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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. 

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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

Why Anthony Richardson is QB1

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
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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.

Anthony Richardson

- Ceiling — Josh Allen-Jalen Hurts Hybrid 

- Floor — 2021 Cam Newton

Bryce Young

- Ceiling — 2022 Geno Smith In A Slim-Fit Russell Wilson Body Suit 

- Floor — Fun-Size Marcus Mariota

CJ Stroud 

- Ceiling — Rich Man's Dak Prescott 

- Floor — Mitchell Trubisky

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Will Levis

- Ceiling — Justin Herbert 

- Floor — Post-Eagles Carson Wentz

An early look ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft big board…

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Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok

…And because the big board needs to be in pure text form to be picked up by consensus aggregators, here goes:

  1. Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
  2. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
  3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
  4. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
  5. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
  6. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
  7. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
  8. CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
  9. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
  10. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
  11. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
  12. Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
  13. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
  14. Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah 
  15. Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
  16. Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
  17. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
  18. Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
  19. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
  20. Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
  21. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
  22. Will Levis, QB, Kentucky  
  23. Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan
  24. Jordan Addison, WR, USC
  25. Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
  26. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
  27. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
  28. Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
  29. Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
  30. DJ Turner, CB, Michigan
  31. Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
  32. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama 
  33. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
  34. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
  35. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa 
  36. Sydney Brown, S, Illinois
  37. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
  38. O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida
  39. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
  40. Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
  41. Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
  42. Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
  43. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
  44. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
  45. Steve Avila, OL, TCU
  46. Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
  47. Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
  48. Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
  49. Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa 
  50. Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
  51. John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
  52. BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
  53. Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama 
  54. Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
  55. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU 
  56. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
  57. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
  58. Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State 
  59. Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
  60. Nathaniel Dell, WR, Houston
  61. Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
  62. Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech
  63. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
  64. Antonio Johnson Jr., S, Texas A&M 
  65. Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State
  66. Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
  67. Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse
  68. Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
  69. Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC
  70. Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
  71. Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati
  72. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
  73. Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green
  74. Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson 
  75. Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
  76. Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
  77. Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri
  78. Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
  79. Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
  80. Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State 
  81. Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
  82. Kobie Turner, DL, Wake Forest
  83. Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
  84. Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB
  85. Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
  86. Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
  87. Christopher Smith, S, Georgia
  88. Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn 
  89. Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina
  90. Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
  91. Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
  92. DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB
  93. Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
  94. Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn
  95. Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion 
  96. Siaki Ika, DL, Baylor
  97. Chandler Zavala, OL, NC State
  98. Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
  99. Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee
  100. A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest