Five surprise picks we could see in the first round of the NFL Draft

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch)
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch) /

We all have our mock drafts and we all think we have a good idea of how the first round of the NFL Draft will play out especially the top ten.

But we have absolutely no idea.

Every single year, there are always a few headscratchers or draft picks that make you say “WHAT?”. That is the fun of the draft — we love straying away from normalcy in this crazy sport.

So here are five surprise picks we could see in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft in three weeks:

The Arizona Cardinals take a quarterback with the third overall pick

With the third overall pick, we all expect the Cardinals to take a premium defender or trade back so a quarterback-needy team can take a top passer. Every mock draft has Arizona either going with Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson, or trading back.

But is Kyler Murray really the guy in Arizona?

The regime that drafted Murray and gave him a huge extension is gone. A brand new head coach and front office may see the money Murray is expected to make and compare it to the return Arizona is getting from him. Murray, while an exciting player, does not look worth the $230 million deal he is signed to.

Arizona may see Will Levis or Anthony Richardson sitting at the third pick and decide to move forward with a fresh new quarterback and elect to begin the plans to move on from Kyler Murray and his massive contract while the team finds a new identity. If Arizona decides to go this route, the most sensical fit would be Florida’s Anthony Richardson — someone much bigger than Kyler Murray.

The Colts pass on a quarterback and take a premiere pass rusher

The Indianapolis Colts have been in quarterback purgatory since that fateful preseason when Andrew Luck retired in the middle of his prime. Since Luck, the Colts have trotted out the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan — all underperformed and were past their prime.

It’s no surprise we all expect the Colts to draft their quarterback of the future with their fourth overall pick. The Colts front office has made it clear they are done experimenting with veteran quarterbacks and want to draft their next guy. But is that all a smokescreen to get a team to leapfrog them for a QB and leave a top defensive prospect on the board for Indy to take?

What if Will Anderson and Will Levis are on the board for the Colts to take at the fourth pick? Which Will are they taking?

We’d all expect them to take Levis, but there’s a chance they see Will Anderson and consider him the best available prospect — which would be very true. When you have a top five selection, you can’t miss. It doesn’t get much more ‘can’t-miss’ than Will Anderson.

The Panthers pass on Bryce Young with the first overall pick

When Carolina traded away a king’s ransom to the Chicago Bears for the top overall pick in the draft, it was just assumed they would take Bryce Young — the consensus top quarterback in the class.

However, CJ Stroud is not that far behind Young — and he may be more pro-ready than the Alabama quarterback. The Panthers realistically could end up talking themselves into taking Stroud, who will almost assuredly go either number one or two this year.

I don’t see a huge difference in Young and Stroud’s value as a quarterback, but as passers, Young is the more pocket-style passer and Stroud is more of a playmaker. When you are picking from the entire pool and you have your choice of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, who would you take?

With the way football is played in 2023, the Panthers may get cute and decide on taking CJ Stroud, who showed more flashy plays in his college tape than Young.

The Seahawks take a chance on a controversial prospect with the fifth pick

Just a couple short months ago, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was a lock as a top-five selection. However, after pleading to a couple misdemeanors in Georgia and showing up nine pounds heavier to his pro day, Carter is a bit of a mess as a draft prospect currently.

Carter, the football player, is talented enough to be justified as high as the third overall selection. But Carter, the character, is a giant question mark. The Seattle Seahawks are no strangers to taking chances on players with red flags historically. They’ve drafted the likes of Bruce Irvin, Frank Clark and Malik McDowell — all with criminal history — and have been associated with some controversial characters, such as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Brandon Browner.

If all those guys were able to be reigned in by Pete Carroll and staff, the Seahawks should have no problem believing they can right Jalen Carter’s ship, which is way off course right now. The talent is absolutely there as Carter is the best defensive tackle in the draft, by a long shot.

And it just so happens the Seahawks need a defensive tackle, badly.

Tampa Bay passes on Will Levis, reaches for their next franchise quarterback

The Buccaneers hold the 19th pick in the draft after Tom Brady decided to call it quits (again) this offseason. There is a slim chance that one of the top three quarterbacks make it that far, but the fourth-best, Will Levis, might.

But they won’t take him.

Instead, the Buccaneers shock the football world and use the number 19 overall pick on Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, their franchise quarterback of the future.

Hooker, the 25-year-old quarterback out of Tennessee, has been mocked as early as the top ten and as late as the third round. However, even with his fluid draft stock, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have remained interested in the prospect.