C.J. Stroud Falls to Colts in GTM's Final Mock Draft

Ohio State Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud
Ohio State Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - Dear Football Outsiders readers,

I know that you are probably tired of mock drafts and don't need yet another one. That's OK! I feel your pain. On the other hand, I have collected over 2,000 mock drafts this cycle, so what's one more? I won't bore you too much longer with the particulars except to say: "For those about to mock, I SALUTE YOU!"

Here's my narrative at a high level about how I think Round 1 will unfold in this mock draft, which is informed by Grinding the Mocks data and will be used for inclusion in the Huddle Report's Mock Draft Accuracy competiton:

  • Bijan Robinson and Jalen Carter both go in the top 10.
  • Four quarterbacks are drafted in Round 1 (but Hendon Hooker is not one of them).
  • Anthony Richardson falls the most of the top four quarterbacks.
  • Tyree Wilson gets drafted before Will Anderson.
  • Only three wide receivers are drafted in Round 1 (Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison).
  • Only one running back is drafted in Round 1 (sorry, no Jahmyr Gibbs).
  • According to Grinding the Mocks historical data:
    • ~25 players with a First-Round Expected Draft Round.
    • ~6 players with a Second-Round Expected Draft Round.
  • Three tight ends are drafted in Round 1 (Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, and Darnell Washington).

Here is a quick reminder about the ground rules I'm using for this mock draft:

  • I'm not projecting any trades, though I expect some movement at or near the top of the draft that should make this mock even more irrelevant than usual before the draft.
  • I am only taking these factors into account when formulating my mock selections:
    • the player's Expected Draft Position;
    • the drafting team's most mocked players and positions;
    • the drafting team's history of selecting players earlier or later than expected.

Grinding the Mocks 2023 NFL Mock Draft II
(* Pick Acquired by Trade)

1. Carolina Panthers (*): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Carolina makes a statement by drafting Bryce Young: ignore the noise about his height and weight and instead focus on the special talents he has as a football player.

2. Houston Texans: Tyree Wilson, ER, Texas Tech

Houston seemed like a lock to take a quarterback here, but it seems they have other plans, and in the Nick Caserio regime those plans involve not picking the top-ranked players at their positions of need (see Derek Stingley and Kenyon Green in Round 1 last year).

3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, ER, Alabama

The Cardinals feel like déjà vu all over again (as a trade-out seems like the perfect option), but in the event that they keep this pick, they'll likely select Alabama's Will Anderson, the likely top-ranked defender on their board.

4. Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Many draftniks were mocking Will Levis here, but in the event that Stroud is available, he makes a lot of sense. Shane Steichen seems like the coach who can create an offense that plays to the strength of his quarterback, whether that quarterback is more of a traditional pocket passer like Stroud, more of a running threat like Anthony Richardson, or Levis, who's kind of in between in that respect.

5. Seattle Seahawks (*): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

People must have forgotten how you have to expect the unexpected when it came to a Seahawks' draft, and they continue that tradition by surprising with the selection of Kentucky's Will Levis over Anthony Richardson or a blue-chip defender such as Jalen Carter.

Will Levis chart

6. Detroit Lions (*): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

It is rare for a team like the Lions to have a top-10 pick that was not earned through poor performance. The Lions use that opportunity to draft a rare player in Georgia's Jalen Carter.

7. Las Vegas Raiders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

One of the top two cornerbacks in the class comes off the board in Illinois' Devon Witherspoon. The Raiders' brain trust came to Las Vegas from the New England Patriots, where they build a defense from back to front with physical ball-hawking corners.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Now, one of my hottest draft takes is that I believe the hype around Bijan Robinson is not being captured by Grinding the Mocks data. NFL teams can't help themselves when it comes to seeing talent and ignoring positional value in the draft (see Kyle Pitts, 2021).

Bijan Robinson chart

9. Chicago Bears (*): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Getting Justin Fields more time in cleaner pockets is a great way to support the development of the Bears' young quarterback, and Skoronski did just that while starring up the lake from Chicago at Northwestern.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (*): Nolan Smith, ER, Georgia

Another year, another series of mock drafts selecting positions that the Eagles never target in Round 1. Well, not this one! The trenches on both sides of the ball have always been an area of focus for the Eagles, and Nolan Smith feels like a perfect fit for Sean Desai's new Fangio-esque defense in Philadelphia.

11. Tennessee Titans: Lukas Van Ness, ER, Iowa

Many expect a quarterback to go here, but I think new general manager Ran Carthon goes with the best player on his board at a premium position with Iowa's Lukas Van Ness. Edge rusher is not the biggest need for the Titans right now, but they can afford to be patient and address weak-link systems with volume later on in the class, especially the interior offensive line.

12. Houston Texans (*): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

I just can't imagine the Texans not coming out of this draft with a starting quarterback that has a higher ceiling than Davis Mills and Case Keenum. Richardson won't have the pressure of playing right away and the Texans can continue the process of whatever they're doing in Houston.

13. Green Bay Packers: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

No way do the Packers troll Aaron Rodgers by drafting a wide receiver or tight end here, right? The Packers have loved drafting Round 1 defensive backs, and I don't think they would take long to draft Christian Gonzalez if he was available at this slot on draft night.

14. New England Patriots: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Getting a (real) offensive coordinator in Bill O'Brien is a huge leap forward for the Patriots, as is bringing in a dynamic weapon for Mac Jones to throw to like Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Slot only? Like Bill Belichick even cares! He has loved featuring slot receivers going back to the Tom Brady years.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba chart

15. New York Jets: Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State

People seem to be under the impression that Kyler Murray controls the Arizona Cardinals' draft room and Pick 3. But you know who really controls the New York Jets' thinking at Pick 15? Aaron Rodgers! And he's used to a high level of pass protection that the Jets should be able to bring in to help raise the floor of their offense.

16. Washington Commanders: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

Another year, another season with the team formerly known as the Washington Football Team finishing in the middle of the pack in the NFL. With Eric Bieniemy revamping the offense, the Commanders can focus on strengthening their middling secondary with Baltimore-area native Deonte Banks, one of the best cover corners in this draft class.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

You should know that Darnell Wright searches for his name on Twitter, so you won't find me saying that he's only considered a right tackle by most evaluators. The Steelers will love his toughness, his mentality, and how he shut out Will Anderson when the Vols beat the Crimson Tide at Rocky Top last season.

18. Detroit Lions: Myles Murphy, ER, Clemson

Yes, the Lions are doubling up on the defensive line prospects in this class, and boy do they need it. Dan Campbell adds an athletic edge rusher to play across the field from Aidan Hutchinson and really take it to their opponents. Forgotten after the combine, Murphy has re-established his position as a top-five player at his position.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

One thing the Bucs have historically done under GM Jason Licht since we started collecting team names in Grinding the Mocks in 2020 is targeting the top mocked position with their top pick. In this case, the position and the value are screaming at Tampa Bay to pull Broderick Jones' name off the board.

Broderick Jones chart

20. Seattle Seahawks: Will McDonald, ER, Iowa State

Under the Pete Carrol and John Schneider regime, a stout defense with physical, speedy pass-rushers has been a staple. Despite being a name that not as many people are familiar with, Iowa State's Will McDonald really fits the type of edge rusher that the Seahawks have preferred historically in the draft. This pick ends the Iowa State Round 1 drought at 50 years!

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Re-energizing what became a pretty lackadaisical offense under Joe Lombardi should be a priority for Tom Telesco and company. Bringing in Kellen Moore likely means a renewed emphasis on having a tight end who can bring it in the passing game and as a blocker. Mayer can do both well!

22. Baltimore Ravens: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

When a player this good falls to the Ravens, it's easy for them to pull the trigger—especially when it's a player at a position of need like cornerback. This could also be a trade-out spot since the Ravens are lacking in draft capital this year, but the production profile of a player like Forbes might entice the team to run up the card.

Emmanuel Forbes chart

23. Minnesota Vikings: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Relying on K.J. Osborn and/or Jalen Nailor stepping into Adam Thielen's spot in the Vikings' wide receiver rotation is asking a lot from any player, but especially ones who probably profile more like WR3 material than WR2. Plugging in the talented Zay Flowers from Boston College will help put some cost control on their wide receiver room as Justin Jefferson contract extension talks should make him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Keion White, ER, Georgia Tech

Last year, the Jaguars surprised draftniks by targeting the traits-y and athletic Travon Walker over the more productive but less athletic Aidan Hutchinson. The draft class is deep this year at edge rusher and Keion White has the versatility that the Jaguars are looking for from their lineman with athleticism to boot.

25. New York Giants: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

The Giants offense has a fever, and the only prescription is more wide receiver. Seeing the production that the Giants' wide receiver room was able to get despite their talent deficiencies was remarkable, but an upgrade is truly necessary and Addison would help Big Blue get there.

26. Dallas Cowboys: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State

Every year in the Grinding the Mocks era, the Cowboys have drafted players in Round 1 at their fourth-most-mocked position. In 2023, cornerback is that position, so targeting Kansas State's Julius Brents makes sense here due to his unique skill set as a hybrid cornerback and safety that Dan Quinn would love to have in his secondary.

27. Buffalo Bills: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

Restocking the cupboard on the interior defensive line should be a priority as none of the players Buffalo currently has under contract are signed into next season. The Bills also have tended to draft players they bring in on their top-30 visits and Smith fits that bill (get it?) to a tee.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Sign me up for this one as a member of the Joe Burrow fan club. Kincaid is viewed as a top-10 player on Daniel Jeremiah's big board, and if healthy could offer the Bengals another dynamic downfield passing option for the future as pressure intensifies to extend their core of fantastic young wide receivers.

Dalton Kincaid chart

29. New Orleans Saints (*): Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

New Orleans uses the pick they received from Denver (that Denver received from Miami and that Miami received from San Francisco) in the Sean Payton trade to select one of the most unusual players in the draft in Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. The Saints need to become more dynamic on offense around rookie wide receiver sensation Chris Olave, and Derek Carr loved working with an athletic tight end in Darren Waller when he was with thes Raider.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

On one hand, I don't see the Eagles' keeping this pick since they regularly trade out of Round 1 to accrue more draft capital in current and future drafts. On the other, I also view them as a team that is willing to take a chance on a player with outlier size, athleticism, and pass-rushing production. Kancey would be able to spell Jordan Davis on passing downs and add a dimension that the Eagles lost when Javon Hargrave left in free agency for the 49ers.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, ER, Kansas State

Winning a Super Bowl but losing a good chunk of the pass-rush production that got them there logically leads draftniks to believe that the Chiefs will target an edge rusher to finish up Round 1. Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah (try saying that three times fast) is the type of player who would fit very nicely into the Chiefs' defensive scheme alongside 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis and add more length to their defensive line.



Grading the Mocks Mock Draft Results
(Expected Draft Position Data as of 4/24/2023)
Pick Draft
Player Pos School EDP
1 CAR* (from CHI) Bryce Young QB Alabama 1
2 HOU Tyree Wilson ER Texas Tech 4
3 ARI Will Anderson ER Alabama 2
4 IND C.J. Stroud QB Ohio State 3
5 SEA* (from DEN) Will Levis QB Kentucky 7
6 DET* (from LAR) Jalen Carter DT Georgia 5
7 LV Devon Witherspoon CB Illinois 6
8 ATL Bijan Robinson RB Texas 14
9 CHI* (from CAR) Peter Skoronski OT Northwestern 11
10 PHI* (from NO) Nolan Smith ER Georgia 12
11 TEN Lukas Van Ness ER Iowa 16
12 HOU* (from CLE) Anthony Richardson QB Florida 8
13 GB* (from NYJ) Christian Gonzalez CB Oregon 10
14 NE Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR Ohio State 13
15 NYJ* (from GB) Paris Johnson OT Ohio State 9
16 WAS Deonte Banks CB Maryland 22
17 PIT Darnell Wright OT Tennessee 15
18 DET Myles Murphy ER Clemson 19
19 TB Broderick Jones OT Georgia 17
20 SEA Will McDonald ER Iowa State 33
21 LAC Michael Mayer TE Notre Dame 24
22 BAL Emmanuel Forbes CB Mississippi State 29
23 MIN Zay Flowers WR Boston College 21
24 JAX Keion White ER Georgia Tech 35
25 NYG Jordan Addison WR USC 26
26 DAL Julius Brents CB Kansas State 52
27 BUF Mazi Smith DT Michigan 36
28 CIN Dalton Kincaid TE Utah 20
29 NO* (from DEN via MIA/SF) Darnell Washington TE Georgia 38
30 PHI Calijah Kancey DT Pittsburgh 28
31 KC Felix Anudike-Uzomah ER Kansas State 46


18 comments, Last at 30 Apr 2023, 5:54pm

#14 by theslothook // Apr 28, 2023 - 1:14am

put comment in the wrong article

Points: 0

#9 by Israel P. - Ashkelon // Apr 27, 2023 - 2:46am

No Joey Porter Jr and Pittsburgh up first in round two.

Points: 0

#8 by Israel P. - Ashkelon // Apr 27, 2023 - 2:42am

"The Giants offense has a fever,
and the only prescription is more wide receiver."

Was this a deliberate rhyme?

Points: 0

#12 by Benjamin Robinson // Apr 27, 2023 - 3:09pm

You know that I'm an equal opportunity reference maker when I make a reference a classic SNL sketch that young folks are clueless to and the older folks don't know what a short king is!

Points: 0

#13 by TomC // Apr 27, 2023 - 7:58pm

The sad thing is that, while I got the SNL reference, I was surprised that I did because it was so new. 

Points: 0

#6 by Theo // Apr 27, 2023 - 1:38am

I know that you are probably tired of mock drafts and don't need yet another one.

Or, I just don't read them.

Points: 0

#5 by ImNewAroundThe… // Apr 26, 2023 - 7:32pm

Gonzalez v Watson matchup would be fun to watch in practices but I think we're set there/already invested too much into it with:

  • 1st rounder Jaire for 4 more years
  • 3rd rounder Rasul for 2 more years
  • 1st rounder Stokes for 2+1 more years
  • Keisean for 1 more year along w/returning duties
  • 5th rounder Shemar for 2 more years
  • 6th rounder Ballentine for a year got guaranteed money

Meanwhile TEs are all expiring, except for a ERFA. Mayer for me I thinks


Points: 0

#18 by ImNewAroundThe… // Apr 30, 2023 - 5:39pm

Gonzalez was there, so were all the pass catchers, but it just had to be LVN. Dang.

Points: 0

#3 by GrammerNotsee // Apr 26, 2023 - 7:07pm

So the Steelers can take Joey Porter da Second at 32? I like it. It's not going to happen, but lemme dream for a day or two, yeah?

Points: 2

#2 by theslothook // Apr 26, 2023 - 4:42pm

Unless you have a pretty solid QB1 on the roster, I don't think teams are afforded the chance to let the kid be groomed for one year. Justin Fields was supposed to be protected in year 1 but successive weeks watching Andy Dalton eventually forced the coach's hand. I doubt any of current Texans QBs inspire much confidence. 

Points: 0

#1 by Raiderfan // Apr 26, 2023 - 4:28pm

My problem with mocking CB for the Raiders is its lack of impact on the worst defense in the NFL.  The playmaking on a down to down basis is not there.  No matter how good he is, you just throw against one of the other terrible secondary players.  Their best bet to shore up the defense is another DL/Edge which would both provide his impact and will also help Crosby.  If the draft plays out as above—with all three of the top guys gone—then I see McDaniels either going QB (to justify keeping him longer as HC to “develop” that pick) or taking their pick of the LTs.

Points: 0

#4 by ImNewAroundThe… // Apr 26, 2023 - 7:14pm

No matter how good he is, you just throw against one of the other terrible secondary players. 

Thankfully the draft is more than 1 round. 

Points: 0

#10 by IlluminatusUIUC // Apr 27, 2023 - 10:59am

Their best bet to shore up the defense is another DL/Edge which would both provide his impact and will also help Crosby.

How is the defense structured? It would be painful to have to pull Chandler Jones off the field to add this edge, when he eats so much cap.

Points: 0

#15 by Raiderfan // Apr 28, 2023 - 11:37am

They hired a new DC, so I don’t know.  However, three pass rushers means you can rotate and still have two on the field all the time, as well as go NASCAR package in clear passing situations.  
And Jones only had one good game last year, anyway,  and didn’t stop Crosby from being the most double teamed pass rusher in The league.

Points: 0

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