The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET with Round 1 live from in Kansas City, Missouri. This draft promises plenty of drama, with varying opinions on prospects throughout the class. That said, certain players engender extreme confidence when it comes to projecting their transition to the NFL. There are no SURE THINGS in the draft, of course, but every evaluator has favorites. With that in mind, we ask:
Who is your can't-miss prospect of the 2023 NFL Draft?
PICK: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I get the debates about how high to draft a running back -- that's a reasonable discussion -- but I truly see a special talent here. With the run game cycling back into the pass-happy NFL, Robinson should prove to be more than worth his draft standing -- no matter when he comes off the board. I had a coach tell me Robinson has the best RB hands he's seen in a long time, and his character grades have been essentially spotless from evaluators. Robinson might be LaDainian 2.0 -- no joke.
PICK: Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Alabama
Many top prospects have questions attached to them, but not Anderson. The productive pass rusher feels as close to a sure thing as possible. With a great combination of speed and power, Anderson's game is sure to translate against both the run and pass at the next level.
PICK: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
I am so tempted to go with fellow Princeton Tiger wide receiver Andrei Iosivas, who turned heads at both the Reese's Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, but instead I'll spotlight a first-round lock in Gonzalez. Throughout the pre-draft process, I've always thought the Oregon product was the best cornerback in this class, possessing tremendous athletic ability, ball skills and speed. The 6-foot-1 3/8, 197-pounder displays everything it takes to become a big-time playmaker at the next level. He has the raw talent to grow into the league's CB1 in the right scheme.
PICK: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Robinson is the kind of electric talent who would've been a top-five pick 15 years ago. He possesses everything you want in a running back -- size, vision, explosiveness -- and he's a gifted pass catcher. It's easy to see him having an impact comparable to what we've seen from stars like Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. He also could join a team with great weapons around him because he might not be selected until the second half of the first round. Wherever he lands, the odds are good that he'll be an immediate star.
PICK: Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
Tippmann has been a starter for the Badgers for the last two seasons, going up against the best competition in the Big Ten on Saturdays while also going head-to-head against defensive tackle Keeanu Benton every day in practice. He has great size (6-6, 313 pounds) and length (32 3/4-inch arms) and was asked to do a lot in protection that ultimately showed off his athletic ability. Teams can't have a good or great offensive line without a great center. Tippmann should enjoy a 10-12-year career, anchoring an improved O-line wherever he goes.
PICK: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Mayer might not be the fastest pass catcher in this draft class, but he's a reliable target who will eat up zones and play with the functional strength, body control and catch radius to beat man coverage down the seam and in the red zone. His blocking in the run game will also be valued for years to come, making him a likely perennial Pro Bowler in the Mark Andrews and Jason Witten mold.
PICK: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Carter's off-field issues must be carefully weighed by NFL teams, but still: His extraordinary on-field play makes him the one prospect in this class that teams can't miss on. He is an exceptional disruptor with power to push blockers into the quarterback or get to the QB himself. He's the type of player you can build a defensive front around, and there aren't many defensive tackles you can say that about.
PICK: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Outside of Will Anderson Jr., Campbell fits the bill. A big, long, off-ball linebacker, the Iowa product has everything you want in a leader of your defense. He led one of the best units in college football, is as instinctual a player as there is in this draft class -- regardless of position -- and has the mindset to succeed no matter the challenge put in front of him.
PICK: O'Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
The 6-5 3/8, 330-pounder is a dancing bear as a strong yet agile interior lineman. This class' premier player at his position, Torrence has an all-around game that's bound for success on Sundays. He's an absolute mauler in the ground attack -- as a former NFL running back, I LOVE this quality -- but also has the ability to stave off interior pass rushers in pass protection. I'm telling you, this kid has a very high ceiling.