More than 100 underclassmen opted to submit their names to the 2023 NFL Draft ahead of the deadline to enter which passed on Monday. While players have until Thursday to remove their names before the official list is announced on Friday, the declarations allow us an opportunity to look to the future of many top programs.
Eight of the top 10 players in the 2023 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings are early-entry candidates, with the top two coming from the same school: Alabama. College football is a sport marked by transition, but losing production unexpectedly can ultimately swing national championship hopes.
Here are 10 programs that were hit hardest by early entries to the 2023 NFL Draft, including three of four College Football Playoff participants and beginning with a Sugar Bowl filled with defections.
As college football’s top NFL factory, Alabama will always rank near the top of these lists. Still, the 2023 class is a massive blow, even by Crimson Tide standards. Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young and national defensive player of the year Will Anderson represent one of the best pairings that Nick Saban has ever had on a single team as both project to be top-three picks. Safety Brian Branch and running back Jahmyr Gibbs were also major contributors. Mixing the losses with graduations of starters like Emil Ekiyor, Henry To’oTo’o and Jordan Battle makes this one of the biggest exoduses of talent in the Saban era.
The Wildcats only lost two underclassmen to the NFL Draft, but both were game-changers for the program. Running back Deuce Vaughn trails only Darren Sproles for most career rushing yards and posted nearly 5,000 yards from scrimmage and 43 touchdowns in just three seasons. Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah posted more than 20 sacks in his career and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors during the Wildcats’ Big 12 title campaign. Replacing both players will be a difficult task.
The last superstars of the Brent Venables defensive line era are out the door as defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee joined senior K.J. Henry in the NFL Draft. The trio has combined for 79 tackles for loss and 40 sacks in their careers, leaving Dabo Swinney with massive holes to fill at edge rusher. Linebacker Trenton Simpson is also a potential first-round pick.
Losing quarterback C.J. Stroud and a pair of starting offensive linemen — Paris Johnson Jr. and Luke Wypler — hurts. The Buckeyes also lose senior tackle Dawand Jones. However, Ohio State had to adjust to life without Jaxon Smith-Njigba early thanks to a lower-body injury, so the program is better prepared than most to move on from an All-America caliber player. Replacing a quarterback is never easy, but Ryan Day has solid options.
After losing All-Americans Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison in 2021, the Panthers produced more All-Americans in defensive tackle Calijah Kancey and running back Israel Abanikanda in 2022. Kancey was perhaps the most dynamic interior lineman in the country and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy. Safety Brandon Hill was also an important contributor.
Arguably Notre Dame’s three best players are off to the NFL Draft after a strong finish to 2022. Tight end Michael Mayer is a first-round candidate and future star, while edge rusher Isaiah Foskey and Northwestern safety transfer Brandon Joseph have long NFL careers ahead. Expect a youth movement next season with a wave of talented recruiting classes coming of age.
Only two Trojans left early for the draft, but both were extreme difference-makers. Receiver Jordan Addison won the Biletnikoff Award at Pitt as a sophomore before transferring to Los Angeles. Defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu transformed himself from middling recruit to unanimous All-American during a legendary career. Both are irreplaceable, but Lincoln Riley has a team full of talents capable of filling the voids.
The biggest losses for TCU are seniors: QB Max Duggan, OL Steve Avila, WRs Taye Barber and Derius Davis, CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. However, projected first-round wide receiver Quentin Johnston and running back Kendre Miller were All-America candidates who gave the Horned Frogs an explosive component and swung multiple games in the team’s favor. TCU has no avenue to replace those pieces, and will likely look to the transfer portal.
The national champions will always lose key talent, but the Bulldogs actually made out relatively well compared to previous champs. Defenders Jalen Carter and Kelee Ringo are the highlights, while linemen Warren McClendon and Broderick Jones were solid contributors. Tight end Darnell Washington’s loss will be felt, but Brock Bowers returning certainly helps. The Bulldogs have enough underclassmen returning that 2023 should still be a national championship-caliber year.
Calling running back Devon Achane the crux of Texas A&M’s offense is an understatement. In a 38-23 upset over LSU, Achane had 215 of Texas A&M’s 429 yards and a pair of touchdowns. When Achane missed an SEC game against Auburn, the Aggies mustered 10 total points. Adding top defensive backs Antonio Johnson and Jaylon Jones to the list only makes things worse.
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