The updated rankings for the class of 2023 will be unveiled Monday and the attention is on who sits at No. 1. Arch Manning has maintained the top spot since August of last year but there are plenty of challengers in this rankings update.
National recruiting director Adam Gorney and each of the Rivals.com national recruiting analysts make their case for which prospect they think is the biggest threat to Manning’s No. 1 spot in the Rivals250.
2023 RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK:
Monday: Five-Star Countdown
Tuesday: Rivals250 released
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released
Thursday: Defensive position rankings released
Friday: Final state rankings released
CLINT COSGROVE’S TAKE: CB Cormani McClain
“For me the answer to this question is hands down Cormani McClain. The hard part when making the case for McClain as the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class comes down to the positional value for corners in the NFL draft. Over the past 25 years there have only been 10 defensive backs taken in the top-five of the draft and none have gone first overall. Two of them came this year in Derek Stingley Jr at No. 3 and Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner at No. 4. So, while historically we have not seen defensive backs as candidates for the top pick in the draft, this year’s draft class proves the position’s value is starting to increase.
“The way pass-happy NFL offenses are evolving has made a corner capable of blanketing an offense’s No. 1 receiver extremely valuable and because of this I see McClain being a player who has a legit shot at going first overall four years from now. McClain has a phenomenal combination of size, skill, athleticism and coverage ability that every successful defensive back needs. At 6-foot-2, he has the size of a safety and the coverage ability of a smaller lockdown corner. McClain is special enough to blanket just about any team’s No. 1 receiver and make that player a non-factor in an offensive game plan.
“I coached defensive backs at the college level, have been evaluating them as a scout for just as long as I coached them, and McClain may be the best I have ever seen coming out of high school. When you include his ability to play receiver at an equally high level and contribute to the return game as well, McClain just has too much going for him to not be a candidate for the nation’s No. 1 player. McClain’s recruitment appears to be a three team race between Florida, Ohio State and Alabama.”
ADAM FRIEDMAN’S TAKE: ATH Nyckoles Harbor
“There isn’t a more unique athlete in the 2023 class than Harbor. He’s a legitimate track star and he should be unstoppable off the edge of the defense at the next level. Now that track season is coming to an end, Harbor is getting back in football mode. Last season he was a bit raw technically and still had 17 sacks. Harbor could see his sack numbers go up even more if he continues to refine his game. He has the potential to cause constant chaos in the backfield and make even the best quarterbacks ineffective. Cormani McClain is going to get some votes and I could be convinced he should be No. 1 too but Harbor is the rarer athlete.”
ADAM GORNEY’S TAKE: DE Samuel M’Pemba
“Cormani McClain is going to be a popular pick here because he’s such an outstanding cornerback and so smooth at the position plus he would be the first No. 1 cornerback since Derek Stingley Jr. in the 2019 class. But my pick is Samuel M’Pemba. He could be an outside linebacker, he can be an edge rusher, he’s a physical specimen and he has the dominant ability to play multiple positions on the defense. This idea of positionless football where a coach can take someone with elite athletic ability and plug him in all over the place, that fits M’Pemba perfectly so if Arch Manning comes off that No. 1 line, M’Pemba should be seriously considered.”
NICK HARRIS’ TAKE: QB Malachi Nelson
“The college-ready frame and the elite ability of Los Alamitos (Calif.) five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson has had him in the conversation for the No. 1 QB and No. 1 overall recruit since his sophomore season. He makes difficult throws across his body, is consistent down the field and is preparing to go into a perfect system for his ability at USC under Lincoln Riley.”
RYAN WRIGHT’S TAKE: CB Cormani McClain
“Slotting a cornerback at No. 1 overall might be hard for most to wrap their head around, but Cormani McClain is that good. The Lake Gibson five-star is big, fast, and as technically sound as they come. I’ve seen McClain numerous times over the past nine months, and each time he lives up to the expectations if in a game, a practice, or in a 7-on-7 tournament. The added bonus to his cover skills, he’s not afraid to mix it up in the run game. McClain can essentially eliminate one half of the field with his defensive skills. When the 2022 season ends, he may not have the gaudy stats because Florida teams will avoid him as best as possible, but that shouldn’t take away from just how dominating he is on the field.”