2023 NFL Draft: Buying or Selling Latest Buzz, Rumors on Top Prospects
Although the silliest part of NFL draft season is still on the post-Super Bowl horizon, the regularity of April-focused reports is beginning to rise.
The latest comments and rumors are connected, too.
Will the Chicago Bears stay committed to Justin Fields and pass up a top quarterback prospect with the No. 1 overall pick? If that happens, might the Indianapolis Colts trade up for a premier signal-caller? And in what order exactly are those top prospects viewed right now?
Along with diving into those storylines, we'll cover a few more topics as 2023 NFL draft buzz steadily grows.
Bears to Take QB Only If 'Blown Away'
Thanks to the Houston Texans' victory in Week 18, the Chicago Bears backslid their way into the No. 1 overall pick.
So, now what?
Chicago could move forward with Justin Fields, whom it traded up to select with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He's a work in progress as a passer but showed his dynamic running ability this season.
The Bears could also ship Fields elsewhere and target a top quarterback prospect such as Alabama's Bryce Young. After all, Chicago isn't likely to be this bad again in the coming years. If there's ever a time to land an elite quarterback like Young, it's when a trade isn't necessary and before running the risk of Fields' value dropping.
However, Bears general manager Ryan Poles said the team has to be "absolutely blown away" to select a quarterback at No. 1, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.
While that's a proper leverage play, it's also the correct course of action. Fields' mobility gives him far more dual-threat ability than Young. And after watching Fields tear apart college defenses for two years, there is reason to believe he can develop into a standout quarterback in the NFL.
Young or someone else might end up impressing Poles and the Bears' executives to the level needed for a switch. But they shouldn't be looking to sprint away from Fields, either.
Colts Ready to Trade Up
Ever since Andrew Luck's surprise retirement before the 2019 season, the Indianapolis Colts have unsuccessfully searched for an answer at quarterback. They've cycled through Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan with six combined starts from Brian Hoyer, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles.
The struggle reached a nasty peak in 2022 as the Colts had an NFL-high 34 turnovers and averaged only 17 points.
Indy needs a long-term quarterback. General manager Chris Ballard knows it, and he's apparently ready to make a bold move.
When asked if he would "give up heaven and earth to trade up" for a quarterback, Ballard responded: "Yes. I'd do whatever it takes," per Zak Keefer of The Athletic.
There is no reason not to believe it.
The offense's post-Luck struggles are obvious. Indianapolis has mustered a 45-52-1 record in six years under Ballard, so his seat will be hot heading into 2023. This is a win-or-get-fired offseason for him, but finally acing a quarterback decision can protect his future and turn around the Colts.
It won't be cheap. An extra first-rounder and at least one—maybe more—Day 2 selections should be expected. But it's likely worth the price.
Early QB Rankings
Any prospect ranking is inherently subjective. Consensus lists are the same given the sample of sources contacted.
That's the long version of saying we should understand the background of the order from Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. The consensus he's gathered about top quarterbacks goes Alabama's Bryce Young, then Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Kentucky's Will Levis and Florida's Anthony Richardson.
However, we are selling that the perception will be static.
Young and Stroud should stay in the top-10 conversation, while Levis and Richardson are the next round of tool-heavy prospects that somehow rise annually. Their production doesn't match the hype. But that's how Zach Wilson or Daniel Jones became first-round picks.
Factor in the mobility of Levis and Richardson, and it's easy to see Stroud falling in the rankings—and becoming a steal.
More Underclassmen to Declare
Quentin Johnston ended the season with a quiet performance in TCU's blowout loss to Georgia in the national championship. Still, he racked up 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.
On the opposite side of that result, 6'7", 270-pound Georgia tight end Darnell Washington played through an ankle injury yet blocked well (as usual) and made a 28-yard reception.
According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, both players are on track to officially join other underclassmen in the draft.
Long story short: They absolutely should.
In the latest mock draft from the B/R NFL Scouting Department, both players are projected top-15 picks. There is little reason for either one to stay in college for another year since their stock can't get much higher.
Jordan Addison Isn't a WR1
Ohio State product Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a strong WR1 candidate, but USC's Jordan Addison likely won't be far behind.
Addison isn't unanimously beloved, though.
"I'm just not sure he's a guy who can produce outside the scheme," a scout told ESPN's Matt Miller. "He had this huge year with a great college quarterback [Pitt's Kenny Pickett] and then goes to play under Lincoln Riley with Caleb Williams and has average numbers. He's never proven himself as the guy to me."
Without question, Addison didn't have as prolific of a season as anticipated during his year at USC. However, his lowest stat lines generally came in blowout wins, and he missed three games with injuries, too.
After watching him slice through defenses with 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in a less-friendly system at Pitt in 2021, Addison should be capable of being a featured target as a pro.