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The Draft - NFL: Five stars to follow

The 2023 NFL Draft is now just four weeks away and most teams will now have made up their minds over the order of their preferred college prospects and draft-day strategy.

Fans will soon be flocking to Kansas City for the 88th edition of the National Football League's annual Draft, where 262 players will be taken in seven rounds across three dramatic days.

All eyes will initially be on the Carolina Panthers after they traded up to take the No.1 pick from the Chicago Bears, while the Houston Texans currently possess the most selections in the 2023 NFL Draft with 12, including two in the first round.

Predictions of who will be drafted first, second and third are constantly changing, however, as we take a look at five players to watch out for on day one.

C.J. Stroud - QB

Stroud, 2/7 to be the Number 1 Overall Pick, impressed a large Carolina contingent at Ohio State's pro day to solidify his case to be one of the top-two triggermen in this QB-rich draft class.

There are a couple of reasons why he might be the reason the Panthers felt they needed to get ahead of their rivals. 

He's five inches taller than Bryce Young, the other most-likely contender to hear his name called first, and height is often a factor in evaluating quarterbacks who need to see over tall linemen in order to scan for open targets across the middle of the field.

Panthers head coach Frank Reich, who hasn't started a QB who was under 6-2 in 17 years as a coach, spoke of durability being one of his chief considerations when assessing the prospects.

Whether Stroud's greater frame gives him an edge is open to debate, but his quick-release mechanics and superb accuracy on short to intermediate passes make him a good fit for the West Coast-style offense Reich will implement in Carolina.

Bryce Young - QB

Young, 1/3 to be the Number 2 Overall Pick, was measured at 5-10 1/8 and weighed in at just 204 pounds at the NFL Combine last month.

He didn't take part in the passing drills in Indianapolis, but put on a great show at Alanam's pro day last week to showcase the traits that make him so special.

The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner has proven leadership ability and can make all the throws, albeit with some minor reservations among the scouting fraternity about his high-end arm strength. He also appears to be a touch more mobile than Stroud and can slide outside the pocket to good effect too.

In his first season as a full-time starter for Alabama, Young completed 366 of 547 attempts (66.9%) for 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.

Last year he completed 245 of 380 attempts for 3,345 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only five interceptions while playing for a Crimson Tide team that did not live up to their usual standards.

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Will Anderson Jr - Edge

Getting to the quarterback has never been more important in the NFL. With teams increasingly adopting a pass-first philosophy and a fresh influx of talented young throwers, players who can rush the passer become extremely valuable - which is why the top two picks last year were edge defenders.

Outside linebacker Anderson, 5/4 to be the Number 3 Overall Pick, looks a sure-fire future star after back-to-back years of dominant play with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The 21-year-old was named the best defensive player in college football, the SEC defensive player of the year and a unanimous All-American in both 2021 and 2022.

He recorded 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss, both of which led the nation, the year before last and demonstrated another string to his bow when returning an interception 25 yards for a touchdown last season.

Will Levis - QB

Levis, 3/1 to go to the quarterback-needy Indianapolis Colts, is built like a linebacker and has a rocket arm that can make his passes audibly whistle through the air.

But questions remain about his ability on touch passes to all three levels, while some inconsistencies have been seen when he rolls to his left in the face of pressure.

There has been talk that the Kentucky QB could slide to late in the first round on draft day, but the upside he possesses should make some general managers think twice about that.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba – WR

Smith-Njigba, who is 1/2 to be the first WR drafted, barely saw any action during the 2022 season because of injuries, but his abilities have not gone unnoticed among NFL scouts.

He led Ohio State in receptions back in 2021 ahead of last year's first-round WRs Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who both went on to have stellar rookie seasons in the NFL, and future first-rounder Marvin Harrison Jr.

He gave scouts a timely reminder of his speed at the Buckeyes' pro day by blazing 40-yard time in the 4.48-4.52 range and worked out in a fashion that looked just like his eye-popping game film from his sophomore year.

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