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It’s Almost Over: Bruce’s Final Round 1 2023 NFL Mock Draft

We’re actually trying to make sense this time

2022 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7 Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

For the overwhelming majority of the NFL offseason, mock drafts serve as thought experiments. They are intended to see how the field would react if a specific variable is changed.

What if the Texans didn’t take a quarterback at 2?
What if Tyree Wilson went ahead of Will Anderson?
What if Jalen Carter fell?
What if Will Levis fell?

Once you get closer to the draft, the mock drafts become much more about what the author thinks could actually occur, and much less about experimenting in the abstract. So it is with this mock draft, which is intended to gauge what I believe may actually occur on the first night of the 2023 NFL Draft. What I may want to have happen is inconsequential; I only wish to outline what I think might happen and why.

Let’s dive in:

  1. Carolina Panthers - Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)
  2. Houston Texans - Tyree Wilson, DE (Texas Tech)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (projected trade up with Arizona Cardinals) - Anthony Richardson, QB (Florida)
  4. Arizona Cardinals (projected trade down with Indianapolis Colts) - Will Anderson Jr., DE (Alabama)
  5. Seattle Seahawks - Jalen Carter, DT (Georgia)
  6. Detroit Lions - Devon Witherspoon, CB (Illinois)
  7. Las Vegas Raiders - C.J. Stroud, QB (Ohio State)
  8. Atlanta Falcons - Nolan Smith, DE (Georgia)
  9. Chicago Bears - Peter Skoronski, OG (Northwestern)
  10. Tennessee Titans (projected trade up with the Philadelphia Eagles) - Broderick Jones, OT (Georgia)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (projected trade down with the Tennessee Titans) - Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)
  12. Houston Texans - Jaxon Smith Njigba, WR (Ohio State)
  13. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT (Ohio State)
  14. New England Patriots - Darnell Wright, OT (Tennessee)
  15. Green Bay Packers - Quentin Johnston, WR (TCU)
  16. Washington Commanders - Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon)
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Joey Porter Jr., CB (Penn State)
  18. Minnesota Vikings (projected trade up with Detroit Lions) - Will Levis, QB (Kentucky)
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Anton Harrison, OT (Oklahoma)
  20. New York Giants (projected trade up with Seattle Seahawks) - Zay Flowers, WR (Boston College)
  21. Los Angeles Chargers - Jordan Addison, WR (USC)
  22. Baltimore Ravens - Deonte Banks, CB (Maryland)
  23. Detroit Lions (projected trade down with Minnesota Vikings) - Bryan Bresee, IDL (Clemson)
  24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Brian Branch, S (Alabama)
  25. Seattle Seahawks (projected trade down with New York Giants) - John Michael Schmitz, IOL (Minnesota)
  26. Dallas Cowboys, Dalton Kincaid, TE (Utah)
  27. Houston Texans (projected trade up with Buffalo Bills) - Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)
  28. Cincinnati Bengals - Michael Mayer, TE (Notre Dame)
  29. New Orleans Saints - O’Cyrus Torrence IOL, (Florida)
  30. Philadelphia Eagles - Dawand Jones, OT (Ohio State)
  31. Kansas City Chiefs - Myles Murphy, DE (Clemson)

Well that wasn’t much fun. The Bills traded out of pick No. 27, giving up their first-round pick and pick #205 overall in the sixth round in exchange for pick #33 overall, #104 overall in the fourth round and #161 overall in the fifth round from the Houston Texas, who jumped up to take quarterback Hendon Hooker at the end of the first round to secure a fifth-year option on a QB who may be slow to get on the field after a college knee injury.

But after Pittsburgh selected Cody Mauch (the offensive tackle from North Dakota State) at No. 32 overall, the Buffalo Bills selected:

Mazi Smith, DT (Michigan)

One of the ways you can deal with smaller linebackers is by having bigger defensive tackles. We might see a slight philosophical change in the Bills’ defense with head coach Sean McDermott taking over as play caller, and that’s part of the thought process here. The Bills have zero interior defensive linemen currently under contract for 2024 and no matter if they lose Ed Oliver as their starting three technique defensive tackle, DaQuan Jones as their starting one-technique defensive tackle, or both, Mazi Smith can be developed to play either role. The top player on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” this past year, which outlines the most gifted athletes in college football, Smith fits the idea that the Bills like to bet on traits early in the draft and trust their coaches to develop the player.

Smith’s tape against a potential top-40 player in TCU’s left guard Steve Avila shows his ability to disengage at will from a good player when he needs to fill against the run or rush the passer, and he played a absurd amount of snaps against top competition for a 323 pound man (49 snaps per game against power five teams per Pro Football Focus), which might make him an even more effective player in a rotation.

The Bills could absolutely look at a player like Mazi Smith and think that the deficiencies can be coached, but the traits cannot be. That, combined with their serious looming numbers issues at the position and the value placed on the defensive line by both Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, makes Smith the pick here.

...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!