The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night, and former college football players from around the country will see their professional dreams come true. Bryce Young, C.J Stroud and Bijan Robinson are just a few of the players who will hear their names called in the coming days after lighting up opponents on Saturdays. Other skilled players at lesser-known positions like Peter Skoronski, Will McDonald and Ivan Pace Jr. will also take their talents to Sundays after successful college careers.
NFL teams don't draft players based on their college careers, but that isn't stopping me from breaking down the top 32 players in the draft from that point of view. To be clear, though: This is not a mock draft. I repeat, this is not a mock draft. These rankings are based on overall college production, contribution to team success and the player's overall value to their college program.
One more time with feeling: This is not a mock draft.
1. Stetson Bennett IV, QB, Georgia: The former walk-on doesn't have a Heisman Trophy, video game statistics or the overall physical tools attractive to NFL scouts. However, he has the most important bullet point on his résumé: National titles. Plural. The former Bulldog threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns in last season's College Football Playoff National Championship over TCU and 224 yards and two touchdowns in the title game over Alabama two seasons ago. Simply put, he is a Georgia hero who will go down in history as a college footbal legend.
2. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: Young won the 2021 Heisman Trophy after throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns for a Crimson Tide team that topped eventual national champion Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. He followed that up with 3,328 yards and 32 passing touchdowns as a junior in 2022 despite playing through a shoulder injury during the final two months of the season. That college success should transfer to the first round of the NFL Draft, where he is expected to be selected in the top five.
3. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State: Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and Stroud starred as the starting quarterback over the last two seasons. He threw for 3,688 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2022 and 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns in 2021. He earned trips to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist in each of those two seasons and helped the Buckeyes reach the College Football Playoff last season.
4. Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern: Skoronski started from the moment he stepped foot on campus and finished his career as one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Big Ten history. He became the first unanimous All-American in Northwestern history in 2022 and was a finalist for the 2022 Outland Trophy, given to the nation's best interior lineman on either side of the ball.
5. Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama: A monster off the edge, Anderson was a unanimous All-American and Bronko Nagurski Award winner in 2021 after notching 33.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide. He followed that up with 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks during his third season in Tuscaloosa. When opposing offensive coordinators popped on tape, they saw a force who was successful even when offensive lines did their best to double-team him.
6. Emmanuel Forbes, DB, Mississippi State: Simply put, Forbes was one of the most productive players in Mississippi State history. He finished his three-year career with 14 interceptions, six of which were returned for touchdowns -- an FBS record. He snagged six picks and returned three for scores in 2022, and he was rewarded with unanimous All-America honors.
7. Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State: Johnson was a consensus All-American in 2022 after dominating defensive lines for the Buckeyes. Johnson, who started 23 consecutive games, was the focal point of an offensive line that finished sixth in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with 50. His success was a key factor in Ohio State's run to the Peach Bowl national semifinal.
8. Max Duggan, QB, TCU: Duggan was a four-year starter for the Horned Frogs and the centerpiece of their 2022 run to the CFP National Championship. The Heisman Trophy finalist threw for 3,698 yards, 32 passing touchdowns while rushing for 423 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He finished his career with 9,618 yards and 78 touchdowns through the air, along with 1,856 yards and 28 scores on the ground.
9. Deuce Vaughn Jr., RB, Kansas State: Vaughn was a unanimous All-American as an all-purpose player in 2022 after rushing for 1,558 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on the ground. He also had 378 yards receiving with three receiving touchdowns. That followed a 2021 season in which he earned consensus All-America honors with 1,404 yards rushing, 468 yards receiving and 22 total touchdowns.
10. Christopher Smith Jr., DB, Georgia: A stalwart in the back end of the Bulldogs' defense, Smith earned unanimous All-America honors in 2022 with three interceptions and 61 tackles for the national champs. His three interceptions the previous season -- including one in the CFP National Championship win over Alabama -- showed just how valuable Smith was to Georgia's stellar defenses under coach Kirby Smart.
11. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas: Robinson will likely be a top-10 pick (and the first running back off the board) on Thursday after a fantastic career with the Longhorns. He had 3,410 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns during his three-year stint in Austin. He posted 1,580 and 18 touchdowns in 2022, which earned his unanimous All-America honors.
12. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College: Flowers finished up his four-year career with Eagles in style with 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. In all, he accounted for more than 3,000 receiving yards and scored more than 30 total touchdowns. The NFL is using versatile offensive skill players in a variety of ways these days, and Flowers could be the next Sunday superstar.
13. Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State: McDonald had 42 tackles for loss in five seasons with the Cyclones, including 14 as a senior in 2022. That performance in his final season in Ames earned him unanimous All-America honors and vaulted him up NFL Draft boards.
14. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson: Murphy was a force for the Tigers in his three seasons for coach Dabo Swinney. He had 36 tackles for loss, including 3.5 in the win over then-No. 11 Florida State in 2022. He is widely regarded as one of the top EDGE threats in the draft and is ranked No. 20 overall in the CBS Sports draft prospect rankings.
15. Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC: Tuipulotu earned unanimous All-America honors last season after notching 22 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks for a Trojans team that found themselves in the College Football Playoff race heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game. He finished his three-year career with 32 tackles for loss and 21 sacks.
16. Jordan Addison, WR, USC: Addison was a consensus All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver in 2021 after racking up 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pittsburgh. He transferred to the Trojans prior to last season and caught 59 passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns.
17. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina: Downs caught 202 passes for 2,483 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons with the Tar Heels, including back-to-back seasons in which he topped the 1,000-yard mark. He had 1,335 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021, and he followed that up with 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 2022 season.
18. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame: Mayer was a consensus All-American in 2022 after catching a team-high 67 passes for 809 yards and nine touchdowns for the Fighting Irish. He had 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons in South Bend. His versatility should make him very attractive to NFL teams who use tight ends in a variety of ways.
19. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee: The dual-threat star brought Tennessee back to national prominence in 2022, with the Vols reaching No. 1 in the initial CFP rankings. He passed for 3,135 yards and scored 32 total touchdowns as a senior. He threw for 80 touchdowns and rushed for 25 scores during five seasons between Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
20. Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati: Pace was an absolute monster in three seasons at Miami (Ohio) and capitalized on that success after transferring to the Bearcats prior to the 2022 season. He earned unanimous All-America honors as a senior with 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, capping off a phenomenal career that included 41.5 tackles for loss.
21. Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia: Carter will likely find himself selected in the first round of this year's draft after proving to be one of the most important players in Georgia's two national titles. He had 8.5 tackles for loss as a complementary piece to monster Jordan Davis in 2021, and he followed that up seven tackles for loss last season. Even if he wasn't lighting up the stat sheet, Carter was one of the most important players on the field.
22. Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma: Mims burst onto the scene in 2020 with 610 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games and never let up during his final two seasons with the Sooners. He finished his career with 123 catches for 2,398 yards and 20 touchdowns, proving to be an important piece in Oklahoma's offense.
23. Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa: Campbell proved to be one of the nation's top linebackers in each of his last two seasons with the Hawkeyes. He was a unanimous All-American in 2022 after notching 125 tackles, which came on the heels of a 2021 season that saw the 6-foot-5, 249-pounder lead the nation with 143 stops in 14 games.
24. Devon Witherspoon, DB, Illinois: Witherspoon was a consensus All-American in 2022 after picking off three passes, notching 41 tackles and breaking up a whopping 14 passes. He was the centerpiece of a Fighting Illini defense that led the program back to Big Ten relevancy under coach Bret Bielema.
25. Brian Branch, DB, Alabama: The 6-foot, 190-pounder was a monster in back end of the Crimson Tide defense from the moment he hit the field in 2020. He finished his career with 172 tackles and three interceptions. In his junior season, the star notch 90 tackles, two interceptions and 14 tackles for loss.
26. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU: The 6-foot-3, 205-pound monster was one of college football's biggest mismatches during the course of his three-year career. He hauled in 60 passes for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns last year in TCU's run to the CFP National Championship and finished his career with 2,190 yards and 14 scores.
27. Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia: The former top-tier recruit followed through with the hype with 12.5 sacks during his four years with the Bulldogs. He had eight tackles for loss and two years ago was one of the unsung heroes during their run to their first national title since 1980. He followed that up with seven tackles for loss in eight games in 2022 before an injury ended his college career. However, his presence as a leader during the stretch run in 2022 was arguably his best work as a Bulldog.
28. Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee: Wright started 40 games during his career, including all 13 games during Tennessee's run to national prominence in 2022. He earned unanimous All-SEC honors from the conference's coaches and was named a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award during his final season on Rocky Top.
29. Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State: One of the toughest players in all of college football, Haener was a force under center for the Bulldogs. He threw for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior, and he followed that up with 2,896 yards and 20 touchdowns in 10 games in 2022. Haener was a proven leader and never afraid to put his body on the line for the benefit of the team.
30. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech: Wilson has found his way into the top 10 of mock drafts around the country after a phenomenal career with the Red Raiders. He had 13.5 tackles for loss in 2021 and 14 during his final season in Lubbock, which vaulted him into the national spotlight.
31. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame: Foskey notched 45 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2022, which resulted in consensus All-America honors. He finished his career with 25 sacks and was the centerpiece of a defense that proved to be a challenge on a week-in, week-out basis.
32. Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson: Bresee joined the Tigers as one of Dabo Swinney's top recruits of all time, and he didn't disappoint. He had 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks, despite opposing coordinators game planning around him from the moment he donned the purple and orange.