Mock Draft 1.0 is my first for the NFL's 2023 draft, and the primary focus as it is every year is to predict what the Detroit Lions will do.
In that regard, think defense.
The Lions have two first-round picks – No. 6 acquired in 2021 in a trade that sent quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, and No. 18 – their own pick for finishing with a 9-8 win-loss record.
The Lions are expected to go for defense, and this draft is suited to fill that need. As many as a dozen defensive players could be drafted in the top 18 picks with an emphasis on defensive backs and linemen.
This year's mock draft also includes projected trades, in addition to the ones that were already made.
Following is my Mock Draft 1.0. As always, feel free to disagree.
1. Indianapolis Colts (4-12-1). Projected trade with Bears (3-14):
A three-year skid from 11-5 to 9-8 to 4-12-1 has made Indy desperate for changes. The Colts start over at quarterback.
Pick: QB Bryce Young, Alabama. Size is an issue, but production is not: 79 TD passes in 27 games combined in his last two seasons.
2. Houston Texans (3-13-1):
They need a lot, with quarterback, offensive line and defensive line at the top of a long list.
Pick: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. Good size at 6-3, 215 and productive – 25 games, 8,123 yards passing, 83 TDs and only 12 interceptions his last two seasons.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-13):
With a turnover in head coaches and QB Kyler Murray healing from a season-ending injury, the Cardinals need a pass rusher and a cornerback.
Pick: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama. Posted 34.5 career sacks in 41 games.
4. Chicago Bears (3-14):
Projected trade with Houston helps Bears fill needs on both sides of the ball.
Pick: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia. Some analysts consider him the top prospect in the draft. Carter has explosive quickness to disrupt offenses. In 38 career games he recorded 18.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.
5. Carolina Panthers (7-10). Projected trade with Seahawks (9-8 via Broncos 5-12):
The Panthers, Saints and Falcons all finished at 7-10 and a game behind the Bucs for the NFC South title. The Panthers have some good, young defensive players.
Pick: QB Will Levis, Kentucky. Trading up to get a young QB makes sense.
6. Detroit Lions (9-8 via Rams 5-12):
The Lions have a foundation built on GM Brad Holmes' two strong draft classes and development of the players by head coach Dan Campbell and his staff.
That's left the Lions with options in 2023. Trading down for more picks is one of them, but that seems unlikely with the opportunity to add a key player with the sixth pick.
Holmes pointed out the defense's problems in his postseason press conference. The only question is which position gets help first.
Pick: DB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon. A one-year player at Oregon after a transfer from Colorado, Gonzalez is 6-2 with range and speed. He used that to intercept four passes in 12 games. He added 11 passes defended.
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11):
With the Raiders and QB Derek Carr parting ways, the smart money indicates the Raiders will welcome their next QB to town with someone to protect him.
Pick: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State. 6-6, 310, started 23 straight games for the Buckeyes.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10):
They were in the NFC South race at 5-6 but four straight losses knocked them out. They scored just 56 points in those four games. They're looking for help up front.
Pick: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern. Played 33 career games. At 6-4, 315, has the versatility to play guard and tackle.
9. Seattle Seahawks (9-8):
Projected trade gives Seahawks a lot of choices here. Getting help up front on defense is one of them. So is trading down again to a team that needs a quarterback. And so is drafting a QB to have Geno Smith's backup and future successor.
Pick: DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech. In 32 career games, 29 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3 via Saints 7-10):
They don't have a lot of holes, but teams ran up the middle on them. They signed Ndamukong Suh midseason to help plug the middle.
Pick: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State. Porter's father played linebacker in the NFL for 13 seasons with three teams. At 6-2 and 194 pounds, Porter has good size and range for the position.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-10):
The Titans' lack of playmakers was glaring as they closed out the season with seven straight losses. They scored more than 16 points once in that skid that put them out of the playoffs.
Pick: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU. Size (6-4, 215) and production -- 19 yards per catch for three seasons -- should fit the Titans.
12. Houston Texans (3-13-1 via Browns 7-10):
The Texans drafted Stroud with their first pick. It makes sense to get him protection.
Pick: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia. He blossomed quickly. With four career starts going into the 2022 season, he started 15 games at left tackle and did not allow a sack.
13. New York Jets (7-10):
Firing offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was a sign that the Jets need to upgrade the offense. Next step: Adding talent.
Pick: WR Jordan Addison, Southern Ca. After two seasons at Pittsburgh, with 100 catches for 1,503 yards in 2021, Addison transferred to Southern Cal for the 2022 season. In seven games he produced 39 catches, 585 yards and seven TDs.
14. New England Patriots (8-9):
Luck plays a role in the draft, and it's the Patriots' bad luck that this is not a banner year for wide receivers. They can still get a pass catcher, but at a different position.
Pick: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame. Played 36 games with 28 starts in three years and caught 189 passes with 18 TDs.
15. Green Bay Packers (8-9):
The Packers fell from 13-4 in 2021 to 8-9. QB Aaron Rodgers had an off year – 26 TD passes and 12 interceptions. The Packers do not heed an overhaul. They have enough talent to do better.
Pick: Safety Brian Branch, Alabama. Played 40 games in three years, produced four interceptions and 27 passes defended.
16. Washington Commanders (8-8-1):
They've started five different quarterbacks in the last two seasons and have a record of 15-18-1.
Pick: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida. In 12 games in 2022 he had 17 TD passes, nine interceptions and a 59-percent completion rate. His mobility showed with 652 yards running and nine TDs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8):
The Steelers won six of their last seven to finish above .500. It's never a bad idea to stock up on cornerbacks to deal with the talented, young QBs in the AFC North.
Pick: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois. A playmaker, with five career interceptions and a big 2022 season – three picks and 17 passes defended.
18. Detroit Lions (9-8):
One thing we've learned from Holmes' first two years as GM of the Lions is to expect anything.
The 2022 draft was a prime example. After drafting Aidan Hutchinson second overall, Holmes did not wait to use his second pick in the first round – No. 32 overall. He bundled picks to move up to the 12th pick and take speedy wide receiver Jameson Williams of Alabama.
Regardless of whether the Lions move up, down or remain at No. 18 for their second pick, the odds are high that the Lions will use the pick on a defensive player.
With that in mind ...
Pick: DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson. 6-5 and 306 pounds, he played 26 games with 21 starts. Nine career sacks and 15 tackles for loss.