NFL scouts are finally settling back into their usual patterns now that COVID restrictions are in the rearview mirror, and this class figures to be top-heavy compared to the 2022 batch.
This year’s group is full of top end pass-rushing talent, but there’s no lack of depth through the back of the first round and into the second round. It would be no surprise if six or seven edge rushers were first-round picks.
The quarterback position appears to be a strong group after a down year in 2021. There are three QBs primed to go in the first dozen picks.
On the other hand, the drought of talent at offensive tackle and along the interior offensive line compounds concerns for teams looking to upgrade their quarterback’s protection. Offensive tackle is particularly light in the first couple rounds, as most of the top talent either projects as moving inside at the NFL level or lacks the playing experience that teams desire.
Here are 23 pro prospects to watch to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft:
23. CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (rSo.)
Reasonably sized and possessing good straight-line speed, Ringo has athleticism on his side. His length is an area of concern though, and press heavy teams may see a red flag physically.
22. S Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame (rJr.)
A transfer portal import from Northwestern who has quality range and toughness, Joseph will hope to return to his 2020 form. His special teams ability will win the hearts of coaches.
21. OLB Will McDonald IV, Iowa State (Jr.)
Despite being under 230 pounds, the slender pass rusher is a fitting style playing for the Cyclones. He’s destructive with great burst, agility and body control, but his size is the major question mark.
20. OT Carter Warren, Pittsburgh (rSr.)
Warren seemed to be on the path of a second- or third-round pick last year before taking advantage of extra eligibility, and the light tackle class could nudge him into the top 25 picks. He’s a long and athletic mover who checks all the boxes physically.
19. TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Few tight ends are put together like Mayer, and those who are lack the same level of fluidity. He is an athletic anomaly with upside as a blocker and immediate value as a receiver.
18. S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M (Jr.)
It’s rare that defensive backs can run around in the body of a linebacker without sacrificing some athleticism, but Johnson breaks the mold. He is a fluid mover with the tools to defend both the run and pass at a high level.
17. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Jr.)
A throwback ballcarrier and dynamo since his freshman year, Robinson’s modest agility is offset by his excellent size and violent running style. His style of play won’t be a fit for some teams, others will covet the ground-and-pound attitude.
16. DE Brandon Dorlus, Oregon (Sr.)
A rising senior with some ‘tweener elements to his game, there will be some teams that won’t know how to utilize him. He’s quite similar to Logan Hall
from last year’s class. A team who missed out may jump the line to get Dorlus as an alternative.
15. OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia (Sr.)
Smith surprised many draftniks returning for a senior year. His size isn’t ideal, but teams looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker should swoon over the diversity of his pass-rushing skill set.
14. DE B.J. Ojulari, LSU (Jr.)
The younger brother of former second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, B.J. might be even more athletic. He has unique body control and bend, which allowed him to win consistently against top SEC tackles last year.
13. WR Jordan Addison, USC (Jr.)
Addison transferred cross country from Pittsburgh to USC after the departure of his quarterback Kenny Pickett to the NFL. He’s electric with the ball in his hands but scouts will want to see how much weight he can add.
12. OLB Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (rJr.)
The leader of the Fighting Irish defense with 10 sacks last year, Foskey’s output is even more impressive given the variety of ways he was used. He can do it all from playing off-ball linebacker to rushing the passer.
11. CB Cam Smith, South Carolina (rJr.)
Smith is a rising junior who emerged after highly touted teammates Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu left for the pros. He has an NFL body and resume, and his performance in 2021 showed a lot of promise.
10. DE Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington (Sr.)
A former all-American who played close to 280 pounds in 2020, Tupuola-Fetui’s draft projection was upended by a torn Achilles in the spring
prior to his junior year. He returned in dominant fashion late in 2021 and seems primed for a breakout year at 245 pounds.
9. CB Eli Ricks, Alabama (Jr.)
Coming to Tuscaloosa by way of LSU, Ricks is a two-year starter who earned all-SEC honors. His ability to play with length and strength in press coverage bring the top-10 grade.
8. QB Will Levis, Kentucky (Sr.)
Painting in the same shades as Josh Allen, Levis has leveraged his great arm talent and plus athleticism to succeed in the SEC after transferring in from Penn
State. His statline isn’t the prettiest, but he will check most boxes for NFL teams.
7. LB Henry To’oto’o, Alabama (Sr.)
The modern-day prototype for the linebacker position starts with range and versatility, and To’oto’o has ’em in spades. His unique instincts, technique,
tackling and coverage ability push his ceiling even higher.
6. WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU (Jr.)
Boutte is a buttery smooth route runner with rare athleticism and body control. Injuries limited his output in 2021, but if he returns to 2020 form he should be a top-15 pick.
5. QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (rSo.)
A strong-armed passer with good size and potential, accuracy might improve with more experience. Losing two of his top receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL will add even more to his plate. But if Stroud delivers, he’ll be a main course in the ’23 draft.
4. DE Myles Murphy, Clemson (Jr.)
A rare frame for the position and the production to match, Murphy collected eight sacks as a sophomore and should be able to reach
double-digit sacks in his final year with the Tigers.
3. QB Bryce Young, Alabama (Jr.)
Sharp, precise and controlled would be good descriptors of Young, who stands just 5-foot-11. His physical tools are just above-average, but he plays with a lightning fast release, pinpoint accuracy and natural adjustability from within the pocket.
2. DT Jalen Carter, Georgia (Jr.)
While only a modest producer in 2021, Carter was sharing time with two first-round picks along the defensive line in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. He could be in for an enormous year if Georgia gives him the lion’s share of snaps.
1. DE Will Anderson Jr, Alabama (Jr.)
A surprise snub in Heisman voting, Anderson’s 17.5 sacks and 31 tackles for a loss in 2021 led the nation. He’s a blue-chip prospect with All-Pro potential.
–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media