Updated 2-round projections for the new year

It’s holiday season.

It’s bowl season.

It’s mock draft season.

As the calendar turns to 2023 later this week, the NFL playoff picture will come into clearer focus, while the postseason will be wrapping up in the college ranks.

We’ve already had tons of draft declarations from top prospects, and there’s still some drama to be had over the final two weeks of the NFL regular season when it comes to the top of the draft order.

All that considered, here’s an updated look at how the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL draft could shake out, using the latest updated order following Week 16 action:

*NOTE: The Miami Dolphins forfeited their first-round pick in next year’s draft as a result of the NFL’s investigation into tampering violations.

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Davis Mills obviously isn’t the answer, so it’s a safe bet the Texans will be looking for his long-term replacement here. It’s a tight race between Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud for this spot, but despite Young’s lack of ideal size, his arm talent, athleticism, competitiveness and intangibles win out.

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Obviously, the Bears’ prime objective in the offseason needs to be built around Justin Fields on offense, but that can be done in many different ways. In this scenario, their best bet is to take perhaps the best overall prospect in the entire draft, replacing what they lost in Robert Quinn.

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The Russell Wilson deal just keeps looking better and better for the Seahawks, who are in line for a top-five pick (among others). If things play out like this, they’ll be able to address one of their biggest needs here, with arguably the top overall prospect in the entire draft class.

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The defense needs plenty of help, too, but the primary objective for the Cardinals needs to be ensuring the success of Kyler Murray and the offense. That starts up front, where Johnson would bring a track record of success against top competition at both guard and tackle.

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Big changes are ahead for the Colts, who will need a new head coach and a new franchise quarterback next season. Stroud still has some rough edges to smooth out in his game, but he’s got all the tools to quickly develop into a quality starter, and Indy has plenty of explosive weapons to help him succeed.

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This defense needs help at just about every level, and there’s plenty of value to be had on that side of the ball in this scenario. Murphy has a rare combination of size, power, athleticism and versatility that would make him a dominant force in Atlanta, regardless of where he lines up.

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If you stopped watching Richardson after his rocky start to the 2022 season, you missed out on some strong development over the second half of the season. He’s got a similar skill set (and boom/bust potential) that Josh Allen had coming into the draft, and the Lions could afford to be patient with him with Jared Goff playing well.

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I’m not sold on Levis as a first-round prospect, but I won’t be surprised if many teams in the league disagree. Despite his struggles with consistency, accuracy, and decision-making, Levis has some intriguing tools, and the competitiveness coaches and scouts will love at the next level.

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Another defense that needs help just about everywhere, the Raiders would be wise to start building in the trenches first. While they’ve got some talented edge rushers, the Raiders desperately need a dominant, disruptive force along the interior, and that’s exactly what Bresee brings to the table.

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The Eagles have the best record in the NFL, and are still in line for a top-10 pick thanks to last year’s draft-day trade with the New Orleans Saints. This pick should allow them to grab a high-upside talent in Wilson, who has a rare blend of size and athleticism the Eagles would love to develop.

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This is a tough call for Houston, who could use a stud offensive lineman like Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, or a true No. 1 receiver like Johnston. Either would be a huge help to Bryce Young’s development, but with Laremy Tunsil already in place at one tackle spot, the Texans opt for the top pass-catcher in this year’s class.

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Corner isn’t Seattle’s biggest need here, but the value and fit is too much to pass up, considering how this board has fallen at those other positions. Ringo has all the physical tools Pete Carroll loves at the position, and would team up with Tariq Woolen to give the Seahawks one of the league’s best young duos at a premium position.

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This offense desperately needs more weapons in the passing game, but they also need help at tackle, and the value is just too much to pass up there in this scenario. Skoronski is as polished and pro-ready as any prospect in this class, and would be an immediate upgrade on the right side.

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A weapon for the offense is possible here, but don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick takes the opportunity to grab one for his side of the ball. Simpson is one of the most athletic, versatile prospects in this draft, and would be a dangerous presence at every level of the field in New England.

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Offensive tackle is a strong possibility here, but with the talent available at corner, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jets take advantage. Opposing quarterbacks are already avoiding 2022 first-rounder Sauce Gardner, and adding another talented cover man like Smith would allow DJ Reed to slide inside to the slot.

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Rebuilding this offensive line has to be the top priority for the Steelers in the offseason, and it has to start with finding a franchise left tackle. Jones has been stellar this season against top competition in the SEC, and would be a massive upgrade at a premium position to protect Kenny Pickett.

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The defense could use some trench help or a safety, but the value is just not there in this scenario. The same is true for the offensive line prospects left on the board here. That points them toward a pass-catcher, and Mayer has the complete skill set to be an immediate difference-maker on every down.

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Detroit’s corner play on the outside has been a pleasant surprise so far this season, but they could still use a hybrid defender with the versatility to line up in the slot or at either safety spot. Branch is the perfect fit, having handled a similar role in Nick Saban’s defense with great success.

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The Jags could go in a couple of different directions here, but they should err on the side of helping Trevor Lawrence whenever possible. That means landing one of this year’s most explosive pass-catchers in Addison, who makes up for his lack of ideal size with precise routes, separation, and ability to create big plays after the catch.

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Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are both headed for free agency, so the Bucs could use another starting-caliber corner to pair with Carlton Davis III. Porter has the size and length to be a perfect fit in Todd Bowles’ defense, and plays with the same physicality and competitiveness that made his father a Pro Bowl defender.

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This secondary needs a true shutdown artist to take over the No. 1 corner spot, and this gives Washington the perfect chance to do just that. Gonzalez has the size and length to excel in press-man coverage, and the instincts and ball skills to be a big-play machine on the outside.

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If there’s a worse receiver situation in the NFL right now, I’d love to see it. The Giants desperately need an infusion of talent here, and despite missing most of the 2022 season due to injury, Smith-Njigba’s 2021 tape was impressive enough to warrant first-round consideration.

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Justin Herbert already has a pair of big, physical receivers who can win in contested-catch situations all day long (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams), but he could use one who can separate consistently. Hyatt’s breakout season was fueled by his explosive, big-play ability, which is exactly what this offense needs.

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If the Ravens are going to keep deploying such a run-heavy scheme on offense, they might need a new lead back if JK Dobbins isn’t able to return to form after multiple injuries. Robinson is a complete, three-down playmaker who could dominate opposing defenses that are focused on slowing down Lamar Jackson.

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The Broncos got this pick by trading away their best pass rusher in Bradley Chubb, so replacing him here would be a wise move, considering there’s not much value left on the board at offensive tackle. Verse has been one of this year’s fastest-rising prospects, and his explosiveness off the line could make him a dominant presence off the edge at the next level.

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Trevon Diggs is obviously one of the best corners in the game right now, but the Cowboys need an upgrade on the other side of the field. Witherspoon has been one of the most dominant cover men in the country this season, and would be an immediate improvement opposite Diggs.

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There are some more pressing needs on defense, and Joe Burrow already has one of the NFL’s best wide receiver tandems in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. That said, a superstar quarterback can never have enough weapons, and this offense would be that much more dangerous if it had a tight end with Washington’s rare combination of size, athleticism, and blocking prowess.

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Right tackle is a big need, but if the board falls this way, the Chiefs will be better off adding a promising young edge rusher to pair with 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis. Foskey has a similar frame and well-rounded skill set to Karlaftis, with the polish and experience to make an instant impact.

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Adam Thielen isn’t getting any younger, and the Vikings should find a younger understudy to eventually take over as Justin Jefferson’s running mate at receiver. Rice has the size/speed combo that would make him a perfect complement to Jefferson.

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This pick has to be something to help Josh Allen, whether that’s along the offensive line, or at wide receiver. There are plenty of pass-catching options to pick from, but a dominant interior lineman might be harder to find, so Torrence gets the nod to help protect Allen, and improve the ground game.

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I’ve been mocking this pick for a while now, and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon. This offense is already one of the most dominant and entertaining in the league, so adding a versatile weapon like Gibbs would just make it downright unfair.

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