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2023 NFL Mock Draft: How each team should attack Rounds 1-3

Dane Brugler’s The Beast, the complete 2023 NFL Draft Guide, is now available.

Round 1 gets all the hype (for good reason), but a team’s NFL Draft class is only as good as what happens the rest of the weekend. That’s especially true on the draft’s second day, because there always are plug-and-play, impact starters to be found in Rounds 2 and 3.

How should each team approach its early picks? Here’s a look at how the first three rounds could go — the picks are followed by a team-by-team breakdown of those three-round hauls.

(Notes: Picks highlighted in gray are compensatory selections; picks in orange are projected trades in the mock draft.)

(*Detroit traded Nos. 6 and 48 to Arizona for No. 3) (**Jets traded No. 13 and a 2024 third-round pick to Atlanta for No. 8)

Arizona Cardinals

No. 6 (via DET): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia No. 34: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee No. 48 (via DET): DJ Turner, CB, Michigan No. 66: Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC No. 96: Luke Wypler, OC, Ohio State Remaining picks: 105, 168, 180, 213

Arizona is going to have a market for No. 3 overall, whether it’s driven by a team that wants a quarterback or — as was the case in this mock with Detroit — one that’s targeting a defensive star like Will Anderson Jr. He is the best player in this draft, so perhaps GM Monti Ossenfort won’t want to make things complicated as he starts this build. The Cardinals need more talent in more than one place, though, which a trade down would help address.

Atlanta Falcons

No. 13 (via NYJ): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois No. 44: Keion White, Edge, Georgia Tech No. 75: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M Remaining picks: 110, 113, 159, 224, 225

The Falcons’ original pick at No. 8 could be a trade-down spot, too, if a tackle-needy team behind Atlanta decides it has to have Peter Skoronski (the best offensive lineman on the board) or Paris Johnson Jr. I’m not sure Atlanta would be able to move this pick, so someone could come up for the fourth QB, but we’ll see.

Either way, the Falcons might have a shot to draft Witherspoon, which would make them happy. He’d be worth the investment.

Read more: 2023 NFL Mock Draft: What would an imminent Lamar Jackson move mean for Round 1?

Baltimore Ravens

No. 22: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU No. 86: Chandler Zavala, G, NC State Remaining picks: 124, 157, 199

For a team that might have to start over post-Lamar Jackson, this is nowhere near enough picks (something a trade of Jackson would help alleviate). Johnston and Zavala address positions of need, but until Baltimore figures out what it’s doing with its current franchise quarterback, it’s nearly impossible to project anything about the Ravens’ offense.

Ravens officials made clear that they are on the hunt for more draft picks. They like the WR class and see potential in every round. They haven’t ruled out drafting a QB. And they had no interest talking about Lamar Jackson. On the pre-draft luncheon: https://t.co/Q6zwRwZFRk

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 6, 2023

Buffalo Bills

No. 27: Jordan Addison, WR, USC No. 59: Isaiah Foskey, Edge, Notre Dame No. 91: Jordan Battle, S, Alabama Remaining picks: 130, 137, 205

This could be too low for Addison, but I’m still not convinced we’ll see a receiver go in the first half of Round 1. Even if it happens, a team eyeing receivers should have its choice of a really nice player down here. The rich, indeed, get richer.

Carolina Panthers

No. 1 (via CHI): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State No. 39: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson No. 93 (via SF): Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green Remaining picks: 114, 132, 145

Don’t rule out the possibility Anthony Richardson goes No. 1, given that new Carolina head coach Frank Reich would be terrific at developing the young QB. But Stroud would be an awesome fit with Reich, too. Stroud also has plenty of work in front of him, just not as much as Richardson.

Chicago Bears

No. 9 (via CAR): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State No. 53 (via BAL): Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati No. 61 (via CAR): Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah No. 64: Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern Remaining picks: 103, 133, 136, 148, 218, 258

Kudos to Bears GM Ryan Poles for pulling off the trade at No. 1. Just watch what that movement will do for a front office that’s trying to build the right way — via the draft. On top of acquiring WR D.J. Moore, the Bears picked up Phillips in this mock with Carolina’s second-round pick, and Poles still has an extra first next year and another second in 2025.

The biggest goal for Poles this offseason, in my mind, was simply to move that top pick. He just needed to get as much for it as possible and give himself a chance to shorten his roster’s build phase.

Cincinnati Bengals

No. 28: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee No. 60: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa No. 92: Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse Remaining picks: 131, 163, 206, 246

The Bengals land a 1-2 punch in this mock: a true right tackle in Wright and a terrific potential complement to Irv Smith in LaPorta. This feels like a Joe Burrow-friendly approach and, frankly, that’s how Cincinnati should be operating now.

Cleveland Browns

No. 74 (via NYJ): Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma No. 98: Byron Young, Edge, Tennessee Remaining picks: 111, 126, 140, 142, 190, 229

The Browns have to find more draft picks inside the top 100. They have enough in their arsenal to add quality depth, but the current stockpile of picks doesn’t feel like it moves the needle much beyond that.

.@OU_Football WR Marvin Mims Jr. looks smooth with the 4.38u.

📺: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork📱: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/XKbWiGwCaQ

— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023

Dallas Cowboys

No. 26: Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson No. 58: Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M No. 90: Emil Ekiyor, G, Alabama Remaining picks: 129, 169, 212, 244

Dallas will have a bunch of intriguing options at 26, including options at tight end (Darnell Washington and Luke Musgrave were still on the board here) and possibly running back. However, if Bresee slides deep into Round 1 — and he could — he could make for a very interesting option at an area of need for the Cowboys.

Denver Broncos

No. 67 (via IND): John Michael Schmitz, OC, Minnesota No. 68: Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane Remaining picks: 108, 139, 195

Denver is another team that has to find more picks inside the top 100, if possible. However, the Broncos have a need at center, and they should be in range early in Round 3 to snag one of the top available prospects at that position before that talent dips. It’s not an overly deep center class, but Schmitz is legit.

Detroit Lions

No. 3 (via ARI): Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Alabama No. 18: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas No. 55: Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin No. 81: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee Remaining picks: 152, 183, 194

The dream scenario for Detroit features finding a way up to No. 3, to pair Anderson with 2022 rookie standout Aidan Hutchinson. That said, given how well-stocked their roster has become, the Lions should have more options than just about any team in the league on Days 1 and 2.

Tennessee QB @henhook2 isn’t going to let an injury keep him from doing what he does best 💪

Which NFL team is picking up this resilient QB?

📺: 2023 #NFLDraft – April 27-29 on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/xRuJ0om77K

— NFL (@NFL) March 26, 2023

Green Bay Packers

No. 15: Brian Branch, S, Alabama No. 45: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State No. 78: YaYa Diaby, Edge, Louisville Remaining picks: 116, 149, 170, 232, 235, 242, 256

If Green Bay can figure out a deal for Aaron Rodgers that includes a sizable return, the 2023 draft actually would be an outstanding starting point for whichever direction the Packers head at QB. Green Bay got a lot of young players experience last season, and it’s already stocked with draft capital.

This is a great year to need a tight end, too, and a great year to be in range for the draft’s top safety. Branch could be elite.

Houston Texans

No. 2: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama No. 12 (via CLE): Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia No. 33: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia No. 65: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina No. 73 (via HOU): Rashee Rice, WR, SMU Remaining picks: 104, 161, 188, 201, 203, 230, 259

This almost feels like too many picks, if that’s such a thing. Houston needs so much, and next year’s QB class is better at the top, so I’m not convinced it’s QB or bust at No. 2.

Indianapolis Colts

No. 4: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida No. 35: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State No. 79 (via WAS): Tank Dell, WR, Houston Remaining picks: 106, 138, 162, 176, 221, 236

When the Colts finally decide on their QB of the future, the real focus here will be on GM Chris Ballard’s opportunity — with significant draft capital — to fix the holes that have developed on what once was a sturdy roster. The turnaround can happen sooner than you might think, and this is a nice draft haul with which to work.

Jacksonville Jaguars

No. 24: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State No. 56: Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse No. 88: Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State Remaining picks: 121, 127, 185, 202, 208, 226

The Jaguars are right there. Trevor Lawrence made the jump last year, and he, like his team, looks ready for big things in 2023. If Jacksonville can snag a pass catcher, be it Smith-Njigba or one of the top tight ends, it could be the difference-maker for a very promising young club.

Kansas City Chiefs

No. 31: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma No. 63: Derick Hall, Edge, Auburn No. 95: Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska Remaining picks: 122, 134, 166, 178, 217, 249, 250

Tackle and pass rusher are strong needs for the Chiefs, and they’re in a good spot to address both issues with their first two picks. The tackle options toward the bottom of Round 1 should be solid, especially if you need a right tackle (which Kansas City does). Harrison has been underrated this cycle.

Las Vegas Raiders

No. 7: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon No. 38: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan No. 70: Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State No. 100: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland Remaining picks: 109, 141, 144, 174, 204, 214, 220, 231

Don’t take the cheese. The Raiders should stay disciplined, build out the rest of their football team and evaluate long-term quarterback concerns later. This roster has talent. Adding defenders like Gonzalez, Smith and Henley — three explosive athletes — could be what the doctor ordered.

Christian Gonzalez looked the part of a first-round pick during the Combine. 🔥@chrisgonzo28 | @OregonFootball

📺: #NFLCombine continues at 1pm ET on @nflnetwork📱: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/HiuNb7FCsj

— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023

Los Angeles Chargers

No. 21: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah No. 54: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State No. 85: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss Remaining picks: 125, 156, 200, 239

Justin Herbert should have a new best friend at tight end by the end of Round 1, and the Chargers are in great position to potentially have their pick of the entire positional group. In this class, the top four are all worthy of the first round.

Los Angeles Rams

No. 36: Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State No. 69: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA No. 77 (via NE): Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan Remaining picks: 167, 171, 177, 182, 189, 191, 223, 251

This is a better situation that it might appear on the surface, especially given the Rams’ history of scouting the heck out of the later rounds. With so much mid- to late-round capital, the Rams can give RB Cam Akers some competition and address a need with rock-solid tight end Luke Schoonmaker. And that’s all on top of adding a freaky edge defender in McDonald.

Miami Dolphins

No. 51: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama No. 84: Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama Remaining picks: 197, 238

Though the Dolphins have almost nothing to work with in this draft, I loved the potential fit of Gibbs with Mike McDaniel. This was a playoff team a year ago, and there’s at least enough pick stock to boost the roster on Day 2.

Minnesota Vikings

No. 23: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland No. 87: Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina Remaining picks: 119, 158, 211

It’s a good year to need a corner. The Vikings should be in position to land a high-quality defender in the first or find an interior rusher who can help strengthen their defensive line. In this case, they do both.

4.36u to kick off Day 2?!@TerpsFootball DB Deonte Banks was flying.

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— NFL (@NFL) March 3, 2023

New England Patriots

No. 14: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State No. 46: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina No. 76 (via CAR): Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State Remaining picks: 107, 117, 135, 184, 187, 192, 210, 245

This should be a fascinating draft for the Patriots, who are absolutely in need of a receiver. At 14, they should be in position to take the top guy on the board. But that slot also ought to give them a shot at one of the top three corners, and — as the Downs selection suggests — there will be playmakers available beyond Round 1.

New Orleans Saints

No. 29 (via SF): BJ Ojulari, Edge, LSU No. 40: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College No. 71: Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor Remaining picks: 115, 146, 165, 227, 257

Having three picks in the top 75 should get New Orleans a trio of new starters, which would help the Saints start life with Derek Carr off on the right foot. New Orleans needs defensive line help — Ojulari and Ika check a couple of different boxes — and could use that pick at No. 40 to give Carr a nice new weapon.

New York Giants

No. 25: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida No. 57: Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina No. 89: A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest Remaining picks: 128, 160, 172, 209, 240, 243, 254

New York needs a guard and should have a chance to grab the top prospect at that position without moving off 25. And it wouldn’t take much for A.T. Perry to be an upgrade over what New York got from Kenny Golladay.

Did his thing 💫

Another box checked ☑️ pic.twitter.com/FkhFXvAqI4

— Wake Forest Football (@WakeFB) March 31, 2023

New York Jets

No. 8 (via ATL): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern No. 42 (via CLE): Joe Tippmann, G/C, Wisconsin No. 43: Gervon Dexter Sr., DT, Florida Remaining picks: 112, 143, 207

All gas, no brakes. If the Jets land Aaron Rodgers, a trade up would help them ensure that he’d get to work with the best tackle in this draft. (Granted, the Jets might have to move a couple of these picks to get Rodgers in the first place.)

But why not swing? New York believes it’s on the edge of something big, so putting everything it has into the premium section of this draft could be the move.

Philadelphia Eagles

No. 10 (via NO): Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa No. 30: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas No. 62: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami No. 94: Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas Remaining picks: 219, 248

This franchise is a well-oiled machine. The Eagles have needs, but so many of them are manageable. And with four picks in the top 100, Philadelphia should be able to maintain its place among the league’s best rosters top-to-bottom next year.

Lamar Jackson will have a new coordinator in 2023 — or maybe he’ll consider sitting out the entire season.

Jalen Hurts, meanwhile, might cash in with a deal worth at least $46M annually any day now.

Updated NFL free-agency 2024 rankings ⤵️https://t.co/vunOuVeKW4

— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) April 6, 2023

Pittsburgh Steelers

No. 17: Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson No. 32 (via CHI): Dawand Jones, RT, Ohio State No. 49: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa No. 80: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State Remaining picks: 120, 234, 241

A pair of Iowa guys (sort of — Brents transferred from Iowa to Kansas State) and a true right tackle gives the Steelers upgrades at several spots of need. This feels like a Steelers draft: prospects with a lot of power and length.

San Francisco 49ers

No. 99: Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama No. 101: Isaiah McGuire, Edge, Missouri No. 102: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane Remaining picks: 155, 164, 173, 216, 222, 247, 253, 255

Does San Francisco need more top-end picks? I mean, it’d be nice but not really. Even standing pat, the 49ers could use three quick picks to add young depth/future starters to a roster that’s already sturdy.

Seattle Seahawks

No. 5 (via DEN): Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech No. 20: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt No. 37 (via DEN): Steve Avila, G/C, TCU No. 52: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee No. 83: Nick Herbig, LB, Wisconsin Remaining picks: 123, 151, 154, 198, 237

The Seahawks are in serious need of defensive line help. They could upgrade in a major way, if they want to, by doubling up in the first round. Perhaps the Seahawks will take a swing on Jalen Carter (he went at No. 6 in this mock), but Wilson is an outstanding edge.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 19: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame No. 50: Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State No. 82: Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn Remaining picks: 153, 175, 179, 181, 196, 252

I thought about packaging a deal for Tampa Bay to move up for Will Levis, and that might be the move if the Kentucky QB starts to slide. If not, well, Mayer catches everything and should be able to adjust to Baker Mayfield or whichever signal caller the Buccaneers go with in 2023.

.@NDFootball TE Michael Mayer crushing the gauntlet.

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— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023

Tennessee Titans

No. 11: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia No. 41: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State No. 72: Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State Remaining picks: 147, 186, 228

Jones is athletic enough to wind up as the best tackle in this class when all the smoke clears. Musgrave, meanwhile, has first-round potential in this draft, so this might be too low for him. It’d be a steal if it happened, however.

Washington Commanders

No. 16: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky No. 47: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia No. 97: Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State Remaining picks: 118, 150, 193, 215, 233

If Levis falls into Eric Bienemy’s lap, would the Commanders get moving on building their new offense? Or would Washington want to wait and take a big swing next year on a more elite group? Levis could be a top-10 pick, but it’s possible he lingers into the middle of Round 1.

Strange at No. 97 makes it eight tight ends in this three-round mock, which speaks to the talent of the group.

(Illustration: Eamonn Dalton / The Athletic; photos: Nick Wass / Associated Press; Todd Kirkland, Jay Biggerstaff / Getty Images)

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