We are ONE WEEK AWAY from the 2023 NFL Draft! It's the perfect time to reveal my one and only mock draft of the year. I'm sure my projection of the first round will raise some eyebrows, so I won't hold you up any longer.
NOTE: The NFL announced in August that the Miami Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick following an investigation into whether the team violated league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.
I know, I know. Top quarterback prospect Bryce Young canceled his remaining pre-draft visits on Monday, fueling the belief that he will be Carolina's pick at No. 1 overall, but let's think about this. While my opinion is not based on any inside information, it makes so much sense to pair the Panthers with Richardson, who should remind them of the last quarterback who took the franchise to the Super Bowl and won an MVP. And let's not forget Frank Reich's glowing review of Richardson from last month:
"Even before the combine, watching his tape, there are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top-of-the-draft pick."
After a big surprise at No. 1, Bryce Young is still on the board when Houston comes on the clock, but Stroud ends up being the apple of the team's eye. Stroud has much more size than Young, which steers the Texans toward the former Buckeye.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Colts have long searched for a quarterback. When Young becomes available at No. 3, owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Shane Steichen wisely outbid other teams, jumping at the opportunity to land their franchise quarterback.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
There's been a lot of buzz around Wilson throughout the draft process and the tape matches the hype. The Cardinals land a much-needed young, explosive edge rusher to give new defensive coordinator Nick Rallis a cornerstone on the front line.
Production, production, production. Seattle strikes gold when Arizona passes on Anderson, who totaled 27.5 quarterback takedowns over the last two seasons.
While the off-field concerns will need to be weighed, the Lions decide to shore up their interior D-line with the most dominant player in the draft.
The Raiders have their choice of cornerbacks and select Gonzalez, an athletic playmaker with great ball skills who should immediately upgrade the defense.
The Bears must build their offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback, who was sacked 55 times last season (tied for most in the NFL).
The Texans draft Smith-Njigba, Stroud's college teammate. We saw how well drafting a QB-WR duo who played together in college has worked for Cincinnati. Houston gets its version to help grow an offense in need of talent.
Side note: I couldn't live with myself if I continued this exercise without pointing out my favorite college teammate duo that was taken by a team with its first two picks. That's right, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted my guy Marcedes Lewis (No. 28 overall) and yours truly (No. 60) with their first- and second-round picks in 2006. Cue the UCLA 8-clap!
I sure hope the Packers finally select a playmaking wide receiver in the first round to aid their young quarterback.
The Commanders nab the 6-foot-6, 313-pound behemoth to protect the blindside of new QB1 Sam Howell.
Another team that needs to shore up its offensive line, Pittsburgh gets a physical tackle and terrific pass blocker to put in front of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Another blue-chip player lands in the Lions' lap. Porter is a long cover corner who should provide immediate help on the back end of a revamped defense.
A poor offensive line caused the wheels to come off in Tampa last season. The Bucs add a physical blocker here to help the run game.
Hooker gets a redshirt year to get completely healthy and learn behind Kirk Cousins before becoming QB1 and leading Kevin O'Connell's offense.
A versatile playmaker who can play safety or nickel, Branch will step in to help fortify the back end of a Jags defense looking to take the next step this fall.
This talented, explosive interior rusher lands with a team that loves getting after the quarterback. It's a great fit.
A dynamic tight end lands in a dynamic offense. Pairing Kincaid with an explosive receiving trio gives Joe Burrow endless weapons in the pass game. Watch out for this group!
The Saints add a tight end who can be an in-line blocker in the run game and a playmaker for Derek Carr in the pass game.
The rich keep getting richer as the Eagles add another strong and talented interior defender to their defensive line.
The Chiefs find Frank Clark's replacement, nabbing a big, athletic edge rusher who is still raw but has all the tools to learn under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.