Night 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft featured a great deal of drama. Three quarterbacks were taken in the top four (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson), the Houston Texans traded back up to get Will Anderson at No. 3 after selecting Stroud second and a wide receiver wasn’t taken until Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20 — which began a run of four consecutive WRs.
Per usual, though, there are still plenty of compelling prospects on the board.
The traits are undeniable and so, too, is his experience in pro-style offenses at Kentucky. But necessary improvements in Levis’ decision-making keep him outside the tier of elite prospects on my board.
Like Robinson a few spots earlier, Branch stars at a position few teams can justify spending a top-10 selection to address. He is the most reliable open-field tackler in this draft, however.
NFL scouts love athletic bloodlines almost as much as they love the length, physicality and tenacity Porter provided the Nittany Lions over his career, including the zero touchdowns allowed in 2022.
Similar to the aforementioned Robinson and Branch, Mayer likely will not be selected in the top 10, but when we look back on this draft years from now, all three are expected to be standout starters, with Mayer’s true dual-threat abilities as a pass-catcher and blocker unique even in this relatively strong tight end class.
Teams are hesitant to use early picks on interior offensive linemen, but true plug-and-play blockers like Schmitz — a four-year starter who aced evaluations at the combine and Senior Bowl — warrant the investment.
In terms of raw traits, there isn’t a cornerback more intriguing than Ringo, whose size, speed and ball-skills have earned him comparisons to longtime NFL star Patrick Peterson from scouts traveling through Athens.
Foskey comes with a bit of “buyer beware” as he currently lacks the power and nastiness preferred against the run, but his 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons and projectable traits could push him into the first round.
It isn’t often that centers warrant top-50 consideration, but Tippmann is unique, offering an exceptional combination of size, athleticism and experience in a pro-style offense.
In a classic case of projecting better to the NFL than he did in the college game, Musgrave offers an exceptional combination of size, speed, soft mitts and pro bloodlines — but buyer beware, this Senior Bowl standout’s injury history and subsequent lack of production in Corvallis requires a closer look.
10. Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin, 6-4, 312, Senior
Arguably this year’s “biggest” winner from the Senior Bowl, Benton showed off surprising quickness and balance as a rusher, complementing the power he showed as a run-stuffing nose guard for the Badgers.
In yet another below-average year for off-ball linebackers, Simpson’s speed and production (including 23 tackles for loss and 13 sacks) over three seasons at Clemson stand out, with the former Tiger projecting best as a run-and-chase outside linebacker in a traditional 4-3 alignment.
If he were an inch taller, Ojulari might rank as a top-20 prospect, but as is, his burst, bend and tenacity might warrant first-round consideration, regardless.
Big, physical and nasty, Torrence followed his head coach, Billy Napier, to Florida from Louisiana and starred in 2022, dominating the SEC’s line of scrimmage with his girth and power, just as he did in the Sun Belt.
Quick and smooth out of his stance in pass protection, Bergeron starred at left tackle for the Orangemen, but his average arm length (33 5/8″) might push him inside to guard in the NFL.
15. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia, 6-6, 270, Junior
Washington’s imposing frame and perceived upside is even more impressive than the two-time national champion’s production, projecting similarly to the NFL as longtime league standout Marcedes Lewis.
An elite speedster overshadowed by other talent in Ann Arbor, Turner is a classic (albeit undersized) cover corner with the agility, acceleration and awareness to contribute immediately.
One of the biggest risers (back) up my board after medical evaluations at the combine proved he was progressing ahead of schedule from the ACL tear that abruptly ended his college career, Hooker has the experience, production and instincts to project as a future NFL starter.
Similarly built and gifted as former Auburn standout Carl Lawson, Hall is a compactly built rusher with a speed/power combination that will challenge NFL blockers.
A potentially lethal slot receiver and punt returner with electric quickness and exceptional ball skills to make difficult grabs look easy, Downs is going to make some NFL team look very smart for nabbing him on Day 2.
Duncan is as battle-tested as it gets, starting a total of 39 games at tackle over the past four years after signing with the Terps over the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, LSU and others. With a better supporting cast, Duncan would have earned more pre-draft buzz.
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