Editor's note: This mock draft was published prior to the March 1 news that Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was the subject of arrest warrants for reckless driving and racing in Athens, Georgia, stemming from an ongoing investigation into a fatal Jan. 15 car crash. Carter was subsequently booked and released from jail.
With Super Bowl LVII in the rearview and the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine on the horizon, it's time to look toward the next group of talent to hit the pro ranks.
Below is my first snapshot of the top five prospects at each major position in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
While the 2023 quarterback crop is an upgrade on the '22 group, it still lacks the pizzazz of certain classes from the recent vintage. That said, there are some quality signal-callers with the potential to evolve into long-term QB1s in the right environment. Stroud is the most prototypical prospect of the bunch, as a talented passer and playmaker with the requisite physical traits and tools. Although the Ohio State standout did not lean into his athleticism for most of his collegiate career, his spectacular performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff could encourage coaches to explore his potential as a dual-threat playmaker at the next level. Young checks off numerous boxes of a franchise quarterback, but lacks the size and frame that old-school team builders covet. Despite the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner's production and performance as an exceptional passer from the pocket at Alabama, he could see his draft stock fall a bit due to his physical dimensions. Hooker is currently recovering from an ACL tear suffered in November and his advanced age (25) will be a topic of conversation in the pre-draft process, but he's one of the more polished quarterbacks that you'll find when it comes to throwing with anticipation, timing and touch. He deftly manages an offense, playing the game like a seasoned pro. Levis is this group's wild card, as a talented passer and playmaker with A+ physical tools. The Kentucky product has flashed intriguing potential as a QB1, but his spotty play makes him something of a boom-or-bust prospect.
This RB class is loaded with potential starters, many of whom could come off the board in the middle rounds, given the devaluation of the position in the draft hierarchy. As the undisputed RB1 of the class, Robinson is a five-star player with top-10 talent and potential. The Texas standout is an old-school runner with the vision, balance, body control and power to run through or around defenders, and he flashes the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Gibbs is a jitterbug with explosive stop-start quickness and burst. The Georgia Tech/Alabama product is a big-play machine with diverse skills to immediately excel as a change-of-pace/third-down back in the NFL. Charbonnet is a super-sized back with an old-school game. The UCLA star is a punishing runner with the vision, balance and body control to weave through traffic as a classic RB1.
While lacking a high-end prospect with Ja'Marr Chase-like potential, this year's wide receiver pool features a collection of intriguing pass catchers with polished games. Smith-Njigba is a blue-chipper with the skills to emerge in the NFL as a big-play specialist from the slot. Although he missed most of 2022 with a nagging hamstring injury, the Ohio State product checks off all of the boxes as a pass catcher with high-end potential on Sundays. Flowers is an explosive catch-and-run specialist with the speed and quickness to overwhelm defenders in one-on-one matchups. The Boston College standout is an A+ route runner with a dynamic game that could make him a nightmare to defend in the NFL. Johnson is a big, fast and physical playmaker with a knack for producing big gains on the perimeter. The TCU product is a bit of a body catcher, but his leaping ability and length make him a dangerous weapon on the outside in a vertical passing game.
The 2023 tight end class will intrigue coaches and scouts seeking basketball-like athletes with post-up skills and soft hands. Mayer is the cream of the crop as an old-school "Y" with strong hands and a nose for the end zone (18 touchdowns over three seasons at Notre Dame). Teams looking for a classic tight end will salivate over his potential as an impact player. Kincaid is a dynamic flex with outstanding route-running skills and sticky hands. Boasting extensive collegiate experience (two years at San Diego and three seasons with Utah), Kincaid is a plug-and-play prospect with the potential to make an immediate splash as a designated playmaker. Washington is a super-sized tight end with a combination of skills that makes him a hybrid offensive tackle/perimeter pass catcher. The Georgia product obliterates defenders as a blocker on the edges, while also displaying soft hands and better-than-anticipated playmaking skills for a gigantic target.
This group offers a solid collection of edge blockers with the size, length and movement skills to challenge elite pass rushers in isolated matchups. Johnson is an exceptional athlete with the size, strength and power to maul defenders in the run game and pass protection. He finishes blocks violently, showcasing an edginess that sets the tone for the rest of the front line. Skoronski is a polished all-around blocker with superb technique and outstanding movement skills. The Northwestern standout excels at latching on and finishing blocks in space. Jones is a power player with the knock-back power to mash and maul defenders in the ground attack. In addition, he displays balance, body control and lateral quickness to shadow shifty pass rushers off the edge.
The 2023 NFL Draft is loaded with talented interior blockers possessing the capacity to play guard or center. The versatility will enable teams to peg the majority of the top prospects as swing players with the potential to fill multiple spots in the lineup. Torrence is the crown jewel of the class as a massive interior blocker with heavy hands and explosive power. The Louisiana/Florida product flashes dominant ability as a people mover in the ground game, while displaying enough quickness and skill to handle top interior rushers in pass protection. Schmitz is an athletic center with the movement skills to pull, climb and reach defenders at the line of scrimmage or on the second level. In addition, the Minnesota pivot plays with the edginess that most offensive coaches covet in front-line players. Wypler is a polished technician with the movement skills to excel on pulls or climb-blocks in space. The Ohio State standout is Day 1 ready, with a toolbox that could make him an immediate difference-maker as a rookie.
This year's edge crop features an intriguing collection of sack artists and disruptive playmakers. Anderson is the biggest prize as a high-energy defender with A+ athleticism and pass-rush skills. He's a monster off the edge with the tools that should help him blossom into a double-digit sack producer early in his NFL career. Wilson is a heavy-handed power rusher with outstanding size and length. The Texas Tech product is a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage with rock-solid skills as a run defender and pass rusher. Van Ness is a versatile front-line defender with a high-revving motor that overwhelms opponents. The Iowa standout offers position flexibility and is a rugged player at the point of attack with outstanding skills as a run stopper/pass rusher.
The 2023 DT pool offers some high-end prospects with blue-chip potential. Carter is an extra-large freak athlete with a disruptive presence. The Georgia standout flashes a rare combination of explosive first-step quickness and heavy hands, allowing him to wreck games as a run stopper/pocket pusher. Bresee is a versatile interior defender with the capacity to play nose tackle or three-technique in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. The former No. 1 overall recruit is an active player at the line of scrimmage with quick hands and dynamic finishing skills. Smith is an elite athlete with intriguing tools as an interior defender. He flashes disruptive potential, but needs some skill refinement to become a more consistent player at the next level.
Seeking tackling machines with outstanding instincts and high football IQs? You've come to the right draft class! Sanders is a throwback linebacker with the size, strength and awareness to control the middle. With the Alabama/Arkansas product also displaying disruptive pass-rush skills, defensive coordinators will salivate over his potential as an impactful second-level defender. Simpson is an athletic playmaker with outstanding instincts and awareness. The Clemson star is a rangy defender with the speed and quickness to run with tight ends down the seam or attack the quarterback off the edges. Campbell is an old-school thumper with the instincts, range and diagnostic skills to own the tackle-to-tackle box. He has a strong nose for the ball, with a knack for taking it away as a run stopper/pass defender.
This corner crop features a series of instinctive cover men with ball skills and playmaking ability. Witherspoon is a natural CB1 with the movement skills, instincts and awareness to hold his own in coverage. The Illinois product also displays a willingness to mix it up in the running game as a rock-solid tackler who enjoys the physical part of the game. He's a tone-setter. Porter Jr. possesses the size, bloodlines (his father is indeed former All-Pro edge defender Joey Porter) and overall awareness to develop into a blue-chip cover corner in the NFL. The Penn State standout is ideally suited to play in a man-to-man scheme that enables him to challenge wideouts at the line of scrimmage with his length and feisty temperament. Gonzalez is an aggressive ballhawk with a gambler's mentality. He has a knack for making plays on the ball, and his superb awareness could make him an impact player early in his pro career.
The evolution of the safety position at the NFL level makes this 2023 group an enticing collection of talent. Teams looking for center fielders and nickel corner types will love the group. Branch is a hybrid defender ideally suited to line up in the slot. The Alabama standout has a great feel for playing in traffic and his solid tackling skills will serve him well as the extra defensive back on the field. Johnson is a polished slot defender with outstanding awareness and instincts. The Texas A&M product is an aggressive hitter with a strong nose for the ball and rock-solid tackling skills. Robinson is an intriguing option as a slot defender with A+ tackling skills and zone-coverage ability. He flashes plug-and-play ability as a nickel corner in an aggressive scheme.