It’s finally time.
After months of anticipation, trades and smokescreens, the 2023 NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday night.
Before the best college players hear their names called by Commissioner Roger Goodell, now is the perfect time to brush up on your draft knowledge.
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Here’s a look at five storylines to watch heading into the 2023 NFL Draft:
1. Four (or five?!) quarterbacks in the first round
Last year, only one quarterback (Kenny Pickett) was selected on Day 1. On Thursday, there could be as many as five quarterbacks drafted.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 after the Carolina Panthers acquired the pick in a trade with the Chicago Bears. Three other quarterbacks – Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson – will also be first-rounders. It remains unclear where each of those three will be selected, but they could all end up in the top-10 – or maybe even top-five.
New England Patriots
So, who’s this mystery fifth first-round quarterback? It’s Hendon Hooker, the 25-year-old Tennessee alum. The former Volunteer had a breakout fifth-year season, with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 11 games before suffering a torn ACL in November. Considering his injury and age, Hooker is a fringe first-round prospect with the potential to be picked either late on Day 1 or early on Day 2.
2. Trades, trades and more trades
The draft hasn’t even started yet and there’s already been a number of trades.
Four teams – the Houston Texans (Nos. 2 and 12), Seattle Seahawks (Nos. 5 and 20), Detroit Lions (Nos. 6 and 18) and Philadelphia Eagles (Nos. 10 and 30) – have two first-round picks thanks to pre-draft trades. The former three all acquired their picks after dealing their starting quarterbacks: Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford, respectively. The Eagles got their extra pick from the New Orleans Saints after a trade during last year’s draft.
Beyond those four teams, five other first-round picks have already changed hands. As aforementioned, the Panthers swapped picks with the Bears. Carolina will pick first and Chicago will pick ninth. The Packers and Jets traded picks this week as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade, with the Packers taking No. 13 and the Jets taking No. 15. Lastly, New Orleans holds the 29th pick – which originally belonged to the 49ers, who traded it to the Dolphins (for the pick that became Trey Lance), who traded it to the Broncos (for Bradley Chubb), who finally traded it to the Saints (for Sean Payton).
3. Where are the wide receivers?
Wide receiver talent has been easy to find in recent drafts. That’s not the case in 2023.
There were six first-round receivers in 2022, five in 2021 and six in 2020. Those three classes have already produced a handful of stars, including Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb, among others. This year, only one receiver (Jaxon Smith-Njigba) is truly a lock to go first-round.
Smith-Njigba is the headliner, but he doesn’t have the same hype as players from past years. Beyond the Ohio State product, there’s Boston College’s Zay Flowers, USC’s Jordan Addison and TCU’s Quentin Johnston. All three could go in the back half of the first round, but none are guaranteed. It wouldn’t be a shock if any of them dropped to Day 2, which is strange considering the recent run of star first-round receivers.
4. How high is too high for a running back?
A running back hasn’t been drafted in the top-20 since 2018 (Saquon Barkley, No. 2). That streak likely ends in 2023.
Not only is Bijan Robinson going to be picked inside the top-20, but he could also make a push to go top-10. The former Texas running back is considered one of the most talented prospects in the class. He rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Longhorns in 2022.
The only hold-up is that teams have become reluctant to draft running backs early. They rarely play beyond their rookie contracts and it’s possible to find replacement-level talent later in the draft, so teams have pivoted away from the position. Robinson could change that philosophy, with the Falcons at No. 8 and the Eagles at No. 10 looking like realistic landing spots.
5. On the road again
For the ninth straight year, the NFL Draft will be held at a different location.
Fresh off another Super Bowl win, Kansas City is the draft host for 2023. The event will take place in the downtown area of the city, surrounding the iconic Union Station and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. Nobody knows exactly who will show up to the draft, but actors Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle are all Chiefs fans from the area.
The NFL began rotating the draft site in 2015 after 50 straight years in New York City. It first went to Chicago in 2015 and 2016, followed by stops in Philadelphia, Dallas, Nashville, virtual (due to COVID-19), Cleveland and Las Vegas.