It is never too early for an NFL mock draft! So, NFL Draft analysts Daryan Martin, Marissa Myers, and Andrew Little go through the entire first round in a way-too-early mock for each team. Draft order determined on early Super Bowl odds.
1. Atlanta Falcons: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Anderson Jr. is the top prospect in the draft and Atlanta needs the best players due to the number of holes in their roster. He led the country in sacks while playing in the toughest conference (SEC) in the country. Anderson Jr. plays with a relentless attitude while having an almost perfect pass-rushing technique. In four years Atlanta could have one of the NFL’s most dominant pass rushers by selecting Anderson Jr.
2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
I am a believer in Davis Mills and think he leads the Texans to a better record to not be picking from the second overall spot in 2023. If the Texans do end up in this spot, they have to go quarterback. That quarterback is C.J. Stroud, one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in this draft. At 6’3, 218 lbs, Stroud has the ideal size for a starting quarterback. The touch Stroud puts on the ball helps him be able to get the throw to all levels of the field and he makes smart decisions only having six interceptions in his first year as a starter. An underrated strength of Stroud that wasn’t shown enough in 2021 was his mobility. While he may not take off down the field he can manipulate the pocket to extend plays and is accurate throwing on the run. He is a natural leader and would be able to help elevate this Texans offense instantly.
3. Seattle Seahawks: Bryce Young, Alabama
Neither Geno Smith nor Drew Lock is the long-term answer to replace Russell Wilson. Who better to replace Wilson than a prospect who many are comparing to him in Bryce Young? The Alabama product is on the smaller side for a quarterback but has all the arm talent and athleticism to be a top quarterback in the National Football League. The 2021 Heisman winner showed tremendous leadership and poise as just a sophomore and with another great season could position himself as the number one overall pick.
4. New York Jets: Jalen Carter, Georgia
When you think about a defensive tackle that can do it all, Jalen Carter comes to mind. Carter did it all in Georgia’s National Championship run and was unstoppable at times. He used strength and pad level to beat offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage nearly every game. Robert Saleh is building a scary defense in New York and Carter will be a future All-Pro with the Jets.
5. Detroit Lions: Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
With both Stroud and Young drafted, the Lions get their new franchise-caliber quarterback in Tyler Van Dyke. In nine games as a starter, Van Dyke led the Miami Hurricanes to six wins, and the three losses were only by three or two points. Van Dyke can drive the ball downfield extremely well, and his former experience as a pitcher shows on the field with how he can put different speeds on the ball. He also did a great job of showing he knows how to understand different defensive concepts and where the weak spot is in the coverage to throw to. The Lions didn’t go quarterback in 2022 and decided to keep Jared Goff, but with a quarterback like Van Dyke here they get their offensive leader of the future.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Trevor Lawrence needs a true number one receiver, and no Christian Kirk does not fit that title despite his $18 million price tag. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is not only one of the best receivers in college football, but he’s also one of the best players period. He is a do-it-all pass catcher with boundary and slot versatility that would immediately become Lawrence’s go-to target. Smith-Njigba could have a similar impact as a rookie to Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase and elevate the Jaguars’ offense to a new level.
7. Carolina Panthers: Will Levis, Kentucky
Carolina hasn’t had consistency at the quarterback position since Cam Newton’s first go-around with the team. Will Levis is a winner who can make every throw and beat defenses with his legs. If Levis can continue his upward trajectory and Carolina spends money to support him he can win them a lot of football games with his skill set.
8. Chicago Bears: Kayshon Boutte, LSU
The wide receiver room for the Bears needs help. Pairing Justin Fields with his former teammate in Jaxon Smith-Njigba would’ve been great, but with him already drafted the Bears get the second-best wide receiver in this draft class, Kayshon Boutte. When you look at the wide receiver talent like Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry that have come from LSU the same can be expected out of Boutte. At 6’0, 205 lbs, Boutte is able to secure contested catches and can use his frame to break tackles and create yards after the catch. His speed, athleticism, and size make for a perfect compliment to Darnell Mooney in the wide receiver room.
9. New York Giants: Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Daniel Jones is not the answer at quarterback if the Giants are drafting top 10 again but there is not a quarterback worth taking here. Instead, they grab a legitimate number one cornerback in Georgia’s Kelee Ringo. Ringo has an impressive 6’2, 210-pound frame and projected 4.3 speed that makes him a terrific fit in Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy man coverage defense. Ringo and Adoree Jackson would be one of the league’s most athletic cornerback tandems. The NFC East has A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, CeeDee Lamb, and DeVonta Smith and Ringo can be the shutdown corner the “G-Men” need for years to come.
10. Washington Commanders: Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Antonio Johnson is elite when playing in space and can defend passes effectively. Johnson’s closing speed and ability to tackle is one of the best in college football. Johnson is 6’3, 200 lbs and uses every bit of his frame to make plays against opposing offenses. He will be a day one starter in Washington that has the potential to be one of the best safeties in football in the next couple of years.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers: Garrett Williams, Syracuse
The last time the Steelers drafted a defensive player in the first round was back in 2019 when they selected Devin Bush. After three straight years of offense, they go back to defense. The current starters at cornerback are Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Cam Sutton. It is a decent room but when you are in a division like the AFC North, it is a group that could seek improvement. That improvement comes by drafting Garrett Williams. When it comes to stopping passing plays Williams has exceptional recognition from his time as a quarterback in high school to pick up on tendencies and read the quarterback’s eyes to get to where the ball is going to be thrown. Against the run, he is aggressive and does a great job using his speed and physicality to break off blocks and make tackles in the backfield. He is the type of cornerback to fit this defense.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
The Philadelphia Eagles currently have one of the best offensive lines in football but after 2022 they have some question marks. Right tackle Lane Johnson is 32 and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Isaac Seumalo has been solid at right guard but also has missed time due to injury and is an upcoming free agent. Peter Skoronski is the best offensive lineman in the class and has the versatility to play all across the line. Rashawn Slater was immediately a stud for the Los Angeles Chargers coming out of Northwestern and Skoronski can have a similar impact. He could start his career in the interior before pairing with Jordan Mailata to form one of the league’s best tackle duos for years to come.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Simply put, Bryan Bresee can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bresee lined up all over the front for Clemson using brute strength and will to beat defenders. The Clemson product has the tools to be capable of stopping the run. He will be a long-term starter for Minnesota as long as he continues to develop his pass-rushing techniques to become more consistent, but he’s too talented to not draft here.
14. Las Vegas Raiders: Myles Murphy, Clemson
Myles Murphy is a top five caliber talent and in reality, a team would most likely trade up for him before he falls this far. With that though the Raiders are the team to capitalize on this and end this slide. There is no such thing as having enough edge rushers in the NFL, and that case remains true for the Raiders as they add Murphy to a room with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. Murphy has excellent length and strength that he combines with the quick first step that makes him difficult to block. Over two seasons so far Murphy has seven sacks, and 37 tackles and still is just scratching the surface of his potential. In a division like the AFC West with quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson having Murphy on the defensive line would be a great addition.
15. Miami Dolphins: Void
16. Houston Texans (via CLE): Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
Home run pick for the Houston Texans at 16 after drafting Stroud third overall in the draft. Paris will have experience playing both tackle and guard at the collegiate level and has chemistry with Stroud who was selected second overall. Johnson Jr. knows when to pass off defenders and pick up incoming pass rushers to ensure no one hits the quarterback. He understands pass blocking and pass rushing schemes, so he rarely makes errors. Johnson Jr. makes too much sense for the Texans to pass up on him.