NFL Draft 2023: 1st-round Order and Projections for Underrated Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 13, 2023

NFL Draft 2023: 1st-round Order and Projections for Underrated Prospects

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    STANFORD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 05: Cameron Ward #1 of the Washington State Cougars throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 05, 2022 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears are on the clock.

    Thanks to the Houston Texans' comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, the Bears hold the NFL draft's No. 1 pick for the first time since 1947. Despite the decades-long wait, Chicago might not even make this pick, since the ascension of quarterback Justin Fields could allow the Bears to trade down with a quarterback-needy club.

    Chicago has plenty of time to figure that out, though, since the talent grab won't start until April 27. In the meantime, we'll lay out the latest draft order (only the first 18 picks are cemented so far, the rest will be determined by playoff results), then spotlight two underrated prospects in this class.

1st-Round Order

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 01: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Beats looks to throw a pass in the first half of a game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 01, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    1. Chicago Bears

    2. Houston Texans

    3. Arizona Cardinals

    4. Indianapolis Colts

    5. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos)

    6. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)

    7. Las Vegas Raiders

    8. Atlanta Falcons

    9. Carolina Panthers

    10. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints)

    11. Tennessee Titans

    12. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)

    13. New York Jets

    14. New England Patriots

    15. Green Bay Packers

    16. Washington Commanders

    17. Pittsburgh Steelers

    18. Detroit Lions

    19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    20. Seattle Seahawks

    21. Jacksonville Jaguars

    22. Miami Dolphins (forfeited)

    23. New York Giants

    24. Baltimore Ravens

    25. Los Angeles Chargers

    26. Dallas Cowboys

    27. Cincinnati Bengals

    28. Minnesota Vikings

    29. Denver Broncos (via San Francisco 49ers)

    30. Buffalo Bills

    31. Kansas City Chiefs

    32. Philadelphia Eagles

Cameron Ward, QB, Washington State

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    STANFORD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 05: Cameron Ward #1 of the Washington State Cougars throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 05, 2022 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    If Cameron Ward declares for the draftβ€”he's only a redshirt sophomoreβ€”he's sure to spawn debates among talent evaluators.

    His track record is tricky. He transferred to Washington State from Incarnate Ward after the 2021 season, meaning he's only had one campaign at the Power 5 level. The sample size isn't great, but the production is. During his lone season with the Cougars, he threw for 3,232 yards on 64.4 percent passing with 23 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He added another five scores on the ground.

    In terms of tools, his physical ones are drool-worthy. He has a good arm, and he's a great athlete in and out of the pocket. He can, however, be inconsistent with his mechanics and makes his share of questionable decisions. He can also be loose with the football when he's on the move.

    He has his faults, in other words, but if he didn't, he wouldn't be underrated, right? Get him into the right system, and with the right coaching staff, and he could be electric down the line.

Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25: Texas running back Roschon Johnson (2) runs the ball 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

    The Longhorns should produce the first running back taken in this draft. Since Roschon Johnson qualifies as an underrated prospect, you might have figured out he isn't that running back.

    That distinction goes to his teammate Bijan Robinson, who started in front of Johnson and kept the understudy's production in check.

    Johnson, once a four-star quarterback recruit, boasts impressive versatility. He can ditch defenders in space or run right through them. He can make plays as a pass-catcher and is a willing blocker. His background as a quarterback could even open the door to some trick-play possibilities at the next level.

    He might not be a star in the NFL, but he could last a decade-plus in this league. He doesn't try to do too much, practices excellent patience and has enough burst to find pay dirt when he sniffs out a running lane.

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