2023 NFL Draft Big Board: A Way Too Early Top 40

2023 NFL Draft Big Board: A Means Prematurely Top 40










2023 NFL Draft Big Board: A Means Prematurely Top 40 – Steelers Depot


















It’s far too early to give any firm draft values, but that won’t stop people from diving onto the mock draft simulators. So we may as well start our process with a very tentative list of prospects who should be somewhere close to the Top 40.

If you watch enough college football to have real opinions, please share your insights. I do not, so your input would be of special interest. To me and everyone else, no doubt. Pretty please? With sugar?

COLBERT SPECIALS

  • QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio St. (RS Soph.). 6’3”, 218 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will turn 22 as a rookie. Big, tall, tough, smart, and athletic, with a big arm and extensive experience playing against the best competition in the country. Has some issues with fundamentals like consistent footwork, but that problem simultaneously suggests an as-yet-untapped upside.
  • QB Bryce Young, Alabama (Junior). 6’0”, 195 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 22-year-old rookie. Won the Heisman in 2021 and returned to school for his junior season, which worked out because he’s been a better QB in 2022 even if his results were less startling. Very accurate, with a decent but not great arm, he has a remarkable ability to see the field and make quick, smart decisions. The issues go to a distinct lack of size (he really looks small on a football field), somewhat erratic throwing mechanics, and NFL-quality arm strength that isn’t any better than that.

 

  • DT Jalen Carter, Georgia (Junior). 6’3”, 310 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. A Colbert Special all day, every day, as anything from a 1-tech to a 5-tech. The dream heir to or running mate with Cam Heyward.
  • EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama (Senior). 6’4”, 245 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will turn 22 as a rookie. Slick as you-know-what flying out of a goose, he is a field-tilting threat that offenses plan around on every snap.
  • EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson (Junior). 6’5”, 275 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 21-year-old rookie. A devastating 4-3, pass rushing Edge who’s also athletic enough to play 3-4 OLB. His speed-to-power ability is so good that you can find clips where OTs literally get hurled out of his way.

TOP 15 TALENTS

  • OT/G Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio St. (Junior). 6’6”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 22-year-old rookie. A Colbert Special? A 5-star athlete all day and every day, his technique and gut-level understanding of the position need work. Has experience at both RG and LT, which bodes very well.
  • OT/G Broderick Jones, Georgia (RS Soph.). 6’4”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 22-year-old rookie. Could he be a Colbert Special too? The anchor OL for a dominant team, with plenty of power and experience, plus the 5-start athleticism to become truly special, but it may take a few years because he really needs to work on both his hand fighting and leverage.
  • C/G/OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (Junior). 6’4”, 294 lbs. or 315 lbs. depending on who you ask. Expected to have short 33” arms, and maybe even 32″. ___” hands. ___ years old on draft day. A Top 15 at Tackle; Top 15 at Guard; and Fringe 1st at Center. Does that add up to a Colbert Special? Has everything you want but pure size, including extremely good hand technique and even better feet. Never seems to have trouble with anything but a pure bull rush where he got caught mid-step, and who is that not true for? Comes out of the same program that produced Rashawn Slater. The measurements are going to matter.
  • QB Anthony Richardson, Florida (RS Soph.). 6’4”, 232 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 22-year-old rookie. Should have returned to college because improved fundamentals and decision-making would have put him in line to be #1 overall in 2024. Shows a lot of Josh Allen in terms of size, arm, and running ability, but he is even more raw as a prospect. The highest ceiling in the draft, no doubt, but there isn’t any reliable floor to back it up.
  • WR Jordan Addison, USC by way of Pitt. (Junior). 6’0”, 175 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. An obvious Colbert Special if he weighed 195 instead of 175, Addison is the WR who made Kenny Pickett look like a genius in 2021, and won Caleb Williams a Heisman Award in 2022. I watched maybe three of his games on TV, and he made the opposing DBs look like they were playing in boots; amazingly quick, slick, fast, and sneaky. He also has tremendous hands. In sum, an extraordinary “create separation and kill with RAC” talent. Yes, he could use some extra size and grown-man strength. Yes, he won’t excel without a QB who can hit him in stride rather than asking him to win 50/50 balls. And yes, opponents who devote two or three defenders in his direction on every play can significantly cut down his production. But come on; isn’t that the very definition of ’tilting the field?’ Add Addison to the Steelers, and you’d instantly have one of the best WR rooms in football.
  • WR Quentin Johnston, TCU (Junior). 6’4”, 212 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. The best of the big & tall, move the chains, X receivers in the draft. Particularly effective at breaking tackles, but he definitely needs to work on his craft. Georgia shut him down completely in the national championship game.

 

  • DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson (Soph). 6’5”, 300 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. Another fringe on the Colbert Special line. If Jalen Carter wasn’t sucking up all the odes, Bresee would be that guy. An amazing athlete who may be even better as a pro than he was in college after some immersion in the Three Steelers C’s (Culture, Coaching, and Conditioning). I cannot wait to read more detailed scouting reports.
  • EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech. (Senior). 6’6”, 275 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. A big, powerful, 4-3 DE who might even be a Top 10 talent for teams that don’t ask their pass rushers to double as OLBs.
  • CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon by way of Colorado (Junior). 6’2”, 200 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 21-year-old rookie. A press Corner who erased the opponent’s WR1 week after week in college, and has all the youth that Pittsburgh could covet. Would be a Colbert Special if he’d shown a ball-hawking gene as powerful as his coverage one. Still on a distinct upward curve.
  • CB Cam Smith, S. Car. (Junior). 6’0”, 188 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will turn 22 during his rookie year. Sudden, shifty, smart, and violent, Smith is an all-around Corner who should excel in any type of defensive coverage or scheme. Top 15 talent, but just a hair shy of the special genius needed to crowd the Top 5.
  • CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn St. (Junior). 6’2”, 192 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 23-year-old rookie. Yes, he is the son of that Joey Porter. I’m going to get in trouble for this comp, but the descriptions remind me of Minkah Fitzpatrick with a finger on the CB side of the scale rather than the Safety side. Probably the most likely of all the CB targets for the pick at #17, and it isn’t just for the name. I need to read more on whether he has the varied skills to do all the different games and techniques that our HC and DC seem to favor.

CLEAR ROUND 1 TALENTS

  • OT Dawand Jones, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’8”, 360 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. ___ years old on draft day. A brutal giant of a Right Tackle with somewhat limited mobility.
  • QB Will Levis, Kentucky (Senior). 6’3”, 232 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 24-year-old rookie. He throws missiles that go where he wants them to go when the mechanics are on; is a very good athlete with NFL size and strength; has the “it” factor when it comes to leadership; and his team runs a modified pro system. But the mechanics aren’t always on, especially under pressure, and that leads to some head-shaking throws. In addition, the “modified pro system” gets that adjective because it involves a ton of half-field reads.
  • WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’0”, 200 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 20-year-old rookie. There is a perfect comp out there, I just can’t think of it. Who can you remember with a rock solid physique, impeccable route running, smooth & deceptive movement skills, and truly special hands; i.e., every asset a WR could want except towering height or breakaway speed? That’s your man. I want to say Juju, but it doesn’t ring true. Used by Ohio State as a ‘big slot,’ and set all kinds of records doing so. Actually had a better 2021 than either Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave, but was hampered by injuries all through 2022.

 

  • EDGE Derick Hall, Auburn (Senior). 6’3”, 251 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. Tremendous speed-to-power and burst; very good at run support; very able to play in coverage; and undeveloped enough to improve when it comes to hand fighting and overall pass rush plans. Everything you want in a 3-4 OLB with the exception of bend.
  • EDGE Jared Verse, Fla. St. (Senior). 6’4”, 250 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will turn 22 as a rookie. From Berwick, PA (a tiny town off Rt. 80 between State College and Scranton). Has as much physical upside as pretty much anyone in the draft, with burst, bend, and length to spare. Verse dominated the small college ranks at Albany, moved to a big school, and proceeded to do the same in the ACC.
  • EDGE Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (Senior). 6’5”, 260 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will turn 22 as a rookie. A wonderful straight-line athlete with fabulous burst and power, but not as bendy as you’d like and unsophisticated when it comes to actual moves. Has played 3-4 OLB in college, with decent coverage ability for a linebacker. Supposed to be a high-character guy too. Sounds like a model OLB2 with a very high floor, but only a moderately high ceiling.
  • CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (RS Soph.). 6’2”, 205 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 21-year-old rookie. May be the best athlete of this year’s CB class. Maybe, hell. Kelee Ringo is a certified athletic freak of the highest order. Top 5 natural talent. But his technique is poor enough to get owned by route-running specialists like Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. (a Round 1 lock in 2024), and his issues may be hard to fix. Could be the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the entire class.

ROUND 1-2 TALENTS

  • OC/G John Michael Schmitz   (Senior). 6’4”, 320 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 24 years old as a rookie. The best Center in the draft and probably one of the best Guards as well, he’s particularly appealing because he has the size and strength to neutralize even AFC North NTs. Not crazy mobile like Pouncey, but still above average. Some have compared him to draft favorite Creed Humphrey. The downside? He’s also the same age as Humphrey, who now has two years of NFL growth under his belt.
  • OT/G Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse (Senior). 6’6”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. ___ years old on draft day. A four-year starter on both the left and right sides, he is a fine mover and good technician who will benefit a lot from NFL strength training.
  • OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland (Senior). 6’6”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 22 years old on draft day. Do you remember that scene with the strafing run at the end of Star Wars? “Almost there. Almost… there…” Duncan is a very good athlete with very good size, but only-good experience, technique, and overall conditioning. He’s one of those really fine prospects who’s hard to grade because he needs to raise or compensate for every part of his game, yet every part is almost… there… and he could be a great one if everything finally clicks.
  • G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida by way of Louisiana (Hargrave’s alma mater)(Junior). 6’5”, 347 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. ___ years old on draft day. Want to go through him? Hah! Want to juke and twist around him? That could work if you’re a top NFL talent because steamrollers don’t move sideways as easily as you’d wish. But that’s an awful lot of man to get around… Fires off well and plays nasty, which makes him a people mover par excellence, but has limited range for pulling. Generally viewed as the best Guard in the draft, but not as a unicorn talent like DeCastro or Quenton Nelson.
  • QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (Senior). 6’4”, 220 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be 25 on draft day. Size, athleticism, arm strength, and (for once) consistent mechanics. The biggest issue is that he played in a college offense that calls for nothing like the skills he’ll need in the NFL. Football IQ and decision-making ability are huge question marks. May also have a “preacher in the locker room” issue like Carson Wentz, having already written a children’s book called The ABC of Scripture for Athletes.
  • TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (Junior). 6’4”, 251 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a __-year-old rookie. Here’s a lazy but true comp: Pat Freiermuth, but probably even better. Nothing but injury will keep Mayer from a decorated, 10-year NFL career. What he lacks is the freaky athleticism to ring “potential HOF” bells before he even gets drafted.
  • TE Darnell Washington, Georgia (Junior). 6’7”, 265 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a __-year-old rookie. A height/weight/speed phenom who can genuinely block and has room to improve? Definitely worth keeping an eye on. 2022 production was only okay, but he had a foot injury for the first half of the season, plays for a notoriously run-first offense, and had to compete with a Sophomore phenom named Brock Bowers who was good enough to win the Mackey Award as an underclassman.
  • RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Senior). 5’11¾”, 220 lbs.  with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 21-year-old rookie. No, not for the Steelers! But someone is going to be hurting for a bell cow and Robinson is the clear RB1. In another era he’d be ranked up top as a Colbert Special, but not in 2023.

  • WR Rashee Rice, SMU (Senior). 6’2”, 203 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. Big, tall, fast, shifty, and physical in both the receiving game and run support. Appears to be a technician too. The drawbacks? SMU is not what you’d call a pro-style offense, which limits the technique evaluation, and he’s occasionally shown signs of the dropsies despite Pickensesque catches at other times. Smells like focus drops, but it’s too early in the process to say for sure.

 

Plus three to argue about, since the D-Line concerns just became even more pressing in light of Alex Kozora’s conclusion that DeMarvin Leal projects best as a multi-position puzzle piece who “is never going to be Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, or Chris Wormley.” (OTOH, did Chris Wormley imply that DT snaps were still on the table?)

  • NT/DT Siaki Ika, Baylor by way of LSU (Junior). 6’4”, 350 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a ___-year-old rookie. The size is real and shows up when he plays with proper technique, but that technique isn’t reliable and OL’s can control him despite the size when they win the leverage or hand position battles. At the same time, technique is learnable, and what would happen if he dropped some weight for added quickness? Easy Round 2 talent if you trust that he has pass rush potential. Mid-late Round 3 if he’s nothing but a particularly good run stuffer who’d be limited to 250 snaps/year.
  • DT Mazi Smith, Michigan (Senior). 6’3”, 326 lbs. with 33¾” arms and 9⅞” hands. Will be a 22-year-old rookie. One of the better college Nose Tackles of the class, he is built like a brick and was a true force in the middle for a very good college defense. The issues are (1) arms of moderate length, (2) whether he has any pass rush juice, and (3) smoke from a concealed weapons charge back in October. FWIW, I’ve read that this charge comes from getting caught with a gun in his car, across the line from the state that issued his carry permit. I see this scenario all the time in my professional life. He’s quite likely to lose his gun license rights forever, but the act carries no moral stain and would be irrelevant to his football prospects.
  • DL/EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu, USC (Junior). 6’4”, 290 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a __-year-old rookie. A bigger and stronger version of DeMarvin Leal in 2022. Double-T has played every DL position from 1-tech NT out to 4-3 DE, relying on a potent combination of strength, burst, nonstop motor, and surprising agility for a big man; all of which seem to be top 80% but not top 90% if that makes sense. Comes from a football family, with a brother currently playing DL for the Eagles. The PFN scouting profile is definitely worth a read.







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