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Lunchbreak: Ranking Strength of 2023 NFL Draft Position Groups

We're less than a month away from the 2023 NFL Draft.

Every year, there are some positions stronger than others in the respective class. NFL Media Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein recently ranked the 2023 position groups by strength, starting with cornerback. He wrote:

We saw 12 cornerbacks go in the first three rounds last year, including Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner. There might not be a Sauce in this year's class, but there appears to be a higher number of players who will be starters in the NFL. In fact, there will be big, long, explosive perimeter cornerbacks available in each of the first four rounds. I expect Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon to be the first two players drafted at the position, but we should see five, maybe even six, taken in the first round.

Interestingly, safety was ranked 10th out of 11th as far as depth and talent. After three safeties were drafted in the first round last spring, Zierlein expects just one, Brian Branch, to go that early. He also noted that many teams project Branch to play slot cornerback.

Day 2 will offer up a few future starters, with Antonio Johnson and Jordan Battle leading the way and Jartavius Martin impressing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Ji'Ayir Brown might fall to Day 3 after not showing ideal speed/explosiveness at the combine, but he is a good football player. Memphis' Quindell Johnson is my Day 3 sleeper from this group. Overall, however, this isn't a great class.

Zierlein said tight end and edge defender, respectively, are the strongest after cornerbacks, followed by wide receiver at No. 4. He said this year's group of wideouts "reminds him of the 2016 class" in which the Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell.

There wasn't a true WR1 in that group, and I get the same feeling from the top of the current class. Second-rounders Michael Thomas and Tyler Boyd became two of the best receivers drafted in 2016 (with fifth-rounder Tyreek Hill leading the group), and I believe we could see a similar pattern develop from the 2023 crop. I expect Jalin Hyatt to become a dangerous complementary weapon, while guys like Zay Flowers and Josh Downs should become productive slot targets. But I'm not seeing the top-end talent that recent drafts have offered at wide receiver.

Following wide receiver, Zierlein slated quarterbacks fifth, interior defensive line sixth, interior offensive line seventh, offensive tackle eighth, running back ninth, safety 10th and linebacker 11th.

This is not the greatest year to be in need of help at linebacker. However, I am much higher on Arkansas inside linebacker/rush specialist Drew Sanders than some of my fellow draft analysts. I think he fits today's model of the versatile athlete teams seek. After Sanders, I believe the pickings get slim in a hurry. There is below-average depth, with many prospects projecting as special teams contributors who are unlikely to develop into starters.

PFF ranks NFC quarterbacks after first round of free agency

It's possible that some teams will sign or draft new quarterbacks, but where does the NFC stand now as far as passers?

Analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked the NFC quarterbacks by category of strength; PFF's Sam Monson put Jalen Hurts on an island at the top of the list and wrote Hurts "has been a dynamic rushing threat for the Philadelphia Eagles, and his development as a passer has been significant."

The following category was titled "capable of a run of elite play," and Monson included Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Kyler Murray (Cardinals), Dak Prescott (Cowboys) and Matthew Stafford (Rams). Monson wrote:

Stafford showed most recently that combination can be enough to take home a Super Bowl ring, especially in the NFC where the postseason run is likely weaker, but it's far less reliable as predicting the run of elite play isn't easy.

Cousins, Murray and Prescott have each had stretches of elite play, but it rarely transformed the team into a true contender at the sharp end of the season. Timing that run for the most important games of the season is the alchemy achieved by the likes of Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Stafford.

The only one from this group who looks to be entering the 2023 NFL season with a team around them that could capitalize on their run of elite play if it manifests itself is Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys.

View home and away photos of the Vikings 2023 regular season schedule.

Monson next put Daniel Jones (Giants), Geno Smith (Seahawks), Jared Goff (Lions) and Derek Carr (Saints) in a group that "needs a super team supporting cast."

Baker Mayfield, who recently signed with the Buccaneers, was in a category all to himself, and the final group was designated "too young/inexperienced to tell": Justin Fields (Bears), Brock Purdy (49ers), Jordan Love (Packers), Desmond Ridder (Falcons), Sam Howell (Commanders) and whomever the Panthers draft after trading up to acquire the No. 1 overall pick.

Carolina's quarterback is the most unknown quantity, as we have yet to get any firm confirmation on his identity beyond the video of [Panthers] quarterback coach Josh McCown seeming set to adopt Ohio State's C.J. Stroud at his pro day.