NFL Mock Draft 2023: Trade-tempted Bears take Will Anderson Jr. with No. 1 pick; Texans, Colts, Panthers clarify QB situations

The NFL playoffs are kicking off. The College Football Playoff is ending. That transitional period is an ideal time to clock in with a new 2023 mock draft.

This special edition is limited to the top 18 overall picks, with the order set for non-playoff teams. The exceptions the Broncos, Rams, Saints and Browns, who all have traded away their upcoming first-round selections.

In a shocking Week 18 twist, the Texans rallied to beat the Colts while the Bears were getting routed by the Vikings, giving Chicago (3-14) the top pick over Houston (3-13-1).

Without including any potential trades, here are Sporting News’ projections for how the selections will play out from No. 1 to No. 18:

BIG BOARD: Ranking the top 75 prospects for 2023 NFL Draft

NFL mock draft 2023

1. Chicago Bears

  • Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama (6-4, 235 pounds)

The Bears, picking first overall for the first time since 1947, shouldn’t need to consider QB with the passing and running ceiling of big-armed Justin Fields. The ideal scenario is trading down for extra first-down selection power with a team looking to jump the Texans for a particular franchise QB. If the Bears stay, they should look to get familiar defensive pop.

Getting this cornerstone pass rusher and active all-around playmaker is great call. Anderson would give them a new Khalil Mack after also saying goodbye to Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith on the second level.

MORE: Breaking down the Bears’ best options for No. 1 pick

2. Houston Texans

  • Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (6-0, 194 pounds)

The Texans, after seeing there’s no solution between Davis Mills and Kyle Allen, quarterback must be the pick right away. Although they are no longer guaranteed to select their QB of choice, they must first answer the question of whether they prefer Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Here’s thinking early that Young, with the pedigree that’s helped Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones become NFL starters, will provide the right combination of passing upside and little bust factor based on his intangibles and proven production.

MORE: Breaking down the Texans’ best options after missing No. 1 pick

3. Arizona Cardinals

  • Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (6-3, 310 pounds)

The Cardinals have an easy pick to make here with J.J. Watt retiring and Zach Allen heading into free agency. Carter is a dominant, disruptive force made to make a lot of plays as an NFL base 3-4 end. He possesses Watt-like upside with pass-rush potential.

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4. Indianapolis Colts

  •  C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 215 pounds)

The Colts’ reward for an absolute QB mess between Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger in the final abbreviated season under Frank Reich is being bad enough to get in position to stop recycling veteran QBs. They can land Stroud, a smart pocket passer with the right accuracy and intangibles to thrive as their true delayed franchise replacement for Andrew Luck.

MORE: Breaking down players, picks involved in lopsided Russell Wilson trade

5. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos)

  • Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson (6-5, 275 pounds)

The Seahawks should be thinking about boosting their defensive front seven with their extra higher first-rounder. Murphy has a great combination of explosiveness and instincts to maintain his pass-rush production in Pete Carroll’s scheme.

6. Detroit Lions (from Rams)

  • Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia (6-0, 205 pounds)

The Lions got some improved play from 2020 first-rounder Jeff Okudah in coverage but struggled to find other answers on the perimeter. Ringo has the mentality they need as he translates his size well into , .

Jordan Addison-JaTravis Broughton

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7. Las Vegas Raiders

  • Jordan Addison, WR, USC (6-0, 175 pounds)

The Raiders could use some field-stretching speed and after-catch quickness to help Davante Adams outside and Addison has a nice blend of both. He also would be an attractive additional playmaker to push toward a Tom Brady-Josh McDaniels reunion in free agency.

8. Atlanta Falcons

  • Isiaah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame (6-4, 257 pounds)

The Falcons must invest in revving up their 3-4 pass rush and Foskey can fit the bill with his powerful, explosive and technically sound game. He also has the potential to become more well-rounded for the NfL as he further develops as a run defender.

9. Carolina Panthers

  • Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (6-3, 232 pounds)

The Panthers need to clean up their QB situation after going from Baker Mayfield to P.J. Walker before circling back to Sam Darnold in a run-heavy offense. Levis represents a solid pocket passer with the arm, accuracy and quick release to thrive with the right support system.

Will Levis

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10. Philadelphia Eagles (from Saints)

  •  Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina (6-0, 188 pounds)

The Eagles stash for their future with their first of two picks in the round, knowing Darius Slay just turned 32 and James Bradberry is going into his age-30 season. Smith can be groomed into a shutdown cover man and give them a young replacement option in a year or two.

11. Tennessee Titans

  • Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State (6-6, 310 pounds)

Left tackle Taylor Lewan is 31 and has dealt with major knee injuries in two of the past three seasons. Fill-in Dennis Daley is a free agent. The Titans can get Johnson to pair nicely with fellow former Buckeye Nicholas Petit-Frere as the near future bookends.

12. Houston Texans (from Browns)

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 197 pounds)

The Texans need to pair a dynamic pass-catcher with their new franchise QB. Smith-Njigba would be the right choice after Addison is off the board. He can follow Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson as a prized Buckeyes prospect with his speed, quickness and route-running.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

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13. New York Jets

  • Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (6-3, 225 pounds)

Simpson is a tough, fast on-ball playmaker the Jets could use on the second level around Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley. He can operate well vs. both run and pass for Robert Saleh after pending free agents Kwon Alexander and Quincy Williams were limited all-around.

14. New England Patriots

  • Quinton Johnston, WR, TCU (6-4, 215 pounds)

The Patriots need to try again to get a bona fide No. 1 wideout for the sake of Mac Jones with Jakobi Meyers and others heading into free agency and DeVante Parker not being reliable with his health ahead of his Age-30 season. Johnston is ideal size-speed prospect for the outside in the vein of Mike Evans and Mike Williams and also offers route-running savvy and good hands.

15. Green Bay Packers

  • Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame (6-4, 251 pounds)

Mayer is a matchup-nightmare creating receiver at his position and can fit in nicely with fellow big-play youngsters Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs at wideout. Robert Tonyan is a pending free agent and the Packers could a special kind of athletic target to help Aaron Rodgers stretch the middle of the field to replace Randall Cobb.

16. Washington Commanders

  • Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson (6-5, 300 pounds)

Daron Payne is a pending free agent and the Commanders should look for a new complement to Jonathan Allen to help Chase Young and Montez Sweat up front. Bresee offers good technique and nimble feet as a run-stopper and also can boost the inside pass rush.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern (6-4, 315 pounds)

Dan Moore Jr. has been one of the league’s shakiest left tackles, especially in pass protection. The Steelers need a long-term rock in front of Kenny Pickett’s blind side and Skoronksi can deliver with his smooth quickness and athleticism on the edge.

18. Detroit Lions

  • Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech (6-6, 275 pounds)

The Lions could use a rangy bookend for 2022 No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. Wilson is explosive and versatile for his size, capable of playing multiple impact positions along a front seven.


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