With the 2022 college football season coming to a close, plenty of players have shown off their potential and now turn their attention to the 2023 NFL Draft. At each position, though, there is one player that separates himself from the rest. TWSN NFL Draft analysts Kyle Smith and Marissa Myers give those players for both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Quarterback- Bryce Young, Alabama
The consensus top quarterback over the past two college football seasons, Bryce Young, is finally draft eligible and should be a top-five pick. Sure, his build leaves much to be desired, but his play makes up for it. A magician on the field, Young is able to make throws in any pocket and off any platform. He has good, not great arm strength, but his accuracy and timing are top-notch. Young has a chance to be special in the NFL and will be perfect for any team needing a new face of the franchise.
Wide Receiver- Quentin Johnston, TCU
This is a down year in terms of top-end talent at receiver, but that does not mean that there won’t be productive players available. Quentin Johnston is a big-bodied receiver at 6’4, 215 pounds, but he runs as smooth as some of the best route runners in the game. He’s physical at the catch point and dynamic after it. Johnston had only 53 receptions but racked up 903 yards, good for 17.0 yards per reception. Johnston fits in any system and should be the first receiver off the board in April.
Tight End- Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Baby Gronk, Kelce 2.0. Whatever you want to call him, Mayer lives up to the hype. While not the best athlete, Mayer is a stellar route runner who knows how to use his size to his advantage. He has been basically uncoverable in 2022 with 67 catches for 809 yards and nine touchdowns. In today’s NFL, it pays dividends to have a dynamic weapon at tight end, and Mayer fits that bill. He should hear his name called early in the first round.
Running Back- Bijan Robinson, Texas
This one is too easy. Robinson has been the best back in football since he earned the starting role at Texas. The ultimate three-down back, Robinson can do it all. He tallied 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns on just 258 carries, along with 19 receptions for 314 yards and two more touchdowns. Robinson is easily the most complete running back prospect we have seen since Saquon Barkley. While he won’t hear his name called as early as Barkley did in 2018, he should hear it called towards the middle part of night one.
Guard- O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
A mammoth of a man who packs a punch. When O’Cyrus Torrence gets his hands on you, good luck getting out of it. At 6’5, 347 pounds, Torrence is a mauler in the pass game but also has the ability to climb to the second level and seal off defenders. In pass protection, Torrence is able to handle power well, but needs to improve his game against speedy rushers. If he can continue to develop as a pass blocker, Torrence could be a star in the making.
Tackle- Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
While he may be better suited as a guard in the NFL, Peter Skoronski has played well enough to earn the title of best tackle in this year’s draft class. Slightly undersized at 6’4, 297 pounds, Skoronski is a fluid, athletic blocker. He handles speed off the edge with ease and has a strong enough base to deny bull rushes as well. While his arm length will come into question during the draft process, Skoronski will follow Rashawn Slater’s steps and could be a top-level tackle for years to come.
Center- John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
John Michael Schmitz has the chance to be an elite center in the NFL. He has an insane first step in the run game and is able to instantly get his hands on defenders. He’s a mauler in space and tries to take every block to the ground. While he’s best in the run game, Schmitz is stout as a pass blocker. Unlike Tyler Linderbaum, Schmitz has the size and build of a prototypical center. At 6’4, 320 pounds, Schmitz is a dynamic athlete and would be an immediate upgrade for most offensive lines. He is a true bully in every sense of the word, and has a chance to be the best center since Creed Humphrey.
Cornerback- Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Kelee Ringo has everything you look for in a top cornerback when drafting. In all phases of coverage, Ringo is extremely physical, whether that is jamming receivers at the line or fighting at the catch-point to either create a pass breakup or interception. His physicality also translates over into being able to stop the run, as he uses his length to wrap up tackles consistently. His former experience in track also shows up, as he has the speed to keep up with the quickest receivers down field and stay with them stride for stride. The recognition Ringo has also makes it so where defensive coordinators can use him in zone coverage, as he pairs this with his closing ability to limit the play.
Safety- Brian Branch, Alabama
For a top safety, it is crucial for them to combine their instincts and athleticism together, Brian Branch does exactly that. Branch does a great job recognizing the pass plays that are coming and closes quickly with his speed coming downhill. With how twitchy Branch is he can change direction fluidly, this also allows him to play in the slot and limit receivers underneath. When coming downhill to face running backs, he uses his 6’0, 193 pound frame effectively to disengage off blocks and create hits that stop the ball carrier in their tracks. Branch is a natural playmaker that exceeds in all areas when he is on the field.
Linebacker- Noah Sewell, Oregon
Noah Sewell came to Oregon and made an impact right away as a freshman with 45 tackles and two sacks. From there, he has only continued to rise to the top. Sewell possesses the prototypical size you want in a linebacker at 6’2, 253 pounds, and he uses that size to effectively take on offensive linemen and win against them. The active hands he uses against linemen to shed blocks allows him to cut off running lanes that running backs try to run through. Whether it is in the run game or pass game, Sewell has great recognition to limit the play. Sewell fits mostly as a traditional linebacker with the force he uses, but he can match up with tight ends with how he reads plays and can close on where the ball is going. Being able to do both makes Sewell a top talent.
Defensive End- Myles Murphy, Clemson
Not just top at his position, but also a top five prospect in this class is Myles Murphy. The best thing about Murphy too is that he has been extremely productive in college and only just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. He has extremely active hands that he matches with his explosiveness off the line to get past offensive linemen and into the backfield to disrupt a play. His speed is also what allowed Clemson to drop him back into coverage a few times as a spy on rushing quarterbacks. The overall athleticism Murphy has along with his football IQ to recognize run plays allows him to get to where the running back is going and stop the run. His spin move is already extremely refined, and he plays with a consistently hot motor. Murphy is a game changer who makes an impact on each play.
Edge Rusher- Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Just like Myles Murphy, Will Anderson Jr. is not only the best at his position, but in Anderson’s case, he is the best prospect in the draft. Over the course of three years, Anderson has physically imposed his will every time he steps on the field to accumulate 204 tackles, 114 solo tackles, 34.5 sacks, and even defend four passes. Anderson wins with his frame and length that he uses to either get off blocks or in coverage to disrupt passing lanes. Not to mention, Anderson is extremely light on his feet to move across the field laterally in time to stop big plays from happening. It all starts with the relentless motor that Anderson plays with, giving full effort on every play to get past linemen before they are even set. There is a lot to like about Anderson as a prospect, making him the best player in the class.
Defensive Tackle- Jalen Carter, Georgia
Georgia saw a slew of talent depart for the NFL last season, and this season Jalen Carter has the chance to be another player to go early in the first round as well. Carter has all the tools of a top interior defensive linemen, starting with his first-step quickness he uses to instantly disrupt blockers still trying to get set off the snap. He seals off angles extremely well and can adjust to running backs changing direction with how fluid he changes direction himself. Carter converts his speed to power extremely well to gain leverage on blockers instantly. As a pass rusher, Carter is even a force with his pre-snap instincts and range that he plays with, making him an all around star player.