With the NFL season more than halfway complete, it’s time to start thinking about the 2023 draft.
Here are The Baltimore Sun’s projections for the first round, which begins April 27 in Kansas City.
Note: Pick order is determined by ESPN’s Football Power Index, which simulates the remainder of the season 10,000 times.
1. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The only knock on Young is something out of his control: size. The 6-foot, 194-pound Crimson Tide star excels in just about every area, with the ability to scramble, scan the field and deliver accurate throws under pressure. With Davis Mills struggling in his second season as the starter, it’s time for Houston to draft its quarterback of the future.
2. Carolina Panthers: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The last time the Panthers had the chance to take an Ohio State quarterback in the first round, they passed on Justin Fields. Carolina can’t make the same mistake twice. While the 6-3, 218-pound Stroud lacks some of the creativity and scrambling ability of his peers, he’s an exceptional pocket passer who avoids sacks and makes accurate throws downfield.
3. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Landing perhaps the best overall prospect in the draft as part of the Russell Wilson trade would be icing on the cake for Seattle. While Anderson isn’t physically imposing at 6-4, 243 pounds, he’s remarkably strong for his size and uses his leverage to push the pocket and defend the run.
4. Chicago Bears: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The 6-3, 300-pound Carter has been slowed by a knee injury this season, but he’s a game-wrecking force when healthy and might have been the best defender on an all-time great national championship team in 2021. The Bears desperately need a physical presence in the middle of their defense.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
While T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith form a formidable duo at outside linebacker, the Steelers could use another big body on the defensive line. The 6-5, 275-pound Murphy, who leads the Tigers in tackles for loss (9) and sacks (5 1/2), is an exceptional athlete.
6. Las Vegas Raiders: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Outside of star edge rusher Maxx Crosby, the Raiders’ defense has been disappointing, to say the least. At 6-5, 300 pounds, the former top overall high school prospect out of Damascus is as disruptive as they come.
7. Detroit Lions: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
The Lions’ top priority should be fixing one of the league’s worst defenses. The 6-2, 210-pound Ringo, who made the game-clinching pick-six in the 2021 national title game, plays with the kind of physicality coach Dan Campbell would love.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints): Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern
The Eagles pride themselves on having one of the league’s best offensive lines and could need reinforcements this offseason. The 6-4, 315-pound Skoronski is putting together a dominant season, allowing just five pressures on 383 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
9. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
A running back hasn’t been drafted in the top 10 since Saquon Barkley in 2018, but Robinson could end that streak. The 6-foot, 220-pound Longhorns star would give the Lions one of the best groups of skill-position players in the league, making life easier for quarterback Jared Goff or his potential replacement.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
For quarterback Trevor Lawrence to reach his full potential, he needs a full complement of weapons around him. A strong run blocker and receiving threat, the 6-4, 265-pound Mayer is one of the best tight end prospects in years.
11. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
The 6-4, 215-pound Johnston is dynamic in the open field, forcing 41 missed tackles on 97 career receptions, according to PFF. He’d give the Texans the outside threat they’ve been lacking since trading DeAndre Hopkins.
12. Atlanta Falcons: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Atlanta found a nice pair of rookie pass rushers in Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone, but they shouldn’t stop there. While a season-ending pectoral injury could bump him down draft boards, the 6-3, 235-pound Smith has the speed and athleticism worth betting on.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
There’s a lot of blame to go around for the Cardinals’ struggles on offense, and the line deserves plenty of it. The 6-6, 310-pound Johnson moved from right guard to left tackle this season and has allowed only eight pressures on 286 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.
14. Indianapolis Colts: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
The Colts’ game of musical chairs with veteran quarterbacks needs to end at some point. While the 6-3, 232-pound Levis has taken a step back after a productive 2021 season, he still has the arm strength, size and rushing ability to become a star at the next level.
15. Green Bay Packers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Maybe this is finally the year the Packers take a wide receiver in the first round. What the 6-foot, 175-pound Addison lacks in size, he more than makes up for with the ability to separate downfield.
16. New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Patriots have always been willing to invest in defensive backs under coach Bill Belichick’s tenure. The 6-2, 194-pound Porter, the son of the former Steelers linebacker, has been a lockdown defender throughout his college career.
17. Washington Commanders: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
While quarterback remains the most obvious need, the Commanders would do well to upgrade a disappointing secondary. The 6-foot, 188-pound Smith is an aggressive man-to-man corner who’s allowed just nine catches on 22 targets this season, according to PFF.
18. Los Angeles Chargers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Chargers might be facing the age-old dilemma for their star quarterback: upgrade the offensive line around Justin Herbert, or give him more receiving talent? Given how infrequently Mike Williams and Keenan Allen see the field because of injuries, adding a wideout might make the most sense. The 6-1, 200-pound Smith-Njigba’s season has been derailed by a hamstring injury, but he’s an outstanding slot weapon when healthy.
19. Seattle Seahawks: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Simpson isn’t your typical off-ball linebacker; the 6-3, 240-pound Clemson star is excellent in coverage and can even blitz off the edge. The Seahawks could use a rangy playmaker in the middle of their defense with 2020 first-round pick Jordyn Brooks struggling through his first three seasons.
20. Tennessee Titans: Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
With left tackle Taylor Lewan’s long-term health in question after a season-ending knee injury and former top picks Nicholas Petit-Frere and Dillon Radunz struggling, the Titans need a cornerstone on the offensive line. The 6-6, 308-pound Fashanu has been a revelation this season, allowing no sacks, one hit and only six hurries on 299 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
Even if the Bengals bring back star safety Jessie Bates III, they could use an upgrade in the secondary. The 6-foot, 193-pound Branch can line up as a slot defender or free safety and would pair well with 2021 first-round pick Dax Hill in the back end of the defense.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Depending on where they pick and Tom Brady’s retirement plans, the Bucs could pick a quarterback in the first round. However, the abundance of defensive talent will be hard to pass up. The 6-6, 275-pound Wilson has racked up 47 pressures this season, according to PFF.
23. New York Jets: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
With former top pick Mekhi Becton dealing with injuries and their other tackles struggling, the Jets need an upgrade on the offensive line. The 6-4, 310-pound Jones is a former top recruit who has grown into a dominant player at left tackle for the defending champion Bulldogs.
24. New York Giants: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
The Giants have their bookend tackles of the future in Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal; now it’s time to upgrade the interior of the offensive line. The 6-5, 347-pound Torrence has only improved against SEC competition after transferring from Louisiana.
25. Denver Broncos (via San Francisco 49ers): Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
After trading Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins, the Broncos have a clear need at edge rusher. The 6-5, 265-pound Foskey leads the Fighting Irish in tackles for loss (9) and sacks (7) this season and is a strong run defender.
26. Miami Dolphins (forfeited)
27. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
It’s not really draft season until Ravens fans start thinking about wide receivers, but there isn’t a first-round talent who makes sense in this range. With Marcus Peters entering free agency and rookies Damarion “Pepe” Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis struggling in their first season, cornerback could become a big need rather quickly. The 6-2, 201-pound Gonzalez is the top-rated cornerback prospect according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, who says the Ducks star “is long, athletic and can run, which is a great foundation for a man-coverage corner in the NFL.”
28. Dallas Cowboys: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
With Dalton Schultz hitting free agency, the Cowboys might have a hole to fill at tight end. The 6-7, 270-pound Washington only has 41 catches in three seasons, but he’s made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging 17.4 yards per reception. He’s a dominant blocker and a huge mismatch against defensive backs, especially in the red zone.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
The only thing keeping the 5-10, 185-pound Phillips from being a first-round lock is his lack of size; he’s tied for the national lead with five interceptions, including two pick-sixes. With Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan hitting free agency, the Vikings need another corner to pair with young building blocks Cameron Dantzler and Andrew Booth.
30. Buffalo Bills: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
The Bills’ desire for a running back has been well-documented. With Devin Singletary hitting free agency, they could pounce on one in the first round. With his vision and pass-catching ability, the 5-11, 200-pound Gibbs has drawn comparisons to Saints star Alvin Kamara, who Buffalo reportedly tried to acquire before the trade deadline.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
While the Eagles look Super Bowl-bound this season, several of their top players are set to hit the open market. That includes starting safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps, among other key defenders. The 6-3, 195-pound Johnson is an instinctive player who can make plays near the line of scrimmage and cover deep.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Outside of star tackle Chris Jones, the Chiefs’ defensive line has been underwhelming this season. The 6-3, 250-pound Ojulari has been a consistent pass rusher for LSU, using his speed and bend to rack up 117 pressures in three seasons, according to PFF.