A full slate of college football Saturday is days away. With the season kicking off, there are many things to watch. We will see breakout stars, surprise teams, and powerhouses dominate.
Out of college football’s array of talent, 11 prospects stand out as future first-rounders for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
After transferring from Penn State, many did not expect much from Kentucky QB Will Levis. He looked the part, at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, but Levis had virtually no track record after backing up Penn State’s Sean Clifford — who is somehow still playing in what feels like his 10th season.
In his first year starting for the Wildcats, Levis’ talent was on full display. He finished with 2,826 passing yards and 24 touchdowns with a 148.3 passer rating. Alongside a strong frame, Levis has elite throwing power and is comfortable throwing from nearly any angle. In addition, he has surprising mobility for his size.
Will Levis has next-level talent, Dusty Bonner breaks down one of Levis’ best throws from last season!
— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) August 27, 2022
Levis will be one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks. His Heisman odds are at +5000. Levis will look to aid his draft stock that currently sits in the middle of the first round.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
There’s little question about who’s the top running back of the 2023 class. Not many teams spend a first-round pick on running backs anymore. However, some tailbacks are too talented to pass up. For instance, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected the ultra-talented Najee Harris in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Bijan Robinson looks like the next first-round running back. Standing at 6-foot, 215 pounds with excellent acceleration and cuts, Robinson is a do-it-all back. He can be a dominant pure runner, or the Texas tailback can do work as a receiving back. Following his 1,422-scrimmage yard season, Robinson has the top Heisman odds (+2200) among running backs and wide receivers.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
The 2023 draft’s top offensive tackle will likely come down to Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski or Paris Johnson Jr. of Ohio State. Headed into the 2022 season, Skoronski is more proven, giving him the advantage.
The Northwestern standout has allowed four sacks over two seasons. Meanwhile, Johnson has played guard at Ohio State over the last two seasons. Many expect him to excel at his true position, tackle, but there’s no guarantee.
Against Nebraska in Week 0, Skoronski played a near-perfect game. He was a brick wall in pass sets and was an enforcer in the run game. A fun fact: Skoronski’s grandfather, Bob Skoronski, was an NFL tackle in the 1960s and is in the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame. Skoronski will follow Rashawn Slater’s footsteps as a first-round tackle out of Northwestern.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Despite Anthony Richardson’s immense talent, he played in only seven games last season as Emory Jones took most of the snaps.
For the 2022 season, Richardson is the Gators’ starting quarterback, without competition. First-year Head Coach Billy Napier has revamped Florida’s offense, which Richardson will benefit from. Richardson can become a widely-known college football star.
Scouts have already tabbed the 6-foot-4 QB as a potential first-rounder. He has great athleticism for his size and good zip on his ball, but the first-round projection is not a sure thing. Richardson has rarely played through two seasons. The 2022 season will give a better idea of where his progressions and IQ stand. After seeing the intangibles throughout a few games, it’s hard to not be excited about Richardson’s future.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Following his 347-yard Rose Bowl performance, many immediately labeled Jaxon Smith-Njigba as college football’s best wide receiver for the 2022 season. With a Heisman candidate QB in C.J. Stroud leading the offense, Smith-Njigba will put up monster numbers once again.
HOW DID SMITH-NJIGBA CATCH THIS?? 🤯
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 27, 2021
Topping a season with 1,606 receiving yards and nine touchdowns seems nearly impossible. However, Stroud will likely throw for over 4,000 yards; there are plenty of yards to go around. Despite Chirs Olave and Garrett Wilson’s departures, Ohio State’s receiver room remains the country’s best. This means less focus on Smith-Njigba.
Marvin Harrison Jr. will demand attention on the outside, and Julian Fleming, the former top WR of 2020, is enjoying a great offseason. Instead of moving to the outside, Smith-Njigba will likely stay in the slot. The Ohio State superstar will secure his first-round status in the 2022 season.
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Georgia’s defensive factory keeps rolling. Kelee Ringo is in a position to be the top corner taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. Eli Ricks of Alabama and South Carolina’s Cam Smith will compete for the spot.
In his first season starting, Ringo had a lockdown presence in the secondary. According to PFF, he allowed under 40 yards in 12 of 14 games. For a young player, Ringo was excellent in man coverage. The Bulldogs’ pass rush will not be quite as good. This means Ringo could be challenged more often.
All of the measurables are there. The lengthy 6-foot-2 corner has elite speed and burst. In high school, Ringo recorded a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at Rival’s “Fastest Man” challenge. In addition, the former 5-star is aggressive and physical in coverage, however, that comes back to bite him at times. If the year goes as planned, Ringo will be one of Georgia’s defensive stars drafted in the first round.
Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Most are naming Ohio State’s Smith-Njigba as the nation’s top wideout. When the draft rolls around, don’t be surprised if LSU’s Kayshon Boutte is the first receiver off the board.
Boutte’s measurables are out of this world. In high school, he was a track star on a record-breaking relay team. Boutte has recorded a 40-yard dash time in the 4.3s. When watching the LSU wideout, his fantastic acceleration and lateral quickness instantly become apparent.
His game goes beyond the measurables. Boutte has great hands and good route-running. Per PFF, Boutta holds the second-highest passer rating (134.3) when targeted against press coverage since 2020. The main concern around Boutte is his health. The Louisiana native has constantly battled injuries, including a season-ending leg injury in 2021. Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels will be the best QB Boutte has played with. If healthy, Boutte will put up massive numbers, making his case as the top wideout of the 2023 draft.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner will be one of the top-two QB prospects. Per NFL Draft lines, Bryce Young is the second choice for the No. 1 pick (+185) and for the first quarterback selected (+165).
With 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns, Young broke Alabama’s record for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single season. Furthermore, the former 5-star recruit posted an outstanding 167.5 passer rating.
As a prospect, there are concerns about his size and arm strength, which could hold him back from being the top pick. Young is an elite playmaker with the ability to throw from nearly any angle, plus, he moves well in the pocket. With another Heisman-caliber season, Young could become the top prospect.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Following the program’s first national title since 1980, the Bulldogs sent most defensive starters to the NFL. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter would never leave the field on most teams. But at Georgia, Carter had his playing time cut by other defensive studs like Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt — both were 2022 first-rounders.
This season, Carter is poised for a monster year as the country’s best interior defensive lineman. It’s not much of a surprise that the 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle is good against the run. What makes Carter special is his ability to rush the passer backed by ridiculous quickness.
Watch Jalen Carter swim move the right guard, absorb the block from the running back and get to the quarterback all while the right tackle left tackle leans on him in futility. pic.twitter.com/RfzjEIStfc
— Rundown 2021 National Champions (@RundownUga) January 5, 2022
At the next level, Carter projects as an elite 3-tech or 5-tech. Aaron Donald, Cameron Heyward, and Chris Jones are some of the NFL’s best. Carter fires off the line of scrimmage, jamming into gaps on the offensive line. This completely disrupts plays. In addition, the Florida native has great lateral quickness that allows him to shoot gaps in the run game. To top it off, Carter is great at using leverage paired with immense strength. Headed into the 2022 season, Carter is projecting as a top-5 pick.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
While Young won the Heisman in 2021, Stroud is this season’s favorite (+200) to take home the historic award. Coming off 4,435 passing yards and 44 touchdowns, Stroud will be the next Buckeye QB taken in the first round.
This will be a huge year for the California native. Ohio State’s 2022 roster greatly benefits Stroud. He has the country’s top receiving unit at his disposal with one of America’s most talented running backs, TreVeyon Henderson. However, Stroud is not just a product of his system… he’s got a game.
Over the last few years, Stroud has rapidly progressed. Within six months, he went from being an unknown recruit to being named the MVP of the Elite 11 — the top high school QB camp. Last year, Stroud was inconsistent to start the season but was lights out to close 2021. He has elite arm talent combined with good progressions, and Stroud has shown precise accuracy at times. NFL odds have Stroud as the favorite (+150) to be selected No. 1 overall.
Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. receives plenty of praise as college football’s most dominant player. However, in a game ruled by quarterbacks, Anderson does not make as many headlines as he deserves. It’s hard to put into words how good Anderson really is.
The 6-foot-4 edge-rusher posted 101 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks in 2021. This was arguably one of college football’s best defensive performances ever. His 31 tackles for loss fell one short of George Selvie’s single-season record. Anderson could set new single-season records for sacks and tackles for loss. The numbers to beat are 24 and 32, respectively.
We often hear of prospects that “check every box.” This time it’s no joke. He can set the edge in the run game, he has great length and speed off the edge. The technique is there. His forklift move, Aaron Donald’s go-to, is particularly impressive.
This is a perfectly executed rush from Alabama’s Will Anderson (#31). He does a great job uprooting the arms of his opponent by elbows and then ripping through for a sack on Desmond Ridder.
Anderson shows high-level hand usage which is incredible for a 20-year-old prospect. pic.twitter.com/g86JOPMZPa
— Nick Price (@PriceCheck3) May 6, 2022
The bottom line, Anderson is a generational talent. Honestly, he deserves to go number one. However, we know the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Anderson is listed as the third choice (+325) to be the first off the board.