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With just one week to go until the NFL Draft, it’s time for a final Big Board update! Here, we rank the Top 32 prospects in this year’s class.
OutKick’s 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (Junior)
Bryce Young is the best player in this year’s NFL Draft because he’s the best quarterback prospect. Quarterbacks are the safest pick in the Top 5. Why? Because of the rookie wage scale. Look at Jalen Hurts’ new contract and you’ll see the value of a good, cheap quarterback.
Young played in the Sugar Bowl despite knowing he would leave school, showing leadership and a love of football and desire to win. Young’s ceiling might not be Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow-level, but he can certainly win a lot of games at the NFL level. That’s why he’s #1 on OutKick’s NFL Draft Big Board, and has been for the entire process. Best player at the most important position.
2. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas (Junior)
Robinson’s positional value is the only thing hurting his NFL Draft stock. But he’s possibly the best football player in this entire class and why he’s #2 on the Big Board. There are reports that some teams have Robinson as the ONLY elite player in the draft. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do believe he’s an elite football player. It actually might help him to slide down the first round a bit because he’ll go to a good team and be able to make an immediate impact.
3. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech (RS Senior)
The biggest riser for me of the NFL Draft season, I’m more convinced than ever that Wilson is the best defender in this class. Others are coming around on this idea, and it’s only cemented for me that I’ve been right all along. I’ve been saying this kid is special and the more tape I watch, the more I agree with myself. I thought he’d be a draft-day steal, but it seems the secret is out. He could go as high as #2, and I think he’s one of three elite prospects in this draft.
4. Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama (Junior)
I like Anderson, I just like Wilson better. Even if Chris Simms thinks he’s the fifth-best EDGE rusher in this NFL Draft, I think he’s wrong there. Anderson can play. However, I agree with Simms that his ceiling might be a bit limited. He’s not really elite, elite in many areas but he’s so solid across the board. Can definitely be a very good player for a long time, just not sure he’s in that potential game-changing class. Unfortunately, that seems to the problem with most prospects in this pool. But Anderson is probably the best of that bunch.
5. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (Junior)
Talk about a roller coaster NFL Draft season for me with a prospect. I started with CJ Stroud at #3, bought into the hype and moved him up to #2 but now I dropped him down to #5. Look, quarterbacks are valuable at the top of the draft. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I love Stroud’s tape, his size, and his arm but there’s too much chatter around this kid. I’m not in the interviews with NFL teams but clearly something is scaring teams away from him. That worries me because he’s a quarterback. Not enough to plummet him down the board, but enough to move him out of the elite tier and into the fifth spot.
6. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State (RS Junior)
I’m tired of pretending like Porter doesn’t belong as a Top 10 pick. This cornerback draft is loaded with talent and depth, but Porter is the best. I know the entire football community is drooling over Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, but give me Porter in a heartbeat. He’s big, strong, athletic, extremely smart and has NFL pedigree. Porter Sr. isn’t going to allow Porter Jr. to not be great. And he’s going to be great.
7. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (Junior)
I had Smith-Njigba as a Combine “winner” because he absolutely dominated in the short-area quickness drills, which is extremely important for a young NFL wide receiver. The questions around Smith-Njigba are about his health, not his ability, and he looks very healthy. He’s the best wide receiver in this class, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. The recent success of Ohio State wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave set the blueprint for expectations for Smith-Njigba, who outplayed both of them in 2021.
8. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State (Junior)
Darnell Wright out of Tennessee is flying up NFL Draft boards — including mine — but Johnson has been and still is the best offensive line prospect in this class. He’s got size, strength, technique and played against strong competition and always held his own. He deserves to be the first tackle to hear his name called on Thursday.
9. Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia (Junior)
Even Carter acknowledges he could fall in the NFL Draft due to his recent legal troubles. Plus, he gained weight and struggled during his Pro Day. We don’t need to keep saying it, but he’s an incredible athlete. Too many red flags for me, though. Someone will take a risk on his physical profile, but I wouldn’t do it ahead of any of the eight guys above him on my Big Board. At some point, the risk becomes worth it, but the draft spot is key.
10. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson (Junior)
I’m not really sure what to make of Murphy or his teammate, Bryan Bresee. Both have incredible pedigrees (top recruits out of high school), both showed flashes in college but never really lived up to expectations, and both are excellent athletes. Perhaps Clemson’s recent plunge down the college football power rankings contributed to that. I’m still willing to bet that these guys were high recruits for a reason and now have a lot to prove at the next level.
11. Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson (Junior)
See above. The Class of 2020’s number one recruit, no one can match his pedigree. His college production never really matched up with his ability, but he continued to show elite athleticism at the Combine, running a 4.86 40-yard dash. He had injury troubles and tragically lost his 15-year-old sister while he was in college. That would cause problems on the field for almost everyone. I think Bresee will use all of it as motivation at the next level.
12. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon (Sophomore)
Please don’t mistake my love of Joey Porter as hate for Christian Gonzalez. I told y’all in my last Big Board that I’ve come around on Gonzalez. I’m willing to admit the entire scouting community probably isn’t wrong. His NFL Draft Scouting Combine performance was really, really good. So good, in fact, that I had him as a “winner.” This is a loaded CB class and being #2 in it isn’t even really a knock.
13. Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia (Senior)
I love Smith and can’t believe so many analysts have him down their Big Boards. At the Combine, he showed exactly what those of us who believe in his talent see. He ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash, which is insane for a guy who’s 6’2″ and nearly 240 pounds. He also posted a vertical jump 3.5″ better than the next highest defensive end. I’m a sucker for the highly-recruited guys out of high school, what can I say? Smith is the rare prospect who hurt his stock by returning to school because he got hurt last year. But if he’s healthy — and he should be — he’s a very strong prospect.
14. Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern (Junior)
The problem for Skoronski is that his short arms make him likely to have to move inside at the next level. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he can be an excellent, possibly elite, interior blocker. That just isn’t as valuable as tackles are, especially as EDGE rushers get more and more athletic. However, he’s got versatility and might even be able to play right tackle. His technique is great and he’s a powerful kid. Still a Top 15 prospect, but as a guy who probably can’t play left tackle at the NFL level, he fell a bit from my initial ranking (11th).
15. Brian Branch, DB, Alabama (Junior)
Branch is one of my favorite prospects in this NFL Draft and I love that I’m higher on him than everyone else. It’s going to make being right so much sweeter. I get it — he doesn’t have the physical and athletic traits that everyone else does. But the kid just plays unbelievably good football, has an excellent leadership profile, and can (and will) run a defense at the NFL level. He may never be a “box score” guy, but the team that drafts him is going to get a player who makes their team better.
16. Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan (Senior)
I guess we’ve reached that “Dan Z is higher on these guys” portion of the Big Board. You may not see Smith’s name plastered across Top 20 lists anywhere else, but this kid can PLAY. Big, strong, disruptive interior defensive lineman are still valuable, even if EDGE rushers get all the love. Teams still need to be able to stop the run and Smith can do that. Plus, I think he’ll develop some better pass rush game when coached at the next level.
17. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (RS Junior)
OK, we’re back to the players I like less than other people. The debate in NFL circles is between Witherspoon and Gonzalez for #1 corner, but you should know by now I love Porter. Plus, I have some concern that Witherspoon was not a highly regarded recruit and only posted one truly great college season. He got better every season and his final year at Illinois was elite. But I’m just not sure the ceiling is there relative to the two guys ahead of him.
18. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU (Junior)
Johnston is one of my biggest fallers this draft season. In my first Big Board, I had him as the #7 prospect. I’ve mocked him as high as #4 overall. But his struggles with contested catches in college and his issue with drops against collegiate secondaries does not bode well for his NFL future. But in an NFL Draft that lacks depth at the top of the wide receiver class, he’s still the second-best for me. The size and speed combination is just so tantalizing. But he’s got to get stronger hands with better placement.
19. Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee (Senior)
Previous: Not Ranked (NR)
Talk about a jump. I’ve not ranked Wright previously but he absolutely dominated the pre-draft process. I know, I know, the “fast risers” are usually the biggest busts. But his pre-draft work only drew attention back to his college tape. Which is pretty damn good. Especially against some monsters in the SEC ranked on this very Big Board. He ranked as the second-most athletic lineman at the Combine and has the size and length to play tackle in the NFL.
20. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa (RS Sophomore)
I’m definitely a Van Ness fan and he’s such a tantalizing prospect. Incredible physical gifts, size, speed the whole package. But he wasn’t an every-down player at Iowa, so how can he be an every-down player in the NFL? But does he need to be? Plenty of guys come in to rush the passer and there’s a lot of value in that. Especially if you can do it as well as LVN can.
21. Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh (RS Junior)
Kancey is generating massive buzz, and that makes me nervous. I just wrote about how “fast risers” become big busts (see: Wright, Darnell). But man, you want to talk about a physical freak. At the NFL Draft Scouting Combine he ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a defensive tackle, ever. He ran it in 4.67 seconds, .01 of a second quicker than Aaron Donald in 2014. The Donald comparisons are driving him way up Big Boards, but I’m comfortable with him just outside the Top 20.
22. Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State (Senior)
Admittedly, McDonald is not a player who was on my radar. I should have been paying more attention. He absolutely crushed the Senior Bowl and that’s an important time to shine. He’s also posted some really strong tape and could be a sneaky-good mid-round EDGE rusher selection. Though I haven’t ranked him before, I like what he’s done throughout the process.
23. Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (Senior)
I’ve written so much about Levis, I’m not sure what else there is to say. He’s a solid quarterback prospect who’s probably going to get over-drafted due to positional value. But taking QBs in the first round is generally not a terrible idea, so it could end up working out. I think the problem is that he needs too long to develop to really take advantage of the rookie wage scale.
24. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland (RS Junior)
If you’re a team in need of a cornerback, boy do I have good news for you! There are so many good options in this draft. Banks posted an incredibly quick 4.35 forty time (3rd best among CB), along with a 42″ vertical (tops among CB) and an 11′ 4″ broad jump (second among CB). Elite testing numbers, but I like those above him better on tape, so I have him just inside the Top 25 overall. Don’t get me wrong though, he’s got some great film, too.
25. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (Senior)
OK, back to players I hate more than everyone else. Although, not sure how calling someone a Top 25 NFL Draft prospect is “hate” but here we are. Mel Kiper ranks him 10th overall on his Big Board, and I just don’t see that at all. He didn’t “wow” at the combine, he’s a slot guy in the NFL and he could be very productive. But if some team takes him in the Top 15-20 as I’ve seen in some places, I think they’ll be disappointed.
26. Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina (RS Junior)
Smith lacks elite traits physically, but he can just flat-out play the cornerback position. He came in slightly taller (6′ 1″) than he was listed in college (6′ 0″) but also lighter (180 pounds vs. 190 pounds). He doesn’t have top-end speed (4.43 40 time). But that’s overlooking what he put on tape. There are so many good corners in this year’s NFL Draft and I think Smith falls simply because he’s not quite as good as some of the others. But in another year, he could easily be a Top 20 pick.
27. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama (Junior)
Another excellent football players held back by positional value, Gibbs is going to be a good NFL player. The problem is that no teams NEEDS a Jahmyr Gibbs, but it would be NICE to have a Jahmyr Gibbs. Therefore, I think the team fit is important. But if he lands in the right spot, he could be a nice addition to a good team and immediately provide value for a playoff team late on day one.
28. Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia (RS Sophomore)
Another offensive lineman worthy of a first-round selection, Jones isn’t a top-tier prospect but a solid one. He had a good showing at the combine, ranking third athletically among all offensive lineman, and he’s got extremely long arms (nearly 35″). He’s not the most polished prospect due to his young age and inexperience, but a guy who can develop into a solid NFL starting tackle.
29. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (RS Senior)
Yes, Hendon Hooker. And I’ll explain why. Well, of course I’m going yo explain why, that’s the point of this. Can you imagine if I just left it there? Anyway, I digress. This is less about Hooker and more about my position on taking quarterbacks in the first round. As I’ve mentioned, almost ad nauseam, QBs are a very safe first round bet.
The problem, for me, with Levis and Anthony Richardson is that they need time to develop. That hurts their overall value because of the contract situation. But Hooker is 25 years old. He’s slightly more NFL-ready, albeit with a lower ceiling.
But if you take Hooker in the first round, you have control of him for five seasons. He’ll be 30 (!) when he needs a new deal. That opens a window that if he’s even just an average NFL starter could have a chance to be a winner. So, yeah, this more about value than anything but Hooker makes a lot of sense as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
30. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame (Junior)
A lot of people use Big Boards to simply rank the best prospects in the NFL Draft. I do that, too, to some degree. But positional value is important to a prospect’s profile. And the data shows that taking a tight end in the first round, especially high, is a massive risk. So, yes, Mayer is a good football player. But he’s almost has to be a Top 5 tight end in the NFL, maybe Top 3, to justify a mid-round pick. And I’m just not willing to bet on that.
31. Jordan Addison, WR, USC (Junior)
Addison tested extremely average at the Combine, without any numbers that helped him. They weren’t so bad that they cratered his stock, but he didn’t improve, either. I really don’t see it with him, to be honest. But the wide receiver class is overall pretty weak and he doesn’t need to be elite to return on investment — if a team takes him in the back of the first round. If they take him too early, due to positional scarcity, I think that’s a mistake.
32. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida (Sophomore)
I was fine with Richardson as a mid-to-late-first-round pick. Gives a team five years of control and he can certainly help a team win and save money at the most important position. But this idea that he’s going in the Top 5 — and I think he will — just doesn’t make sense. I’d much rather have Hooker in the back of the first round than Richardson at the top.
That’s it, the final Big Board of the NFL Draft season! Be sure to check back next week for my final Mock Draft…
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak