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Review of Mel Kiper’s latest 2023 NFL mock draft after first week of free agency

We take a look at Mel Kiper’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

New York, NY, USA; ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Now that free agency is mostly over with for the bigger names, we’re seeing post free agency mock drafts come out. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper’s mocks get plenty of attention and often help set the tone for how the media views the first couple rounds in general. We’ll take a look at his latest and see which way the winds are pointing.


As usual, quarterbacks are the main focus early in the first round. The league is decidedly led by the top quarterbacks in the game and finding one of those is priority one for NFL teams. This year we have four quarterbacks that appear destined to go in the first round.

And with the Bears trading the No. 1 pick to the Panthers, Kiper has Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud being drafted first overall. After the trade and the NFL Combine, sportsbooks all flipped Bryce Young and Stroud, making Stroud the favorite to go first, while Young becomes the favorite to be taken second by the Texans. This is also what Kiper and a slew of other draftniks have done in their mocks.

Trade Alert!

The No. 3 slot in the draft is currently with the Cardinals and if a team really wants their choice of QB after Stroud and Young, they would get it if they traded up with the Arizona. Kiper has exactly that happening, as the Colts trade up one spot to select Kentucky QB Will Levis with the third pick. The Cardinals get a little more draft capital and still get to take their guy.

As for the fourth quarterback, Anthony Richardson, Kiper has him going 5th overall to the Seahawks. With Geno Smith’s contract being structured so the team can get out of it without much pain next season, grabbing Richardson would make some sense as he learns behind Smith.

First defensive player taken

Kiper took Alabama’s pass rushing linebacker Will Anderson to the Cardinals with the 4th pick and that looks like it will likely happen if they trade with the Colts or not. They would likely need to get a big offer for that No. 3 pick to fall out of Anderson range.

Where does Bijan go?

Texas running back Bijan Robinson is going to be mocked all over the first round and sometimes outside the first round depending on just how “generational” analysts think his talent is. Kiper has the Austin product going to the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills makes a lot of sense for Robinson, as the Bills have had trouble finding a consistent every down back and are in win-now mode. They just let Devin Singletary walk in free agency, but also added Damien Harris. But, Harris and James Cook, though good, wouldn’t have the immediate impact Robinson would.

Final thoughts

Kiper has four wide receivers and a whopping three tight ends going in the first round. Tight ends are viewed as being deeper with higher ceilings than wide receivers on average this year and that shows. We also know that wide receivers have a much better shot at contributing early to their teams. I expect that to remain the pattern we see, but that doesn’t mean these tight ends aren’t going to produce some special players long term.