2023 NFL Mock Draft Version 3: Young Heavily Favored to Be a Panther

With less than three weeks away, a recent report has shaken up the top of the odds board once again as Bryce Young is now favored to go first overall to the Carolina Panthers. Check out our latest NFL mock draft to see what we think will go down April 27.

Apr 12, 2023 • 12:59 ET • 4 min read
Bryce Young NFL Draft
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We are now just a few weeks away from April's NFL Draft, and as the big day draws near, that means a few things. More rumors will be swirling than ever. Rumors which can impact the NFL Draft odds and expanded NFL Draft betting markets.

This year it feels like we’ve seen more odds movement than ever when it comes to the first overall pick. When the Carolina Panthers first acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Chicago Bears, C.J. Stroud became the big favorite to be the first player selected. However, recent reports have Bryce Young as the Panthers’ preferred choice and the market quickly shifted.

In Version 3.0 of my 2023 NFL mock draft the Panthers get their guy — but is it Stroud or Young? 

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2023 NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

1. Panthers (trade via CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

When the Carolina Panthers acquired the first overall pick from the Bears, a ton of action came in on C.J. Stroud to go No. 1 because of a stellar combine performance and the perceived fit in Frank Reich’s system.

However, a report by NFL Insider Albert Breer on Monday stated he believes if the Panthers were to make the pick today, it would be Alabama’s, Bryce Young. And before you know it, Young was the -300 favorite to hear his name called first on Draft Day.

So, I’m following the money here. Young was the favorite to be the first quarterback selected before the Bears traded the first overall pick and is my QB1. Young’s arm strength, mobility, playmaking ability, and intangibles outweigh the knocks on his size.

2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Breer also suggested the DeMeco Ryans and the Houston Texans aren’t sold on Stroud, but neither I nor the sportsbooks are buying it as he is still -220 to go No. 2 overall. 

Stroud’s performances at the combine and his pro day were outstanding. He owns the prettiest ball in this class and the word “smooth” has been used a lot when describing him. Mix in his ridiculous stats (85 TDs in 25 starts), along with his performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff, and I don’t believe the Texans can pass up on a potential franchise quarterback.

3. Raiders (mock trade via ARI): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Yes, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s only $34 million guaranteed. That's nothing for a QB these days, and tt also makes this a perfect situation for Richardson to land at +400. Josh McDaniels can groom him while he sits behind Jimmy G for a year or so, and Richardson’s talent — which he showed in droves at the combine and his pro day — likely has McDaniels salivating. The Raiders get their QB of the future.

4. Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Levis is starting to drop in the mock draft world, but the Indianapolis Colts need to address their quarterback issues. Despite his faults (accuracy and decision making), Levis has the arm talent that makes his ceiling that of a potential franchise QB in the right system.

5. Seahawks (via DEN): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

While the Seattle Seahawks seem to be doing their due diligence at the QB position, I’m betting they turn to the defensive side of the ball here. Particularly because Anderson has fallen in Pete Carroll’s lap. Anderson will be the best player in this class for some teams.

He has elite power and speed and will be a cornerstone on defense for any team that selects him. With Jalen Carter’s legal troubles, Anderson Jr. is an easy choice as the first defender off the board. In fact, he’s the -450 favorite to be the first defensive player taken.

6. Lions (via LAR): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

I previously had Jalen Carter mocked here, but it has been noted that with draft picks in the past, GM Brad Holmes has more than once referenced a player's intangibles. Carter doesn’t tick that box. The Detroit Lions then traded former No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah and a corner was already a need.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez is my CB1, but a lot of people are mocking Devon Witherspoon here because he’s “got that dawg in him,” and I’m following the crowd on this one. Witherspoon is now the -170 favorite to be the first corner selected and he checks a lot of boxes for Dan Campbell and the Lions.

7. Cardinals (mock trade via LV): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

The Arizona Cardinals traded down in this scenario to stockpile picks and still get a hell of a replacement for J.J. Watt. The former Texas Tech defensive lineman had a breakout season for the Red Raiders recording seven sacks, but it’s Wilson’s measurables that will have teams salivating for his services. He’s 6-foot-6 and 275 lbs with great speed and strength.

8. Falcons: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

If you had told me two months ago that the first Georgia Bulldog to go in this NFL Draft would not be Jalen Carter I would have called you crazy... but here we are. The Atlanta Falcons' biggest needs are cornerback and edge rusher.

They just traded a fifth-round pick to the Lions for Jeff Okudah, so they can address the latter with this pick. Smith balled out at the combine with a jaw-dropping 4.39 40-yard dash. He's a little undersized, but he makes up for it with his quickness and athleticism.

9. Bears (trade via CAR): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

After all that, the Chicago Bears end up with the guy many thought they would have taken if they had stayed at No. 1 overall. Carter’s legal issues are concerning, but his tape makes the case that he’s the top overall prospect — and at this spot — he is worth the risk for the Bears.

It also brings me to one of my first mock picks. Carter’s draft position prop is set at 7.5 with the Over sitting at +150. I really only see one spot where he could land below that number and that’s Seattle. At this plus money, betting on Carter’s fall is worth the wager.

Pick: Jalen Carter draft position Over 7.5 (+150 at bet365)

10. Eagles (via NO): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

The Philadelphia Eagles managed to bring back Darius Slay, but as they found out in the Super Bowl you need as many elite corners as possible to slow down the likes of Patrick Mahomes. And with this pick, the Eagles arguably nab the best cornerback in the class. Gonzalez has elite size and athleticism with fluid hips and great ball skills. Simply put, he’s a traditional lockdown corner.

11. Titans: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

Taylor Lewan is officially out the door. So, an offensive line is certainly a need for the Tennessee Titans, and don’t be surprised if Jones is the first tackle off the board. Jones is built like a truck, not allowing a single sack for the Bulldogs last season. He can start next season on the right side and his ceiling is that of the best tackle in this class.

There are two Jones props I like. His draft position total is at 13.5 and with the Bears, Titans, Texans, and Jets all potential landing spots for linemen, the Under looks like good value even with the juice. But like I said, don’t be shocked if he’s the first tackle drafted. I love the 10/1 we’re getting for that to happen.

Pick: Broderick Jones draft position Under 13.5 (-175 at bet365) and first offensive lineman selected (+1,000 at FanDuel)

12. Texans (via CLE): Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

The Texans now need a wide receiver to pair with their new franchise quarterback. So, why not Stroud’s teammate at Ohio State, Jaxson Smith-Njigba? He was my WR1 before the season started, but a hamstring injury that cost him most of the season dropped him down some teams’ boards. Then he showed out at the combine and his pro day.

JSN has a handful of potential landing spots in this range, including the Falcons, Titans, and Texans. I’m high on JSN, and the Under on his draft position at plus money is enough to get me invested.

Pick: Jaxson Smith-Njigba draft position Under 12.5 (+150 at bet365)

13. Jets: Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State

Let’s assume the New York Jets figure out this Aaron Rodgers thing. The reason I don’t think it’s happened yet is because the Jets don’t want to include this pick in a potential deal. In the end, I think they hold onto it and use it to keep the former MVP upright as much as possible.

Mekhi Becton is a big question mark while Johnson is athletic with great size, allowing just two sacks all season. He also has positional versatility as he played right guard for the Buckeyes before kicking out to tackle last season.

14. Patriots: Pete Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

The run on offensive linemen continues. Offensive tackle is one of the biggest holes on this New England Patriots roster. And while Skoronski will get dinged for his short arms — having some believe he will eventually kick inside — he is the most pro-ready lineman in this class and Belichick will love his positional versatility.

15. Packers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

The Green Bay Packers' offense could be getting a big makeover with the expected departure of Rodgers, but their defense could also use an injection of youth which the athletic and versatile Van Ness can provide.

Despite not being a starter at Iowa, he still managed 13.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Van Ness also has the size and power to stop the run and would be a great fit next to Rashan Gary — who is recovering from an ACL injury.

16. Commanders: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

The Washington Commanders have a lot of needs, but the cornerback may be the most glaring. Porter’s father was an all-pro linebacker and a member of the Steelers for eight seasons, and his son has a chance to live up to his dad’s legacy. Jr. has great movement for a guy with his size and length and only had one interception at Penn State because teams basically stopped throwing to his side of the field.

17. Steelers: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

Pittsburgh Steelers fans will be bummed they just missed out on Porter Jr. in this scenario, but they are still in desperate need of a corner, and Banks has been one of the biggest risers during this process due to his excellent testing. The former Terp is an elite athlete with great measurables who can play in multiple coverages. He’s tough and a solid tackler.

18. Lions: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Murphy has fallen a bit in my latest mock, but the Lions will happily scoop him up at this spot. Here is yet another edge rusher with an excellent combination of size, strength, and speed. He has an explosive first step and will create a terrifying edge tandem opposite of Aidan Hutchinson. 

19. Buccaneers: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a lot, starting with a quarterback now that Tom Brady has retired. But there isn’t one worth taking at this spot so instead they’ll look to reinforce their offensive line after losing Donovan Smith.

Wright was a beast at Tennessee this year and tested very well during the draft process. He has the size and strength to play both tackle and guard. He’ll make a great bookend tackle with Tristian Wirfs.

20. Seahawks: O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida

Seattle is using this draft to improve in the trenches. It started with the defensive line by snagging Will Anderson, now it will address the O-line with another SEC standout. Torrence has great size and is a powerful run blocker. He was not credited with a single sack allowed in four years as a starter for the Gators.

21. Chargers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Robinson could go higher than this if the right team trades up. When it comes to overall talent, Robinson is probably a Top 3 player in this draft. Unfortunately, he's hurt by two things here. The devaluation of the running back position over the last several years, and the ridiculous depth in this year's RB class. However, the thought of pairing him with Justin Herbert is tantalizing, particularly since Austin Ekler has recently requested permission to seek a trade.

22. Ravens: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

It seems crazy to me that the Baltimore Ravens aren’t 100% sure who will be throwing the football for them next season. Whoever is under center is going to need more weapons to throw to, and no, Odell Beckham Jr. does not solve their problems. Flowers would look great opposite Rashod Bateman. He has elite speed, is a problem after the catch, and is an excellent route runner. He just has a knack for getting open.

23. Vikings: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

There is no question the Minnesota Vikings need help in their secondary, but Justin Jefferson desperately needs a running mate. Particularly, now that Adam Thielen is gone. Addison won the Biletnikoff Award (best WR in the country) at Pitt before transferring to USC. Despite not having ideal size, Addison has great speed, elite route running, and great hands.

24. Jaguars: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the most interesting teams in this draft and could go a lot of ways. I almost gave them TCU wideout Quentin Johnston here and the +5,000 odds for them to take a WR is intriguing since surrounding Trevor Lawrence with weapons is a good thing.

I decided on Branch, who is the most versatile and pro-ready defensive back in this draft. He played in the slot, outside, and free safety for Nick Saban. He is also a sure tackler who should step in right away for the Jags.

25. Giants: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

The New York Giants made a splash this offseason by trading for tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders, but Daniel Jones will still need a reliable pass catcher on the outside. At 6-foot-4 and 205 lbs, Johnston looks like a prototypical “X” wideout.

He’s also got amazing burners. His draft stock rose along with the Horned Frogs' improbable title game run, but his tape showed too many drops, which is why he’s available here. 

I also think he will be the final Big 12 player selected in the first round. Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison and Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV are late-round candidates, but they are second-round talents for me and the +150 price makes this a solid bet.

Pick: Under 3.5 Big 12 players selected in the first round (+150 at bet365)

26. Cowboys: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

This is another one of those spots where Jerry Jones believes a steal falls right in his lap, like CeeDee Lamb a few years ago. Kincaid is getting a ton of hype in the lead up to the draft. He was a highly productive tight end in college and is quickly moving up draft boards due to his exceptional quickness, polished route running, and his ability after the catch. It’s not crazy to call him something in between Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce.

27. Bills: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

This one feels like a little bit of a no-brainer with Tremaine Edmunds leaving for Chicago. The Buffalo Bills should have their top choice at linebacker available and Simpson looks like the best replacement for Edmunds. He did it all for the Tigers, recording 161 total tackles. He’s a solid pass rusher, sound in run defense, and excels in coverage. The Bills to select a linebacker with their first pick at +250 looks like a solid value.

28. Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

How do Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs? By continuing to add weapons. Hayden Hurst is now a member of the Panthers, so Mayer can step right in and contribute to the Bengals' offense. Mayer has been the best tight end in college football for the past two seasons, has great hands, and works the seams well. He also has the size to be an in-line blocker.

29. Saints: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

Kancey is another prospect who is climbing up draft boards thanks to his combination of testing and tape. Despite being a little undersized, he is an explosive pass rusher on the interior. His first step is lightning fast and so are his hands. He totaled 14.5 sacks in the last two seasons at Pitt and that production should continue in the NFL. 

30. Eagles: Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

The Eagles just continue to improve their defense. Bresee is going to be one of the most polarizing figures in the draft. He is the former No. 1 overall recruit out of high school who has a rare combination of athleticism and versatility, but some injury issues and questions about his production at Clemson linger. The combination of talent and versatility is worth the risk for the Eagles at this spot.

31. Chiefs: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

The Kansas City Chiefs likely go one of three ways here. Defensive line, wide receiver, or offensive line. If all things are close to equal, protecting Patrick Mahomes will always win the tiebreaker. The hulking offensive tackle out of Ohio State didn't allow a sack or a QB hit all of 2022 and should help keep his MVP QB upright for the next several years.

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