The 2023 NFL Draft process is fully underway as this week saw the deadline for draft-eligible underclassmen to declare come and go with Monday serving as the last date to file the paperwork. There's now a 72-hour window for reconsideration before final approval from the league drops on Friday.
Some announcements came as no surprise, both to fans and likely to their coaches as well, but there was some drama surrounding a couple big stars leading right up to Monday's deadline. But now that these players -- all at least three years removed from high school with college eligibility remaining -- have decided to move on to the next level, we here on the college football side of things will turn the page to the next wave of stars coming up to fill their shoes.
With plenty left to learn before the 2023 season kicks off, including another transfer portal window after spring practice, these are merely projections for how some of the top players in college football will be replaced at their formal school. But these are undeniably key names to know heading into spring practice; they will at least be shouldered with expectations of taking on more responsibility with the absence of NFL Draft first-round talent in their respective position rooms.
Replacement -- Ty Simpson or Jalen Milroe: When 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was injured during the 2022 season, it was Milroe who was tapped to lead the offense. The former four-star prospect was able to utilize his size and athleticism effectively, but the offense had an entirely different look in terms of the passing attack. With Young under center, Alabama threw the ball about 31 times per game. When Milroe played the entire game against Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide threw the ball just 19 times and logged 51 rushing attempts. Milroe's passing numbers on the season as a whole (58.5% completion percentage, five touchdowns to three interceptions) have left this competition open, even as he enters 2023 with more experience than Ty Simpson. It's been a while since we've had a classic Nick Saban quarterback competition, but with Milroe's experience going up against Simpson's five-star pedigree, there's plenty of intrigue in Tuscaloosa. Also of note here is any potential changes to the offense or offensive staff, and how those changes might impact the quarterback best suited to meet the goal of the Alabama offense in the post-Bryce Young era.
Alabama LB Will Anderson
Replacement -- Dallas Turner: Turner flashed during his freshman season en route to Freshman All-American honors, and 2022 saw the former five-star continue to add impressive performances to his resume heading into what should be a breakout third year in 2023. Turner was tied for second on the team in sacks (4.0 for -18 yards) and finished fourth in tackles for loss (8.0 for -29 yards), regularly beating blocks and making his presence known in the backfield. A pass-rushing specialist who also flashed his athleticism with a scoop-and-score against Tennessee, Turner will be one of the top defensive players in the sport heading into 2023.
Replacement -- Jack Miller or Graham Mertz: Things got dicey for Florida at quarterback over the last couple of months. First, backup Jalen Kitna was kicked off the team following an arrest on child pornography charges, then Anthony Richardson's decision not just to enter the NFL Draft but also opt out of the bowl game left the Gators with former Ohio State quarterback Jack Miller -- the third-string option on the depth chart -- as the last man standing for the quarterbacking duties. Miller, who was also without several key pieces from that offense, went 13-of-22 passing for 180 yards against Oregon State in a 30-3 Gators loss. Knowing it needed to build up its depth at the quarterback position, Florida dipped into the transfer portal and eventually landed a commitment from Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz. Miller and Mertz were thought to be joined by blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada, but with Rashada's commitment and enrollment now in question, it appears as though the two former Big Ten signal callers are the best options for Billy Napier heading into Year 2 in Gainesville.
Replacement -- Bear Alexander: The 6-3, 305-pound freshman has more experienced players ahead of him on the depth chart, but when it comes to projecting the next star from the interior of Georgia's defensive line, it's impossible to ignore Alexander's ceiling. He missed spring practice recovering from a shoulder injury but saw action in 12 of Georgia's 15 games during the national championship run. Because of the high level of talent and competition along the defensive line, Alexander may not even be a full-time starter next season; Carter, too, was listed as a backup during his sophomore season in 2021. But big No. 99 is the player to keep an eye on when the two-time national champions begin their quest for a three-peat in the fall.
Georgia CB Kelee Ringo
Replacement -- Kamari Lassiter or Nyland Green: We wanted to highlight two players here because either one could take a big jump in 2023, and the idea of truly "replacing" Ringo might have as much to do with how Georgia wants to arrange its secondary depending on opponent. Kirby Smart's staff lists its defense with a left cornerback, which was Ringo, and a right cornerback, which was Lassiter. A starter for the entire season, Lassiter saw a lot of action from quarterbacks who did not want to throw at Ringo and played especially well against both Tennessee and TCU in the national title game. Whether Georgia wants to move him to the other side of the defense is yet to be determined, but he will be the next cornerback attracting attention from the NFL. Ringo's backup at left corner in 2022 was Green, a former four-star prospect from Covington, Georgia, heading into his third year with the program. Green saw action in 10 of Georgia's 15 games, both as a reserve defensive back and on special teams.
Georgia OL Broderick Jones
Replacement -- Amarius Mims: This is arguably the easiest to call because Georgia has already identified Mims as the top tackle option behind both starters Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon. Mims saw the field regularly in 2022, and now it will be time for the former five-star to emerge as the next Georgia star in line for NFL Draft attention. It will be attention well-earned for a player who entered his name into the transfer portal in April 2022 after playing just six games during his freshman season and spending the spring behind Jones and McClendon. He didn't play in the Bulldogs' spring game, and even took an official visit to entertain other options, but eventually removed his name from the portal and committed to 2022 and beyond with Georgia.
Replacement -- Mitchell Evans and Jayden Thomas: Mayer carried so much weight in the Notre Dame passing attack, that replacing him will not be possible with just one player, or in this case with just one position. Mitchell Evans is a candidate to take over at the tight end position, and he's entering the offseason with some momentum after catching the game-winning touchdown against South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. Wide receiver Jayden Thomas is another name to watch. With Notre Dame looking to surround its quarterback with pass-catching options, Thomas, who played in all 13 games (seven starts) this season, could be an effective weapon over the middle of the field, which is where Mayer did so much damage during his career. The Gator Bowl again provides a nice piece of information here, because with Mayer opting out, we saw Thomas record a season-high five receptions and have his second-best game for receiving yards (66) in the win.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud
Replacement -- Kyle McCord: A two-year backup to Stroud, McCord has been developing in Ryan Day's offense with the hopes that this opportunity would present itself in the near future. A five-star prospect coming out of high school, McCord enrolled early in 2021 but has seen action in just 12 games with one career start across the last two seasons. Now it's time for McCord to take the reins and deliver on that five-star projection, helming an offense that still boasts one of the best wide receiver rooms in the country with Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka heading into their third year of college ball.
Replacement -- Kalen King: The Nittany Lions' hype train for 2023 was loaded up with fuel after Penn State's Rose Bowl win over Utah, but the roster turnover in the defensive backfield is one storyline worth tracking as we dial in expectations for Penn State next season. Porter was a superstar this year, so his exit to the NFL Draft came as no surprise, but the secondary has also lost some contributors to the transfer portal. All of that only increases the need for King to play at an elite level, and the good news for Penn State is he should be up to the task. King was an All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media after a season that included finishing third in the country in pass breakups (18) and twice being named the defensive player of the game by the coaching staff.
Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt
Replacement -- Bru McCoy: With Tennessee losing both Biletnikoff Award-winner Jalin Hyatt and former All-SEC standout Cedric Tillman, there are plenty of receptions available for McCoy to build his own NFL Draft highlight reel in 2023. A former five-star prospect coming out of high school, McCoy originally enrolled at USC before spending one spring at Texas and then returning to his home state of California for a three-year career with the Trojans that saw him appear in 17 games with 14 starts. He transferred to Tennessee in May 2022 and was a solid and consistent weapon in the Vols' high-powered passing attack, finishing second on the team in receptions (52) and receiving yards (667) with four touchdowns. The 6-3, 220-pound wideout is a matchup problem for opposing defenses, and with more targets coming his way in 2023, he should see an ascension among the ranks of wide receivers in the sport.
Texas RB Bijan Robinson
Replacement -- Cedric Baxter: The loss of Robinson is massive to Texas' offense, so replacing him is truly going to be a full-team effort as responsibility is shifted to other contributors and incoming stars. We've decided to highlight this incoming star not because he will take over all of Robinson's carries but because Steve Sarkisian sounds excited about what he can bring to the offense in terms of instant impact. As a freshman, Robinson emerged as a star late in the year and started the final six games of the season. We could see a similar situation for Baxter, a consensus five-star prospect out of Orlando who 247Sports has ranked as the No. 2 running back in the 2023 cycle. 247Sports' national recruiting analyst Andrew Ivins has compared Baxter to Joe Mixon, and noted that even heading into his senior season of high school he already "looked the part" physically to be a difference-maker at the next level. With both Robinson and Roschon Johnson off to the NFL Draft, Texas is hitting reboot at the position heading into 2023. Jonathan Brooks, a redshirt sophomore, and Jaydon Blue will have an experience advantage in the battle for snaps, but keep your eye on Baxter as the season unfolds in Austin.