NFL Draft 2023 – – Pre-Draft Analysis

I am going to be out of the country without a computer when the NFL Draft happens this year, so I am doing my annual Pre-Draft compilation a bit earlier than usual. Let me do a reset for newcomers:

  • I watch a lot of college football on TV, and I keep a notepad beside me, and I make notes about players I see that I think can play at the NFL level.
  • Then, before the Draft, I gather up my notes and try to decipher my less-than-easily-legible handwriting.
  • I have no inside information here; these are just my opinions from games on TV.  So, I may have seen a team play but not have any notes about one of that team’s best players because I did not notice him.  Or maybe he missed the game due to injury.  The sampling of the universe of college football players is not exhaustive.

As I was collating my notes from last Fall, I notice that I was very restrictive in the games I watched; in previous years, my viewing preferences included all the Power 5 conferences and some weeknight peeks at the other conferences.  Last year, most of my viewing was SEC, Big 10 and ACC; I must be getting picky in my old age…

There is a lot of emphasis on QBs at or near the top of the Draft.  Fortunately for me, I actually saw most of the guys who are getting that sort of coverage; so, I’ll begin with the QBs:

  1. Stetson Bennett – Georgia: “Great college QB but I don’t think he can play in the NFL”.
  2. Malik Cunningham – Louisville: “Mobile” and “accurate thrower” but I think he is “too small” for the NFL.
  3. Max Duggan – TCU: “Big and strong” but “not accurate on deep throws”
  4. Will Levis – Kentucky:  He is “big and strong”, and he seems “like a fastball pitcher”.  He is “surprisingly quick” for such a big guy.
  5. Anthony Richardson – Florida:  He is “big and fast”.  Reminds me of Randall Cunningham including lack of accuracy on passes at the same young age.  Needs to learn to put some “touch” on short passes.  “May need a year or two as an understudy” but worth a high pick.
  6. CJ Stroud – Ohio St.:  He has a “quick release” and is “accurate on deep throws”.  He is a “first round pick for sure”.
  7. Bryce Young – Alabama:  He “reminds me of Jalen Hurts” from years ago before Hurts added lots of muscle.  “Very instinctive player”.

Let me turn to the RBs next:

  1. Israel Abanikanda – Pitt: “Very elusive” with “excellent acceleration” and “tough enough to run inside.”  [Aside: He broke a school record held by Tony Dorsett for most yards rushing in a game.]
  2. Devin Achane – Texas A&M:  He is not a “big back” but he “runs well on the outside.”  My notes say “Mid-round pick”.
  3. Tank Bigsby – Auburn: “Power runner” always “falls forward for the extra yard”.
  4. Zach Charbonnet – UCLA: “Runs well inside” and “fights for extra yards”.  He has “decent speed” and “blocks well”.  “Mid-round pick”
  5. Jahmyr Gibbs – Alabama: “Speed merchant”.  “Second round?”
  6. Bijan Robinson – Texas: “Very fast” and “big enough”.  His pass blocking is “adequate”, but he is a “good receiver”.  Not a lot of running backs go in the first round these days, but this guy might be an exception.

Next up, let me do the TEs – – which will be brief this year:

  1. Michael Mayer – Notre Dame: “Big and fast with soft hands”.  He “needs to work on his blocking”.  “Probably second round.”
  2. Brenton Strange – Penn St.: “Excellent blocker on running plays”.  “Not super-fast but catches well”.  He could be a “steal in later rounds.”

The best WR I saw in college last year – – Marvin Harrison Jr, – – is not eligible for the draft this year, but here are some WRs that caught my eye:

  1. Josh Downs – UNC: “Little guy” who “gets open most of the time”.  He “also returns punts”.  However, his blocking is “non-existent”.  Second round or maybe third?
  2. Bryce Ford-Wheaton – West Virginia:  This is a “BIG WR” who runs after the catch.  “Good blocker” and “good enough speed”. Third round?
  3. Malik Heath – Mississippi St: “Good hands” and “fast enough”.  “Gets very open on intermediate routes; is that due to Mike Leach’s offense?”  Worth a shot late in the draft.
  4. Jalin Hyatt – Tennessee: “Pure speed” with “good hands”.  He should go in the “first round.”
  5. Charlie Jones – Purdue: “Not real big and not real fast but fights for every inch on every play”
  6. Jonathan Mingo – Ole Miss: “Big and tough” he gets “plenty of yardage after the catch.”  Gone by the second round.
  7. Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio St.: “Good size” and “good speed” and “excellent hands” plus “good blocker” leads me to believe he will go in Round 1.
  8. Cedric Tillman – Tennessee: “Tall and strong”, he looks like a “possession receiver”.  “Better than average blocker”.  Third round pick.

Keith Jackson used to refer to offensive linemen as “The Big Uglies”; I have no interest in judging them with “beauty points”, but I will give you a heads up that some of these guys are VERY big men.  I tend to lump all the offensive linemen into a single category simply because NFL coaches move them around a lot; so here are my OL spottings from last year:

  1. Steve Avila – TCU: “Very big for a center” but he has “mobility and strength”.
  2. Jacob Gall – Baylor: “Good run blocker inside” but “looks slow to me”.  “Plays hard on every snap”.  “Practice squad pick?”
  3. Gabe Houy – Pitt: “Always downfield blocking on run plays” but “pass protection is just OK”.  This could be a late round pick for a practice squad.
  4. Paris Johnson – Ohio St.: “Big, strong and agile”.  I said, “first round pick” and “does everything very well”.
  5. Broderick Jones – Georgia:  He “totally dominated the Oregon DL” for the whole game because “no one ever got near Bennett”.  My note says he is “agile” even though he is 300+ pounds.
  6. Olusegun Oluwatimi – Michigan: “Very good run blocker inside and outside”.
  7. Cedrice Palliant – Marshall: “Strong as an ox” he “moves DL with arm strength”.  However, looks “really slow” so maybe a “late round pick as a development project?”
  8. Peter Skoronski – Northwestern:  Commentator in the Nebraska game opening weekend said Skoronski had only given up one sack in 12 games in 2021.  I kept an eye on him and he is a “really good pass blocker”.
  9. Sidy Sow – E. Michigan: “Big and very strong”.  “Uses quickness plus strength on run plays”.  Playing against “lesser competition” means he probably goes “late in the draft if at all.”
  10. O’Cyrus Torrence – Florida:  My note says “HUGE”.  Stats say he is 6’5” tall and weighs 335 lbs.  “Not a lot of speed” but a “powerful run blocker.”

Before turning to the defensive players, I made notes on last year, let me dispose of the punters and kickers because there are so few of them on my list.  There is only one punter in my notes this year:

  1. Bryce Barringer – Michigan State:  Punts are “long with lots of hang time”.  “Consistent” which is good because “he will be punting a lot the rest of this season”.  [Aside:  Punters rarely go in the first three or four rounds of the draft, but this guy might just be worth taking then.]

I have notes on two placekickers this year:

  1. Jack Podlesny – Georgia: “Down the middle on field goal tries” and “good depth on kickoffs”.
  2. Chad Ryland – Maryland: “Kickoffs are deep and high – not a lot of returns by opponents.”

Turning to the defense, let me begin with the big guys up front – – the DL:

  1. Will Anderson – Alabama: “Could be a DE or an OLB and would be great at both”.  Will go “Top 10”.
  2. Felix Anudike-Uzomah – K-State: “Tall, long arms and mobile”.  “May have to add weight in NFL”.  [Aside:  I also noted that a team might draft this guy if they hated their radio play-by-play announcer.]
  3. Karl Brooks – Bowling Green: “Pushed around lots of Marshall players” so “worth a pick late”.
  4. Jalen Carter – Georgia:  He is “quick and strong” and is “good against both the inside run and the outside run.”  “Best pass rush move is bull-rush.”  “Should go early.”
  5. Isaiah Foskey – Notre Dame: “Very disruptive against Clemson” and “good against run and pass”.  Second or third round?
  6. Siaki Ika – Baylor: “Huge man – graphic says 6’4” and 350 lbs.”.  “Run stopper but not a lot of interior pass rush”.
  7. Myles Murphy – Clemson: “Speed rusher and power rusher”.  “Second round?”
  8. Mazi Smith – Michigan: “Dominant inside run stopper”.  “Pass rush is OK.”  “Mid-round pick”.
  9. Byron Young – Tennessee: “Good quickness and speed” and “good tackler in the open field”.  “Definitely needs to add strength and weight”.  Late round pick.
  10. Cameron Young – Mississippi St.: “Tough against run but not much pass rush”.  “Late round?”

Moving along to linebackers:

  1. Jack Campbell – Iowa: “Always around the ball” and “good tackling technique”.  “Pass coverage is good”.  “Should go in round 2 or 3”.
  2. Shaka Hayward – Duke: “Good size and good sense of where the ball is going” but “not real fast”.  Late round pick or maybe an undrafted free agent?
  3. Dylan Horton – TCU: “Good tacker with good size and good speed”.  “Should be a mid-round pick”.
  4. Ventrell Miller – Florida: “Good tackler and hard hitter”.  “Awfully small for NFL standards”
  5. Demarviohn Overshown – Texas: “Seems to be around the ball on every play except downfield bombs”.  “Good tackler with excellent speed”.  “Second round”?
  6. Trenton Simpson – Clemson:  He is “a speed guy” who “might be too small?”
  7. Charlie Thomas – Georgia Tech: “A tackling machine – always around the ball” but “needs bulking up”.

Next up are the CBs:

  1. Julius Brents – K-State: “Big guy who covers well”.  “Impressive game against Oklahoma.”
  2. Clark Phillips – Utah: “Not very big but all over the field against USC”.
  3. Joey Porter, Jr. – Penn St.: “Good tight coverage” and a “good tackler”.  “Tall with long arms” he “should go early maybe even round 1”.
  4. Kelee Ringo – Georgia:  He is a “big CB with lots of speed”.  “Aggressive tackler”.
  5. Cam Smith – South Carolina: “Tight coverage without lots of help” but “boy, does he look skinny”.

Last but not least, here are my notes on safeties in the 2023 NFL Draft:

  1. Brian Branch – Alabama: “Wow, he’s everywhere on every play.”  “Has to be a first-round pick…”
  2. JiAyir Brown – Penn St.: “Hard hitter with good tackling fundamentals”.  “Pass coverage is solid.”  Maybe 2nd round?
  3. Chamarri Connor – VA Tech: “Hard hitting tackler on run plays” but “pass coverage is only adequate”.  Late round pick.
  4. Kaevon Merriweather – Iowa: “Good in pass coverage but not fast enough to play CB”.

Finally, the NFL Draft is an aspirational event for players and for teams; so much data has been collected, massaged and digested you would think it was a science.  So let me close with this from John Adams:

“Now to what higher object, to what greater character, can any mortal aspire than to be possessed of all this knowledge, well digested and ready at command, to assist the feeble and friendless, to discount the haughty and lawless, to procure redress of wrongs, the advancement of right, to assert and maintain liberty and virtue, to discourage and abolish tyranny and vice?”

President Adams would probably be sad to know that in 2023 finding a Hall of Fame player in the sixth round is probably an even higher aspiration for many NFL coaches, execs and fans.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “NFL Draft 2023 – – Pre-Draft Analysis”

  1. I saw more of Anthony Richardson than you did. I have doubts about his ability to play in the NFL.

    1. Gil:

      You clearly saw him more times than I did.

      I do worry about his accuracy and his lack of “touch” but he is an impressive physical specimen who could be very good in the NFL if he can be “coached up” and “tutored”. I have no idea if he is receptive to coaching…

Comments are closed.