Early Favorite Group of Five Players: Offense

We are here right before the start of the college football season and I am going to give you guys some of my early favorite group of five players. I have a good grasp on the group of five or non Power five conferences. I have been updating and researching them for the RiseNdraft database for over a year. The majority of these players will not go in the first or second round. They either can fill a specific role like a solid back up QB or have the athletic upside to develop into a starter in the NFL. Some of them may not even be eligible for the 2023 draft. They are players I am keeping my eye on.

You can also read my full positional rankings for the 2023 draft as well if you like. These players are also in no specific order.

Quarterbacks:
Credit: Mark Brown/Getty Images
  • Holton Ahlers – East Carolina. fifth-year Senior who’s started a lot of games but probably doesn’t have the upside to be a starter. Could be a real solid backup.
  • Clayton Tune – Houston. Another fifth-year Senior. But he has starter upside and has improved every season. Gets no hype for his performance last year.
  • Tanner Mordecai – SMU. A former Oklahoma Sooner, he transferred to get immediate playing time. Like Tune, he put up big numbers in his first season in Dallas and got little to no publicity for it.
  • Grayson McCall – Coastal Carolina. Everyone knows about McCall. A really good college quarterback whose upside is in question. At the very least, he will be a good backup.
  • Hayden Wolff – Old Dominion. A third-year Sophomore. He redshirted in 2019, but his 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID. Started in 2021 and played better every game. He could be a dude in a year or two.
  • Hank Bachmeier – Boise State. A little undersized, but a real smart dude who can move around a bit. Upside is probably as a real solid #2.
Running backs:
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • Isaiah Bowser – UCF. A big 6’0 225 pound back that runs with power and can block decently. Not a breakaway threat. Can fill the short yardage/power back role on a team.
  • Keaton Mitchell – ECU. A small but fast (sub 4.4) scat back type. He could fill the lightning role/3rd down back for a team. He needs to add some bulk though only being 180 and needs to work on his pass pro.
  • Alton McCaskill – Houston. He came out of no where as a freshman in 2021 and rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 16 TDs. Has good size and great vision. He was looking to have a big 2022, but tore his ACL in the spring. He might be able to come back late in the season.
  • Brandon Thomas – Memphis. Thomas is a redshirt Sophomore. So he is technically eligible for the ’23 draft, but unless he has a really big year I don’t expect him to come out. He is a good all around back that averaged almost six yards a carry. He shares carries with Rodrigues Clark, but is the better player.
  • Tre Siggers – SMU. A good back with decent size and speed that transferred in from North Texas. Not much impact as a receiver. If he improves could be a real good #2 back.
  • Brian Battie – USF. Listed as a running back, but will probably be mostly a returner at the next level due to his size. Only 5’7 165, so he is going to have to bulk up a bit. But a dangerous return man. Has played ok from scrimmage as a runner and receiver. Just a Junior.
  • Amare Jones – Georgia Southern. Jones has decent size and speed, but what stands out most about him is his ability to play both RB and WR. He is not just a one trick pony either. He is a solid pass blocker for his size (5’11 195). Jones could be a good gadget player.
  • Chris Smith – Louisiana-Lafayette. Okay size at 5’9 197, but runs a sub 4.4. Has big time returner potential. Has also played okay from scrimmage as well. He is not much of a receiver or blocker at this point. If he improves he could find a role.
  • Rasheen Ali – Marshall. True Junior. He basically didn’t play his first two years, then came out of nowhere and started every game last season. He played really well in ’21. His blocking was not good at the beginning of the season, but he showed improvement and was pretty good by the end. Good size and speed. Could develop into a starter in the NFL.
  • Lew Nichols III – Central Michigan. By the end of this season, I’m betting he is a household name. He has ideal size at 5’10 220. Nichols has production- he rushed for 1848 yards and 16 TDs and produced as a receiver. He has agility to make defenders miss and has good contact balance. He could go on day 2.
  • Sean Taylor – Western Michigan. 1,150 yards and 9 TDs in ’21. Taylor was a solid all around player last season. He has good speed, but undersized at around 180. If he could bulk up he could be a solid 3rd down back.
Wide Receivers:
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • Tre Tucker/Tyler Scott – Cincinnati. Both players are of similar size and skill sets. Tucker being the smaller slightly faster player. Both have good speed and can be slot receivers at the next level. Scott averaged 26 yards a catch in ’21. He is also a Junior. Tucker can also return kicks/punts.
  • Rashee Rice – SMU. Rice will probably be one of the higher drafted players on this list; possibly second round. He can play anywhere on offense. He has good size at 6’1 203, speed (4.4), and a big catch radius (33 1/4″ arms). He is physical and gets YAC.
  • Keylon Stokes – Tulsa. He missed a chunk of ’21 with an injury and never seemed to get healthy. Played well in 2020 and 2019. Only 5’10 but 200 pounds. He has good speed. Stokes will mostly play in the slot.
  • Michael Jefferson – Louisiana Lafayette. Big receiver at 6’4 200 with solid speed (4.48). Jefferson plays physical and is a good blocker. He really came on towards the end of the season and could break out this season.
  • Grant Dubose – Charlotte. He has good size (6’2) with long 33″ arms and solid 4.5 speed. Really flashed last season and had over 800 yards after not playing in 2020. Dubose still has some upside. He is a fourth-year Senior so he could come back in 2023.
  • Jason Brownlee – Southern Miss. Good size (6’2 200) with really long 34″ arms. This gives him a crazy catch radius. He played really well in 2021. His speed is middling; which caps his upside. If he can improve his speed and show more separation in ’22 he could move up boards.
  • De’Corian Clark/Zakhari Franklin – UTSA. Both players arms are 33″ or longer and have at least 10 1/8″ hands giving them the ability to win 50/50 balls and strong hands. They are both around the same height, but Clark is 214 where Franklin is only 190. Clark is faster, around 4.45 and has more upside. Franklin is more polished as a route runner and was more productive in 2021.
  • Dallas Dixon – Central Michigan. Dixon is a real sleeper. He played well last season, but just didn’t have the production with just 45 catches as CMU ran the ball a lot. He will be the #1 receiver this season and could take off. He showed a lot of potential to be an NFL receiver. Dixon can get YAC and has sub 4.5 speed to go with his solid 6’1 200 pound frame.
Tight Ends:
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  • Alec Holler – UCF. Holler is a former walk-on. He is undersized at around 6’3 230. He is a decent athlete who might be able to make it as an H-back. While not much of a blocker he isn’t bad for his size.
  • Josh Whyle/ Leonard Taylor – Cincinnati. Both are almost complete opposites. Whyle is a long and lean receiving threat who has spent a lot of time detached from the line and is an ok blocker. Taylor on the other had is big and is a solid blocker who has some receiving skills. Both should get drafted.
  • Christian Trahan – Houston. Trahan is on the short side at 6’2, but he has long 34 3/8″ arms. This arm length should allow him to continue to play in-line in the NFL. He is a bit on the inconsistent side, but he is a good athlete and has potential.
  • Zack Kuntz – Old Dominion. A large man at 6’8 250 with an 83″ wingspan. He runs a sub 4.6 and can vertical 40″. He originally started out at Penn State. He had a big year in 2021 with 73 catches for 692 yards. His big weakness has been in the blocking department. If he can improve there fans might call him Jelani Woods 2.0.
  • Gary Williams – Colorado State. He played behind McBride last season but still saw significant snaps. He is on the smaller side at 6’2 245, so he may have to move to an h-back/move tight end role. He has good speed and flashed as a receiver in 2021. Also surprisingly he is a good blocker. His development will be one to monitor.
Offensive tackles:
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  • Samuel Jackson/Edward Collins/Ryan Swoboda/Tylan Grable – UCF. Yes that is right there are four offensive tackles for UCF that could get drafted or at least signed as PFA’s. Lets start with Jackson; he has great size at 6’6 335, but his arms are just 32 3/4″ and athletically he’s just ok. He took his pass blocking to a new level in 2021, but he probably will end up playing guard in the NFL. Collins has good size as well at 6’5 315. He has started at LT but played poorly. Collins switched to RT and played a lot better. Not being very athletic he could also potentially move to guard.

Swoboda is a mammoth man at 6’9 322 with long 34 1/2″ arms who transferred over from Virginia and is expected to start at RT. He is a RT only prospect. He’s been solid but hasn’t shown much growth the last few years. He has a good shot at getting drafted. Grable is the sleeper and has the highest upside. He transferred in from Jacksonville State. A 6’7 290 pound physical freak who was a high school QB that switched to TE when he first got to Jacksonville State. His pass blocking has been solid the last two seasons. He could be a big mover up draft boards.

  • James Tunstall – Cincinnati. A double transfer Tunstall has been everywhere. He started at UConn then transferred to Stony Brook and then sat out the 2020 season. He has great tackle size at 6’7 319 with long 34 3/4″ arms. He started all of ’21 at LT. Athletically he’s not the greatest so he might have to switch over to RT.
  • Noah Henderson – East Carolina. A former walk-on, Henderson took over at RT in week 2 and didn’t look back. He has good size and is a good athlete. The former walk-on was solid in pass pro outside of a couple games. He needs to take another step though to have a shot.
  • Patrick Paul – Houston. Patrick is the younger brother of Chis who played at Tulsa and was drafted in the 7th by the Cowboys in this past draft. Patrick is a different player than his brother. He is a 100% LT and has the size(6’7 315), athleticism, and length to stay there in the NFL. Good in both the pass and run game. Should be a day 2 pick. He is a redshirt Junior.
  • Jaylon Thomas/ Marcus Bryant – SMU. Thomas is the more well known player. He is good in both the run and pass game. But due to his length(32″) and size 6’3 326 he will need to move to guard in the NFL. He has potential to be a good one. Bryant is another massive man at 6’8 314 with solid athleticism. He is a true Junior so he could stay four years. He played both left and right tackle but was better at right. He was really good in pass protection in ’21. Run blocking was a little up and down.
  • Donovan Jennings – USF. He has been a three year starter at LT for the Bulls and has blocked well; but due to his length (32 3/8″) he is going to have to move inside. Needs to improve in the run game.
  • Nick Saldiveri – Old Dominion. Saldiveri became a starter in 2019 and was just ok, nothing special. The school’s 2020 season was canceled and when they came back for the ’21 season he was a totally different player. He was great in both phases. He has good size (6’6 315) and decent athleticism. Only a Junior so he could come back for the 2023 season. He has been almost exclusively a RT.
  • John Ojukwu – Boise State. Ojukwu is a player I have written about before. He is another player I feel has a chance at going day 2. He has great size and length(6’6 312 35 3/8″ arms), and big 10 7/8″ hands. A four year starter at LT that has steadily gotten better each year. He has the athleticism to stay at LT.
  • Aaron Frost – Nevada. 2022 will be his 4th as the starting RT. Frost has been a very good run blocker in his time at Nevada. His pass blocking has been inconsistent mainly due to his aggressiveness. He tends to get too aggressive. If he can throttle that down a bit he could be a decent pass protector. A move inside is a certainty.
  • Frank Crum – Wyoming. Entering his 3rd year as the starter at RT. Crum has a large frame at 6’7 315, but isn’t much of an athlete so he will probably be a RT only prospect. Solid in both pass blocking and run blocking. He probably still needs to take another step to get drafted.
Interior offensive line:
Credit: ucfknights.com
  • Matthew Lee – UCF. Lee has started two years at center and was an OT in high school. He has good size and athleticism. Being only 295 though he will need to add some bulk before coming to the NFL, but he has time with him being a 4th year Junior. His pass blocking in ’21 was really good and even for being a little undersized his run blocking is decent. A sleeper pick that could go higher than most expect.
  • Jacob Likes – Memphis. Likes is undersized at 6’2 280. He played real solid as a first year starter in ’21. Obviously he needs to add bulk. A decent athlete. Even for being 280 his run blocking isn’t bad. Already a good pass blocker.
  • Sincere Haynesworth – Tulane. A starter since mid way through the 2019 season he has shown growth each season. Even as a true freshman his pass blocking was solid. An undersized center at 6’1 305. He compensates that with his big hands and long arms; 10 1/8″ and 33″ respectively. His run blocking has come a long way as well. One of the better centers in the class that doesn’t get much PR.
  • Kyle Hergel – Texas State. Unknown until recently when it was revealed he was on Bruce Feldman’s freak list. His size is average at 6’2 305 with 32 1/2″ arms, but has a 78″ wingspan so he has a wide body. He was a so-so player before making a huge leap in 2021. Very good in pass pro and run blocking. Needs to play against better competition.
  • Jake Andrews – Troy. A two year starter at RG who also has experience at C and LG. Andrews is a big man at 6’3 331. A decent athlete for his size who has actually been better in the pass game than the run game. Could make it as a versatile back up. Overaged, will be 23 in November.
  • Rusty Staats – Western Kentucky. He is being included in this list for two reasons: His amazing name and his play on the field. He was a first year starter this past season at center. He blocked really well in 2021 all around. His run blocking was a bit inconsistent. If anything holds him back at the next level it will be his borderline athleticism. He does have some experience at guard and that could be a better spot for him eventually.
  • Sidy Sow – Eastern Michigan. Sow is entering his 5th year as a starter. He actually started most of 2018 at LT, the rest at LG. He is a big dude at 6’5 334. Due to his lack of elite athleticism he will be a guard only player in the NFL. He has battled inconsistencies through out his career, but has worked on it and has improved over the last couple seasons. Sow still needs to continue to work on it in regards to his pass blocking. A very consistent run blocker the last two seasons.

Initial Scouting Report: Andre Carter II

Army EDGE and 2023 NFL draft prospect Andre Carter II
via goarmywestpoint.com

Andre Carter II is a senior EDGE prospect who plays for Army. In 2021, he emerged as one of the most productive pass rushers in college football in his first year as a full time player, posting 14.5 sacks and even recording an interception. With the college football season around the corner, let’s dive into the scouting report on Andre Carter II.

The box score is often deceptive. I watched three games (Western Kentucky, Wake Forest, Air Force) to get a feel for Carter II and see where the 6’6″, 260 pound pass rusher stands headed into the 2023 NFL draft.

Best game watched: Air Force

Worst game watched: Wake Forest

At a Glance

Andre Carter II possesses everything an NFL defensive coordinator covets in an EDGE. He is a towering 6’6″, with arms almost 34-inch arms. At 260 pounds, he is strong enough to anchor his base and shed would-be blockers. Physically, he is an imposing specimen with the frame to add another ten to fifteen pounds of mass comfortably.

In Army’s defense, Carter II is a true 3-4 outside linebacker. He seldom puts his hand in the dirt and looks fluid and at ease in a two-point stance. Beyond being just a pass rusher, Army regularly tasks him with zone and flat coverage responsibilities.

via goarmywestpoint.com

Andre Carter II Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Explosive first step
  • Attacks the football when the opportunity arises
  • Elite strength-to-power as a pass rusher
  • Fluid in space and comfortable in coverage
  • Active at the line of scrimmage impacting the passing lanes
  • Relentless motor

Weaknesses

  • Lacks a plan as a pass rusher
  • Raw in advanced pass rush techniques
  • Fails to take advantage of his length consistently
  • Will occasionally fail to contain in run defense and over run the arc
  • Struggles to keep lineman out of his chest and gets trapped
  • Lower body flexibility and ability to bend is a major question mark

Overall Summary

Andre Carter II found massive success in 2021. Often able to use an explosive first step to blow by offensive tackles and disrupt plays before they began, he is a superior athlete against his level of competition. He shows the ability to convert speed-to-power as good as any pass rusher in the country at times. He shows a good swim move and occasionally a cross chop and long arm.

2022 should see Carter II further develop as a pass rusher and learn how to use his length more effectively and more consistently. He is very raw, and already very good. His ability to make plays in space and in coverage is massively underrated and exemplifies the kind of play-maker he is.

NFL scouts will absolutely keep an eye on the young pass rusher this fall. He is a phenomenal athlete, though not on the Travon Walker/Jadeveon Clowney level of freakish ability. Getting stronger at the point of attack, maintaining his responsibilities in run defense, and developing a more complete arsenal as a pass rusher will be crucial.

Current Evaluation and Projection

Had Andre Carter II been in the 2022 NFL draft class, I would have comfortably placed an early day 2 grade on him based on upside alone. He would have been a top 50 prospect on my overall big board. I firmly believe that will be his floor going into the 2023 NFL Draft. When it comes to pass rushers, bet on tools and traits. Carter II has both. I look forward to coming back to this report as the season progresses and will be watching closely when he partakes in agility drills.

As I mentioned above, Carter II is a true 3-4 outside linebacker. Some fan bases who should familiarize themselves with him are the Chargers, Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chiefs, Jets, Bucs. Hybrid fronts that get creative with blitz packages and hiding pressure will fit him well.

The Baylor Defensive Line is loaded with draft prospects

Photo via Baylor Athletics

The Baylor Bears have plenty of defensive talent poised for a big 2022 season!

baylor defensive line
Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears were one of the better defenses during the 2021 college football season due in large part to the stout play from their defensive line. Despite ranking 31st in the country and fourth in BIG 12 in total defense, the squad allowed only 345.9 yards per game while only giving up 29 total touchdowns to their opponents.

Last year the team sent quite a few of their players to the NFL including defenders Jalen Pitre and Terrell Bernard. In the 2023 Draft. Baylor looks to add many more players to NFL rosters next year, including stout offensive linemen Jacob Gall and Connor Galvin. However, it seems the defense will once again carry the bulk of future professionals — led by their defensive line.

Siaki Ika – Defensive Tackle

Chief among the Baylor defenders is defensive tackle Siaki Ika. After spending the two previous seasons with the LSU Tigers, Ika joined the Bears in 2021 and immediately made his presence known. He finished the season with 24 total tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks.

Ika won the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award for his efforts on the field. Additionally, Ika was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, an honor presented to the best defensive player of the year. As the core of the Baylor defense, Ika looks to lead the unit to another year of high-level play against a wide open Big 12 conference.

As a pure prospect, Ika is one of the best nose tackles in the country due to his elite play strength, vision and pass rush prowess. Despite his 6-4, 358 build, Ika has plenty of pass rush juice, proving his ability to toss opponents using a combination of hand quickness and power. He’s able to dictate run lanes with hand placement and force runners into cut back lanes.

Gabe Hall – Defensive End

The number two on the Baylor defensive line is five-technique defensive end Gabe Hall. Despite not receiving any big honors last season, it was a productive outing for the junior defensive linemen. Hall finished last season with five sacks, 18 total tackles and seven tackles for a loss.

At 6-6, 296 pounds, Hall plays with a ton of power behind his frame and can hold his own at the point of attack. Baylor likes to deploy him at defensive end while also dropping him inside at three-technique. He has strong hands which allows him to toss offensive linemen in the run game when acting as a gap penetrator.

Hall is an ideal player on a three-man front given his versatility and above-average athletic traits. Hall looks to have a breakout season for the Bears defense playing next to Ika. He’s continuing to work on his pass rush abilities, which were already intriguing as is.

Jaxon Player – Rotational Defensive Tackle

Ika isn’t the only transfer the Baylor Bears will be fielding during the 2022 season. Former Tulsa Golden Hurricane Jaxon Player joined the squad earlier this year after opting to leave his former program following the 2021 college football campaign.

Player is known for this stout build at 6-0, 299 pounds, as well as his raw display of power from his low pad level. He shows incredible first step quickness from his three technique spot, which allows him to hit his opponents with good force to leverage pressure.

2021 was Player’s best statistical season to date, finishing the year with 50 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks. He has solid bend in his hips, which allows him to push the pocket and leverage pressure in the backfield. Although he may not start, Player will give plenty of juice to an already impressive defensive line.

Closing Thoughts

The Baylor Bears are likely to have another successful season in a BIG 12 conference without a clear cut headliner. The rotation of Ika, Hall, and Player is enough to handle the elite runners from Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State.

TJ Franklin and Cole Maxwell are other key players on the Baylor defense, despite not being on NFL Draft radars just yet. Even so, the Baylor defense is an elite unit (especially on their defensive line) from top to bottom and will be a fun study this fall.

Packers 2023 NFL Draft Outlook: Which positions are of importance?

The 2023 Draft is months away, but teams are already looking at the draft board. Which positions are of the most importance?

Photo Credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

I know it’s probably too early for most Packers fans to be thinking draft, but let’s look into a Packers 2023 NFL Draft outlook. I am going to separate the positions into: yes, maybe, or no. Now obviously things can change depending on free agency, injuries, trades, etc…You can play with the Packers 2023 cap at Over The Cap to give you an idea of what they are looking at going into 2023 in regards to free agency and the cap.

If you want to look into specific players for the 2023 NFL draft you can read some of my other NFL draft articles. Now, let’s get to it!

Yes?

So these are positions that I am expecting Gutekunst and the Packers to target early in the 2023 NFL draft (fourth round or earlier) pretty much regardless of what happens or the outlook on the position come year’s end.

Edge rusher:

Outside of Preston Smith and Rashaan Gary, there is very little talent at this position. Smith will also be over 30 in 2023, and Gutey tends to let guys walk around that age. Kingsley Enagbare may eventually become a decent #3 type, but they still need more depth and someone to eventually replace Smith. Regardless of what happens, I expect them to draft at least one in the first four rounds, possibly two.

Safety:

This position is some what similar to edge. There is no depth behind Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. All the guys behind them are, at best, #4 type players. Tariq Carpenter is a linebacker playing safety, and a guy who should only be playing special teams anyway.

Also both Savage and Amos will be free agents next offseason — the age that Gutey lets guys walk unless they are All-Pro or Pro Bowl level players. It’s possible he bucks that trend, but with their cap issues they may only be able to re-sign one or the other. So, more than likely they are looking at having to replace one of their starters in 2023.

Wide Receiver:

You may be thinking “But Brian, they just drafted three receivers?”. Yes that is true, but don’t forget: Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins will be free agents, and Randall Cobb is essentially playing on a one-year deal. So, all three of them could be gone, and I expect at least two of them to be gone. Also, Samouri Toure was just a seventh round pick and the history shows most don’t make it. Essentially, there is a good chance he doesn’t make the roster in 2022.

You are left with Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Amari Rodgers who are locks for 2023. Yes, they could sign a veteran, but again their cap situation will not leave them with much money to sign one. I would think if they do it will be for around what Watkins signed for. Even still, they need more talent in depth.

I don’t expect them to draft three like they did this year, but would not be surprised if they drafted one on day two and another late on day three.

Defensive line:

There are a few free agents at this position that can really sap the depth. Both Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed will be free agents after the 2022 season, and Jack Heflin might not even make the roster in 2022. So the Packers would be left with Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, and maybe Jonathan Ford (who I do not see making the roster in ’22).

Now we are hoping Slaton develops, but we just don’t know. They still need depth. With just those three guys on the roster, they will need at least a fourth and fifth. Your fourth guy tends to see a decent amount of playing time in the rotation.

So they may not draft someone in the first or second round, but don’t be surprised if they draft one in the third or fourth.

Maybe?

The 2023 NFL Draft outlook for the Packers at these positions will depend heavily on what happens in 2022 with players in regards to their play, free agency, and or how they come back from injury.

Tight end:

This position really depends on a number of factors. How does Robert Tonyan come back from his ACL? Is he the player he was in 2020 or similar to the guy he was in 2021? Big dog is probably in his last season in Green Bay and probably the NFL. But does he still look like he can continue to play, or has Father Time finally come for him?

As for Josiah Deguara, does he finally get back to the player he flashed he could be as a rookie before tearing his ACL? Or is the player he was in 2021 the player he is now? Finally, there is Tyler Davis. Does he continue to build upon what he flashed in 2021? Or was he just a flash in the pan and a bottom of the roster type guy?

There are a lot of questions to be answered at this position in 2022. Once we have those answers, we will have a better idea of how big of a need the position will be in the draft. I still feel they end up drafting at least one tight end somewhere, but it could just be on day three.

Offensive Tackle:

A position that is somewhat similar to tight end. There are a number of questions that need to be answered. Mostly injury related. If everyone gets healthy and is back to their old selves then this becomes a non-need. David Bakhtiari needs to be healthy and show he can at least play at a close level to his pre-injury self and the same with Elgton Jenkins.

If Yosh Nijman can show some progress in the preseason and early season, and Rasheed Walker shows he can play in the NFL then that will go a long way in solidifying the position. If, however, Bahktiari is a shadow of his old self or has trouble getting on the field, Nijman shows no growth. and Walker doesn’t look like he belongs this could become a big issue and the Packers will need to spend an early pick at the position (first two rounds probably).

Jenkins will also be a free agent after the season and could get a big pay day. If they don’t extend him he could get a big offer and walk.

Running back:

Another position with a lot of questions heading into 2023. Let’s start with Aaron Jones, whose cap number jumps to $20 million in 2023. There is no way Gutey is going to pay him that much. Does he take a pay cut, renegotiate his contract, or get cut outright?

If they cut him, they save $10 million on the cap. With his age and injury history, it seems like almost a certainty. If so, who is the 1B to AJ Dillion’s 1A? Does Kylin Hill show enough coming off his ACL tear to say that he can be that guy? Could Patrick Taylor or one of the undrafted rookies show something?

A lot will depend on the answers to those questions. Worst case scenario? They have to pretty much rebuild the position. Best case? They are set for the next few years and don’t need to draft the position, except maybe late day three.

Quarterback:

Everything, as always, depends on what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Do the Packers win the Super Bowl and he rides off in the sunset? Does he ask for a trade? Does Father Time hit him like a ton of bricks? Or do the Packers just decide to start the rebuild and trade him? He is impossible to cut due to the cap hit.

Then, of course, how does Jordan Love develop in the preseason? Does he even get in a regular season game?

The answers to these question will determine if they draft a QB. They could draft one in the first if everything goes south, or they could not draft one at all, or even somewhere in-between.

Special teams:

Kicker, punter, and long snapper could all be different in 2023. A lot again will depend on how they play. Mason Crosby is 38 and coming off a knee procedure. Father Time comes for everyone eventually.

Gabe Brkic has potential and may show something and the Packers keep him around to be his successor or he could fall on his face and the Packers end up having to draft a kicker in 2023. Same for Pat O’Donnell. He has been pretty average though his career and the Packers may look for an upgrade. As for long snapper, who knows?

No?

I add the question mark because you can never say 100% they won’t draft position X. You just don’t know what’s going go happen in season and how the draft ends up shaking out. Someone could drop to you that is too much of a good value so you draft them and figure it out later. But if everything goes more or less according to plan, I do not expect Gutey to draft any player from these positions early on (fourth round or earlier).

Linebacker:

Gutey just signed De’Vondre Campbell to a big contract extension, they just drafted Quay Walker at pick #22, and Krys Barnes is a very good #3. So Campbell isn’t going anywhere for at least a couple years. Walker will get at least three seasons to produce and Barnes is a restricted free agent next offseason. So the three of them should all be back in 2023. There would be no need to draft a linebacker any earlier than the sixth round.

Unless, again, someone falls to them and they take the value and figure it out later. They may try and take someone late day three to improve that fourth linebacker spot, but outside of something like that I don’t see them touching the position.

Interior Offensive line:

The Packers have recently stocked up on interior offensive linemen. In the last three years they have drafted eight players who are either interior offensive linemen or, at the very least, guys who can play inside. Simon Stepaniak is the only one of the eight who is not still with the team. A number of them have shown they can at least play at the NFL level.

With the cases of Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, and Royce Newman they have all shown they can all be starters. Jake Hanson has improved a lot since his rookie training camp and he has looked like an NFL player. Cole Van Lanen is still a wait and see, and of course so are Sean Rhyan and Zach Tom who have both seen time in practice on the interior.

It is a position that they have a lot of depth at, and I do not see any reason for them to draft one in 2023 outside of late day three.

Cornerback:

Brian Gutekunst has set Matt LaFleur up with probably the best top three corners group in the league. Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas have all played like #1 cornerbacks. The NFL has become a sub-package league, where teams are in nickel A LOT.

Joe Barry did not use dime personal very much last season. Maybe due to personnel, or due to just not liking to use it much. Either way with what Keisean Nixon showed in 2021 playing the slot for the Raiders, the Packers should be fine at dime back as well. With Shemar Jean-Charles as the #5/special teamer, Barry seems to be set at the position.

Of course I would not be surprised if they did draft one on day three to compete with SJC or Nixon, but I wouldn’t expect it any earlier than the fifth round.

2023 NFL Draft Watch List: Wide Receivers

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here’s Hussam Patels’ 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver watchlist.

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here is my 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte tops Hussam Patel's 2023 NFL Draft watch list at the position.
Photo Credit: MG Miller, USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list

Kayshon Boutte

The top wide receiver of the 2023 class had a very productive freshman 2021 season and sadly dropped off a little bit due to injuries in 2022. Boutte is an extremely well-rounded receiver. He flashes the foot quickness and toughness to handle slot duties at the next level and lines up all over the field. Boutte is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Speaking of, the Tigers product hands’ accepts the ball fluidly on most throws and is ready to make a play afterward. He makes catches in traffic, even going up over taller defenders with vertical and toughness.

Kayson Boutte is one of the most athletically gifted players in the 2023 class, who possess great speed, acceleration, and size, and combines these traits with decent hands and outstanding route running. 

The only reservation I have of Boutte is his medical issue. If he has a quality year in 2022, Boutte could easily become the top-rated receiver come the 2023 NFL Draft. Still, Boutte is the top prospect on the 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jaxson Smith-Njigba

At the age of 20, Jaxson Smith-Njigba has fine-tuned his route running and has a great understanding of how to dissect different zones and attack the leverage on defensive backs.

As a sophomore in 2021 he played in 13 games and had 95 catches for 1595 yards for an average of 16.8 yards per catch, with 9 TDs, and a QB rating when targeted of 141.8

The Buckeyes standout has the strongest hands any NFL wide receiver coach and quarterback would covet. He tracks the deep ball over either shoulder and brings in passes fluidly without breaking stride downfield

Expect 2022 to be even better than 2021, as Smith-Njigba will be gifted the number one receiving spot on the Buckeye’s offense. I have him slated as the number two prospect to watch on this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jordan Addison

The third pass-catcher in this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list is USC’s Jordan Addison. Addison had a very productive season last year winning the Biletnikoff trophy at Pittsburgh.

This off-season he transferred to USC and will play for offensive mastermind Lincoln Riley. Addison is looking to replicate his 2021 season with Caleb Williams as his quarterback.

The Trojan playmaker has amazing flexibility and can pretty much make any catch you ask him to.

The speed element of his game is evident, along with the ability to break the ankles of defenders in the open field. A slippery athlete, Addison is a headache to deal with when he has the football in his hands

Addison’s catch comfortability does not instill much confidence, as he does tend to bring passes into his frame rather than working with his hands away from his chest. The further outside of his frame he has to work, the less dependable his hands become.

He has a chance this year to become to establish himself as a top-ten pick if he continues to play at the level he displayed as a sophomore at Pittsburgh.

Parker Washington

Nittany Lions’ receiver Parker Washington had an 800 yard season sitting behind Jahan Dotson as the number two option. With a prime role coming this season, he’s looking to absolutely breakout and torch Big Ten defensive backs.

Washington saw the bulk of his snaps from the slot last year, and got a lot of free releases. I expect to see him on the outside a little more, and how he handles contact at the line of scrimmage will be crucial.

He is very good at tracking the ball in the air and, for his size, does a great job timing jumps to beat defenders for contested catches. So far in his career, he has brought in 11 out of 23 attempts on contested balls. A big reason as to why is due to his strong hands.

When Washington gets in the open field, he can take it the distance. He snags the ball well and is able to fully extend on off-target passes by extending his arms rather than with pure speed.

Marvin Mims

Marvin Mims has the versatility to line up at all three receiving positions (X, Flanker, and Slot), and is able to execute at all three levels of the field. 

A savvy, natural pass-catcher with reliable hands and very good focus. He routinely looks the ball into his hands and can maintain concentration to haul in circus catches way outside of his framework.

Despite being a smaller receiver, Mims competes well above his weight class and his competitive toughness shines as a blocker. Mims is one of the few receivers in this draft class who blocks well, which catapults him to the fifth spot in the 2023 NFL Draft wide receivers watch list.

In 2023, Mims could solidify himself as a first-round talent if Oklahoma builds on his route tree. He runs the routes in his package well, but a more diverse route tree will allow him to produce more and more quickly at the NFL level.

Honorable Mentions: 

Josh Downs-UNC, Dontay Demus-Maryland, Zay Flowers-BC, Quentin Johnson-TCU, Xavier Hutchinson-Iowa State.

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