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Lance Zierlein 2023 NFL mock draft 4.0: Texans take Will Anderson at No. 2; Pats pounce on Tyree Wilson

Just hours before the 2023 NFL Draft kicks off in Kansas City, Missouri (8 p.m. ET on NFL Network), here is my fourth and final Round 1 projection.

NOTE: The NFL announced in August that the Miami Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick following an investigation into whether the team violated league policies pertaining to the integrity of the game.

Carolina Panthers
(from CHI)
Bryce Young
Alabama · QB · Junior

Fear over Young's slight stature is understandable. However, he checks significantly more boxes than any other quarterback in this draft and plays with a calm that Frank Reich will love.

Will Anderson Jr.
Alabama · Edge · Junior

This one is likely to come down to a choice between two edge rushers: Anderson and Tyree Wilson. If the Texans are OK with Wilson's medicals, he might be the front-runner, but Anderson has better college production, high football character and is the safer pick.

Paris Johnson Jr.
Ohio State · OT · Junior

If the Texans take Tyree Wilson, this could be a trade-up spot for a team looking to add Will Anderson Jr. If Anderson goes second (as I ultimately project just above) and Arizona isn't into Wilson, this becomes a tough call unless a team moves up for C.J. Stroud. I'll follow the smoke and put offensive tackle here, but I don't feel great about it.

Will Levis
Kentucky · QB · Senior (RS)

In my opinion, C.J. Stroud is the best quarterback available here, but Indy GM Chris Ballard is hard to read. Levis has a big arm and is a better runner than Stroud, which may appeal to new head coach Shane Steichen, who just spent the last couple of years as Jalen Hurts' offensive coordinator. If the Colts don't buy into any of the quarterbacks available here, they could trade back and focus on targeting Lamar Jackson after the draft.

C.J. Stroud
Ohio State · QB · Sophomore (RS)


Seahawks GM John Schneider is usually more than happy to trade back, and with the Titans seeing Stroud available at No. 5, they are likely to be in the mix for a run up the board to grab the only quarterback besides Bryce Young who may have the game to start right away.

Detroit Lions
(from LAR)
Devon Witherspoon
Illinois · CB · Senior

If the Lions are comfortable with Jalen Carter's off-field concerns, he's a very likely candidate to land here. If they have any hesitation about his maturity and/or football character, they could turn their attention to the ballhawking, hyper-competitive Witherspoon.

Christian Gonzalez
Oregon · CB · Junior

The Raiders could go in several directions with this pick, but playing in a division with a couple of very talented quarterbacks could steer them toward Gonzalez, a big, fast, explosive and fluid corner who really fills a need.

Jalen Carter
Georgia · DT · Junior


The Eagles move ahead of the Bears in order to secure Carter, who will come into a locker room with mentors and confidants from Georgia in Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis to help him focus and get ready to take over a starting role at defensive tackle in short order.

Chicago Bears
(from CAR)
Darnell Wright
Tennessee · OT · Senior

GM Ryan Poles has done a nice job in free agency and in trading the first overall pick for a bundle to fill some roster holes, but there is still work to be done on the offensive line. This choice could come down to how the Bears view the consistency of Peter Skoronski as a potential guard vs. the power and nastiness of Wright at right tackle.

Bijan Robinson
Texas · RB · Junior


Every draft season, it's hard to place a running back in Round 1 because the position has been so devalued in recent years, but Robinson is one of the top two or three players in this class. The Falcons might decide to simply take the best player available in what is a volatile first round.

Seattle Seahawks
(from DEN)
Nolan Smith
Georgia · Edge · Senior


Smith is an explosive athlete with outstanding toughness to help offset a lack of ideal size. Seattle will have contract decisions to make at edge after the coming season, and this selection could ease that process.

Houston Texans
(from CLE)
Peter Skoronski
Northwestern · OL · Junior

If the Texans take Will Anderson Jr. over Tyree Wilson at No. 2, then see Wilson still available here, it might be extremely difficult for them to bypass double-dipping on edge rushers. However, Skoronski could help steady the offensive line while offering tackle/guard versatility on the right side, where RT Tytus Howard and RG Shaq Mason are each in a contract year.

Green Bay Packers
(from NYJ)
Broderick Jones
Georgia · OT · Sophomore (RS)

The Packers could be eyeing a wide receiver or tight end in this spot, but passing on a young, athletic left tackle with good upside might not make much sense, considering how hard it can be to find a quality starting OT.

Tyree Wilson
Texas Tech · Edge · Senior (RS)

The slide is over for Wilson. To be honest, if teams are OK with the Texas Tech product's medicals, he should go much earlier than this. If there is a concern, he could slide. Wilson's size and length are right in the middle of the plate for what Bill Belichick looks for on the edge.

New York Jets
(from GB)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Ohio State · WR · Junior

Wouldn't it be fitting for the Packers to continue passing on receivers on Day 1 while Aaron Rodgers' new team adds a first-round wideout (for the second straight year) with ball skills and route-running ability to round out a talented trio for the four-time MVP to throw to?

Lukas Van Ness
Iowa · Edge · Sophomore (RS)

With Washington declining Chase Young's fifth-year option, this might be the perfect spot to add a big, explosive defensive end to groom as Young's potential replacement in 2024.

Deonte Banks
Maryland · CB · Junior (RS)

Rumors are swirling that the Steelers may have their eyes on a potential trade-up, but it is difficult to pinpoint whom they might be targeting. We know they need cornerback help, and Banks has become the favorite among my league sources to be the third cornerback selected.

Michael Mayer
Notre Dame · TE · Junior

Like a new washing machine, Mayer may not excite the households of Lions fans, but he's durable, reliable and gets the job done day in and day out. The Notre Dame product's an average athlete, but he can make tough catches and should help improve Detroit's run blocking at that position.

Myles Murphy
Clemson · Edge · Junior

Despite spending their top pick on an edge rusher in each of the last two drafts, the Bucs still need more juice there. And finding an edge defender with good size and the ability to hold his ground against the run matters to Tampa Bay. Murphy isn't necessarily a dynamic QB hunter, but he's a solid selection in this spot.

Jordan Addison
USC · WR · Junior

The Seahawks need interior D-line help, but I just don't see a fit for them in this spot. Instead, Seattle could turn its attention to a shifty route-runner with good play speed to help bolster Geno Smith's chances for another strong season.

Joey Porter Jr.
Penn State · CB · Junior (RS)

To beat the Chiefs, you need pass rush and good cover corners. Porter is a press-man CB with outstanding length and play strength who should step in quickly as a starter.

Anthony Richardson
Florida · QB · Sophomore (RS)

Oh yes I did! It just doesn't feel like the Ravens and Lamar Jackson are going to find a long-term solution here. If that is indeed the case, why not add the talented dual-threat quarterback and allow the leadership of Baltimore's coaching staff and locker room to help bring him along slowly, giving him the best chance to reach his ceiling?

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have agreed to terms on a five-year, $260 million extension, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on April 27.

Emmanuel Forbes
Mississippi State · CB · Junior

The Vikings could consider adding quarterback Hendon Hooker here, but they'd have to have a strong grade on him to pass on a player like this Mississippi State product. Minnesota is in desperate need of corner help, and Forbes is the most productive ball-winner in the entire class despite his bone-thin frame. 

Dalton Kincaid
Utah · TE · Senior


Les Snead and Sean McVay are willing to sacrifice draft picks to find impactful players -- we all know that. While the Rams are without a first-round pick, they do have enough total draft capital this year to potentially convince Jacksonville to dip to Pick No. 36, allowing Los Angeles to snare the most coveted pass-catching tight end in the draft.

Joe Tippmann
Wisconsin · C · Junior (RS)

The Giants are a mess at center. While teams hate to make picks specifically for need, New York may feel compelled to strengthen the interior in the first round to help give both pass protection and run blocking a much-needed bump.

Mazi Smith
Michigan · DT · Junior (RS)

There are a very limited number of a big-bodied interior defenders in this class, so those guys could get pushed up the board, which is what happens here. Dallas needs to beef up in the middle, and Smith offers above-average athletic talent to go with good size and length.

Jack Campbell
Iowa · LB · Senior

Middle linebacker is an integral part of the Bills' defense. Tremaine Edmunds and his freakish physical traits are gone via free agency, but Campbell could offer improved instincts and consistency against the run as his replacement.

Jahmyr Gibbs
Alabama · RB · Junior

Even if the Bengals hang on to Joe Mixon, Gibbs would give Cincy's offense a slashing complementary back with home run speed and mismatch ability as a volume target out of the backfield.

New Orleans Saints
(from SF through MIA, DEN)
Brian Branch
Alabama · DB · Junior

Branch is one of the most consistent defenders in this entire draft and offers the versatility to play as a nickel or at either safety position. With his football intelligence and toughness as a tackler, it will be hard to keep him off the field as a rookie.

Matthew Bergeron
Syracuse · OL · Senior

Bergeron was a starting tackle at Syracuse, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles see him as a plus run blocker with the ability to become a full-time starter at right guard, ultimately allowing 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens to kick inside to center after the 2023 season.

Jalin Hyatt
Tennessee · WR · Junior

With Zay Flowers still on the board, this selection could change, but Hyatt is a dynamic deep-ball threat who might be a perfect pairing with Patrick Mahomes. He could also allow the Chiefs to move on from Marquez Valdes-Scantling's contract after the 2023 season.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter.

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