NFL

Mel Kiper Jr. puts three Ohio State football players in first 13 picks of 2023 NFL mock draft

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Ohio State's three first-round selections in the 2023 NFL draft will come in the first 13 picks.

After the 2022 draft where three wide receivers with Ohio State ties went in three consecutive picks — Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams — Kiper has three Buckeyes near the top of his list yet again in 2023.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is listed as Kiper's first quarterback selected, going No. 2 to the Houston Texans, calling Stroud "extremely accurate, can make every throw and has excellent touch at every level of the field."

"I usually don't put much stock into a single game evaluation," Kiper continued, "but Stroud's performance in the narrow loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals showed me something. He was spectacular against an elite defense, carving up the Bulldogs with his arm and using his legs to maneuver the pocket and find receivers."

Kiper has the Tennessee Titans selecting Paris Johnson Jr. at No. 11 as the second offensive tackle off the board behind Northwestern's Peter Skoronski, who he has at No. 7 to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Kiper calls Johnson a "plug-and-play starter" after moving to left tackle for the Buckeyes in 2022.

And despite missing the majority of the 2022 season with a hamstring injury, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is Kiper's first wide receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL draft at No. 13 to the New York Jets.

Kiper said Smith-Njigba "could be a star in the right situation" and has high expectations for what the Ohio State 2023 draft pick and Wilson could do together in the Jets offense.

Brian Hartline on Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft: 'That's a little better'

Brian Hartline feels draft analysts are sleeping on Smith-Njigba

After ESPN NFL draft analyst Matt Miller called Smith-Njigba a player to watch for the Dallas Cowboys late in the first round, the Ohio State offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach made it clear his former receiver is going to go higher.

Sep 17, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) lines up during Saturday's NCAA Division I football game against the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Barbara Perenic/Columbus Dispatch

"Gonna have to move up to get JSN," he tweeted.

But after Kiper's latest mock draft putting Smith-Njigba at No. 13 and the first receiver selected, Hartline's concerns dwindled.

"That's a little better," Hartline said.

Mel Kiper Jr. has history with Jim Harbaugh

Kiper's history with Ohio State rival's head coach stems back to the 1994 NFL draft.

With the Indianapolis Colts having only one quarterback on its roster — Jim Harbaugh — and two top-10 picks, general manager Bill Topin selected running back Marshall Faulk at No. 2 before trading up for Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts at No. 5.

"I think it was a typical Colts move," Kiper said to host Chris Berman. "The Colts needed a quarterback. To pass up a Trent Dilfer when all you have is Jim Harbaugh — give me a break. That's why the Colts are picking second every year in the draft and not battling for the Super Bowl like other clubs in the National Football League."

With that analysis, Topin was furious.

"Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?" asks Tobin. "Here's a guy that criticizes everybody, whoever they take. He's got the answers to who you should take and who you shouldn't take. And my knowledge of him: he's never ever put on a jock strap, he's never been a coach, he's never been a scout, he's been an administrator and all of a sudden he's an expert.

"We don't have to take anyone Mel Kiper says we have to take," Tobin continues. "Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he's doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor's a postman, and he doesn't even have season tickets to the NFL."

In his latest 2023 mock draft, Kiper does not have a Michigan player selected in the first round.

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