There will be trades in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. It's not a matter of if but when. Last year, for instance, 19 of the 32 picks in the first round changed hands at least once and there were a total of 27 swaps of those selections.
This year, the fireworks could start right away due to a relatively uncommon set of circumstances. The team owning the first pick in the draft ostensibly already has a young franchise quarterback; there are several quarterbacks in this year's draft who could reasonably be considered worthy of that top pick; and there are multiple teams desperate enough at the game's most important position to make a dramatic move. Several of those QB-needy teams also have new head coaches, which seems like the perfect time to start over with a talented rookie.
This is our third crack at predicting how the first round will play out this April; I gave it a shot two weeks ago and Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix gave us her first mock last week. In both cases, we specifically chose not to include trades, but now the gloves are off. Trades are in play and – spoiler alert – I've got two of the first three picks on the move.
Before I get to the picks, I'm going to lay out the four trades that are included in these predictions:
1. Indianapolis trades up to the first pick. The last time the first pick in the draft was dealt was 2016, when the Rams traded up to get quarterback Jared Goff. In that case, though, the Titans moved all the way down to number 16, so the price was pretty steep (a future first, two seconds and two thirds). We haven't seen a trade analogous to this one since 2004, which was the famous Eli Manning, Philip Rivers swap. It didn't actually take place until after the Chargers picked Manning first overall and the Giants picked Rivers fourth overall, but it was essentially the same thing. It cost the Giants a third-round pick in 2004 and first and fifth-round picks in 2005.
According to the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart, the difference in value between the first and fourth picks is a whopping 1,200 points. Indy's next pick, number 35 overall, is only worth 550 points. So I think it's pretty obvious the Colts are going to have to throw in their 2024 first-rounder to get this done. The median value of a 2024 first is 1,000 points, so let's say they send over that pick plus third and fifth-rounders this year.
2. Carolina trades up to third pick. For the second time in three years, the first three picks are going to be quarterbacks, as the Panthers aren't content to wait at number nine. The 49ers moved up from number 12 to number three in 2021 to get Trey Lance, and it cost them two more firsts and a third. I don't think Carolina has to pay quite that much to move up six spots; instead I have them shipping out their second-rounder (#39 overall) and their first and second-rounders next year.
3. Washington trades up to 10th pick. The Commanders move up from the 16th spot, trading with the Eagles. Would Philadelphia really trade with another team in its division? Sure! The Vikings traded with both the Lions and the Packers within the first 34 picks last year. The point value difference is only 300, so the Commanders only have to give up their second-round pick, number 47 overall. That's actually a bit of an overpay but its worth it.
4. Baltimore moves up two spots to the 20th pick. The Ravens make a small move up with the help of the Seahawks, jumping over the Chargers from 22nd to 20th. This shouldn't cost much. The point value difference is 70, which is about what the Ravens' fourth-round pick is worth. They throw in a 2024 sixth to make up the difference.
1. Indianapolis Colts (from Chicago): QB Bryce Young, Alabama
The trade details are noted above. Talent wins out over size concerns. You know what? Jalen Hurts is only 6-1 and new Colts coach Shane Steichen made that work in Philadelphia. The Colts are finally going to get off the veteran-QB-bridge carousel and get married to another rookie. The last two times they picked a quarterback first overall (Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck…we shall not speak of Jeff George) turned out pretty well.
2. Houston Texans: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
While C.J. Stroud is the more popular pick here at the moment, I just get the feeling that Levis is going to rise as we continue through this pre-draft process. Team evaluators are going to forgive some of his stumbles in 2022 as they focus more on his measurables and get won over by his interviews.
3. Carolina Panthers (from Arizona): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Again, trade details noted above. The Panthers might have been able to land Anthony Richardson at number nine, but Stroud is more prepared to start from Day One and the Panthers have enough talent on their roster to compete right away in a shaky NFC South.
4. Chicago Bears (from Indianapolis): DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
I'll admit I'm starting to wonder if there is some substance to these rumors that the Bears may trade Justin Fields instead of the top pick, but I'm not willing to take that plunge yet. So, assuming the team wants to move forward with the young quarterback already in hand, this couldn't have worked out any better. They still have their choice of the two defenders they would have been mulling over at number one. A disruptive three-technique DT is exactly what Matt Eberflus needs to make his defense hum in the Windy City, so the pick is Carter over an equally appealing Will Anderson.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama
This is a great outcome for the Seahawks, too. They are definitely in the market for an edge rusher and would probably have been very happy with someone like Myles Murphy or Tyree Wilson. Instead, they get the one edge rusher who appears to be in a tier by himself. The Seahawks are going to love every rumor about teams trading up for the quarterbacks over the next couple months.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
think it's quite possible that the Lions start getting some calls from teams looking to get ahead of the Raiders in order to grab Anthony Richardson. However, I can't find a suitable trade partner that's not too far down the board so I have them staying put and filling a big need with Gonzalez, the 6-2 speedster with length and a full set of skills to develop into one of the NFL's best corners.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: T Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Yes, Anthony Richardson is right there, but until further notice I am continuing to operate on the notion that the Raiders will go the veteran route to replace Derek Carr. Maybe Jimmy Garoppolo. The best thing to do in that scenario is to make the situation around their new passer better, and the Raiders' offensive line needs a lot of help. I had Northwestern's Peter Skoronski here two weeks ago, but persistent notes about his short arms now have me feeling he will fall a little bit down the list.
8. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
The perennial search for someone who can get to the quarterback continues for the Falcons, who have recorded a total of 68 sacks over the last three seasons combined. The Eagles had 70 sacks in 2022. Murphy is quick off the ball and has a well-developed arsenal of pass-rush moves.
9. Arizona Cardinals (from Carolina): EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Maybe Wilson isn't quite the prize as Will Anderson would have been had the Cardinals had stayed at the third pick, but he sure is a nice Plan B and the Cardinals really needed as much draft capital as they can get. Some analysts have Wilson ranked ahead of Murphy and he play with a bit more power.
10. Washington Commanders (from New Orleans through Philadelphia): QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
I don't doubt that the Commanders are sincere about starting 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell in 2023, but it seems unwise to put too much stock in his ability to become the long-term starter. If the Commanders can get in position to nab Richardson, who might not be ready to start in Week One anyway, they really shouldn't pass up the chance.
11. Tennessee Titans: T Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
The Titans have now officially parted ways with Taylor Lewan and offensive tackle is their top need. Skoronski didn't fall far before grabbing the ledge in Tennessee with those short arms. If for some reason Skoronski will have to kick inside where that would be less of an issue, he'd likely excel at guard and the Titans could use a talent infusion on the interior line, too.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba is the first receiver off the board for me this time around, and that's because I think his stock will rise in the weeks ahead if he has a strong showing at the Combine after an injury-shortened final season with the Buckeyes. He is an excellent route-runner who can win at all three levels and the Texans really need some pass-catching talent.
13. New York Jets: T Broderick Jones, Georgia
This is the first pick I've repeated from Version 1.0 two weeks ago, but nothing has changed. The Jets still need a lot of help up front and may not be able to count on Mekhi Becton.
14. New England Patriots: S Brian Branch, Alabama
The Patriots could lose safety Devin McCourty and/or cornerback Jonathan Jones in free agency, so they may have to reload in the secondary. Branch feels like a Bill Belichick type of player and has the versatility to make an immediate impact at several different spots in the defensive backfield.
15. Green Bay Packers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
I had the Packers taking Branch two weeks ago but this time he's already off the board. The Packers like tall receivers and Johnston is 6-4 and 215 pounds and can get downfield quickly with his long strides or turn shorter passes into big gains with his explosiveness in the open field.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Washington): CB Joey Porter Jr.
I think this worked out just fine for the Eagles, who get the fast-rising Porter to offset the potential secondary losses of James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency. If Porter continues his offseason momentum with a strong showing at the Combine, he might not even be able at this pick, but for now the Eagles land the potential second-generation star.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
We've got a little run on cornerbacks coalescing here, as the Steelers add to a secondary that might not be able to keep Cameron Sutton. Witherspoon isn't the biggest corner available but he's got the confidence needed at that position and plenty of athleticism.
18. Detroit Lions: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
The Lions got a cornerback with the sixth pick but there's still work to be done on the league's 31st-ranked scoring defense. The Lions are short on high-end talent in the middle of their defense and Simpson would be an immediate and significant upgrade. He's a complete defender with range, coverage ability, run-stopping prowess and some pass-rush juice.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
I had the Bucs nabbing cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in my last version but this time around he's already gone. Fortunately, Forbes is still available so I can once again focus on a secondary that has a very good chance of losing some key pieces in free agency. Forbes plays tough at 6-0 and 180 pounds and has the sort of ball hawking talent the Buccaneers have been looking for more of in their secondary.
20. Baltimore Ravens (from Seattle): WR Jordan Addison, USC
Baltimore is surprised to see Addison still available and they make a small move to get him before the Chargers do, or another team that might have traded with Seattle. Obviously, the Ravens need at the position is enormous and Addison is fast but also a sharp route-runner who knows how to get open and find holes in zone. He's also very sure-handed.
NA. Miami Dolphins: FORFEITED
21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
The Chargers might very well have been hoping to grab Addison but they come out of this okay by grabbing Hyatt, who has the one thing L.A. needs more than anything in its receiving corps: SPEED. The Chargers may actually be hoping Hyatt doesn't sizzle in his 40 in Indianapolis because they don't need him climbing any higher on team's boards.
22. Seattle Seahawks (Baltimore): DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
John Schneider must have been going through withdrawal. Trading down in the first round is one of his favorite things to do and the Seahawks hadn't done so since 2019! (Part of that was due to trading away two first-rounders for Jamal Adams.) I actually think he'd be willing to move down again here and get Bresee a few picks later, but I'm not going to force it. Seattle came into this draft needing help all over its defensive front and, after stealing Will Anderson at number five now gets a potential force on the inside to pair him with. Bresee has had some medical concerns but that could be alleviated at the Combine.
23. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Keion White, Georgia Tech
When it's all said and done I think White may be a riser who goes closer to the middle of the round, but in my mocks he has made it here both times and the Vikings are the beneficiary again. White has a lot to learn about playing on the edge but he's bursting with the physical tools teams want at the position.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: G O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida
The Jaguars could have their pick of the tight ends, and indeed we gave them Michael Mayer in each of our first two mocks. But the Jaguars also have guard Ben Bartch coming back from a knee injury and could use a high-end interior blocker to pair with Brandon Scherff and help create lanes for Travis Etienne.
25. New York Giants: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
The Giants could go with Zay Flowers, as we predicted the past two weeks, but at this point it might make more sense to wait until the second round for a pass-catcher and focus on another position of need with Smith, who is a feisty corner who thrived in the talented SEC.
26. Dallas Cowboys: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
I'm sticking to my six-shooters here. I still think the addition of Sanders – especially with Leighton Vander Esch a potential free agency loss – would help the Cowboys get the most out of their best player, Micah Parsons. Sanders has some of the same off-ball/edge versatility; pairing those two would give Dan Quinn a chance to get very creative and keep opposing offenses guessing.
27. Buffalo Bills: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
I expected to have Robinson coming off the board a little earlier this time around but, nope, here is again and once again the Bills take the plunge. Devin Singletary is a pending free agent and I don't think James Cook is an every-down back. Imagine having a big three of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Bijan Robinson, the Texas runner is indeed one of the best RB prospects in years.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Hayden Hurst could hit the market and even if he returns the Bengals could use a more dynamic weapon, as Hurst only averaged 8.0 yards per catch. The top of the board at tight end is a little muddled right now and the upcoming Combine could provide more clarity, but for now I'll go with Mayer, who is a true three-down tight end who can help in the run game as well.
29. New Orleans Saints (from San Francisco through Miami and Denver): EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
This is a bit of a fall for Van Ness, who went 20th in each of our first two mock drafts, but that works out well for the Saints, who are working hard to get a rough cap situation under control and could very well lose Marcus Davenport just as they did Trey Hendrickson in 2021. Van Ness uses both power and a good bend to get to the quarterback and would pair well with the ageless Cameron Jordan
30. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph are all set to hit free agency. Suh and Joseph were hired guns but Hargrave was one of most dominant interior linemen in the league last season and Cox has been a mainstay in Philly for 11 years. The Eagles may need to reload up front, and Kancey has shown some dynamic traits as a potential three-technique standout.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
That would be two years in a row that the Chiefs took an edge rusher at the end of the first round, but they need an upgrade over Frank Clark and a young bookend for George Karlaftis. Smith is a bit undersized but he plays bigger than his 234 pounds and holds up well against the run.