Looking at the 2023 NFL Draft class, which position group is the strongest? The weakest?
Before we dive into my rankings, it's important for you to understand my criteria. In assessing each position group, I identified star-caliber players, future starters and overall depth. Generally speaking, I concentrated on prospects who are most likely to be drafted in Rounds 1 through 5.
This year's class offers high-end talent across the board, but there are some positions that are particularly deep, including a tight end class that could become one of the best we've seen in a long time. Here is how I stack the position groups, from strongest to weakest.
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We saw 12 cornerbacks go in the first three rounds last year, including Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner. There might not be a Sauce in this year's class, but there appears to be a higher number of players who will be starters in the NFL. In fact, there will be big, long, explosive perimeter cornerbacks available in each of the first four rounds. I expect Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon to be the first two players drafted at the position, but we should see five, maybe even six, taken in the first round.
2) Tight end
This is one of the most promising tight end classes I've seen in a while. Michael Mayer, Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid and Darnell Washington are the most well-known prospects and each is worthy of going inside the first 40 picks. But there should be starting-caliber players selected a little later on, including Luke Schoonmaker, Tucker Kraft, Sam LaPorta and Brenton Strange.
3) Edge defender
If your team is looking for an edge defender, you should hope it addresses the position within the first 75 picks because the depth will start to diminish after that point in the draft. Will Anderson Jr. and Tyree Wilson have high-end potential and there is a nice collection of future starters with size and/or explosiveness within the first two rounds. Some of the most intriguing prospects include Tuli Tuipulotu, Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Isaiah Foskey, who should go in the second round. Keion White has the versatility to play inside or outside, but for the purposes of this article, I'm classifying him as an edge defender, which strengthens this position group.
4) Wide receiver
This year's group of wide receivers reminds me of the 2016 class, which saw Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell come off the board first, in that order. There wasn't a true WR1 in that group, and I get the same feeling from the top of the current class. Second-rounders Michael Thomas and Tyler Boyd became two of the best receivers drafted in 2016 (with fifth-rounder Tyreek Hill leading the group), and I believe we could see a similar pattern develop from the 2023 crop. I expect Jalin Hyatt to become a dangerous complementary weapon, while guys like Zay Flowers and Josh Downs should become productive slot targets. But I'm not seeing the top-end talent that recent drafts have offered at wide receiver.
Last year's quarterback class was light on star power but possessed ample depth. I have five quarterbacks carrying starter-level grades this year (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis, Hendon Hooker). Three passers could come off the board very early and four could go inside the top 10 or so picks. However, there's not great depth in this class, which could lead some QB-needy teams to wait until next year to address the position.
6) Interior defensive line
This group features Jalen Carter, one of the most talented players in the draft, but it's light on prospects I'm projecting to become either star-level players or high-end starters. Mazi Smith and Siaki Ika are large, powerful men with good athleticism. They're ready to clog the middle, while Calijah Kancey is a small but explosive penetrator with a higher ceiling and lower floor due to his size. Prospects like Zacch Pickens, Jaquelin Roy and Cameron Young are indicative of the value that the middle rounds will offer. There is enough depth here for teams to find potential future starters on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) of the draft.
7) Interior offensive line
If Peter Skoronski and Matthew Bergeron were to move from offensive tackle to guard -- a transition I expect Cody Mauch to make -- this position would rank higher on my list. However, I'm not moving Skoronski and Bergeron inside for this exercise. Now that we've cleared that up, the group fizzles a bit with the center position potentially offering up more quality starting talent than guard. John Michael Schmitz, Joe Tippmann, O’Cyrus Torrence and Mauch are the headliners here. Steve Avila is just a step down from that group but is also headed for a starting role in the NFL. It gets a little trickier finding future first-stringers beyond the first 70 picks.
8) Offensive tackle
I see Peter Skoronski as this year's No. 1 offensive tackle prospect, although his best position could ultimately be guard. When weighed against the last several drafts, most of the top tackles in this draft would fall into Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) territory, in my opinion. There will be tackles pushed into the top 40 picks who become starters, but the class is extremely light on depth and it's unlikely to produce top-tier talent.
9) Running back
Bijan Robinson is the clear-cut champ of this group, carrying a high draft grade thanks to his traits and complete game. Jahmyr Gibbs is the only other back with a chance to be picked in the first round, but I don't view him as a full-time workhorse. There are a few runners worthy of Day 2 consideration, but overall, this class figures to be heavy on complementary backs and light on starters.
Last year we saw three safeties drafted in the first round. This year, Brian Branch is the only safety I expect to go in Round 1, and some teams will have him slotted as a nickel corner. Day 2 will offer up a few future starters, with Antonio Johnson and Jordan Battle leading the way and Jartavius Martin impressing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Ji’Ayir Brown might fall to Day 3 after not showing ideal speed/explosiveness at the combine, but he is a good football player. Memphis' Quindell Johnson is my Day 3 sleeper from this group. Overall, however, this isn't a great class.
This is not the greatest year to be in need of help at linebacker. However, I am much higher on Arkansas inside linebacker/rush specialist Drew Sanders than some of my fellow draft analysts. I think he fits today's model of the versatile athlete teams seek. After Sanders, I believe the pickings get slim in a hurry. There is below-average depth, with many prospects projecting as special teams contributors who are unlikely to develop into starters.