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2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Steelers grab physical lineman in Round 1

Four quarterbacks go in Round 1, and the Steelers come away with an athletic offensive tackle in Wilbar’s Mock Draft 1.0.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 North Dakota State at Arizona Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ah, yes! The NFL Draft is just four months away, and the draft order is beginning to take shape. We are just two weeks away from the first 18 picks being solidified, which will have a huge impact on the outlook of how high the quarterbacks will begin falling off the board. With that in mind, it is time to officially kick off draft season here at BTSC with my first mock draft of the 2023 cycle!

Everyone has their own thoughts on this year’s quarterback class, but expect at least three to be chosen inside the top ten selections, as quarterbacks are typically pushed up draft boards due to need and positional value. I, for one, have concerns about this quarterback class at the top, but I do believe all the top quarterbacks who could be selected in Round 1 have the tools to lead an NFL franchise if developed properly. The consensus first-round prospects at quarterback — Bryce Young, Will Levis, CJ Stroud, and Anthony Richardson — all possess outstanding upside and will likely hear their names called relatively early.

The Steelers do not need to worry about quarterback, however, as they drafted theirs last year when they took Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall selection. In a perfect scenario, the demand for quarterbacks pushes a top offensive tackle down the board and allows the Steelers to fill their biggest need. This is not a given, however, as the tackle class at the top is not great. Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson are likely to go inside the top 20, but some project them both as guards in the NFL. Regardless, they will be popular in Steelers mock drafts over the next few months, and only time will tell as to whether or not the team goes that direction in April.

If you have seen my mock drafts before, the rules have not changed. For those that are new, let me explain how my mock drafts work. Until the draft order is finalized, I use the projected draft order via Tankathon, but I do project trades. I will have five mock drafts between now and the draft, with the final 5.0 mock draft being a full, seven-round projection. Most importantly, these mocks are a projection based off what makes sense (i.e. team fit, need filler, rumored interest). They are not based on what I want to happen or what I would do if I was the general manager for each team.

If you have thoughts on your team’s selection(s), be sure to share them in the comment section below, but without further adieu, it is time to dive into mock draft 1.0!

Round 1

1. Texans- Bryce Young | QB | Alabama

There is no clear-cut QB1 in this class at this point in time, but I like Bryce Young’s fit in Houston, where he would be reunited with former teammate John Metchie III. Size is a concern, but playing in a dome prevents bad weather for at least eight games every season. Playing AFC South teams like Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis (who plays indoors) also helps.

2. Bears- Will Anderson | EDGE | Alabama

There is still a debate as to who is the best player in the 2023 class. However, the Bears have a serious need at EDGE rusher after trading away Robert Quinn mid-season. Anderson may not have had the year he did in 2021, but he still finished with double-digit sacks and was consistently wreaking havoc in the backfield.

3. Seahawks- Jalen Carter | DT | Georgia

Who would have thought Seattle would be getting a pick this high from Denver? This works out perfectly for Pete Carroll, who needs a difference-making player on the interior of the defensive line. Carter, when healthy, was virtually unblockable in 2022, and he is not done yet. A strong performance in the College Football Playoff could make him the consensus number one prospect in the class.

Cardinals receive Panthers 1st and 2nd (PROJ 59TH OVR) round picks and 2024 1st round pick
4. Panthers- Will Levis | QB | Kentucky

Durability is a concern with Levis, as he does not always protect his body from big hits. However, the physical traits are going to excite NFL franchises. Sam Darnold is playing well right now, but he is not the long-term answer. In the perfect scenario, Darnold comes back in 2023 and can hold down the fort until Levis is ready to take over.

5. Colts- CJ Stroud | QB | Ohio State

The Colts’ quarterback situation has not been solved by veterans, which means it is time to finally draft their own guy for the long haul. Stroud struggles when under pressure in the pocket, but he has the best ball placement of any quarterback in this class. Perhaps a miracle against Georgia will vault his draft stock back up.

6. Falcons- Tyree Wilson | EDGE | Texas Tech

Atlanta could be in the quarterback market as well, but until Anthony Richardson proves himself during the pre-draft process, the top ten is too high for him. Instead, they go with a big, athletic pass rusher in Tyree Wilson. Atlanta is already thin at EDGE, and Lorenzo Carter is set to hit free agency.

7. Lions- Joey Porter, Jr. | CB | Penn State

This may be a little bit of projection here, but I do expect Porter’s stock to rise as the draft process progresses. Porter’s length, speed, and instincts are everything you want in a potential lockdown corner, and he comes at a relatively cheap price compared to the top corners of recent drafts. Amani Oruwariye, who is a pending free agent, and Jeff Okudah have formed a nice tandem, but they could really use an elite talent in that secondary.

8. Cardinals (projected from Panthers)- Myles Murphy | EDGE | Clemson

Murphy only had 6.5 sacks in 2022, but his best performances came against quality opponents. At 6’5”, 275 pounds, Murphy has the athleticism and frame to either maintain his weight and man the edge or add weight and move inside. That decision will likely be determined by the team who drafts him, and with J.J. Watt retiring and Zach Allen set to become a free agent, Murphy would likely bulk up and fit right in as a 5-technique.

9. Raiders- Paris Johnson | OT | Ohio State

The experiment with Alex Leatherwood was short-lived, and the Raiders have to figure out something else in short order. I have concerns about Johnson’s upside as a run blocker, but his athletic traits will definitely raise eyebrows in Indy. A strong performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff Semifinals could really improve his draft status.

10. Eagles- Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon

The Eagles have everything except running back set on offense, and I do not know if Howie Roseman will want to take a running back this high, even Bijan Robinson. Gonzalez is not the flashiest corner in the world, but he has good athletic traits and brings a ton of untapped potential to the team that drafts him. He could be an option to replace James Bradberry, who is set to become a free agent in March.

11. Texans- Peter Skoronski | OL | Northwestern

Skoronski does not meet the length threshold many NFL teams have for a tackle, but his tape is impressive. He is a clean mover and technician, and he displays more physicality than his frame may suggest. I actually have him rated above Paris Johnson in my overall draft rankings.

12. Seahawks- Brian Branch | S | Alabama

Seattle needs a lot of help in the secondary, although they struck gold with rookie phenom Tariq Woolen. The Seahawks could use a playmaker at safety, and Branch can be that and more for Pete Carroll’s defense. Branch is one of the most versatile defenders in the class, as he can man either safety spot as well as nickel cornerback.

13. Titans- Michael Mayer | TE | Notre Dame

Tennessee may be in a state of transition here soon. Ryan Tannehill and Taylor Lewan are not guaranteed to return in 2023, and quarterback Malik Willis needs more weapons to work with. Mayer is a good, but not great, athlete who would be a big help to Willis both as a receiver as well as a blocker.

Patriots receive Lions 1st and 2nd (PROJ 60TH OVR) round picks
14. Lions- Anthony Richardson | QB | Florida

I was shocked when Richardson chose to enter the NFL Draft, as I did not feel he was ready for the next level. Nonetheless, his traits cannot go unnoticed. While it is quite the risk taking Richardson in Round 1, this makes sense for the Lions, as Jared Goff is still under contract through 2023. Goff can play out his contract before Richardson gets his chance in 2024; and if it does not work out, the Lions are not out anything, since they had an additional first-round pick from the Matthew Stafford trade. They will not be giving up any future picks to make it happen, and, if Richardson lives up to his potential, the Lions may have one of the best quarterbacks in the league for years to come.

15. Jets- Broderick Jones | OT | Georgia

Quarterback could be in play too, but I could see the Jets being in the market for a veteran, such as Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy Garoppolo, or even Lamar Jackson. Jones has been a beast for Georgia at tackle this season, allowing zero sacks in pass protection and displaying intriguing physicality in the running game. He is still raw, but his overall ability is hard to ignore. With needs all along the offensive line, the Jets find themselves coming back to the well of NFL Draft prospects to fix the issues once again.

16. Steelers- Cody Mauch | OT | North Dakota State

The Steelers have shoved offensive tackle to the wayside way too long, and something must be done about it this offseason. The philosophy of building the offensive line from within simply does not work as well in the modern NFL, when the vast array of athletic pass rushers coming into the NFL are too much for subpar tackles to handle. Nothing is more important in the modern NFL, save quarterback, than offensive tackle.

Dan Moore, Jr. looked solid as the 2021 season came to a close, but his play has regressed under new offensive line coach Pat Meyer, exposing the need for a top talent at the position. This is a position the Steelers have never prioritized, but under a new general manager, perhaps this could change. Unfortunately, there are currently no must-have prospects at tackle this year, and even if one emerges during the next few months, the Steelers are no longer picking high enough to be in play for a prospect of that caliber.

This may not be a name you often see in Steelers mock drafts, but you can expect this name to pop up more and more as the draft process rolls along. Mauch is a physical tackle who displays impressive physical traits as both a run blocker and pass protector. He does tend to lunge on occasion and play over his feet, but that is an easily fixable issue. The only other real concern with Mauch at this point is arm length, as it is not proportionate to his 6’6” frame. This will be a crucial measurement for him at the Senior Bowl. If he stands out in Mobile against FBS competition, his stock could rise even further than this.

17. Packers- Bryan Bresee | DT | Clemson

I thought about giving the Packers an offensive lineman, with Elgton Jenkins set to hit the free agent market. However, the value Green Bay could be getting with Bresee was just too good to pass up in this mock. Bresee is incredibly raw, and he did not record the impressive stats fans were hoping for, but if he can avoid the injury bug, he has an opportunity to be special. The athletic traits are rare.

18. Patriots (projected from Lions)- Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas

This is an interesting projection, and it is probably not one you will see very often. Bill Belichick always holds a short leash with his running backs, and Rhomandre Stevenson has made a huge mistake in each of the last two games, potentially costing the Patriots a spot in the playoffs. Damien Harris is also a free agent, and, while I am high on Pierre Strong, I do not see Belichick making him the focal point of his backfield. Robinson is the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and he will add a new element of explosion to the Patriots offense.

19. Jaguars- Cam Smith | CB | South Carolina

Tyson Campbell has progressed nicely in Jacksonville’s defense, but he is all the Jags have to offer at that position. Smith is a strong athlete who has no glaring weakness in his game. The combine numbers for these corners will likely determine the order in which they go.

20. Buccaneers- Kelee Ringo | CB | Georgia

Ringo is incredibly raw, but his combination of length and speed is elite. While Tampa could look to address the offensive line or even linebacker (Lavonte David is a free agent), they will need to address corner early on in the event Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean leave in free agency.

21. Commanders- Devon Witherspoon | CB | Illinois

The corner rush continues! William Jackson III is now a Steeler, and the team does not have a clear plan at the position moving forward. Witherspoon is a little overaggressive at times, but he played well down the stretch this season. He has ideal length and good ball skills, but his 40 time will be important.

22. Giants- Quentin Johnson | WR | TCU

The first wide receiver off the board in this mock, Quentin Johnson is an athletic specimen who does a great job high-pointing the ball and coming down with contested catches. Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard are not dependable, and Wan’Dale Robinson is coming off a key injury. Getting the best receiver in the class this late is a steal.

23. Chargers- Emmanuel Forbes | CB | Mississippi State

The Chargers looked to be set at corner after signing J.C. Jackson last offseason, but inconsistency and injuries have limited his capabilities since arriving in Los Angeles. If the Chargers look to add insurance at the position, Forbes could be the pick. At 6’0”, 180 pounds, Forbes could afford to add a little weight, but he has the coverage skills and playmaking ability to develop into a number one corner.

24. Ravens- Jordan Addison | WR | USC

Regardless of who is quarterbacking the Ravens, receiver is a position that needs to be addressed. Addison’s draft stock is uncertain at this point, but he could easily overtake Quentin Johnson as the top receiver in this class with a strong pre-draft process. No position is ever out of play for Baltimore, though. I could especially see them taking a long look at corner or offensive line here.

25. Broncos- O’Cyrus Torrence | G | Florida

The Broncos have a lot of things to worry about on the offensive line, but they can only address one position at a time. Thus, it makes sense to snag the best pure guard in the class. Torrence is a massive human being who is surprisingly nimble and quick on his feet. He is a plug-and-play starter who will be of huge assistance to Denver’s running game.

26. Cowboys- Antonio Johnson | S | Texas A&M

The Cowboys need a lot of help in the secondary, but Antonio Johnson may be able to give them what they are looking for. He is experienced playing in a nickel cornerback role, and he showed great progression at free safety in 2022 as the season went along.

27. Bengals- Anton Harrison | OT | Oklahoma

I still have reservations about Harrison, but tackle is a position the Bengals will need to address in the near future. La’el Collins’ season ended after suffering a torn ACL and MCL against New England, and there is a potential out in his contract after the season, which would allow Cincy to cut him and only suffer a $3.3 million cap hit. All options are on the table at tackle for the Bengals.

28. Chiefs- Jared Verse | EDGE | Florida State

The Chiefs will always be contenders with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but being able to generate more pressure with their front four on defense would really put this team over the top. Verse is an explosive and versatile pass rusher who displays solid first-step quickness as well as impressive bend.

29. Vikings- Trenton Simpson | ILB | Clemson

Trenton Simpson did not produce as well as I was hoping for, but how long can you let this guy fall? He possesses the length to make up ground in coverage, the size to defend the run, and the speed to cover virtually any skill player. Minnesota could use another corner to pair with Andrew Booth as well, but Simpson is a better value pick at this point.

Bills receive Browns 2nd and 5th round picks and 2024 3rd round pick
30. Browns- Jaxon Smith-Njigba | WR | Ohio State

Deshaun Watson is still getting acclimated to his new team, but Cleveland does not have the greatest depth at receiver. I could see them staying inside the state and grabbing Smith-Njigba, even if it means trading up to get him. He would bring a quickness element to the receiver room that includes Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Bell.

31. Eagles- Jahmyr Gibbs | RB | Alabama

There are not many pressing needs on this Eagles roster, but Miles Sanders is set to hit free agency this offseason, and there is not much depth behind him. Jahmyr Gibbs is not the biggest back in the world, but he runs with a purpose and possesses breakaway speed. He is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield.

Mock Draft 1.0 is officially in the books, but what are your thoughts on it? Do you think the selections are logical? What do you think of the Steelers’ selection? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!