I pass these mini-nuggets along as a fan service. They are among the things I’m hearing about the top of the 2023 draft.
- This doesn’t mean anything on the surface, because the way “reporting” works this time of year, things that make sense get repeated and repeated and repeated and it all becomes one giant Insider Echo Chamber. But I didn’t hear anyone, in calls Friday through Sunday, who thinks the first pick won’t be Bryce Young. He may not be. I’m just telling you what’s out there.
- I will not be surprised if, in the Edge category, Tyree Wilson is picked ahead of Will Anderson. I particularly will not be surprised if Houston—whether at two or through a trade-down if the Texans don’t take a quarterback—takes Wilson over Anderson. “DeMeco Ryans could look at Wilson after his year in San Francisco and say, ‘I got my Nick Bosa,’” said someone in the league who knows Ryans.
- One coach with a pick in the top 10: “Wilson will be a better pro than Anderson.”
- I’m like you. I hear the Houston’s souring on Stroud stuff, and I just can’t believe the Texans wouldn’t take a quarterback high in this draft. How would Cal McNair answer to his disaffected season-ticketholders if, after passing on a quarterback with the third and 15th picks in the first round last year, he passes on a quarterback at number two this year? It’s the job of coaches to get the best out of players, and there’s certainly enough potential in C.J. Stroud—should he be there for Houston at two—for the Texans’ coaches to make a good NFL QB out of him.
- An increasing number of people around the league think Jalen Carter has done enough in his visits to not sink like a stone on draft night. (More on Carter in my next section.) It’s become almost a cliché, how many team officials think the Seahawks will take Carter with the fifth overall pick.
- Best rumor of the week: Steelers trading up from 17 to nine if Carter’s there. There could not be a more perfect coach for Carter than Mike Tomlin.
- Carolina owner David Tepper has not been overbearing in the QB-search process. I can hear it now: You’re giving us a sanitized version of this to get on Tepper’s good side. Uh, I’ve never met the man. I could care less about buttering up David Tepper. I’m just telling you the real stuff.
- Peter Skoronski’s an interesting case. The Northwestern tackle has the dreaded short-arm plague, and two teams in the top 10 see him now as a guard. So what? Guard Chris Lindstrom got drafted 14th by the Falcons in 2019, and he’s now a cornerstone player in Atlanta. Ditto Zack Martin (16th) in Dallas, and with a slightly smaller exclamation point, Quenton Nelson (sixth) in Indy. All got second contracts. If Skoronski’s a great guard, getting picked ninth or 12th or 15th is absolutely fine.
- This is not an overriding negative on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, an excellent receiver prospect. But the Ohio State football season was five months long last year, including practice, and Smith-Njigba got a left hamstring injury early, and he played 60 snaps total in three games, and never got on the field in the last 10 weeks. He runs a 4.48 40-. I’m not the only one wondering: How is Jaxon Smith-Njigba the top-rated receiver on so many boards with 10 days to go?
On Jalen Carter. Interesting to note that last week, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was on the list of draftees who will be in Kansas City on Thursday night for the first round. On Saturday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told me: “We definitely would have skipped it if I thought there was the potential of him falling out of the top 10. I’m not concerned in the slightest about that.”
Carter is the lightning rod prospect in this draft after pleading no contest to charges of racing and reckless driving connected with the deaths of a teammate and Georgia football staffer in another car earlier this year. Some thought his draft prospects would plummet after he was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 50 hours of community service. Since then, Rosenhaus said Carter would make visits to teams only in the top 10 of the first round; if other teams wanted to talk to him, they could travel to Carter’s home of Apopka, Fla. Entering this week, he’s made visits to four teams (Seattle, Las Vegas, Chicago and Philadelphia) and Rosenhaus said there will be two more this week before the league shuts off visits on Wednesday. Adam Schefter reported one of the visits will be to Detroit today.
“The goal has been to educate teams about Jalen and the case and who he is,” Rosenhaus said. “It hasn’t been an easy process, but I do think it’s been good for Jalen to get out and see the teams. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll go in the top five.”
Lots of teams look at the fifth slot—Seattle, with Mr. Positive, Pete Carroll, as coach—and automatically think it’s a good shot. It may well be. Detroit, at six, and Chicago and Philly, at nine and 10, also seem to be in play. Who takes the risk on Carter, and who gambles on the potential reward, is going to be one of the big stories of round one.
Former QB Lists of the Week. I asked the very opinionated Chris Simms of NBC Sports and Dan Orlovsky of ESPN, both former NFL quarterbacks, for their top five at the position. Simms has gained notoriety in the past few years for loving unfamous guys entering the draft, and he’s not as crazy this year, but a couple of his picks are notable.
What’s interesting to me: Both like Hendon Hooker more than the market—Simms in particular—and one thinks C.J. Stroud is Burrow-like while the other has cooled on him a bit.
And Simms, the one who brought you Kellen Mond and Matt Corral, has another one you’ll have to look up: UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Hmm. Purdy-like in this way—Thompson-Robinson started 48 college games.
Simms’ Top Five QBs:
- C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. “To me, Stroud was the offense at Ohio State. Bryce Young ran the offense at Alabama. Stroud’s the best pure pocket passer in the draft. He’s big, he can make any type of throw you want, he’s got a great ability to process information. He’s as good as I’ve seen at making all the throws since Joe Burrow.”
- Bryce Young, Alabama. “The natural. He’s slick. I mean, there’s a lot to like. Like Stroud, the processing information there is really good. He’s got a lot of wow releases, but there’s not a lot of wow throws. But he is a phenomenal, quick athlete. He can make people miss. He can throw off different platforms. Of course I worry about his size.”
- Hendon Hooker, Tennessee. “This is a pure pocket-passing quarterback. Man, nobody is better in the draft than Hooker playing from the pocket. People around him, hanging on him, and he can throw a 20-yard incut or a 20-yard comeback. You’re like, ‘Man, he couldn’t even step into that, and wow, what a throw.’ His ability to move is being way underrated.”
- Anthony Richardson, Florida. “How can you not love his potential? I don’t love the comparison to Josh Allen, because Josh wasn’t this raw. But we’ve never seen anything like Richardson. His arm is the most explosive arm in the draft. His running is real. Yeah, there’s a lot to work on from the quarterback aspect. I hear some people say, ‘He needs to sit a year.’ It’s the exact opposite. This is Trey Lance. He’s gotta play; he hasn’t played enough. You gotta start him right away if you draft him.”
- (tie) Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Will Levis, Kentucky. “Dorian Thompson-Robinson might be the most underrated prospect in the entire draft. Bigger than Bryce Young (Thompson-Robinson is 6-1 ½), better arm than Bryce Young. A little frail, but I think he’s ready to play right now. With Levis, the word for me is inconsistency—in everything. Decision-making, mechanics, quality of throw. I don’t see a guy with a natural feel for the position.”
Orlovsky’s Top Five:
- Bryce Young. “I think he’s got a feel for football like Steph Curry’s got for basketball. My favorite quality about him: In moments of panic, he doesn’t panic with the football. From decision made to ball coming out, it’s so sudden, but he doesn’t force the ball. His size … who were the last quarterbacks to have their careers derailed by injury? Carson Wentz. Andrew Luck. Cam Newton. They’re mountain men. Bryce’s size does nothing to impact his ability to play.”
- Anthony Richardson. “This is a flip for me over the past couple weeks, Richardson over Stroud. He’s got rare, rare athleticism, size and arm talent. Very unique combination. Oftentimes we’ll get two out of three. One out of three. He’s got all three. Really good in the play action game and the RPO game.”
- C.J. Stroud. “C.J. was number two for me for a while. He has a tremendous pre-snap plan. This kid’s very good at understanding tells of a defense and what’s the problem with this play and how to fix it. Elite ball placement. Rhythm and timing might be the flaws. When he’s off rhythm, he’s not the same player. You could say that about a lot of guys, but C.J. guides the ball at times.”
- Will Levis. “Super tight release, very similar to Stafford. Big, strong-armed, tough dude. Played his best football in the toughest moments in games, third downs. But he’s an incredibly difficult evaluation. By far the worst protection that any quarterback had to deal with this year, by far the worst skill group. So it’s tough to come to a conclusion on him.”
- Hendon Hooker. “I love the adversity that he’s faced, the maturity that he’s acquired. He’s a big, athletic, touch thrower who also can drive the football. But naturally he’s a touch thrower by nature. With the designed runs, I don’t think he’s a crazy creator, but he can run when he needs to. He had to think very quickly in their offense this year.”
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column