We are just hours away from the start of the 2023 NFL Draft. We've already seen many potential NFL draft picks , and there are a lot of unfamiliar names who've popped up on the radar of many teams.
Unfamiliar to many, but not to someone who has attended eight postseason all-star events in January and February. I've seen a ton of draft prospects over the last few months, and some guys are starting to make their names known to the media as a whole.
For more draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. (Check out the latest episode below.)
To further help that process, and to break up the monotony of mock drafts, let's conduct a unique mock draft where we pair up the perfect prospect who fits what I believe is a specific team's biggest need.
Full disclosure: Whenever I do a mock draft, it is based on what I would do as general manager based on what I perceive the team's need to be as well. I study the team's depth chart before making the selection, because a lot of times the answer may already be on the roster.
Here's a look at my small-college mock draft for 2023:
1. Panthers: QB Lindsey Scott Jr. (Incarnate Word)
Scott (5-11, 220) has A+ leadership and the situational awareness necessary to be a consistent winner. He's a true point guard passer.
2. Texans: QB Matthew McKay (Elon)
McKay (6-3, 212) is one of the more efficient small-college prospects in the class who has had success at stops at N.C. State and Montana State. He's coming off of an impressive College Gridiron Showcase.
3. Cardinals: DL Darel Middleton (Bethel (TN))
Middleton (6-6, 306) is a former Tennessee Volunteer, who brings great strength and versatility to the table. He's capable of playing multiple techniques up front.
4. Colts: QB Cephus Johnson III (Southeastern Louisiana)
Comparisons to Colin Kaepernick and Kordell Stewart come to mind when watching the super talented Lions quarterback. At the College Gridiron Showcase, Johnson (6-5, 226) dazzled scouts with his ability to play both QB and WR, although he projects much better as a QB at the professional level.
5. Seahawks: EDGE Caleb Murphy (Ferris State)
Murphy (6-3, 254) finished the 2022 season with 25.5 sacks en route to winning player of the year honors in his conference. He also was able to showcase his versatility at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
6. Lions: EDGE Andrew Farmer (Lane College)
Farmer (6-3, 250) has that workman-like effort that the Lions would love coming off the edge as a bookend to Aidan Hutchinson. His ability to convert speed-to-power is tremendous.
7. Raiders: CB Anthony Adams (Portland State)
The Raiders need more help in the secondary, and Adams (5-11, 185) would give them someone who has the versatility to play any spot on the backend. He's one of the better cover corners in the FCS.
8. Falcons: WR Colton Dowell (UT-Martin)
Now that the Falcons addressed the CB position with the, they turn their attention to WR, taking the former Skyhawk in Dowell (6-2, 207)
9. Bears: DL Joshua Pryor (Bowie State)
Pryor (6-3, 242) finished his career with 77 tackles for loss and 32 sacks. He would help bolster the defensive pass-rush for the Bears, which wasn't very Monsters of the Midway-like last season.
10. Eagles: LB Marte Mapu (Sacramento State)
Mapu (6-2, 220) has excellent athleticism and the ability to cover in man-to-man vs. backs and tight ends He also plays the run extremely well. With his experience at safety, he would give the Eagles the ultimate chess piece on defense.
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11. Titans: WR Taylor Grimes (Incarnate Word)
In just two seasons at UIW, Grimes (5-10, 188) scored 30 touchdowns. He then went out to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and gave the cornerbacks fits. This is the type of explosiveness the Titans need to add at the receiver position.
12. Texans: EDGE Celestin Haba (Texas A&M-Commerce)
With their second first-round pick, the Texans address their need at edge rusher with the disruptive Haba (6-2, 258). He has top-tier ability to close and accelerate to the quarterback.
13. Jets: OT Colby Sorsdal (William & Mary)
Sorsdal (6-5, 301) was solid on both ends of the offensive line. I thought he showcased his athleticism at the East-West Shrine Bowl vs. FBS competition and held his own. He would help strengthen the Jets depth up front.
14. Patriots: OT Quinton Barrow (Grand Valley State)
Barrow (6-5, 322) dominated at GVSU, then showed up at the East-West Shrine Bowl and did a remarkable job. He's a dancing bear who has the ability to play either tackle spot, which would give the Patriots both depth and flexibility along the offensive line.
15. Packers: TE Kemari Averett (Bethune-Cookman)
Averett moves extremely well for a 6-foot-6, 260-pound player. He's an excellent receiver who would help replace what the Packers lost in Robert Tonyan this offseason.
16. Commanders: CB Justin Ford (Montana)
Ford (6-0, 190) has two pick-sixes to his credit along with 11 career interceptions. The two-time FCS All-American can definitely find the football and would be a welcomed boost to the Commanders secondary.
17. Steelers: CB Isaiah Bolden (Jackson State)
He's one of the more athletic and versatile defenders in the draft class. Bolden (6-2, 203) can legit play anywhere in the secondary, and he's also a stellar special-teamer with his ability in the return game.
18. Lions: QB Fred Payton (Mercer)
Back on the clock with their second first-round pick, the Lions invest in their QB of the future. Payton (6-0, 215) plays the situational football game extremely well and has the type of placement you want to see at the position.
19. Buccaneers: OT Cody Mauch (North Dakota State)
Mauch (6-5, 305) excelled at the Reese's Senior Bowl against top-level FBS competition and probably makes the smoothest transition to the pro game. He would be a plug-and-play guy for the Buccaneers.
20. Seahawks: OG Joey Fisher (Shepherd)
Fisher (6-3, 292) was outstanding at Shepherd as a left tackle. He held his own on the outside during the week at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, but will more than likely kick down inside as a pro.
21. Chargers: DL Camron Peterson (Southern)
Peterson (6-4, 275) can play the 7-technique or the 5-technique, but either way, he'll help the Chargers run defense get better next season.
22. Ravens: CB Keenan Isaac (Alabama State)
Long, press corners with both athleticism and toughness -- that's what the Ravens look for in their corners, and that's what Isaac (6-2, 188) possesses in spades.
23. Vikings: WR Andrei Iosivas (Princeton)
A silky smooth route runner and explosive athlete, Iosivas (6-3, 212) would serve as the perfect complement to Justin Jefferson.
24. Jaguars: CB Ferlando Jordan (Southeastern Louisiana)
Jordan (5-10, 187) has tremendous click-and-close ability, and isn't afraid to match up vs. bigger receivers. He has the requisite ball skills that you look for as well.
25. Giants: C Mark Evans II (Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
Evans (6-2, 298) was an All-American left tackle at UAPB, but kicked down inside at the East-West Shrine Bowl and raised eyebrows with how seamless the transition was. He would immediately help the Giants on the interior.
26. Cowboys: RB Ulonzo Gilliam (UC-Davis)
With Tony Pollard slowly returning from injury, the Cowboys go back to the first-round RB well with Gilliam (5-9, 195). He would bring an Austin Ekeler-like skillset to the table.
27. Bills: LB Michael Ayers (Ashland)
Ayers (6-2, 224) has the ability to play the run, blitz and cover in both man and zone, which makes him a perfect fit for the Bills defense playing opposite of Matt Milano.
28. Bengals: CB Robert Carter (West Georgia)
Carter (5-11, 187) is a ball magnet who has elite ball instincts and ball awareness. That type of playmaking ability on the backend would be exactly what the Bengals ordered.
29. Saints: DB Xavier Bell (Portland State)
Another Viking defensive back makes it into the first round. Bell (6-1, 196) is a combo safety who has more than enough athleticism to be a standout defender. He's very much P.J. Williams-lite in that regard.
30. Eagles: OG McClendon Curtis (Chattanooga)
Curtis (6-5, 331) is one of the top interior offensive linemen in the class and would help give the Eagles a stellar guard-in-waiting once Jason Kelce retires and either Landon Dickerson or Cam Jurgens kicks over to center.
31. Chiefs: DL D.J. Adediwura (Slippery Rock)
I love the athleticism and versatility of Adediwura (6-2, 270). He's quick off the ball and could serve as a 5-technique inside as a quick 3-technique. With 54 tackles for loss and 23 sacks in his career, he knows how to find his way into the backfield.
Teams without a first-round pick
Dolphins: FB Javon Williams Jr. (Southern Illinois)
Williams (6-2, 237) is one of the more versatile players in the draft class. He's played fullback, H-back, tight end, receiver and tailback at Southern Illinois and has excelled in all spots. He would give coach Mike McDaniel the ultimate chess piece.
Rams: QB Nolan Henderson (Delaware)
I've always been a fan of Henderson (5-11, 205) because of his dynamic play. He's able to create something out of nothing, helping keep his offense on the field moving forward. He would give the Rams their QB of the future behind Matthew Stafford.
Broncos: SS Darrius Nash (Utah Tech)
Nash (6-0, 207) has fantastic football I.Q. I like that he's able to play top-down, split hash, as well as matching up vs. tight ends and bigger receivers. He helps bolster the depth and versatility to any defense.
Browns: CB Brandon Barnes-Brown (Fayetteville State)
Barnes-Brown (5-10, 200) is another talented defender out of that Fayetteville State program. Triple B is a technician who brings both ball skills and awareness to the table on the perimeter. Reminds me a lot of the Lions DB Jerry Jacobs.
49ers: DB Raheme Fuller (Texas Southern)
Big fan of the versatile nature of Fuller's game. Fuller (6-2, 214) can legitimately be someone whose role changes depending on the week's matchup, which is exactly what you want on the backend.