Garrett Cowdrey’s Final NFL Mock Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft is finally here! We have waited all year to watch some of our favorite college stars make the jump to the NFL level and we are all tuning in to see what team they will be playing for. This is a time of year in which your sports feed is likely overloaded with mock drafts by “experts” telling you how they think the NFL draft will go. I guess you could say that I am contributing to this problem, but this is my third year doing this for Sports Wave and I have found a fair amount of success in doing so. I don’t expect to be perfect, the chances of that are abysmally low, but I have a good feeling about how I think the first round of this loaded NFL draft will go. Using a combination of personal scouting, team tendencies, draft trends, and a ton of luck, we will try and tackle the behemoth that is the NFL draft. Let’s get into it and see just how many picks I am able to nail in this unique and confusing draft class of 2023.

1. Carolina Panthers – Bryce Young, Alabama QB

The Panthers gave up quite a bit to get here, and they clearly have a guy in mind. It was believed earlier in the draft process that it may have been CJ Stroud who would be the Panthers pick here, but rumors began swirling and some decisions made by Young indicate that he feels like he will be off the board after just one pick. I agree with this notion, as the Panthers were tormented for years by Drew Brees and now see a player available that looks a lot like him in terms of frame, processing, and ball accuracy. I am pretty confident slating Bryce Young to the Panthers here at 1 to start off the draft.

2. Houston Texans – Will Anderson, Alabama DE

This is a pick that I debated over for a long time, and it really slowed down my process of writing this article as I mulled over who would be the pick here. In my opinion, this is the biggest and most important mystery in the draft, and possibly over the last few drafts that we have seen. Both the offense and defense in Houston are bottom three, and if there is not a QB that they are in love with, it doesn’t make sense to reach here. They make new defensive-minded head coach, DeMeco Ryans, very happy by giving him a new weapon in Anderson, who barely edges out Tyree Wilson to become the second player selected.

3. Las Vegas Raiders (via Arizona Cardinals) – C.J. Stroud, Ohio State QB

The Raiders just signed Jimmy Garappolo to a three-year deal, but they cannot sit by and watch elite quarterbacks continue to take the division and conference with a game manager. This pick gives them a potentially elite quarterback who many thought would be the first overall pick. They could allow Stroud to learn the system for a season behind the oft-injured Jimmy G before handing him the reins and hoping for their own elite passer.

4. Indianapolis Colts – Will Levis, Kentucky QB

The Colts have been an interesting team to watch as they have spent all draft season in scramble mode for a QB, and it was thought that they would likely have to make a move to secure one that made them happy. After recent shifts in the mindsets of teams around them though, they can sit right at the fourth pick and take the quarterback that they have been most connected to throughout the draft process. Levis fits the mold of a Colts quarterback, and, while he may need time to adjust to the NFL level, he could provide a long-term answer at the position in Indy.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech DE

The Seahawks have been linked to quarterbacks in this draft process, but after a successful first season with Geno Smith in the post-Russell Wilson era, I don’t see why they’d make a drastic change with the pick they netted from the trade itself. They need to keep building off a surprisingly good first season and take the best player available at a position of need. That makes this pick easy, just take Wilson and keep chugging.

6. Detroit Lions – Jalen Carter, Georgia DT

The Lions are a team that made a huge jump last year, and I personally see them winning the division next year. What do you do when you are trending in the right direction with a top-ten pick? In my opinion, you take the best player on the board regardless of their position. Jalen Carter provides game-breaking ability for a defense that needs it. His character concerns are real, but if anyone can get him to act right it is definitely Dan Campbell and his gritty staff in Detroit.

7. Arizona Cardinals (via Las Vegas Raiders) – Christian Gonzalez, Oregon CB

After a trade back that netted plenty of much-needed resources for a scarce Cardinals team, the Cardinals make their first selection of the haul. This, position-wise, should be a no-brainer. The Cardinals are barren in the secondary following the exit of Byron Murphy, and Christian Gonzalez is the best corner in the draft in my opinion. While the offensive line might be in play here, I think the most beneficial player that could be selected here for Arizona is Gonzalez.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Bijan Robinson, Texas RB

This might be a bolder prediction since we rarely see running backs selected this early. I think this is a perfect storm for the Falcons though. They are in need of an offensive star with shaky QB play, a thin receiving core, and no clear-cut lead back. They could utilize their solid offensive line to make Robinson a superstar early in his rookie season. Teams have reportedly been in love with Robinson’s abilities, personality, and work ethic during the pre-draft process and the Falcons could use a young guy like that to create a spark in a weak offense.

9. Chicago Bears – Paris Johnson, Ohio State OT

The Bears traded away the first overall pick for an absolute haul, and now it is time for GM Ryan Poles to make sure they nail all the picks that they got back. The first order of business? Build an offensive line. The best guy to do that with is Johnson, who is a great athlete that could quickly become an elite NFL lineman. He has all the tools, and he has spent a long time trying to keep Big Ten defensive ends away from his quarterback, and one of those quarterbacks was Justin Fields back in the day. This just makes sense.

10. Minnesota Vikings (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Anthony Richardson, Florida QB

After the Eagles watched some of the guys at the top of their draft board get their name called already, Howie Roseman decided to pick up the phone. At the other end was a Vikings team looking to give up a small fortune to bring in their future QB ahead of teams like the Titans and Texans who would likely salivate at the idea of Richardson falling in their laps. The Vikings decide to make the move and make the biggest trade of draft night to fly up the board and snag a raw but talented QB in Anthony Richardson. They’ll hope the haul they gave to Philly will be worth it and Richardson can succeed Kirk Cousins up in Minneapolis.

11. Tennessee Titans – Nolan Smith, George DE

The Titans are probably frustrated at the Vikings for nabbing Richardson right in front of them, but they won’t be frustrated enough to reach for a different QB like Hendon Hooker here. They will instead look at a superhuman athlete in Nolan Smith, who dazzled at the NFL Combine and flew up draft boards. He is a perfect fit for Mike Vrabel’s defense and can be a cornerstone for a Titans team in need of a spark on defense.

12. Houston Texans – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State WR

We saw the Texans pass on a quarterback at the second pick to address their brutal defense, and now they decide to address their brutal offense. It won’t be with a quarterback though. They will instead take the guy who seems to be the consensus WR1 across draft boards in Smith-Njigba. He immediately replaces Brandin Cooks and gives whoever is throwing the ball in Houston an absolute stud to rely on. The Texans are far from competent still, but Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a great receiver in a class devoid of them that can help right away.

13. Green Bay Packers (via New York Jets) – Lukas Van Ness, Iowa DE

I was in the process of putting this mock draft together when the Aaron Rodgers soap opera finally had its season finale in Green Bay. They were able to move up two picks in the first round in a swap with the Jets in the process and will look to shore up a pass rush that took a step back in 2022. The guy who they’ll bring in to help is Van Ness, he is a monster of a player with great upside that could be a perfect fit in the Green Bay defense. With the NFC North becoming more reliant than ever on defenses, the Packers get a guy that can make a difference for years to come.

14. New England Patriots – Devon Witherspoon, Illinois CB

It seems like every year, there is someone that falls in the draft that just happens to be in a huge position of need for the Patriots, and all they have to do is just sit back and have them fall in their lap. This year, that is Witherspoon. He is a top-ten talent who some have ranked over Christian Gonzalez, and he just took a tumble down the draft board after the chaos of the last few picks. The Patriots will be happy to have him here, and he can step in and make an immediate impact in a surprisingly weak New England secondary.

15. New York Jets (via Green Bay Packers) – Peter Skoronski, Northwestern OT

After making a blockbuster trade to nab the QB that they think can take them to the Super Bowl, the Jets only have to think about taking the best player available here. Peter Skoronski is another guy who has slid down the draft board, as he is widely regarded as a top-ten talent and some even have him as the best tackle in the class. He reminds me a lot of Jets lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, and now he will join him in protecting Aaron Rodgers in his debut season in New York.

16. Washington Commanders – Broderick Jones, Georgia OT

The Commanders would love to have a guy like Broderick Jones protecting Sam Howell in Washington next year. This guy is an absolute athlete who has the kind of grit and size that could make him the draft’s best lineman when we look back in a few years. He is more raw than the two tackles taken before him, but if the Commanders can develop him, then they can turn this two-time national champion into a superstar left tackle at the NFL level.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Joey Porter Jr., Penn State CB

No position has seen a fall in this draft quite like the cornerback position, as we see here with Porter going all the way at pick 17. I am a huge fan of this guy and personally had him as my CB1 for much of the draft process. He can bring the kind of talent that changes the Steelers’ secondary for the better and takes pressure off of their ball-hawking safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. This would be the best-case scenario for this Steelers team, and I think Porter would be happy to stay in state with Mike Tomlin and company.

18. Detroit Lions – Deonte Banks, Maryland CB

The Lions will be a little frustrated that the run on cornerbacks finally started and it was right before they made their pick. There is nothing to be ashamed of in picking Banks here at 18 though, he is a guy who has moved up draft boards and into the first round and can immediately help turn around a secondary that was among the league’s worst before trading away starter Jeff Okudah.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Myles Murphy, Clemson DE

This is the pick where I most debated giving a first-round home to Hendon Hooker, but I think the Buccaneers will stick to their common plan of just taking the best player available here. That player is Myles Murphy, the Clemson sensation who can come in and replace one of the aging veterans in Tampa’s front seven on defense. This is similar to their selection of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka last year, as Todd Bowles proves again that he is not afraid to reload in the trenches.

20. New York Giants (via Seattle Seahawks) – Zay Flowers, Boston College WR

The Giants just made a surprise playoff appearance in their first year with Brian Daboll as head coach, signed Daniel Jones to a huge extension, and franchised tagged Saquon Barkley. They have to stay aggressive. The best way to do that is to jump a few teams by trading with the Seahawks and nabbing one of the few receivers who is worth a first-round pick in this draft. Flowers can be a day one starter in a weak Giants receiving corps and make Daniel Jones’ job a lot easier. This is the kind of move that a team makes when they are trying to stay ahead of the curve, I hope the Giants are willing to do it.

21. Los Angeles Chargers – Dalton Kincaid, Utah TE

We see our first tight end of the night go off the board here at the 21st pick to Los Angeles. Kincaid is a guy that can become a Pro Bowl-caliber player in year one thanks to his role in this explosive offense. He has the ability to win the starting job early and catch passes from Justin Herbert. This is a pick that makes sense after the run on cornerbacks earlier, and Brandon Staley better hopes he nails this one. How does he still have a job!?

22. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Addison, USC WR

The Ravens finally made a move to address their hole at the receiver position by signing Odell Beckham to a deal earlier in the offseason. They aren’t done though as they try to give Lamar Jackson another reason to stay by bringing in a college superstar in Jordan Addison. His size concerns caused him to fall right into the Ravens’ laps, and they will just let his productivity do the talking as they bring him in to be a top pass catcher in an offense that has relied on its tight end to do so in recent years.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) – Brian Branch, Alabama SAF

Howie Roseman loves to teleport around the draft board, and this year is no exception. They netted this pick from their trade with the Vikings that sent Minnesota the 10th overall pick and will use it to look to add to their dwindling secondary. Brian Branch can immediately come in and play safety, or take the role left open by the departing C.J. Gardner-Johnson also. He is a talented player at an undervalued position that can be a great chess piece for the Eagles’ defense.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Darnell Wright, Tennessee OT

The Jaguars have watched all this draft night movement happening around them, and they respond by staying calm and selecting a guy that can immediately help their rapidly improving team. Wright isn’t the most athletic tackle in this draft, but he has made a living blocking SEC defensive ends and doing it well. He is a safe pick that can be plugged in early to help protect Trevor Lawrence after his breakout year.

25. Seattle Seahawks (via New York Giants) – Kelee Ringo, Georgia CB

The Seahawks already addressed the front seven earlier in this draft, and while there are a few places that they could look, I think bringing in a guy like Kelee Ringo benefits them the most. He has been falling down draft boards for some reason, but I personally still see him as a first-round talent. We all know the Seahawks love reaching in the first round anyway, so I’m not too worried about that. After trading back, the Seahawks find a quality player to help bolster their secondary.

26. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Mayer, Notre Dame TE

After moving on from Dalton Schultz this offseason, tight end has become a major position of need for the Cowboys. They are shallow in terms of pass catchers in general, but Mayer will be better than any receiver available and they’ll choose to scoop him up. He is a special talent that I personally have ranked as my TE1, even though I have Kincaid selected before him. He can come in and take some pressure off of a Cowboys offense that has lost some pieces this offseason.

27. Buffalo Bills – Quentin Johnson, TCU WR

The Bills are stuck in a loop of good but not great right now and need to bolster a few positions to make the leap after some disappointing playoff losses in recent years. They can start here by improving a thin receiving corps and adding Quentin Johnson. He is a guy that some people have mixed feelings about, and as my current WR4, I think this is a perfect landing spot for him to flourish.

28. Cincinnati Bengals – O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida OG

The Bengals’ offensive line was supposed to make a major leap after last offseason, and while it did get somewhat better, it was still below average. They can make it immediately better by bringing in Torrence here. He is a guy getting mixed reviews, but one that I am personally pretty high on, and he can step in and improve the interior of an offensive line tasked with protecting the King of Cincinnati: Joe Burrow.

29. New Orleans Saints – Calijah Kancey, Pitt DT

This pick is one that I am pretty confident in, as the Saints seem to have defensive tackle on top of their draft needs heading in. It could be Bryan Bresee or Mazi Smith here as well, but reports have indicated that the Saints have been doing homework on Kancey, and I expect him to be taken here if he’s still on the board. He is a monster in pass rush but still raw as a run defender. The Saints hope that this skill set will translate to him becoming like another defensive tackle from Pitt with similar traits, Aaron Donald.

30. Philadelphia Eagles – Mazi Smith, Michigan DT

The Eagles love to bolster their defensive line, and this is a perfect spot to do so as we see the run on defensive tackles starting to heat up. After missing out on Jalen Carter and trading back, it will be Mazi Smith tasked with filling the void left by Javon Hargrave. He will likely soon join Jordan Davis as the two primary defensive tackles as Fletcher Cox ages, so he will have big shoes to fill.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Dawand Jones, Ohio State OT

After the Dolphins were forced to forfeit their first-round pick, we see Kansas City pick last at 31 instead of 32 in the first round here. They will keep it very simple by taking a guy to bolster their offensive line. Jones is a guy that easily warrants a first-round talent and is an athletic freak, so the Chiefs will make the smart decision of taking this opportunity to protect Patrick Mahomes as the first round comes to a close.


32. Pittsburgh Steelers – Anton Harrison, Oklahoma OT

33. Houston Texans – Hendon Hooker, Tennessee QB

34. Arizona Cardinals – Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee WR

37. Seattle Sehawks – John Michael Schmitz

38. Baltimore Ravens – Emmanuel Forbes, Miss State CB

39. Carolina Panthers – Josh Downs, North Carolina WR

40. New Orleans Saints – Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama RB

41. Arizona Cardinals – Bryan Bresee, Clemson DT

45. Green Bay Packers – Darnell Washington, Georgia TE

47. Washington Commanders – B.J. Ojulari, LSU DE

50. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Israel Abanikanda, Pitt RB

54. Los Angeles Chargers – Cam Smith, South Carolina CB

55. Detroit Lions – Noah Sewell, Oregon LB

58. Dallas Cowboys – Kayshon Boutte, LSU WR

63. Kansas City Chiefs – D.J. Turner, Michigan CB

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