May 31, 2023

College football stars will take their first steps toward becoming professional football stars (or flops) during the 2023 NFL draft. Expect to hear a lot of “Alabama,” “Georgia,” and “Ohio State,” as well as “gear,” physicality ‘ and ‘football IQ’

The draft begins Thursday night and continues Friday night and Saturday afternoon from Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

Coverage of the first round begins Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on ABC. Friday’s coverage of rounds 2 and 3 will begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN, and rounds 4 through 7 will begin at noon on Saturday on ESPN.

The Chicago Bears’ abysmal 3-14 record qualified them for the first roster. But the Bears opted to trade that pick to the Carolina Panthers for a pack of four picks, including No. 9 overall, and wide receiver DJ Moore, 26, who has three career seasons with at least 1,000 yards in catches. Depending on how Carolina’s pick at No. 1 turns out and what the Bears do with the group of picks they’ve obtained, the blockbuster trade could prove a triumph or a disaster for both teams.

Although they have not made a formal announcement, the Panthers are widely expected to select Alabama’s Bryce Young, who is considered the best of a strong group of available quarterbacks.

Young is an undisputed leader with a brilliant record as leader of the Alabama super team. The big question mark is his height: 5-foot-10, considered shorter than NFL teams normally like their quarterbacks to be.

The Bears traded the top pick in part because this seemed like a year for a quarterback to become No. 1, and they’re happy with 24-year-old Justin Fields, who had a stellar performance as a rusher last season.

Defensive lineman Jalen Carter helped lead Georgia to back-to-back national titles. But last month he pleaded not contesting allegations of reckless driving and racing linked to a car accident following the team’s championship parade that killed two people, including a team-mate. He received probation, a fine and community service.

While he was once a surefire top pick, teams’ concerns over the incident have cast some doubt, as has Carter’s poor performance in a practice session.

Carter can still be selected early if a team decides to go for his undisputed talent. The Seahawks at No. 5 are a possible landing site. Or he could slip lower, as some players always seem to do on draft day, if teams decide his skill isn’t worth the risk.

Quarterbacks could fill the entire top four as three other signal-callers are expected to go high in addition to Young: Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Richardson is a particularly interesting case, a hugely talented player who, according to some scouts, has not yet managed to make the most of that talent. He could go as high as No. 2 or maybe drop out of the top 10.

The names you hear most often are linebacker Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama, cornerback Devon Witherspoon of Illinois and edge rusher Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech. Running backs aren’t in fashion with NFL drafters right now, at least high in the rankings, but Texas’ Bijan Robinson could buck that trend.

The Houston Texans have picked the Nos. 2 and 12 overall to try to turn around a franchise that has won just 11 games in the past three seasons. Also in a good spot are the Seahawks (Nos. 5 and 20, plus two second-rounders) and the Detroit Lions (Nos. 6 and 18, and two second-rounders).

The Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers probably can’t count on a superstar; they will not draft until the third round.

The Miami Dolphins lost their top pick, which would have come in at No. 21, after they were found to have had “impermissible communication” with Tom Brady in two different seasons while he was under contract with other teams.

That is a title given to the last drafted player. Most of those players make little impression in the league. But last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, former Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, defied his low draft status. After injuries to the 49ers’ first and second series quarterbacks, Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy was given a chance to start. He went 5–0 in the regular season and led the team to the conference championship game.

Before you dismiss your favorite team’s draft class as a failure too quickly, remember Purdy.