NFL draft 2023 questions, risers from Week 2

NFL draft 2023 questions, risers from Week 2 post thumbnail image

Week 2 of the 2022 college football season saw wild upsets, a battle between top 2023 NFL draft quarterback prospects Will Levis and Anthony Richardson, receiver breakouts and a big winning drive from Alabama.

Neither Levis nor Richardson had a standout performance Saturday night, but what does it mean for the two QBs’ draft stock? A handful of top-tier receivers posted big numbers, but does it mean they are moving up draft boards? Is Jordan Addison in contention to be the class’ top pass-catcher after two big games? And what should we take away from Alabama’s stars coming up big late in a close game against Texas?

NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr., Jordan Reid and Matt Miller answer big draft-related questions coming out of the weekend’s slate, including what to make of the Kentucky-Florida QB matchup and the Alabama-Texas showdown in Austin. They also pick out prospects rising up their draft boards and players currently flying under the radar who could get a draft stock boost. Finally, they empty their notebooks with everything they saw and heard over the weekend. Let’s get started with a closer look at Levis vs. Richardson.

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Big questions | Risers
Under the radar
Emptying the notebook

What is your biggest takeaway from the Kentucky-Florida quarterback matchup?

Miller: Patience. My biggest takeaway is the NFL draft process isn’t one week long for a reason. Florida’s Anthony Richardson came back to Earth facing a tough Kentucky defense — 14-of-35 passing for 143 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) with two interceptions — but his arm talent and physical traits still were on display. We have to remember this is a player who played in just seven games in 2021 and didn’t attempt more than 20 passes in a game once all season. That inexperience showed Saturday.

Richardson’s counterpart, Kentucky’s Will Levis, had the better night and showed the arm talent and downfield throwing that has scouts impressed, helping the Wildcats to a 26-16 win. But he turned the ball over, too, with one interception while going 13-of-24 passing.

Kiper: You’re totally right, Matt, and that was my takeaway as well. Often the big head-to-head quarterback matchups are overrated. These defenses dominated Saturday. If we overreacted to Week 1, we would have said Richardson was the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Now he’s a terrible prospect? That’s not how this works; progress isn’t linear.

In my preseason rankings, I had Levis as the fourth-ranked quarterback for next year’s draft, with Richardson at No. 5. I’m not changing anything yet. While both had ups and downs — Levis struggled under pressure — we can’t have knee-jerk reactions this early in the season.

Reid: Yeah, there was a lot of hype going into the matchup, but we often get so caught up in the head-to-head aspect of it and completely forget about the defenses playing in the game. These defenses were impressive. And for what it’s worth, Levis — whose offensive line didn’t do him many favors as he battled tough through multiple hits — did have a nice 55-yard touchdown throw on a post route to wide receiver Dane Key.


Could USC’s Jordan Addison end up as the draft class’ WR1?

Kiper: Absolutely. I had him just behind Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and LSU’s Kayshon Boutte in my preseason rankings, and he has started fast at USC. He had seven catches for 172 yards and two scores in USC’s 41-28 win over Stanford on Saturday. He already has four touchdowns in two games. The Pitt transfer might be the first player to win two Biletnikoff awards for different schools.

I’ll have more on Addison in a little bit — that’s called a tease — but he already is an elite route runner. He’s NFL-ready right now.

Miller: It’s certainly possible, but so much depends on how Smith-Njigba looks once he returns from a hamstring injury and if LSU can get the ball to Boutte (seven catches for 62 yards through two games). Addison, though, is firmly in that WR1 conversation — especially if you value high-level slot receivers. He just became the first USC player with multiple receiving touchdowns in each of the first two games of the season since Robert Woods did it in 2012.

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USC QB Caleb Williams airs it out to Jordan Addison, who shakes off a tackle and completes the 75-yard touchdown play.

Reid: We’ve seen what Lincoln Riley’s explosive offenses have produced in past years, including first-round receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb, and Addison figures to be next in line. His feel as a route runner, strong hands and yards-after-the catch ability have been on full display through two games. There’s a long way to go, but Addison’s fast start can’t be ignored.


Who impressed you the most in Alabama-Texas?

Reid: Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs was the ultimate playmaker in the passing game Saturday, catching a career-high nine passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. His dynamic skill set and versatility make it difficult for second-level defenders to guard him on the perimeter. He has soft hands as a pass-catcher and unique vision as a runner, and he’s an explosive play waiting to happen. Gibbs is my No. 2 running back behind Texas’ Bijan Robinson, and Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara are common comparisons I’ve heard from scouts.

Miller: I enjoyed this game live, and you wouldn’t think Alabama quarterback Bryce Young would be the answer here through the first three quarters. But the junior settled down in the second half and took over the game in the fourth quarter when Alabama needed points.

His 20-yard run with 27 seconds left in the game put Alabama in position to kick the go-ahead — and eventual winning — field goal, as Alabama won 20-19. It was Young’s Heisman moment as he ducked under a perfectly called corner blitz and ran for a crucial first down. Despite a slow start, Young finished 27-of-39 passing for 213 yards and one touchdown, but it was his calm under pressure that stood out most.

Kiper: Great players come up big in the biggest moments, and possible No. 1 overall picks Young and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. did just that for the Crimson Tide. Young was 15-of-19 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday. Alabama couldn’t quite get going on offense, but he was stellar down the stretch.

Anderson, meanwhile, was double-teamed and chipped all game, and he didn’t have a huge impact for the first 58 minutes. With Texas driving under two minutes, however, his sack on 3rd-and-3 forced the Longhorns to kick a field goal, which gave the ball back to Bama to win it. That’s what No. 1 picks do.


Which prospect are you moving up your board?

Kiper: Jordan Addison, WR, USC. I love the way he runs routes. He knows how to create separation, varying pace and speed to confuse cornerbacks. He has great burst out of breaks and gets off the line of scrimmage quickly. He can run after the catch and break tackles, and he effortlessly tracks deep balls. Yes, Addison has played with two great quarterbacks the past two seasons (Kenny Pickett at Pitt and Caleb Williams at USC), but he looks like a top-15 pick.

Addison was No. 17 overall on my preseason Big Board, but he’ll rise a few spots in my next update later this month.

Miller: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama. He was largely bottled up as a runner by the Texas defense (nine carries for 22 yards), but as Jordan pointed out, he showed his impact as a receiver out of the backfield. Gibbs was basically the entire Alabama passing game on swing routes in the early parts of the game and then caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on an angle route.

Those excellent receiving skills will only improve his draft stock; I had Gibbs outside my top 50, but he has a chance to ultimately get drafted near the top of Round 2.

Reid: A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest. I’ve been extremely impressed with his game through two weeks. I saw him catch three passes for 47 yards live in Week 1 — he wasn’t asked to do much as the Demon Deacons cruised to victory over VMI — but he filled the statsheet in this past weekend’s return of Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman, catching five balls for 142 yards and a touchdown in a 45-25 win. Perry will need to answer questions about his true speed and catch consistency, but he has the makings of top-100 prospect.


Which under-the-radar prospect are you keeping an eye on after Week 2?

Kiper: Jacob Dobbs, LB, Holy Cross. You want a potential Day 3 pick I really like? It’s Dobbs, who had 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in the Crusaders’ 37-31 upset win over Buffalo on Saturday. I love his read-and-react ability, and he can play inside or outside linebacker. He made a few plays in space and was impressive.

Dobbs had 137 tackles and 9.5 sacks last season, and he had 93 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three interceptions as a true freshman in 2019. At 5-foot-11, he’s not going to blow away NFL teams with his size, but he can make a roster.

Reid: Nick Hampton, EDGE, Appalachian State. Hampton had a fumble recovery in the Mountaineers’ upset of Texas A&M, and he posted 2.5 sacks, five tackles and a forced fumble in the opener against UNC. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he is a loose mover who shows plenty of suddenness with his get-off. His ability to bend, dip and win the corner has been on full display so far this season, and he deploys a wealth of pass-rush moves. He’s a midrounder right now, but he has a chance to go on Day 2.

Miller: Jacoby Windmon, LB, Michigan State. Don’t look now, but the Spartans are 2-0 — and a big reason for that is the defense. Senior linebacker Windmon has been all over the field, notching 5.5 sacks and four passes defensed in two blowout wins for Michigan State. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he has the strength and quickness NFL scouts covet.

Windmon will need to keep up the pace once State gets into conference play, but he has been among the most impressive defenders in the nation thus far. I have a Day 3 grade on him right now, but that’s mainly based on 2021 tape. Through two weeks, I think he’s moving toward the top of that range.


Let’s empty the notebooks …

Miller: Is it time to talk about Cedric Tillman as a first-round wide receiver? The Tennessee senior went off against Pitt for 162 yards and one touchdown on nine catches. He’s a favorite of mine at the position and has continued to be a standout player in a year in which top prospects, like Ohio State’s Smith-Njigba and LSU’s Boutte, have yet to make huge impressions. Tillman, at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, has the size and vertical stretch ability to become a factor as a WR1 in the pros.

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No. 24 Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker says his read took him to Cedric Tillman for the 28-yard TD in the 34-27 overtime win vs. No. 17 Pittsburgh.

Reid: Yeah, and how about Tillman’s quarterback at Tennessee? Hendon Hooker caught my eye during summer scouting, and he played well against Pitt in a huge 34-27 overtime victory Saturday, completing 27 of 42 passes for 325 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Since transferring over from Virginia Tech, he has experienced a career resurgence. As the engineer of Josh Heupel’s offense, Hooker always looks in complete control. Scouts want to see him continue to grow, but he’s a possible Day 3 QB right now.

Miller: Speaking of quarterbacks … welcome back, Sam Hartman. After missing time this summer and Week 1 of the season because of a medical condition, it was great to see the QB back on the field slinging touchdowns. His four scores led Wake Forest to a win over Vanderbilt, and his 300 yards passing had the Demon Deacon offense cooking. He is a legitimate quarterback prospect for the 2023 draft.

Kiper: USC defensive tackle Tuli Tuipulotu was dominant against Stanford, with four tackles for loss, including a sack and forced fumble. He’s explosive and versatile. He was my ninth-ranked defensive tackle in the preseason; he could rise soon.

Reid: There are mixed opinions about taking a running back in the first round, but Texas’ Robinson and Alabama’s Gibbs showed they might be in that conversation, trading highlight plays back and forth in their head-to-head showdown. So when will each come off of the board? Many scouts believe that Robinson is the best overall running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and there likely will be some teams that overlook the positional value aspect because of what he instantly adds to an offense. Robinson is getting top-15 buzz, and Gibbs is definitely in the first-round range.

Kiper: I’ve been impressed with Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller through two games. He was flying to the football against Kentucky. The fifth-year senior missed most of last season because of a torn biceps, but he is playing well in his return. He has 15 tackles so far this season.

Reid: Florida defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr. had multiple flash plays in that game, too, including an interception. At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, he moves very well for his size and is an anchor in the middle. Dexter was outside of my initial top 25 prospects, but if he continues to play well, he could crack that list soon.

Kiper: A few guys who caught my eye Saturday and who could rise if they keep playing well: Wake Forest’s Perry, Michigan State’s Windmon, Tennessee defensive end Byron Young, Oklahoma State defensive end Tyler Lacy and Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders.



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