2023 NFL Draft: Predicting the NFL scouting combine's top performers

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) looks to throw. Syndication Florida Times Union

  • Anthony Richardson is ready to put on a show: The 230-pound QB should impress everyone in Indianapolis this weekend, as he has the premier athlete at the quarterback position in this year's class.
  • Devon Achane is ready to win another track meet: The track star already has a 10.18-second 100-meter dash to his name, and he's probably going to put on a show in Indianapolis due to that rare speed.
  • Luke Musgrave headlines the TEs in Indianapolis: The speedster tight end's skill set is reliant on his rare athleticism, so he should show exceedingly well at the combine.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The underwear Olympics start Thursday as the NFL scouting combine drills will run throughout the weekend with the defensive line and linebackers going first. After pouring over the tape of all the prospects involved, here’s my pick for the top performers at each position. 

Quarterback: Anthony Richardson, Florida

HM: Malik Cunningham (Louisville)

I think the only quarterback among the top group who is capable of doing this (below) might be a top performer:

Making whatever numbers Richardson puts up all the more impressive is that he should tip the scales at well over 230 pounds. He's a freakish athlete.

Running Back: Devon Achane, Texas A&M

HM: Israel Abanikanda (Pittsburgh), Chase Brown (Illinois), Tyjae Spears (Tulane), Sean Tucker (Syracuse), Keaton Mitchell (ECU), Deuce Vaughn (Kansas State)

Running back ended up with the most honorable mentions of any position because this year’s class is absolutely loaded. It’s challenging to go against the Texas A&M back, though, as he has run a 10.18-second 100-meter dash and ridiculous quickness on tape. If he shows up in the 190-pound range after being listed at 185 pounds and breaks 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Achane could challenge Jahmyr Gibbs for RB2 in the draft class. 

Wide Receiver: Quentin Johnston, TCU

HM: Zay Flowers (Boston College), Tank Dell (Houston), Tyler Scott (Cincinnati), Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee), Andrei Iosivas (Princeton)

I expect Johnston to not only be the most impressive athlete at the receiver position in this draft class, but he could be the freakiest all-around athlete (when factoring in size) since Julio Jones came out in 2011. He has some glaring weaknesses to his game, but I’m in awe of the things he’s physically capable of on tape.

Tight End: Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

HM: Josh Whyle (Cincinnati), Dalton Kincaid (Utah)

This is why Musgrave is receiving top 50 hype. If he ran a 4.8-second 40-yard dash, Musgrave might not get drafted. However, the nearly 6-foot-6, 255-pounder isn’t going to run a 4.8, though. He should run in the 4.5 range with high-end explosive numbers as well. At the Senior Bowl, Musgrave’s 20.05 MPH GPS speed was faster than all but four wide receivers in attendance. 

Offensive Tackle: Broderick Jones, Georgia

HM: Blake Freeland (BYU), Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)

Jones is pretty clearly the most explosive tackle in this class, as his easy movement skills at 310-plus pounds are exactly what teams want in a high-end tackle prospect. Just watch him move on a basketball court and you’ll agree:

Interior Offensive Line: Steve Avila, TCU

HM: Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin), Luke Wypler (Ohio State)

Avila is a big boy who won’t test like one. He’s a 332-pound guard who holds that weight with ease, as his get-off and movement skills are top-notch. His experience at both guard and center will be very intriguing to teams at the top of the second round. 

Interior Defensive Line: Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

HM: Bryan Bresee (Clemson), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Northwestern), Mazi Smith (Michigan)

While this may sound blasphemous to say, Kancey may even test better athletically than former Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Now, remember I said “athletically” because part of what makes Donald so special is that he’s both athletic and strong. Kancey won't touch the 35 bench reps that Donald put up, but the 4.68-second 40-yard dash, 7.11-second three-cone drill, 4.39-second short shuttle, 32-inch vertical, and 9-foot-8 broad jump are all in play. If he does, Kancey is a sure-fire first-rounder no matter his size.

Edge Defender: Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

HM: Myles Murphy (Clemson), Nolan Smith (Georgia), Keion White (Georgia Tech), Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)

McDonald not only possesses the ideal lanky frame for an edge-rusher (35-inch arms), but he should also show the ideal explosiveness. When he wasn’t hampered by Iowa State’s scheme and was able to pin his ears back in true passing situations, McDonald posted a 45.8% pass-rushing win rate. Get ready to see McDonald talked about as a first-round lock after this weekend.

Linebacker: Trenton Simpson, Clemson

HM: Daiyan Henley (Washington State), Drew Sanders (Arkansas), Owen Pappoe (Auburn), Ivan Pace Jr. (Cincinnati), Noah Sewell (Oregon)

Athleticism is Simpson’s selling point, as his on-field production has been lackluster to date (68.7 overall grade in 2022). He has tremendous range and explosiveness that shows best as a blitzer.  

Cornerback: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU

HM: Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State), Riley Moss (Iowa), Kelee Ringo (Georgia)

While the 5-foot-8 and 175-pound corner will certainly not win the weigh-in, THT should knock every other drill out of the park. His mirroring ability at the cornerback position is the best in the draft class. However, he’s smaller than every other receiver he lines up across from. For his entire collegiate career, THT allowed only 39.1% of targets to be completed.

Safety: Sydney Brown, Illinois

HM: Antonio Johnson (Texas A&M), Ji’Ayir Brown (Penn State)

This is not a banner safety class, as evidenced by how few special athletes are even in the running here, but I expect Brown to come out on top once the dust settles. While I expect him to test well as an all-around athlete, Brown should, in particular, crush any and all explosive testing in Indy. His range and closing burst are as good as it gets in the draft class. Expect him to solidify himself into the Day 2 conversation after this week.

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