Early-season mock drafts are always fun to look back on because there is a lot that could change dependent upon how the season plays out. Coaches and general managers will be fired, which will inevitably lead to a new perception of a franchise's draft strategy. In today's thought exercise, projections are made with our current understanding of the leadership structures in place.
The draft order below was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds, but in reverse order. These are your team's betting odds of winning a Lombardi Trophy this season. Miami's selection at No. 25 overall was forfeited.
Without further ado, let's kick this off!
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • Jr • 6'3" / 218 lbs
There are a number of reasons why Stroud should be considered the favorite to go No. 1 overall. He has the size that Bryce Young lacks and is a much younger prospect relative to Will Levis -- without losing out on the qualities that define a successful quarterback.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Young is never going to have the size element, but he has a better feel for the game than any other quarterback in this class. How he is perceived will likely vary on a team-by-team basis, but Houston takes a chance on him in this scenario.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • Sr • 6'3" / 232 lbs
Levis is an older prospect who took a circuitous path to becoming the starting quarterback at Kentucky. He has the size, mobility, arm strength and intelligence to continue improving as he receives more playing experience. He benefits having learned from two NFL offensive coordinators in as many years.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • Jr • 6'4" / 243 lbs
New York signed Carl Lawson in free agency of 2021 before drafting Micheal Clemons and Jermaine Johnson II. Where does that leave Anderson? The Jets could move on from Lawson next offseason and save $15 million towards the salary cap in the process.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 210 lbs
Circle the Commanders and Giants as teams that would love to address their respective cornerback situations early in the 2023 NFL Draft. Washington comes to the table first and is able to upgrade the secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • Jr • 6'3" / 300 lbs
Chicago needs to stack good players regardless of position. It drafted Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker to upgrade the secondary over the past two years. This selection does not necessarily benefit Justin Fields, but the Bears had to take Carter in this position.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Myles Murphy EDGE
Clemson • Jr • 6'5" / 275 lbs
It is difficult to project Carolina's future because it almost certainly will not include head coach Matt Rhule barring a significant turnaround. Murphy is a really talented player who has scheme versatility, which is important for the reason already stated.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Jr • 6'6" / 310 lbs
Pittsburgh's offensive line has not been the same since Mike Munchak departed for Denver. Johnson represents a significant upgrade at left tackle, so maybe the Steelers would not have to double and triple team Myles Garrett twice a year.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Round 1 - Pick 10
Clemson • Jr • 6'3" / 240 lbs
The Giants would love a lockdown man coverage cornerback in this spot, but there is little comfort with the options available. Quarterback is the wild card as the team continues evaluating Daniel Jones. Simpson is a very versatile player capable of shooting gaps and making plays in the backfield or dropping into coverage.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Ohio State • Jr • 6'1" / 200 lbs
New England's wide receiver room is held together by Scotch tape right now. The jury is still out on Mac Jones, but it is safe to say adding a quality pass-catcher like Smith-Njigba would go a long way towards effectively evaluating him.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Round 1 - Pick 13
Penn State • Soph • 6'6" / 321 lbs
Tennessee is already in need of a right tackle after swinging and missing on Isaiah Wilson, but Taylor Lewan is also 31 years old and has no dead money left on his contract after this year. The Titans have already made some decisions that lead one to believe they could be hitting the restart button, so perhaps this is the next step.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 14
Oregon • Soph • 6'2" / 201 lbs
Philadelphia is all about preparing for the future, and bringing in Gonzalez allows a smooth transition when the team parts with James Bradberry and/or Darius Slay. Gonzalez's Oregon career is still in its infancy after transferring in from Colorado this offseason.
Round 1 - Pick 15
LSU • Jr • 6'0" / 205 lbs
To its credit, Jacksonville has been active in upgrading the wide receive room for Trevor Lawrence. However, the Jaguars still lack that premier outlet, and there will come a time when production does not match the contracts doled out to Christian Kirk and Zay Jones this offseason. Boutte is a player capable of making big plays after the catch.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Texas • Jr • 6'0" / 220 lbs
Arizona's draft decision-making has been questionable in recent years. It has selected Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons in the first round and neither is a key contributor. Last year's first-round selection was traded for Hollywood Brown, who is in need of a new contract. Robinson would be the best running back on the roster by a desert mile, but the Cardinals should probably go in another direction from a roster building standpoint.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 17
USC • Jr • 6'0" / 175 lbs
After selecting Bryce Young No. 2 overall, Houston turns its attention to supporting the young quarterback. Nico Collins brings size to that wide receiver room, but Addison provides speed after the catch. Brandin Cooks will be around for at least the 2023 season, but his contract has no business being a part of the team's long-term plans.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Eli Ricks CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Indianapolis needed Sunday's win over Kansas City after a disappointing start. The more we learn about Jacksonville, maybe it is just a better team right now. Cornerback is hardly the biggest issue for Indianapolis, but it is a contributing factor. It could be a look-in-the-mirror offseason for the franchise depending on how this season plays out.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Northwestern • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
With Tyler Smith settling in at left tackle, Dallas could add an interior player to settle that unit long term. Smith and Skoronski have positional flexibility, so it also gives the Cowboys some insurance in the event of injury, which has been all too familiar in recent years.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Notre Dame • Jr • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Mayer is a big-bodied outlet for Joe Burrow. He could ultimately step into that third role behind Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Mayer also gives the team a reliable three-down player capable of sealing the edge in the run game.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 21
Felix Anudike-Uzomah EDGE
Kansas State • Jr • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Emmanuel Ogbah will turn 30 years old towards the end of the 2023 campaign and carries an $18.35 million average salary cap hit over the next two seasons. Anudike-Uzomah provides depth at a key position before eventually taking over.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Cam Smith CB
South Carolina • Jr • 6'0" / 188 lbs
Perhaps Andrew Booth Jr. can take on a larger role before season's end and this becomes less of a position of need. Minnesota fans are probably tired of using draft picks on the position, but it still remains a concern.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Georgia • Soph • 6'4" / 310 lbs
The loss of Rashawn Slater for the season magnified Los Angeles' offensive line issues. Without Slater, it looks rather bleak along that unit. The Chargers were unable to address both guard and right tackle this offseason, so they solve the latter a year later.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 24
Noah Sewell LB
Oregon • Soph • 6'2" / 253 lbs
Seattle's most recent draft class is looking really good early, so the hope is to build off of that. The team will not have to travel far to evaluate Sewell, who upgrades the talent floor of that unit immediately.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 26
Florida • Soph • 6'6" / 312 lbs
Dexter provides depth and upgrades the talent level along the Detroit defensive line. The team has Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike to fulfill those interior roles, but Dexter gives it a new look and more juice to keep everyone fresh.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Round 1 - Pick 28
Josh Downs WR
North Carolina • Jr • 5'10" / 175 lbs
Green Bay's process at wide receiver is simply throwing darts at a board and seeing what sticks. It appears as though it struck gold with Romeo Doubs, but there is not a lot of confidence being projected with the others right now. Downs is a personal favorite and a player I wanted to fit in the first round. Unfortunately, I was not able to do the same with Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Florida • Soph • 6'4" / 232 lbs
Richardson has a lot to work on, but the physical talent is evident. He is hanging around the latter portion of the first round, but it is more likely that he returns to Gainesville for another season. Tampa Bay should need a replacement at quarterback in the near future.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Maryland • Sr • 6'6" / 320 lbs
Kansas City's offensive tackle situation is similar to Tennessee's. The Chiefs need a right tackle, but it is not unreasonable to think they could also be in the market for a left tackle. The team and Brown were far apart in contract negotiations, and it becomes counter-productive to franchise tag him a second time.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • Sr • 5'11" / 195 lbs
Similar line of thinking to previous weeks, as Buffalo could move on from one or both of its starting safeties in the coming years. The addition of Smith allows the Bills to bridge the gap between past and present. Smith consistently makes plays for a leading Georgia defense.