Pre-Season 2023 NFL Draft Rankings: Defense

Welcome to part two of my pre-season 2023 NFL draft rankings: defense. I hope you enjoyed the last part. If you haven’t already, check out part one and then come back. If you want to do extra research on your own, you can check out the risendraft database that I work on, and stay tuned to ATB Network for more 2023 NFL draft coverage.

Defensive line:
  1. Jalen Carter – Georgia
  2. Bryan Bresee – Clemson
  3. Gervon Dexter – Florida
  4. Byron Young – Alabama
  5. Siaki Ika – Baylor
  6. Jaquelin Roy – LSU
  7. Akheem Mesidor – Miami
  8. Keeanu Benton – Wisconsin
  9. Zacch Pickens – South Carolina
  10. Calijah Kancey – Pittsburgh

Jalen Carter kicks off the 2023 NFL draft rankings for the defensive line. Carter is probably the best defensive line prospect to come out in three to four years, he is that good. The injury in ’21 probably cost Bresee and extra season in college. He is a big strong bull in the run game and as a pass rusher. Dexter is one of those versatile guys who can play up and down the line. He still has a lot of upside, too.

Young is a traditional Alabama DL. He is a big strong run defender who is solid all around. High floor. The top NT in the class, Ika is a big man who can rush the passer a little. A highly-rated recruit, Roy took a few years to produce. Hopefully he can take it up a notch in ’22.

Mesidor is a bit undersized, but athletic. He is definitely a 3-tech, and still needs to add some weight. Benton looks like a nose tackle, but is a better pass rusher than run-stuffer right now. He has the potential to be really good at both, though. A former five star recruit, Pickens, like Roy, took some time to show his potential. Although he still has a ways to go, he can get there. Kancey is similar to Mesidor, but about five pounds lighter. He needs to add bulk as well.

Edge:
Credit: Edward Diller/Getty Images
  1. Will Anderson – Alabama
  2. Myles Murphy – Clemson
  3. Isaiah Foskey – Notre Dame
  4. Andre Carter – Army
  5. Tyree Wilson – Texas Tech
  6. Will McDonald – Iowa State
  7. Derick Hall – Auburn
  8. Nolan Smith – Georgia
  9. Brenton Cox – Florida
  10. Zach Harrison – Ohio State

I mean, who else would be #1? Anderson is a generational talent and he can still get better. Murphy is a big power rusher who still hasn’t completely developed his pass rush, yet still is producing. Foskey brings the long, explosive, bendy pass rush game. Still a bit raw in his moves and his pass rush plan.

Carter is a 6’6 freak athlete and had an amazing 59 pressures and 15 sacks. And he is still raw as a rusher. His upside is huge. Wilson is similar in size and athleticism to Carter, probably is a bit more developed, but still on the raw side. He is already a very good run defender. An undersized speedster, McDonald flies off the edge and is already a good pass rusher. He does need to add bulk and work on his run defense.

Having tons of potential, but still a ways to go, Hall has shown flashes as a pass rusher. He is long and athletic. A bit of a tweener, Smith could be converted into a off-ball linebacker if the right team drafts him. He can do a bit of everything, but his arms are a bit short. Cox, a Georgia transfer, is a solid all-around edge defender, but rumors of off-the-field issues need to be checked out. Harrison is big, explosive, and strong, but a little on the stiff side. Some think he could bulk up and play more of a 5-tech in the NFL.

Linebackers:
Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
  1. Trenton Simpson – Clemson
  2. Noah Sewell – Oregon
  3. Henry To’o To’o – Alabama
  4. Nick Hampton – Appalachian State
  5. DeMarvion Overshown – Texas
  6. Amari Gainer – FSU
  7. Jestin Jacobs – Iowa
  8. SirVocea Dennis – Pittsburgh
  9. Jack Campbell – Iowa
  10. Drake Thomas – NC State

2023 is not a great linebacker class. Simpson right now is probably a place-holder before someone steps up. He is a solid player, but nothing special. Sewell could be that guy. He has a lot of potential. Strong, physical, and explosive. To’o To’o is smart and athletic, but tends to be a little inconsistent. If he irons that out he can be pretty good.

Hampton is a bit undersized, but a good player all around. The key will be him going against better competition at one of the All-Star Bowl games. Two highly athletic players who had a ho-hum 2021 season, Overshown and Gainer can both move up a lot, if they can play up to their potential.

Jacobs, even though he has a lot less hype, is the better Iowa linebacker. He has a lot more athletic upside than Campbell. Dennis has been a good run defender in his time, but needs to show improvement in his all-around game. While a solid all-around player, Campbell has limited upside due to his lack of athleticism. Thomas is undersized, but a play-maker who plays well in coverage and against the run.

Defensive Backs:
Credit Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
  1. Eli Ricks – Alabama
  2. Kelee Ringo – Georgia
  3. Jordan Battle – Alabama
  4. Brandon Joseph – Notre Dame
  5. Antonio Johnson – Texas A&M
  6. Joey Porter Jr. – Penn State
  7. Cam Smith – South Carolina
  8. Garrett Williams – Syracuse
  9. JL Skinner – Boise State
  10. Emmanuel Forbes – Mississippi State

Ricks has top 15 pick potential, he just needs to stay healthy and show what he can do on the field. Ringo was in a similar boat in 2021, and seems to be back to his old self. He could go very high as well. Battle surprisingly didn’t come out for the 2022 draft. He is an all-around good safety and might be the first drafted. Joseph had a big freshman season at Northwestern then kind of fell off. If he has a big 2022 season expect him to declare and to go early.

Johnson is a big, fast safety who, if he steps it up a notch, could go pretty high. Porter Jr. made the right choice to go back, because he had some consistency issues that needed to be worked on. He has the talent to be really good. Cam Smith has similar issues, but has flashed elite talent and could be one of the top corners drafted.

Williams had a great 2020 season, but dealt with injuries in 2021, which might have affected his play. Bottom line: he got beat too much. Skinner is a really good safety who might not be known by a lot of fans since he plays for Boise State, but the NFL knows him, and he played well. If he takes it up another notch, watch out! Another solid all-around player, Forbes really jumped in 2021 and may not have elite measurables can be a very solid corner.

That’s it for preseason NFL draft rankings for the 2023 draft. Stay tuned during the season to see how these rankings change and who comes from seemingly out of nowhere to crash the party.

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