Today is the day! The 2023 NFL Draft is here! One sign, other than the date, is that ESPN’s Mel Kiper has his final mock draft of the year out today. We’ll take a look at who the draft analyst has going in the first round.
Kiper is toeing the line with Alabama’s Bryce Young going No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers. At this point there don’t seem to be any of the well known analysts moving away from Young here.
After that things get weirder. But maybe not too weird, as many mock drafters have taken the rumors to heart that the Texans are not in on Ohio State QB CJ Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick. Instead, they take a defender, which allows the Tennessee Titans to move up in a trade with the Cardinals to take Stroud at No. 3.
As long as the Texans don’t trade out and don’t take Stroud, this scenario makes perfect sense for the Titans. But what about Will Levis and Anthony Richardson? Well, Levis doesn’t last much longer, as he’s taken with the No. 2 pick by the Colts.
Richardson does fall a bit, but Kiper has the Minnesota Vikings trading up with the Jets eight spots to grab Richardson with the No. 15 pick. He believes the Jets will want to recoup their 2024 first round draft pick they’ll likely lose in the Aaron Rodgers deal while the Vikings are looking for their Kirk Cousins replacement.
And finally Kiper has Hendon Hooker sneak into the first, as the Texans trade up with the Eagles to grab Hendon Hooker.
First defensive player taken
The Texans take Alabama’s Will Anderson with the No. 2 pick instead of a quarterback, while the Seahawks grab Jalen Carter and Tyree Wilson lasts until No. 8 to the Falcons after the two top corners come off the board to the Lions and Raiders. I expect Wilson to go earlier than that, but this scenario makes just as much sense.
Where does RB Bijan Robinson go?
The Eagles grab Robinson with the No. 10 pick, which is a popular landing spot for him. I don’t see the Eagles making this move and Kiper hedges based on the Eagles usual philosophy of not taking a running back this high. It will be very interestig to see what happens. On the surface, Robinson would be a great addition to a Super Bowl competing team, especially one that runs as well as they do.
First wide receiver off the board
In a bit of an upset, Kiper has Zay Flowers going to the Texans at pick No. 14 (as they skip QB entirely in the first), while Jaxon Smith-Njigba doesn’t go until pick No. 22 to the Ravens.
I like the Vikings move to grab Richardson. The odds are against this happening, but it would be a bold move that I’d appreciate as a fan even if it ends up not working out. Richardson’s upside is tremendous.
Jahmyr Gibbs to the Chargers is a good fit and he’d be fun to watch there, but they need true full-time receivers for Justin Herbert. He has a cannon for an arm and they need to give him weapons to use it, especially with the injury concerns for his top two receivers.
Overall this draft looks smack dab in the middle of the realm of possibilities, but there are so, so many possibilities in this draft.