2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Will Anderson Jr. And Anthony Richardson Lead Top 100 Prospects
I'm sure ranking Anthony Richardson this high won't be polarizing at all.
Plenty of traditional draftniks and clueless wannabes will turn their noses up at me and say I'm unworthy of this blogging seat. Bring it on. I think my rationale behind supporting Richardson to such a degree is sound. Just hear me out.
Alabama's Will Anderson is probably atop most big boards you'll see and for good reason. He had 101 total tackles, 31 TFL and 17.5 sacks as a sophomore. Some viewed his junior campaign as a "down" year when he only had 17 TFL and 10 sacks. How horrible!
Jalen Carter's legal situation is still pending, but I've dropped him from second overall to 19th. Whether or not Carter is exonerated, seemed like a questionable situation to put himself in to begin with.
OK before we get into the big board, some key context: I inflate certain high-value positions. So for instance, Minnesota's John Michael Schmitz is the top center, but center is only so valuable. Obviously, quarterback tops the priority list, followed by cornerbacks and wide receivers. I'll always skew toward giving those guys a leg up.
…Which is why it's so crazy that Bijan Robinson cracks the top 10. Without further ado, here we go, and I'll break down some key storylines below.
2023 NFL Draft Big Board — Nos. 1-50
2023 NFL Draft Big Board — Nos. 51-100
It's not ONLY BECAUSE OF THE COMBINE. Out of curiosity, I looked around at other big boards to see how outlandish putting Richardson at No. 2 overall is. Turns out, not terribly.
- Pro Football Focus: 6th
- Tankathon: 6th
- NFL Mock Draft Database Consensus: 10th
- Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: 12th
- Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media (pre-Combine): 14th
Don't shoot the messenger, please. Rich Eisen reported in the aftermath of Richardson's Combine workout that the buzz about him going No. 1 overall was palpable.
I get that Richardson's completion percentage in college was low. When you really watch him, you see the mechanical flaws in his lower half. The staggering inconsistency on short-area throws. Those are real red flags and need to be cleaned up. Fixing Richardson's footwork is an absolute necessity.
So with such obvious, glaring weaknesses that don't bode well for NFL success and usually have me saying "I'm out!" on anyone else, why am I so bullish on Richardson and making this grand exception — other than the mythic performance he put on at the Combine?
Well, let's first dive into his situation at Florida. He only had one year of starting experience, yet still showed excellent pocket presence not infrequently, and demonstrated the ability to make protection calls, full-field reads and go through multiple progressions. He can throw from any platform with easy velocity, has the biggest arm in the draft, and is a total game-breaker as a runner.
We're basically talking about a guy who has Lamar Jackson's speed in Cam Newton's body. Or at least that's something like Richardson would describe his skill set. He's been calling himself Cam Jackson since 11th grade.
On that 53.8% completion rate from last season, bear in mind that Richardson had an average depth of target of 11.5 yards, per PFF. Not exactly dinking and dunking.
Another key stat where Richardson stacks up favorably in terms of feeling pressure, escaping, maneuvering in the pocket and/or making off-schedule plays: Pressure to sack conversion rate.
- Anthony Richardson: 9.2%
- Bryce Young: 12.5%
- CJ Stroud: 14.1%
- Will Levis: 26.8%
Beyond Richardson's own merits as a player — or lack thereof if you don't like him as a prospect — this is such a too-close-to-call lineup of top QB prospects. I wonder what will happen to CJ Stroud once he's not flanked by elite Ohio State receiving talent and has two top-20 big board tackles protecting him. Can he really go to a dysfunctional organization and thrive? I'm not so sure.
Then you have the smaller than smallish Bryce Young. Phenomenal game tape. Don't know if he can hold up physically at the NFL level. He's the outlier of all outliers when it comes to size. Richardson is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I'd rather bet on the big man with the superior dual-threat ceiling.
Finally, I like Will Levis just fine and think he was in almost as bad of a situation at Kentucky as Richardson was with the Gators. But again there are similar accuracy concerns with Levis, whose completion percentage was aided by a preponderance of screen passes. Go watch any of his games from 2022. It's jarring how often he's unloading screens. Levis could be the next Justin Herbert, or he could skew closer to the current (bad) version of Carson Wentz. Neither would shock me. More on this towards the end. PS: The way Levis navigates the pocket and takes brutal hits are shades of Andrew Luck.
The draft is so hard to nail as is. Bust rates on drafting quarterbacks early are pretty damn high. I'd take a swing at Richardson, because if you hit? Holy shit.
It's time to get excited if your team needs a cornerback or running back
I love the depth at both positions, to the point where it was tough to knock some of them off the top 100. Like I said, running backs have to be pretty special to get anywhere near the top-32 (first round adjacent grade) for me. Bijan Robinson is "built different" as the kids say these days. Bijan Robinson is HIM/Himothy. Etcetera.
If there's a hole in Bijan's game, please direct me to it. He's the rare workhorse back worthy of a first-round selection.
Another guy who could sneak into the Day 1 mix is Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs. He had a reasonably productive two-year stint at Georgia Tech before transferring to Tuscaloosa. Gibbs had 103 receptions for 1,212 yards and eight TDs for his college career. Between that pass-catching production and his decisive, effortless ball-carrying demeanor, Gibbs has a real shot to go off the board in Round 1.
To undercut that take a little, there are bargains to be had on Day 2. You have the electrifying speed of Texas A&M's Devon Achane, the do-it-all arsenal of Tulane's Tyjae Spears, a downhill carry-hogging style of play from UCLA's Zach Charbonnet, the power and home run hitting of Auburn's Tank Bigsby and some spunky smaller-school studs led by UAB's DeWayne McBride.
But to circle back to the position I value second-most: Cornerback. Christian Gonzalez has a bigger cornerback's body with the twitch of a below-average measurables guy. It's pretty incredible. Illinois' Devon Witherspoon is the epitome of a lockdown corner who thrives in man coverage but is plenty fine in zone. It was Lovie Smith's Tampa 2-loving ass that brought Witherspoon to Champaign in the first place. The young man is a menace for receivers when he's jamming them at the line of scrimmage and can he ever HIT.
A couple corners I really liked but was wary of moving up too far were DJ Turner and Julius Brents. That's where the Combine can be really useful, because Turner's raw speed and Brents' quicks and explosive athleticism for his size vaulted them up my board. I counted TWELVE cornerbacks in my top 100 from No. 32 onward.
The wide receiver class is mostly small but intriguing
So many undersized guys in the 2023 wideout group. It's kind of baffling. Seeing so many of these dudes tip the Combine scales at around 180 pounds and often less threw me for a loop. Among the top 100, you have Zay Flowers (5-9, 182), Jordan Addison (5-11, 173), Jalin Hyatt (6-0, 176), Nathaniel "Tank" Dell (5-8, 165), Marvin Mims (5-11, 182) and Jalen Moreno-Cropper (5-11, 172).
We've seen DeVonta Smith thrive at around 170 pounds, yet he's generally regarded as an exception. I don't know of many other guys doing it at his size. Smith is either a trailblazer for what's to come, or these slight-framed playmakers are about to get bullied in the pros.
My lean is toward the latter. Smaller receivers should continue to be more and more productive if for no other reason than how the rules have changed to protect defenseless receivers and quarterbacks. The whole modern game is optimally designed for teams with an elite passing attack. Another reason I bump up wide receiver values over other positions.
Flowers packed on at least 12 pounds from when Boston College's season ended to the Combine — seemingly without losing any of his burst. That's impressive work in a short window of time and is a big reason why I have him well ahead of Addison despite Flowers' inferior route-running.
I was surprised to see my WR1 Jaxon Smith-Njigba check in at 6-1, 195. Thicc boii right there. Did I just say that? I just said that. For someone so thicc, JSN is quick as hell. Just remember the last time we saw him at his best, Smith-Njigba had 15 grabs for 347 yards and three TDs in a Rose Bowl win for the ages over Utah.
JSN was such a high-volume target in that god-tier performance in part because Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave sat out to protect themselves from injury prior to the draft. Wilson went 10th overall the Jets; the Saints paid a heavy price to move up for Olave one picks later. Both had 1,000-yard receiving seasons as NFL rookies…and Wilson says Smith-Njigba is better than them.
OK enough JSN man-crushing. How about Quentin Johnston? HAVE MERCY. He has some problems catching the ball but my lord, what a talent. Couldn't knock him out of the top 15. The TCU star checked in at 6-3, 208 pounds and put up a 40.5" vertical and 11'2" broad jump. Certified freakazoid.
How about some QB/pro player comparisons to end this thing?
We'll go with ceiling and floor to make it even spicier. Stroud and Levis were far easier for me to pick out than my two favorites from this group.
- Ceiling — Josh Allen-Jalen Hurts Hybrid
- Floor — 2021 Cam Newton
- Ceiling — 2022 Geno Smith In A Slim-Fit Russell Wilson Body Suit
- Floor — Fun-Size Marcus Mariota
- Ceiling — Rich Man's Dak Prescott
- Floor — Mitchell Trubisky
- Ceiling — Justin Herbert
- Floor — Post-Eagles Carson Wentz
An early look ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft big board…
…And because the big board needs to be in pure text form to be picked up by consensus aggregators, here goes:
- Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
- Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
- Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
- Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
- Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
- Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
- CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
- Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
- Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
- Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
- Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
- Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
- Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
- Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
- Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
- Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
- Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
- Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
- Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
- Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
- Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan
- Jordan Addison, WR, USC
- Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
- Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
- Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
- Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
- Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
- DJ Turner, CB, Michigan
- Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
- Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
- Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
- Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
- Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
- Sydney Brown, S, Illinois
- Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
- O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida
- Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
- Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
- Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
- Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
- Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
- Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
- Steve Avila, OL, TCU
- Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
- Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
- Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
- Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
- Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
- John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
- BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
- Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
- Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
- Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
- Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
- Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
- Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State
- Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
- Nathaniel Dell, WR, Houston
- Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
- Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech
- Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
- Antonio Johnson Jr., S, Texas A&M
- Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State
- Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
- Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse
- Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
- Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC
- Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
- Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati
- Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
- Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green
- Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
- Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
- Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
- Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri
- Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
- Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
- Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State
- Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
- Kobie Turner, DL, Wake Forest
- Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
- Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB
- Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
- Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
- Christopher Smith, S, Georgia
- Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
- Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina
- Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
- Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
- DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB
- Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
- Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn
- Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
- Siaki Ika, DL, Baylor
- Chandler Zavala, OL, NC State
- Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
- Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee
- A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest