To borrow a phrase from the NFL, that is the draft’s “acclimation period” — a time to start out studying about school soccer’s prime prospects, as a result of we’ll be speaking about most of them for the subsequent 9 months. If you’ve been following together with Dane Brugler’s super-early 2023 mock or his position-by-position preseason rankings, you’re off to begin.
Between now and April, our workforce of draft specialists — Brugler, Nick Baumgardner, Diante Lee and Nate Tice (and, now and again, NFL Draft editor Chris Burke) — will dive deep into all the small print of the 2023 prospect pool. For the time being, just a few weeks out from the faculty soccer season, we’re simply getting going.
And we’ll start right here, with this easy query:
Which NFL Draft prospect(s) are you most excited to trace this season?
Brugler: The first identify that popped into my head for this query was Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. With his dimension, athleticism and arm expertise, he checks a variety of packing containers — and he put promising play on tape final season in his first 12 months as a starter.
Levis misplaced his prime receiver (Wan’Dale Robinson, drafted No. 43 by the Giants) and play caller (Liam Coen, now the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator), so clear on-field enchancment over final season shouldn’t be assumed. However, all of the expertise is there for him to grow to be a top-10 choose and NFL starter if his decision-making and anticipation proceed to develop as a senior. Kentucky travels to Gainesville in Week 2 for a showdown with Florida, which shall be an ideal early take a look at for a quarterback with lofty expectations.
Tice: It’s arduous to select simply one of many “other” quarterbacks that isn’t CJ Stroud or Bryce Young, and I’m with Dane in retaining an in depth eye on how Levis progresses this season. The group of Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, Stanford’s Tanner McKee or Florida’s Anthony Richardson has me extraordinarily excited to see what progress these prospects can etch to their names within the first spherical of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Especially Richardson. In 2021, he was used principally as a gadget quarterback, with just some video games through which he acquired prolonged run behind middle for the Gators. He is extra of an thought than a totally fleshed-out participant at this level. How he develops his dimension (6-foot-4, 240 kilos), athleticism and massive arm into turning into a extra constant and polished quarterback shall be attention-grabbing to observe. Richardson is as uncooked as may be, however he has all of the instruments and traits groups need out of their quarterbacks.
Burke: Since we’re speaking quarterbacks, that is nearly as good a spot as any to present a nod to their targets — the vast receivers. The 2023 WR class has a few absolute studs up prime, in Ohio State’s Jaxson Smith-Njigba (do the Buckeyes ever run out of playmakers?) and LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. But I’m curious to see how a few different potential top-40 picks, Jordan Addison and Josh Downs, deal with dropping their QBs.
Addison, topic of a contentious switch from Pittsburgh to USC this offseason, racked up 100 catches, 17 touchdowns and almost 1,600 yards with Kenny Pickett slinging him the ball; Downs had 101 grabs — and higher than 1,300 yards — as Sam Howell’s favourite receiver. I’m already reasonably keen on Addison’s sport, specifically, due to how superior he’s as a route runner.
Brugler: One different prospect I’ll be monitoring intently is Ohio State junior Paris Johnson Jr., as he makes the transfer from guard to left sort out for one of many nation’s finest offenses. Johnson is a fluid athlete for a 6-6, 315-pounder, and may thrive at his extra pure blindside place, however his approach and timing are nonetheless a piece in progress. I discover it powerful to get enthusiastic about this year’s offensive tackle draft class, however Johnson is among the few draft-eligible tackles with legit first-round potential.
Baumgardner: This is an attention-grabbing OT class, as Dane famous. The checklist of potential first-rounders isn’t huge, however one other Big Ten sort out who finds a option to make it work — and can face comparable questions as his Wildcats predecessor — is Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. Big-time Rashawn Slater vibes all over, from the motion abilities in house to measurements which may make him a guard for some groups within the NFL. Skoronski additionally performed middle in highschool, so the flexibility is there.
As was the case with Slater, Skoronski’s OT size isn’t very best. But his ft, athletic restoration and total nice soccer sense are arduous to disregard. It’s additionally in his blood, as his grandfather, Bob Skoronski, was a sort out for Vince Lombardi’s Packers dynasty by the Nineteen Sixties. The 6-4 Skoronski is as much as 315 kilos (per a supply, he performed final season at round 318, regardless of what Northwestern’s roster stated). And he’ll get to point out scouts what he has, as soon as once more, in opposition to a Big Ten schedule that features dates with Ohio State and Penn State.
A detailed runner-up is Notre Dame edge defender Isaiah Foskey. Foskey has every little thing he must be a star: Burst, size, lateral quickness and the kind of motion abilities that aren’t at all times seen by guys his dimension (6-5, 260). Look for Marcus Freeman and firm to get artistic with him this 12 months. There is rather a lot to love.
Lee: After the 2021 marketing campaign, Kirby Smart can promote me on nearly any inside defensive lineman to put on crimson, black and white. The subsequent one by the Georgia pipeline wants no advocacy past his personal movie, and that’s the sensational DT Jalen Carter. Carter has been one of many guys UGA coaches and media have been telling the soccer world to attend for, and his time within the rotation final season justified the joy.
He’s one other 300-plus-pound, sub-5-second 40-yard-dash participant who bullies guards and facilities along with his get-off and violent arms. He additionally brings some refinement to that violence and a pure really feel for inside move speeding — one thing Georgia couldn’t constantly generate with its entrance 4 final season. Despite taking part in behind a pair of first-round skills at his place, and in entrance of three NFL-caliber linebackers who blitzed on almost each snap, Carter tallied a mixed 11.5 sacks and tackles for loss.
The runway is obvious for Carter to step into his personal, and I anticipate him to place vital distance between himself and the remainder of his place group on this draft class.
Burke: Another identify I’ll toss out on the defensive aspect is Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell. I’ve coated his brother, Penei, in Detroit, and by all accounts Noah has the same work ethic and aggressive mentality — the latter is fairly evident on his tape. Being an off-ball linebacker would possibly restrict his draft ceiling, however he performs an all-around sport.
Tice: I simply need to see what Alabama’s Will Anderson shall be doing to poor school offensive tackles in his final season earlier than listening to his identify referred to as (very, very early) by an NFL workforce in 2023. There could possibly be some wildly entertaining horror movies being recorded on Saturdays in Tuscaloosa this fall.
OK, it’s your flip. Who’s the 2023 draft prospect we needs to be speaking about extra? Which soon-to-be-star are you itching to see come September? Let us know within the feedback.
(Top photograph: Jordan Prather / USA Today)