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2023 NFL mock draft: Early 1st-round forecast

When one NFL draft season ends, the next one immediately kicks off, with early projections and breakdowns that look ahead to the next crop of top college football prospects.

The 2023 NFL draft class already looks like a promising one, with a pair of talented quarterback prospects who could battle for the No. 1 overall pick, as well as a dynamic pass rusher who is likely to be the consensus top prospect.

While the NFL’s 32 teams prepare for the 2022 season with this year’s group of new rookies, here’s an early look at how the first round of next year’s draft could turn out:

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If the Texans are picking this high, the Davis Mills experiment has likely failed after a second season. Stroud has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, and next year’s No. 1 overall pick.

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The Lions dotted on the 2022 quarterback class, likely with an eye on 2023’s deeper group. If they land this high in the draft order, landing Young to replace Jared Goff would be the obvious choice.

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Even after grabbing two promising pass rushers in the 2022 draft, the Falcons wouldn’t pass up the best overall player in next year’s class, especially after stealing their quarterback of the future in third-rounder Desmond Ridder.

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Even with all the Georgia defenders who went in the first round of the 2022 draft, Carter might be the best prospect of them all. He’s the kind of dominant interior presence who could be worthy of a top-five pick.

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The Jaguars have given Trevor Lawrence some decent veterans in free agency, but if they have a chance to draft a game-breaking pass-catcher like Smith-Njigba, they shouldn’t pass it up. He could quickly become the team’s long-term No. 1 target.

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Ever since Luke Kuechly’s retirement, the Panthers have been missing a true impact player at the second level of their defense. Sewell is big, athletic, and has all the potential to be worthy of a top-10 pick.

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Drew Lock isn’t the answer to replace Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks might not have to look far to find one next year. A transfer from Incarnate Word, Ward could be a superstar for the Cougars this season, and a top-10 pick wouldn’t be far-fetched.

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The Giants didn’t pick up Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option, so if they end up with a top-10 pick next year, he’s clearly not the answer. Levis has the talent to rise up the draft board with a strong 2023 campaign.

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Justin Fields has a solid No. 2 receiver in Darnell Mooney, but he still needs a true No. 1 target with size and physicality, as well as athleticism. Boutte checks all of those boxes, and would be just what Fields needs to reach his full potential as Chicago’s franchise quarterback.

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Offensive tackle is another big need, but it wouldn’t be surprising for the Steelers to prefer to pass rusher in the first round. Murphy is an explosive edge defender who would pair nicely with TJ Watt.

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Depending on how the 2022 season plays out, the Commanders could end up needing a long-term upgrade at left tackle. Johnson has the size, athleticism, and technique to be a franchise player at a premium position.

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Darius Slay will turn 32 in January, which means the Eagles could look for an understudy for the No. CB spot. A transfer from LSU, Ricks could be the latest Alabama corner to come off the board in the first round.

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Speaking of aging veterans, Adam Thielen turns 32 in August, so the Vikings could be looking for a long-term running mate for Justin Jefferson. Addison has the explosiveness, route-running skills and big-play ability to be the perfect match.

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The Raiders have one of the best edge-rushing tandems in the NFL in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, but they could use a similar disruptive force for the interior of the defensive line. Bresee missed most of last season due to injury, but at full strength, he can be a dominant player.

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After losing JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore over the past year, the Pats have been left without a true playmaker at corner. Ringo provided his big-play ability and ball skills last year, capping off a strong 2021 campaign with a pick-six that sealed the national title.

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First-round running backs are rare, but when you have multiple first-round picks, you can afford the luxury when there’s a rare prospect at the position. Robinson is a complete back with an impressive blend of power and explosiveness who can impact the game on all three downs.

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Jaelan Phillips has a promising future, but the Dolphins need another young, explosive edge rusher to pair him with. Ojulari racked up seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2021, and is primed for even more this year.

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This offense desperately needs a complete tight end who can help clear the road for Derrick Henry in the run game, but also challenge defenses as a receiving thread. Mayer checks all of those boxes, and is a red-zone machine.

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Improving the protection around Kyler Murray should be a top priority for Arizona, particularly at right tackle. Nelson could have been a fairly early pick in this year’s draft, but another year of improvement should have him prepared to be a franchise tackle at the next level.

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The Colts spent the 2022 draft building around Matt Ryan, but next year, they should think about drafting his eventual successor. Van Dyke’s draft stock is soaring after his performance last season, and he could go much higher than this if he keeps up that trajectory.

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Lamar Jackson needs more weapons on offense, regardless of where they line up. Gibbs is a versatile playmaker who would be a perfect fit for this offense, as the Ravens could dial up creative ways for Jackson to get him the ball.

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The Bengals did a solid job of reloading their biggest areas of need this offseason (offensive line, secondary), so next year’s top pick could be used on an athletic, versatile defender for the front seven. Simpson would be the perfect fit, thanks to his ability to make big plays in every phase of the game.

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Houston reloaded their secondary with top talent in the 2022 draft, but Lovie Smith’s defense doesn’t work if the front four can’t get consistent pressure. Foskey has a well-rounded skill set that would allow him to flourish in this scheme, and he would make an immediate impact.

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The rebuild continues for the Dallas offensive line, as they land Skoronski to start at right tackle, allowing 2022 first-round pick Tyler Smith to remain as a dominant guard.

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The Seahawks landed one stud pass rusher this year in second-round pick Boye Mafe, but they could use another one next year. Smith may have been overshadowed by other superstars on the Bulldogs’ dominant defense last year, but 2022 will give him a chance to shine.

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The Chargers have one shutdown artist on the outside now in JC Jackson, and the perfect fit with Asante Samuel Jr. in the slot. Here, they grab another NFL legacy pick in Porter, who would give them another talented cover man to line up across from Jackson on the outside.

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The Dolphins have done a solid job rebuilding the offensive line, but they could still use an upgrade at center. Patterson is a tough, experienced blocker with the combination of physical and mental tools necessary to be a Pro Bowl blocker at the next level.

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After grabbing their franchise quarterback at the top of the draft, the Lions spend their extra first-rounder on an athletic weapon for the back end of the defense. Moore has the range, athleticism, intelligence and ball skills to be a dynamic playmaker.

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The offensive line rebuild is nearly complete for the Packers, but they could use another blue-chip addition to the interior. Ekiyor is equal parts athletic and powerful, and could be the final piece to a stellar starting lineup in front of Aaron Rodgers.

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Another offensive line that has been improved, but still could use more help, the Chiefs land a talented tackle prospect that should benefit from an extra year at the college level.

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The Bills have one of the NFL’s best safety tandems right now, but thank you could change next offseason, if they’re not able to keep Jordan Poyer from hitting free agency. Battle is a complete player who will be well-prepared for the NFL game after playing under Nick Saban.

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The Bucs have two starting corners (Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting) and one starting safety (Mike Edwards) on the final year of their rookie contracts. Catalon is a versatile defender who can line up all over the secondary, with the athleticism to make big plays in coverage, and the physicality to mix it up in the box.

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