While the 2023 NFL Draft is still far off in the distance, players that will be drafted early are on the field now. Each week presents unique matchups for draft prospects and this week is no different. Here are NFL Draft prospects to watch in college football week 1.
1. Cole Bishop, S, Utah Utes
Utah went to their second-straight Rose Bowl last season. That means they are coming into the 2023 season with big expectations again. While some of those expectations are focused on the offense, their defense is also solid. Cole Bishop is back at safety after an incredible 2022 season. He finished the year with 83 total tackles, one interception and three passes defended.
Bishop will be put to the test against Florida in week 1. The Gators have a lot of new pieces this year after defeating Utah last year. Even so, Bishop will have his work cut out for him. He’ll be asked to help stop the run, as the Gators have a few talented running backs. If he plays well, Utah can pick up a win and some revenge on the Gators.
2. Zach Frazier, IOL, West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia has had struggles over the last few years. One way they can improve is on the offensive line, which Zach Frazier leads. His play helped him earn First Team All-Big 12 honors following the 2022 season, as voted on by the coaches.
In week 1 the Mountaineers play Penn State. The Nittany Lions have plenty of talent on their defense that will be going pro soon. Frazier will have to hold up in pass protection specifically and he has gotten plenty of pass blocking reps in Neal Brown’s offense. Frazier has done well at center for the Mountaineers and can really improve his stock with a good performance against a good team like Penn State.
3. Bryson Nesbit, TE, North Carolina Tar Heels
Last season North Carolina won nine games. That was largely thanks to a good offense led by Drake Maye. One of Maye’s favorite targets is Nesbit, who had a highly productive season for a tight end in 2022. He finished the year with 35 catches for 507 yards and four touchdowns.
The week 1 matchup for Nesbit and the Tar Heels is the South Carolina Gamecocks. North Carolina’s defense likely won’t shut down South Carolina’s offense, which means that the Tar Heels will need to put up some points to win the game. Nesbit can have a good game as a result and show the country what he can do.
4. Mekhi Wingo, DL, LSU Tigers
LSU won the SEC West last season in Brian Kelly’s first season. Expectations are now higher entering the 2023 season, as the team has star players on both sides of the ball. Mekhi Wingo, the former Missouri Tiger, was great for LSU last season. He had 46 total tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks in 2022.
The Tigers are taking on Florida State in week 1, which will be a good matchup. They will be without star defensive tackle Maason Smith, who is suspended due to receiving improper benefits. That means Wingo and the rest of the defensive line will have to step up to stop the high-powered Florida State offense. Wingo has shown he can impact a game in ways that don’t show up in the box score and he’ll need to against Florida State to help his draft stock and LSU’s chances of winning.
5. Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State Seminoles
Florida State won nine regular-season games last season, which was a huge step up. They had a good offense, but their defense also played well. Jared Verse was a big part of the defense and could’ve gone pro, but instead elected to return for this season. In 2022 Verse had 48 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Verse would’ve been one of the first pass rushers selected in the 2023 draft had he entered. He has great explosiveness and is able to win by converting speed to power. For Florida State to win this game, they will need him to get after LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and force some bad decisions. Verse will likely be the first edge rusher taken in the 2024 NFL Draft and can get his season started off right in this game.
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