Who's going No. 1 in the 2023 NFL Draft when the first round kicks off Thursday night? It depends what day it is, and who you ask. Alabama's Bryce Young has been the most consistent favorite to be the Panthers' choice among top quarterback prospects. But Ohio State's C.J. Stroud has taken turns as the top dog as well. Just this week, Kentucky's Will Levis also surged back into the picture as a darling of bettors; he's now the second-most likely to be Carolina's pick, per Caesars Sportsbook.
The Panthers know exactly who they're taking,, but no one else does.
Is this unusual? Aren't we supposed to have a firm grasp on the top pick in the entire draft, especially after the months-long pre-draft process? Turns out this is far from the first time -- even in recent memory -- that the draft has approached without total clarity regarding the No. 1 selection. Here's a look at some of the most mysterious or surprising scenarios of the last 20 years:
We're including this year because, days away from the commissioner officially putting the Panthers on the clock, there is no steady consensus about Carolina's preferred QB. The "safe" bet is that it'll be Young, the total package sans a prototypical build; or Stroud, arguably the most polished pocket passer of the crop. But Josh Allen traits, and Florida's Anthony Richardson looms as an electric top-five possibility.with his erratic but tantalizing
That's right. Just one year ago, there was similar -- no, even more -- uncertainty at No. 1. Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson was long considered the top prospect in the class, but the Jaguars fell in love with Georgia's Travon Walker, a scouting combine star whose name emerged as a potential No. 1 pick just days before Jacksonville officially turned in the card.
Everyone knew the Browns were destined to take a quarterback after years of shuffling through failed bets at the position. But it wasn't until basically the day of the draft that USC's Sam Darnold fell out of favor with oddsmakers and NFL insiders as Cleveland's preferred choice. Wyoming's Josh Allen and UCLA's Josh Rosen, who went on to go No. 7 and No. 10 to the Bills and Cardinals, respectively, were also considered runner-up possibilities. Instead, the Browns took Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.
Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher entered the Senior Bowl widely projected to go outside of the top 10, per NFL Media. In the lead-up to the draft, however, he emerged as a candidate to usurp Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel as the Chiefs' choice atop the board. And he did just that, with Joeckel ultimately going No. 2 to the Jaguars.
Everyone had the USC running back Reggie Bush, a Heisman Trophy winner and multi-purpose playmaker, pegged as a lock for the Texans, who were just four years into their NFL existence at the time. But Houston made a stunning pivot to kick off the selection process, opting for North Carolina State pass rusher Mario Williams. Bush would go on to land with the Saints at No. 2.
Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning was a safe bet to go No. 1, following in the footsteps of his brother Peyton. But after Ryan Leaf's tumultuous run as a Chargers draft pick, Manning came out and declared alongside his father, Archie, that he wouldn't play for the franchise if it selected him. So there was certainly some uncertainty as to how the top of this draft would play out. In the end, the Chargers did draft Manning, who even took the stage and posed -- sullenly -- with a Bolts jersey, but quickly traded the quarterback to the Giants as part of a deal including No. 4 overall pick Philip Rivers.