NFL Draft 2023 mock draft: Our beat writers make their top-10 picks

Most years, it’s not a matter of if a quarterback run will happen in the NFL Draft, but when. By the looks of things, it could come early in 2023.

That is unless a potentially elite crop of defensive prospects (and maybe a handful of offensive tackles or skill-position players) have a say. With two weeks left in the regular season and the draft picture starting to settle into focus, we asked our team of beat writers and draft experts how the top 10 could play out. Will the Texans go QB at No. 1? Should the Seahawks or Lions lean in on that position, too?

Here’s our current best guess:

1. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Young’s size (listed at 6-foot-0, 194 pounds) is one reason there is no consensus top quarterback prospect in this draft. There’s little debate, however, that the Texans should address that position here. If Houston has decided 24 starts into Davis Mills’ career that he is most effective in a two-quarterback offense with Jeff Driskelthen Mills, a 2021 third-round pick, is clearly not the long-term answer.

The Texans and GM Nick Caserio haven’t been afraid to operate against conventional wisdom (see: their last two head coaching hires), but I’ll go with the relatively obvious choice here. Young is draft expert Dane Brugler’s top-rated prospect at the position and the No. 3 prospects overall. — Aaron Reiss

2. Chicago Bears: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

If you listen to first-year Bears coach Matt Eberflus, you should know how important the three-technique defensive tackle position is for his defensive scheme. Just last week, Eberflus described the three-technique as “the engine that makes everything go.” It’s not easy to pass on Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr., but Carter can be that engine for the Bears’ defense in the future. He’s a nasty, do-everything lineman in the mold of Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. They’re actually from the same high school (Apopka) in Florida. Carter is also the best player on the best team in college football and arguably has been for the past two years. — Adam Jahns

3. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Alabama

The Seahawks are in desperate need of a game-changing pass rusher. They haven’t had a double-digit sack guy since Frank Clark in 2018. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (nine sacks through 15 games) should reach that level before the year ends, but his presence alone hasn’t prevented Seattle from being average when it comes to pressuring the passer. The Seahawks are so desperate for a dominant edge to pair with Nwosu that they’re starting 35-year-old Bruce Irvin. He has played fine, to be fair, but the fact they had to call Irvin up from his couch to play 54 percent of defensive snaps speaks to how serious the need is for a plug-and-play talent on the edge. – Michael-Shawn Duggar

4. Arizona Cardinals: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

Since Kliff Kingsbury took over as head coach, only one of Arizona’s first-round picks has been spent on a player at a premium position (Kyler Murray, No. 1 in 2019). With a change in general manager on the horizon, it’s time for the Cardinals to stop messing around with high-value draft opportunities, and Ringo is the best non-quarterback available here.

Combined over the last four seasons, Arizona ranks 25th in defensive pass EPA, 29th in opponent passer rating, 28th in first downs allowed per pass and 30th in touchdowns allowed per pass. Ringo would give this defense the lockdown corner it’s been missing since Patrick Peterson’s peak years. He’d also help maximize Byron Murphy in the slot/on secondary options and go a long way toward fixing a defense that’s tried to gimmick its way to success. – Diante Lee

5. Indianapolis Colts: Will Lewis, QB, Kentucky

The Colts have to make a determination: Is Levis the top-tier quarterback prospect who had scouts salivating earlier in his Kentucky career, or is he the player who struggled in 2022? He looks the part: a prototype with size, arm strength and mobility. But that inconsistent tape may give some scouts pause. It should also be noted that Levis lost his top target, most of his offensive line and his offensive coordinator in 2022, but he also had only one game with 250-plus yards in 15 starts against SEC defenses. Still, he has all the traits, which is why he’s been on a top-10 trajectory for quite a while. – Bob Kravitz

6. Atlanta Falcons: Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson

Everything in Atlanta is contingent on Desmond Ridder’s development over the final two games. If the rookie quarterback shows he’s the man for the job for (at least) 2023, then the Falcons don’t have to add another young player at that position. Atlanta used a second-round (Arnold Ekibetie) and a third-round pick (DeAngelo Malone) on edge rushers last year, but it hasn’t helped much yet. While Ebiketie and Malone have progressed, Atlanta is still last in the league in sack percentage, at 3.9 percent. Only six teams in the last five years have had a lower sack percentage and one of them was last year’s Falcons (3.1 percent). Defensive tackle and cornerback would be enticing here, too. – Josh Kendall

7. Detroit Lions (via Rams): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

This is … not an ideal board for the Lions. We would have been thrilled if Ringo was available here, but he was not. Murphy was an option, too, as was Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee. But the emergence of rookie James Houston has lessened the need for another pass rusher and GM Brad Holmes remains high on DT Levi Onwuzurike, a 2021 second-round pick who has been unable to stay healthy. Since there are no trade scenarios here, the Lions are kind of stuck. However, corner is a clear and obvious need, so Gonzalez – who fits what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn likes to do – is the pick. – Colton Pouncy

8. Carolina Panthers: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State

The Panthers have stayed in the playoff hunt thanks to the terrible state of the NFC South and despite the lack of a franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold is the third QB to start for Carolina this year, following Baker Mayfield and PJ Walker. And while Darnold has played better and protected the ball — his four-game stretch without a turnover is the longest of his career — the Panthers should be in the QB market again. That could be trickier if they take the division, which would drop the Panthers to 19th in the draft order (or lower if they win a playoff game).

The Panthers passed on an Ohio State QB in 2021, when they took Jaycee Horn at No. 8 while Justin Fields was available. It’s not inconceivable that they make the same decision again. – Joe Person

9. Las Vegas Raiders: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

We were a tiny bit tempted by Florida QB Anthony Richardson. For all his physical skills, though, he is just not accurate enough on short and intermediate routes.


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Meanwhile, Smith checks all the boxes with his frame (6-1, 187 pounds), long arms, sticky coverage, ball skills and positional versatility. Smith played outside, inside and even safety in college. Opposing teams avoided him this season – he allowed only 15 catches on 32 targets for 184 yards – but the energy and leadership that he plays with still jump out. – Vic Tafur

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints): Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

The Eagles believe in building along the line of scrimmage — 12 of their last 17 first-round picks either rushed the passer or protected the QB — so a good bet would be the best available lineman. It would be tempting to go offensive tackle here to find Lane Johnson’s eventual replacement, but Bresee would be a compelling option. Brugler also had the Eagles take the Clemson DT at No. 6 in his most recent mock draft, and for good reason. Combining Bresee with Jordan Davis would give the Eagles building blocks in the middle of their defensive line, which would be especially valuable considering both Javon Hargrave (30 years old in February) and Fletcher Cox (32, as of Dec. 13) are pending free agency. agents.

Bresee did not necessarily have prolific production at Clemson, and he tore his ACL in 2021, but the former top recruit has the type of physical and athletic profile that is rare to find. He also brings the versatility scheme to play in different alignments for the Eagles. – Zach Berman

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic;
(Photos: Jay Biggerstaff, Kevin C. Cox, Todd Kirkland, / Getty Images)


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