The 2022 NFL Draft hype fizzled out in the days leading up to it. It also did so while the picks were being made (big ups to Ed Marinaro) because the stars of this year's three-day college-to-pros transition spectacular starred defensive ends and had one QB taken in the first 73 selections.
That's no knock to the three bruisers brought on by the Jacksonville Jaguars (Travon Walker), Detroit Lions (Aidan Hutchinson), and New York Giants (Kayvon Thibodeaux) in the top five picks. But the NFL Draft lacked pazzazz this past April.
Luckily, that means the tables could turn in 2023. Next year's draft could have the star factor this year's class missed. Skip Bayless called 2022 event the most star-less draft since the 1970s.
"In all my years of closely watching drafts, covering drafts, analyzing drafts, dating into the mid 1970s, I have never seen a more star-less draft than this one. I have never seen a greater void at the top of the draft than this one because it's just completely up in the air. Who's the best player? I don't know."
Who might be the stars of next year's draft? Two of the contenders share the same position and two of them share the same uniform.
Here are the top-three players likely to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Alabama LB Will Anderson
Like this year, 2023 could feature a defensive end from a National Champion from the SEC going No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Alabama's Will Anderson is talking like someone who plans on going to the College Football Playoffs for a third straight year.
His freshman season was a special one, where Alabama seamlessly navigated the COVID-19 pandemic to be the same old Tide that rolled to CFP dominance. His role wasn't as prominent as his sohomore year's was, though.
Alabama was undefeated in Anderson's first year, then lost to Texas A&M in the regular season before going down in the National Championship game to Georgia in year two. Despite going down in the CFP title game and to a middle-of-the-pack SEC squad, the individual stock of the fifth-place Heisman finisher soared.
The 101 tackles (31 for a loss) and nation-leading 17.5 sacks is a brilliant campaign to build upon in 2022. Steadily continuing his defensive trajectory assuredly ensures a top pick, which he could conceivably be with several teams (Jaguars, Lions, Jets, Giants) at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft board.
These teams are all capable of complementing their group with a top LB, should similar results transpire this upcoming campaign.
Alabama QB Bryce Young
It wasn't until the 2021 Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn that Bryce Young finally cemented his status as the rightful winner of the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
Against a Tigers defense that got to him seven times in the backfield throughout the game, Young pulled out 24 points in the fourth quarter and through four rounds of OT.
He was brilliant against Georgia in the SEC title game and handled his business against Cincinnati before laying an egg against the Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff Championship rematch.
Young likely won't face a team at the level of 2021 UGA's defense this coming year, but Auburn is a similar beast defensively with many returnees. Texas A&M is even sturdier defensively through Jimbo Fisher's continued recruiting and transfer portal success.
LSU could rise from the ashes and return to being a stingy defensive unit under a new coach who actually wants to be there (sorry Ed Ordergon). It'll be Brian Kelly's Death Valley debut against Nick Saban when Alabama heads down to the Bayou on November 5th.
Young will need to rise to the challenges he will continually face in the SEC West, aka the college football equivalent of the gulag, this coming season.
Else, his Heisman win won't earn him the money he likely wants to supplement his on-field performance with, especially having already earned no money whatsoever. That'd be top-pick money for those keeping score at home.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud
Believe it or not, CJ Stroud has less to prove than Bryce Young does during the upcoming 2022 college football season. The reason why is quite simple, and may point out flaws in the NFL Draft process.
An unnamed NFL executive told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer that scouts are already falling for Stroud's physique, while Young is seen as not being bulky enough for the position.
“Bryce is really, really good, but CJ’s got the pro-ready body. CJ has a lot of great traits—the ball comes out fast, he sees the field really well. As much as you can in that offense, you see him go through progressions, he looks like a proficient quarterback. He’s got really good touch. He just throws it really well, and he was awesome at their pro day. The ball really popped off his hand. And Bryce is really good now. He’s just so tiny.”
Stroud had over seven times the number of TD throws (44) compared to INTs (6) in a defensively-focused Big Ten. He relies less on making things happen during a broken play and more on traditional pocket skills built for the pros.
The Ohio State gunslinger has a great chance to be the No. 1 overall 2023 NFL Draft pick if the Buckeyes can beat out Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin, for the Big Ten crown.