2023 NFL Draft: Top 25 Senior Bowl prospects entering Week 9 of college football season

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With an enticing mix of length and power at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson has the physical ability to man numerous spots on an NFL front. (Karl B DeBlaker/AP)

This summer, 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 based on their performance over the first half of the college football season. I also 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 six months away (April 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo.), 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.

NOTES:

  • 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 suffered against Arkansas on Sept. 24.

25) Sidy Sow, OL, Eastern Michigan (6-foot-5, 326 pounds)

Previous rank: No. 20

First-half takeaway: The Eagles' left guard impresses NFL scouts with a combination of size, nimble feet and the flexibility to push aside oncoming blitzers. Sow's width prevents defensive tackles from easily winning gaps against him and his relative quickness gets him out in space to negate linebackers on screens. He's also a capable pulling blocker on off-tackle plays.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday vs. Toledo. The Rockets' front four is no joke. Sow had better be consistent playing with a nasty attitude and placing his hands on his man's numbers to cut off Toledo DTs Judge Culpepper (son of former NFL defender Brad Culpepper) and Desjuan Johnson in Ypsilanti.

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

Previous rank: No. 18

First-half takeaway: Robinson missed Kentucky's last game (vs. Mississippi State) due to injury after looking like the perfect replacement for Wan'Dale Robinson (no relation) in the Wildcats' offense early in the year. He'll be an explosive playmaker as an NFL inside receiver because he possesses solid hands and has the tenacity, quickness and open-field awareness to elude defenders after the catch.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday at Tennessee. A healthy Robinson will get on the good side of NFL general managers by making defenders miss on quick throws, fighting through contact and grabbing contested catches in front of a hyped-up Vols crowd at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

23) Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma (5-10, 210)

Previous rank: Not ranked

First-half takeaway: Gray has more carries through seven games this season (97) than he had all last year (78) for the Sooners. He presses the line hard and finds creases with patience, vision and jump-cuts, and sets up defenders while finding a second gear in the open field. NFL coaches will love that he can spin off contact because of his strength and low center of gravity.

Second-half matchups to watch: Saturday at Iowa State and Nov. 5 vs. Baylor. Gray will earn praise from scouts if able to run through contact at the second level and continue to be an explosive option out of the backfield against two solid defenses over the next two weeks.

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

Previous rank: No. 16

First-half takeaway: Kelly dealt with a concussion and some uneven efforts during the first half of this season. He matches up well against bigger receivers because of his size and length, forcing quarterbacks to come off their first read. The 2021 second-team All-Pac-12 selection's hand-eye coordination for breaking up passes is very good, as is his willingness to attack runs or quick screens.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday at UCLA. Bruins senior receiver Jake Bobo (formerly of Duke) will attempt to draw penalties with physical play downfield against the aggressive Kelly on Saturday night, as well as run crisp routes to challenge the senior corner's ability to stick at the top of the route.

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

Previous rank: No. 15

First-half takeaway: Rice is leading the Mustangs in receiving for the third straight year by winning 50/50 balls, plucking the ball away from his frame and turning hitches into big gains. He's been dealing with a turf toe injury, but his sinewy-strong frame helps him get through contact after the catch and block aggressively for his teammates downfield.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 vs. Houston. Rice will have a prime opportunity to showcase his abilities by beating Houston's physical, strong secondary off the line and bringing in contested throws downfield.

20) Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah (6-4, 240)

Previous rank: No. 21

First-half takeaway: Kincaid has stepped up with fellow Utes TE Brant Kuithe out for the year, leading all FBS tight ends with 558 receiving yards and tying for the national lead at the position (along with Notre Dame's Michael Mayer and Memphis' Caden Prieskorn) with six receiving scores. The University of San Diego transfer's smooth, quick movements and catch radius are noteworthy, as are his solid blocking skills.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 19 at Oregon. Kincaid's athleticism and strong hands will be tested against Oregon's speedy and tough-minded linebackers/secondary when the Utes head to Eugene in a few weeks.

UPDATE: Kincaid led Utah with seven catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Utes' 21-17 win over Washington State on Thursday night. However, he exited the game with an injury after the TD grab and was later seen wearing a sling.

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

Previous rank: No. 24

First-half takeaway: Iowa's defensive leader has lived up to expectations as a senior, hitting his run fits inside and showing read-react skills to get to the flat to stop off-tackle plays and quick throws. Campbell is an aware zone defender (he made an excellent interception against Ohio State last weekend) and possesses the short-area quickness to cover tight ends.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 12 vs. Wisconsin. Campbell must attack the Badgers' strong offensive linemen and shed their second-level blocks quickly to prevent big back Braelon Allen from breaking free.

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

Previous rank: No. 22

First-half takeaway: Pickens possesses an interesting mix of strength and athleticism. The Gamecocks' star defender brings a powerful punch off the snap, works through or spins off blocks to make quarterbacks uncomfortable, and keeps his shoulders square as a run defender. The big man also leaves the box regularly to get after ball carriers.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 12 at Florida. NFL personnel evaluators will be very interested to see if Pickens can get push against Florida guard O'Cyrus Torrence and shed the strong blocker with his swim or push-pull move when they battle in the trenches in Gainesville.

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

Previous rank: No. 17

First-half takeaway: Hall has played well despite Auburn's overall troubles, leading the team with seven tackles for loss and four sacks. He's disciplined in his rush to prevent quarterback scrambles and possesses a powerful long-arm move to collapse the pocket. Hall's hustle is always on display, whether chasing to the sideline or downfield to prevent explosive plays.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 26 at Alabama. If Hall wants to be a first-round pick, he must use violent hands and speed to consistently beat Alabama's talented tackles and track down quarterback Bryce Young in this year's Iron Bowl.

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

Previous rank: No. 14

First-half takeaway: Robinson's a stalwart in the Seminoles' secondary, often asked to play deep to securely tackle ball carriers at the second level and serve as a reliable last line of defense. He's adept at covering slot receivers and tight ends (though he gives up some size) lined up in the box and is effective when occasionally asked to harass quarterbacks via the blitz.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 25 vs. Florida. NFL defensive coordinators would love to see Robinson pick off Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (or get his first forced fumble of the year when the athletic passer leaves the pocket) against the Gators in Tallahassee.

15) Matthew Bergeron, OL, Syracuse (6-5, 322)

Previous rank: Not ranked

First-half takeaway: Syracuse's revitalization has come in part from a strong offensive line led by this senior left tackle. Bergeron has a strong anchor, excellent agility and good hand placement in pass protection. The Canada native's athleticism and aggressiveness also show through in the run game, where he crashes the edge, pulls around the right tackle and sticks with moving targets for as long as needed.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh. Bergeron passed his strongest test of the year by playing well against Clemson's highly touted front four, but Pittsburgh awaits with rushers Deslin Alexandre, Habakkuk Baldonado and John Morgan III ready to battle.

14) Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (6-4, 218)

Previous rank: No. 25

First-half takeaway: Hooker's been excellent this year when his feet are set to deliver a smooth laser to his primary target. Alabama found out how accurate he can be to all parts of the field when there is no pass rush and coverage is unable to adjust to the Volunteers' route combinations. The super senior also strides for long runs if teams aren't wary of his mobility.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 at Georgia. Georgia hosts Hooker and the Vols in one of the biggest games of the year, so NFL teams will have their eyes peeled to see if the 24-year-old passer can move within the pocket to avoid the Bulldogs' pressure, deliver accurately on crossers and when on the run, and get more strength on his deep throws.

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

Previous rank: No. 12

First-half takeaway: Garner could have played for the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" defense in its heyday because of his height, length and physicality. The former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun has fluid enough hips to stay with receivers downfield despite his size, making quarterbacks check down or take off from the pocket.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 vs. Alabama. Garner's draft stock could take a big jump if he's able to show elite recovery speed and ball skills when Bryce Young targets whichever talented Alabama receiver is lined up across from him in Baton Rouge.

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

Previous rank: No. 11

First-half takeaway: Despite overrunning plays and missing a couple of open-field tackles against his former teammates in the loss to Tennessee, To'oTo'o has been solid this year. He directs the defensive front seven, flows through traffic to find backs in the run game, attacks throws to the outside and blitzes to free up defensive linemen.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 at LSU. In the annual Alabama-LSU matchup two weeks from now, To'oTo'o can bolster his résumé by shedding lineman blocks inside, as well as proving his speed in coverage and while spying Daniels, as he did effectively with Tennessee's Hendon Hooker

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

Previous rank: No. 13

First-half takeaway: Davis missed a couple of weeks due to injury but has been a consistent thorn in the sides of offensive lines since his return. While not the biggest interior D-lineman, he hustles to the ball whether in the backfield or toward the hashes, plays with leverage against double teams at 1-technique and wins gaps with swim and rip moves at the 3-tech.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 at Notre Dame. Davis will match up against Notre Dame stalwart guard Jarrett Patterson under the lights in South Bend, looking to work his quick hands and feet to get into the backfield regularly.

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

Previous rank: No. 10

First-half takeaway: This sixth-year Trojan has started at both guard and tackle spots during his career. He's stood out at left guard for USC this season as a sturdy pass protector and strong run blocker who can move defensive tackles out of the hole. Vorhees is not just a mauler, though, as he is effective moving behind the line and hitting second-level targets.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 26 at USC. Notre Dame will fly to Los Angeles for its regular-season finale, with defensive tackles Howard Cross III (son of the former NFL tight end) and Jayson Ademilola looking to challenge Vorhees' strength and quickness in pass protection.

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

Previous rank: No. 8

First-half takeaway: With Cordell Volson off to start for the Bengals as a rookie, Mauch became the star of the Bison's offensive line. He's been outstanding in the run game, walling off defenders inside and jumping out of his stance to attack corners and linebackers. FCS defenders rarely gain an advantage on pass plays, either, as he plays balanced and strong on the edge.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday vs. Illinois State. The foot injury Mauch suffered against South Dakota State better heal before he takes on Illinois State defensive end Zeke Vandenburgh on Saturday, as the high-motor and agile Redbirds star already has 7.5 sacks in six games.

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

Previous rank: No. 7

First-half takeaway: Smith leads a stingy Bulldogs defense with six tackles for loss and three sacks halfway through the season. His strength on contact allows him to put opposing linemen on skates, and his violent hands and speed help him turn the corner. Smith plays well off the ball, too, because of his quickness, toughness against lineman blocks and diagnostic skills.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee. Smith has a relatively slight frame for an NFL edge rusher, so his draft stock would benefit from consistently beating Tennessee's strong tackles with speed and power to sack Hendon Hooker (and limit his scrambles) when Georgia faces off with Tennessee for a de facto SEC East title game.

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

Previous rank: No. 9

First-half takeaway: Jones has always looked great getting off the bus because of his huge frame and extra-long arms. That length and a strong grip make this right tackle very tough to beat around the corner and help him overpower defenders on run plays. A former basketball player, Jones is more agile than you'd expect at his size, so he can pull and lead to take out linebackers and safeties.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 26 vs. Michigan. The Game is always a premier matchup on Thanksgiving weekend, but Jones could really win over NFL scouts by latching onto Michigan's rising star pass rusher, Mike Morris, or recovering quickly if he misses his initial punch.

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

Previous rank: No. 2

First-half takeaway: Carter's production is down this year, as he posted 2.5 sacks in the first five games (sitting out the last two contests for undisclosed reasons) versus 14.5 in 12 contests last year, partially because teams are keenly aware of his presence. He's improved his strength at the point of attack, however, looked agile in coverage, and he's also shown bend around the hoop when in pass-rush mode.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 12 at Troy. Troy is the only pass-heavy team remaining on the Black Knights' schedule (291 yards per game) and has also given up a lot of sacks (3.4 per game), so Carter must use his speed and length to get after the Trojans' quarterback.

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

Previous rank: No. 4

First-half takeaway: Prior to missing the LSU contest with a lower-body injury, the Louisiana transfer had adjusted quite well to his first year in the SEC. He's been powerful off the snap and able to move defenders out of the hole in the run game. Torrence's wide frame belies his mobility and upper-body flexibility to recover and adjust to oncoming targets.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday vs. Georgia. There will be quite a showdown in the Florida-Georgia trenches when the teams meet in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, with fans and scouts alike focusing on Torrence's ability to stonewall and get movement on an elite talent like Jalen Carter.

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

Previous rank: No. 5

First-half takeaway: Flowers has returned to his sophomore-year form this fall, winning off the line of scrimmage with quickness and posing danger for defenses after the catch on crossers and quick throws. He finds space downfield, as well, despite his small build because his body control and strong hands allow him to adjust to throws outside of his frame.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 26 vs. Syracuse. The Orange will arrive in Chestnut Hill with a talented (and hopefully healthier) group of defensive backs from whom Flowers should be able to separate downfield. Winning contested passes would check off another box for scouts, as well.

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

Previous rank: No. 3

First-half takeaway: Duncan's athleticism shined through during the first half of the season, both in his smooth movement in pass protection and agility getting to targets in the open field. Maryland's left tackle is difficult to beat off the edge, especially when his motor is running hot and he's playing with heavy hands. Duncan also flashes the ability to drive his man in the run game.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 19 vs. Ohio State. Duncan must be consistently aggressive to the whistle -- yet in control -- to stymie strong Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison and the Buckeyes' speedy and tough linebackers when they visit College Park.

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

Previous rank: No. 6

First-half takeaway: Wilson has not disappointed this season, using his size, length and athleticism to rank among the national leaders with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He is strong enough to take on NFL tackles from a 5-technique position yet agile enough to play on the edge, bending or overwhelming his man with power to attack the quarterback while also tracking plays to the flat.

Second-half matchup to watch: Saturday vs. Baylor. Wilson will face a worthy opponent in left tackle Connor Galvin when Baylor crashes Family Weekend in Lubbock, with scouts watching to see if the talented edge rusher can gain an advantage off the snap and finish plays in the pocket.

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

Previous rank: No. 1

First-half takeaway: There have been few surprises in Levis' game so far this season. He's shown off his arm strength with deep balls and darts in tight windows, but also displayed a bit of touch on shorter throws and over the top when needed. He's exhibited toughness when running, coming back from a foot injury and taking shots after throws.

Second-half matchup to watch: Nov. 19 vs. Georgia. This will be Levis' most-watched tape in the pre-draft process. Going against the defensive champs, he'll have to avoid edge rushers like Nolan Smith and interior studs like Jalen Carter, while also making good decisions against a strong Bulldogs secondary.

Twenty-five more to watch

Listed in alphabetical order:

  • Jordan Battle, S, Alabama (6-foot-1, 206 pounds)
  • Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin (6-4, 315)
  • Arquon Bush, CB, Cincinnati (6-0, 198)
  • Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA (6-1, 220)
  • Blake Freeland, OL, BYU (6-8, 305)
  • Nick Hampton, Edge, Appalachian State (6-3, 235)
  • Tyler Harrell, WR, Alabama (6-0, 194)
  • Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State (6-6, 272)
  • Ryan Hayes, OL, Michigan (6-7, 305)
  • Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State (6-2, 232)
  • K.J. Henry, Edge, Clemson (6-4, 255)
  • Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State (6-3, 205)
  • Anthony Johnson, CB, Virginia (6-2, 205)
  • Isaiah Land, Edge, Florida A&M (6-4, 225)
  • Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State (6-3, 236)
  • Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia (6-1, 210)
  • Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida (6-0, 221)
  • Gervarrius Owens, S, Houston (6-0, 200)
  • A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest (6-5, 205)
  • John Michael Schmitz, OL, Minnesota (6-4, 320)
  • JL Skinner, S, Boise State (6-4, 220)
  • Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB (6-0, 195)
  • Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee (6-3, 215)
  • Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (6-0, 180)
  • Byron Young, DL, Alabama (6-3, 292)

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