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2023 NFL Draft: 3 Prospects to Watch Before Week 13

Some Packers draft targets to watch during conference championship weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 05 Clemson at Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Bears weekend for the Green Bay Packers, and perhaps the last important game of the season for fans before they turn their sights to the 2023 season.

With a 4-8 record, the Packers currently have just a three percent chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight. Only three teams have worse odds of making the postseason, with one of those being the Bears.

Sunday’s game won’t be a matchup for playoff contention. However, the all-time record for wins by a franchise is up for grabs, with the two teams tied for the most wins in NFL history, something that both teams are likely aware of.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest programs in college football will be playing on their biggest stages of the year, playing in their respective conference championships. There are a few players Packers fans should keep an eye on, so let’s get into it.

KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson

#9 Clemson vs #23 North Carolina, 8:00 PM ET on ABC

Even with the emergence of Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare, the Packers are going to need some additional depth at EDGE next season. Rashan Gary isn’t expected to be ready by Week 1 while he recovers from a torn ACL, and the Packers currently have very few options behind Enagbare and Preston Smith at the position.

KJ Henry isn’t one of the top EDGE prospects in this class, and he’s not even the top one on his team, playing alongside Myles Murphy. However, Henry has shown some flashes on tape that show that he has some serious pass-rushing juice.

Henry has good explosiveness off of the snap combined with the quick-cutting ability to take hard inside moves. Even when his ears are pinned back, he shows good awareness to snuff out screens, jet sweeps, or any type of trickery instead of getting caught out of position.

The Clemson pass-rusher has some work to do as a run defender, however. He needs to show more aggressiveness when taking on blockers, because he will often stop his feet, allowing blockers to drive him back with ease. Still, the athleticism and pass-rushing production makes him an interesting EDGE prospect in later rounds.

Christopher Smith, S, Georgia

#14 LSU vs #1 Georgia, 4:00 PM ET on CBS

The Packers are almost certainly going to look very different at safety in 2023. Adrian Amos is set to be a free agent, and his significant drop-off in play would indicate that it’s unlikely he returns. Rudy Ford has shown flashes over the last few weeks, but he will also be a free agent, and the team’s cap situation will make it hard to bring him, or anyone, back in 2023.

Christopher Smith out of Georgia would be a suitable replacement for either or both of those safeties if the Packers can’t bring them back. With the Bulldogs losing a significant amount of talent to the NFL draft last season, Smith stepped up and took a bigger leadership role in 2022.

At 5’11” and 195 pounds, Smith is an aggressive downhill safety who is a good tackler as an alley defender against the run. Along with that, he has good instincts to break downhill on passes when playing off coverage in the slot, allowing him to jump passes for pass breakups or interceptions.

Smith doesn’t have to clean up too much given how dominant Georgia’s defense is, but his skill set fits very well with what the Packers could be losing in Amos and Ford.

Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

#9 Clemson vs #23 North Carolina, 8:00 PM ET on ABC

Drake Maye isn’t even eligible until 2024, but Justis Mosqueda and I are ready for a worst-case scenario in 2023 to get the quarterback of the future. If Aaron Rodgers hits the big red button, then the Packers will be one of the worst teams in football next season due to salary cap constraints, setting them up for a rebuild in 2023 and beyond.

Even if the Packers don’t end up tanking in 2023, Drake Maye is worth watching. The North Carolina quarterback would probably be the top QB prospect in this year’s class, carrying a Tar Heels offense while throwing for 3,847 yards, 35 touchdowns, and just five interceptions this season.

At 6’4” and 220 pounds, the redshirt freshman has everything you’re looking for in a QB prospect. He has size, arm talent, mental processing, athleticism, and the competitive toughness to carry his team to wins, even when it feels like his coaching staff is actively working against him.

It’s way too early to tell how the Packers will play next season, but after watching Maye, it’s easy to see why some fans would want to tank in 2023 for a top QB prospect.