As we get deeper into the 2023 NFL Draft process, we’re learning more and more about the top of the prospect class — and that comes to a peak at the Scouting Combine, which began on Monday.
The Kansas City Chiefs pick at No. 31, meaning they don’t have any chance at the top names of this class without a trade. They’ll keep an eye on how the rest of the league is feeling about the first-round selection, regardless of their interest in moving up. With their positions of need in mind, Kansas City will have to see which ones fly off the board early — and which will be pushed down due to other less-needed positions being drafted.
With that in mind, I ranked the position groups at the top of the 2023 class — then analyzed what that means for the Chiefs.
Unlike the last draft cycle, this year’s crop of quarterbacks is garnering buzz at its top. Prospects like Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis are all constantly mocked within the top 10 — even the top five of experts’ mock drafts.
Then there’s Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who may vault his way into the top-tier discussion when he shows off his athleticism at the combine. That makes four quarterbacks that could be selected in the top half of the first night; last season, only one was taken on Day 1.
The Chiefs love to see that, obviously not having any reason to take one of them. It pushes other prospects down the board toward their spot.
2. Defensive line
Arguably the two best non-quarterback prospects in the class come from the defensive line. Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson both have cases to be the first overall selection.
After that, many expert mock drafts will have Texas Tech edge defender Tyree Wilson and Clemson edge rusher Myles Murphy going soon after; NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah had Wilson going ahead of Anderson in his latest mock draft. Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness has started to rise up boards.
While this doesn’t sound like a good thing for the Chiefs, I don’t mind Murphy and Wilson taking up edge needs for teams. I believe prospects like Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith, Auburn edge rusher Derick Hall, and LSU edge rusher B.J. Ojulari are more worthwhile picks for the Chiefs to address their need for a pass rush off the edge.
No, this class doesn’t have the no-doubt picks at the top of the class like last year’s did, when the New York Jets took Ahmad Gardner and the Houston Texans selected Derek Stingley Jr.
It does have two very exciting prospects at cornerback though, in different ways.
Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon was a late commitment to the class but is frequently predicted to go in the top half of the class because of his playmaking on the field. Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez makes plenty of plays as well, but it’s his athleticism that has him going in the top half of the draft. Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. gets put in that range often as well after showing off NFL physicality and size at the college level.
With cornerback not being a primary need for them, the Chiefs love seeing them come off the board toward the top.
4. Offensive line
The only other position that dominates the first half of the class is the offensive line, led by Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski. There will be questions about whether he should stay on the edge or move to the interior, but he will be a well-deserved top pick.
Behind him, experts see Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones being surefire first-round selections. Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence will likely be taken on Day 1 as well.
Personally, I see Oklahoma left tackle Anton Harrison and Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright as worthwhile picks on Day 1 — but both seem to be riding the fence between Rounds 1 and 2 for experts. Ohio State right tackle Dawand Jones may jump into this conversation depending on his combine performance.
With offensive tackle being a priority need for Kansas City, monitor this position on Day 1; it could be one they look to move up for if teams begin picking them off — but could also end up being one they can sit tight and make their choice of a few solid prospects.
The bottom line
The top of the draft class shakes out in a favorable way for the Chiefs. There are a handful of quarterbacks that will eat up draft slots. On top of that, big-name prospects like running back Bijan Robinson, tight end Michael Mayer and a few of the cornerbacks will push positions of need toward the bottom of the round.
Among the Chiefs’ needs, both of the trenches have top-end talent that they’ll likely miss on — but currently, there are prospects closer to Round 2 that may even better fit for the Chiefs’ roster. The majority of the talent at wide receiver and safety will be closer to that range as well, setting up the Chiefs to have a favorable situation at pick No. 31.