Controversial Prospects of 2023: Landing Spot Rumors

As we approach the draft, an increasing number of rumors will continue to fly. Some have shreds of truth in them, while others are pure smokescreens. Often, you can tell which is which. For example, we know what teams think of guys like Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Will Anderson. But how about some of the more controversial prospects? I’m talking about players who have off-field concerns or simply those who have received disparate draft grades from evaluators. In this post, I try to sort through some of the rumors about a few of these polarizing yet touted players to find out where they might land in the 2023 NFL Draft.

QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

We talked about Richardson when we discussed QB Pro Days. While he’s still a wildly polarizing prospect, his draft stock feels more secure these days. Teams appear to view him as a higher-upside version of Will Levis, locking him in as QB3. He doesn’t appear to be a contender for the #1 or #2 pick, but 3-4 is his likely range. His arm strength and running ability continue to woo scouts, and every coach will think that he is the man to fix Richardson’s flaws. Accuracy is tough to fix at the next level, so improved footwork will need to make a dramatic difference.

The Colts prefer Richardson to Levis, as do the Raiders, and either of them could trade up with Arizona at #3. Given that the Colts don’t feel inclined to trade for Lamar Jackson and want to groom a rookie, Richardson’s floor appears to be the 4th overall pick. Several teams have called Arizona, but their price is reportedly steep. You do what you have to if you think you can nab a franchise QB, but the risk involved makes it more likely that Indianapolis will be the ones to take Richardson and let him sit behind Gardner Minshew until he’s ready.

RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

Let me start off by saying that none of this is Robinson’s fault. By all accounts, he is the best RB prospect in years, and I happen to agree with that assessment. His combination of size, speed, and power is exceptional, and he would likely be one of the better RBs in the NFL on day 1. The poor guy just happens to play running back. Countless draftniks and media personalities have spoken at length about the devaluation of RBs in today’s pass-happy NFL. KC just won a Super Bowl with a 7th-round rookie RB. Derrick Henry, the best power back in the NFL, was a 2nd-round pick. Alvin Kamara went in the 3rd round. None of these are isolated instances.

Teams have realized that they need multiple RBs due to the punishment these players take, and more of them are building committees. They’ve learned that two 5th-round RBs can fill the role of a 1st-round talent, and since they need multiple backs anyway, they aren’t even wasting a roster spot. Robinson is a top-shelf talent, but many teams will pass on him because other positions (QB, OT, DE) are too scarce to ignore in round 1. Right now, I’m hearing that the Eagles like Robinson, as do the Lions and Cowboys. Only teams that are an RB away from contention are likely to grab him, but he’s so good that Dallas’ pick at 26 is likely the farthest he can fall.

QB Will Levis, Kentucky

Levis was also a topic of our QB Pro Day conversation, but his stock has remained volatile. Teams have mixed feelings about whether he can follow a Josh Allen-like trajectory or if his decision making woes will undercut his potential. I personally fear the latter, but several teams will convince themselves that the arm talent can be molded. Indianapolis and Las Vegas are not two of those teams as far as I’m aware. The teams that look most intrigued by Levis are Tennessee and Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers would surely need a trade up from #19. The Titans might want to move up from #11 as well if they want to secure their guy, but if nobody jumps to #3, Levis could slide.

DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

I won’t rehash Carter’s racing incident here, but I will discuss the at-large character concerns that I touched on in my most recent mock draft. His work ethic, attitude, and decision making off the field are becoming difficult to ignore. Even teams like the Raiders, who are known for taking players with questionable character, have taken Carter off their draft board. I’m told that LV is far from alone, as teams are only willing to tolerate so many red flags. I for one am not as high on Carter as a prospect as some in the media are (he’s very good but not elite), and if any teams agree with me, their decisions will be much easier.

I have Pittsburgh taking him in my mock draft because Mike Tomlin can both deal with Carter and might be willing to do so, but I’m not yet confident in that pick. His talent level suggests a surefire top 10 pick (something his agent insists), but the character could cause him to slide. Many analysts have Seattle or Philadelphia selecting him. I think Seattle is a natural fit as well, but I don’t foresee them taking Carter over a talented DE like Tyree Wilson. Philly won’t take him because they spent a first-rounder on Jordan Davis last season. Nobody really knows where Carter is destined to land, and his destination is a true mystery in this year’s draft.

WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

What am I doing? Did I not see that Hyatt won the most recent Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver? Yes, I did; however, that’s not a guarantee that a player will translate to the NFL level. In Hyatt’s case, the problem is that he may be a one-trick pony. He’s a pure burner who runs go routes almost exclusively, making him less likely to develop into a well-rounded WR. Numerous teams could use a deep threat if the value is right, but that value tends to be in the middle rounds. His 40 time (4.40s) was very good, but he might not even be the best deep threat here. Look for him to go on day 2 of the draft.

DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Bresee is someone who began trending in the right direction at the Combine, and I already discussed the challenges he has overcome in that post. On the field, it’s worth remembering that Bresee was a #1 overall recruit coming out of high school. When healthy in 2020 and 2021, he looked like he was developing as expected. He became a well-rounded run defender and interior pocket pusher, creating opportunities for his teammates. Injuries and heartbreak sabotaged his 2022 campaign, but he has looked much better during the predraft process. Bresee seems most likely to go in round 2 given his boom-or-bust nature.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

Another Bulldog, but this time there are no off-the-field problems. Teams love that Ringo has great size and speed and the fact that he’s a ball hawk. Other areas of his game aren’t as solid. Scouts say that his hips are somewhat stiff, which causes problems when he tries to change direction. His technique also needs work, as his feet get him out of position and he occasionally blows coverages. This lack of consistency is a bit of a head-scratcher for GMs, as they want a CB they can rely on. Coaching will fix his technique, but there’s not much you can do to make someone’s hips more fluid.

On the plus side, Ringo can play in both man and zone, so he would fit a bunch of teams. He possesses great instincts, and his athleticism is undeniable. Unlike several other UGA prospects, I’m also not hearing about any character concerns with Ringo. His most likely landing spots are either at the end of round 1 or the very beginning of round 2. Like former Bulldog Tyson Campbell, Ringo won’t last long if he makes it to day 2. A team could even trade up for him if he’s still on the board in the 30s.

OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland

Those who are fond of Duncan firmly believe that he has a future at LT in the NFL. At 6’6″ and 320 lbs, he has ideal size while also remaining athletic enough to deal with quick rushers. His detractors argue that his performance doesn’t match his skillset. Sometimes, his footwork and hand positioning aren’t correct, leading to missed blocks and run stuffs. Duncan is currently a better pass protector than run protector, but he gave up 11 sacks over the past 2 seasons. When you watch him, he looks raw, but he’s a 4-year starter. Scouts wonder if he has already reached his potential.

Plenty of teams take the first viewpoint though. They see him as someone who needs good coaching to learn proper technique. Once that happens, they feel that he can become a solid blindside protector. Due to his developmental nature as a prospect, Duncan is not likely to go in the first round. I believe he will go fairly early in round 2. Prospects with any chance to play LT are highly coveted, and Duncan has enough quality tape to convince GMs that he can improve. Most teams would want a good tackle prospect, but teams like the Colts and Chiefs immediately come to mind as good fits.

TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

In one of the deepest TE classes in recent memory, any perceived flaws can cause a particular prospect to tumble because there are so many other good options. Musgrave is a prospect that could be in for a bit of a slide. Let’s start with the positives: he’s a 6’6″ pass catcher with good hands, and he’s very athletic. My comp for him would be someone like Mike Gesicki, as he’s almost a big-bodied WR. Any team looking for a weapon in the passing game would like Musgrave.

Unfortunately, the negatives are starting to pile up. He missed much of last year with a knee injury, and he’s never had elite production. He is also nearly useless as a blocker. These flags wouldn’t ordinarily hurt him too much, but the competition is stiff. Complete TEs like Dalton Kincaid and Sam LaPorta have passed Musgrave on draft boards, and he might get left out of the expected run on TEs in round 2. If teams fill their TE needs, Musgrave might have to wait until the 3rd round to hear his name called.

CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

Teams covet corners that are long and fast, as well as those with great ball skills. Forbes is plenty tall at 6’0″, super fast with a 4.35-s 40, and very productive with 14 INTs in 3 seasons at MSST. So…what’s the probl em? His weight is scaring teams off. Listed at 181 lbs, he weighed in at just 166 lbs at the Combine. Teams suspected he was lighter than advertised based on his frame, and the official number validates their concerns. He’s also a bit of a gambler, making him susceptible to double moves and other intricate routes run by shiftier WRs.

I think some of these issues are overblown. Trevon Diggs is a gambler, but he has developed just fine. As far as Forbes’ weight, he is the one making tackles, not being tackled. He didn’t miss many games in college, and he averaged 50 tackles per season, so it’s not like he has shied away from contact. I suspect that teams are using his weight to push him down the board so that they can draft him themselves. Teams like the Ravens are known for such tactics. Look for Forbes to be an early-mid 2nd-round pick.

WR Jordan Addison, USC

A second Biletnikoff Award winner?? Interestingly, each of the last 3 winners of this award have been polarizing prospects, starting with De’Vonta Smith in 2020. Like Smith, size is a primary concern with Addison. He’s not particularly large at 6’0″ and 174 lbs, and his 4.49-s 40 time is strong but not exceptional for someone his size. Addison earned his honors due to impeccable route running and good hands, and there’s always a place for that in the NFL. Davante Adams is a player with those same traits, though he’s slightly larger. Based on what I’m hearing, these concerns may allow a couple other WRs to be selected ahead of Addison, but he’ll land safely in the 20s. Possible destinations include BAL and NYG.

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