- A mock draft with a twist: This fantasy football mock draft is a fun thought exercise that only allows teams to pick quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or tight ends with a focus on team need and team fit.
- The Arizona Cardinals land Jaxon Smith-Njigba: The Cardinals are highly likely to draft a defender or trade back in real life, but in this scenario, they land an ideal replacement for DeAndre Hopkins.
- The Green Bay Packers select Sam LaPorta: A recent three-round mock had the Packers taking LaPorta in the third round, but with limited options, he lands in the middle of the first. While the vast majority of these players won’t get picked this high, it’s always possible a team trades back or finds one of these players in a later round due to the strong match.
Estimated Reading Time: 15 mins
1. Carolina Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The odds-on favorite to go first overall, and the most mocked player to go first overall to the Panthers via the PFF Mock Draft Simulator, the Ohio State star seems destined to be Carolina’s quarterback of the future. Stroud’s accuracy figures to be his greatest asset in raising the value of all Carolina fantasy assets, as he led this year’s class of quarterbacks in accurate pass rate (68.0%). With only Adam Thielen finishing with an above-average separation rate (29.13%) last season among the team’s expected starters at wide receiver, the need for Stroud to throw his receivers open will be key in Year 1.
2. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
This may be the last pick of the draft that goes as expected. The Texans have spent the offseason building around their quarterback in the future with two new running backs, two new wide receivers and a new tight end to join Dameon Pierce and Nico Collins. Young is the top player on our big board and is the best decision-maker in the draft.
3. Arizona Cardinals: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The DeAndre Hopkins trade rumors have persisted, and none of the receivers currently on the Cardinals depth chart are well-suited to take his role. Smith-Njigba did his damage in college on crossing, hitch and out routes — the three most-frequent routes he was targeted on. Those are also the three most frequently targeted routes by the Cleveland Browns over the last three seasons, the team where new Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petzing used to coach.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
With Shane Steichen coming in as the Colts new head coach in addition to the team’s significant need at quarterback, Steichen’s experience and success at developing an athletic project quarterback with Jalen Hurts should prove value when looking to do the same with Richardson. While the Florida product didn’t have nearly as much success as a passer as Hurts did in college, it’s his NFL development under Steichen that should provide confidence in similarly developing Richardson. Adding significant development as a passer to pair with his athleticism and rushing ability would be huge for his fantasy potential.
5. Seattle Seahawks: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a long tradition of 5-foot-10 wide receivers who are a moveable weapon — from Golden Tate to Doug Baldwin to Tyler Lockett. Flowers fits the mold of a receiver who can thrive in the Seattle offense. Lockett will be 31 years old by midseason, and the two can co-exist for a few years. Teams can always use more depth at wide receiver, and Seattle has room to draft two wide receivers if it would like.
6. Detroit Lions: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Lions’ only need among their skill positions is at tight end, but with two first-round picks, they can take the best available player. The Lions have the depth at wide receiver for this season, but Johnston could help the Lions boast one of the best young receiving corps in the NFL. Johnston has the most prototypical X-skillset in the draft, which would fit perfectly with Jameson Williams as a deep threat and Amon-Ra St. Brown in the slot.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis brings something to the table that current projected quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, just doesn’t — arm strength. Levis owns the strongest arm in this class, and he hasn’t shied away from using it — the go route was his third-most attempted route in 2022. This would be a big boost for Davante Adams, who ran a go route on 22.7% of his routes, which was well above league average for the position (15.1%). Garoppolo only attempted 12 go balls last season — his 10th-most commonly targeted route.
8. Atlanta Falcons: HB Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Falcons ran the ball at a higher rate (50.8%) than any other team in the league last season, and after spending high draft capital on a wide receiver and tight end over the past two drafts, they complete the trifecta by adding the ultra-talented Robinson to the mix. Along with Atlanta’s high run rate, its offensive line is one of the best run-blocking units in the league, which would only increase Robinson’s potential for production and solidify him as an elite fantasy asset.
9. Chicago Bears: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah
The top tight end on the PFF big board fits well here as the Bears add a versatile receiving option for Justin Fields. Kincaid’s top-tier route-running and receiving ability will allow for plenty of fantasy upside, especially beyond his rookie season with current starter Cole Kmet on the final year of his contract. Kincaid has posted elite receiving metrics over the past two seasons at Utah and would be key in Fields’ development as a passer as Chicago continues to add weapons for him in the passing game.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jordan Addison, USC
The Eagles have been making big plays for wide receivers over the past two drafts, trading for A.J. Brown last season and drafting Devonta Smith 10th overall the year prior. Now, they strike at the position again, adding another former Biletnikoff Award winner to the starting offense. Between Smith and Brown last season, both players spent about a quarter of their snaps in the slot and found success. Addison will allow them to remain versatile in that regard, as he also had success doing both in college — his best season came when used primarily as a slot receiver at Pittsburgh.
11. Tennessee Titans: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Mayer matches up perfectly with the Titans’ offensive personality, as he brings both top-end receiving ability while also offering strong run-blocking metrics for one of the top-five most run-heavy teams in the league last year (45.7%). Even with Chigoziem Okonkwo, Mayer would still have fantasy value as the Titans ran a high rate of 12 personnel in 2022 (25.2%) and have targeted the tight end in the passing game at a top-10 rate in two of the past three seasons under Mike Vrabel.
12. Houston Texans: WR Josh Downs, North Carolina
The Texans add the first new weapon after installing Bryce Young as Houston’s quarterback of the future. With Nico Collins and Robert Woods manning the outside receiver positions, Downs comes in as a reliable separator to work out of the slot who Young can rely on for years to come. Downs offers a ton of creativity as a route runner, which is going to be key to his fantasy success as a small receiver working in the middle of the field, leading to plenty of target opportunities in Houston.
13. New York Jets: WR Nathaniel Dell, Houston
The Jets are stacked with talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end both young and old, and assuming Aaron Rodgers is brought in, they won’t be bringing in a quarterback. Dell is as small of a wide receiver as you’ll find but has the speed and elusiveness to thrive for a few plays per game in this offense. Jets wide receivers finished second in avoided tackles off receptions last season with 38, and Dell would help move them even closer to the top spot.
14. New England Patriots: HB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
The Patriots running backs earned the third-most targets from 2015-2020 during the peak of James White’s career. Gibbs is the best receiving back in this draft and would be an excellent fit on third downs and other passing situations in the Patriots offense. This would mean a decreased role for Rhamondre Stevenson, who was great as a rusher but only OK as a receiver. His 1.24 yards per route run ranked 12th of 14 running backs in New England with over 150 routes in a season over the last decade.
15. Green Bay Packers: TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa
With Jordan Love expected to take the QB1 reigns in Green Bay, he’ll require a reliable safety net in the passing game to pair with a high ADoT option like Christian Watson. LaPorta not only offers versatility for the offense, according to the PFF big board, but also significant upside after the catch to help a developing passing attack move the ball downfield by creating big plays on higher percentage throws.
16. Washington Commanders: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
Washington is currently relying on a 30-year-old Jacoby Brissett and the 144th overall pick in the 2022 draft in Sam Howell at quarterback. Howell played 66 offensive snaps last season, and his 70.2 offensive grade in the preseason ranked 34th among 85 quarterbacks. That shouldn’t stop Washington from taking a chance on another quarterback. McKee has great timing and accuracy. He only produced a 1.5% turnover-worthy play rate in 2022.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Michael Wilson, Stanford
The Steelers are another team that’s invested heavily in skill position players with early picks in recent drafts. Wilson’s player comparison in our draft guide is JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the Steelers haven’t found a long-term replacement in the slot for Smith-Schuster since his injuries in 2021 and departure in 2022. Pittsburgh drafted Calvin Austin III a year ago, and he missed the entire season. He could also potentially play in the slot, but any player the Steelers picked here would interfere with some young athlete’s playing time.
18. Detroit Lions: TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
The biggest hole on the Lions offense is filled with Musgrave set to become another viable weapon in the passing game. Along with the newly added Johnston, Musgrave brings size and athleticism that can create significant coverage mismatches and allow for more versatility in the Lions passing game.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: HB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
After Leonard Fournette‘s release, the Bucs need a back who can run between the tackles and create extra yards on the ground. Current projected starters, Rachaad White and Chase Edmonds, averaged below 2.5 yards after contact per attempt last season, so adding Charbonnet, who ranks among the best in this rookie class at creating after contact thanks to his 4.2 yards after contact per attempt in 2022, can provide a nice boost to Tampa’s run game.
20. Seattle Seahawks: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
The Noah Fant addition via trade last offseason should not preclude the Seahawks from adding another athletic specimen at the position in this year’s draft. Seattle has run a top-five 12 personnel rate over the past three seasons, including the highest rate last season. Washington’s size and dominance as a run blocker at Georgia will continue to be an asset for the Seahawks and provide him plenty of opportunity to see the field. He still requires refinement as a receiver but has the tools to develop into a strong fantasy asset over time.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
The Chargers could greatly benefit from a young deep threat, and Hyatt is the best option in the draft. Hyatt’s 677 receiving yards on deep passes was the most in the Power 5 last season. Mike Williams and Josh Palmer caught three-of-20 passes on go routes last season. Keenan Allen was much more successful, but he will be turning 31 years old before the draft.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
The Ravens add more stability to the wide receiver corps with Perry coming in as one of the most productive options in this class with nearly 2,400 receiving yards over the past two seasons (third). Regardless of the quarterback situation, installing two up-and-coming prospects such as Perry and Rashod Bateman, who can separate and win on the outside against single coverage, will provide a much-needed boost for the Ravens passing attack.
23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Rashee Rice, SMU
With Adam Thielen’s tenure in Minnesota coming to an end this offseason, who better to replace him with than Rice, whose player comparison is Thielen. Rice has experience playing in the slot and on the outside during his time at SMU and has had success doing both, producing 2.64 yards per route run since 2021 (eighth).
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: HB Tank Bigsby, Auburn
At this point in the draft, beloved fantasy options are going to catch some strays with unideal landing spots, and Travis Etienne takes one for the team here with Bigsby landing in Jacksonville. The Auburn back offers the size and power that the team could greatly benefit from on short downs and goal-line touches while Etienne can still bring his top-end receiving production on passing downs.
25. New York Giants: HB Devon Achane, Texas A&M
Saquon Barkley had an excellent rookie season as a receiver, catching 91 passes. That mark has only been beaten four times in the last two seasons, twice by Christian McCaffrey and twice by Austin Ekeler. Barkley hasn’t been the same receiver since then, gaining 1.04 yards per route run over the last four seasons — fourth-fewest among the 14 backs with 1000 or more routes. Achane is the best home run hitter among the running backs in the draft, and he could start his career as a third-down back.
26. Dallas Cowboys: HB DeWayne McBride, UAB
The Cowboys were insistent on running the ball in 2022, ranking seventh in the league in run rate (45.3%), so adding McBride will allow them to maintain that rate, pairing him with Tony Pollard, who is playing on the franchise tag this season. McBride, much like Pollard, has been dominant at creating additional yards per carry, ranking first in yards after contact per attempt (4.65) and third in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.35) among this running back class since 2021.
27. Buffalo Bills: TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
The Bills could go the entire 2023 NFL Draft without drafting a skill player and be perfectly fine this season. They have a luxury of picking a No. 2 tight end who could one day be a starter. There is nothing Kraft excels at relative to other tight ends from the class, but he has the size and speed to develop into a star. Dawson Knox recently signed a contract extension, but his 1.09 yards per route run over the last four years is the fifth-fewest among tight ends.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: HB Kendre Miller, TCU
There have been persistent rumors the Bengals could move on from Joe Mixon, who has cap hits above $12 million in each of the next two seasons. Miller is still only 20 years old and could fully replace Mixon either right away or in a year. He has one of the most well-rounded skill sets in the draft. It’s possible the Bengals could look for a player that is more of a receiving back to replace Samaje Perine, although Chris Evans could take that role.
29. New Orleans Saints: TE Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan
Schoonmaker gets paired with new Saints quarterback Derek Carr and should find ways to get involved in the passing game, even as a rookie. Schoonmaker was among the lower ADoT (average depth of target) tight ends in this class, running a high rate of crossing routes in 2022 (31.1%), which just happens to be Carr’s second-most targeted route in his career (9.6%). While he’s never averaged over 10 yards ADoT in his career, adding a player like Schoonmaker to his arsenal should create a sense of familiarity for Carr in his new home.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: HB Sean Tucker, Syracuse
In Nick Sirianni’s last season with the Indianapolis Colts, he had the luxury of coaching Jonathan Taylor. Tucker’s player comparison is Taylor and gives the Eagles a security blanket if Rashaad Penny were to get injured. The Eagles like to have different roles for their running backs, so Tucker can be a north and south runner without getting involved in the passing game. This isn’t a situation that would make fantasy managers happy but can help the Eagles repeat as NFC Champions.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
The Chiefs have already lost JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman this offseason. They haven’t re-signed Justin Watson and also haven’t added anyone at the position. Scott could fill the void left by Watson, who achieved a 20.6 average depth of target as an occasional deep threat for the offense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will remain on the roster in 2023 but could be a cap cut in 2024, giving Kansas City a long-term plan of Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore and Scott at wide receiver.