Surprises aren't uncommon during the NFL draft.

A year ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker with the No. 1 pick even though Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux were generally viewed as superior prospects at the same position throughout the predraft process.

Higher-profile prospects have been passed over for others at their position in plenty of classic instances. Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams in 1999, Philip Rivers over Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and Earl Thomas over Taylor Mays in 2010 are but a few examples.

Not every board is the same. Each NFL scouting department sets theirs up differently based on numerous internal factors that aren't public knowledge.

As such, a team may fall in love with a specific prospect when another at the same position tends to be more lauded and higher graded, according to those on the outside.

The idea that specific prospects are locked into certain spots is folly. Even at this point in the draft cycle, evaluations remain ongoing. Something unexpected is bound to happen once the 2023 draft begins April 27 in Kansas City.

The following six prospects have a chance to leapfrog their more recognizable counterparts and become the first players off the board at their respective positions. Two common traits will appear with all of them: athleticism and potential.


QB: Anthony Richardson over C.J. Stroud/Bryce Young

Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Alabama's Bryce Young are clearly the best quarterbacks coming out of the collegiate ranks. Florida's Anthony Richardson is a work-in-progress.

However, the one-year starter has two factors potentially working to make him the No. 1 overall pick.

First, Richardson's upside is immense. Of all the quarterbacks in this year's class, he's the one with the caliber of traits to eventually make him one of the league's five best signal-callers. As talented as Stroud and Young are, their best projections don't place them among the NFL's elite.

Richardson is a 6'4", 244-pound athlete with 4.43-second 40-yard-dash speed and explosive qualities throughout his game as a runner and thrower. His natural arm talent is unequaled among his draft contemporaries.

Does he need more experience? Oh, absolutely. Will he need need to refine his mechanics? Definitely. Does he also present a rare ability to reach elite status if developed properly? 100 percent. The Carolina Panthers know this, and they have a choice to make.

"I've heard the same rumors everyone else has—that [Panthers head coach] Frank Reich loves Florida QB Anthony Richardson," NBC Sports' Peter King acknowledged.

King also questioned whether it would be the right move. But if a coach falls in love with a specific talent and wants to work with him and the prospect is worthy of the selection, the team should follow that path. Be all-in on the guy you believe in.

Granted, Stroud should still be considered the favorite for the top pick, especially after the Panthers' rather large contingent followed him everywhere during Ohio State's pro day. But Richardson is very much in the mix, and his selection may start the event with a bang.