Breaking down college football's 2023 recruiting class by position

Malachi Nelson vs. Arch Manning ESPN Illustration, images courtesy Marja Bene/Elijah Hernandez

Evaluating college football recruits is about playing the long game. We may start the process when a prospect is just 14 or 15 years old, but the development and forthcoming evaluation periods as a prospect grows is what it's all about.

Ranking prospects is a fluid, very subjective process, and oftentimes there is very little difference between the fifth-ranked player in a class and the 17th-ranked player in a class.

The answer lies somewhere in the weeds. We rank the top 300 prospects in each recruiting cycle, but in evaluating 2,800 prospects in a class, the further down the list you go, the more similar prospects become and the more difficult it is to separate and rank them.

Here, Tom VanHaaren, Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert break down the 2023 recruiting class position by position. We examine the top two players at each position and reveal traits that separate No. 1 from No. 2, break down a three-star prospect who could be a sleeper at the college level, and share information on the top uncommitted prospects and where they might go.

Jump to a position:
QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
DE | DT | LB | CB | S


No. 1 Malachi Nelson vs. No. 2 Arch Manning

Scouting Nelson (No. 1 overall, USC commit): Nelson has a smooth release and can beat the rush with different arm angles. He flicks the ball effortlessly and doesn't have to be on platform to make throws.

Scouting Manning (No. 2 overall, Texas commit): Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli, may be the best athlete among his relatives. From a fundamental standpoint, his mechanics are sound, which allows him to be consistently accurate. He's also poised and makes good decisions on the field.