Nov 19, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) attempts a pass during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at FirstBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Florida QB Anthony Richardson declares for NFL draft

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson is going to the NFL.

The redshirt sophomore announced Monday on Twitter that he will not play in the Gators’ Las Vegas Bowl vs. No. 17 Oregon State and will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. He had at least two years of eligibility remaining.

“As I take my next step in this journey, I will always be a Gator and strive to make Gator Nation proud,” Richardson wrote.

A native of Gainesville, Fla., Richardson started all 12 games for the Gators this season. Florida went 6-6 in head coach Billy Napier’s first season at the helm.

As a 6-foot-4 dual threat quarterback, Richardson completed 53.8 percent of his passes and threw 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 654 yards on 103 carries — a 6.3 yards per carry average — and scored nine touchdowns on the ground.

With Richardson opting out — and backup Jalen Kitna dismissed from the team after being arrested on child pornography charges last week — Florida will likely turn to Ohio State transfer Jack Miller in the Las Vegas Bowl. Miller has not taken an in-game snap for the Gators this season and has only ever completed seven college passes.

The other options for the Gators against the Beavers are walk-on Kyle Engel or true freshman Max Brown.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive back Christian Gonzalez (0) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez declares for NFL draft

Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez announced Sunday he is opting out of the team’s bowl game and entering the NFL draft.

Gonzalez is projected to be a first-round pick and one of the first cornerbacks selected.

“I am super excited to see where this next chapter — the one I’ve been dreaming of my whole life — will take me,” Gonzalez said in his announcement on Twitter. “With that being said, I am opting out of the bowl game and I will be declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft.”

Gonzalez had a team-best four interceptions for 118 yards and made 51 tackles this season in his lone season with the Ducks.

Gonzalez transferred from Colorado after last season. He played two seasons for the Buffaloes.

Two of Gonzalez’s four interceptions this season came during a 49-10 win at Colorado on Nov. 5.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) celebrates a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal in the fourth quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Utah RB Tavion Thomas to enter 2023 NFL Draft

Utah running back Tavion Thomas said Friday he will declare for the NFL draft, ending his career with the Utes.

The team’s leading rusher, Thomas said he will rehab a toe injury he sustained in Utah’s 20-17 loss last Saturday to Oregon but plans to return for the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas.

Utah concludes its regular season on Saturday at Colorado. At 8-3 (6-2 Pac-12), the Utes are eligible for a bowl game that Thomas won’t appear in.

It wasn’t too long before Thomas transferred to Utah that he was homeless as a result of “COVID and stuff back home,” in Dayton, Ohio, he told the Deseret News last year. And he expressed how grateful he was to the Utah community on Twitter.

“I look forward to getting back and dominating in the Shrine Game,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Most importantly, I want to say thank you to every single person that embraced me here and gave me this opportunity that changed my life. I will never forget the moments and memories I have here and I will forever be a Ute.”

Thomas played at Independence Community College and Cincinnati before transferring to Utah in 2021.

Last season, he was a first-team all-conference selection after carrying the ball 204 times for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns — the latter tops in the Pac-12 and third among FBS players. He added 687 yards and seven touchdowns this season and played 23 total career games in a Utah uniform.

–Field Level Media

Jul 14, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders outside linebacker Tyree Wilson is interviewed during the Big 12 Media Day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech OLB Tyree Wilson to enter 2023 draft

Texas Tech outside linebacker Tyree Wilson said he will pass on his final college season to enter the 2023 NFL Draft.

He is a projected first-round draft pick and is done for the season with a foot injury sustained in the Nov. 12 win against Kansas.

“I fully intended to finish this season with my brothers on the field, but unfortunately, I broke a bone in my foot and despite my best efforts to work through it, multiple doctors have advised me to get it fixed immediately,” Wilson posted to Twitter Sunday night. “Although I have to stay off my foot for the next couple of months, I will be 100% healthy and prepared for the NFL Draft workouts where I plan to continue to prove that I’m the best defensive player in this upcoming draft.”

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Wilson is listed as the No. 2 defensive prospect in the draft by ESPN analysts.

Wilson transferred to Texas Tech from Texas A&M before the 2020 season. He ends his Red Raiders career with 109 tackles (29 for loss), 15.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 32 games.

In 10 games this season, he had 61 tackles (14 for loss) and seven sacks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) celebrates with linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) after their win during the SEC championship game after the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Top 23 prospects to watch before ’23 NFL Draft

NFL scouts are finally settling back into their usual patterns now that COVID restrictions are in the rearview mirror, and this class figures to be top-heavy compared to the 2022 batch.

This year’s group is full of top end pass-rushing talent, but there’s no lack of depth through the back of the first round and into the second round. It would be no surprise if six or seven edge rushers were first-round picks.

The quarterback position appears to be a strong group after a down year in 2021. There are three QBs primed to go in the first dozen picks.

On the other hand, the drought of talent at offensive tackle and along the interior offensive line compounds concerns for teams looking to upgrade their quarterback’s protection. Offensive tackle is particularly light in the first couple rounds, as most of the top talent either projects as moving inside at the NFL level or lacks the playing experience that teams desire.

Here are 23 pro prospects to watch to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft:

23. CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (rSo.)
Reasonably sized and possessing good straight-line speed, Ringo has athleticism on his side. His length is an area of concern though, and press heavy teams may see a red flag physically.

22. S Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame (rJr.)
A transfer portal import from Northwestern who has quality range and toughness, Joseph will hope to return to his 2020 form. His special teams ability will win the hearts of coaches.

21. OLB Will McDonald IV, Iowa State (Jr.)
Despite being under 230 pounds, the slender pass rusher is a fitting style playing for the Cyclones. He’s destructive with great burst, agility and body control, but his size is the major question mark.

20. OT Carter Warren, Pittsburgh (rSr.)
Warren seemed to be on the path of a second- or third-round pick last year before taking advantage of extra eligibility, and the light tackle class could nudge him into the top 25 picks. He’s a long and athletic mover who checks all the boxes physically.

19. TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Few tight ends are put together like Mayer, and those who are lack the same level of fluidity. He is an athletic anomaly with upside as a blocker and immediate value as a receiver.

18. S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M (Jr.)
It’s rare that defensive backs can run around in the body of a linebacker without sacrificing some athleticism, but Johnson breaks the mold. He is a fluid mover with the tools to defend both the run and pass at a high level.

17. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Jr.)
A throwback ballcarrier and dynamo since his freshman year, Robinson’s modest agility is offset by his excellent size and violent running style. His style of play won’t be a fit for some teams, others will covet the ground-and-pound attitude.

16. DE Brandon Dorlus, Oregon (Sr.)
A rising senior with some ‘tweener elements to his game, there will be some teams that won’t know how to utilize him. He’s quite similar to Logan Hall
from last year’s class. A team who missed out may jump the line to get Dorlus as an alternative.

15. OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia (Sr.)
Smith surprised many draftniks returning for a senior year. His size isn’t ideal, but teams looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker should swoon over the diversity of his pass-rushing skill set.

14. DE B.J. Ojulari, LSU (Jr.)
The younger brother of former second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, B.J. might be even more athletic. He has unique body control and bend, which allowed him to win consistently against top SEC tackles last year.

13. WR Jordan Addison, USC (Jr.)
Addison transferred cross country from Pittsburgh to USC after the departure of his quarterback Kenny Pickett to the NFL. He’s electric with the ball in his hands but scouts will want to see how much weight he can add.

12. OLB Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (rJr.)
The leader of the Fighting Irish defense with 10 sacks last year, Foskey’s output is even more impressive given the variety of ways he was used. He can do it all from playing off-ball linebacker to rushing the passer.

11. CB Cam Smith, South Carolina (rJr.)
Smith is a rising junior who emerged after highly touted teammates Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu left for the pros. He has an NFL body and resume, and his performance in 2021 showed a lot of promise.

10. DE Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington (Sr.)
A former all-American who played close to 280 pounds in 2020, Tupuola-Fetui’s draft projection was upended by a torn Achilles in the spring
prior to his junior year. He returned in dominant fashion late in 2021 and seems primed for a breakout year at 245 pounds.

9. CB Eli Ricks, Alabama (Jr.)
Coming to Tuscaloosa by way of LSU, Ricks is a two-year starter who earned all-SEC honors. His ability to play with length and strength in press coverage bring the top-10 grade.

8. QB Will Levis, Kentucky (Sr.)
Painting in the same shades as Josh Allen, Levis has leveraged his great arm talent and plus athleticism to succeed in the SEC after transferring in from Penn
State. His statline isn’t the prettiest, but he will check most boxes for NFL teams.

7. LB Henry To’oto’o, Alabama (Sr.)
The modern-day prototype for the linebacker position starts with range and versatility, and To’oto’o has ’em in spades. His unique instincts, technique,
tackling and coverage ability push his ceiling even higher.

6. WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU (Jr.)
Boutte is a buttery smooth route runner with rare athleticism and body control. Injuries limited his output in 2021, but if he returns to 2020 form he should be a top-15 pick.

5. QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (rSo.)
A strong-armed passer with good size and potential, accuracy might improve with more experience. Losing two of his top receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL will add even more to his plate. But if Stroud delivers, he’ll be a main course in the ’23 draft.

4. DE Myles Murphy, Clemson (Jr.)
A rare frame for the position and the production to match, Murphy collected eight sacks as a sophomore and should be able to reach
double-digit sacks in his final year with the Tigers.

3. QB Bryce Young, Alabama (Jr.)
Sharp, precise and controlled would be good descriptors of Young, who stands just 5-foot-11. His physical tools are just above-average, but he plays with a lightning fast release, pinpoint accuracy and natural adjustability from within the pocket.

2. DT Jalen Carter, Georgia (Jr.)
While only a modest producer in 2021, Carter was sharing time with two first-round picks along the defensive line in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. He could be in for an enormous year if Georgia gives him the lion’s share of snaps.

1. DE Will Anderson Jr, Alabama (Jr.)
A surprise snub in Heisman voting, Anderson’s 17.5 sacks and 31 tackles for a loss in 2021 led the nation. He’s a blue-chip prospect with All-Pro potential.

–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media

(EDITORS NOTE: caption correction, player mis-spelled in original) Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Nevada quarterback Carson Strong (QB14) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles sign Carson Strong after Nevada QB slid out of draft

The Philadelphia Eagles signed undrafted free agent quarterback Carson Strong of Nevada on Sunday.

According to reports, Strong received $320,000 in guaranteed money, including a $20,000 signing bonus.

“Grateful for the opportunity,” Strong said in a tweet about his signing with the Eagles.

Strong was considered one of the top six quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft with estimates that he could be picked in the third-round. He ended up not being one of the nine quarterbacks selected during the seven-round draft.

Strong was reportedly considered a medical risk due to a serious right knee injury he sustained while playing high school basketball. He underwent surgery and missed the 2017 football season, his senior year of high school.

Strong underwent a second surgery on the knee in February of 2021. He said at the recent NFL combine that his recovery time was expected to be 12 months but he returned in six so he could play last season for Nevada.

“My doctor has me cleared to go, I know I’m ready to go, and so whatever team takes a chance on me, I’m going to be able to play ball at a high level,” Strong said at the time.

Strong didn’t appear hindered last season when he passed for 4,175 yards and 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions and was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He threw for 9.368 yards, 74 scores and 19 interceptions in 32 games (31 starts) in three seasons for the Wolf Pack.

The Eagles’ top two quarterback are starter Jalen Hurts and backup Gardner Minshew.

–Field Level Media

Georgia running back James Cook (4) runs the ball during an SEC football homecoming game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

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Georgia sets 7-round era record with 15 draft picks

Georgia was the best team in college football last season and continued its domination into the NFL draft.

The national champions had 15 players selected in the three-day draft, setting a record for the seven-round era that began in 1994.

Ohio State (2004) and LSU (2020) shared the former mark of 14.

The Bulldogs began with a rush as five defensive players were picked in Thursday’s first round, with edge rusher Travon Walker going No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Joining Walker in the first round were defensive tackle Jordan Davis (No. 13) by the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker Quay Walker (No. 22) and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (No. 28) both going to the Green Bay Packers, and safety Lewis Cine as the 32nd and final pick of the round by the Minnesota Vikings.

In the second round, receiver George Pickens was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back James Cook was chosen by the Buffalo Bills.

Star linebacker Nakobe Dean was the sixth defensive player chosen when the Eagles took him in the third round. Linebacker Channing Tindall went to the Miami Dolphins later in the round.

The Las Vegas Raiders selected running back Zamir White and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose punter Jake Camarda in the fourth round.

Four Georgia players went in the sixth round to complete the haul: Guards Justin Shaffer (Atlanta Falcons) and Jamaree Salyer (Los Angeles Chargers), cornerback Derion Kendrick (Los Angeles Rams) and tight end John Fitzpatrick (Falcons).

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (QB07) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders end Sam Howell’s long wait in draft’s fifth round

Odds were very slim that Sam Howell would hear his name called on the initial day of the NFL draft, but it seemed certain he would be selected on the second.

Instead, it took until Day Three and the first pick of the fifth round for the North Carolina quarterback to be picked. The Washington Commanders ended his long agonizing wait by choosing him with the 144th overall selection.

“I had no expectations coming into the draft,” Howell said. “Obviously everyone wants to be a first-round pick. I just want to get on a good team. I’m super blessed.”

The final four rounds of the draft were held Saturday in Las Vegas and Howell’s plunge was one of the biggest surprises of the festivities.

Most draft prognosticators pegged Howell as a second-round pick. Nobody was forecasting he’d last until the fifth round.

Pitt’s Kenny Pickett was the lone quarterback to go in Thursday’s first round as the No. 20 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No quarterbacks were tabbed in the second round. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder went in the third round (No. 74 overall) to the Atlanta Falcons, Liberty’s Malik Willis was chosen 86th by the Tennessee Titans and Matt Corral of Ole Miss was No. 94 by the Carolina Panthers.

Howell wasn’t even the first quarterback drafted on Saturday: Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe went to the New England Patriots in the fourth round (No. 137 overall).

Meanwhile, Howell was in wait-and-see mode while watching the draft in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., with family and friends. Not an easy situation for someone who set North Carolina records of 10,283 career passing yards and 92 touchdown tosses.

“It was a little stressful, but at the same time I was trusting God,” Howell said. “I was waiting for a call, and I’m so glad it was Washington that called. This is a perfect spot for me. It’s a team I wanted to play for all along, so I’m fired up.”

Howell may not see the field much this season as the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz earlier this offseason.

The Patriots’ pick of Zappe was interesting as the club selected Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft.

Zappe spent four college seasons at Houston Baptist before transferring to Western Kentucky. He passed for 5,967 yards, 62 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his one season with the Hilltoppers. The yardage and touchdowns led the nation.

Zappe was Conference USA’s Most Valuable Player but the pinball-type season didn’t overwhelm many NFL scouts. Not that Zappe cares.

“I don’t really worry about the naysayers and the critics,” Zappe said. “The Patriots believe in me. … Those are the people that I’m going to try to prove right.”

It’s not often that a punter gets drafted lower than his reputation but that occurred Saturday when San Diego State’s Matt Araiza went with the first pick of the sixth round to the Buffalo Bills and was just the third punter selected.

Araiza set an NCAA record with a 51.19 average last season and earned the nickname “Punt God” for his booming efforts. He won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and had six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards.

Araiza was a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in 1992 and 1993.

Penn State’s Jordan Stout was the first punter off the board. He went in the fourth round (No. 130 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens. Three picks later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Georgia’s Jake Camarda.

“I’ll have a lot of motivation to dominate this season,” Araiza told Buffalo reporters.

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (QB16) goes through a drill during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks nowhere to be found in 2nd round of NFL draft

On a night when many anticipated an early run on quarterbacks, NFL teams instead turned to virtually every other position.

Teams that seemingly needed a young quarterback such as the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons both passed twice on drafting a signal-caller in round two of the NFL draft Friday night.

That left QBs such as Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and North Carolina’s Sam Howell all waiting to hear their name called as the Las Vegas event moved into round three.

One of the most popular positions once again was wide receiver, as seven were picked in the second round after six wideouts were chosen in Thursday’s first round.

Only one quarterback was chosen in the first round — Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began Round 2 by choosing Houston defensive end Logan Hall. The pick originally belonged to the Jacksonville Jaguars before they moved up six slots in a trade with Tampa Bay on Thursday evening, allowing Tampa Bay to kick off Thursday night’s action.

The Green Bay Packers then traded up to select Aaron Rodgers’ newest weapon, North Dakota State wideout Christian Watson. The Packers sent two second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 59) to the Minnesota Vikings to move up for Watson.

Two picks later, the New York Jets traded up with their crosstown rival Giants to choose Iowa State’s Breece Hall, the first running back off the board in the 2022 draft. Thursday marked the first time since 2014 that no running back was selected in the opening round.

Many expected Seattle to choose a quarterback with either the 40th or 41st pick with Russell Wilson now in Denver. However, the Seahawks opted to go with a pair of Big Ten standouts — Minnesota linebacker Boye Mafe and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.

Meanwhile, Atlanta had a pair of second-round picks and chose two defensive players — Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie at No. 38 and Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen 20 picks later.

The New England Patriots (Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton at No. 50), Pittsburgh Steelers (Georgia’s George Pickens at No. 52) and Kansas City Chiefs (Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore at No. 54) chose wide receivers in Round 2.

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the eleventh overall pick to the New Orleans Saints during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: First round is least-watched since 2017

The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night brought in the fewest TV viewers since 2017, according to Sports Business Journal.

ABC, ESPN and NFL Network combined to draw 10.03 million viewers, roughly 2.5 million fewer than last year’s first round and the lowest mark since the network simulcast window was introduced in 2018.

The viewership number still cleared eight digits. The last time it was lower, a combined 9.23 million viewers tuned in for the 2017 first round on ESPN and NFL Network.

The first round, in particular the top 10, was dominated by defensive players and offensive linemen with few big names among the so-called skill players. The only quarterback drafted in the first round, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, went No. 20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The viewership number has tumbled since the record of 15.27 million was set in 2020, though that was boosted by more people staying indoors during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft continues Friday with the second and third round before concluding Saturday afternoon with rounds 4-7.

–Field Level Media