Z college football and NFL seasons are approaching, on-field performances take center stage. So, preseason perceptions are either proven right or wrong. A lot comes with it The NFL draft news and rumors, including an NFL team’s spotlight needs and prospects moving up and down draft boards.

In this mailbag, we determine the strength of the 2023 center class and Ohio State’s Lyke Whipler’s draft status, whether Tennessee is a contender and what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should/could do at quarterback. If you have a question you’d like answered in next week’s NFL News & Rumors Mailbag, be sure to email me here.

Top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Q: What do you see in Boston College WR Zay Flowers’ draft? I mostly see him as a mid-round pick, but where do you think he goes?

Maybe mid-Day 3, depending on how fast he runs before the draft. Flowers is a terrific pass catcher, but he’s not very big (5’9″, under 175 pounds), he’s not very fast (mid to high range 4.4) and I’m told his hands will be under 30″. He has the skills to be a good fifth receiver/return specialist, but there isn’t much market value in the draft for a receiver with those measurables.

Q: Washington State QB Cam Ward — what did you originally read about him more than halfway through
through the 2022 season?

Lots of potential but needs to do a better job defending the football. Ward has tremendous size, athleticism and a next-level arm. He was very productive, but there were too many forced passes.

Bailey Zappé came out of the same FCS conference and did well after transferring to Western Kentucky. Comparatively, Ward is head and shoulders above Zappé when it comes to physical ability.

Q: You mentioned Oregon C’s Alex Forsyth in your Risers column – is this a deep center class? And are there any other Oregon offensive linemen worth knowing about for the 2023 NFL Draft?

Ohio State’s Luke Whipler is the only Day 1/2 center on my board. I feel like the redshirt sophomore is likely to be drafted. I’m putting it 60/40 right now. There are plenty of Day 3 graded centers on my board that offer the opportunity to move into Day 2 with a good season in 2022 or even start Sunday in the right system.

Currently, three Oregon blockers have stackable grades on my board; Steven Jones, who is currently injured, has a sixth-round pick, as does TJ Bass (who I have on my guard board). Finally, I have a seventh-round grade on tackle Malaesal Aumavae-Laulu.

The grades I have on Jones, Aumawa-Lovell, and even Forsythe are much better than those I’ve talked to in scouting.

Q: Is Tennessee a legitimate SEC/College Football Playoff contender? And as high as he could Hendon Hooker vault of his draft stock if they win the SEC?

Are they contenders? yes.

Do I think they will beat Georgia in Athens on November 5th? no

MORE: Alex Forsyth, Tommy Eichenberg round out 2023 NFL Week 8 draft picks

Hooker’s draft stock depends more on how he plays compared to the results of the Volunteers’ season, and he played well. What’s more, what Hooker plays in the draft is practice for the Senior Bowl or the Shrine Bowl, assuming he plays in one of those games. That could take him from the last Day 2 pick to the top 45.

2023 NFL Draft storylines

Q: Bucs fan here. Is there a mid-to-first-round quarterback who should replace Tom Brady, or does Kyle Trask project to get reps after Brady?

I know they like Trask and I said it was a great choice for the franchise at the time. I doubt any top rated quarterback will be available to them in the middle of the 1st round. CJ Stroud, Bryce Youngand Will Lewis all will disappear – then it will drop off a bit to the next level of subscribers.

Q: Are there draft sleepers that aren’t getting enough national love?

I’ve mentioned a few guys over the past few weeks, including quarterbacks Cam Smith of South Carolina, Deonte Banks of Maryland and Myles Brooks of the Louisiana Institute of Technology.

Pittsburgh defensive tackle Kalia Kansi is much loved in some areas of the scouting community. He’s short but explosive and has been described to me as a “poor man’s Aaron Donald” who could go in the top 60 if drafted.