Trades dominate first round of The Torch’s NFL Mock Draft


The Torch predicts that the Carolina Panthers will select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Aaron Rodgers is a Jet, Odell Beckham Jr. is a Raven, and the Carolina Panthers hold the NFL’s golden ticket: the number one pick in the draft. All this and more news has broken throughout NFL media, all leading up to this day: Draft Day 2023. Team needs have been assessed, prospects have been scouted and tested, which leaves us with one final step before the clock starts ticking: The Official 2023 OH Torch Mock Draft. So, here’s what we’re expecting:

1. Carolina Panthers – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: A month ago it appeared as though the Panthers had traded up for Ohio State QB CJ Stroud. However, we live in a different world than we did a month ago, and as the dust settles, a 5-10⅛, 204-pound figure emerges as the savior of football in Charlotte, North Carolina.

2. Houston Texans – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech: Bryce Young was Houston’s guy, and the fact that they aren’t getting him seems to have them scrambling. Lance Zierlein is an analyst for NFL Network who’s very plugged into the Texans franchise and he’s mocked Wilson here over Alabama’s Will Anderson. Wilson is a bit more raw of a prospect but he’s a huge freak athlete with sky high potential. It’s been reported that some teams have Wilson higher on their board than Anderson. I trust Zierlein and I believe the Texans and new head coach DeMeco Ryans are one of those teams.

3. Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama: Sure the Cardinals *could* trade this pick, but honestly, they need any chance at star power they can get. They are on very serious “worst team in the league” watch, and Alabama superstar Will Anderson is Arizona’s best chance at putting butts in State Farm Stadium seats next season.

4. Indianapolis Colts – CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State: Chris Ballard is picking for his job here, and I refuse to believe he puts his employment in the hands of Will Levis with CJ Stroud available for the taking. The Colts are in desperate need of a franchise QB and Stroud throws a gorgeous ball with the best touch and accuracy in this class. They’ll live happily ever after.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida: I’m hearing reports that the Seahawks are absolutely in love with Anthony Richardson. It’s not like he’s one of, if not the most physically gifted QB prospect of all time or anything. Geno Smith’s new contract has an easy out after one year, and Seattle may not pick this high again for a while. I think they pull the trigger on their guy and have him sit behind Smith for at least a year.

6. Detroit Lions – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon: Even after trading Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, the Lions CB room is actually kind of good. They added Cam Sutton from Pittsburgh, Emmanuel Moseley from San Francisco, and CJ Gardner-Johnson from Philadelphia, all very “low-risk, high-reward” type additions. Adding another elite cover corner like Gonzalez could put the finishing touches on a really high-level secondary.

7. Las Vegas Raiders – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois: The Raiders, for some reason, are comfortable with Jimmy Garoppolo leading the charge on offense, and have shifted their focus to cornerback with the 7th pick. With the best cover corner in Gonzalez off the board, I think they’ll welcome Witherspoon, who’s a bit more versatile and better in run support.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (Mock Trade with ATL) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State: Finally our first big surprise of the evening! The Pittsburgh Steelers make a huge move, trading up nine spots to nab a cornerstone left tackle in Paris Johnson Jr. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Johnson Jr. will be “almost certainly the first tackle off the board,” and the Steelers absolutely must provide adequate protection in order to get the most accurate evaluation of young QB Kenny Pickett.

9. Chicago Bears – Jalen Carter, iDL, Georgia: Residents of the Windy City parade down Michigan Avenue when the player they would’ve taken at #1 anyway falls right into their lap at pick #9. Ryan Poles is revered, the Bears compete for the NFC North title, and, like the Colts, they all live happily ever after. 

10. Houston Texans (Mock Trade with PHI) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State: Surprise! Another move is made, this time Houston jumping up from pick 12 to pick 10. It remains to be seen what the Titans will do with the 11th pick, but the Texans don’t want to wait to find out. They know exactly who they want, and rather than let their division rival steal him away, they make a move and take the consensus WR1 in this class: Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

11. New York Jets (Mock Trade with TEN) – Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia: With Houston beating them to the punch at receiver, the Titans pivot to offensive tackle, but none of this year’s rookies really wow them. Instead. They trade down with the Jets and acquire Mekhi Becton in possibly the most surprising move of the night so far. Gang Green dumps Becton (who I’m convinced they don’t like anyway) and moves up from pick 15 to draft his replacement in Georgia’s Broderick Jones, who now gets to protect the blindside of one of the greatest to ever do it: Aaron Rodgers. 

12. Philadelphia Eagles (Mock Trade with HOU) – Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia: The Eagles get to add assets in a trade down with Houston and get the guy they wanted all along. Nolan Smith will go very high in this draft not just because he’s a freak on the field, but because he is widely viewed as one of the best leaders and locker room personalities in this year’s class. Rookie year captaincy is certainly not out of the question for him, and he’ll be reunited with former teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.

13. Green Bay Packers – Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee: The first move of the Jordan Love era is another look toward the future. GM Brian Gutekunst selects the successor to perennial left tackle David Bakhtiari with Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. The Packers have a pretty good history of picking guys they’ve met with in the pre-draft process, and Wright is the only top tackle prospect who fits that criteria. 

14. New England Patriots – Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College: I thought long and hard about Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness, Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison, and even Texas RB Bijan Robinson here, but I really think the Pats are locked in on Flowers. During his “extensive” visit with the team, apparently new OC Bill O’Brien was teaching him the offense. Doing that and then not picking him doesn’t make sense to me. If, for some reason, he’s not available here, I would think plan B is to trade down.

15. Tennessee Titans (Mock Trade with NYJ) – Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern: With Flowers now gone, the TItans continue bolstering the offensive line with Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. Skoronski is listed as a tackle, but he’s got dangerously short arms and I would feel a lot more comfortable playing him at guard. Becton and Skoronski on the offensive line will make life a lot easier for Derrick Henry, assuming he’s still on the team come September. 

16. Minnesota Vikings (Mock Trade with WAS) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky: The Vikings being in on the quarterbacks is maybe the worst kept secret in the entire NFL right now. I expect them to make a move, and I expect Will Levis to fall further than expected. This feels like the spot where the two expectations intersect. The important thing for Minnesota here is that they are getting ahead of the Buccaneers and Commanders who are the only other two teams who could potentially steal Levis away from them. Levis played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky similar to Kevin O’Connell’s, he’ll have a chance to sit behind Kirk Cousins, and when he finally gets his shot, he’ll be throwing balls to Justin Jefferson. Not too shabby of a landing spot

17. Atlanta Falcons (Mock Trade with PIT) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas: There are a lot of rumors circulating connecting Bijan Robinson to the Falcons. I honestly hate the pick. Tyler Allgeier was one of the most efficient backs in the league last year and they have other GLARING needs, but in the spirit of being predictive, I think they’ll pull the trigger, especially if they can gain assets in the trade and still get Robinson at pick 17. Win-Win I guess. 

18. Detroit LIons – Mazi Smith, iDL, Michigan: Unfortunately, it does not look like DT Levi Onwuzurike will be returning from injury, so with their second pick in the first round Detroit goes go with the 323-pound uber-athletic nose tackle who just so happened to go to school right next door in Ann Arbor. He’ll reunite with Aidan Hutchinson, and maybe, just maybe, the Lions will have the best run defense in football. Maybe. 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida: The Bucs have so many needs, nobody really knows what they’re going to do. They could go for a QB, they could go for a DB, or they could go for an offensive lineman. Can’t go wrong regardless, I suppose. The Bucs need help on the interior of the offensive line, OCT is far and away the best guard in the class, and, like Mazi Smith before him, went to school just a two-hour drive away in Gainesville.

20. Seattle Seahawks – Calijah Kancey, iDL, Pittsburgh: I seriously considered cornerback here. Joey Porter Jr. is still available, and if he were to get drafted by the Seahawks, pairing him with Tariq Woolen, we could be looking at Legion of Boom 2.0. However, outside of Jarran Reed and Dre’Mont Jones, the Seahawks don’t have anybody worth noting on the defensive line, a line which was 31st in the league in EPA/play against gap runs last year. Kancey is undersized and he went to Pitt, so the most common, yet unnecessarily lofty pro-comparison for him is Aaron Donald. He’s not Aaron Donald and he may never be Aaron Donald, but he should at least be better than Bryan Mone, who is currently listed as their starting nose tackle on

21. Los Angeles Chargers – Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland: Chargers fans are going to be calling for Tom Telesco’s head if they don’t draft a wide receiver, but Deonte Banks here is the best value on the board. J.C. Jackson got paid last offseason and then battled through injuries before being benched midway through the season. Their cornerback room is thin, and Banks is an elite athlete who can play just about anywhere in the secondary.

22. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Addison, WR, USC: LAMAR JACKSON NEEDS HELP. Todd Monken and Odell Beckham Jr. are a good start, but Addison’s route running and shiftiness could be the last puzzle piece in turning one of the league’s worst passing offenses into one of the league’s best. Of course, it’s probably not possible without the former unanimous MVP Lamar Jackson, but at least this pick allows GM Eric DeCosta to ensure that no matter who is taking the snaps this September, they’ll have an excellent supporting cast.

23. Washington Commanders (Mock Trade with MIN) – Brian Branch, S, Alabama: Brian Branch is listed as a safety, but played a lot of nickel corner at Alabama, which is what he’ll be playing a lot of in Washington. currently lists Danny Johnson as their starting nickel corner. I have no idea who that is.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State: The Jaguars’ biggest need is a number two corner to go opposite Tyson Campbell. Joey Porter Jr. could be that guy and at pick 24 would be fantastic value. Porter Jr. is an NFL legacy. His father played linebacker for the Steelers, Dolphins, and Cardinals from 1999-2011. He has a historically long wingspan and plays a very physical brand of football, which makes him really good in press man coverage.

25. New York Giants – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU: The Giants have quite a few needs for a team fresh off a divisional round appearance. Last year, in his first season as GM, Joe Schoen invested both of his first round picks in the trenches. This year, he opts for skill position talent, and if coach of the year Brian Daboll could have Giants fans convinced Isaiah Hodgins is a legit number one receiver, I am legitimately scared of what he would do with Quentin Johnston in the lineup.

26. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame: A lot of draft experts are predicting multiple tight ends to go in round one. It’s easily the best tight end class we’ve seen in a long time, but I’m not sure I’m buying that. Michael Mayer is the most well rounded tight end in the class, and he’ll make a good replacement for Dalton Schultz, who left for Houston in free agency. 

27. Buffalo Bills – Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State: The Buffalo Bills need to get better running the football. Dawand Jones is my favorite offensive lineman in the class and maybe the best against the run. Jones is 6’8’, 360 pounds and sports the longest wingspan ever recorded in senior bowl history. Oh, and he also played basketball in high school, which speaks to his athleticism. I’m not sold on Spencer Brown, and Dawand Jones could be the mover in the run game that the Bills have been looking for for years. 

28. Cincinnati Bengals – Steve Avila, OG, TCU: The Bengals have invested plenty of resources into the tackle position, but they were starting a day three rookie last year in Cordell Volson at left guard. Even if he remains the starter, the Bengals need to take Avila so that if someone goes down, we never have to see Hakeem Adeniji start a football game ever again. Hopefully. 

29. New Orleans Saints – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson: It is unconventional to think Myles Murphy will be available at #29,, but this is how my board fell, so the Saints capitalize. He’ll get to learn from the great Cameron Jordan, and hopefully Jordan can help Murphy develop some real pass-rushing moves. 

30. Philadelphia Eagles – DJ Turner, CB, Michigan: By some miracle, Howie Roseman was able to retain both Darius Slay and James Bradberry, as well as add Greedy Williams to the cornerback room. Now, after grabbing an edge rusher at #12, they go with D.J. Turner, who can get some snaps in the slot and learn from Slay and Bradberry playing on the outside. Turner’s claim to fame is his elite speed and agility. He ran the fastest 40-yard-dash of all the cornerbacks in this class, and his 6.29-second three cone drill time is just bonkers. Turner’s a guy who’s athletic traits are worth banking on late in the first round, especially on an Eagles team that’s really only drafting for depth at the position.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma: Anton Harrison to close out the first round would be a steal, to say the least. The Chiefs have a need at the position after losing both Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie in free agency, and Harrison is the most consistent pass-protector in this class. Going from Brown and Wylie to Harrison and Jawaan Taylor is arguably an upgrade, and Patrick Mahomes will be able to sleep like a baby at night knowing he’ll be well-protected again in 2023.