Best 2023 NFL draft prospect on all 65 Power 5 college football teams

Best 2023 NFL draft prospect on all 65 Power 5 college football teams post thumbnail image

Picture this: It’s a Saturday morning, there’s a breeze in the air and College GameDay is on your television. Lee Corso is about to make his final pick of the day and you’re wondering which 2023 NFL prospects you can catch during the slate of games.

While it’s still blistering hot outside and we can only dream of seeing Corso on our TVs in another few weeks, it’s still the perfect time to acquaint ourselves with the upcoming class of players. This handy list is a great starting point.

Let’s break down the top draft-eligible prospect for every Power 5 team, all 65 programs, from Alabama to Utah, with the one player you’ll want to follow throughout the season based on conversations with NFL scouts and our own evaluations.

The household names such as Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are listed, but have you heard of Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech) and Brett Johnson (California)? They’re prospects NFL scouts believe can be top 10 picks. Print it, bookmark it or save it — this is a piece you’ll want to reference throughout the season.

The 2022 season is set to be a dynamic one with 11 quarterbacks making our list of the best prospects, a massive improvement over the 2022 draft which saw only nine passers drafted. It’s also a year in which the first-round running back might return with Bijan Robinson (Texas) and Zach Evans (Ole Miss) leading their teams.

So where do we start? Here’s our conference-by-conference look at the best prospects for every program, sorted alphabetically. We’re including Notre Dame in the ACC here, even though it’s still considered independent but plays five ACC schools this season:

Jump to a conference:
ACC | Big Ten
Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

ACC

Wide receiver Zay Flowers

Class: Senior

Flowers is one of the most prolific deep threats in college football. A legitimate All-ACC candidate, he has the vertical speed NFL teams love. Some might expect to see quarterback Phil Jurkovec here, but Flowers is a potential top-75 pick.


Linebacker Trenton Simpson

Class: Junior

Simpson is a rare find in terms of physical traits at the linebacker position and is one of the most impressive overall players in the nation. With legitimate ability as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and cover man, he has Round 1 talent and potential.


Defensive end R.J. Oben

Class: Fourth-year junior

Oben, a potential breakout player to watch this season, has the first-step quickness to stun pass-protectors and the size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) to turn heads of scouts. With five sacks and three forced fumbles last season, he has shown NFL potential and enters the year with an early Day 3 grade.


Safety Akeem Dent

Class: Fourth-year junior

A thumping strong safety prospect, Dent gets the edge over offensive tackle Robert Scott for the team’s top spot. Dent had 44 tackles last year and has shown an eye for the ball with four pass breakups. He’s a potential Day 3 pick with room to rise up the board.


Linebacker Charlie Thomas

Class: Senior

Thomas is undersized (6-foot-2, 212 pounds), but he is as good as any ACC off-ball linebacker at diagnosing the play and impacting the field on all three downs. He had 131 tackles and five sacks last season. He’s graded as an early Day 3 prospect.


Quarterback Malik Cunningham

Class: Fifth-year senior

The 6-foot-1 Cunningham has been erratic at times but also has shown bright spots with a dual-threat ability few college quarterbacks can match. His 2021 season was his best with limited turnovers (six interceptions). There’s NFL arm talent and running ability if he can become more consistently accurate.


Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke

Class: Third-year sophomore

Van Dyke burst onto the scene with nine starts last season and showed the arm strength, pocket mobility and field vision to be an NFL starter. He has to show that same ability over a full season, but NFL scouts are excited about his ability. He’s a potential first-rounder.


Wide receiver Josh Downs

Class: Junior

Downs, one of the best slot receivers in the nation, doesn’t have elite size (5-foot-11, 171 pounds) but is a handful to cover and even harder to bring down in space. His 1,335 yards last season put Downs on the NFL’s radar. He has Round 1 talent.


Quarterback Devin Leary

Class: Fourth-year junior

A healthy Leary made for a fun study in 2021 as he finally put his tools together. A talented underneath thrower, he has to better open up his arm to deep shots and “threading the needle” type throws, but his accuracy has scouts excited. He threw 35 touchdown passes with just five picks last season. He has a Day 2 grade heading into the season.


Tight end Michael Mayer

Class: Junior

The prospect nicknamed “Baby Gronk” has huge expectations placed on him, but he’s capable of living up to them. At 6-foot-5, 251 pounds he has NFL size and has impressed as a three-down, in-line tight end. He caught 71 passes for 840 yards and seven scores last season. Mayer has a chance to be a top-10 pick.


Defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado

Class: Fifth-year senior

With Jordan Addison transferring to USC, Baldonado is the best returning Panthers prospect. The 6-foot-5, 258-pounder has NFL size with powerful hands and a very good first step. His nine sacks last season help him enter 2022 with a Round 2 grade for next year’s draft.


Running back Sean Tucker

Class: Third-year sophomore

With 12 touchdowns and 1,496 yards last season, Tucker emerged as one of the best backs in the nation. Now, the 5-foot-10, 209-pounder has a shot at the NFL with his vision and contact balance ready-made for Sundays. He has an early Day 3 grade.


Quarterback Brennan Armstrong

Class: Fifth-year senior

A three-year starter, Armstrong is a workmanlike quarterback with the required arm strength, timing and vision to play in the NFL without having a huge arm or great speed. The lefty has to become more accurate (59% completion last season) but his arm and ability to add on the ground (nine touchdowns) gets him on the NFL’s watch list.

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Brennan Armstrong finds Billy Kemp for the 12-yard touchdown to give Virginia the lead.


Cornerback Dorian Strong

Class: Junior

Strong returns for his third season as a starter and is a leader on the Hokies’ defense. His five passes defensed last season paced the squad playing the field corner position. At 6-foot, 174 pounds, his agility in space turns heads. He has a Day 3 grade.


Quarterback Sam Hartman

Class: Fourth-year junior

Hartman is my pick here, even though he’ll miss “an extended period of time” due to a non-football-related issue. His precision passing is a huge reason why Wake Forest’s offense took off last season.

With receivers A.T. Perry and Ke’Shawn Williams flanking him — and both are legit NFL prospects, too — Hartman could rise up draft boards after he returns. Right now, he’s a Day 3 prospect.

Big Ten

Running back Chase Brown

Class: Fourth-year junior

Brown gashing Penn State for 223 yards last season was the breakout performance for Illinois. The former Western Michigan back has NFL vision and balance at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. He has a Day 3 grade with room to push up boards.


Cornerback Tiawan Mullen

Class: Senior

Injuries limited Mullen in 2021, but we’ve seen the flashes that point to his ability as a ferocious nickel cornerback in the NFL. He was a first-team All-American in 2020 with a complete game that had him getting comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu. If healthy, he has Day 2 potential.


Linebacker Jack Campbell

Class: Senior

With 143 tackles and a second team All-America year in 2021, the expectation was that Campbell would head to the NFL. He didn’t, returning to Iowa City for a Big Ten title run. He’s a throwback hitter with the range to play on third down. He’s a potential Round 1 talent. Campbell edges out tight end Sam LaPorta and cornerback Riley Moss for the honor of best Iowa prospect.


Wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr.

Class: Fifth-year senior

Demus was on a tear in 2021 before a right knee injury in Week 5. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver has star potential with deep-threat speed and post-up body control. If he and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa can build chemistry, Demus’ natural tools could make him a top-50 pick.


Wide receiver Ronnie Bell

Class: Fifth-year senior

We’re not quite sure which Bell we’ll get as he has battled injuries the last two seasons — he caught just one pass last season before injuring his right knee — but when he is right he’s among the best receivers in the country. That one catch was a 76-yard touchdown in the season opener. Bell has Day 2 ability when healthy.


Defensive tackle Jacob Slade

Class: Fifth-year senior

Slade, one of the best returning all-around defensive tackles in the nation, has the size (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) and agility to play three downs in the NFL. He’s a stellar run defender but also collapses the pocket for quarterback hurries and hits. He’s a potential riser with an early Day 3 grade.


Center John Michael Schmitz

Class: Fifth-year senior

Our own Mel Kiper’s top-ranked center for the 2023 draft, Schmitz is as solid as they come. He has built himself into a very good pass-protector, but it’s his ability and violence in the run game that gets you out of your seat. He’s a potential Day 2 prospect.


Quarterback Casey Thompson

Class: Fourth-year junior

A transfer from Texas, Thompson shared starts with Hudson Card but has shown potential. Now he’ll be in a system that better suits his strong arm and running ability. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds he is undersized, but he could surprise people playing in an offense better built for his skill set.


Offensive tackle Peter Skoronski

Class: Junior

The conversation about where the 6-foot-4 Skoronski will play in the NFL has already started, but we see a talented left tackle with guard potential. Skoronski is battle-tested against elite Big Ten pass-rushers and has a great chance to be the first offensive tackle selected in the 2023 draft.


Quarterback C.J. Stroud

Class: Third-year sophomore

Deciding between Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba wasn’t easy, but the tie goes to the more valued position. Stroud is a Heisman candidate, QB1 favorite and legitimate franchise quarterback prospect. His arm strength, size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and field vision are top-pick caliber.

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1:49

Matt Miller offers NFL comps for Will Anderson Jr., C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young.


Cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

Class: Fourth-year junior

Porter — yes, he’s the son of the star linebacker of the same name from the Steelers teams of the early 2000s — and he has his own NFL ability. At 6-foot-2, he has the length to take away top receivers and the speed to run with them. He’s a potential first-round pick.


Quarterback Aidan O’Connell

Class: Sixth-year senior

Not since Drew Brees and Kyle Orton has Purdue had a quarterback with this much NFL attention. O’Connell had a huge 2021 season (28 touchdown passes, 11 picks) and has the accuracy, vision and quick processing ability to see his own name called by an NFL team. He’s a Day 3 prospect with the talent to rise with a good season.

O’Connell isn’t alone at Purdue, as wide receiver Charlie Jones is an equally intriguing talent, but our ties went to the quarterbacks.


Safety Avery Young

Class: Fifth-year senior

An in-the-box menace at safety, Young’s ability to read and react in the run game has him returning to Rutgers as the team’s best defender. While he’s likely a sub-package and special teams player in the NFL, Young has the tools to hear his name called on Day 3.


Linebacker Nick Herbig

Class: Junior

The 6-foot-2, 227 pound Herbig, one of the best all-around defenders in the country, has the NFL’s attention. His nine sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss last season hint to a future as a pro-level pass-rusher. He has Day 1 draft potential.

Big 12

Defensive tackle Siaki Ika

Class: Junior

The 6-foot-4, 350-pound Ika will get comps to former first-round picks Vita Vea (2018) and Jordan Davis (2022) because of his massive frame. He’s scary in the middle of the field and excels on rushing downs while also having the push and foot quickness to attack the quarterback. He’s a Day 1 prospect.


Defensive end Will McDonald IV

Class: Fifth-year senior

McDonald broke out in his first season as a starter, notching 11.5 sacks and earning first-team All-America honors last season. He’s slightly undersized for the NFL (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) and can be linear in his movements, but his production gives him a late Day 1 grade entering the season.


Safety Kenny Logan Jr.

Class: Senior

Logan is coming off a season in which he posted second-team All-Big 12 honors. He’s a classic box safety who is excellent in the open field attacking ball carriers. He has a Day 3 grade but could rise with better showings in pass coverage.


Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Class: Junior

The uber-talented Anudike-Uzomah edges out running back Deuce Vaughn here, and for good reason. NFL scouts believe he has the potential to be a first-rounder, thanks to his long arms, speed around the edge and open-field agility. Anudike-Uzomah had 11 sacks and six forced fumbles last season. He has a great shot to be Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.


Offensive tackle Anton Harrison

Class: Junior

The Sooners are a young team and are lighter on NFL prospects than normal years, but Harrison has the talent to become OT1 in this class. At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, he has easy NFL size and also boasts pro-level agility.


Defensive end Tyler Lacy

Class: Fifth-year senior

With eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last season, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Lacy put his name on the map. He’s a three-down defender with the size and strength to slide inside or play end in a 3-4 scheme. A potential Day 3 prospect, Lacy has the overall physical traits to rise. Undersized (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) pass-rusher Collin Oliver is another prospect to watch.


Wide receiver Taye Barber

Class: Fifth-year senior

Barber, a speedster at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, is electric with the ball in his hands. His 17.1 yards per catch in 2021 highlight his big-play ability and pro potential as a slot receiver. A Day 3 prospect, Barber needs to show more consistency to rise up boards. Cornerback Noah Daniels also merits consideration.


Running back Bijan Robinson

Class: Junior

Robinson has uncanny power, speed, contact balance and receiving ability. He’s the ideal modern runner. Robinson has to stay healthy in 2022 after missing the final two games with a left elbow injury, but he’s the favorite to be the top running back drafted and a first-round pick.


Defensive end Tyree Wilson

Class: Senior

Texas Tech might be short on prospects right now, but Wilson is legit. In fact, ESPN teammate Jordan Reid tagged him as a long shot No. 1 overall pick prospect. Wilson was one of the most improved players in the Big 12 last season and absolutely could rise thanks to his size (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) and position-specific traits like arm length, power and speed to stun blockers.

I have Wilson ranked as my preseason No. 40 overall player, and some scouts to whom I’ve spoken have him as a first-round prospect.


Defensive end Taijh Alston

Class: Senior

With five sacks last season, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Alston is the Mountaineers’ top prospect. He has the motor and hand usage to stick as a 4-3 defensive end or sub-package rusher as a Day 3 candidate.

Pac-12

Wide receiver Jacob Cowing

Class: Fourth-year junior

A transfer from UTEP, Cowing’s big-play ability is much needed in Tucson. The 5-11, 170-pounder is a deep threat and dynamic slot receiver. He’s a yards-after-catch phenom who has the blend of speed and elusiveness the league loves. He has a Day 3 grade right now.


Linebacker Merlin Robertson

Class: Fifth-year senior

A leader and one of the most productive linebackers returning to college football, Robertson handles a versatile, hybrid role in the Sun Devils’ defense. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he’s built for the NFL but has coverage chops of a smaller player. He enters the year as a potential Round 4 or 5 prospect.


Defensive tackle Brett Johnson

Class: Fourth-year junior

Area scouts who cover the Pac-12 told me Johnson is one of the best-kept secrets in the nation. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder missed last season due to injuries suffered in a car crash, but he was an anchor for the Bears previously. If he returns to form, Johnson is a prospect scouts believe could rise into the first-round discussion.


Wide receiver R.J. Sneed

Class: Fifth-year senior

Sneed is a newcomer to Colorado after five seasons at Baylor, and he should hit the ground running. While he’s not likely to be the fastest player in the receiving corps, he’ll be the most reliable. Sneed is a sure-handed weapon over the middle and a potential special teams ace in the NFL. He’s projected as a Day 3 pick.


Linebacker Noah Sewell

Class: Third-year sophomore

The younger brother of former top-10 pick Penei, the younger Sewell is a heat-seeking linebacker with huge tackling ability in the open field. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he has a three-down game that’s rare for his size. Sewell is a first-round prospect and could very well be the first off-ball linebacker drafted.


Linebacker Omar Speights

Class: Fourth-year junior

Speights is one of the best run-defending linebackers in the nation, and he has flashed the ability to be a force on all three downs. Consistency is the key, though. If he can show better instincts and awareness in the passing game, his position-specific traits could push him from a Day 3 pick into Day 2.


Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly

Class: Senior

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee will get a long look from the NFL, but Kelly is the team’s top prospect headed into the season. Given his experience working both outside and in the slot, Kelly’s versatility and playmaking have the eye of the NFL. He projects now as a Day 2 prospect.


Running back Zach Charbonnet

Class: Senior

It was a surprise to see Charbonnet return to UCLA for another season after he rushed for 1,137 yards in nine starts after transferring from Michigan. Charbonnet, whose nickname is “The Terminator,” has the power and speed to carry this offense. He’s a solid Day 2 prospect.


Wide receiver Jordan Addison

Class: Junior

Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wide receiver last season, and he transferred from Pitt to USC in May. He should thrive in Lincoln Riley’s offense and with quarterback Caleb Williams throwing him passes. While undersized (6-foot, 175 pounds), Addison is a tremendous route-runner and first-team All-American. He has a Round 1 grade.


Tight end Dalton Kincaid

Class: Fifth-year senior

Quarterback Cam Rising could top this list at season’s end, but for now it’s Kincaid at the Utes’ best prospect. Kincaid is dominant tracking the ball in traffic and fearless at the catch point. In a deep tight end class, he has a Day 3 grade but has the tools to be a longtime NFL contributor.


Offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland

Class: Sixth-year senior

Kirkland entered the 2022 NFL draft before suffering a right ankle injury in the pre-draft process and petitioning the NCAA to return to school. He’ll be back on the left side of the Huskies’ offensive line and looks to redeem his draft status. He’ll start the year as a Day 3 prospect with the talent to quickly move up if healthy and consistent.


Defensive end Ron Stone Jr.

Class: Fourth-year junior

A three-down technician, Stone (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) was a first-team All-Pac-12 player last season with five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He’s a late-round prospect due to his smaller frame, but if he can show refined pass-rush tools like hand usage in 2022, his stock could climb.

SEC

Defensive end Will Anderson Jr.

Class: Junior

Anderson is my top-ranked overall prospect for the 2023 draft, a Heisman candidate and a leader for the Alabama program. He edges out a talented roster full of pro-level players including potential QB1 Bryce Young and is an early favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

There are shades of Von Miller and Khalil Mack to Anderson’s game. His power, motor, speed and instincts give him a chance to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 prospect in this class.

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Alabama’s Brian Branch and Will Anderson Jr. get to Desmond Ridder for the sack, giving the ball back to the Crimson Tide in the fourth.


Safety Jalen Catalon

Class: Fourth-year junior

A candidate to enter the 2022 draft, Catalon returned to Fayetteville and will be a leader on Barry Odom’s defense. He is a do-it-all nickelback who started six games last season before a season-ending shoulder injury. If he’s healthy and back to his 2020 form, he’s a Day 2 prospect.


Defensive end Colby Wooden

Class: Fourth-year junior

It was no contest listing Wooden as Auburn’s top prospect. The 6-foot-5, 284-pounder had five sacks and 61 tackles last season while becoming one of the best three-down defensive linemen in college. His versatility is a boost, too, as he can play tackle or end. Wooden has Round 1 grades from many scouts.


Quarterback Anthony Richardson

Class: Third-year sophomore

When you think of potential and ceiling at the quarterback position, Richardson fits. In limited action in 2021, he showed the arm strength, playmaking ability and poise to excite both the fan base and scouts. Now we have to see it over the course of a full season while he cuts down on interceptions; he had five on just 64 throws. There’s Round 1 potential, but Richardson has to play more first.

We can’t leave defensive tackle Gervon Dexter completely off our list. If Richardson fails to live up to expectations, Dexter is next in line as the Gators’ top prospect.


Defensive lineman Jalen Carter

Class: Junior

Carter, one of the best prospects in all of college football, will have his chance to break out in 2022 as he emerges as the leader of a great defense. Scouts evaluating the Bulldogs’ stout unit last year remarked often that Carter had the most potential — even more so than No. 1 pick Travon Walker. He’s a definite top-five prospect headed into the season.


Quarterback Will Levis

Class: Senior

Levis doesn’t have the name recognition of C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young, but he has the size, arm strength, attacking mentality and enough mobility to be a problem for defenses. He’ll have to clean up some decision-making (13 picks last season), but the tools are all in place for him to be a Round 1 quarterback and potential top-10 pick.


Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte

Class: Junior

Boutte edges out prospects such as defensive ends Ali Gaye and BJ Ojulari, with one area scout telling us Boutte is his WR1 entering the season. With a more pro-style offense under new coach Brian Kelly, Boutte (6-foot, 205 pounds) has the all-around traits to be a first-round pick.


Running back Zach Evans

Class: Junior

A transfer from TCU, Evans was a show-stopper for the Horned Frogs’ rushing attack last season, averaging 7.0 yards per carry with six total touchdowns. He’ll bring a tough, hard-nosed running style to Lane Kiffin’s offense, where his breakaway speed is a huge boost. Evans has Day 2 potential.


Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes

Class: Junior

With eight interceptions over the past two seasons and a second-team All-SEC honor in 2021, Forbes is one of the best-kept secrets in the SEC. The 6-foot, 180-pound corner has the ball skills, length and closing speed for the pros. He’s a solid late Day 2 prospect.


Offensive tackle Javon Foster

Class: Fifth-year senior

The 6-foot-5, 297-pound Foster is one of the best run blockers you’ll see in college football. He has the agility and speed to reach defenders in the Mizzou zone scheme. He’s also patient in pass protection. A solid season could push Foster into the top 100 picks.


Cornerback Cam Smith

Class: Fourth-year junior

We’re not going to be fooled again by the Spencer Rattler hype at quarterback. Instead, South Carolina’s top prospect is a shutdown cornerback who has CB1 potential. Smith (6-foot, 185 pounds) has excelled playing inside and outside cornerback, with 14 passes defensed last season. He’s a Round 1 prospect.


QB Hendon Hooker

Class: Sixth-year senior

In a loaded class of quarterbacks for the 2023 draft, Hooker has a chance to stand out, thanks to his arm strength and ability to create when the play breaks down. He’s also a great fit with Josh Heupel running the offense. Hooker has to become more consistently accurate over the middle and better pace his timing on throws, but his potential is high. He’s a Day 3 prospect with room to rise.

Should Hooker falter, wide receiver Cedric Tillman is firmly on our list as a potential draft prospect this season.


Guard Layden Robinson

Class: Fourth-year junior

Robinson, my top-ranked interior offensive lineman for the 2023 draft, is a mauler in the run game at right guard. A second-team All-SEC performer last season, he’ll have to anchor a young A&M line. He’s a solid Day 2 draft prospect and potential All-America candidate.


Wide receiver Will Sheppard

Class: Junior

While Sheppard doesn’t have game-breaking speed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he’s among the best run-after-catch receivers in the SEC. He also has post-up size and averaged more than 13 yards per catch in 2021. He’s a potential Day 3 prospect.




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