Arizona Wildcats (4-8)
There is some reason for hope down in Tucson. Head coach Jedd Fisch is a likable guy — which in turn has led Arizona to operate far more competitively from a recruiting standpoint. Jayden de Laura is back behind center, and he’ll have the fortune in throwing to one of the conference’s better trio of receivers in Jacob Cowing, Tetairoa McMillan, and Colorado transfer Montana Lemonious-Craig. We could see a slight bump up in win total, though the Wildcats still lack depth and talent at a ton of major spots. It also didn’t help matters to see arguably its three-best players from a season ago (Dorian Singer, Kyon Barrs, Christian Roland-Wallace) all transferred to USC in the offseason.
Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6)
There’s reason to believe that ASU will be better than people think. Kenny Dillingham has taken over this program, bringing with him the explosive offense he used a year ago at Oregon. The scheme itself is thorough — though not complex enough to the point where the Sun Devils can’t score some points on people. Dillingham brought in 29 transfers in this last class (including 20 more from the high school ranks). RB transfer/1,000-yard rusher Cameron Skattebo has been turning some heads, and the ultra-talented Elijhah Badger is still back in school. There’s enough talent on this team to hover around the .500 mark — and perhaps even upset some people.
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Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3)
Arkansas benefits from having one of the country’s best returning QBs in K.J Jefferson. Raheim Sanders is back patrolling the backfield — giving the Razorbacks a legitimate 1-2 punch. There are some concerns over the defense. With that said, Jefferson’s ability to make plays will keep Arkansas in any game. This is Sam Pittman’s fourth year — and it’s usually the year where a program will bolt one way or the other for a head coach. 19 transfers came to Fayetteville in the offseason, including DT Anthony Booker (Maryland), DE Trajan Jeffcoat (Mizzou), and DB Jaheim Singletary (Georgia).
Auburn Tigers (6-6)
There’s a lot to be done down on The Plains. Hugh Freeze is a very good football coach with a strong track record in rebuilding programs. Well, this one’s squarely in need of a reboot. The defense was porous last year, and the offense struggled to string together what anyone would describe as a decent drive. Fortunately, Freeze is an offense whiz. The offense will be led by Michigan State transfer QB Payton Thorne. While this year will likely be a mixed bag results-wise, the Tigers will be competitive. For Freeze, it’s about implementing the principles and idiosyncratic details necessary for this program to flourish.
Baylor Bears (9-3)
Dave Aranda has a plethora of high-profile transfers coming in to help his ballclub. Ketron Jackson Jr. is coming over from Arkansas to be one of the primary playmakers on the perimeter. Brothers Campbell and Clark Barrington both figure to be starters along the offensive line (transferring from BYU). A 6-7 record last year necessitated moves in regards to the roster and also the coaching staff. As it pertains to this year, it helps that the Bears get to play eight home games in Waco. Plus…we trust in Aranda as a defensive genius.
Boston College Eagles (6-6)
Boston College is coming off a tough 3-9 year. One would say that head coach Jeff Hafley is on the proverbial hot seat. Fortunately, BC appears to have the ingredients to bounce back somewhat well. The Eagles have four returners along the offensive line, both of their top RBs, a good WR transfer in Ryan O’Keefe, and a decently easy schedule. Michigan DT transfer George Rooks and former Arkansas DB Khari Johnson should help the defense considerably.
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BYU Cougars (6-6)
BYU is now set to begin life in the Big-12. It shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment considering the fact the Cougars often challenged themselves versus good competition within their independent schedule. This year is a bit tough — as one of the non-conference games sends BYU to Arkansas. Kalani Sitake’s team also has to play on the road versus Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma State. Well-traveled QB Kedon Slovis likely will be the starting QB alongside intriguing UNLV transfer RB Aidan Robbins. Give BYU a year to acclimate before really judging how this program will fare moving forward.
California Golden Bears (4-8)
Cal’s football program is really dead in the water at this point. The Pac-12 has disbanded — leaving Cal in a very precarious spot. In terms of an on-the-field product, the Bears are lacking talent at most spots despite getting some help in the transfer portal. TCU transfer Sam Jackson likely will be the starter when it’s all said and done. Linebackers David Reese (Florida) and Sergio Allen (Clemson) should be Day 1 starters. Still, the depth on this team — particularly on the lines — isn’t where Cal would want it to be. Outside of RB Jaydn Ott, we wonder who will step up as a producer on the offensive side of the ball. Losing future NFL first-round pick WR J. Michael Sturdivant to UCLA in the offseason was a major blow.
Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5)
Cincinnati is breaking an entirely new staff since former head coach Luke Fickell left for the Wisconsin job. Even more problematic, the Bearcats now are taking on a Big-12 schedule. Only seven starters return from last year’s group. Even so, Fickell left behind a roster with some good talent. QB Emory Jones — formerly at Florida and most recently Arizona State — is now the starting signal-caller. Former LSU rusher Corey Kiner leads a deep backfield, and the front seven should be a major strength. Don’t sleep on this team…they may be better than you think.
Clemson Tigers (9-3)
Clemson is still the most talented team top-to-bottom in the ACC. With that said, the Tigers have seemed to dip in recent years. The program isn’t recruiting at the level it once was. Even stranger, Dabo Swinney has taken only two transfers over the last two years combined (both being back-up quarterbacks). Cade Klubnik has a ton of talent, as does RB Will Shipley and California native WR Beaux Collins. Despite the ACC being arguably the weakest Power 5 conference in the country, we still think the Tigers have a couple of slip-ups along the way. The talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball in particular just isn’t what it once was.
Colorado Buffaloes (4-8)
We have no idea what to expect with this team. Colorado under Deion Sanders had an an unprecedented roster turnover — with 21 high school prospects and 50 (!) transfers entering the program. Many of the transfers are bounce-back guys from major conferences. Some followed Prime over from Jackson State (including 5-star CB/WR Travis Hunter). Is there talent on this team? Yes. Will it have enough time to gel and become a cohesive squad? We’ll see. While we like the talent at WR and in the secondary, we question whether either the OL or DL is deep enough for CU to be a bowl team.
Duke Blue Devils (6-6)
With 17 starters coming back from last year’s team, there’s some decent optimism that things in Durham can be turned around. It all starts with new Head Coach Mike Elko. He was able to manufacture some very good production while playing to the strengths of star QB Riley Leonard. Virtually the entire WR corps is back along with some good returning production at RB. Additionally, much of the front four is intact from a year ago. While the schedule is tougher, Duke looks to be a better football team.
Florida Gators (5-7)
Can Florida improve upon last year’s 6-7 standing? We aren’t so sure. Last year, they had a QB who ended up being a top-five NFL Draft pick in 2022. Graham Mertz came over from Wisconsin — though he’s no Anthony Richardson from a talent standpoint. Starting the year in Salt Lake City against a very good Utah team is not ideal. Road games at LSU, Kentucky, and South Carolina will all be tough. Not to mention, the Gators will be playing Georgia — and also hosting Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida State.
Florida State Seminoles (10-2)
Watch out for the Seminoles in 2023. The Seminoles finally got over the proverbial hump and started to click offensively under Mike Norvell. Winners of 10 games last year, Norvell has to be elated that his QB-WR combo is back for another year. Jordan Travis accumulated over 3,000 yards of total offense (along with 31 TDs). Top target Johnny Wilson — a 6-foot-7 monster from Los Angeles — is projected to be an All-American this upcoming year. Don’t forget about DE Jared Verse, either. If things break right, the Seminoles could win the ACC.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-8)
Losing QB Jeff Sims to Nebraska was not an easy pill to swallow. GaTech prides itself on running the football, and Sims proved to be a dynamic force for the Yellow Jackets in that capacity. Now, GT is trying to figure out who the team’s signal-caller will be between Zach Pyron and Texas A&M transfer Haynes King. Talent wise, other than safety LaMiles Brooks and DT D’Quan Douse — this team is rather ordinary compared to your run-of-the-mill ACC squads. Minnesota transfer LB Braelen Oliver should help. However, we don’t expect a ton from this team in all honesty.
Houston Cougars (6-6)
Houston’s offense shouldn’t skip a beat with Donovan Smith behind center. The one-time Texas Tech quarterback, he’s a very talented kid with a huge frame and a big arm. RB mercenaries from West Virginia and USC came to help the run game (Tony Mathis, Brandon Campbell). Defensively, the unit lost some guys to bigger schools. It was a mess last year, and we don’t see the talent influx needed for drastic change. With a much tougher Big-12 schedule, the Cougars will have to rely heavily upon their offense. Expect plenty of shootouts.
Illinois Fighting Illini (7-5)
Bret Bielema deserves a ton of credit. He took a totally dilapidated program with zero juice, and instilled many of the principles which made him successful at his past stops. As such, the Fighting Illini have some real optimism brimming throughout the program after winning 8 games a season ago. Former Ole Miss signal-caller Luke Altmyer is projected to be the starter this upcoming season. He’ll be playing behind a ball-control style of play which — on the opposite side of the ball — is predicated upon possessing a stingy defense. While Illinois did lose some very good players to the NFL Draft this past year, we do believe in the system Bielema has put in place. This culture should enable the team to have another year with more wins than losses.
Indiana Hoosiers (6-6)
Cam Camper (pictured above) is the team’s best player. He’ll be coming back from a knee injury midway through the season, and the Hoosiers can’t be more excited about that. It’ll employ an Air Raid offensive scheme with Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson likely behind center. The offense and defense loaded up on transfers, and many of those guys will be inserted from the jump. In terms of preexisting players, keep an eye on rush end Myles Jackson. A transfer from UCLA, he does have some nice upside off the edge. There are some things that have to gel correctly for this team to reach its ceiling. There’s more talent on this roster than you may think.
Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3)
There are some things you can expect with virtually every Iowa team under Kirk Ferentz: The offensive line will be good, and the defense will be fundamentally sound. Toughness is a hallmark characteristic of any Iowa team — and player for that matter once stepping foot onto campus. As for this year’s team, the defense yet again is projected to be borderline elite. It’s the offense we are curious about. Former Michigan QB Cade McNamara should be a big improvement at the position with his dual-threat ability. Of course, the OL is solid — and the team has two capable TEs in Luke Lachey and Michigan transfer Erick All. If McNamara can play at a decent clip, this team could win double-digit games.
Iowa State Cyclones (5-7)
Iowa State took a step back from where the program was headed under Matt Campbell’s guidance. After bypassing some bigger jobs in favor of staying in Ames, Campbell is hoping to get the team back on track. Discipline was an issue last year when it came to committing turnovers. That’s an area which needs to be addressed immediately. The defense — despite losing Will McDonald to the NFL — figures to be a major strength of this team (led by Myles Purchase, T.J. Tampa, and Beau Freyler). Still, we’re unsure about the offense. This is the limiting factor for why this team likely wins 5-6 games rather than 7-8. QB Hunter Dekkers will need to play at an all-conference level for ISU to be a threat in the Big-12. We just don’t know if he’s got the talent around him to do that.
Kansas Jayhawks (8-4)
Much like Illinois, KU has some real buzz filtering through its program. Head Coach Lance Leipold has brought some real energy to Lawrence — not to mention some legitimate coaching chops. Year 3 of any coaching tenure usually is the pivot point as to the direction of the program. Kansas appears to be trending in a positive direction. QB Jalon Daniels — one of the country’s most exciting players — is back under center. Logan Brown (Wisconsin) and Spencer Lovell (Cal) come in to bolster the offensive line. The top-six receivers from last year’s team are also all back. If the defense even makes some slight improvements, this is a dangerous team nobody will want to play.
Kansas State Wildcats (9-3)
We might like this team more than most. It’s a veteran-laden bunch — with 17 of the projected 22 starters being upperclassmen. This includes four redshirt seniors along the offensive line and three more within the front seven. Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward is slated to take over in the backfield, and those in Manhattan are gushing over his upside. The defense lost a lot, and it’ll be incumbent upon some of the team’s unheralded players (Khalid Duke, Desmond Purnell, VJ Payne) to step up and perform at a high level.
Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)
If you talk to those down in Lexington…they’re very bullish on the Wildcats this upcoming season. Yes, Will Levis is gone — as is Chris Rodriguez Jr. However, the depth on the team looks to be as good as it’s been under Mark Stoops. Devin Leary is now the new signal-caller having come over from NC State. The OL got some portal reinforcements (namely USC’s Courtland Ford). Vanderbilt’s Ray Davis moved over to UK and likely will be the starting RB. Defensively, a lot returns — including the addition of North Carolina DT Keeshawn Silver. The non-conference schedule is cupcake city. Where things get interesting is when the Wildcats have to host Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama. They also are going on the road to play Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisville.
Louisville Cardinals (5-7)
With Kenny Satterfield leaving for Cincinnati, Jeff Brohm was inserted as the head coach. The local hero coming back home, expectations are quite high. It’ll take some time for Brohm to build up the program in the manner he wants it to be. Surely, the transfer portal will continue to be a point of emphasis. QB Jack Plummer played for Brohm at Purdue before leaving for Cal. He’s since reunited with Brohm as a bit of a band-aid until a younger, more talented player can emerge.
LSU Tigers (10-2)
Here’s the big question for Brian Kelly and those down in Baton Rouge: Is Jayden Daniels good enough to win a National Title? The Southern California native has been pegged as the SEC Preseason First Team All-Conference quarterback. We know about his proclivity for running with the football. There might not be a faster, more elusive player at the position within the SEC. Still, can Daniels make enough consistent throws downfield versus the ‘big boys’ (aka Alabama and Georgia) to help the Tigers get another championship? At the very least, the country will be in for a treat as the Tigers and stud LB Harold Perkins Jr. gets to take on Florida State in Week 1 of the College Football slate.
Maryland Terrapins (9-3)
Known as an ace recruiter, Mike Locksley is also demonstrating his ability to coach — evidenced by a combined 15 wins over the last two years for the Terps. Tua Tagovailoa’s little brother Taulia is one of the Big Ten’s better quarterbacks. He has a plethora of good targets to throw to, including Corey Duchess and Jesuan Jones. RB Roman Hemby helps in keeping the offense balanced. Defensively, multiple transfers have come to help the secondary. Depth might be an issue in the front seven especially if injuries crop up. Regardless, this team isn’t shying away from expectations. The Terps believe they can be a threat to win the Big Ten. We’ll temper expectations just slightly.
Miami Hurricanes (7-5)
This could be another transition year for the Hurricanes. Mario Cristobal had to replace both coordinators over the offseason. Tyler Van Dyke must not only stay healthy — but also show some tangible improvement if Miami is to be a threat in its division. Cristobal has done well to land some big-time offensive linemen from the high school ranks. He’s also hoping some of his transfers (Javion Cohen, Matt Lee, Cam McCormick, Branson Deen, Jaden Davis) turn out well. We still feel as if this team is potentially a year away from being a contender in some capacity.
Michigan Wolverines (12-0)
Michigan is going to break through and make it to the College Football Playoffs — and potentially even the title game. The Wolverines have all of the ingredients to make a deep run, starting with the offensive duo of Blake Corum and J.J. McCarthy. Will Johnson is returning on the back end, and true sophomore Mason Graham has the potential be an all-conference type at NG. Adding three solid Power 5 transfers to the OL helps, and Donovan Edwards will surely help Corum keep fresh.
Michigan State Spartans (5-7)
There’s a bit of uncertainty surrounding this program. After a stellar 11-2 year, the Spartans have been very average. As has been chronicled throughout the media offseason cycle, a huge chunk of the roster left via the transfer portal. There’s very little in the way of proven commodities within the skill positions. The hope is highly touted California native Katin Houser can be the quarterback. You’d expect the emphasis on offense to revolve around the three-headed transfer trio of RBs coming from Wisconsin (Jalen Berger), USF (Jaren Mangham), and UCONN (Nathan Carter). We worry less about the defense based upon the fact Mel Tucker is rooted in that side of the ball. Even then, there’s concern that this program is on a downward trajectory.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)
PJ Fleck likely is going to alter the plan of attack for the Golden Gophers. It had been a gameplan rooted in running the football. Now, it appears as if Minnesota will open things up with more of a downfield passing attack. The WR group is led by three talented seniors. Brevyn Spann-Ford, all 6’7″ of him, is one of the nation’s best tight end targets. Defensively, the team will have a replace a fair amount in the secondary. We do bet on the Golden Gophers putting together a credible unit on that side of the ball. While the way in which Minnesota plays might look different, we still see this team being successful from a wins standpoint.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)
Zach Arnett has to be thrilled he’s now a head coach for a college program. However, it probably would’ve been nice to have come under different circumstances. Former Head Coach Mike Leach passed away — leaving a very strong legacy in both Starkville and throughout the sport itself. Arnett is taking over a program many are picking to finish dead-last in the SEC West. Fortunately, there’s good talent remaining at WR. QB Will Rogers also returns to the fold. An offensive line made up of all seniors should also help. Defensively, Arnett is creative enough to help the unit cause some turnovers. Ultimately, this team might be better than people realize.
Missouri Tigers (7-5)
If Mizzou can get decent QB play, the Tigers could be a real thorn in the side of SEC East opponents. It appears as if Brady Cook will get the first snaps. He has a ridiculously talented group of receivers to throw to — which includes Oklahoma transfer Theo Wease and Luther Burden. Moving over to the slot, Burden is one of those elite talents with tremendous upside. The offensive line looks to be a bit better than last year. Defensively, the back seven is made up of some smart, savvy players. The front four is a bit thin — but it might include the best NFL talents of any position group.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (9-3)
NC State raided Virginia in the offseason — bringing in both QB Brennan Armstrong and OC Robert Anae. With Devin Leary now in Lexington, Armstrong is a perfect fit for the Wolfpack. He’s experienced, productive, and will mesh well with a scheme he’s already familiar with. Dave Doeren is one of the more underrated coaches in the country. NC State wins at a very consistent clip, and there’s enough talent across the board for this team to sneak up on people.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-6)
This team should be more competitive in 2023 as a byproduct of new Head Coach Matt Rhule. He knows how to build programs from the studs up — and that’s exactly what he’s doing with the Cornhuskers. Tapping into the rich history of the University, Rhule is hitting the recruiting trails quite hard. The transfer portal netted Nebraska three former players from the University of Georgia (Arik Gilbert, MJ Sherman, Jacob Hood) in addition to GaTech’s starting QB Jeff Sims. Based upon Rhule’s ability to coach along with his proclivity for bringing in talent, Nebraska should be headed towards a .500 season.
North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4)
Next to Caleb Williams, Drake Maye is likely the best quarterback — and perhaps player in all of College Football. As long as he’s healthy, the Tar Heels have a chance in every game this season. UNC did suffer a blow when transfer WR Tez Walker was ruled ineligible for this upcoming season. He likely would’ve been the best playmaker on the roster. As such, the Tar Heels still return Bryson Nesbit. Defensively, Cedric Gray leads a unit which needs to be better. The offense will put up points…but it’s incumbent upon the defense that it gets timely stops and adequate production. The non-conference is a bear — with games versus South Carolina, Appalachian State, and Minnesota.
Northwestern Wildcats (2-10)
Pat Fitzgerald was the face of this program…until he was fired this offseason over hazing allegations within the team. The team went 1-11 last year and was utterly abysmal. Multiple of the better players within this roster — including some incoming recruits — jumped ship and entered the portal. Fortunately, there are multiple cupcakes on this schedule which bode well for Northwestern to not get shut out completely. Still, this is a program in total disarray at the moment.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4)
Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman is one of the more talented signal-callers Notre Dame has had in recent memory. He accounted for over 75 TDs at his prior stop before coming over to South Bend. His ability to make plays should enable this offense to be more productive than in recent years. Going on the road versus NC State will not be a picnic. The same can be said for an away tilt versus Clemson. Also popping up on the schedule are two playoff contenders in Clemson, USC, and Ohio State.
Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
Losing C.J. Stroud isn’t ideal. With that said, Ohio State has the most talented group of receivers in the country — led by two future first-round picks in Marvin Harrison Jr. (above) and Emeka Egbuka. The front seven is loaded with talent (per usual). Really, this season will hinge on whether Ohio State can beat Michigan or not. It’ll likely come down to these two teams to determine not only the Big Ten title winner, but also a recipient of a spot in the College Football playoff.
Oklahoma Sooners (9-3)
Hawaii native Dillon Gabriel proved to be a solid starter for the Sooners last year. The offense is losing some key contributors, but should be fine across the board with a talented corps of WRs and two good, young RBs ready to introduce themselves to the college game (Jovontae Barnes, Gavin Sawchuk). Weirdly, even with Brent Venables as the team’s head coach, the defense struggled big time. Without a huge influx of talent, we don’t see the Sooners correcting this overnight.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-7)
The Pokes could be in for a rough season. Oklahoma State lost a ton of key contributors to the transfer portal, and haven’t really replaced them with like-for-like talents. Losing LB Mason Cobb to USC was borderline disastrous. The contest at Arizona State will tell us a lot about that team. If the Sun Devils beat OSU, the alarm bells should go off. It’s not because ASU is a cupcake, but rather because they’re transitioning virtually its entire team and shouldn’t really be gelled by Week 2. With Spencer Sanders leaving the program, it’ll be up to veteran Alan Bowman to lead the offense. He’s solid but far from spectacular.
Ole Miss Rebels (8-4)
Ole Miss is not fun to play against. Lane Kiffin-coached teams score with ease — and this team is no exception. Jaxon Dart is uber-talented, and the two-headed RB monster of Ulysses Bentley IV and Quinshon Judkins is arguably as good as anyone’s in the SEC. The group of linebackers are fast and athletic, the secondary is solid, and the defensive line added multiple difference-makers from the portal. While the schedule isn’t easy by any stretch, it’s manageable. Don’t sleep on the Rebels…
Oregon Ducks (10-2)
Dan Lanning has done a terrific job in building this roster up into a juggernaut. Via both the portal and high school recruiting, Oregon easily has one of the most talented teams not only in the Pac-12, but also the country. A tough regular season schedule likely will result in one or two losses. With that said, the offense should be humming with the return of Bo Nix. Defensively, a number of portal additions helped in fortifying the front seven. If Oregon can knock off one of USC or Utah, a playoff spot could be in the cards. However, games at Washington, Utah, and Texas Tech are no easy task.
Oregon State Beavers (8-4)
Jonathan Smith is a great head coach. The culture he’s built in Corvallis is nothing short of spectacular. His teams play fundamental football with discipline, toughness, and high I.Q. Damien Martinez is the best RB you’ve never heard of, and Clemson transfer D.J. Uiagalelei should become improved under Smith (a former QB himself). Defensively, this is a sound unit with thumpers at all levels. This team won’t sneak up on anyone this year, thus limiting their record. Still, the Beavs should be a top-25 team all year long.
Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)
The Drew Allar era is finally here. He was once considered one of the best prep prospects in the country. A big guy with a cannon for an arm, you could see Penn State’s offense open up much more this year — especially with the acquisition of deep threat WR Dante Cephas (from Kent State). The offensive line is loaded with experience, and the sophomore RB duo of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton is as good as you’ll find anywhere. If the Chop Robinson-led defense plays at a high level, and Allar is the real deal as billed, this team could easily win 10+ games in a highly competitive top of the Big Ten.
Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6)
We could see this as a step-back year for Pitt. Under Pat Narduzzi, this has been a rock-solid program. They churn out more guys to the NFL than you’d imagine, and more often than not they’re highly competitive. There’s always that one transitionary year for major programs, and this could be it for the Panthers. BC transfer Phil Jurkovec is slated to be the starting QB — and he’s far from a world-beater. The WR, OL and RB groups appear to be solid on the surface. It’s the defense we’re worried about, with a plethora of guys leaving.
Purdue Boilermakers (5-7)
Even though Purdue played in the Big Ten title game last year, it lost its head coach — Jeff Brohm — to Louisville. In comes fresh faced Ryan Walters — a guy with a considerable amount of hype. He comes to West Lafayette from Illinois. As is the case with every coach, a transition period happens where said coach wants to bring in ‘his guys’ and flip the culture accordingly. Purdue’s schedule is unforgiving — with road games at Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech. There are also tough home games versus Fresno State, Ohio State, and Minnesota.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-9)
We don’t have overly high hopes for this team. It’s not as talented as many of their competitors within the Big Ten. Duly, Greg Schiano isn’t recruiting as well as many thought he would. This includes not capitalizing within the transfer portal at a high clip. While the beginning of the schedule is rather doable, the back-half is tough.
South Carolina Gamecocks (9-3)
Shane Beamer has this team headed in the right direction. He’s recruiting at a very high clip, and the talent within the program is steadily rising. Spencer Rattler returns as one of the conference’s most accomplished signal-callers. The offensive line is loaded with veterans, as is the vast majority of the front seven. Week 3’s showdown in Athens will give us an idea as to how good this team may or may not be. Two players to keep an eye on: WR Antwane Wells and DL Tonka Hemingway.
Stanford Cardinal (2-10)
New Head Coach Troy Taylor has a lot of work to do. This roster is really barren. Making matters worse, it doesn’t have the luxury in hitting the transfer portal as hard as other schools. There are two really good talents on this team — one on either side of the ball. Defensive end/outside linebacker David Bailey selected Stanford over a heated recruitment featuring UCLA, USC, and Oregon. At tight end, Ben Yurosek is a future NFL player. Taylor is recruiting at a very high level…but those kids won’t be in until the following year. Expect this to be a rough year on The Farm.
Syracuse Orange (5-7)
Dino Babers pegged Rocky Long to be his new defensive coordinator. Long is famous for his 3-3-5 scheme which is predicated upon aggressiveness, speed, and unorthodox blitzing. We’ll see how the Orange take to this schematic change. Offensively, QB Garrett Shrader has to be effective in throwing the ball downfield. Much of that will hinge upon the offensive line protecting him. They didn’t give Shrader much time last year.
TCU Horned Frogs (9-3)
After a miraculous run to the College Football Playoff Title Game a year ago, expectations in Forth Worth are understandably on the rise. Known QB whisperer Sonny Dykes has his work cut out for him, replacing program legend Max Duggan. JoJo Earle transferred in from Alabama — and those within the program think he’ll be a star at the WR spot. There’s enough talent on this team to be competitive within the Big-12. We just don’t think TCU will replicate last year’s historic run.
Tennessee Volunteers (10-2)
Watch out for the Vols. According to reports, they return the most lettermen (62) of any SEC program this year. It’s also Year 3 of the Josh Heupel experiment — meaning the program could take another big leap this season when trying to usurp the East crown from Georgia. Save for Oregon WR transfer Donte Thornton Jr., the entire offense is projected to be made up of seniors (and Thornton Jr. might end up being the most talented player on the entire team). The same can be said defensively other than redshirt junior DT Bryson Eason. QB Joe Milton has all of the talent in the world — but has to prove it on the field. We think this team has the ingredients to give Georgia all it can handle.
Texas Longhorns (9-3)
This will be an interesting year for the Longhorns. Steve Sarkisian has assembled a better roster talent-wise than we’ve seen in years. With that said, UT can’t rely on Bijan Robinson anymore to carry them in games. Quinn Ewers is now the man behind-center — and surely his responsibilities as a passer and playmaker will be enhanced from where they were. WR Xavier Worthy is a potential high-round draft pick next year, and the defense appears to be better than it was a year ago. Playing in Tuscaloosa in Week 2 should be a massive test and measuring stick for this program.
Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)
The defense was abysmal last year. If anything, the Aggies need to clean up that side of the football. There was also a big culture change within the program. A few of the highly-touted freshmen from last year’s class have since been jettisoned elsewhere. Going 5-7 with the expectations and money in place just isn’t acceptable for anyone in College Station. We do think this will be a more stable team top to bottom. QB Connor Weigman is quite talented, but — like virtually this entire roster — the Aggies feel a year away from truly contending.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (10-2)
Texas Tech is a scary team to play against this season. Ranked inside the Preseason Top 25 by a number of publications, many feel as if they could contend for the Big-12 Conference title. Former Oregon QB Tyler Shough is a big dude with good athleticism and a whip for an arm. Myles Price and Jerand Bradley are two lethal targets in the passing game to utilize. We also really like the secondary duo of Malik Dunlap and Dadrion Taylor-Demerson. Assuming this innovative, explosive offense continues to hum, we could see the Red Raiders being competitive in any game this year. Hosting Oregon during the non-conference will be a treat.
UCF Knights (7-5)
No one will want to play this team in the Big-12. You’re pairing the athletes from Florida with the unorthodox, quirky play-calling of Gus Malzahn. 15 starters return from a season ago which is a major boon for the program. Former Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee is back to command the offense. The offensive line is loaded with experience, and the secondary should be among the best in the conference. It could take UCF some time in terms of acclimating to the travel and schedule. However, the talent is there for them to be dangerous.
UCLA Bruins (10-2)
This could end up being Chip Kelly’s most complete team — and that’s saying something after losing both Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet to the NFL. It’s expected that 5-star freshman Dante Moore will start at QB for the Bruins. Hailing from Detroit, he’s a cerebral kid with terrific touch, poise, and a plethora of arm angles from which he launches the football. J. Michael Sturdivant transferred in from Cal and already looks like the best player on the team. Rush end Laiatu Latu returns after notching double-digit sack totals a season ago. With a relatively easy schedule, this team has a chance to be pretty darn good.
USC Trojans (11-1)
This should be a team on the cusp of competing for a Playoff spot. Caleb Williams is unquestionably the best player in College Football heading into the 2023-24 year. USC is loaded at the skill position spots per usual, and an offense with Lincoln Riley calling plays won’t struggle. It’ll all come down to the defense — which has been rather porous under Alex Grinch. A fleet of transfers have entered, including DT Bear Alexander (Georgia), DL Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M), LB Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State), NG Kyon Barrs (Arizona), and LB Jami Muhammad (Georgia State). If this unit is merely adequate-to-decent, this team should be in the four-team playoff (even if the Pac-12 is as strong as its been in years this upcoming season).
Utah Utes (10-2)
Cam Rising is back for what seems like his 12th year of College Football. Stud TE Brant Kuithe should be healthy, and the Utes will run behind an experienced offensive line with the two-headed monster of Micah Bernard and Ja’Quinden Jackson. The defense yet again is expected to be tough as nails, with a host of upperclassmen returning. Rising’s health will go a long way in determining what this team does. If they go to the CFB Playoffs, we won’t be surprised. If they end up with 3-4 losses and in the Alamo Bowl, we’d equally not be surprised.
Vanderbilt Commodores (5-7)
The combo of QB A.J. Swann and WR Will Sheppard has to be special for Vanderbilt to approach a .500 season in 2023-24. There are some cupcakes within the schedule that Vandy should be able to comfortably feast on. From there, the question persists: Can energetic Head Coach Clark Lea get the Commodores over the proverbial hump as a middle-of-the-road SEC program? It remains to be seen at this point.
Virginia Cavaliers (5-7)
Without Florida State, Pitt, and Clemson on its schedule, the Cavaliers should be able to at least eek out 5-6 wins. The talent and depth within the roster isn’t all that great. Chico Bennett (pictured above) is probably the team’s best player. He’s the one guy who can create havoc off the edge. Simply based on the schedule alone — coupled with some decent matchups — Virginia won’t be a complete disaster.
Virginia Tech Hokies (5-7)
The Hokies are looking to bounce back from a dreadful 3-8 season a year ago. Nine transfers have come into the program — including a host of WRs who are being tasked with revving up a porous offense from last year (including Jaylin Lane from Middle Tennessee State). The schedule isn’t overly tough for Head Coach Brent Pry. Ideally for the Hokies, they play somewhat of a ball-control style — with the defense leading the way. In the middle of a rebuild, VaTech is still a couple of years away from being competitive within the ACC.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4)
Wake Forest is routinely one of the best coached teams in the country. Dave Clawson gets more out of his team than practically anyone else. Offensively, this team has been a joy to watch. Losing Sam Hartman to Notre Dame isn’t ideal. However, back-up signal-caller Mitch Griffis is a player the team is reportedly quite high on. Transfer Jacob Roberts is a welcomed sight for the LB group. We often underrated Wake, and they end up winning more than we expect. Even without Hartman, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them as a solid team in 2023.
Washington Huskies (10-2)
Washington is loaded. Kalen DeBoer inherited a roster with a lot of talent, and that talent has been further accentuated by Michael Penix Jr. The QB transfer from Indiana was fantastic last year — and returns this campaign as a top-five QB in all of College Football. Led by Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, the WRs corps is elite. Defensively, edge rusher Bralen Trice is projected to be a mid-to-early first Round pick in 2024. The offensive line is humungous, the defense is deep, and the team is exceptionally well coached. Save for the top of the conference not being so strong, UW too could find itself as a Playoff contender.
Washington State Cougars (5-7)
The Cougs are in a tough spot. While better than Stanford, they’re clearly behind the top of the Pac-12 North pecking order which features Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington. Battling Cal to be the fifth-best team isn’t ideal for Head Coach Jake Dickert. However, it’s just where this program currently is at this point. There’s some talent returning within a speedy defense. QB Cam Ward is back with the team after an up-and-down 2022. The Palouse is not a fun place to play — which is why Wazzu will be competitive. However, anything more would be a big surprise.
West Virginia Mountaineers (3-9)
Gone are the days of Pat White and Steve Slaton. This program is stuck in a rut — where they’re not as dangerous as they once was for a plethora of reasons. Recruiting here isn’t easy, which is why West Virginia heavily relied upon transfers. With the portal now widely accessible for everyone, that advantage has disappeared. We wonder whether Neal Brown will keep his job beyond this year. The schedule is objectively tough — with road games at Penn State, TCU, UCF, Baylor, and Oklahoma. A former TE is slated to be the team’s starting RB, and neither QB option (Nicco Marchiol, Garrett Greene) is proven. Even with a good offensive line, this team is likely going to struggle barring the run game turning into a monstrous entity.
Wisconsin Badgers (9-3)
Optimism in Madison is through the roof. Luke Fickell came over from Cincinnati with the plan to modernize this program from a ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ entity into one which can move the football downfield with some pace. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo will certainly help in that capacity — as should USC transfer WR CJ Williams. Fickell — like all new coaches — will take his time in building the program to his liking. In terms of a bright future, this one has it. 2023 will be a bit of an adventure in terms of setting the groundwork for what he wants moving forward. Missing Michigan, and getting both Iowa/Ohio State at home is certainly fortuitous.
Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)
Alabama is going to be in a bit of a transitionary period…at least in as much of one as an Alabama team can be facing. Bryce Young and Will Anderson — the two faces of the program over the last few years — are now in the NFL. Who will step up and be the next leader on this football team? Perhaps it’ll be LB Dallas Turner? Or DB Kool-Aid McKinstry? The defense should be fine from a talent standpoint. Offensively, we’re curious in seeing how these new parts will mesh together.
Georgia Bulldogs (11-1)
With the amount of guys Georgia sends to the NFL, the team virtually has to reload on an annual basis. In this case, the Bulldogs get the fortune in having a very easy 2023-24 regular season schedule. There’s only four road games on the schedule. Even then, the only game during the regular season that might give us some pause is at Tennessee. Other than that, this team should sleepwalk through the SEC East yet again. Keep an eye on RB Kendall Milton. The California native should see the bulk of the carries this year. He’s uber-talented — and will finally get his chance as the team’s premier back.
A First Look at the 2024 NFL Draft
1. Arizona Cardinals: QB Caleb Williams (USC)
Assuming Arizona finishes with the worst record in football, the Kyler Murray era will end one way or another. Caleb Williams is simply too talented of a player to pass up here. Among the QBs coming out of the draft over the last decade, Williams looks like one of the best bets to be a franchise signal-caller.
Aside from the clear charisma he plays with, the skill-set is supremely gifted. Williams gets terrific velocity on his throws — both from inside and outside the pocket. His improvisational skills are special yet calculated. Williams won’t be reckless with the football. A strong, bulky frame enables him to break tackles — and the feel inside the pocket Williams possesses is insanely good for a player his age. Arizona would be doing cartwheels to have the chance in selecting him.
2. Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State)
It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Arizona go defense with this second selection. After all, the team is in need of a gigantic jolt of talent across the board. With that said, considering the way the NFL is trending, pairing Williams with a legit No. 1 receiver seems like the smart thing to do. Harrison has the pedigree — both from his father and Ohio State — to be one of the league’s best receivers.
He fits the mold as a long, lengthy freak athlete who can make plays over the top and also in traffic. Harrison has great ball skills, competes super hard, and ultimately has the physical profile few can match. If he’s as good as people think he’ll be, you could be looking at the next Joe Burrow-JaMarr Chase-type pairing — but with an even higher ceiling.
Image Source: Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Drake Maye (North Carolina)
Maye is generally considered to be the second-best quarterback in this class heading towards the 2023-24 season. Tampa Bay’s situation isn’t ideal right now. Baker Mayfield is likely not the long-term answer, and former second-round pick Kyle Trask hasn’t shown anything to make us believe he’ll be the guy, either.
Maye comes from a system which accentuates his strengths. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-5 with plus throwing power. Maye can run decently well with the football — though his bread-and-butter exists when pumping the ball downfield. The only real knock on him could be sitting with spotty footwork. With a little bit of extra polish, you’re looking at a potential Pro Bowler down the line. Tampa would be thrilled to nab Maye barring a team trading up one slot to get him.
4. Indianapolis Colts: OT Joe Alt (Notre Dame)
Keep Anthony Richardson upright. We saw how a once-promising Colts’ QB ended up prematurely ending a career due to constantly taking hits. There some thought Indianapolis could take a receiver here. But with some ample cap space coming into play, the Colts could opt to go that route. As such, Alt could be a very good selection. His dad was a former first-round pick/multi-time Pro Bowler with the Chiefs. At 6-foot-8 and north of 320 pounds himself, Alt is a much better athlete than would be assumed.
His kickout in pass protection is quite good. The strength generated from his lower body enables Alt to disengage with defenders via a powerful initial punch. The athletic ability here is very good (especially when moving in space). The fact Alt comes from a school known for producing high-level offensive linemen is also a positive in the +/- column. There’s a bit of a concern when it comes to overall polish. However, with another strong collegiate season, those concerns should be assuaged.
5. Los Angeles Rams: OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State)
This is not a sexy pick, but good teams are usually built from the inside out. Fashanu could be battling with Alt to become the fourth pick (or higher) in this draft. Like Alt, Fashanu comes from a good school developmental-wise. He’s a fantastic athlete — laterally quick and fiercely competitive on the edge. Fashanu’s gigantic wingspan gives him a real chance to become a lockdown left tackle. Teams are salivating over his ability to play until he hears the whistle. Fashanu’s motor is not a question in the very least.
There are times where he can become a bit too reliant on his skill-set. The technical part of the game can get a bit muddled in terms of playing too high from a pad level standpoint. Still, you’re looking at a fantastic prospect with the potential to lead the Rams’ offensive line for the next decade.
6. Tennessee Titans: DL Jared Verse (Florida State)
The jump up from Albany to Florida State went just fine for Verse. Last year as a junior, the explosive edge rusher accrued 9.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles-for-loss. The prominent skill he brings to the table is first-step quickness. In a league which demands pressure against opposing signal-callers, Verse is unrivaled when compared to anyone else in this class.
While he might not be the best against the run due to a slimmer frame, the intuitiveness Verse brings when pursuing ball carriers and signal-callers is truly special. On those ‘money down’ situations when defenses have to get off the field with a big stop, you’ll want guys akin to Verse — who will at the very minimum draw the attention of multiple blockers (thus opening up more attractive situations for teammates).
7. Green Bay Packers: WR Emeka Egbuka (Ohio State)
Green Bay has gotten aggressive with its aim to grab skill guys. Christian Watson and Jayden Reed were taken as second-round picks in back-to-back drafts. At this point in the draft, the Packers could go in a number of different directions. Purely from a talent standpoint, Egbuka might be too good of a player to pass up.
Young QBs can never have enough targets — and Jordan Love surely will be enamored with this selection. Egbuka comes from a WR factory in Ohio State. You know he will be polished, competitive, and ready for the rigors of the NFL. The Washington native notched 74 grabs for 1,151 yards and 10 TDS (in only 13 games) as a true sophomore. Imagine how good he’ll be this upcoming year opposite Harrison Jr…
8. Washington Commanders: DL Dallas Turner (Alabama)
We couldn’t go through the top-10 of any draft without mentioning an Alabama defensive player. This year, it’s Turner’s time to emerge as the heartbeat of this unit. Similarly to how Will Anderson was used, Turner will be playing the jumbo outside linebacker/edge rusher role for the Crimson Tide. Turner’s main objective will be to sack the opposing quarterback.
Whether with his hand in the dirt or in a stand-up position, Turner is equally as explosive getting around the edges versus tackles. He does have a tendency to get swallowed up a bit in the run game. Depending on how much stronger Turner can get, it could tell the difference between him being a three-down player, or more of a luxury guy on third down in obvious pass-rush situations.
9. Las Vegas Raiders: DE Bralen Trice (Washington)
Trice would be a nice player opposite Maxx Crosby. Leading the defensive line for the Huskies up in Seattle, he’s been one of the best edge rushers in the Pac-12 for some time. Trice’s frame is big enough to the point where he can still put some good weight on. There’s some twitchiness with him at the initial point of attack.
UW head coach Kalen DeBoer is a fundamentals-first type of coach. The philosophy employed in Seattle is similar to the New England flavored culture currently in Vegas. Trice could test out of this spot — though this is right about where we’d expect him to land.
10. Chicago Bears: WR J. Michael Sturdivant (UCLA)
The former 4-star WR out of Texas (by way of Cal) has a chance to become a household name this year. Transferring over to Westwood from Berkeley, the guy they call JMS will immediately become the top WR option in an offense far more explosive compared to the one he came from. At Cal, Sturdivant battled bad QB play and a weak offensive scheme. Even then, he managed to catch 65 passes for 755 yards and 7 TDs.
JMS is nearly 6-foot-4 with long arms, terrific body control, immense football intelligence, and elite track speed (rumored to be under 10.4 in the 100-meter sprint). He totally fits the archetype of the modern-day receiver. Only now, he’ll be playing under the offensive mastermind that is Chip Kelly. Sturdivant is probably the most talented receiver to play for the Bruins since the days of Freddie Mitchell back in the late ’90’s. Without a doubt, Chicago QB Justin Fields would love to use Sturdivant as a deep-threat target.
11. Chicago Bears: TE Brock Bowers (Georgia)
When you dominate the SEC as a true freshmen and then again as a true sophomore, you’re doing something right. Hailing from Napa of all places, Georgia’s tight end/H-Back is a walking mismatch. The physicality Bowers plays with is simply too much for corners and safeties. When linebackers try to check him, Bowers utilizes route-running skills, quickness, and an ability to garner separation when making big play after big play.
Oh — and the toughness Bowers plays with is further amplified by having a terrific set of hands. The Bears would love nabbing him here, where Bowers can be employed in a number of different ways. Line him up in the slot, in the backfield, or even in the perimeter…the man can do it all. He’d be another excellent target and foundational piece for the Bears (and specifically Fields).
12. New England Patriots: DE/OLB Laiatu Latu (UCLA)
Latu’s story is fascinating. The Sacramento native started his career at Washington as a much-ballyhooed recruit. He ended up suffering what Washington called a career-ending neck injury. They were forcing him to medically retire. However, he followed a position coach down to Los Angeles — where UCLA doctors ended up clearing him. Boy, is Chip Kelly thankful for that decision.
Last year being his first fully healthy season in quite some time, Latu led the Bruins with 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss. His lengthy frame made him terrific in terms of disrupting the vision of opposing quarterbacks. Latu plays incredibly hard — surely dating back to his days as a prep rugby player. When you pair his physical gifts with his football I.Q., you’re looking at a potentially very special athlete. The versatile defender fits perfectly with what Bill Belichick likes to do with his defenses in New England.
13. Atlanta Falcons: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama)
Kool-Aid probably has the coolest name of anyone in the draft. For his specific position group, he also probably benefits from garnering tutelage from the best secondary brain in the business. Of course, we’re talking about Nick Saban. Over the years, plenty of Alabama secondary players have gone on to not only become high round draft choices, but also perform well on the next level.
McKinstry has terrific size for the position at 6-foot-1 and nearly 190 pounds. He can flip his hips with the best of them when backtracking in coverage, and has proven to demonstrate some very solid ball skills. Deep-field speed also isn’t a problem — particularly when McKinstry breaks on throws to the perimeter. We’d have to say he’s also quite proficient whether in a zone look or pressing at the line of scrimmage.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: DL J.T. Tuimoloau (Ohio State)
Formerly a 5-star prospect from the Seattle area, Tuimoloau spurned the likes of Alabama, USC, Oregon, and Washington in order to play for Larry Johnson and the Buckeyes. He reminds us a lot of former Trojans DE/DT Leonard Williams. You can play Tuimoloau inside in a 4-3 scheme — or even outside in a 3-4 alignment.
Naturally, he’s been blessed with some real pop when it comes to getting off the ball. The stats aren’t yet where you’d expect them to be for a future first-round selection. With that said, everyone knows about his immense ceiling as a versatile talent. If you’d like another similar comparison, we see J.T. looking eerily like Cam Heyward (a longtime staple of the Steelers).
15. New York Giants: WR Rome Odunze (Washington)
Washington has yet another talented player primed with a mid-first grade. Odunze is a very talented athlete. Hailing from Las Vegas originally, Odunze is known for his ball-skills downfield. He can take the top off the opposing defense in the blink of an eye, as he’s done repeatedly with Michael Penix.
Since becoming a more well-rounded route-runner, the efficiency in his game has gone up tremendously. Odunze nabbed 75 catches for 1,145 yards and 7 TDs. The Giants still seem like they need a top-end skill guy…for whomever the long-term vision is at QB.
16. Denver Broncos: DL Chop Robinson (Penn State)
Denver plays in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. As such, you know rushing after these guys with quality athletes is imperative. This is where Robinson comes in. Robinson was named as a Pro Football Focus All Big 10 first team selection. He flashed last season with 10.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. Now a junior, most people are projecting a real step up to come when it comes to production.
17. Houston Texans: DL Maason Smith (LSU)
Had he not gotten injured last year, LSU’s Maason Smith would have likely had one of the best seasons for a collegiate defensive lineman. Smith was limited to just seven games after suffering a torn ACL which sidelined him for the remainder of the Tigers’ campaign. As an interior defender, Smith provides plenty of pass rush skills and finishing ability. A former top recruit, Smith fits in nicely with a Texans defense that desperately needs help up front.
18. Miami Dolphins: OT J.C. Latham (Alabama)
Already one of the most stacked rosters in football, the Dolphins add to their embarrassment of riches with one of the top tackle prospects in the class. Latham has solidified the right tackle spot for the Crimson Tide, and projects to do the same at the next level. Nick Saban’s teams are always built up front, and Latham is one of the pillars of a terrific offensive line. Additionally, his familiarity with the right side coincides well with southpaw QB Tua Tagovailoa — as Latham would be protecting his QB’s ‘blind side’.
19. Seattle Seahawks: DL Tyleik Williams (Ohio State)
What can you mock to a team that basically has everything? The Seahawks are a talented bunch from top-to-bottom thanks to a couple of shrewd signings and home run draft picks. Though, if they showed one weakness last year, it was a leaky run defense. Williams has shown an inconsistent motor, but is a potential game-wrecker in the middle. After shedding nearly 40 pounds prior to last season, Williams enjoyed a tremendous year in his slimmer frame. He was one of the highest graded DT’s in college football last year, and is still just 20 years old.
20. New Orleans Saints: WR Xavier Worthy (Texas)
With Michael Thomas’ future in flux, the Saints could be in the market for another wideout. While the team seemingly nailed the Chris Olave selection, there isn’t much depth behind the former Ohio State standout. If the Saints intend on building a WR room with complementary skillsets, Xavier Worthy is an ideal pick. Worthy is a quick-twitched athlete with tremendous burst and route-running ability. He could serve as the premier deep threat while Olave operates in the intermediate range. Though Worthy’s slender frame could keep him out of the first round, we’ve seen time and time again teams are willing to draft ‘smaller’ receivers with game-breaking speed.
21. Minnesota Vikings: DT Michael Hall (Ohio State)
Michael Hall Jr. can sometimes be forgotten on a stacked Ohio State defensive line, but he arguably boasts as much potential as any interior defender in the country. In his first full year last season, Hall Jr. showed he can be an impact player up the middle. We could easily see him ending up with a first-round grade following another year with the Buckeyes. The Vikings really haven’t had much of a defensive identity in recent years. But, just one player can change all of that in an instant. In this scenario, Hall is their guy.
22. Los Angeles Chargers: RB Blake Corum (Michigan)
Is Austin Ekeler’s time in Los Angeles coming to a close? One thing is for certain, scheduling impromptu Zoom meetings with the rest of the league’s running backs in an effort to receiver greater pay probably isn’t the greatest sign for Ekeler’s future with his current team. We usually end up seeing one running back go in the first round of nearly every draft, and Michigan’s Corum seems like the best bet to be the name that gets called. The 5-foot-8 rusher is coming off a tremendous 1,400-yard, 18-TD campaign.
23. Green Bay Packers: OL Christian Mahogany (Boston College)
Another offensive lineman off the board with Boston College guard Christian Mahogany. The New Jersey native was considered one of the top guards in the nation, and was named a starter heading into his redshirt freshman campaign. He started all 22 games in ’20 and ’21 for the Eagles, but was sidelined with a torn ACL last year. Prior to the injury, several pundits thought Mahogany would declare for the NFL Draft following the ’22 campaign. Now, he’s back in college looking to rebuild his stock. Guards are becoming and more valuable at the next level, and Mahogany may very well be the best in the pool.
24. Baltimore Ravens: DB Kalen King (Penn State)
Kalen King is looking to be the next Penn State defensive back to be drafted early. He saw his teammate Joey Porter Jr. selected in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and King has a chance to sneak into the first round. With Porter Jr. on the opposite side last year, teams often opted to throw King’s way. He collected three interceptions last year and defended 15 passes. With the way defenses are forced to play in today’s NFL, defensive backs with top-notch ball skills are highly valuable. King fits the mold, and would be joining a great infrastructure with the Ravens.
25. Detroit Lions: DB Jason Marshall (Florida)
The Lions are among a select group of good teams that probably could use a QB, but aren’t going to be picking high enough to get any of the good ones. As such, adding to the cornerback room never hurts. The Jeff Okudah experiment is officially over in Detroit, as the former No. 3 overall pick signed with the Falcons this offseason. Detroit’s starting boundary corners heading into ’23 are Emmanuel Moseley (starting the year on the PUP list) and the undrafted Cameron Sutton. Florida’s Marshall is the prototype outside corner. He’s got great size at 6-foot-1 (and 200 pounds) and is extremely competitive in both coverage and run support.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: DB Calen Bullock (USC)
Speaking of outside cornerbacks, USC’s Calen Bullock is one to watch out for. Bullock has elite size at 6-foot-3, allowing him to matchup with even the biggest wideouts at the next level. While Bullock isn’t as fluid as some of his peers, he makes up for it with a huge frame and solid ball skills. He’s much more comfortable in zone coverage as of now, but his frame certainly makes him an intriguing weapon to utilize against taller wideouts. The Jaguars’ defense came on strong late last year, and could use a bigger option opposite breakout star CB Tyson Campbell.
27. Dallas Cowboys: DB Kamari Lassiter (Georgia)
What a surprise! Yet another Georgia defender. This time, a defensive back in the form of the uber-physical Kamari Lassiter. While Lassiter doesn’t matchup physically with some of the other top DB’s in the pool, he’s arguably the class’s best run support corner. And, as we’ve seen over the years, corners that are willing to mix it up in the run game are at a premium. Lassiter will be stepping into a new role as a team leader now that Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith are gone from the DB room. Based on his performance thus far, he should thrive in that spot.
28. Buffalo Bills: OL Jack Nelson (Wisconsin)
Jack Nelson is next in line for a program that has become known for producing elite offensive lineman. Nelson will test off the charts with his elite size and athleticism. He moves exceptionally well for a player standing 6-foot-7, and that’s could bode well for his potential as a stopper of pass rushers. Tackles are tasked with staying in front of edge rushers who are generally considered the best pure athletes in the league. Think Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons. Any lineman would have their hands full with those guys, but Nelson certainly has the foot-speed and length teams are looking for in a franchise tackle.
29. San Francisco 49ers: DL Jack Sawyer (Ohio State)
The sixth Buckeye selected in this mock, Jack Sawyer could be the best player on the most stacked defense in the country. Sawyer will form an elite edge rush duo with J.T. Tuimoloau, as offenses will hardly have a chance trying to block this pair. Sawyer’s overall production has been a bit disappointing when you consider his ranking as a top recruit coming out of Ohio. Though, he’s mostly been used a rotational piece given the Buckeye’s immense talent up front. He’ll have a chance to star in ’23. If he plays well, teams and pundits will have no trouble handing him a first-round grade.
30. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Jeremiah Trotter (Clemson)
Keep the legacy names coming. We already talked about Marvin Harrison Jr. earlier, and just in the last few years we’ve seen the sons of former Pro Bowlers Joe Horn, Patrick Surtain, Joey Porter, and Antoine Winfield selected. NFL teams usually aren’t too excited to select an off-ball backer in the first-round, but they might make an exception for the son of a four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. has excellent instincts — just like his dad — and can more than hold his own in pass coverage.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Chico Bennett Jr. (Virginia)
Virginia edge rusher Chico Bennett Jr. missed the entire ’21 season with a torn ACL, but dominated for his new team after returning last season. Bennett Jr. was formerly with Georgia Tech for two years before transferring to Charlottesville. NFL teams have always been enamored with his physical traits, but he finally paired his athleticism with strong production in ’22. Bennett Jr. collected seven sacks as a junior, and tackles could barely stay in front of the bendy, pass rusher. The Eagles seem to be stockpiling defensive studs, and they add another athletic option with Bennett Jr. here.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Tommy Eichenberg (Ohio State)
Former shotput standout in the state of Ohio, Tommy Eichenberg built upon a breakout ’21 campaign with an even better season last year. Eichenberg is an energizer on the defensive side of the ball. While some may see him as more of a tweener, Eichenberg is a pure football player who can make plays in a number of ways. While he’s not quite the same talent level, we’ve seen guys like Micah Parsons find success immediately despite entering the league without a true position. Eichenberg can blitz, cover, and stop the run. A smart team will find a way to deploy him the right way.