As the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decipher between the smoke and fire on the rumor mill. As we all know, NFL personnel tend to spread misinformation this time of year in hopes of pushing their preferred target(s) tumbling into their laps.
While we have no true way of knowing how the NFL views the vast majority of collegiate prospects, we’ll do our best to read the tea leaves. Here are some of this year’s biggest risers and fallers one week before the draft.
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While Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba has separated himself as WR1 in this class, the WR2 spot is very much up for grabs. TCU’s Quentin Johnston and USC’s Jordan Addison have been the betting favorites for months, but both have major question marks in their games.
Johnston has the ideal size you seek in a vertical X-Receiver, but he’s sometimes more of a body catcher than a natural ball-snatcher. Addison is a terrific slot weapon, but physical corners get the best of him.
These concerns have allowed Boston College’s Zay Flowers to sneak into the conversation. Flowers is a speedy, explosive playmaker that excelled as an outside wide receiver in college. Flowers probably profiles best as a slot receiver like Addison in the NFL, but Flowers had more success outside the numbers in college. Inside/outside versatility is never a bad thing.
Running back Tyjae Spears has been one of the draft’s biggest risers throughout the pre-draft process. The hype began with a Cotton Bowl MVP performance in Tulane’s upset victory over USC. Spears carried that momentum over to the 2023 Senior Bowl, where he routinely looked like the best player on the field.
He’s quick, explosive, and dynamic in the open field, but Spears is far from the perfect prospect. His smaller frame (5’9″ 201 lbs) severely limits his three-down upside at the next level. I wonder if NFL teams will view Spears as an inside runner and his struggles in pass protection could keep him off the field on third downs.
That said, Spears could excel if used in the passing game and as an outside-zone runner in the right scheme. A subpar running back class behind Bijan Robinson, Jaymyr Gibbs, and Zach Charbonnet leaves the RB4 spot wide open.
This one is easy. No fantasy-relevant 2023 prospect has seen their stock drop more than LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. Once seen as a generational type prospect in Devy circles, Boutte’s fall from grace has been tough to watch.
Coming in as a consensus five-star prospect, expectations were sky-high that Boutte would be the next great LSU wide receiver. Unfortunately, Boutte never really lived up to those expectations in college.
He “broke out” during his freshman campaign, finishing with 735 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t top 540 receiving yards in his next two seasons, although he did score a team-high nine touchdowns in 2021.
The offensive system and quarterback play at LSU certainly held Boutte back at times, but his athletic testing at the 2023 NFL Combine didn’t exactly do him any favors. Boutte didn’t impress in wide receiver drills and his Relative Athletic Score is one of the lowest in the wide receiver class.
This one hurts to type. I liked Sean Tucker’s game in college. He was productive at Syracuse and looked on the way to stardom after totaling over 1,700 total yards and 14 touchdowns in 2021. While his numbers took a step back this season, Tucker still managed over 1,000 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Tucker’s hype has gone in the opposite direction during this pre-draft process. An injury kept Tucker out of the NFL Combine and most of us took his self-reported Pro Day numbers with a grain of salt. All it takes is one team to fall in love and give Tucker the Day Two draft capital we covet, but it’s hard to imagine him ever reaching the heights we had once envisioned.