Martin McConnell’s Preseason 2023 NFL Mock Draft

It’s not Draftstravaganza time. It’s not even close. We’ve got a whole season of both college football and NFL football to play before any of what I’m about to say even starts to matter. But don’t let anyone ever tell you I am anything less than exceptionally vigilant when it comes to the NFL Draft. Call me a “draft psycho,” call me what you will. I do not care.

Let’s get started.

NOTE: This is what I think will happen, not what I would do. I want to compare this to my final mock draft in April, and see how correct I was. The draft order has been determined by Tankathon.

1. Atlanta Falcons- Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama

This is a little bit of a tough one for me, but I’m going to project out a year from now. Personally, I think that Desmond Ridder will take the reigns in Atlanta as an NFL starter sometime this year, and I think that Desmond Ridder will be quite good as an NFL starter, even if it doesn’t result in wins. Ridder will show Falcons management enough for them to pass on the top two quarterbacks in this class, and instead take who I believe to be the draft’s best player. Will Anderson Jr. was a force for Alabama last year, and projects to be even better this season. Atlanta’s getting a stud with All-Pro potential here to help out their defense.

2. Houston Texans- C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

If the draft was today, right now, Bryce Young would be the pick here. He is simply the better player as of right now. That being said, I think the projections for Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are much more favorable. Stroud has everything you want in terms of size, which is easily the biggest knock on Young and will be throughout his final college season and NFL career (unless of course, he’s awesome, in which case it doesn’t matter). Stroud is a quick learner with fantastic potential. Houston gets their QB of the future.

3. Seattle Seahawks- Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

The Seattle Seahawks and 5’11 quarterbacks was a match made in heaven for the past decade with Russell Wilson at the helm of the offense. Seattle, I project, is going to be downright dreadful this season, especially at the quarterback position. Bryce Young is a plug-and-play type of quarterback who can help the Seahawks right now. He’s a little on the smaller side, but he plays such a clean game of football and is so naturally talented that he’ll be hard for the ‘Hawks to pass up. This is an easy one.

4. Chicago Bears- Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

This sure isn’t what I would do, but it’s my personal opinion that the Chicago Bears wish Justin Fields were dead. Fields is coming into his second NFL season with the worst offensive line in football and the worst receiving group in football. So isn’t this such a Chicago Bears pick? The Bears have been built, for about a century now, been built through defense. That isn’t going to stop now. Jalen Carter is the best defensive tackle prospect in years. He is an alien walking the earth. He did stuff in 2021 that shouldn’t be physically possible. The Bears can’t possibly resist.

5. New York Jets- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Ohio State and Alabama have four of the top five picks. Georgia has the other one. These blue-bloods, man, I swear. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a stunningly electric receiver who plays perhaps the smoothest brand of football in the entire country. His game does have a few holes, as all receivers do, but his steadiness and reliability make him a perfect choice for Zach Wilson as he tries to avoid becoming yet another in a long line of Jets busts at quarterback.

6. Detroit Lions- Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Honestly, if the Lions are picking this low, I think they’ll trade up for one of the top guys at quarterback. But if they stay put here, it has to be Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Dan Campbell is going to see Anthony Richardson play and go through drills at the NFL Combine and he is going to absolutely fall in love. Richardson projects as the class’s biggest riser right now, and I think he’ll have a fantastic season with the level of physical talent he displays. It’s a big projection here, but it’s one I’m comfortable making.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Trevor Lawrence showed flashes in his rookie season, once Urban Meyer was out of the way. As a sophomore, I’m thinking he’ll break out for the Jaguars, leading them to maybe six or seven wins along the way. Quentin Johnston is perhaps the most physically gifted receiver in this draft with a striking blend of athleticism, catch radius, and speed. This pick gives the Jaguars a top-flight receiver to groom into Lawrence’s right-hand man, instead of paying someone like Christian Kirk $20 million a year again.

8. Carolina Panthers- Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

The Panthers can’t possibly punt on a quarterback for the third year in a row, but they won’t have any choice unless they really fall in love with Kentucky’s Will Levis. Instead, they’ll have to settle for the second-best defensive end in this class in Myles Murphy. Murphy brings size and athleticism to this class that even Will Anderson Jr. doesn’t possess and plays within a Clemson system that asks so much of its defenders mentally. I’d love this pick and honestly, it’s great value at No. 8 if they can’t get a quarterback.

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