2023 NFL Draft: Players Who Can Turn Franchises Around Next Year

Alex KayContributor IJanuary 3, 2023

2023 NFL Draft: Players Who Can Turn Franchises Around Next Year

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 31: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    The 2023 NFL draft represents an opportunity for franchises to change their fortunes. In particular, it could help some of the clubs that have already been eliminated from playoff contention reverse course and make it into the field as early as next season.

    While the 2023 class will almost certainly have its fair share of busts who never pan out and developmental prospects who take a few years to contribute, there will also be talents who make an impact early in their careers.

    The 2022 class saw several prospects put their stamp on their respective organizations right away. Rookies like Aidan Hutchinson, Kenny Pickett and Tariq Woolen have helped transform their teams into contenders this season.

    With that in mind, let's check out some top prospects with the skills to produce quickly and project landing spots where they could flourish.

    Note that some of the top-rated prospects have been left off this list due to their projected landing spots (even the most talented player will find it immensely difficult to get the rebuilding Houston Texans into the playoffs in 2023) or a skill set that likely needs some time to develop at the professional level.


    Player rankings courtesy of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's soon-to-be-released big board. Stay tuned for the full list of prospect rankings.

Miami Dolphins: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25: Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the game against the Baylor Bears on November 25, 2022, at Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    B/R Scouting Department Rank: 4

    Scouting Report

    Bijan Robinson is the B/R Scouting Department's top-rated running back in this draft class for good reason. The Texas star is coming off a dominant junior season, posting 1,580 rushing yards and scoring 18 touchdowns on 258 totes.

    Robinson displayed plenty of versatility during his time with the Longhorns. He caught 60 passes for 805 yards and eight scores during his time in Austin and improved noticeably in pass protection this past season.

    Factor in his great size (6'0", 222 pounds) and explosiveness, and it appears to only be a matter of time before the 20-year-old becomes a feature back in the NFL.

    While they're still in the playoff hunt heading into Week 18, the Miami Dolphins would be an ideal landing destination for Robinson. They have struggled to get consistent production from their backfield this past season.

    The 'Phins have averaged a meager 95.3 rushing yards per game—sixth-fewest in the league—despite bringing in several veterans this past offseason in an attempt to jump-start a backfield that ranked as the third-worst in 2021.

    It's clear that Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. aren't long-term solutions for a club with serious playoff aspirations. Landing a blue-chip back in Robinson would round out an offense that had an overly relied on its pass-catchers in 2022.

    The Dolphins will probably need to trade back into the first round to secure him based on current projections. The club forfeited its top pick this year following a tampering investigation and dealt away another first-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers earned in the Bradley Chubb trade.

    If Miami's brass can work the phones and come away with at least a mid-first-round pick by trading future picks and/or players—the Dolphins possess a trio of Day 2 picks this year in addition to a first-rounder next year to use as bait—they will have a good chance to make this franchise-altering selection.

Detroit Lions: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

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    UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 26: Penn State cornerback Joey Porter, Jr. (9) smiles during the senior day ceremonies before the Michigan State Spartans versus Penn State Nittany Lions game on November 26, 2022 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    B/R Scouting Department Rank: 5

    Scouting Report

    Joey Porter Jr. has earned the highest grade of any cornerback in his class from the B/R Scouting Department after a sterling campaign with the Nittany Lions.

    Porter, the son of a former All-Pro NFL linebacker, has incredible size for his position at 6'2", 194 pounds and packs both physicality and athleticism into his long frame.

    While the Penn State product isn't as polished as Sauce Gardner was coming out of Cincinnati last year, Porter has the talents to slot in as a Week 1 starter next season.

    According to PFF (h/t Yahoo! Sports), the corner allowed just 15 catches on 30 targets for 143 yards and no touchdowns in 2022. He only recorded one collegiate interception but did break up a total of 20 passes during his tenure in Happy Valley.

    The Detroit Lions would have benefitted heavily from Porter's skillset this season. Few defenses have been more susceptible to the pass in 2022, as Detroit has allowed an average of 249.4 yards per game through the air and has given up 25 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks.

    Both starting cornerbacks in the Motor City—Jeffrey Okudah and Will Harris—have earned sub-60 PFF grades this season. Improving the secondary should be a top priority for the Lions this offseason, regardless of whether the team makes an improbable trip to the playoffs or not.

    If Detroit decides to snap up Porter early in the first round, the selection will go a long way toward improving the team's defensive capabilities and subsequently becoming a more realistic Super Bowl threat in 2023.

Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 31: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after a touchdown during the second quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    B/R Scouting Department Rank: 8

    Scouting Report

    The Indianapolis Colts are wrapping up one of the more disappointing campaigns in franchise history. After coming painfully close to making the playoffs last season, the team's decision to bring in quarterback Matt Ryan to replace fellow veteran Carson Wentz backfired badly.

    With the lost season nearly behind them, the Colts must focus on two key areas during the offseason: drafting an elite quarterback prospect and finding a suitable head coach to develop that rookie.

    Although Indianapolis didn't totally bottom out and earn the top draft pick this year—the path the organization took to land both Luck and Peyton Manning—it could still acquire the B/R Scouting Department's highest-rated signal-caller in the class either with its pick (guaranteed to be between Nos. 3-6) or by trading up.

    Moving up the board wouldn't be cheap, but Ohio State's C.J. Stroud would likely be worth the investment.

    Stroud lit up opposing defenses during his time with the Buckeyes. He just capped off a two-year run as the team's starter by completing 575-of-830 passes for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns against a mere 12 interceptions in 25 games.

    The 6'3", 218-pound quarterback has fantastic arm strength and pinpoint accuracy to go along with his fast, flexible throwing motion. While he often stands tall and make throws in the pocket, he does possess the athleticism and speed to make plays on the move.

    The 6'3", 218-pound quarterback has fantastic arm strength and pinpoint accuracy to go along with his fast, flexible throwing motion. While he often stands tall and make throws in the pocket, he does possess the athleticism and speed to make plays on the move.

    Stroud has a great feel for reading defenses and won't make many mistakes, which are ideal traits for a quarterback likely to be thrown into the fire early in his career.

    Adding Stroud, hiring a good coach and improving the offensive line via free agency and later draft picks could be all the Colts need to turn things around and become a playoff team again in 2023.

New York Jets: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

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    COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 22: Northwestern guard Peter Skoronski (77) pass blocks during the Northwestern Wildcats versus Maryland Terrapins game on October 22, 2022 at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    B/R Scouting Department Rank: 11

    Scouting Report

    Peter Skoronski proved he could play at a high level shortly after he stepped on Northwestern's campus, and he could have the same impact when he enters the NFL this spring.

    The offensive lineman took over as the Wildcats' starting left tackle as a true freshman, going on to play 33 games at that spot over the past three seasons.

    Skoronski was an elite blindside protector this past season, allowing only six pressures across 474 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.

    While Skoronski has consistently displayed balance and quickness in addition to an ability explode out of his stance and physically overpower his opponents, the 6'4", 315-pound lineman doesn't have the long arms NFL teams typically covet in high-end tackle prospects.

    Regardless of whether he continues playing on the outside or is moved to the interior, Skoronski should be a massive difference-maker in his rookie year and into the foreseeable future.

    The New York Jets would heavily benefit by putting Skoronski in their offensive trenches. Gang Green's offensive line has been a mess for much of the 2022 campaign, coming in at No. 30 in PFF's Week 16 rankings and allowing 42 sacks in 16 games.

    Although there is some promising talent along New York's offensive line—first-round rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker should be a fixture for years to come—the team has been forced to rely on 37-year-old stopgap Duane Brown at left tackle and has several other offensive line concerns to address this offseason.

    The Jets put together one of the league's better defenses this past season but fell short of the playoffs because of their offensive ineptitude. While second-year quarterback Zach Wilson's failure to live up to his promise hamstrung this unit, patching up the offensive line could help him realize his potential next year.

    Regardless of the player New York decides to put under center next year, adding a high-end offensive line prospect such as Skoronski will assist in both developing a signal-caller and getting the ground game going.

Carolina Panthers: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

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    TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 25: Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws a pass during the game between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles on November 25, 2022 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    B/R Scouting Department Rank: 31

    The Carolina Panthers' turnaround under interim head coach Steve Wilks was one of the more surprising stories of the 2022 season, but it failed to get a fairytale ending after they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past week.

    Carolina ultimately lacked a capable quarterback in a season that saw three different starters try their hand at various points. The Panthers will now go into the upcoming offseason with the same item at the top of their to-do list as last year: finding a franchise signal-caller.

    Florida's Anthony Richardson appears to represent everything the organization covets in a quarterback prospect.

    Richardson has arguably the strongest arm in his class with a quick release that allows him to make throws all over the field. He finished his redshirt sophomore campaign having completed 176-of-327 passing attempts for 2,549 yards yards and 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

    According to Mike Kaye of the Charlotte Observer, Wilks—a realistic contender to be the full-time head coach—reportedly wants to find a "dynamic" quarterback to execute the offense.

    There isn't a more dynamic quarterback prospect in 2023 than Richardson. He's an athletic phenomenon who combines both blazing speed and incredible quickness to become a nightmare for opposing defenses.

    Richardson has the frame to take punishing hits from NFL tacklers, too. The 6'4", 232-pound signal-caller punished the opposition on the ground this past season, rushing 103 times for 654 yards and nine scores.

    The Gators star should be able to come in and add a new dimension to this offense with his legs right away, all while developing his passing skills against the softer coverages Carolina's run-heavy offense will face.

    Although he's not currently viewed as one of the top-tier quarterback prospects, Richardson is the type of athletic talent who could see his stock skyrocket during the pre-draft process.

    If the Panthers are truly looking for a playmaker to deploy under center, Richardson should be at the top of their wish list.

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