Mel Kiper Jr. releases 2023 Big Board, lists 4 Big Ten players among top 25
Mel Kiper Jr. is turning his attention to the 2023 NFL Draft, and the ESPN analyst has pegged 4 Big Ten players among his top 25 prospects.
Kiper on his Big Board listed Ohio State QB CJ Stroud at No. 3, Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 5, Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski at No. 11 and at No. 15, Paris Johnson Jr., the Ohio State offensive tackle.
“Alabama’s Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, will have a few signal-callers breathing down his neck at the top of the board. This is also a really strong class along the defensive line — again — and at wide receiver.”
Here’s Kiper’s description of each player:
Stroud: It was Stroud, not Young, who led the FBS in Total QBR last season (91.6 to 87.6). Stroud had an inconsistent start to the season, but he finished on a tear, throwing 36 touchdown passes and just three picks in his final nine games. Can he improve even more in Year 2? He’s only scratching the surface of his talent, and he has a big-time wideout to throw to in Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Smith-Njigba: Smith-Njigba led Ohio State in catches and yards, even on a team with two wide receivers drafted in Round 1 in April. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception, showing stellar burst and explosiveness. He’s a hands catcher who can run the entire route tree, and he can make defenders miss after the catch. Most of Smith-Njigba’s work came from the slot — all but eight of his catches came from when he was aligned there — but he’ll play more outside in 2022. He led the FBS in receiving yards per route run (4.0).
Skoronski: Skoronski is a technician at left tackle; he’s already advanced. He has great feet and can bend. He shrugs off quick pass-rushers and can contain rushers who try to win with power. Skoronski was rarely caught off guard in his games that I watched — he always maintained his base. With another season like 2021, he could be Northwestern’s second top-15 offensive tackle pick in three years (Rashawn Slater in 2021).
Johnson Jr.: Johnson was a stellar guard for the Buckeyes last season, but he’s going to move outside to left tackle in 2022. I think he could move all the way into the top 10. He has projectable traits and an ideal skill set for the position. He’ll also be helped by several really good edge rushers having left the Big Ten for April’s draft. I’m projecting Johnson to be one of the country’s top tackles this season.