NFL draft 2023 preview for the college football season

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The 2022 college football season has arrived. And that means we’re already starting to think about the 2023 NFL draft. Sure, it’s early. We have just under eight months until teams are on the clock, and so much will change between now and then. But with Week 1 on deck for both college football and the NFL, the evaluation process is already underway.

NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Matt Miller and Jordan Reid are here to help introduce you to next year’s class, breaking down all the prospects and teams to watch every Saturday this fall. Who are the top prospects? Which quarterbacks could be first-round picks in April? Which players flying under the radar could rise by the end of the season? Who will go No. 1 overall, which positions are the deepest, and what questions still need to be answered? Our experts also pick their favorite prospects and make their preseason College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy picks. It’s all here.

We will keep you up to speed with the latest rankings, mock drafts and other analysis throughout the season and into the run-up to the draft, but let’s get things started here with 16 big questions about the 2023 NFL draft class as college football kicks off.

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Who is the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2023 class?

Kiper: I think we might be in agreement here, right? It’s Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. We’re talking about a game-wrecker coming off the edge and a complete player who can do more than just get after quarterbacks.

McShay: Yeah, and it’s not that close. Anderson led the FBS in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (34.5) last season, and he probably would have been the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft if he had been eligible for 2022. There aren’t enough good things to say about his explosion and instincts.

Miller: You guys are totally right. He showed last season the first-step speed, power and relentless motor to be a great NFL player. I see shades of Von Miller while watching him. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior has all the traits and tools to go wire to wire as the top prospect in a very good class.

Reid: I don’t see weaknesses in Anderson’s game. He’s stout and powerful, and he has the awareness to key and diagnose as a run defender. As a pass-rusher, he pairs quickness with the powerful hands to shock and shed blockers. He’s a special prospect.


How would you rate this QB class heading into the season on a scale of 1 to 10?

McShay: Let’s say 7 right now. It’s pretty clear Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young are the top two guys. Stroud is decisive and reads the field so well. He can be a bit streaky at times as a passer, and I’d like to see him use his mobility a bit more, but his catalogue of NFL-level anticipatory dimes is awesome. Young is undersized — there is serious doubt among scouts I trust about whether he is 6-foot — but his processing quickness is excellent, and he has very good touch, timing and ball placement on all three levels.

Then there are a bunch of toolsy passers with potential next in line, including Kentucky’s Will Levis, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. They all seem one good season away from really elevating their draft stock. Will one of them make a big jump this year? Levis has a ton of arm talent but needs to develop his touch. Van Dyke flashed in 10 games last season but has to work on his mechanics. And Richardson probably has the most upside of this group but is also the most raw as a prospect.

Also keep an eye on Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec, NC State’s Devin Leary, Pitt’s Kedon Slovis, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler and Stanford’s Tanner McKee as possible risers this season.


Is one of these passers the clear QB1 right now?

Miller: I don’t think so. You could argue Stroud has the best combination of size, arm strength and production based on last year’s tape, but Young is an amazing distributor of the ball, and Levis makes throws that drop your jaw. Stroud is my top-ranked quarterback today, but it’s a very close race, and no one is a clear-cut QB1 favorite.

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


Ten of the past 15 first overall picks have been quarterbacks. Would you take a QB or the field being the top pick in 2023?

Reid: This QB class has a chance get really good really quick, but I’m going with the field. And that’s solely because of Anderson. Even though quarterback is the most important position on the field and one that teams have to get right, I can’t see many franchises passing on someone with Anderson’s traits and production. Prospects like him don’t come around often.


Fill in the blank: Anderson is the best edge rusher prospect since _______.

Kiper: Myles Garrett, my No. 1 overall prospect in 2017 (he nearly went wire to wire). Anderson’s staggering production last season was on a whole different level, but Garrett’s ability to bend off the edge and get by tackles is otherworldly. He looks like an Olympic speed skater turning a corner. Anderson is the closest I’ve seen to Garrett in recent years in terms of bend.

If we’re nitpicking Anderson, he has just one forced fumble in two seasons. Garrett had seven in his final two years at Texas A&M. Anderson creates chaos, but he needs to get his hands on the football more often.


Looking at your early rankings, what’s the deepest position in this class?

McShay: I have six defensive linemen with 90-plus grades, starting with Anderson (97). Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is right behind him at 95 with range and strength against the run, along with pass-rush upside. Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith (94), Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy (91), Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (90) and Notre Dame edge rusher Isaiah Foskey (90) all also cracked the top 15 in my preseason rankings.

There are a lot of top-end prospects here if you need a playmaker along the line, but you’ll also find potential stars down the board. Keep an eye on Army’s Andre Carter II, Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton and LSU’s duo of BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye — they could all rise this year.


We’ve had at least five first-round receivers in three straight drafts. Will that streak continue?

Miller: My early take is we’ll see a small dip in terms of top-end wide receiver talent this year. Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is very talented, with excellent route-running technique and quickness, and USC now has Jordan Addison after he transferred in from Pitt. But there isn’t a dominant force at receiver who would compare with, say, Ja’Marr Chase as a prospect.

Smith-Njigba, Addison and Kayshon Boutte (LSU) are the only receivers currently ranked in my top 32 overall. Alabama’s Jermaine Burton and UNC’s Josh Downs are also in the mix.


Will running backs and/or tight ends return to Round 1 in 2023?

Reid: Both. Running backs are always tough to project in Round 1, but Texas’ Bijan Robinson and Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs have a chance to live up to the hype. Robinson has a fantastic blend of speed, power and tackle-breaking ability, and he is No. 6 on my preseason board.

And then Michael Mayer of Notre Dame leads a trio of tight ends who could hear their names on Day 1. He’s outstanding after the catch. Georgia’s Arik Gilbert and South Carolina’s Jaheim Bell could certainly be there, too.

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Bijan Robinson scores a 25-yard receiving touchdown vs. Kansas.


Which under-the-radar school has a bunch of prospects to keep an eye on?

Kiper: TCU stands out here. Quentin Johnston, a 6-foot-4 receiver, is the Horned Frogs’ top prospect, but Derius Davis and Taye Barber are two more wideouts who have early draftable grades. Steve Avila is my fifth-ranked center, while Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is my seventh-ranked cornerback. The latter is only 5-foot-9, but he has 22 pass breakups over the past two seasons.

Also keep an eye on edge rusher Dylan Horton, who is primed for a big year. He could double the four sacks he had last season. I’m intrigued by linebacker Dee Winters, too. He led TCU in tackles last season and also had two interceptions. The Frogs could make some noise in the Big 12.


Which school’s front seven has more draft talent: Clemson, Alabama or Georgia?

McShay: Wow, that’s tough. Alabama and Georgia have the better top-tier guys, but I’d lean Clemson because of how many excellent players it has up front. The Tigers might not match their 2019 class — Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence were all top-17 picks — but this year’s group might be deeper. It starts with Murphy and Bresee, and then inside linebacker Trenton Simpson is rangy, quick and instinctive.

Defensive tackles Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro also crack my top 150, and defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry are both in my preliminary top 200.


Which prospect has the most riding on his 2022 season?

Miller: One year ago, Spencer Rattler was being heralded as a potential QB1, first-rounder and Heisman candidate while running the show at Oklahoma. After being benched in favor of Caleb Williams, Rattler is now the starter at South Carolina, where he’s surrounded by impressive skill-position talent. This is his shot to prove he can excel without former coach Lincoln Riley’s offensive genius and rehabilitate his NFL stock. He has elite ability to launch passes to any area of the field, and he can do so off-platform and on the move.


Who is the most explosive prospect in this class, the guy who could light up the combine next March?

Reid: Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo is an easy selection for me here. The redshirt sophomore has a track background and recorded championship-winning times in the 100-meter (10.43) and 200-meter dashes (21.18) while in high school in Arizona. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he plays with lots of suddenness and explosion, and he could pop in a bunch of the drills in Indianapolis. Ringo has a chance to be a top-10 pick if he has a big season.


Name a prospect who could make a big move up draft boards this season.

Kiper: Justin Flowe, LB, Oregon. The former five-star prospect has played just 64 snaps in two seasons because of injury issues, but he could move up the inside linebacker rankings with a big season next to potential first-round pick Noah Sewell. I’ve heard stellar things about Flowe’s attitude and energy for the Ducks.

McShay: Jaheim Bell, TE, South Carolina. He’s a hybrid receiver/tight end who can line up anywhere, thanks to his 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame, excellent speed, physical route running and reliable hands. Injuries have limited his production a bit, but Bell is still just scratching the surface of his talent. I have him at No. 53 on my board right now, but he could rise very fast.

Miller: Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami. The situation is perfect for Van Dyke to break out in his first full season as a starter. He has a strong supporting cast and a good offensive line anchored by tackle Zion Nelson. It helps that new coach Mario Cristobal and new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis have successful track records, too. Van Dyke has a massive arm, good pocket mobility and an attacking mindset that could shoot him up draft boards.

Reid: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech. His name comes up constantly when I talk with scouts around the league. Wilson is 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds with 35 5/8-inch arms, and he had 7.0 sacks last season. We saw how traits and explosion can spark a big rise up draft boards when Travon Walker shot up throughout this spring’s pre-draft process, and we could see it again with Wilson over the next eight months.


What’s the biggest question you have heading into the ’22 season?

McShay: Can Young still produce with what appears to be a lesser supporting cast? We’ve heard concerns about Stroud adapting without receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave at Ohio State, but I think Alabama’s quarterback has the tougher task. The Crimson Tide sent receiver Jameson Williams, receiver John Metchie III, running back Brian Robinson and pass-protector Evan Neal to the draft. Look, I like Burton, a speedy transfer receiver from Georgia, and running back Gibbs will be a big part of the offense, but there’s an unquestionable step down here. Young will be forced to shoulder more of the load this season.

Miller: There is no doubting the talent of Carter, but how will he handle a larger role on Georgia’s defensive line without numerous first-round talents around him? We’ve seen talented players in the past take a step back once they’re no longer protected by the superstars around them, and while Carter looks pretty immune to that based on his 2021 tape, we do have to reconcile the fact that three of his defensive linemates were drafted in the first round. Carter will have to take on more snaps and be expected to produce more than the three sacks he had last year to live up to his top-five draft status.

Reid: Will Florida’s Richardson live up to the hype? If we’re strictly talking physical traits, no passer in this class is more talented than the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Richardson. He struggled getting into a rhythm last season because he was rotating every series with Emory Jones, but it’s Richardson’s show for the Gators this season. If he is consistent, he has No. 1 overall talent.

Kiper: I’m with Jordan here. Richardson is an enormous talent with tremendous arm strength and power and speed as a runner. Can he be more accurate and focus on his mechanics? He has thrown six interceptions on 66 career attempts. If he’s just so-so this season, the third-year sophomore will likely be back at Florida for another season. But if he lives up to his potential? Like Jordan said, we’re talking about a candidate to be the No. 1 pick.

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Anthony Richardson sits down with Marty & McGee to discuss how Florida’s program has changed under Billy Napier’s leadership.


OK, plant your flag for the 2023 draft: Who’s going to be your guy throughout the process?

Kiper: Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland. Sure, I like to focus on Maryland guys, but Jarrett is the real deal. He is fierce out of the slot and can play outside, too. He was targeted on a lot of underneath routes last season, racking up 829 yards and five scores, but he should have a more diverse route tree this season. I see him as a second-round pick right now who could rise into Round 1 with a big year.

McShay: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU. He missed a lot of last season because of a leg injury but still led the team with 509 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. I like Smith-Njigba and Addison, but when Boutte is healthy, he’s a special player. He’s physical and attacks the football in the air. He has another gear to explode off the line and separate. He’s sudden out of his breaks. And he’s versatile enough to play any of the receiver spots. Boutte is No. 6 on my board, and I have him as my early WR1.

Miller: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky. Taking a quarterback seems both risky and safe at the same time, but that perfectly summarizes Levis as a prospect. His arm strength is the best in the class, he has good pocket mobility, and he produced in the Kentucky scheme last year with arrows pointing up on his development. He just needs to cut down on the 13 interceptions from last year. Levis is an exciting prospect, and I’ve already heard Matthew Stafford comparisons for him.

Reid: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson. I was blown away by his versatility and physicality when studying his tape this summer. The Tigers use him at all three levels of the field, and his play speed pops. Simpson constantly delivers huge hits and brings plenty of value as a blitzer, as his relentless attitude helps him often find his way into the backfield. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he reminds me of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah when he came out of Notre Dame — but Simpson is bigger.


What are your early College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy picks?

Kiper: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson. Yes, pretty chalky here. And Stroud is my Heisman pick.

McShay: I’m agreeing with your four there, Mel. And I think Ohio State wins it, with Stroud taking home the Heisman. Young, Anderson, Robinson and Williams round out my Heisman watch list.

Reid: Yeah, count me in on those four teams, too. But I’m going with Gibbs for the Heisman. He is the most dynamic running back Alabama has had in quite some time, and he’d be the first RB to win it since Derrick Henry did in 2015.

Miller: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and … USC! We couldn’t all agree on all four teams, right? Alabama wins it all, and Stroud is the Heisman winner.



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