quarterback, and the Seahawks hold a 1.5-game lead in the division as we enter the second half of the season, which likely means they will go in a different direction from the first iteration of my mock draft. Wilson led the Raiders in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (13.5) in 2021, and he has thrived in new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s defense by already matching or exceeding that production this season. Wilson could go earlier than many expect given his combination of size, length, power and versatility.
12. Detroit Lions (via Rams): Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Lions rank last in the NFL in total defense (417.3 yards per game), scoring defense (29.3 points per game) and yards per pass attempt allowed (8.1). Porter is a big and long corner who plays a physical brand of football as you’d expect from the son of the former Steelers outside linebacker. Both Mike Hughes and Amani Oruwariye will be free agents after the season.
13. Houston Texans (via Browns): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The 2023 wide receiver class is not on the same level as the past few draft classes, but Johnston has the potential to be the first receiver off the board in April. His speed, leaping ability and catch radius help him win vertically, and he is elusive after the catch. It’s unclear whether Brandin Cooks will still be on the roster next season, but it would be wise to put more talent around their new quarterback.
14. Indianapolis Colts: Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
The Colts may prefer to draft a quarterback here, despite feeling none (still available at this point) are worthy of a top-15 selection. Coincidentally, interim head coach Jeff Saturday played center in Indianapolis through the 2011 season, which is the same year the team drafted left tackle Anthony Castonzo in the first round. The Colts used a third-round pick on Bernhard Raimann in April, but that shouldn’t prevent them from using this pick on a high-upside prospect like Fashanu, who won’t turn 20 until next month. Given his combination of size, length, power and movement skills, the redshirt sophomore has the potential to continue climbing up draft boards with continued strong play in his first year as a starter.
15. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Arthur Smith wants to run the ball, so it makes sense for the Falcons to use a first-rounder on the most talented running back prospect over the past few drafts. Robinson is an explosive runner with outstanding vision, speed and tackle-breaking ability, and is a dynamic receiver out of the backfield as well. Per PFF, Robinson leads Power 5 backs in missed tackles forced (73) and rush yards after contact (781) in 2022. Cordarrelle Patterson will turn 32 in March and be a free agent after ’23, and Tyler Allgeier wasn’t drafted until the fifth round.
16. Washington Commanders: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
The Commanders traded William Jackson III to the Steelers, and Kendall Fuller will be entering a contract season in 2023. Smith is a confident and physical corner with good length and outstanding ball skills. He has six career interceptions.
17. New England Patriots: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba has played sparingly after sustaining a hamstring injury against Notre Dame to open the season. While he won’t test nearly as well as former teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave did in April, Smith-Njigba led the Buckeyes in receptions (95) and yards (1,606) in 2021. When healthy, he’s a savvy route runner with natural hands and he should quickly become New England’s most talented receiver.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Mayer is the best all-around tight end in this draft. While he doesn’t have any elite traits, he’s above average across the board. The junior tight end has been the focal point of Notre Dame’s passing offense since arriving on campus, and he’s a plus blocker with experience inline. Hayden Hurst and Drew Sample will both be free agents after the season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Both Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are in contract years while over $36 million in cap space is allocated to Carlton Davis over the next two seasons. Gonzalez is a 6’2″ corner with outstanding length, speed and athleticism. With two interceptions against his former team this past weekend, the former Colorado Buffalo now has three interceptions and 10 passes defended in his first season as a Duck.
20. Denver Broncos (via 49ers/Dolphins): Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Offensive tackle tops the list of potential offseason needs for the Broncos. Not only is Garett Bolles out after breaking his leg, but Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming are all slated to become unrestricted free agents in the offseason. Jones has yet to allow a sack in his first full season as a starter, as the former five-star recruit has allowed only four pressures on the year with none in his past three games, per PFF stats.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
After winning the Biletnikoff award for putting up 100/1,593/17 numbers last season with Kenny Pickett at Pitt, Addison leads the Trojans in receiving (39/585/7) in 2022 despite missing the past couple of games with a leg injury. Play strength is a concern for the 175-pound receiver, but Addison has outstanding quickness and route-running savvy. Addison would be a good complement to what the Chargers have with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, when healthy.
22. Tennessee Titans: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Playing alongside sophomore Brock Bowers limits Washington’s opportunities in the passing game some, but he should have an opportunity to be a more impactful receiver at the next level due to his size (6’7″ and 270 pounds), length and athleticism. While he’s averaged 18.1 yards on his 36 career receptions, he has only one career touchdown. That said, Washington excels as a run blocker, and it would be like having an extra offensive tackle on the field paving the way for Derrick Henry in the run game.
23. Seattle Seahawks: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The Seahawks add another front-seven player in this mock, who will provide an upgrade at inside linebacker next to Jordyn Brooks. Clemson has deployed Simpson in a variety of alignments, highlighting his versatile, do-it-all skill set. Simpson leading the team in tackles, and has outstanding range in run support and coverage ability.
24. Baltimore Ravens: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
The Ravens traded Marquise Brown before the season, and Rashod Bateman (foot) is out for the rest of the season, which has highlighted their need at the receiver position. Hyatt is an electrifying playmaker with game-breaking speed. He leads the nation in receiving touchdowns (14), half of which were scores of 45-plus yards.
25. New York Jets: Antonio Johnson, DB, Texas A&M
Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed Jr. are having outstanding seasons as both are top-12 cornerbacks, based on current PFF grades. Johnson’s positional versatility stands out, and the 6’3″ defensive back uses his size, length, athleticism and physicality to make plenty of plays near the line of scrimmage.
26. Dallas Cowboys: O’Cyrus Torrence, IOL, Florida
Left tackle Tyron Smith has missed at least three games every year since 2016. His absence has led to Tyler Smith’s earlier-than-expected move to left tackle. After following coach Billy Napier from Louisiana to Florida, Torrence is the best interior offensive line prospect in this year’s draft class and is an absolutely dominant run blocker.
27. New York Giants: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Four games above .500 despite a modest plus-6 scoring differential, expectations for the Giants are now much different than they were before the season. Even so, Daniel Jones has exceeded 200 passing yards only twice (217 and 202) this season and has thrown just six touchdowns in eight games. Both Jones and Hooker will be the same age on draft day (25; Jones turns 26 in May), and Hooker plays in an offense that doesn’t translate well to the NFL game. That said, Hooker’s ability in the vertical passing game, along with his size and athleticism, could entice a team with a pick near the end of Round 1.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
The Chiefs used their franchise tag on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and failed to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. In addition, starting right tackle Andrew Wylie is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason. Jones is a massive tackle prospect, and his year-over-year development compared to last season has been impressive.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Foskey, edge, Notre Dame
The Vikings don’t have a second-round pick after trading for T.J. Hockenson, so perhaps they’ll look to trade back to a team trying to get back into the first round. The Vikings already have two talented edge defenders in Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, but you can never have too many talented pass rushers. Foskey’s motor runs nonstop, and he has good size and length. With 5.5 sacks over his past three games, Foskey is only a half sack shy of tying Justin Tuck’s school record (24.5).
30. Buffalo Bills: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
Jordan Poyer is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2022 season. Micah Hyde is out following season-ending neck surgery, but he’s scheduled to become a free agent after ’23. Both safeties are on the wrong side of 30. The Bills appreciate versatility in their safeties, and Branch has a versatile skill set that has allowed Nick Saban to use him in a variety of roles for the Crimson Tide.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Despite his 200-pound frame, Gibbs is a talented runner due to his vision, burst and elusiveness, but he’s especially gifted as a receiver. The Georgia Tech transfer has 99 catches for 1,138 yards (11.5 per catch) and eight touchdowns over three collegiate seasons. Both Miles Sanders and Boston Scott are scheduled to become free agents after the season.
More NFL Coverage:
• The Jeff Saturday Hiring Is a Crushing Defeat for Many Coaches
• What Winning Football Means in the Jets/Giants Orbit
• MMQB Week 9: Kirk Cousins and Tyreek Hill Win Big, Much More
• The Packers’ Offense Is Damaged, and Aaron Rodgers Is Acting Like It
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