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The Athletic's Bruce Feldman breaks down top college prospects


The New York Giants debuted their second year of Draft Season this week, a podcast that delves into the college football landscape and evaluates the potential next cohort of players to take part in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Giants' John Schmeelk offers a top-to-bottom analysis of college football alongside former NFL defensive back Eric Crocker and Pro Football Network analyst Tony Pauline. Beginning once monthly, the trio will ramp up their coverage as the college football season takes shape. Their NFL draft-centric evaluations identify players and teams to keep a close watch on as the April draft approaches; their evaluations extend to everything from the regular season, college football playoff, senior bowl, NFL combine, pro days and beyond.

The inaugural episode of 2022-23 Draft Season emerges on the heels of the college football season and features Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic. Feldman broke down his Freaks List with an overarching analysis of college football programs around the country.

Number one on the list is Mazi Smith – a defensive lineman at the University of Michigan. Smith, Feldman attested, is not just an "outstanding football player" but also "a great athlete." His expectations for Smith stem from his conversations with coaches who shared anecdotes of the young player's super-human strength: At one point, Smith required custom adjustments to amplify strength and conditioning machines beyond their typical max.

On the other side of the Toledo strip, Ohio State is a team that Feldman – like many others – projects to be a College Football Playoff contender; two of their players find themselves on the Freaks List. Feldman expressed excitement over the return of both quarterback CJ Stroud and his go-to offensive targets. On the contrary, quarterback Bryce Young at the University of Alabama – though also incredibly promising – will be forced to adjust this upcoming season having lost his favorite receivers to the NFL.

While on the topic of Alabama, Feldman projected Head Coach Nick Saban's defense to be high caliber – similar to the Georgia defense that led the Bulldogs to a national championship in January. In fact, Feldman deemed junior linebacker Will Anderson Jr. "the best player Nick Saban has coached in Tuscaloosa."

Feldman and the Draft Season co-hosts looked beyond the Power Five conferences, too. They discussed talent ranging from the Ivy League to the Mississippi Valley Conference, and Feldman offered a glimpse into his assessment process. In leveraging his connections with coaches, scouts and reporters around the country, Feldman has been able to "pick their brains" and ultimately widen his scope. BJ Wilson, an offensive lineman at Quincy University in Illinois, is a player who landed himself on Feldman's list because of those connections.

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