Who Are the Favorites to Go No. 1 in the 2023 NFL Draft?

With the NFL regular season in the rearview mirror and all the draft-eligible players having made their decisions, the focus shifts to the draft season for most organizations around the league. Much of the intrigue begins with the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, and that’s our focal point as well. 

Since 1998, when Peyton Manning went No. 1 overall to the Indianapolis Colts, 18 quarterbacks have been selected with the first pick of the NFL Draft, compared to seven non-QBs. 

With potential franchise quarterbacks Bryce Young out of Alabama and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud declared for the 2023 NFL Draft, they are the favorites to be the first player off the board. Even though the Chicago Bears own the pick, it would be a surprise if a quarterback doesn’t go No. 1 overall.

While Chicago general manager Ryan Poles’s comment that they would have to be “absolutely blown away” to draft a quarterback left the door slightly open, the expectation is the Bears will build around Justin Fields and trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team. 

Young goes into the draft season as the odds-on favorite to be that player, priced at -120 by FanDuel, to join the likes of Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow, a pair of No. 1 overall picks who led their teams into the playoffs in their second seasons in the NFL.

The Heisman Trophy winner is a dynamic playmaker who can be effective in and out of the pocket. Young has excellent on-field awareness, a talented arm, and the scrambling ability to extend plays when they don’t go as planned. Those tools have many believing he’s a franchise quarterback.

The biggest knock on Young is his size, specifically, his lack thereof. Even more than the fact he’s expected to measure in at under 6’0″, which is very short for an NFL quarterback, it’s that Young has a very slight frame, which seriously puts into question his long-term durability. 

As high as some are on the Alabama product, he’s not Lawrence, who was considered a can’t-miss prospect. If not Young, Stroud is undoubtedly in play to go No. 1 overall this April, which the odds indicate. The Buckeye is +250 at FanDuel to be the No. 1 overall pick.

It’s not uncommon to see a shift in draft projections from the start of the draft season through the NFL Scouting Combine and up to Draft Day. At this point of the 2018 NFL Draft process, most had Sam Darnold pegged as the top pick. Instead, the Cleveland Browns called Baker Mayfield’s name.

It wouldn’t be a significant surprise if Stroud made a similar move. At 6’3″ and 215 pounds, he has a size edge over Young and put up very gaudy numbers at OSU. Stroud is a highly accurate quarterback with excellent touch on his pin-point passes.

The arm strength and ability to push the ball down the field are also there. Questions about his capacity to handle pocket pressure have been muted since Stroud’s four-touchdown performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoffs semifinal, his final game as a collegian.

While most will have Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter as the top player on their draft boards, the importance of the quarterback position makes Young and Stroud the most likely candidates to be the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft