Monday, July 4, 2022

2023 NFL Draft: Quarterbacks C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Levis headline early top 50 list

The 2023 NFL Draft is still more than ten months away but it is never too early to spotlight some of the talent for the upcoming football season. Ryan Wilson, Chris Trapasso and I compiled an early list of talent eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft, which should serve more as a watch list than stock projection. Here is the top 50: 

1. Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

2. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

3. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

4. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

5. Myles Murphy, EDGE/DL, Clemson

6. Will Levis, WR, Kentucky

7. Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

8. Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

9. Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M

10. Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

At this time of year, early rankings are often littered with power programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson because they dominated the recruiting rankings for such a long period of time and it is so early in the process that the smaller school prospects are not evaluated until later. The upcoming draft class is no exception. Those four schools combined for seven of the top ten with SEC schools Kentucky, Texas A&M and LSU slipping one in as well. 

As much as these quarterbacks are talked up, there is not a player that is just a slam dunk No. 1 overall selection like Trevor Lawrence, Andrew Luck or John Elway before him. Each has talent, but also deficiencies. Stroud and Young are also, in fact, young and still have time to work out some aspects of the game. Levis has more natural talent than any other at the position but needs to iron out some lower body mechanics. In addition to those quarterbacks, there is a talented list of defenders like Alabama’s Anderson, Georgia’s Carter, Clemson’s Murphy and Simpson, and more. Boutte is the top rated wide receiver because it is easy to draw comparisons to his former teammate, Ja’Marr Chase. 

11. Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

12. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

13. Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

14. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

15. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State

16. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

17. Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State

18. Arik Gilbert, TE, Georgia

19. BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU

20. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

It is worth noting that these early rankings — which, again, should serve more as a watch list — are based off of projection and what the trajectory players appear to be on for the upcoming season. There is no better example of that premise that Ohio State’s Johnson and Georgia’s Gilbert. The former will be moving from offensive guard to tackle this season following the defection of Nicholas Petit-Frere and the latter is a once highly-regarded recruit that did not play for the Bulldogs last season. Gilbert is also the first player to have transferred on this list; he began his collegiate career at LSU. Mayer is a consistent producer that does everything well but the testing will be very important for him. Robinson is the top rated running back rather easily. He should be higher on the list, in my opinion, because his evaluation does not require projection. Onlookers do not have to squint hard to recognize how special of a talent he has already become. 

21. Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

22. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, EDGE, Washington

23. Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

24. Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

25. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

26. Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama

27. Jordan Addison, WR, USC

28. Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina

29. Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami

30. Anton Harrison, OL, Oklahoma

Cornerbacks and wide receivers dominated this group with half of the selections. Addison only recently transferred to USC. Ricks transferred from LSU. To’oTo’o is in his second season with the Crimson Tide after transferring from Tennessee. Downs is a personal favorite. Although slim in frame, he does a good job setting up breaks and maintaining speed. 

31. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

32. Jaquelin Roy, DL, LSU

33. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama

34. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

35. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

36. Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

37. Tykee Smith, S, Georgia

38. Zion Nelson, OT, Miami

39. Noah Daniels, CB, TCU

40. Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

Gibbs transferred from Georgia Tech this off-season. He just does everything well on the football field. None of the offensive linemen are a finished product but there is a lot of talent to cultivate. A few that are not mentioned in this listing but are worth monitoring include BYU’s Blake Freeland, USC’s Courtland Ford and Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan. 

41. Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

42. Brenton Cox Jr., EDGE, Florida

43. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

44. Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame

45. Devin Leary, QB, N.C. State

46. Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army

47. Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse

48. Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

49. Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee

50. Jordan Morgan, OL, Arizona

Richardson will be saddled with a larger workload this season after the transfer of Emory Jones to Arizona State. Joseph transferred from Northwestern and is tasked with filling the shoes of first-round selection Kyle Hamilton. Syracuse offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron and Morgan would be in a similar category of linemen that may lack the top end athleticism but are calm and get the job done, like a Christian Darrisaw. 

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