The official 2023 NFL regular-season schedule is out, and with it comes a barrage of intriguing 2023 rookie matchups. What are some of the most exciting rookie clashes on the list? Led by a standoff between C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, the upcoming campaign has much to offer.
Top Rookie Matchups of the 2023 Season
C.J. Stroud vs. Bryce Young
In Week 8, the Carolina Panthers will host the Houston Texans, in a game that will pit the No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft — Bryce Young — against the No. 2 overall selection, C.J. Stroud.
By this point, we’ll have a sense of how each QB has kicked off their career, but both signal-callers appear to be entering favorable situations. Both have strong offensive lines, growing weapons corps, and support from their staffs.
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This game might ultimately come down to one thing: Can Stroud create to the degree that Young can? He’s shown the flashes of escapability and off-script proficiency, but Young truly sets the bar there.
Anthony Richardson vs. C.J. Stroud, Will Levis
Three of the four early-round QB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft went to AFC South teams. Anthony Richardson and Stroud went to the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, respectively, while Will Levis was picked by the Tennessee Titans early in Round 2.
Barring injury or regression, we should Richardson and Stroud face off twice in 2023 — a true battle of clashing styles. Stroud’s operational game and high-end accuracy make him tough to keep up with, but Richardson’s raw talent is second to none.
The Titans are the wild card. It’s expected that Ryan Tannehill will begin the year as the starter, but he’ll presumably have a short leash. By the Colts’ and Titans’ second clash in Week 13, it’s entirely possible that Tannehill will have worn out his welcome. If that happens, Levis will get his shot.
Packers EDGE Lukas Van Ness vs. Bears OT Darnell Wright
This heavyweight matchup between two early first-round picks will grace the television screen not once, but twice in 2023. The Bears now have a mountain of a man at right tackle in Darnell Wright, but Lukas Van Ness is one of the few who has the sheer raw power and knockback force to potentially sway him. Weeks 1 and 17 — circle those dates.
Cowboys DT Mazi Smith vs. Giants C John Michael Schmitz
Playing against each other this year in Weeks 1 and 10, Mazi Smith and John Michael Schmitz in the NFC East may develop into one of the NFL’s better modern player rivalries.
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Both players serve as the fulcrum of their respective fronts and boast elite brute strength as a calling card. Smith’s elite athleticism at his size, with his leverage and power, is rare, but Schmitz doesn’t give up displacement easily.
Browns WR Cedric Tillman vs. Steelers CB Joey Porter Jr.
Set to play each other in Week 2 and Week 11, second-rounder Joey Porter Jr. and third-rounder Cedric Tillman comprise one of the more underrated prospect matchups on the 2023 schedule.
Both players are plus-sized and bring an aggressive brand of physicality at their positions. Tillman has the stem work to win, but Porter has the stubborn length to recover.
Falcons RB Bijan Robinson vs. Lions LB Jack Campbell
The expectations have risen for Jack Campbell now that he’s been taken in Round 1. And it won’t be long before he’s asked to meet those expectations.
Fellow first-rounder Bijan Robinson faces Detroit in Week 3, and he has the kind of elite short-area agility and flexibility that’s given Campbell trouble in the past. This will be a trial by fire for the Lions’ LB.
Bills WR/TE Dalton Kincaid vs. Commanders DB Jartavius ‘Quan’ Martin
It’ll be fascinating to see how these two teams use these prospects. Bills general manager Brandon Beane has already referred to Dalton Kincaid as a weapon who’ll flex out wide and function as more of a receiving threat. As a result, Jartavius Martin may draw Kincaid in the slot when they play each other in Week 3.
Kincaid is a size mismatch, but Martin’s burst and physicality can make up the difference.
Ravens WR Zay Flowers vs. Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon
Another first-round clash is on tap in Week 9 with Baltimore Ravens WR Zay Flowers squaring up against No. 5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon. Flowers will likely move around in Baltimore’s offense, and Witherspoon has the ability to mirror him wherever he goes.
Flowers’ energized athleticism is tough to match, but Witherspoon has the water-bug mobility to do it and the physicality to rattle Flowers’ composure.
Chargers WR Quentin Johnston vs. Lions DB Brian Branch
The Chargers can use a versatile talent like Quentin Johnston in so many ways. But with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams present, L.A. might flex Johnston into the slot often, where he can use his elite RAC utility freely.
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In Week 10, when LAC plays Detroit, he’ll match up against Brian Branch as a result. Branch profiles as a potentially elite nickel DB, whose undeterred physical edge and smooth coverage chops could provide problems.
Vikings WR Jordan Addison vs. Bengals CB DJ Turner
The Bengals have Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Mike Hilton over DJ Turner in the CB rotation right now. But their injury luck at cornerback hasn’t been great in years past.
It’s possible Turner makes his way into the rotation by Week 15. If he does, he’ll field Minnesota Vikings WR Jordan Addison on a good amount of his reps.
Addison is more of a complementary threat for Minnesota, who Turner can outmatch with his elite recovery speed. But Addison is nuanced, well-rounded, and a quality three-level threat, whose reliability may allow him to stay productive.