While names like Nathan Cleary, Latrell Mitchell and Nicho Hynes have featured heavily in the premature Dally M chatter, former NRL stars Denan Kemp and Cameron Smith have selected outsiders as their picks for the coveted award.

Speaking on SEN's The Captains Run, the duo went through their predictions for the 2023 NRL season, revealing some shock selections, specifically on who would be the best player in the competition this year.

Smith has collected two Dally Ms and nine Dally M Hooker of the Year awards across his illustrious 18-year career in Melbourne, and certainly knows what it takes to climb the stage during the September awards show.

Despite his experience with what it takes to collect so many accolades, even Smith's pick comes as a shock.

The former Kangaroos' captain has selected Josh Hodgson as his pick for the Dally M in 2023, despite the 33-year-old coming off the back of an ACL injury, the third of his career.

It ended Hodgson's season just minutes into Canberra's season opener last year, however, Smith believes a move to Parramatta will bring out the Englishman's strengths.

Similarly to Smith, Hodgson's best asset has never been his running game or nifty play, but  rather what's between the ears. Blessed with incredibly high rugby league IQ, Hodgson may have lost som space, but his mind is sharp.

Fantastic at bringing his forwards into the game, the likes of Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and company will benefit from his arrival.

Meanwhile, Kemp has selected North Queensland fullback Scott Drinkwater to take out the award in 2023.

Drinkwater started last season in reserve grade for the Cowboys before an injury to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow saw the former Storm fullback take the jersey, and never look back.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 11: Scott Drinkwater of the Cowboys celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys at Leichhardt Oval, on April 11, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Set to build on an impressive 2022 campaign, the Cowboys have a fortuitous draw this season and with the attacking prowess of the Townsville outfit, there's no reason Drinkwater can't be a leading contender for the award.

It's also the same club Cam Smith has tipped as his NRL premiers this season, predicting North Queensland will lift the trophy for just the second time in their history.

Both players have been named by their respective teams for the opening round as Smith and Kemp look on with high hopes.