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2023 NFL Draft: Top 25 Senior Bowl prospects entering Week 5 of college football season

Heading into Sunday's contest against UCF, SMU senior Rashee Rice leads all FBS receivers with an average of 141.2 receiving yards per game. (Gareth Patterson/AP)
Heading into Sunday's contest against UCF, SMU senior Rashee Rice leads all FBS receivers with an average of 141.2 receiving yards per game. (Gareth Patterson/AP)

Back in August, Reese's Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy and his experienced scouting staff released their watch list for next year’s game, which included 485 prospects from more than 100 college football programs.

Below, I rank my top 25 players from that list and provide the names of 25 others who could crack my rankings as I update this list on a biweekly basis during the season.

The 2023 NFL Draft is still about seven months away (April 27-29 in Kansas City), so my evaluation of these players will change based on their play this fall, their results in athletic testing and, if they are fortunate enough to receive an invite, their performance at Senior Bowl practices and in the game itself. The 2023 Senior Bowl will be held at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 4, 2023 and broadcast on NFL Network.

NOTE: Heights and weights are via school measurements.

Texas A&M WR Ainias Smith is not listed here because he is expected to miss the rest of the season due to an injury he suffered last week against Arkansas.

25) Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma (5-foot-10, 210 pounds)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: Gray ran for 113 yards and two scores against woeful Nebraska in less than three quarters on Sept. 17, patiently waiting for his blocks and then setting up an oncoming defensive back for a strong cut on both touchdowns. Gray made a nice one-handed grab for his only reception of the day. The former Tennessee Volunteer did his part in the Sooners' home loss to Kansas State last week (16-114 rushing; 7-45 receiving), repeatedly pressing the hole hard and spinning off contact or lowering his shoulder in the open field to maximize each run.

What's next: Gray must avoid TCU defenders Dylan Horton and Dee Winters in Fort Worth this weekend before taking on the Longhorns' talented front seven at the State Fair of Texas the second weekend of October.

24) JL Skinner, S, Boise State (6-4, 220)

Previous rank: No. 24

What I saw: Skinner made two tackles playing in the box and over slot receivers in the Broncos' home-opening win over Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 17. He blew kisses to the crowd after breaking up a pass in the third quarter. UTEP earned a decisive victory over the Broncos last week, though Skinner was credited with 13 tackles (two solos), playing near the line early and dropping deep later in the game. He put some big hits on Miners ball-carriers, filling gaps and eliminating cutback opportunities.

What's next: Boise State had better right the ship quickly, as it hosts strong Mountain West Conference foes San Diego State (Friday night) and Fresno State (Oct. 8). Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener has the team ranked 20th in the FBS in total offense.

23) Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa (6-5, 246)

Previous rank: No. 23

What I saw: Campbell recorded a team-high 10 tackles in a win over Nevada on Sept. 17 and then posted eight stops in a victory over Rutgers last week. The defensive signal-caller stopped plays between the tackles in both games, showing patience to shoot a gap without over-pursuing while also covering receivers when opponents were forced to abandon the run. He hurried one throw on a blitz in the first quarter against the Wolf Pack, leading to an interception, and made a huge hit in the fourth quarter against the Scarlet Knights to break up a red-zone pass.

What's next: Campbell will see plenty of Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi and guard Zak Zinter at home this weekend. Then on Oct. 8, he'll travel to face Illinois running back Chase Brown, who is not an easy target to bring down at the second level.

22) Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State (6-3, 236)

Previous rank: No. 15

What I saw: McDonald primarily lined up in the 4i/5-technique spot the past two weeks (win over Ohio, loss to Baylor). His only tackle against the Bobcats was a third-down sack where he beat the right tackle with a quick first step and dip under the upfield shoulder. Against Baylor, he held his own against the run in the first half, getting off blocks to stop backs after short gains. McDonald earned a half-sack in the third quarter with a secondary rush, but drew two penalties in the game (facemask, personal foul).

What's next: The Cyclones face an up-and-coming Kansas team on the road this weekend and then host Kansas State on Oct. 8. Jayhawks left tackle Earl Bostick Jr. is on scouts' radars, so McDonald would help his draft stock with a strong performance against him.

21) Zacch Pickens, DL, South Carolina (6-4, 305)

Previous rank: No. 20

What I saw: Pickens was not a factor early in the Gamecocks' blowout home loss to Georgia on Sept. 17. He finally shed the left guard to stop an inside run during the first series of the second half. He was credited with six tackles in the game because he worked to the ball as the second or third player to the pile. He consistently overpowered Charlotte linemen with leverage and pure strength last weekend in his squad's decisive victory. Despite his size, Pickens will hustle across the field. He chased a scrambling quarterback in the second half to prevent a first down.

What's next: South Carolina will visit Kentucky on Oct. 8, when quarterback Will Levis and running back Kavosiey Smoke look to avoid the big guy wearing the No. 6 jersey.

NOTE: Pickens recorded three tackles in South Carolina's 50-10 win over South Carolina State on Thursday night, a game that was moved up from Saturday due to Hurricane Ian. His performance in that contest will be factored into the next edition of Senior Bowl prospect rankings.

20) Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson (6-2, 300)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: Davis returned for Clemson's double-overtime win over Wake Forest last weekend after missing two games due to injury. His best first-half play was a sack of quarterback Sam Hartman, beating the left guard with speed from the 3-technique spot. Davis took over the game late in the fourth quarter, stopping a run for a loss, sharing a sack with star defensive end Myles Murphy on the next play and then hustling downfield to help stop a tight end from picking up a crucial first down. He pushed back the center using his natural leverage for another tackle on Wake Forest's first play of the second overtime.

What's next: Davis' next two Saturdays are booked, as he will be chasing two senior quarterbacks in North Carolina State's Devin Leary (Oct. 1) and Boston College's Phil Jurkovec (Oct. 8).

19) Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU (6-2, 217)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: Garner has played well this year as a transfer from Louisiana, using his quick feet, huge frame and long arms to bully his man. He made a "wow" play in the Sept. 17 win over Mississippi State, reaching in front of his man on an inside route to break up a pass. Garner's coverage skills were not tested by New Mexico last weekend, but he had three stops in the drubbing, coming downhill to stop a screen for a 4-yard loss and later swiping away a tight end block in space to thwart an option toss.

What's next: The Tigers travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to battle Auburn on Oct. 1 before returning to Baton Rouge for a tough matchup against Tennessee on Oct. 8. Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker and his receivers will provide a test for Garner's pro prospects.

18) Jordan Battle, S, Alabama (6-1, 206)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: Battle played his usual role in coverage during the Sept. 17 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe, but did sneak into the box pre-snap and stopped a run play in the first quarter. The veteran playmaker made his presence felt in last week's victory over Vanderbilt, recognizing and negating a jet sweep and then a quick throw for his two first-quarter tackles. Battle aided one of Alabama's young corners bringing down a receiver in the third quarter and later made a punt coverage tackle.

What's next: 'Bama visits Arkansas and then hosts Texas A&M in the next two weeks. Battle, who is considered day-to-day while dealing with a leg injury, must be cognizant of Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson's running prowess and track his receivers, who will test the secondary downfield.

17) Tayvion Robinson, WR, Kentucky (5-11, 187)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: Robinson transferred to UK from Virginia Tech to utilize his quickness and strong hands in the Wildcats' offense -- much like Giants 2022 second-round pick Wan'Dale Robinson (no relation) did last year after transferring over from Nebraska. Tayvion scored twice on seven receptions (for 147 yards) against Northern Illinois last week. He lost his man on a jerk route before exploding upfield 69 yards on his first score. He then ducked under a tackle attempt over the middle, putting his hand on the ground to maintain balance before accelerating 40 yards to score what proved to be the game-winner.

What's next: Ole Miss and South Carolina nickel backs will be focusing on their tackling technique the next two weekends after seeing what Robinson has done between the hashes so far this season.

16) Derick Hall, Edge, Auburn (6-3, 256)

Previous rank: No. 11

What I saw: Hall started strong in the Tigers' home loss to Penn State on Sept. 17, stopping a run play on the first series and then attacking an option on the second before the Nittany Lions locked him up. He didn't break away from Missouri's tackles early in Auburn's overtime win last weekend, either, but grabbed a tipped pass for an interception that led to a score. He came alive with three tackles for loss in the second half, including two sacks -- the first on a secondary rush effort and the other after swiping away left tackle Javon Foster's block.

What's next: Hall must consistently affect LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels before Daniels is able to connect with receivers Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins on Saturday. Auburn will then head to Athens, where Hall is going to match up against the defending national champs' talented offensive tackles, Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon.

15) Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State (5-11, 203)

Previous rank: No. 10

What I saw: Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham got the best of Robinson twice in space during Florida State's Sept. 16 victory, but the senior safety made a big play in the final stanza, replacing a blitzing corner in coverage on third down and timing his hit perfectly to break up Cunningham's pass. His four tackles in the team's Sept. 24 defeat of Boston College included a red-zone stop where he flew to an option toss in the flat. Robinson missed an early tackle on power back Pat Garwo III but stood him straight up in the open field later in the game.

What's next: Robinson leads the Seminoles' defense against two experienced quarterbacks the next two weeks, with games against Wake Forest's Sam Hartman (in Tallahassee) and North Carolina State's Devin Leary (at Raleigh).

14) Andrew Vorhees, OL, USC (6-6, 325)

Previous rank: No. 25

What I saw: USC's left guard impressed in wins over Fresno State and Oregon State, dominating his man on nearly every snap with his powerful upper body. Quarterback Caleb Williams ran behind Vorhees on a sneak in the first half against the Bulldogs and Vorhees later took his man into the end zone on a third-quarter rushing touchdown. Vorhees was a beast in the run game against the pesky Beavers, as well, moving linemen and negating second-level targets. He picks up twists in pass protection nicely but can have heavy feet when one-on-one against quicker rushers.

What's next: The Trojans hope to keep rolling in home games against Arizona State and Washington State. Voorhees will have his hands full if lining up across from Sun Devils defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera, who transferred from Miami for this season.

13) Rashee Rice, WR, SMU (6-2, 203)

Previous rank: Not ranked

What I saw: The Mustangs' go-to receiver caught 11 passes for 193 yards in their Sept. 17 loss at Maryland, high-pointing throws with strong hands and using veteran savvy to separate before the ball arrived. He had six catches for 74 yards and a score in last week's loss to TCU. Rice dropped a pass on an out route -- trying to run before securing the ball -- but showed scouts he's no wallflower by making a tackle after a Horned Frogs interception.

What's next: The Mustangs start their American Athletic Conference schedule on Sunday against UCF, which ranks in the top 20 nationally by allowing just 170 passing yards per game this season. SMU has a bye the following weekend.

12) Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford (6-1, 188)

Previous rank: No. 9

What I saw: The Cardinal lost at Washington last week after taking a bye the previous weekend. Kelly took Ja'Lynn Polk out of the Huskies' offense for most of the evening, sticking with the receiver downfield before giving up one second-half reception while in soft coverage to prevent explosive plays. He had three tackles on run plays, though he failed to stop big tight end Devin Culp before he picked up a late fourth-and-1. Kelly drew a questionable -- at best -- pass interference penalty in the third quarter.

What's next: Stanford takes on both Oregon schools next, going to Eugene before hosting OSU. The Ducks' Bo Nix and Beavers' Chance Nolan might go after Kelly a bit more than the Huskies did last week.

11) Henry To'oTo'o, LB, Alabama (6-2, 228)

Previous rank: No. 12

What I saw: To'oTo'o posted eight tackles in the Tide's convincing defeat of Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 17. His two tackles for loss came in the third quarter, first on a sack and then dragging down a running back during the next series. To'oTo'o was a menace in the win over against Vanderbilt last week, blowing up a direct snap to the running back for a tackle for loss on the Commodores' first third-down play. In both contests, To'oTo'o came downhill hard on blitzes to force early throws.

What's next: To'oTo'o will need to avoid Arkansas' powerful offensive line on Saturday to stop the Razorbacks' running attack. Texas A&M's line will try to hit Alabama's top linebacker next week, as well, to create lanes for speedy junior running back Devon Achane.

10) Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (5-10, 172)

Previous rank: No. 14

What I saw: Boston College beat Maine two weeks ago, thanks in part to an eight-catch, 89-yard effort by Flowers. He scored on a 51-yard bomb in the first quarter, fighting through contact and then carrying the defender into the end zone. It was a rough go for B.C. against Florida State last week, as FSU limited Flowers to quick throws and shallow crosses (7-45 receiving). Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was intercepted twice trying to get the ball to his main target. Flowers threw a nice pass on a reverse that was a bit long but still helped draw an interference call in the end zone.

What's next: The road gets no easier for Flowers and the Eagles over the next two weeks with Louisville and Clemson coming to Chestnut Hill. Shoring up the team's pass protection would help Flowers get some downfield opportunities.

9) Andre Carter II, Edge, Army (6-7, 260)

Previous rank: No. 5

What I saw: Carter made two tackles against the run on Sept. 17 in Army's 49-10 victory at home over FCS school Villanova. The Wildcats threw quickly or ran away from Carter most of the game, but he came on strong in the third quarter and early in the fourth, pressuring the quarterback from outside and inside. He drew a chop-block penalty coming off the edge in the fourth quarter and nearly beat three linemen to get to the passer on third-and-25 on that same drive.

What's next: Coming off a bye week, Carter hopes to tee off on an 0-4 Georgia State squad at home before being tested at Wake Forest, where prolific quarterback Sam Hartman will look to avoid the tall edge rusher to find A.T. Perry and his other receivers downfield.

8) Dawand Jones, OL, Ohio State (6-8, 359)

Previous rank: No. 17

What I saw: Jones was not challenged by Toledo's (77-21 win) or Wisconsin's (52-21) defensive lines in two home wins. His length and width made it nearly impossible for rushers to get a push or beat him around the edge. When Badgers defenders spun or jumped inside, Jones stopped their progress using his long arms and agility. He used his surprising foot quickness to create huge running lanes, as well, and was effective pulling to the left side and hitting second-level targets on run plays, putting linebackers to the ground in both contests.

What's next: Last year, Ohio State beat their next two opponents (Rutgers, Michigan State) by a combined score of 108-20. Jones and his Buckeyes teammates hope to overwhelm those opponents in a similar manner this season.

7) Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State (6-6, 303)

Previous rank: No. 8

What I saw: The Bison came up just short against Arizona on Sept. 17, but Wildcats edge rushers gained no traction against Mauch. He also exhibited superb agility on several plays (including two runs of 30-plus yards in the third quarter), pounding a defensive lineman before negating the middle linebacker. Mauch dominated against South Dakota last week, planting defenders to the ground with regularity. Down 17-10 at half, NDSU consistently ran to Mauch's side for big gains in the third quarter, scoring twice in the stanza as he crashed the edge or ran downfield to hit two or three targets.

What's next: Mauch and the Bison will take on a strong Youngstown State front line Saturday and then head to Terre Haute to play Indiana State the following Saturday.

6) Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia (6-3, 235)

Previous rank: No. 6

What I saw: Smith shed blocks and took on pulling linemen in the Bulldogs' Sept. 17 win over South Carolina, and yet still looked quick beating blockers inside. Reading him on RPOs was difficult because he stays home and can jump inside to make the stop. Smith's two tackles last week against pesky Kent State included a sack. He blew by the left tackle on the play, displaying quick, violent hands. He translated his KSU film study onto the field by attacking the mesh point on run plays to force a quick decision by the quarterback and jumping outside to defend a trips alignment on his side.

What's next: Smith will impress scouts over the next couple of weeks if he can win off the edge consistently against Missouri left tackle Javon Foster and Auburn's senior bookend tackles Kilian Zierer and Austin Troxell.

5) O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida (6-5, 347)

Previous rank: No. 7

What I saw: The Gators ran for 217 yards and three scores in their tight win over South Florida on Sept. 17, running off Torrence's side of the line on zone and power runs as he pushed defensive tackles out of the hole. He also recovered nicely on two plays when his man gained an advantage off the snap. He formed a pass-protection wall against Tennessee defenders in the Gators' loss in Knoxville last week. In the run game, Torrence adeptly combo-blocked to linebackers and moved the line of scrimmage, making the key block when quarterback Anthony Richardson scored on a sneak in the third quarter.

What's next: Florida hosts FCS opponent Eastern Washington on Oct. 2 and then welcomes Missouri to Gainesville for Homecoming. Tigers' defensive tackles Darius Robinson, Jayden Jernigan and Josh Landry will try to make plays against Torrence.

4) Tyler Harrell, WR, Alabama (6-0, 194)

Previous rank: No. 4

What I saw: The former Louisville Cardinal has not yet played this season because of a foot injury, but he possesses the explosive speed and underrated toughness needed to excel for the Tide.

What's next: Alabama hopes to have Harrell in play for their first two big SEC matchups (Arkansas, Oct. 1; Texas A&M, Oct. 8). Aggies defensive backs Antonio Johnson, Brian George and Jaylon Jones will all be tracking the speedster if he's in the game.

3) Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech (6-6, 275)

Previous rank: No. 3

What I saw: Wilson led Tech with 11 tackles (3.5 for loss) in defeat at North Carolina State on Sept. 17, recording an early one-handed sack after splitting a double-team and then overwhelming the right tackle to bring down quarterback Devin Leary in the third quarter. Wilson again lined up outside and at 5-technique in Tech's overtime win over Texas, posting six tackles and flashing his power and bend outside but missing out on a sack late in the game when he failed to disengage from the left tackle.

What's next: Wilson hits the road to take on Big 12 opponents Kansas State, which has a veteran offensive line that will challenge the star defender, and Oklahoma State.

2) Jaelyn Duncan, OL, Maryland (6-6, 320)

Previous rank: No. 2

What I saw: Duncan took care of SMU's edge rushers in the Terps' win two weeks ago, stopping advances with smooth movement and good hand placement. He moved 10 yards downfield on the team's first play to eliminate a defender on a 50-yard run. The senior tackle had an uneven performance in the road loss at Michigan last week, stoning most pass rushers but at times failing to find a target to hit. Duncan gave up a couple of pressures early in the second half.

What's next: Duncan plays Big Ten foes Michigan State and Purdue at College Park the next two weekends. Spartans transfer additions Khris Bogle, Aaron Brule and Jacoby Windmon will bring some heat to the Terps' left tackle if he's not ready to go every snap.

1) Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (6-3, 232)

Previous rank: No. 1

What I saw: When Levis' feet were set in the pocket, he made several confident, accurate short and intermediate passes in wins over Youngstown State and Northern Illinois. He placed the ball away from oncoming defenders and threw darts from one hash to the opposite sideline. Levis tries to make throws off his back foot at times, which resulted in one of his two interceptions against the Penguins and a near-miss against the Huskies. He also fumbled against Youngstown State. His playmaking want-to pays off at times, like on his fadeaway throw to Tayvion Robinson over the middle on his 69-yard score.

What's next: The Wildcats visit Ole Miss and then host South Carolina over the next two weekends. Ole Miss lines up a solid defensive back group, while South Carolina has to hope junior corner Cam Smith stays healthy to limit Kentucky's passing attack.

Twenty-five more to watch

Listed in alphabetical order:

  • Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin (6-foot-4, 315 pounds)
  • Cameron Brown, CB, Ohio State (6-0, 192)
  • Brenton Cox Jr., Edge, Florida (6-3, 252)
  • Blake Freeland, OL, BYU (6-8, 305)
  • Connor Galvin, OL, Baylor (6-7, 302)
  • Nick Hampton, Edge, Appalachian State (6-3, 235)
  • Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State (6-6, 272)
  • Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State (6-2, 232)
  • Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (6-4, 218)
  • Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State (6-3, 205)
  • Mikel Jones, LB, Syracuse (6-1, 224)
  • Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah (6-4, 240)
  • Isaiah Land, Edge, Florida A&M (6-4, 225)
  • Devin Leary, QB, N.C. State (6-1, 215)
  • Jordan McFadden, OL, Clemson (6-2, 305)
  • Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia (6-1, 210)
  • Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida (6-0, 221)
  • Gervarrius Owens, S, Houston (6-0, 200)
  • Jarrett Patterson, OL, Notre Dame (6-4, 310)
  • John Michael Schmitz, OL, Minnesota (6-4, 320)
  • Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan (6-6, 250)
  • Christopher Smith, S, Georgia (5-11, 195)
  • Sidy Sow, OL, Eastern Michigan (6-5, 326)
  • Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee (6-3, 215)
  • Byron Young, DL, Alabama (6-3, 292)

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