College News & Analysis

Top 10 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch during conference championship weekend

Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) runs the ball after catching an interception during the second quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

• Pac-12 championship prospects: USC WR Jordan Addison and Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III headline the contest as top-40 players on PFF's 2023 NFL Draft big board.

• Big 12 championship prospects: TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston and Kansas State edge defender Felix Anudike-Uzomah are top-25 prospects on PFF's 2023 NFL Draft big board.

• Big Ten championship prospects: Michigan running back Blake Corum, while working to get healthy, is college football's highest-graded running back.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

Ah, Championship Weekend. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. College football is on all day, and every hour of action carries so much weight and importance.

Not only is this a big week for each team playing for a conference title, it’s also big for some of the top prospects expected to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. How you play in one of the biggest games of your season goes a long way toward what scouts and teams believe you’re capable of doing at the NFL level.

With that, here are 10 potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch for on Championship Weekend. 

WR Jordan Addison, USC

The former Biletnikoff Award winner may have changed uniforms this offseason, transferring from Pittsburgh to USC, but his top-tier production has continued.

With Heisman hopeful Caleb Williams throwing him the ball, Addison has earned an 86.2 receiving grade with 810 yards and eight touchdowns. He had seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown when the Trojans faced the Utes earlier this season, so we’ll see if his effectiveness remains the second time around. The 6-foot, 180-pound receiver is currently 14th on PFF’s 2023 big board.

CB Clark Phillips III, Utah

Opposite Addison will be Utah’s top cover cornerback, Clark Phillips III, who is currently 36th on PFF’s big board as CB7. Phillips is having a career year with an elite 90.2 grade in coverage thanks to allowing just 39 catches for less than 500 yards on the season. He also has three forced incompletions and six interceptions, tied for the most in the FBS. We selfishly hope to see him versus Addison on multiple occasions in the Pac-12 championship.

WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

In the Big 12 championship game, plenty of eyes will be on star TCU receiver Quentin Johnston. Prior to this season, Johnston never had a season where he posted more than 700 yards or 35 catches. So far this year, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound WR1 has 49 catches for 764 yards and five receiving touchdowns. Johnston’s ability to make contested catches deep downfield has made him a highlight player every week, but it’s his ability to get yards after the catch as a quick-hit option that really rounds out his game as the total package.

He’s currently the top receiver on PFF’s big board, coming in at No. 9 overall. 

EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

On the defensive side of things in the Big 12 championship, we have Wildcats edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder leads the team in pressures, with 40. That’s almost as many as the 45 he recorded last year, but he was more effective last season with an 89.9 pass-rush grade and a 20.7% pass-rush win rate. This year, Anudike-Uzomah’s pass-rush grade is in the mid-70.0s and his pass-rush win percentage is 16.5%.

However, he still has game-changing tools on the defensive line, and that’s why he’s No. 23 on PFF’s 2023 big board.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

In the SEC championship game, many scouts will be watching Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo. He's a unique player at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds who can also run in the 4.3s. He’s an ideal press-man corner, which we know the NFL loves to draft — and draft high — as is evidenced by him coming in at No. 15 overall on the PFF big board. He’ll be tested against LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte in this one. 

DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

Jalen Carter is the highest-rated defensive line prospect on PFF’s big board (No. 5 overall) who will be suiting up for championship weekend. The Georgia interior lineman is poised to be drafted in the top five in 2023 thanks to back-to-back seasons of 85.0-plus pass-rush grades. He’s in contention to be the first non-quarterback taken in the class.

DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Bresee has a chance to really let loose in the ACC Championship. North Carolina, Clemson's opponent, loves to have the ball in the hands of quarterback Drake Maye, so the uniquely gifted Bresee will have a chance to show his pass-rush potential, something he hasn’t always had the freedom to do. He was the No. 1 overall recruit in the country back in 2020 thanks to how explosive he moves at 6-foot-5, 295 pounds.

If you’ve never watched him before, this Saturday would be a great place to start.

EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson

Next to Bresee is another Tigers defensive lineman who has a chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in Myles Murphy. He doesn’t have a double-digit sack season yet in his Clemson career, as he tallied eight last season and has 6.5 this year. But, he’s 6-foot-5, 275 pounds and is going to test very well athletically at the combine. He’s still figuring it out as a pass-rusher, but his 40 pressures last season and 33 pressures this season show how disruptive he can be even in the learning stages. 

RB Blake Corum, Michigan

This year’s Big Ten Running Back of the Year, Blake Corum, was having a Heisman-type season before suffering a knee injury versus Illinois. He was on a streak of eight straight games with over 100 yards and is currently at 1,463 rushing yards with 18 rushing touchdowns. Corum has earned an elite 95.3 rushing grade this year, which is the best mark in the FBS.

If he’s anywhere near full strength against Purdue, even if it's on limited snaps, we’ll see how special he is once again.

QB Aidan O'Connell, Purdue

O'Connell has a tall task ahead of him, facing off against Michigan’s defense in the Big Ten championship game, but the thing you’ll see about him in this game is how fearless of a passer he is.

While his grades and stats aren’t as good as they were last year, he recorded an elite 90.0 passing grade with 36 big-time throws in 2021. That quarterback is still in there, and perhaps we’ll see that elite kind of performance in a statement game for his draft stock.

Other prospects to watch for bowl season (projected non-opt-outs)

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