The NFL Draft is a lot of things, but predictable is never one of them.
Sure. Analysts and reporters can often get a sense of how the first five picks will pan out. Some teams and prospects are an obvious match, and the pick is telegraphed early. However, beyond the first few selections, every mock draft pieced together by analyst and fan alike fall apart.
Every year at least one highly touted prospect finds themselves in free fall during the first round. Sometimes last-second breaking news places a bad light on a prospect. Laremy Tunsil fell out of the top 10 after the infamous gas mask video was released. Other times it is a poor performance in the combine or pre-draft workouts. Orlando Brown Jr. fell to the third round after testing poorly at the combine. Then there are the inexplicable falls. The Aaron Rodgers type falls.
Prospects fall in every NFL Draft, and this year will be no different. Whether it is character concerns, injury questions or potential physical limitations, pre-draft surefire top picks will find themselves waiting deep into the first round or early in the second to hear their name called.
Here are three prospects who could find themselves in free fall during the 2023 NFL Daft.
Jalen Carter, Georgia
This is possibly the most obvious potential fall in the draft. Entering the NFL offseason, Jalen Carter was viewed as a favorite to go in the top three selections of the draft. Many viewed Carter as the best non-quarterback prospect in the class. Then things began to fall apart for the Georgia star.
Carter left the scouting combine early after an arrest warrant for him was issued in Georgia. Carter was involved in a Jan. 15 car crash that killed his teammate and a team staffer. Carter pled no contest to charges of reckless driving and was sentenced to 12 months probation.
Then Carter showed up to his Georgia pro day overweight, and he was unable to finish his drills. The growing concerns about Carter continued after he refused to meet with teams drafting outside the top 10 selections.
Talent has never been an issue for Carter. On the field, the defensive lineman will be an immediate impact as a pass rusher and run stuffer. Carter plays with explosive burst and good power against offensive linemen. As talented as Carter is, some NFL teams will take him off their board for the list of growing concerns.
It is hard to imagine Carter falling outside the top 10. The Philadelphia Eagles likely end a potential slide at pick No. 10. However, the odds of Carter landing in the top three seem slim.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
NBC’s Peter King recently reported C.J. Stroud may be the quarterback prospect to fall in this year’s draft.
” A month ago, C.J. Stroud was the odds-on favorite to be the first pick in the draft,” King said in his Football Morning in America column. “Today, it’s no lock he goes in the top seven, which seems (and is) insane.”
Will Levis has overtaken Stroud as the betting favorite to go second overall to the Houston Texans. The rumor mill has floated the idea that the team will pass on a quarterback entirely at the second pick.
Then, there is the report that Stroud struggled on the S2 cognitive test, which replaced the Wonderlick test. Stroud reportedly tested in the 18th percentile. How much of a bearing these results hold for Stroud in the NFL draft is unclear.
Stroud has a good arm. He makes his way through his progressions and he throws with accuracy and touch. Among all the quarterbacks in this year’s class, Stroud stands out in his ability to attack the intermediate areas of the field. There are concerns about his ability to play out of structure and sense pressure, but his skill set appeared to guarantee his place as a top-three pick.
This report by King needs to be taken with a grain of salt. We are at the stage of draft coverage where any and all speculation gets reported. King projects Stroud with the third pick in his mock draft, indicating how seriously he believes his own report. However, if the Texans do pass on Stroud, there is a world where he starts to fall.
This year’s receiver class is not stacked with high-end talent. Some teams have high grades on the likes of Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Jordan Addison. Others will view them around the same level as the mid-round prospects. Zay Flowers and Josh Downs are in the same boat.
Depending on how the draft shakes out, there is a chance the draft’s top receivers do not start to come off the board until the mid-to-late 20s of the first round. Smith-Njigba may have the best chance at going in the top 15. The Texans at pick No. 12 or the Green Bay Packers at pick No. 13 are both in a position to take a receiver early.
However, with the talent pool as it is, the most realistic starting point for this year’s receiving class is the Los Angeles Chargers at pick No. 21. Johnston appears to be the most polarizing of this year’s group. His draft selection could hinge significantly more on how teams grade him than the other wideouts who top the class.
There is not a Jamar Chase or Garrett Wilson in this year’s class. These receivers lack true No. 1 wideout upside. With high-end talent at other positions available, it is hard to see NFL teams reaching above their grade on this receiving group.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
Featured Image Credit: Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
Tweet: @WoodwoodSports or comment on your favorite social media platform!