If you’re like me, then you’ve been hearing about how great the 2023 draft class is for the last year or more. You’ve been told to stockpile those firsts. But with it being so far out, I would guess that the average dynasty player barely knows the names of most 2023 prospects. So, let’s preview this mythical draft class so that when you’re trading for 2023 firsts, you have an idea of the kind of players you’re trading for! In no particular order, I will go over twelve prospects who I think have an excellent chance to wind up being first-round rookie picks in 2023. I’ll tell you a little bit about their prospect profile, including some fun clips along the way. Let’s get into it!
Bijan Robinson, RB Texas
6’0” 214 pounds
Robinson is a freak who has been widely touted as the best RB prospect since Saquon Barkley. He has ideal size, explosive burst, impressive lateral agility, blazing speed, and bruising contact balance. Oh, and he’s skilled too, displaying excellent vision and high-level receiving skills. And he doesn’t just show it in flashes. Every time this kid touches the football, he makes your jaw drop. Robinson is genuinely a can’t-miss prospect. For a deeper look at Bijan, check out my colleague’s Devy profile of him here!
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB Alabama
5’11” 200 lbs
Despite a sub-par production profile in an awful Georgia Tech offense, Gibbs is widely considered the RB2 of this class. He’s so talented that people are willing to overlook it. But after transferring to Alabama, he should be able to show what he can do behind that vaunted offensive line. Gibbs is remarkably elusive, electric with his acceleration and change of direction. Gibbs is also extremely gifted as a receiver, drawing stylistic comparisons to Alvin Kamara. Aside from his lack of elite production at GT, his size is the only major question mark. While not tiny, many have questioned his ability to hold up to the beating of a three-down workload in the NFL.
Kayshon Boutte, WR LSU
6’0” 190 lbs
Boutte broke out as a freshman en route to 735 yards and five TDs, which is impressive, especially considering the SEC competition he faced. And through six games, he was on pace to shatter that in year two before suffering a season-ending leg injury. On tape, he is a twitchy WR who creates separation by exploding out of his breaks. He is also extremely dangerous after the catch, displaying uncommon contact balance for a WR and then the speed to turn a broken tackle into a house call.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR Ohio State
6’0” 197 lbs
A former 5-star prospect, JSN forced his way onto the field this year despite a crowded WR room. He shared the field with two other likely first-round picks in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. And he still exploded for 95 catches, 1,606 yards, and nine TDs. In the Rose Bowl, Olave and Wilson sat out, and JSN gave us a glimpse of what life could look like without them next year. He posted an insane 15 catches for 347 yards and three TDs. He is a technically sound route runner with unbelievable hands and body control, and his ability to change directions on a dime is a sight to behold.
Bryce Young, QB Alabama
6’0” 194 lbs
The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner had a remarkable season as a first-year starter. He produced 4,872 yards and 47 TDs to just seven INTs and fell short of leading the team to a national championship win. His decision-making was excellent all year long. He also showed off great arm strength and pinpoint accuracy. Young rarely took off running, and if that continues to be the case, that’s a knock on his upside at the next level. But if you watch him play, it’s evident that he has the athleticism to be mobile should the need arise. Perhaps the reason he doesn’t is his size at just 194 pounds. This is probably the biggest reason for concern when projecting to the NFL. Young needs to hit the weight room between now and next year, but he’s an exciting prospect with immense upside.
C.J. Stroud, QB Ohio State
6’3” 215 lbs
Stepping in as the heir apparent to Justin Fields, Stroud lit up the Big-10 in 2021. He produced a massive 4,435 yards and 44 TDs with just six INTs (in three fewer games than Bryce Young). Like Young, he is very mobile but chose not to run, posting negative rushing yards on the season. Unlike Young, Stroud possesses the ideal size for the position. Stroud has massive arm talent, displaying the ability to stand in the pocket and read the defense, then zip it way down the field into tight windows. Either one of these guys would pretty easily be the QB1 if they were in this year’s draft class.
Michael Mayer, TE Notre Dame
6’4” 251 lbs
This year, we didn’t have a TE worthy of consideration in the first round of rookie drafts, even in TE Premium leagues. Next year, we absolutely do. Meet Mayer, a 5-star recruit who stepped in and produced right away as a true freshman. Mayer is big and physical while also being athletic and light on his feet. He is an extremely sound route runner with very reliable hands. He’s also an excellent blocker, which might not score you fantasy points, but it does keep him on the field. Mayer is a complete player with the upside to be very productive at the next level.
Sean Tucker, RB Syracuse
5’10” 210 lbs
Tucker was a 3-star prospect coming out of HS who didn’t garner a ton of recruiting interest. He ultimately landed in Syracuse. Tucker came into college only 186 pounds as a track star in high school. Since then has bulked up significantly. As a freshman, he forced his way onto the field and then exploded onto the scene in 2021, finishing top-five in the nation with 124.7 rush yards/game. Teams knew that the entire Syracuse offense was Tucker, and they still couldn’t stop him. Despite his added weight, his track pedigree definitely translates to the field. He is an explosive runner with good vision and excellent contact balance. Tucker’s use in the receiving game has been minimal, but he has looked good when called upon. His biggest area for development is pass protection, but he still has another year to develop that before reaching the pros. For a deeper look at Tucker, check out my colleague’s Devy profile of him here!
Zach Evans, RB Ole Miss
5’11” 212 lbs
Evans has an outstanding ceiling if he can reach it. As a recruit, he was just barely behind Robinson as the top RB in his class. But he was suspended on two separate occasions during his senior season, including the state championship game for “violating team rules.” He ended up committing to TCU in a shocking move, as they had not been linked to him at all throughout the recruiting process. This led to some speculation that bigger schools had pulled their offers. Evans showed flashes of brilliance at TCU but decided to transfer when they fired their coach. He is now heading to Ole Miss where he hopes to make a statement and then enter the NFL draft. On the field, Evans possesses an enticing mix of elusiveness, power, elite athleticism, and tremendous receiving upside. Here’s to hoping he can unleash that potential at the next level.
Tank Bigsby, RB Auburn
6’0” 208 lbs
Bigsby was a highly rated recruit who contributed right away at Auburn. In 2021 he put up a very respectable 1,100 yards rushing in the SEC as part of a timeshare, with ten TDs. Bigsby profiles as an excellent but not elite athlete, possessing great acceleration and good top speed. He has excellent vision and wins with a punishing style of football. Contact balance is by far his greatest strength, as arm tackles simply do not get the job done against this guy. Bigsby has shown to be acceptable in the passing game, but I wouldn’t call it a strength. His recruiting pedigree, immediate production in the SEC, and exciting tape combine for what should be a great NFL draft profile assuming he continues to improve and produce in his final season at Auburn.
Jordan Addison, WR Pittsburgh
6’0” 175 lbs
This year, Addison was Kenny Pickett’s go-to receiver, posting an absurd 1,593 yards and 17 TDs. The only two other WRs in ACC history to clear those marks in a single season? Larry Fitzgerald and DeAndre Hopkins. That’s some pretty elite company! Unfortunately, he’s a little undersized at just 175 pounds. However, at 6 feet tall and with a good wingspan, Addison has room on his frame to bulk up heading into his final college season. He has great speed, savvy route running, and displayed remarkable body control, concentration, and ball skills on a number of highlight-reel catches this year. He’s also dangerous with the ball in his hands after the catch.
Josh Downs, WR UNC
5’10” 180 lbs
With the departure of lots of NFL caliber talent, someone had to step up at UNC this year to be a weapon for Sam Howell. That someone was Downs. He was Howell’s go-to guy in 2021, posting over 1,300 yards and eight TDs. Downs is blazing fast and has excellent acceleration to reach that top speed quickly. He’s a threat to make a house call on any given play. He also has great hands, plucking some spectacular catches away from his frame on off-target throws. Downs is undersized, but that’s less of a concern in light of the recent success of so many smaller receivers such as Elijah Moore and Jaylen Waddle.
So, that’s a preview of 12 potential 2023 first-round picks to help you know what you’re trading for when you acquire those ’23 firsts!
If you want to watch full games of prospects like these and form your own opinion, join the #NerdHerd and jump in our Film Room! We cut up full games so you can study a full game for a prospect in under 10 minutes, including tons of coveted all-22 coaches tape. Use this link or the promo code “COOP” for 15% off!
Also, please check out my YouTube Channel, the Devy to Dynasty Film Room! Right now, I’m working my way through 2022 rookie profiles, breaking down strengths and weaknesses as I see them on film!
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