Youmans: 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

April 26, 2023 01:08 AM


Five quarterbacks could go Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft. Another one who’s far from a rookie, Aaron Rodgers, already got the call on Monday.

Rodgers’ freefall in the 2005 draft is unforgettable. He slipped all the way to No. 24 — after the Bears, Raiders and several other teams made forgettable picks — and was wisely scooped up by the Packers. Rodgers and Green Bay finally have parted ways, traded to the Jets.

Will one of the top quarterback prospects in this class fall out of the top 10 like Rodgers did?

After the No. 1 overall pick, which seems relatively certain, it’s a draft riddled with mystery. The betting markets have been moving fast as information leaks and rumors swirl. The job of a bettor and mock drafter is to filter the rumors and see through the smokescreens while trying to make the puzzle pieces fit in a way that makes sense.

I have read countless stories and talked with numerous sources in preparation for the draft, which has turned into a prime wagering opportunity in recent years, and have around 20 first-round proposition bets in my pocket.

Some trades will happen. But in my second and final mock draft — which has some changes in the top 10 from my first version 10 days ago — no trades are projected because it complicates a process that’s already a guessing game.

Matt Youmans’ NFL mock draft 2.0 (before the Jets-Packers trade was finalized):

1. Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Top team needs: QB, WR, OL, DL, CB

With the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Panthers picked Auburn’s Cam Newton, a physical 6-foot-5 quarterback who won one MVP award and lost one Super Bowl. Carolina will go with the smaller Young this time. At 5-10, he’s more like Russell Wilson. Young’s intelligence and playmaking ability make him the right fit for new coach Frank Reich’s offense.

2. Texans: Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama

Top team needs: QB, DL, WR, LB, OL

Houston needs a quarterback and wants Young, but the Texans can fill another need by turning to another Crimson Tide star. DeMeco Ryans, Houston’s new coach and a former Alabama linebacker, reportedly prefers Anderson over all other defensive linemen. The DraftKings draft position prop on Anderson (Under 3.5, +150) is worth a bet. The Texans will have appealing QB options later in this draft and in 2024.

3. Cardinals: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech

Top team needs: DL, OL, TE, RB, WR

With needs all over the field aside from quarterback, Arizona is open to trading down. If the right offer never comes, the Cardinals would do well by building their defensive front with Wilson, a strong 6-6 edge rusher who can start immediately. On the list of impact positions, edge rusher ranks No. 2 behind QB, and Wilson’s stock seems to be rising.

4. Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Top team needs: QB, WR, OL, DL, CB

A physical runner and good passer, Levis reportedly made a big impression on the Colts and new coach Shane Steichen, who designed Philadelphia’s offense around Jalen Hurts. The betting line on Levis to go Under 4.5 moved at Circa Sports from an opener of -160 to the current price of -450. Levis could go as high as No. 2, but a good source said Indianapolis has no plans to trade up from this spot.

5. Seahawks: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

Top team needs: DL, OL, QB, LB, WR

Seattle seems likely to go with a defensive tackle or edge rusher, but Anderson and Wilson could be off the board. Anthony Richardson, an explosive athlete with raw passing talent, would need time to develop behind starting quarterback Geno Smith. Carter is widely considered the top defensive player in the draft. He comes with the baggage of off-field issues, so I’m not extremely confident in my bet on Carter’s draft position Under 6.5, but he’s a top-five talent.

6. Lions: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Top team needs: CB, TE, OL, DL, LB

For the first time in a long time, the Lions have few pressing needs. Detroit recently traded Jeff Okudah, a bust as the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, to Atlanta and could use a cornerback. Witherspoon is a physical, ball-hawking player who’s strong in coverage, and I bet him to be the first corner selected at -125 before the price soared over -200.

7. Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Top team needs: OL, CB, DL, LB, QB

This is a tough call. Gonzalez could go here or slide as low as No. 14 to New England. After signing veteran Jimmy Garoppolo, the reality is coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler need to focus on winning now instead of gambling on a young QB. Las Vegas should emphasize all areas of its defense and the offensive line in this draft. A quarterback (Tennessee's Hendon Hooker?) could come later.

8. Falcons: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Top team needs: DL, QB, CB, OL, LB

The Raiders like Richardson, but if he’s available, the Falcons will consider the QB. Atlanta’s anemic pass rush was among the league’s worst, yet there’s a big defensive line dropoff after Anderson, Wilson and Carter. The bottom line is Richardson has the potential to impact the franchise’s future. I bet Richardson’s draft position Over 4.5 at +135 and could see him going No. 5 or falling out of the top 10.

9. Bears: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Top team needs: OL, DL, CB, TE, WR

By trading down eight spots, Chicago committed to quarterback Justin Fields (for better or worse) and made moves to surround him with playmakers. The offensive and defensive lines must be addressed in this draft. Skoronski is a stud run blocker who can play guard and tackle, but the Bears might opt for an Ohio State offensive tackle in this spot.

10. Eagles: Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa

Top team needs: LB, DL, S, RB, OL

The best player available here might be running back Bijan Robinson, so the Eagles would be tempted to make a surprise pick. This is a weak draft for linebackers, and that’s Philadelphia’s primary need, but Van Ness can play tackle and edge rusher and boost the defensive front. Offensive tackle is another way the Eagles could go with this pick.

11. Titans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Top team needs: OL, QB, WR, RB, DL

If any of the top four quarterbacks fall from the top 10, Stroud is the most likely slider. He’s 6-3 with a strong arm and mobility, though he reportedly did not interview well or impress many teams in the pre-draft process. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, a former Ohio State linebacker, needs to find a QB for the future with Ryan Tannehill near the end in Nashville.

12. Texans: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

With this pick, which could be traded, I’ll go with an outside-the-box idea. Due to being such a versatile weapon in the passing game, Robinson has more value than most elite running backs. Houston could opt for the best player available here if he’s available. It would not be stunning if the Falcons, Eagles or Titans grabbed Robinson, whose closest comp is Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick by the Giants in 2018.

13. Jets: Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State

Top team needs: OL, DL, TE, LB, QB

(The Jets will flip picks with the Packers in the Rodgers deal.)


14. Patriots: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Top team needs: OL, DL, LB, TE, WR

15. Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Top team needs: TE, WR, DL, LB, OL


16. Commanders: Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia

Top team needs: CB, OL, TE, LB, QB

17. Steelers: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Top team needs: OL, CB, DL, LB, WR

18. Lions: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

19. Buccaneers: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Top team needs: OL, TE, WR, DL, LB

20. Seahawks: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

21. Chargers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Top team needs: DL, RB, WR, LB, OL

22. Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Top team needs: CB, OL, WR, QB, RB

23. Vikings: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

Top team needs: CB, WR, OL, DL, QB

24. Jaguars: Brian Branch, S, Alabama

Top team needs: DL, CB, OL, TE, S

25. Giants: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

Top team needs: OL, WR, CB, LB, DL

26. Cowboys: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Top team needs: OL, RB, TE, DL, LB

27. Bills: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

Top team needs: OL, DL, LB, CB, WR

28. Bengals: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Top team needs: OL, DL, RB, TE, CB

29. Saints: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

Top team needs: DL, LB, OL, WR, QB

30. Eagles: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

31. Chiefs: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Top team needs: DL, OL, RB, TE, WR

* Notes: There are 31 picks instead of 32 due to the NFL forcing the Miami Dolphins to forfeit their first-round pick for violating league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.

Teams without a first-round pick: Broncos, Browns, Dolphins, 49ers, Rams.

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