With a little under two months until the 2023 NFL Draft, there’s been a lot of discussion about a perceived lack of talent through this class. Despite this, some 2023 NFL Draft position groups are substantially stronger than others. Rank them from worst to first, you say? Go on then, you asked for it so we’ll deliver.
Ranking the NFL Draft Positional Groups From Worst to First
Worst: Jack Campbell and Drew Sanders Stand Out in Weak Linebacker Class
There have been multiple linebackers selected in the NFL draft every year since 2003. You have to go back to 1973 to find the last time there wasn’t at least one linebacker selected in the first round.
With a class of inside linebackers that lacks a Day 1-caliber prospect, the 2023 NFL Draft class is on the verge of making history — and not in a good way.
Preseason candidates to be the top linebacker, Noah Sewell and Trenton Simpson, have seemingly fallen out of favor. Alabama’s Henry To’oTo’o hasn’t particularly elevated his stock after returning to school for the 2022 college football season.
As a result, versatile Arkansas product Drew Sanders and Iowa’s tackling machine, Jack Campbell, project to be the first LBs taken in April. But it would be a surprise to see either of them appear within the first 31 selections.
O’Cyrus Torrence Headlines a Guard Class Lacking in Depth
Up next in our look at the NFL draft positional groups is the guard class. Unlike the linebacker group, there’s a legitimate first-round contender in Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence. A gargantuan interior lineman at 6’5″ and 335 pounds, Torrence has impressive length that allows him to generate excellent power in the phone booth. Behind him, the picture is less clear.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Several of the guard prospects in the class actually project to center at the next level, with many — like Steve Avila, Jarrett Patterson, and Jerome Carvin — having experience at the pivot during their college careers. It leaves a lack of true guard prospects. Having said that, don’t sleep on UCLA guard Atonio Mafi who showcases devastating power at the position.
Quarterback Class Drops Off Significantly After the Top 3
Ok, let’s get controversial here. Supply and demand at the quarterback position means that four signal-callers are likely to be selected in the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft. C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, and Anthony Richardson have certainly shown high-level potential during their college careers, but would they be considered among the top prospects in another year?
Then consider the drop-off after those three. Will Levis will be amongst them, but after that, it’s a barren wasteland back to the later rounds. Hendon Hooker is talented, with arm strength and creation capacity, but he’s coming off a significant injury. Senior Bowl MVP Jake Haener appears to be the next in line, with his leadership qualities and high-level understanding of the game.
Brian Branch Adds Sparkle to a Middling Safety Class
As Pro Football Network Draft Analyst Ian Cummings remarked in his recent examination of the safety class in comparison to other NFL draft positional groups, “the depth of the safety class drops off relatively quickly compared to other positions.”
Brian Branch and Antonio Johnson are legitimate first-round caliber prospects, but with the potential to play in the slot rather than as a strong or free safety at the next level. Boise State’s JL Skinner offers a Kyle Hamilton-lite option, and there are sleepers to be aware of such as Sydney Brown or Trey Dean III.
On the whole, however, if you’re a team that is in need of help at the safety position this offseason, it might be advisable to dig deep into your pockets during free agency than try and find a genuine impact-maker at the position during the draft.
WR Class Has Depth but Lacks Elite Playmaker
There’s a misnomer that this is a “bad class” of wide receivers.
That analysis ultimately depends on what your definition of a bad class is. If you’re looking for an elite pass catcher in the mold of Ja’Marr Chase or Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson — to use two recent examples — then you’re probably going to be disappointed. There isn’t a slam-dunk top-10 pick.
“Scouts widely agree that there are talented receivers — including some who may emerge or develop into WR1 playmakers — but few have a true first-round grade at this point,” ESPN’s Matt Miller opined back in January.
What there is in this wide receiver class is a lot of depth. Quentin Johnston headlines the class as the probable WR1, but an NFL team is likely to find contributors of some shape, form, or fashion, all the way through to the end of Day 3 in April.
John Michael Schmitz Leads Talented Center Class
Although the NFL has historically undervalued the center position when it comes to the NFL draft, Tyler Linderbaum’s selection in Round 1 last cycle might point to an extra emphasis on the position going forward. If you’re in need of a center in the upcoming draft, you’re in luck. Prospects at the pivot make up one of the best NFL draft positional groups.
Minnesota marvel John Michael Schmitz leads the group, with his impressive athleticism, technical excellence, and ideal frame. Behind him is a really solid group that includes Luke Wypler, Joe Tippmann, Alex Forsyth, Ricky Stromberg, and award-winning Michigan man — Olusegun Oluwatimi. The group is bolstered by multiple guard-to-center converts as discussed earlier.
Jalen Carter Isn’t the Only Playmaker in Impressive DT Group
When your NFL draft positional group contains the potential No. 1 overall pick, the group as a whole will earn some attention. A rising tide lifts all boats, or something of that nature.
Jalen Carter currently sits atop the Pro Football Network 2023 NFL Draft Big Board, with ungodly power and athleticism emanating from his 6’3″, 311-pound frame. But Carter isn’t alone in being a game-wrecker at the defensive tackle position in this class.
He could be joined as a first-round pick by Clemson’s Bryan Bresee and even Baylor’s Siaki Ika. Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton is a fast-rising DT prospect in the class, and the only thing preventing Pitt’s Calijah Kancey from further ascension is a compact frame by NFL DT standards.
Multiple First-Round Offensive Tackle Prospects led by Paris Johnson Jr.
Comparing the OT group in this class to the previous cycle is unfair. At this stage in the process last year, there was an assumption that three OTs — Charles Cross, Evan Neal, and Ikem Ekwonu — would be selected in the top 10, and so it came to pass.
There isn’t that level of projection or promise for this class. But there is a substantial amount of talent.
It starts with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., who seamlessly transitioned from guard to left tackle this fall and cemented his spot as the best in class. Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright could hear their name called on Day 1, with a raft of Day 2 and Day 3 options also available.
Strong RB Class Headlined by ‘Generational’ Bijan Robinson
The phrase “generational prospect” is thrown around far too often when draft season comes around. However, as it relates to Texas running back Bijan Robinson, it’s difficult to find another word that adequately describes his talent.
An exciting pure rusher with the ability to manipulate space and time, his receiving capability further bolsters an almost-complete profile.
It isn’t just Robinson that elevates running back amongst other 2023 NFL Draft positional groups though. It’s a deep class of talented backs that should ensure NFL teams receive an impact-maker later on in the same way the Kansas City Chiefs did with Isiah Pacheco last year.
Watch out for Jahmyr Gibbs, Tyjae Spears, Zach Charbonnet, Devon Achane, Israel Abanikanda, and Robinson’s Texas teammate Roschon Johnson. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the talent available, either.
Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid Battle It Out at Top of Deep Tight End Group
“I think the tight end group is the best I’ve seen in the last ten years,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah announced in the opening statement of his NFL draft media conference. “I have eleven tight ends that I have top three round grades on, which is ridiculous number. It is just a really, really good group.”
While Jeremiah didn’t give the names of all 11, based on the PFN 2023 NFL Draft Big Board, we can surmise that they consist of Michael Mayer, Darnell Washington, Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid, Tucker Kraft, Sam LaPorta, Luke Schoonmaker, Cameron Latu, Payne Durham, and Zack Kuntz.
Of course, that isn’t to say that the opinions of the NFL draft department exactly correlate with Jeremiah’s. There certainly could be prospects that the NFL Network analyst has higher grades on than we have at this moment.
All that does is further showcase how impressive this tight end group is. Mayer has long been seen as the standard-bearer and the prospect to return this positional group to the first round of the NFL draft. However, with his elite pass-catching capability and reliability, Kincaid will push him all the way to the finish line.
Will Anderson Jr. Headlines Group of EDGE Prospects Rushing to Round 1
After racking up 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 2021, Will Anderson Jr. entered the 2022 CFB season as a consensus first-overall pick contender. While the production waned a little in his final season, the Alabama pass rusher’s combination of powerful hands, speed, and ferocity ensures he heads to the 2023 NFL Draft as one of the very best.
Anderson headlines an impressive EDGE group. It’s a pick-your-poison NFL draft positional group that features every type of EDGE archetype from big defensive ends to sleeker outside linebackers, all boasting different skill sets that can benefit and elevate a team with their selection in April.
MORE: Where Is the NFL Draft?
Behind Anderson, there are some big names from big programs. Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy has long been considered one of the best in the class. Georgia’s Nolan Smith was an elite high school athlete who carries that reputation with him to the NFL. Iowa has produced multiple EDGE prospects in recent years, and late-rising Lukas Van Ness might be the very best of them.
Then you’ve got smaller-school standouts who are set to shake up the establishment. Isaiah Land out of Florida A&M is an explosive pass rusher with underrated run-game prowess. Nick Hampton brings speed and power from Appalachian State, while DII schools are represented by Ferris State’s Caleb Murphy. It’s a rich and varied group with almost unlimited potential.
The Best Positional Group in the 2023 NFL Draft Is Cornerback
If you’re an NFL team in need of upgrading your secondary this spring — and let’s be honest, there are several — then the 2023 NFL Draft is the class for you. While there’s talent across multiple NFL draft positional groups, no position is as deep as cornerback.
Ahead of the NFL Combine, there are six cornerbacks that feature within first-round range according to the PFN Mock Draft Simulator. Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr., Devon Witherspoon, Cam Smith, Kelee Ringo, and Clark Phillips III could all hear their name called on Day 1 next month.
While those six feel like the clubhouse leaders for Round 1, don’t rule out NCAA record holder for interceptions returned for touchdowns, Emmanuel Forbes, or Maryland’s Deonte Banks. Meanwhile, players like Tyrique Stevenson, Jaylon Jones, and Julius Brents have asserted themselves during the process.
Looking past the early-round talent, there are starters and impact-makers littered throughout this class. Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark deserves more attention, as does Oregon State’s Alex Austin. If we listed all the draftable CBs in the class, you’d still be reading that when Roger Goodell puts the Chicago Bears on the clock on April 27.
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