My early sleepers for the 2023 draft is finally here. These are guys who may not be known by most right now, but by draft time should be known by everyone-or at least I think they will if they continue on their path or step up in some way. This will focus mostly on “smaller school” guys. Its just the nature of the beast right now. Most people know players from the power 5 schools. There will be some juniors in the list, they are guys who I feel if they have a big year they could come out. First I will start with offense. You can see my other stuff here.
Tanner Mordecai – SMU
Mordecai originally signed with Oklahoma out of high school in 2018. 2021 was his first season at SMU where he won the starting spot. It was there that he became the engine that ran the talented SMU offense. The upside is not huge, but there is NFL talent there.
Holton Ahlers – East Carolina
Ahlers is going into his fifth year as a starter. He flashed a little as a true freshman, then made a good sized jump in 2019. The current Pirate seemed to level off after that. He really played well at the end of 2021 so if he shows improvement in 2022 he could be a day 3 pick.
Ellis Merriwether – UMass
Merriweather was a JUCO transfer. He also didn’t even win the #1 job out of camp. He started just nine games in 2021, yet he had 1,303 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. The current Minuteman also brings ideal size at 6’2, 225 pounds and is a very good receiver. Don’t be surprised to see his name move up boards quickly.
Lew Nichols III – CMU
Nichols is listed having prototypical size at 5’10 220. He looks on film closer to 210. 2021 was his first year as a starter after only playing about 200 snaps in 2020. He came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,800 yards and 16 TDs. He also contributed as a receiver with 40 catches with an 8.4 average yard per catch. Once he hits that hole he explodes and he is very quick. The current Chippewa is a redshirt Junior.
Tyler Harrell – Louisville
6’0, 200 pound speedster who runs in the 4.3 range. He has easy speed and gets to top speed quick. He opted out of 2020 and broke out in 2021 with 18 catches for 523 yards and 6 TDs. Harrell averaged 29 yards a catch in 2021! Coaches will want to see him expand his route tree in 2022. He also has kick return experience.
Tre’Shaun Harrison – Oregon State
Harrison has decent size with 4.45 range speed. He transferred in from Florida State. The former Nole didn’t play much in 2020 but played a lot and even started a four games in 2021. He had a healthy 13.8 yards a catch average. Harrison has also shown to have some YAC ability. He does hold kick return experience. He could really break out in 2022.
Puka Nacua – BYU
Nacua played two seasons at Washington before transferring to BYU in 2021. He came in and took over as a the #1 receiver right away and lead the team with 43 catches for 805 yards and 6 TDs. Nacua averaged almost 19 yards a catch and he even carried the ball 14 times. He has good size at 6’1 210 and runs around a 4.5. The former Huskie could have a big break out in 2022. Nacua is a redshirt junior.
CJ Daniels – Liberty
CJ Daniels was a three star recruit from Georgia that looks like he just got overlooked. After only playing a decent amount as a freshmen but only contributing 11 catches, he came in as a sophomore and really showed his potential with 37 catches for 629 yards and seven TDs in just six starts. He has good size at 6’2 200 with decent speed. A deep threat that showed some YAC ability. He could break out as a junior and declare.
Demario Douglas – Liberty
The same school as Daniels, but completely different player. He is a 5’8 170 pound slot receiver. He has good speed and agility. Douglas is also a dangerous punt returner. Obviously though he does need to pack on a little weight/strength. He is a redshirt junior.
Rashee Rice – SMU
Rashee Rice has recently gotten a little hype from Jim Nagy, but most still don’t know him. On a stacked offense last season Rice was the 2nd most productive player. He also played almost exclusively out of the slot in 2021 after playing mostly outside in 2020. His production was somewhat similar in both seasons. Expect him to move back outside for 2022 and be the #1 target and key guy on offense. He has the size to play inside and out (6’2 206), speed, and agility to contribute as a returner.
Keylon Stokes – Tulsa
Keylon Stokes is a bit of an older player being a 6th year senior. In 2019 and 2020 he showed potential and 2021 was supposed to be his breakout season but he was injured and missed most of the season. He is a 5’10 200 pound slot receiver who can return kicks and punts. Stokes even had 1,000 yards in 2019. He just needs to get healthy and show he’s back to his old self.
Michael Jefferson – Lousiana – LaFayette
Jefferson is a transfer from Alabama State where he spend three years and didn’t show much except 2019 where he had 767 yards and 12 TDs. He was looking like he was going to have a big year in 2021 but was injured and only played in six games. But he did put up 481 yards in those six games for a school that was more of a running team. He averaged 26 yards a catch. He showed some potential, he just needs to stay healthy. At 6’4 200 pounds and a sub 4.5 40 he has the talent.
Dallas Dixon – CMU
Dallas Dixon is another weapon from that Central Michigan offense. Another good sized receiver at 6’1 200 that runs a sub 4.5. He is a Junior that barely played as a freshman, but showed flashes. For 2021 he started almost every game and played almost 700 snaps. Dixon put up 700 yards on just 45 catches and 8 TDs. He seems on the cusp of a breakout season. He is a Junior.
Stefan Cobbs – Boise State
Stefan Cobbs barely played or produced his first two seasons in Boise. He came into 2021 and ended up starting eight out of the nine games he played. He had 34 catches for 421 yards and 5 TDs. With Shakir and Evans off to the NFL he should be the #1 receiver for 2022. He has also shown to be a good blocker.
Alec Holler – UCF
Alec Holler is a former walk -on who became the starter after six games in 2021. He is undersized at 6’3 230. For his size he’s not a bad blocker, but overall he’s not that good. His biggest contributions are as a receiver. He was not targeted much in 2021, but produced when he was. His best chance as making the NFL is as an hback.
Leonard Taylor – Cincinnati
Leonard Taylor is the “other” tight end playing for Cincinnati. Everyone knows about Josh Whyle, but when Whyle was struggling through the 2021 season it was Taylor who produced. While he didn’t exactly set the world on fire; he had a solid season. 28 catches for 268 yards and four TDs. where he contributed the most was as a blocker. He was probably one of the better blocking tight ends from 2021. But he flashed that he could actually contribute some as a receiver. He could hear his name called in the 2023 draft.
Maurice McIntyre – Duke
A 6’2 330 pound guard is not the type of player you would think he is. A big and strong run blocker. He has been better in pass protection most of his career. He showed improvements as a pass protector in 2021 after a poor 2020. 2022 will be his third year as a starter. He has played both left and right guard. If he could just make small improvements as a run blocker he could be a day 3 sleeper.
Chandler Zavala – NC State
Chandler Zavala is a sixth year senior that transferred from fairmont state in 2021. He was only supposed to have one season to play but they petitioned the NCAA for a 6th year and got it. He played in just five games in 2021 at guard before an injury ended his season. In those five games he was really good in both pass pro and as a run blocker. He has good size at 6’4 325. If he can stay healthy he has a shot at getting drafted.
Matthew Bedford – Indiana
Matthew Bedford was the type of offensive lineman that got coaches fired. He had all kinds of potential, but was really struggling in his first two season as a pass blocker. He gave up 62 pressures and five sacks in his first two seasons. Bedford also started at LT in 2019, RT in 2020, and LG, RG, and RT in 2021. He seems to have found a home at guard, but even the one game he played RT he blocked well. So it seems the light finally went on. If he can continue his trajectory in 2022 he could end up going on day two. The current Hoosier has size, versatility, and athleticism going for him.
J.D. Duplain – Michigan State
Having 23 career starts at left guard on his belt JD Duplain definitely has experience on his side. He also showed improvement as a pass blocker and run blocker every year. Duplain only gave up eight pressures in 2021! His size is about average at 6’4 305, but he has solid athleticism. Zone teams should really like him.
Raiqwon O’Neal – UCLA
Raiqwon O’Neal was a two year starter for Rutgers at left tackle. He transferred to UCLA for his final year and is expected to play left tackle again. At Rutgers he showed slow improvements as a pass blocker every year. His final year he was pretty solid. His size is about average at 6’4 305, but has solid athleticism. Average length will probably force him inside at the next level like UCLAs last left tackle Sean Rhyan.
Clark Barrington – BYU
Clark Barrington is of the LDS church and did his two year mission so he is on the older side. He has been a really good blocker the last two seasons playing both left guard and right guard. He has 27 career starts entering 2022. Only allowing 18 pressures and 1 sack in the last two seasons. Decent size at 6’5 302 with 33 1/8th” arms.
Samuel Jackson – UCF
Samuel Jackson has played and started at almost every position except for center. Jackson has 31 starts to his name entering 2022. He started all of 2021 at right tackle. He also had starts at left tackle, right tackle, and one game at right guard in 2020. The current golden Knight has great size at 6’6 325 pounds. As a pass blocker he was pretty average in 2019 and 2020. he gave up 5 sacks and 25 pressures, but showed improvement in 2021. He has short arms (32 3/4″) so he probably ends up at guard.
Tylan Grable – UCF
Tylan Grable is a bit of an unknown. He transferred over from Jacksonville State for 2022 and is expected to start at left tackle. He has the size at 6’7, but is underweight at about 290. The former Gamecock has not been talked about much as impact transfers go. In two years as a starter he has only given up 15 pressures, but of course it could be due to the competition. 2022 will be a big limit us test for him to see how good he really is. He will obviously need to add bulk. He could get drafted high on potential.
Matthew Lee – UCF
Matthew Lee is one of the taller centers at 6’4 but only about 295. He is entering his third year as a starter. His first year was not great with 15 pressures allowed and 12 penalties. But he cleaned all that up in 2021 with just one penalty and seven pressures. Also he held up better in the run game. He is a good athlete that moves well. He can struggle with power. Lee will be a redshirt Junior so he could stay for his senior year.
Patrick Paul – Houston
Patrick Paul is another large offensive tackle in this class. He stands 6’7 315 and can move pretty well. His brother Chris was just drafted out of Tulsa to the Commanders in the 7th round. He started and played a total of five games between 2019 and 2020 due to injuries. Paul a fourth year Junior could declare if he has another season like he did in 2021 with just some minor cleaning up of penalties (8 in 2021).
Jacob Likes – Memphis
Jacob Likes was a first year starter in 2021 and looked really good in pass protection. He only gave up 4 pressures on the year! He is undersized though at 6’2 280. The current Tiger needs another 10-20 pounds and his frame looks like it could hold it. For his size he is a good run blocker, mostly using leverage and athleticism to win. He is just a Junior so he could stay one more year, especially with how strong the center class is looking.
Marcus Bryant – SMU
Marcus Bryant is another big long athletic tackle in the AAC. He stands 6’8 314 pounds with decent athleticism. He still has time since 2021 was his first year as a starter and it shows. The current Mustang was really good in pass pro in 2021. Only giving up nine pressures. It will be interesting to see his development over this next season. SMU did lose a lot of their weapons so he may have to hold his blocks a little longer. Run blocking is a bit of a weakness for him, its mostly due to technique and his size. His knee bend needs to improve. Bryant looks to be a RT only prospect. He could come out as a Junior with the tackle class being down from last year.
Donovan Jennings – USF
Donovan Jennings brings the size to play any position at 6’5 327. He is a three year starter at left tackle, but did start two games at right guard. From an athletic stand point its doubtful he could play LT in the NFL though. His play has leveled out a bit since 2020, but his pass blocking has improved every season. Due to his size, athleticism and strength he is a better fit inside. Also he needs to cut down on the nine penalties he had last season. A team could draft him higher than most think if they think he can be really good guard.
Isaac Moore – Temple
Isaac Moore is an interesting story. He is originally from Sweden. He is a three year starter at left tackle. Moore obviously showed inconsistencies early in his career. He still shows some, but its a lot less. Again another tall and long tackle prospect from the AAC. 2021 was his best season. He even showed some real grit as a run blocker. The current Owl just needs to continue to iron out his game and he could see his named called earlier than people think.
Sincere Haynesworth – Tulane
Sincere Haynesworth is one of the better centers in this class. He is undersized at 6’1, but for his height he has long arms at 33″. He has 2 1/2 years of starting experience entering 2022. The current Green Wave played some right guard in 2019. Haynesworth came to Tulane really undersized and as recently as last season was playing under 300 pounds. He had his best season in 2021. He is just a real solid blocker all around. The type of guy that will come into the league and be a 10-year solid starter.
John Ojukwu – Boise State
John Ojukwu is entering his 6th season at Boise State. He started 2018 and 2019 at RT and switched to LT in 2020. 2022 will be his 5th as a starter, so you could definitely say experience is a strength. He has good size at 6’6 312 and long arms at 35 3/8ths”. 2020 is where he started to really come around as a pass blocker. Run blocking has always been kind of a weakness of his. He is not a power player, he is more of a get in your way type of run blocker. He needs to improve against power rushers and staying low and anchoring. The current Bronco is also a very clean player with only five penalties in his career. His age will work against him but his experience should allow him to play early. He could go on day two.