To quote the great philosopher Ricky Bobby: If you ain’t first, you’re last.
That’s why I’m sitting down and putting my name on a handful of potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects whose games I have come to appreciate and enjoy over the past year of watching college football — both through the lenses of scouting and as a fan.
The process is obviously incredibly early. There’s a ton of football to be played between now and draft weekend of 2023, but let's get the ball rolling with some players I’d call “my guys” ahead of the 2022 college football season. For even more analysis on the most intriguing players in college football, check out PFF's 2023 College Football Preview Magazine.
QB Will Levis, Kentucky
If you watch the “best of” Will Levis, you’ll see a quarterback who has the physical profile to make all the throws, both in and out of structure. He’ll climb the pocket from a five-step drop and launch the ball 55 yards in the air right in the bread basket to a deep crosser one play, then the next he’ll be scrambling to his left and hit a flick of the wrist on a rope in the back of the end zone.
Biggest takeaway from the Wan'Dale Robinson film is Will Levis should be a top 2023 QB prospect. pic.twitter.com/7ySlNiwJr4
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) April 3, 2022
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior quarterback will be starting for just his second season in 2022 after spending his early days of college ball as a backup at Penn State. While being coached by Liam Coen (now offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams), Levis threw for 24 touchdowns and recorded over 3,200 total yards.
Since being elevated to a position in the spotlight, he’s shown he’s ready for it in every way. He has the personality to captivate a room, the leadership qualities to follow into gridiron battles and the potential to bet on.
RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse
The former three-star running back from Owings Mills, Maryland, is one of the best stories in college football for making the most of a good opportunity. Tucker was buried on the depth chart as a freshman, but due to injuries and opt-outs, he found himself the starter four games into the 2020 season. He played well that year, recording the third-most rushing yards of any true freshman in Syracuse history. But his second season is where he really took his game from a nice story to one with NFL potential.
Sean Tucker among ACC RBs in 2021:
???? 1,515 yards (1st)
???? 1,014 yards after contact (1st)
???? 66 forced missed tackles (1st)
???? 44 runs of 10+ yards (1st)pic.twitter.com/szEPJePQjI
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 10, 2022
As a sophomore, Tucker rushed for 1,496 yards, fourth-most among all FBS players. He was named first-team All-ACC and first-team All-American. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Tucker looks like an NFL player already when lining up in the backfield. His balance and how light he is on his feet are impressive for a player of his size. His high school track background (a true sprinter in track who ran the 60-meter dash in 6.88 seconds as a freshman) shows up in his long speed, too. He needs to work on being more of a natural when asked to catch passes, but other than that, this is one of the most complete backs you’ll find in the 2023 class at the moment.
RB Blake Corum, Michigan
For years now it has felt like Michigan’s defense always fields good talent, but the offense and its lack of dynamic ability have held the program back from truly competing for conference titles and College Football Playoff spots. For the running back position, Blake Corum is making sure there are absolutely no questions about dynamic ability.
Blake Corum will cut his way either vertically or laterally into open space! His cuts are sudden and decisive! pic.twitter.com/9Q4jyjjPwn
— Full-Time Dame ???? (@DP_NFL) June 21, 2022
Corum may come on the smaller size at 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, but the true junior packs a punch at contact and is one of the shiftiest, most explosive backs we have on our radar here for the 2023 draft class. His 91.9 PFF rushing grade in 2021 was the best in the Big Ten and ranked fifth in the FBS. His forced missed tackles per attempt average of 0.34 was tied for seventh-best in the FBS. Plus, he’s already a very good receiving option. With no Hasaan Haskins ahead of him on the depth chart this year, expect a lot of production and some jaw-dropping runs from Corum this season.
WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Perry is one of the more intriguing receiver prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he provides good size to play on the outside and some nice fluidity and feet for a player with a longer frame. He’ll be one of the older prospects in the class, as he was a true freshman back in 2018, but his breakout season in 2021 seemed well worth the wait.
AT Perry (WR – Wake Forest) is very skilled at getting open for a guy his size. Really like his work on in-breaking routes. Uses footwork to some extra space between him and the defender. Fluid hips are a constant on his film.
A likely Day 2 pick in 2023. pic.twitter.com/GBmRpNkHuj
— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) July 11, 2022
Last year, Perry was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist and a first-team All-ACC honoree while setting the single-season school record with 15 touchdown receptions to go along with 1,293 receiving yards. He needs to clean up some areas of his game to be sharper in separation, and get stronger at the catch point to make the most of his size (likely not enough of a burner to be a true vertical threat), but he boasts intriguing movement skills for a player his size.
WR Jordan Whittington, Texas
Whittington doesn’t have a ton of production to his name right now (just 206 and 377 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons), but his background can explain that and bring some added intrigue.
As a five-star recruit from Cuero, Texas, he earned all-state honors as a wide receiver, defensive back, kick returner and all-purpose player in high school. During his team’s state championship game, Whittington had 334 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards (377 total yards), six touchdowns and even 11 tackles. He was named Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP. He started his Longhorns career at running back but switched to wide receiver after his first season.
JORDAN WHITTINGTON, FOLKS
Whittington’s just a RS Soph (draft eligible ????) but the man plays so strong over the middle. Different type of slot receiver. Can already tell he’ll be one of my favorites in whatever draft class he’s in #CFB pic.twitter.com/sB5BVtRSNr
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) October 2, 2021
Unfortunately, Whittington's injury history isn’t great. In 2019, he played the season opener and aggravated a high school groin injury. In 2020, he had a preseason hamstring issue, then suffered a torn meniscus in the season opener against UTEP. That was followed by a strained hip flexor. Things were going well in 2021 until he suffered a broken clavicle against Oklahoma. In total, Whittington has played in only 13 of Texas' 35 games over the past three seasons.
He’s in a crowded and talented receiver room with the Longhorns, but I’m still in on what this offensive X-factor can do if he can stay healthy.
OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
Harrison became one of my must-follow prospects during my summer scouting study. At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, he truly stands out on Oklahoma’s offensive line. Even as just a true junior heading into this season, he already has over 1,000 snaps at left tackle on his scouting report.
Oklahoma's Anton Harrison has an 83.6 Pass Blocking Grade since 2020…
2nd among Big 12 Tackles ⭕ pic.twitter.com/O54jtYsWz1
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 10, 2022
Harrison has a good understanding of the finesse aspect of offensive line play, grading highly in pass blocking thanks to good usage of size and hands. But he certainly could stand to get stronger to be a more imposing presence who can dictate contact as well react to it. Harrison himself said he wished he would have taken strength training more seriously early on. Hopefully that means he’s really taken it to heart this offseason. If so, there’s a lot to like already.
IOL Andrew Vorhees, USC
Every summer when building the list of potential prospects for the next draft class, I’m reminded of a player or two who make me say, “How in the world is this guy not in the pros yet?” One of those players is Andrew Vorhees.
Best PFF Grade by a Pac-12 OL since 2016:
???? Penei Sewell (2019) – 95.8
???? Andrew Vorhees (2021) – 90.0 pic.twitter.com/vCbVTEwsyL
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 8, 2022
The redshirt senior has already played in 44 games for the Trojans and is coming off his best year yet. He’s the only returning offensive lineman in the country to earn run- and pass-blocking grades over 90.0 last season. He could’ve been an early Day 2 pick last year. That feels like his floor again going into this season.
EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
It’s hard to believe the 2021 Big 12 co-Defensive Lineman of the Year was only a three-star recruit coming out of high school. That was likely because he weighed around only 220 pounds and never recorded more than five sacks in a high school season.
KSU EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah has a lightning quick first step pic.twitter.com/N0cYlvf28F
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) June 10, 2022
Now sitting at a dense 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Anudike-Uzomah is one of the strongest players in the country. His six forced fumbles last season were tied for most in the country. He has vice grips for hands, an explosive first step and a motor that never quits. He’s a powerful defensive end who will be a handful for any offensive tackle in his conference.
DI Gervon Dexter, Florida
This one is a little bit of a homer pick, as I am a University of Florida graduate, but there really is a chance for Dexter to be something special in 2022 and beyond. First and foremost, you simply can’t teach that 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame with the kind of pass-rushing and block-shedding ability he’s shown in flashes.
Florida DI Gervon Dexter
???? 90.7 pass-rush grade
???? 11 pressures
???? 28.8% win rate
2020 5-star, 6’6” 303 lbs. Combo of length & strength that makes him a force that Bama & Tenn struggled with. Physically gifted. Reminds me of Javon Kinlaw at SC.pic.twitter.com/iPeGcx3BWp
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) September 30, 2021
Everyone is still looking for more from Dexter, who has just three career sacks and 6.5 career tackles for loss. But he’s just a true junior going into this season with plenty of snaps now under his belt to really take his confidence and production to the next level consistently.
S Jalen Catalon, Arkansas
Catalon was one of my favorite players heading into last year’s class, and he likely would have been one of the top safeties selected had he not injured his shoulder and missed most of the 2021 season.
PICK-SIX JALEN CATALON‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/vqMBlknIgy
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 17, 2020
The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder hits like a Mack truck over the middle. He has NFL game already on his tape. Hopefully he’s able to fully recover and still be that physical, playmaking presence over the middle.