Top 2023 NFL Draft prospects: Alabama, Georgia, and Texas highly represented

Our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects examine the top players in the class ahead of the upcoming college football season.

It’s less than a month since Brock Purdy was selected as Mr. Irrelevant in Las Vegas, so there is of course no better time to unveil our first list of top 2023 NFL Draft prospects. Below are our early opinions on the top 50 players in next year’s class. Of course, we have an entire season of college football that will shape how next year’s NFL draft will play out. However, our 2023 NFL Draft prospect list gives you an early look at the best players in the nation.

2023 NFL Draft prospects | 1-25

After a down year at the position, there’s a welcome return of quarterbacks to the upper echelons of our NFL Draft prospects. However, like the previous cycle, it’s possible that the best prospect in the class will be an EDGE player when Roger Goodell opens the 2023 NFL Draft.

1) Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

Unlike Heisman Trophy voters, we’re giving Will Anderson Jr. the respect he deserves as the top player on our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects list. Anderson showed his dominance for Alabama last season, tallying 31 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. He’s explosive, bendy, impressively strong for his smaller stature, and plays with a red hot fire inside him. It’s not unrealistic to state that he would have been the top player in the last draft cycle.

2) C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Here come the quarterbacks! After a difficult start to his first season under center for Ohio State, C.J. Stroud developed into one of the best passers in the nation down the stretch last season. Boasting the size (6’3″, 215 pounds), arm talent, accuracy, and creativity to feast on defenses, the Buckeyes QB starts the 2023 NFL Draft cycle as the clear top passer in the nation according to a number of Pro Football Network’s NFL draft analysts.

3) Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs just set the defensive standard in the NFL draft. As a result, it might seem crazy to state that their best player is yet to come. However, Jalen Carter is a genuine difference-maker at the heart of the defensive line.

Like former teammate Jordan Davis, Carter attracts his share of double-teams that allow his teammates to succeed. Where he differs from Davis (aside from obvious size differences) is that he possesses the tools to be a constant threat in all phases of the game.

4) Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

In a wide receiver trio that featured two first-round picks last month, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was the most prolific producer amongst them. Having tallied 1,606 receiving yards last fall, Smith-Njigba is the top returning WR to college football. While he may lack the explosiveness of some other WR prospects in this class, his ability to convert at the catch point with consistency puts him as the current WR1.

5) Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

While JSN might be the top WR on our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects list, LSU pass catcher Kayshon Boutte may be the most exciting. Boasting insane after-the-catch ability, Boutte is fast, explosive, and something of a contortionist to prove elusive with the ball in his hands. If he develops more as a contested-catch threat while working on some focus drops, there’s every chance Boutte challenges for the WR1 crown when April comes around.

6) Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Last year, our big board was devoid of running back talent until later on. That should tell you all you need to know about Bijan Robinson as a football talent. The Texas Longhorns prospect transcends traditional RB value as an offensive weapon. PFN Draft Analyst Ian Cummings described Robinson as a “master of space,” which appropriately summarizes his ability to win regardless of how much room he has to operate.

7) Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Between Myles Murphy and several other Clemson Tigers on our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects list, this year’s defensive front has the potential to challenge the historic “Power Rangers” unit. Murphy is practically unstoppable, wreaking havoc to the tune of 25 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and five forced fumbles in his young career. At 6’5″ and 275 pounds, Murphy has the size and strength to make an immediate impact in the NFL as a top-level pass rusher.

8) Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Displaying incredible poise for someone of his inexperience, Bryce Young led Alabama to a national championship appearance in his first season as a starter. In doing so, he showcased the talent that sees him penetrate the top 10. Poise, a decent arm, and the ability to create with his legs when things break down should all prove alluring for NFL teams. However, Young’s smaller size may be a red flag for some teams.

9) Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

While last year’s tight end class lacked a potential first-round prospect, Michael Mayer opens the 2023 NFL Draft cycle looking to follow Kyle Pitts and T.J. Hockenson as top-10 picks. Mayer already boasts NFL TE size but has also lined up as a WR for Notre Dame. His ability to contort at the catch point is ludicrous for his size. The Fighting Irish TE is also a proficient blocker, showcasing strength and some technical aptitude.

10) Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama

Eli Ricks excelled as a freshman at LSU in 2020, tallying four interceptions while allowing just 13 catches all season. Like former teammate Derek Stingley Jr., can Ricks parlay one explosive introduction to college football into an early first-round selection? At 6’2″ and 196 pounds, Ricks has the size to be an impactful NFL cornerback. His transfer to Alabama gives him the opportunity to join the pantheon of highly drafted Crimson Tide CBs.

11) Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

Coming off of a torn ACL in 2021, there may be some questions about why Bryan Bresee is ranked so high on our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects list. However, Bresee’s showcased in the time he has been on the field for Clemson what an absolutely disruptive monster he can be on the defensive front. At 6’5″ and 300 pounds, Bresee boasts a size that is assisted by great length and weaponized by a power that wreaks havoc on his opponent.

12) Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

Although he is the CB2 on our early 2023 NFL Draft prospects list, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo is hot on the heels of Alabama’s Ricks as the top defensive back in the class. Similar to Ricks, Ringo boasts NFL size at 6’2″ and 205 pounds. The Georgia CB also showcases impressive length to be disruptive at the catch point. A former track star, Ringo has a clear advantage over Ricks in this regard. Their battle to be CB1 should be exciting to watch this season.

13) Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

The first offensive lineman in the top 50 is Northwestern LT Peter Skoronski. Deemed by many to be a more technically refined offensive line prospect than former Northwestern alum Rashawn Slater, Skoronski has been the Wildcats’ starting left tackle since his true freshman season. In addition to technical aptitude, he’s also a fluid mover. However, at under 300 pounds, Skoronski may be considered undersized by the NFL.

14) Malachi Moore, DB, Alabama

With the addition of Ricks and the return to full fitness of Malachi Moore — plus a host of other playmakers — Alabama may have one of the best secondaries in the 2023 NFL Draft. Moore was electric as a freshman in 2020 but was hobbled by injury last fall. On his day, he’s explosive while showcasing great eye discipline and technical excellence. If he can return to his very best at full health, Moore can establish himself as a playmaker in the secondary.

15) Connor Galvin, OT, Baylor

A fifth-year starter on an impressive Baylor Bears offensive line, Connor Galvin brings a wealth of experience and excellence to our 2023 NFL Draft prospects list. The 6’7″, 310-pound left tackle is coming off a campaign where he allowed zero sacks and just two quarterback hurries in almost 1,000 snaps. In addition to being a smooth mover with a stout anchor in pass protection, Galvin has proved impactful in the run game as a nasty savage with the requisite athleticism to be impactful at the second level to help extend runs.

16) Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

After Kayvon Thibodeaux was a top-five selection last year, meet the next defensively dominant Oregon Duck prospect set to crack Round 1. Linebacker Noah Sewell plays the game with a bone-shaking ferocity. There are few better at laying a hit whether in the run game or as a quarterback disruptor.

For a 6’3″, 250-pound linebacker, Sewell flies downhill with disturbing explosion, speed, and physicality. If he can address some concerns over his coverage ability, Sewell could elevate himself up our top 50.

17) Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

Another part of the dominant 2021 Georgia defense, Nolan Smith opted to return for the upcoming college football season. As a result, he positions himself as one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Smith possesses great explosiveness, bend ability, and deceptive strength for his size. At 6’3″ and 235 pounds, that size may be a factor in his evaluation, and there are some technical improvements to make to unlock his full potential.

18) Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Fresh off the back of a productive sophomore season where he registered 12½ tackles for loss and 6½ sacks, Trenton Simpson is an early contender for LB1 on our 2023 NFL Draft prospects list. Pigeon-holing him as a linebacker is almost unfair. Simpson fills that Isaiah Simmons-type role for the Tigers defense. Incredibly athletic, explosive, and strong despite a slightly slender frame, Simpson has the making of an all-around defensive playmaker.

19) Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

Having lost LB Devin Lloyd to the NFL, cornerback Clark Phillips III is set to be one of the Utes’ defensive leaders as they look to mount the defense of their Pac-12 title. With 13 pass breakups that included two interceptions last season, the Utah CB was one of the top defensive playmakers in the nation. Phillips has the speed, fluidity, and ball skills to become one of the premier CBs in this 2023 NFL Draft class. Don’t sleep on the Pac-12 prospect.

20) Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Having played at guard during his first two seasons in Columbus, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. will kick out to left tackle for the 2022 CFB season. It’s the position that he played in high school where his play made him the No. 1 tackle prospect in the 2020 recruiting class. At 6’6″ and 315 pounds, Johnson boasts the size to hold down Stroud’s blindside. Furthermore, he possesses the nimble footwork to be able to mirror even the fastest pass rushers.

21) Jordan Battle, S, Alabama

Having extricated himself from a safety class that contained some elite prospects, Alabama’s Jordan Battle has put himself at the front of the position on our top 50 list. He boasts size and impressive athleticism at the position. Meanwhile, Battle’s wealth of experience and depth of versatility ensures that he can fill any number of roles that he might be asked to undertake at the NFL level.

22) Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

In 2021, South Carolina CB Cam Smith had a breakout year as a redshirt sophomore. The heir-apparent to Jaycee Horn showcased his playmaking ability with 11 pass deflections and three interceptions. He boasts size, length, and vertical explosion to be a nightmare at the catch point for opposing wide receivers. Unsurprisingly, Smith plays the game with the same brand of physicality as his former teammate.

23) Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame

One of the early darlings of the previous class, Brandon Joseph struggled to make the same level of impact during the 2021 season as we’d seen in his redshirt-freshman season. Nonetheless, the now Notre Dame safety possesses the excellent athleticism, catch-point prowess, and elite football intelligence to be a playmaking force in this class. As with our big board for the previous class, Joseph and the Alabama safety are in close company at the beginning of the 2023 cycle.

24) Jordan Addison, WR, Transfer Portal

One of the top returning college football wide receivers after tallying 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last year, Jordan Addison joined the exodus from Pittsburgh with his destination yet to be decided. At 6’0″ and 170 pounds, there are some concerns about his physicality at the catch point in the NFL.

Nevertheless, Addison’s showcased that he has the route-running nouse and play speed to be a continual threat at all three levels. Wherever he lands– with Texas, USC, and Alabama current favorites — he can assert himself on this class.

25) Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina

Perhaps a contentious selection on our early top 50, Spencer Rattler failed to live up to the QB1 hype from last year during a tumultuous season for Oklahoma. At this point, we’re betting on a new start to revitalize the young quarterback’s career. The skill set that led to his elevated ranking last year — the arm talent and creative mobility — remains. The question is, can his talent and temperament be nurtured at South Carolina?

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.