Who's ready for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine? Show of hands. Just FYI — two of those hands were mine, and if I had more hands, those would be up, too. It's not real football, sure, but it's one sign that we're getting closer to it, right? Right.
This week, we're in for an absolute marathon of interviews, medical and athletic testing, and schmoozing from the greatest prospects in college football. Here are three of them that I'll be watching closely... and betting on in the 2023 NFL Draft before the massive shakeup in odds the combine will undoubtedly unleash!
There aren't many people willing to argue there's a better quarterback prospect than Bryce Young in this draft. His tape speaks for itself. He won the 2021 Heisman Trophy and set Alabama's single-season record for passing yards (4,872) and touchdowns (47). So, what's the interest in Young at the combine if we already know he's the best?
Young is considered super small for an NFL quarterback. Though he was listed at 6'0 and 194 pounds at Alabama, there's concern he won't measure there. After all, he looks shorter than Kyler Murray when standing side-by-side. Murray measured in at 5'10 1/8" at the 2019 NFL Combine — ranking in the 1st percentile among quarterbacks, and to boot, he's got a much thicker frame. Young's height and weight at the combine could make or break his stock as the No. 1 overall pick (and No. 1 quarterback off the board, potentially).
Odds to be selected No. 1 Overall: -165 — Bet $16.50 to win $10 profit if Young is selected No. 1 overall. He is currently the favorite to be drafted first in this year's draft!
Why now is the time to bet: If Young were to measure in above 5'10 and weigh in at around 200 (which feels like a pipe dream at this point), his odds to be drafted No. 1 will increase exponentially... meaning our potential profits will decrease significantly. If you're in on Young, now is the time to place your bet.
The most common household names to this point have been the aforementioned Bryce Young and Ohio State prospect, C.J. Stroud. One name that might generate some buzz this week is Will Levis, with his size, arm strength, and what he accomplished in his final season at Kentucky despite limited weapons around him.
As questions loom for Stroud and what he might accomplish without a slew of first-round receivers to elevate his game, along with questions on Young's size, there seems to be some growing speculation that Levis could surprise as the first quarterback drafted in this year's class.
Odds to be drafted as first QB off the board: +800 — Bet $10 to win $80 profit if Levis is drafted as the first quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Why now is the time to bet: If you have concerns that Young will be considered too small (and that his measurements at the Combine will be problematic), now is the time to bet on Levis. Negative feedback on Young's size will surely affect the odds (likely lowering the profit margin) that can be made on Levis as the No. 1 quarterback off the board. Anthony Richardson is also gaining steam (and should test incredibly well), also potentially holding some value at +700!
The 2023 wide receiver class is a super interesting one. There's no true clear-cut No. 1 receiver as was the case for Ja'Marr Chase in 2021, nor is there a group of six receivers that feel worthy of a top-20 draft pick, as was the case in 2022. In this type of class, the NFL Combine could be just the ticket to separate one guy from the pack, and if I were to bet on one to do it, I'd pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
A lot of the top-tier receivers are considered relatively small for their position, which could hurt their draft stock with teams looking to draft a potential No. 1 wideout. Smith-Njigba was injured for most of his third and final year at OSU, but he sure did make his mark in his sophomore season.
In 2021, Smith-Njigba led Ohio State in receiving yards (ahead of WRs Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, both drafted top-12 in the 2021 NFL Draft) and was the MVP of the Rose Bowl after a stunning performance totaling 15 catches for 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Smith-Njigba outpaced both of his aforementioned teammates across the board — in passer rating when targeted, yards after the catch per reception, contested catch rate, and yards per route run. Simply put, he was impeccable.
He's a great route runner. He's technically proficient. He understands the game and the field in the way that a pro should. However, one of his biggest knocks has been his top-end speed, which becomes a bit more glaring when we're comparing him to a number of (smaller) wide receivers projected to run much faster at the combine.
Odds to be drafted as first WR off the board: +380 — Bet $10 to win $38 profit if Smith-Njigba is the first wide receiver selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Why now is the time to bet: If you believe in the talent (and that his 40-yard dash might project better than we think), now is the time to go all-in on him as the first receiver off the board. A decent performance in the 40-yard dash could be just the thing to set him atop a receiver class without a true No. 1.
Note: NFL Draft odds are not available in all jurisdictions where sports betting is legalized.