The deadline for college football players across the country to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone. I’m sorry if you intended to put your name in the mix but slept through your alarm (college kid, am I right?), but it’s too late. Your punishment is that you have to stay in school for one more year.
However, the NFL’s loss is college football’s gain. Some players were not eligible for the draft—the NFL has a rule requiring all players to be at least three years out of high school before entering the draft—while others entered the draft for reasons of name, image, and likeness (void). Took the Chances to return for a second season. Players return to iron out some deficiencies in their game and make real, legitimate money – perhaps more than they could have made as a mid- to late-round selection.
Which players coming back for another season will be the talk of the draft process a year from now? I have compiled a list of 20 names to follow by position. No, I didn’t include every player from the country, so I’m sorry if a player from your team didn’t make the list. Doesn’t mean I hate them. But I love these players, so let’s meet them.
Caleb Williams, QB, USC: If Williams were eligible to go to the NFL this spring, it is likely that he would be the favorite to go No. 1 overall. NFL teams are always looking for compasses with prospects, and Williams is actually the most Patrick Mahomes-like quarterback in the college game. That’s not to say he’s as good as, or will be as good as, Mahomes in the NFL. But Williams does a lot similar to Mahomes. Oh, and he won the Heisman while playing for Lincoln Riley, a coach who has helped many Heisman winners and No. 1 draft picks. Rest assured, NFL scouts will spend the next year picking him apart and looking for things wrong with him. They may even find something, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he is the best NFL prospect in college next year.
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina: Unlike many of the country’s top quarterbacks, Maye didn’t play on a team struggling for anything significant. The Tar Heels finished the season 9–5 and won the ACC Coastal, but due to their poor defense no one considered them a real threat to do anything. However, Mai was wonderful. He has the size, the athleticism and all the traits that NFL teams love. Other schools love them too, depending on who you believe. Which is why some lucrative offers have reportedly swung Maye’s way in hopes of persuading her to relocate.
Bo Nix, QB, Oregon: I never thought I’d find Nix in a story like this, but here we are. In short, I didn’t believe in the Knicks during their days at Auburn. He showed flashes of brilliance, but mistakes and lackluster play often overtook him. Then, he moved to Oregon and started making me look like a fool. Nicks was a stud for the Ducks in 2022, and bringing him back for another season was a coup for coach Dan Lanning. The Knicks began to live up to their potential last season, and another strong year could propel them into early-round draft discussions next spring.
Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: Next spring, Penix will be one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the draft class. He has an uncanny arm that sometimes lacks restraint. Some would see this as a knock on him. Others would imagine the results if it could be used properly. College football fans will enjoy this. Honestly, there were some throwback panics this season with Washington making weird mouth sounds that I didn’t know I was capable of.
Blake Corum, RB, Michigan: Corum is only on this list because of a knee injury he suffered late in the season against Illinois. The timetable for his recovery as he moves through the draft process hinders his stock. It absolutely stinks for Corum, but it’s a win for the Wolverines and college football. I’d like to see an X-ray of Corum’s ankles because they can’t be made like most humans. Some of the cuts he makes and the bent angles of his ankles don’t seem physically possible, but he does them over and over again. Running backs rarely go early in the draft these days, but if Corum works on his pass-catching out of the backfield, he could enter that conversation next spring.
Treveon Henderson, RB, Ohio State: Henderson Blake is a similar case to Corum. He blundered in 2022 and was limited to just eight games, but was productive when played and a dominant home hitter at the position. I’ll give the edge to Corum in changing direction over Henderson, but Henderson has more top speed and gets to it quicker. He won’t be used as much as a receiver in 2022 as he is in 2021, but it’s a part of his game that NFL teams will appreciate.
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: Recognize the name? Anyone watching Marvin Harrison play alongside Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts all those years ago will not be surprised to learn that his son is a route tactician. In fact, so much does the younger Harrison look like his father on the field it’s uncanny, but there’s one clear difference: At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the son is much bigger than the father, who is listed at 6-foot. went. and 185 lbs. If you watched Ohio State’s loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff, it’s not a coincidence that Georgia’s defense found it easier to slow down the Buckeyes’ offense after Harrison was injured. He is the most talented wide receiver in the country and could be a top-five pick next year.
Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State: Yes, that’s right, a third straight Ohio State player mentioned on this list. You’d think the Buckeyes could be good again next season. Spoiler alert: Agbuka is the third Buckeye mentioned, but he won’t be the last. While Harrison is the better overall prospect, there is a strong argument to be made that Agbuka is the second best wideout prospect in next year’s class. He’s not quite as skilled as Harrison, but he’s equally talented and a pain in the butt to cover.
Xavier Worth, WR, Texas: Worth is a deep threat who has excelled at Texas despite playing with multiple quarterbacks in his first two seasons. He burst onto the scene with 981 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman playing alongside Casey Thompson and Hudson Card. In 2022, he played with the Cards and Quinn Evers, totaling 760 yards and nine touchdowns. There was a slight drop in numbers, but this was largely due to the availability of better second and third options. He’s not the biggest kid in the world, but he has the depth of every team at every level.
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia: Bowers is a freak. When you look at Georgia’s offense, you wonder why the Bulldogs don’t give him the ball every game because that would probably be an efficient plan. Bowers led the Dogs in receiving yards this season with 942 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also an effective ballcarrier, rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries. He is a matchup nightmare that can be used all over the field. My sympathies to any linebacker who gets stuck with him one-on-one in coverage.
Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State: I was legitimately surprised that Fashanu returned to Penn State, but he is young and his family felt it was best for him to develop physically for one more season. Penn State is certainly happy with the decision. Fashanu could have been the No. 1 tackle in the 2023 class had he entered the draft, and he will enter next season considered by many to be the top in the class.
Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have sent some outstanding offensive linemen to the NFL in recent years, and Alt looks and plays the part of a top-10 pick. It took some time for the Irish offensive line to gel in 2022, but Alt was outstanding throughout the season. He’s 6-foot-7 tall with long arms and quick feet, making him impossible to pass. When he puts his hands on you, it’s a wrap.
Jesse Latham, OT, Alabama: Truth be told, I haven’t been as impressed with Alabama’s offensive line the past two years as I used to be years ago. It’s a unit that’s holding back a bit, but I love Latham. He is the only player in the unit who is consistently out. He played right tackle for Alabama in 2023 and I don’t know if there are plans to move him to left. It might keep him from being the top pick in the draft, but it’s not stopping me from including him here.
Jared Vers, DE, Florida State: I don’t know that Shlok would have been a first round pick, as some have claimed if he had entered the draft this year, but I don’t think he would have reached the third round. The verse transfer was a big win for the Seminoles in Portal. He came to Tallahassee from Albany and finished with nine sacks and 16.5 TFL. He’s already polished for a pass rusher.
JT Tuimolou, DE, Ohio State:Finally, another Buckeye! Tuimoloau is one of my favorite players because of everything he does. He can get after quarterback as a rusher. He can plug the gap as a run stopper. He can also drop coverage and do a good job, and he has great hands. He picked off two passes and broke up four passes this season. He is the definition of a disruptive force.
Dallas Turner, DE, Alabama: Will Anderson will be one of the top five in the spring. He was one of the most productive pass rushers in the college game over the past few seasons, and he’s had an epic 2021. How will Alabama replace him? It would simply throw out Dallas Turner at every snap. Turner is a bit small for the position you would ideally like in the position, but he makes up for it with his pace. Any tackle that is slow out of the gate gets beat. period. Once he learns to use his hands a little better, there’s no stopping him.
Mason Smith, DT, LSU: Mason Smith missed the 2022 season-opener against Florida State due to a torn ACL as he celebrated the tackle for loss. It robbed LSU of a disruptive force for the season, but he’ll be back at full health for 2023, and it’s a huge boost for the Tigers defense. Players who can blow up an offensive line internally are always appreciated, and Smith can do exactly that.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama: I think this will be a somewhat controversial choice because some of the people I talk to are not that bullish on McKinstry. I am not in their camp. I love the kid and think he could be the first corner in next spring’s draft. I love his demeanor and skill at finding the ball, and I love that he is a contributor on special teams.
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia: Speaking of discord in the evaluation of corners, there’s a lot in it when it comes to Georgia’s Kelly Ringo, who is expected to be a top pick in the draft this year. Well, some will tell you that Ringo wasn’t the best corner of the Georgia defense this season – Kamari Lassiter was. I think they were both very good, and Lassiter’s is a good bet to be even better in 2023.
James Williams, S, MiamiIn a season of few glimmers of hope for the Miami Hurricanes, Williams was the glimmer of hope. He was tied for the team lead with 59 tackles and was everywhere. The question will be whether Williams projects to the next level as a safety or linebacker. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds. His stock plummeted this year, but I suspect it was because of things around him. If Miami returns in 2023, don’t be surprised if it enters the first round conversation next year.