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4th and Inches: Previewing the 2023 NFL Draft

It’s the time of year when dreams are made.

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | DFP Staff

The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday with the first of seven rounds. All told, the festivities will eventually span three days.

Draft weekend is one of the most exciting chapters of the NFL offseason, one that inspires as many emotions as a great film. 

From the fans urging their preferred squads to draft a specific player to the athletes clutching their phones, anxiously awaiting that life-changing call, it’s a weekend many will never forget. 

By the end of the night, 31 of the best college football players will have accomplished their lifelong dream of making it to the pros. By the end of the weekend, more than 200 players will join those 31 peers in celebrating the first day of the rest of their lives.

While some might only have a short stint in the league, a few will go on to win championships and craft an admirable legacy.

The 2023 Draft is one of the most highly anticipated drafts in recent years for a very simple reason: The quarterback class. 

Many teams are looking for the guy to lead their future. With a stacked quarterback class, this is the perfect year for those teams to make a big splash during the draft. 

Here are some of the quarterback prospects projected to be selected within the first two rounds: Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida), Will Levis (Kentucky) and Hendon Hooker (Tennessee).

Young and Stroud are penciled in as the first two picks — it’s just a matter of who goes No. 1 to Carolina. 

After sending a massive haul to Chicago to acquire the coveted No. 1 overall pick, it’s unlikely Carolina moves out of the first spot. They desperately need a quarterback, and Young and Stroud are undoubtedly the two best QB prospects in this draft. 

While every other team in the league gets to make a selection, the Texans — selecting second — will have the decision made for them. Whoever the Panthers don’t take is headed to Houston.

Like Carolina, Houston needs a franchise quarterback. Luckily, they will have either Stroud or Young to fill that void.

Fortunately for football fans, the Texans and Panthers will face off in 2023. We can expect a Young-Stroud matchup next season, with the only question being which logo they’ll be wearing on their chest.

Things could get dramatic following Houston’s selection. The Arizona Cardinals hold the No. 3 pick, and with Kyler Murray on the roster, it’s doubtful they draft a QB. 

Arizona has the chance to take one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, whether it be Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia’s Jalen Carter. However, they also have the option to trade the pick. 

With Indianapolis sitting one pick behind Arizona, jumping up to No. 3 could be the last chance for a team to snag their franchise guy. Richardson and Levis will still be on the board, and while opinions on their talents are mixed, the desire for a promising young quarterback might compel teams to execute a draft night trade. 

Don’t underestimate the desire for a quarterback. 

For franchises already committed to a QB, this draft can help fill any holes in the roster. There’s a possibility Carter and Anderson Jr., the best non-QB prospects, could be available after the first few picks.

The rest of the first round is projected to be dominated by defensive backs and offensive lineman. Because of how deep this OL and DB class is, teams can wait until the mid-to-late first round to grab a player that might’ve been a top-10 pick a different year.

With all the exciting prospects across the board, it’s the skill position players who find themselves in limbo. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on when the first receiver will come off the board.

This is a huge shift from recent drafts in which receivers tended to dominate the first round.

Players like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston seem to be at the top of most analysts’ receiver rankings. However, which order they’re drafted is still up in the air. 

Smith-Njigba is my pick for the safest receiver in the draft. His athleticism isn’t outstanding, but his body control, route running and concentration are elite for a player of his age. Smith-Njigba has a gift for creating separation from defensive backs, and his skills should translate well to the pros. 

Most drafts typically have a couple quality running backs. The 2023 Draft has two backs each worthy of a top-15 pick: Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. 

Robinson is the most talented offensive player in this class. He has the speed, size and athleticism to be an elite halfback. There are no glaring weaknesses in his game for defenses to exploit.

Robinson is also a very developed runner; he’s patient with the ball behind the line of scrimmage. College backs generally burst off the snap and rely on speed or strength to gain yards. Robinson excels at waiting for the play to develop before committing to an attack. 

Gibbs is another back with athleticism, capitalized by his blazing speed. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine, second-fastest among running backs. 

Gibbs’ speed, when paired with his versatility, makes him a special talent. His ability as a receiver has prompted comparisons to New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara. 

Robinson and Gibbs are both first-round talents. Their landing spots will likely be determined by how high in the draft a team feels comfortable using a pick on a historically injury-prone position. 

You never know what’s gonna happen in the NFL Draft. 

With all the talent in this class, Thursday has the potential to be a dramatic night filled with the jaw-dropping moments only Draft Day can provide. Once NFL commissioner Roger Goodell starts the clock, anything can happen. 

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