An early look at the top 20 NFL-eligible college football players in 2023

The deadline for college football players across the country to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft is now and gone. I’m sorry if you intended to throw your name into the mix but fell asleep through your alarm (college kids, am I right?), but it’s too late. Your punishment is that you have to stay in school for another year.

However, the NFL’s loss is college football’s gain. Some players were not eligible for the draft—the NFL has a rule that requires all players to be out of high school for at least three years before entering the draft—while others have taken advantage of name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities to return for another season. Players are coming back to iron out some kinks in their game and make real, legitimate money – maybe more than they would have made mid-to-final round.

Which returning players will the recruiting talk be talking about a year from now? I have compiled a list of 20 names to follow in order of position. No, I haven’t included every player in the country, so I’m sorry if the player on your team isn’t on the list. This does not mean that I hate them. But I love these guys, so let’s get to them.

Caleb Williams, QB, USC: If Williams is eligible to go to the NFL this spring, chances are he will be the favorite to finish first overall. NFL teams are always looking for companies to take on prospects, and Williams is truly the most Patrick Mahomes-like quarterback in the college game. This does not mean that he is as good as Mahomes in the NFL, or will ever be as good as him. But Williams does a lot of things similar to Mahomes. Oh, and he won a Heisman Award while playing for a coach at Lincoln Riley who helped shape several Heisman winners and first picks. Rest assured, NFL scouts will spend the next year picking him away and looking for things wrong with him. They might find some, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he’s the NFL’s MVP prospect in college next year.

Drake May, QB, North Carolina: Unlike many of the best quarterbacks in the country, Maye hasn’t played on a team vying for anything major. The Tar Heels finished the season 9-5 and won the ACC Coastal title, but no one saw them as a real threat to do anything because of their poor defense. Mai was great, though. He has the size, the athleticism, and all those attributes that NFL teams love. Depending on who you believe in, other schools love them too. For this reason there were some lucrative offers allegedly spoiled May’s way in hopes of persuading him to move on.

Bo Nix, QB, Oregon: I never thought I’d include Nicks in a story like this, but here we go. In short, I wasn’t a believer in the Knicks President during his days at the Auburn. He showed flashes, but mistakes and lackluster play often overshadowed it. Then he moved to Oregon and made me look like an idiot. The Knicks were a duck stud in 2022, and bringing him back for another season was a coup for head coach Dan Lanning. The Knicks began to live up to their potential last season, and another strong year could see them enter early round draft discussion next spring.

Bo Nix

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Michael Bennix Jr., QB, Washington: Next spring, Penix will be one of the most polarizing players in the draft class. He has an otherworldly arm that sometimes lacks self-control. Some will see this as a jab at him. Others will imagine the results if it can be properly harnessed. College football fans will enjoy it. Honestly, there have been a few throws Bennix has made with Washington this season that have elicited strange guttural noises from my mouth that I didn’t know I was capable of.

Blake Corum, Right Back, MichiganCorum: Corum is only on this list due to a knee injury he sustained late in the season against Illinois. His recovery timeline continues through the draft process and he would have hampered his draft stock. That’s too bad for Corum, but a victory for the Wolverines and college football. I’d like to see an X-ray of Corum’s ankles because they can’t be built the same way as most humans. Some cuts he does and bend his ankle while making it seem physically impossible, but he does them frequently. A running back rarely starts early in drafts these days, but if Corum works his passes from the backfield, he could be in on that conversation next spring.

TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State: Henderson Similar case to Blake Corum. He was busted in 2022 and limited to just eight games, but he was productive when he played and was a home run hitter at center. I would give Corum the advantage in changing direction over the Henderson, but the Henderson has a higher top speed and gets to it faster. He wasn’t used as much of a receiver in 2022 as in 2021, but he’s a part of his game that NFL teams will appreciate.

Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: know the name? Anyone who watched Marvin Harrison play Peyton Manning all those years with the Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t be surprised to learn that his son is a master tactician. In fact, the younger Harrison looks a lot like his dad on the field, odd, but there’s one glaring difference: At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the son is much larger than the father, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. If you watched Ohio State’s loss Georgia In the College Football Playoff, it is no coincidence that the Georgia defense found it easier to slow the Buckeyes offense after Harrison left the game with an injury. He is the most talented receiver in the country and could be in the top five next year.

Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State: Yes, that’s right, a third consecutive Ohio State player is mentioned on this list. You have the feeling the Buckeyes can be good again next season. Spoiler alert: Egbuka is the third male Buckeye, but it won’t be the last. While Harrison is the better overall, there is a strong argument that Egbuka is the second best prospect in next year’s class. He’s not quite as expert a tactician as Harrison, but he’s equally talented and a pain in the ass.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas: Worthy is a deep threat who excelled at Texas despite playing multiple running backs in his first two seasons. He burst onto the scene with 981 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman playing Casey Thompson and Hudson Card. In 2022, he played with Card and Quinn Ewers, and finished with 760 yards and nine touchdowns. The numbers were down a bit, but that was largely due to the availability of the second and third best options. He’s not the biggest kid in the world, but he does have the kind of deep speed that every team aspires to at every level.

Xavier Worthy

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Brock Powers, TE, Georgia: Powers is weird. When you watch Georgia’s offense, you wonder why the Bulldogs don’t give him the ball on every play because it would probably be an effective strategy. Powers led the Dogs in receiving this season with 942 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also an effective ball carrier, rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. It’s a competitive nightmare that can be used all over the field. I sympathize with any linebacker who stumbles with him in odd coverage.

Olu Fashanu, OT, Pennsylvania state: I was legitimately surprised Fashanu was back at Penn State, but he’s young and his family felt it was best for him to develop physically for another season. Penn State is certainly happy with this decision. Fashanu might have been the No. 1 player in the class of 2023 had he entered the draft, and he will enter the next season that many consider to be the best in the class.

Joe Alt, extra time, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have sent quite a few stellar offensive linemen to the NFL in recent years, and Alt looks and plays a huge role in their top 10 selection. The Irish offensive line has taken a while to come together in 2022, but the replacement has been fantastic all season. He’s a massive 6-foot-7 with long arms and fast feet, which makes him almost impossible to handle. When he puts his hands on you, it’s cover.

JC Latham, OT, Alabama: Truth be told, I haven’t been as impressed with Alabama’s offensive line over the past two years as I have been in previous years. It’s a unit that draws back a bit, but I love Latham. He is the only player in the unit who constantly stands out. He played right tackle for Alabama in 2023, and I don’t know that there are plans to move him to the left side. It might stop him from being a top contender in the draft, but it doesn’t stop me from including him here.

Jared Ferris, D., Florida: I don’t know Verse would have been a first-round pick as some have claimed had he entered the draft this year, but I don’t think he would have made it to the third round. Verse was a massive win for the Seminoles in the transfer gate. Came to Tallahassee from Albany She finished with nine sacks and 16.5 TFLs. It’s really polished for a fast lane.

JT Tuimoloau, DE, Ohio State: Finally, another Buckeye! Tuimoloau is one of my favorite players to watch because he does it all. He can get a quarterback as a kicker. It can fill the gap as an operating plug. He can even drop cover and do a decent job, and he has excellent hands. He caught two passes this season and broke up four passes. It is the definition of disruptive power.

JT Tuemolo

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Dallas Turner, DE, Alabama: Will Anderson be among the top five in the spring. He’s been one of the most productive pass catchers in the college game over the past few seasons, and he had an epic 2021 season. How will Alabama replace him? He’ll simply throw Dallas Turner in there every moment. Turner is a bit undersized for what you’d ideally want in a position, but it makes up for it with its speed. Any slow tackle out of the gate is overcome. a period. Once he learns how to use his hands a little better, there’s no stopping him.

Mason Smith, DT, LSU: Mason Smith missed most of the 2022 season due to a torn ACL he suffered in the season opener against Florida State where he celebrated with a tackle for the loss. He robbed LSU of disruptive power this season, but he’ll be back to full health for 2023, and that’s a huge boost for the Tigers defense. Players who can blow up an offensive line from the inside are always appreciated, and that’s exactly what Smith can do.

Kool Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama: I have a feeling this is going to be a somewhat controversial choice because some of the people I’ve spoken to aren’t as optimistic at McKinstry. I’m not in their camp. I love the kid and think he could be the first corner in the draft next spring. I love his demeanor and talent for finding the ball, and I love that he contributes to special teams.

Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia: Speaking of contention in cornerback ratings, there’s a lot of it when it comes to Georgia Kelly Ringo, who is projected to be the top pick in the draft this year. Well, some will tell you Ringo wasn’t the best cornerback on Georgia’s defense this season – Kamari Lassiter was either. I think they’ve been great, and Lassiter’s is a good bet to get better in 2023.

James Williams, S, Miami: In a season of few silver linings for the Miami Hurricanes, Williams was a beacon of hope. He was tied for leading the team with 59 tackles and was all over the place. The question will be whether Williams serves as a safety or linebacker at the next level. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 224 lbs. His stock has suffered this year, but I suspect a lot of it was because of what was around him. If Miami recovers in 2023, don’t be surprised if he participates in the first round of next year’s conversation.

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