The 2023 NFL Draft rumors are flying long before Roger Goodell announces who will be the No. 1 pick. While the pre-draft process will lead to plenty of speculation and debate, the latest NFL Draft rumors provide an early look at what could happen.
Each NFL offseason provides fans with an opportunity to get excited about the future. It’s especially true for a 2023 NFL Draft class that features plenty of high-end talent at star positions and marquee names who have dominated college football for years.
Naturally, NFL Draft rumors are a mixed bag of useful information and smokescreens. Teams will happily leak out misleading information with the hope it influences when specific players are selected. In the weeks ahead, we’ll analyze every rumor and determine whether fans should take it seriously or view it as the latest smokescreen from the NFL.
Related: 2023 NFL Draft order
Let’s dive into the latest 2023 NFL Draft rumors.
Darnell Washington generating early buzz
Darnell Washington isn’t the best tight end on the Georgia Bulldogs roster nor is he the No. 1 player at his position in the 2023 NFL Draft. Yet, the 6-foot-7 offensive chess piece is already becoming a favorite prospect for plenty of NFL teams.
According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, a lot of scouts view Washington as a “terrific” tight end who will be drafted much earlier than many project. While some mock drafts view him as a Day 2 selection, there’s a chance he could get picked late in Round 1.
There have been NFL comparisons to Marcedes Lewis, who functions like another offensive tackle on the Green Bay Packers offensive line. However, Washington’s athleticism is reminiscent of Lewis in his prime years and there is even more upside for Washington as a red-zone threat. He definitely projects to be an even better NFL player than he was in college.
C.J. Stroud elevated 2023 NFL Draft stock in CFP Semifinal
There is plenty of debate regarding where C.J. Stroud will be drafted. Plenty of executives share the belief that Stroud is a better quarterback prospect than former Ohio State star Justin Fields. However, he went into the CFP Semifinal with most consensus draft boards ranking Stroud behind Bryce Young and Will Levis.
Related: 2023 NFL mock draft
Facing the one of the best defenses in college football, Stroud put everyone on notice. The Heisman Trophy finalist posted a 93.9 QBR with four touchdown passes, 348 passing yards and a 67.6% completion rate. The 6-foot-3 quarterback led Ohio State to 41 points, doing a lot of damage without top wideouts Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
‘He really helped himself and that he was doing it without star players was huge. It’s all the stuff he was busted on—that he was good, but it was more about the star receivers or the line. He was without his top two receivers, top two backs, best tight end, that all counts for something. And I don’t know if it was a conscious effort he made, but that he willingly pulled the ball down and ran is something everyone will notice.”
Anonymous NFC executive on Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud (via MMQB’s Albert Breer)
Stroud’s ability to handle pressure with ease and make smart decisions with defenders in his face spoke volumes to talent evaluators. He also showcased effective athleticism, moving around in the pocket and even running for first downs when necessary.
Widely viewed as a player ready to start in Week 1, Stroud likely guaranteed a top-10 selection. If he performs at the NFL Combine and puts on a show then crushes the interview process, there’s at least a chance he could be the first quarterback drafted.
NFL Draft rumors: Stetson Bennett draft projection, analysis
Even after winning his first national championship, few viewed Stetson Bennett as a future NFL quarterback. Far more often, the Georgia Bulldogs’ captain was talked about as a future owner of car dealerships in Georgia. Months later, Bennett is a safe bet to at least be selected on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Stetson Bennett career stats: 8,124 pass yards, 62-21 TD-INT, 158.8 QB rating, 9.0 ypa
There are plenty of factors working against Bennett that drive down his NFL Draft projection. Among them; he’ll be a 26-year-old rookie during the 2023 season and he is measured at a height of 5-foot-11. Combine that with the limited physical tools and there isn’t a real promising future as a starting quarterback at the next level.
With that said, intangibles and pre-draft interviews still matter. Bennett’s past two seasons at Georgia give him one of the best winning records by a quarterback in recent memory. He is also well-regarded for his leadership, poise, accuracy and football IQ. He had plenty of fans within NFL circles midway through the 2022 season with drives like the game-winner vs Ohio State strengthening his profile. Ultimately, Bennett profiles nicely as a backup quarterback for a decade.
Multiple teams view Will Levis as No. 1 QB in 2023 NFL Draft
Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis entered the season as a projected first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He faced challenges due to the below-average supporting cast at Kentucky, including another year with a new offensive coordinator. While his numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, there are plenty of NFL teams that love him.
- Will Levis stats (2022): 2,406 pass yards, 19-10 TD-INT 151.9 QB rating, 65.4% completion
Multiple NFL scouts view Levis as the top passer in the 2023 draft class. It goes beyond just a few scouts, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper echoing that several teams have Levis atop their draft board. It all comes down to physical tools as Levis’ arm strength and athleticism far exceed what Bryce Young and Stroud bring to the table.
There’s a chance Levis becomes the next Zach Wilson, but upside means everything to teams picking near the top and the raw traits Levis has draw similarities to Josh Allen. Ultimately, Levis is a safe bet to be a top-10 pick and he could realistically go No. 1 overall.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.