The NFL combine is upon us, so what better time to roll out our Top 25 list? This will almost certainly change in the coming days, though perhaps not as much as you'd expect. Yes, if a wide receiver or cornerback blazes a 4.3 40 that will certainly help their draft stock -- just like a 4.65 won't do them any favors -- but the tape is the tape and that won't change. More important are the team interviews and medical evaluations, two critical components to the draft process that aren't quite as sexy as running fast or jumping high.
With that in mind, here's our Big Board 1.0. It includes just 25 players but in the coming weeks that list will expand so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, remember to check out "With the First Pick," our NFL Draft podcast with co-host Rick Spielman, the former Vikings general manager who has more than 30 years of NFL experience. The show is now twice a week: every Monday and Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, and you can watch us live on the NFL on CBS YouTube channel. And you can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
We'll be live all week from Indianapolis for the combine, and we'll have bonus podcasts (so look for that!), as well as a daily recap show on CBS Sports HQ.
OK, let's get to it.
2023 Top 25 Big Board
1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
When you look at the list of NFL quarterbacks who measured 6 feet or under and weighed less than 200 pounds at the combine these are the five names that qualify: Joe Hamilton, Seneca Wallace, Marcus Vick, Pat White and Kellen Moore. That's it. Pat White was a second-round pick, Wallace and Hamilton went in rounds 4 and 7, while Vick and Moore were undrafted. (And before you ask: Kyler Murray was 5-foot-10, 207 pounds at the combine, Russell Wilson was 5-11, 204, and Drew Brees was 6-1, 213.) So you might understand the trepidation from some NFL teams when it comes to Young. The difference, of course, is that he is a special player with special talents that were on display every week in the fall. Put another way: If Young were, say, 6-3, 220 pounds, we'd be talking about him in the same way we discussed Trevor Lawrence coming out of Clemson.
2. Jalen Carter, Georgia, DL, Georgia
We've been saying this for months now but it bears repeating: A year ago, Georgia had five defensive players go in the first round, and Carter could end up being better than all of them. He's an athletic freak who can collapse the pocket, and is good against both the run or the pass. He's a no-brainer selection at the top of the draft for a team not looking for a franchise quarterback.
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3. Will Anderson Jr., Alabama, EDGE, Alabama
We once had a scout tell us there doesn't have to be something wrong with a player. That doesn't mean the media won't come up with something from the end of the college season until the actual draft but for a player like Anderson, it's hard to find something lacking in his game. Yeah, he wasn't quite as dominant in 2022 as he was in 2021, but he's a great teammate, and even better person, and is the type of pass rusher who deserves to be in the same pre-draft conversation as Nick Bosa, Chase Young and Aidan Hutchinson during their respective drafts.
4. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Sometimes you have to watch three or four games to get a sense for who a player actually is. Two or three snaps into just about any of Wilson's games and it's obvious who he is: long, strong and dominant. And he's only going to get better. There will be some discussions about whether he'll go ahead of Anderson, and there are crazier draft-related conversations to have. We love Wilson's game and he's only scratching the surface on who he will become.
5. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, QB, Ohio State
Stroud somehow flew under the radar for much of the season but saved his best performance for the semifinal playoff matchup against Georgia. He leaves Ohio State as a better passer than Justin Fields, and he proved he could win with his legs against the Bulldogs. He does a lot of things well and several teams will have him in the mix for QB1.
6. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Porter is long, physical and fast. His father played outside linebacker for the Steelers, and he brings that same mentality to the cornerback position. Porter didn't have an interception in '22 and only has one in the last three seasons, but he has shutdown potential -- look no further than the Ohio State game when he came as close to locking down Marvin Harrison Jr. as any human can hope to.
7. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Is this high for a running back? Sure. Will Robinson get drafted inside the top 10? Almost certainly not, but that doesn't mean he isn't one of the best players in this class. The most frequent and obvious comp is Saquon Barkley -- they're similarly sized -- and while Robinson runs a bit more upright at times, he's just as explosive. It'll be interesting to see how long Robinson lasts in Round 1 and if, say, he's still on the board near when the Eagles or Chiefs are on the clock. Both teams have bigger needs, but both teams would somehow be better offensively with him in the backfield.
8. Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
How long are Skoronski's arms? That's the primary question about the Northwestern left tackle, and we'll know for certain at the NFL combine. His former teammate, Rashawn Slater, had 33-inch arms, and while he's more athletic, he's also remained at left tackle in the NFL, where he's been very good when healthy. If Skoronski's arms don't reach 33 inches (and the word is they won't), the question becomes: Is his future at guard? For us, he's an NFL offensive tackle until he proves he isn't -- because he's the best offensive lineman in this draft class.
9. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Johnston is a huge-catch-radius downfield threat, and also flashes the ability to win on short and intermediate routes. This wide receiver class isn't nearly as deep as recent years but Johnston is a Day 1 playmaker who would benefit a team with a young quarterback looking for a reliable -- and enormous -- target.
10. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Murphy just turned 21 in January and while physically he looks like he was built in a lab that produces Hall of Fame edge rushers, he's still incredibly raw. It's why he might disappear for stretches during a game only to absolutely dominate. Patience will be key in Murphy's development, but he has all the tools to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL.
11. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Like Bijan Robinson, Mayer won't be among the first players selected on April 27, but that doesn't mean he isn't one of the top prospects in this class. He's not as sudden as, say, Dalton Kincaid, nor does he block as well as Darnell Washington, but he's really, really good in many areas. He can win at all three levels, he's a QB's best friend in the middle of the field and when the game is on the line he has the ability to come up big time and again.
12. O'Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
Torrence transferred from Louisiana to Florida but you'd never know it to watch him play. He looked like a grizzled SEC veteran from Day 1 and that continued throughout the 2022 season. He was one of the most reliable players in the country and he only solidified that with a strong Senior Bowl week. Torrence is a guard only, but he's a Day 1 starter who should go in Round 1.
13. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Few players are more fun to watch than Witherspoon. He was listed at 6-1, 180 pounds before the '22 season and he played like he was 6-3, 220. An asset in run support because of his playing style, Witherspoon was also great in coverage, excelling in man coverage. He played mostly outside at Illinois, but he can be an effective slot corner at the next level, too.
14. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez, a Colorado transfer, had a banner season for the Ducks. He reminds us of Kaiir Elam, the Bills' first-round pick a year ago -- both are long, physical corners in coverage who need to improve in run support. But Gonzalez has the length and speed to compete for a starting job in training camp, and he could be one of five or six cornerbacks to hear their name called on Day 1.
15. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Van Ness didn't start a game for Iowa last season and there are no true "wow" moments on tape, like the ones you'll find when watching, say, Tyree Wilson. But Van Ness, like Drake Jackson and George Karlaftis a year ago, looks the part. He has the body type that makes NFL defensive line coaches sit up in their chairs, and while he weighs 275 pounds now, he can add another 10-15 pounds to his frame. He's a good athlete, plays with both power and twitch and he's going to be a better pro than college player.
16. Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Addison might be listed at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds. but he plays much bigger than that. He was explosive on all three levels for the Trojans last year, but he put up even better numbers for Pitt the season before. He also adds return ability, which is one of the reasons he could end up being the first wideout off the board.
17. Brian Branch, S, Alabama
One of the best players on Alabama's entire roster last season, Branch lined up primarily in the slot, but you can put him anywhere on the field and he'll have success. Think about this: Nick Saban is known for a) running complex defensive schemes and b) being a very demanding coach. He trusted Branch enough to play him 768 snaps in 2022 after having him on the field for 624 snaps the year before.
18. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Banks is another in a long line of long, big, fast cornerbacks who can cover. He lined up almost exclusively on the outside and he regularly shut down the opponents' best wide receivers. He's surprisingly twitchy for his size and if there's a knock against him, it's that he's only had one interception the last three seasons (though he did have eight pass-breakups in 2022).
19. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Johnson is a consistently good run blocker and he uses leverage to his advantage. His pass protection needs refinement, and his footwork can be sloppy at times but his athleticism is all over the tape. He also offers position flexibility on game days -- he was the Buckeyes' starting right guard in 2021 before moving to left tackle for the 2022 season. He's one of the best offensive linemen in this draft class.
20. Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
Harrison is long, athletic and surprisingly sturdy. NFL teams seem to like him more than the media, at least right now, and he's getting some well-deserved first-round buzz. He was the Sooners' starting left tackle the last two seasons and allowed just one sack in 2022. There will be several teams in the second half of the first round that could target him on draft night.
21. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
One of the best athletes in this entire class. Sanders is a former five-star prospect who began his college career at Alabama and transferred to Arkansas when he was stuck behind Will Anderson and Dallas Turner (the former will be a top five pick, the latter a likely first-rounder a year from now). For the Razorbacks, Sanders lined up everywhere -- on the edge, in the slot and primarily as an off-ball linebacker. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and movement skills you're more likely to find in defensive backs.
22. Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
Typically, we call athletic tight ends "matchup problems in the middle of the field." Kincaid qualifies, for sure, but he's a problem everywhere; for us, he's the best pass-catching tight end in this class who also shows the ability -- and willingness -- to run block. He may need to add 10 pounds at the next level, but he has the athleticism to win regularly downfield against linebackers and safeties. A contested-catch machine, the biggest concern may be that he'll turn 24 next October.
23. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The pre-combine draft media hype about Richardson has reached ridiculous levels, even by draft media standards. His athleticism feels otherworldly at times, but the lack of experience is a huge -- and very real -- concern. But in the right system that includes a patient owner and coach staff, Richardson will have the best chance to flourish. Because he has all the physical tools to be as dominant as he wants to be. He just needs time, reps and a lot of patience.
24. Broderick Jones,OT, Georgia
Jones was the Bulldogs' left tackle the last two seasons and after giving up two sacks in 2021 he didn't allow a single one during last season's title run. He's another long, athletic offensive tackle in this class; Jones re-anchors well against stronger pass rushers while also moving well in space. He needs to refine his footwork and ideally, he'd have time to grow into a job at the next level, but he checks a lot of boxes of what NFL teams are looking for in left tackles.
25. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Washington looks like an offensive tackle -- and he blocks like one, too. But he's also a receiving threat. He's not particularly sudden -- more long-strider than sprinter -- but he eats up cushions and might have the biggest catch radius in this class. He'll have some focus drops but Washington is a red-zone nightmare for defenses, with the added benefit of being an elite blocker.
Players who just missed the Top 25: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina; Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama; Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State; Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia; Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State; Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State; Will Levis, QB, Kentucky; Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee; Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia; Siaki Ika, Baylor