ESPN 2023 NFL mock draft: Jaxon Smith-Njigba No. 2 to Bears, CJ Stroud No. 5 to Falcons

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There's no question among many draft analysts that Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba will go in the top 10 and could easily end up top 5 in the 2023 NFL draft.

And several analysts have Stroud being the top quarterback chosen and quite possibility top player taken in the draft.

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But new ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller threw a new idea out there.

What if Smith-Njigba gets chosen before Stroud?

Miller has Alabama defensive end C.J. Anderson going No. 1 to the New York Jets, while Smith-Njigba would go No. 2 to the Chicago Bears.

The reason?

Both the Jets, with Zach Wilson, and the Bears, with former Ohio State star Justin Fields, have young quarterbacks, while each team has multiple needs.

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) thorws to wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) during the first half of the NCAA football game against the Oregon Ducks at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) thorws to wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) during the first half of the NCAA football game against the Oregon Ducks at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

Why the New York Jets may prefer Jaxon Smith-Njigba over C.J. Stroud

This is what Miller had to say about Smith-Njigba.

The Bears have not surrounded second-year quarterback Justin Fields with much in terms of a supporting cast, but that will change via free agency and the draft following the 2022 season, once they have more cap space. The electric Smith-Njigba left us with a statement game in the Rose Bowl when he caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns as the entire Utah defense failed to stop him. This would be the highest a wide receiver has been drafted since Calvin Johnson in 2007, but Smith-Njigba is the type of talent Fields needs.

Miller has the Houston Texans at No. 3 taking Georgia defense tackle Jalen Carter and the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Alabama cornerback Eli Ricks at No. 4.

The Texans with Davis Mills and the Jaguars have Trevor Lawrence, so Miller has both teams passing on quarterbacks.

But the Atlanta Falcons at No. 5 are a different story with veteran Marcus Mariota and new draftee Desmond Ridder from Cincinnati.

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2022.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2022.

Why the Atlanta Falcons could take C.J. Stroud

Miller has the Falcons taking Stroud at No. 5. Here is what he had to say about Stroud:

The first quarterback comes off the board later than expected based on the draft order here, and remember that I'm not projecting trades in this mock draft. Make no mistake, though: Stroud is worthy of the No. 1 pick. The second-year starter battled through early adversity last season before finishing with a dominant win over Utah in the Rose Bowl; he had 573 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Stroud has ideal size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and a huge arm that opens up defenses. NFL scouts want to see him use his legs more, but Stroud's trajectory points to him being an early pick.

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) warms up during a spring football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center in Columbus on March 22, 2022.
Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) warms up during a spring football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center in Columbus on March 22, 2022.

Miller has a third Buckeye player going in the first round, with offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. going No. 22 to the Arizona Cardinals.

Here is what MIller says about Johnson Jr.:

We're still waiting for the Cardinals to build an offensive line that can keep Kyler Murray upright. This would be a step in the right direction. Johnson is a former top high school recruit who spent last season at guard. He'll kick out to tackle in 2022, and scouts believe he has the potential to develop into a starting NFL left tackle.

The NFL draft is scheduled to be held in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 27–29.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State football's Jaxon Smith-Njigba, CJ Stroud in NFL mock draft