We are here right before the start of the college football season and I am going to give you guys some of my early favorite group of five players. I have a good grasp on the group of five or non Power five conferences. I have been updating and researching them for the RiseNdraft database for over a year. The majority of these players will not go in the first or second round. They either can fill a specific role like a solid back up QB or have the athletic upside to develop into a starter in the NFL. Some of them may not even be eligible for the 2023 draft. They are players I am keeping my eye on.
You can also read my full positional rankings for the 2023 draft as well if you like. These players are also in no specific order.
- Holton Ahlers – East Carolina. fifth-year Senior who’s started a lot of games but probably doesn’t have the upside to be a starter. Could be a real solid backup.
- Clayton Tune – Houston. Another fifth-year Senior. But he has starter upside and has improved every season. Gets no hype for his performance last year.
- Tanner Mordecai – SMU. A former Oklahoma Sooner, he transferred to get immediate playing time. Like Tune, he put up big numbers in his first season in Dallas and got little to no publicity for it.
- Grayson McCall – Coastal Carolina. Everyone knows about McCall. A really good college quarterback whose upside is in question. At the very least, he will be a good backup.
- Hayden Wolff – Old Dominion. A third-year Sophomore. He redshirted in 2019, but his 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID. Started in 2021 and played better every game. He could be a dude in a year or two.
- Hank Bachmeier – Boise State. A little undersized, but a real smart dude who can move around a bit. Upside is probably as a real solid #2.
- Isaiah Bowser – UCF. A big 6’0 225 pound back that runs with power and can block decently. Not a breakaway threat. Can fill the short yardage/power back role on a team.
- Keaton Mitchell – ECU. A small but fast (sub 4.4) scat back type. He could fill the lightning role/3rd down back for a team. He needs to add some bulk though only being 180 and needs to work on his pass pro.
- Alton McCaskill – Houston. He came out of no where as a freshman in 2021 and rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 16 TDs. Has good size and great vision. He was looking to have a big 2022, but tore his ACL in the spring. He might be able to come back late in the season.
- Brandon Thomas – Memphis. Thomas is a redshirt Sophomore. So he is technically eligible for the ’23 draft, but unless he has a really big year I don’t expect him to come out. He is a good all around back that averaged almost six yards a carry. He shares carries with Rodrigues Clark, but is the better player.
- Tre Siggers – SMU. A good back with decent size and speed that transferred in from North Texas. Not much impact as a receiver. If he improves could be a real good #2 back.
- Brian Battie – USF. Listed as a running back, but will probably be mostly a returner at the next level due to his size. Only 5’7 165, so he is going to have to bulk up a bit. But a dangerous return man. Has played ok from scrimmage as a runner and receiver. Just a Junior.
- Amare Jones – Georgia Southern. Jones has decent size and speed, but what stands out most about him is his ability to play both RB and WR. He is not just a one trick pony either. He is a solid pass blocker for his size (5’11 195). Jones could be a good gadget player.
- Chris Smith – Louisiana-Lafayette. Okay size at 5’9 197, but runs a sub 4.4. Has big time returner potential. Has also played okay from scrimmage as well. He is not much of a receiver or blocker at this point. If he improves he could find a role.
- Rasheen Ali – Marshall. True Junior. He basically didn’t play his first two years, then came out of nowhere and started every game last season. He played really well in ’21. His blocking was not good at the beginning of the season, but he showed improvement and was pretty good by the end. Good size and speed. Could develop into a starter in the NFL.
- Lew Nichols III – Central Michigan. By the end of this season, I’m betting he is a household name. He has ideal size at 5’10 220. Nichols has production- he rushed for 1848 yards and 16 TDs and produced as a receiver. He has agility to make defenders miss and has good contact balance. He could go on day 2.
- Sean Taylor – Western Michigan. 1,150 yards and 9 TDs in ’21. Taylor was a solid all around player last season. He has good speed, but undersized at around 180. If he could bulk up he could be a solid 3rd down back.
- Tre Tucker/Tyler Scott – Cincinnati. Both players are of similar size and skill sets. Tucker being the smaller slightly faster player. Both have good speed and can be slot receivers at the next level. Scott averaged 26 yards a catch in ’21. He is also a Junior. Tucker can also return kicks/punts.
- Rashee Rice – SMU. Rice will probably be one of the higher drafted players on this list; possibly second round. He can play anywhere on offense. He has good size at 6’1 203, speed (4.4), and a big catch radius (33 1/4″ arms). He is physical and gets YAC.
- Keylon Stokes – Tulsa. He missed a chunk of ’21 with an injury and never seemed to get healthy. Played well in 2020 and 2019. Only 5’10 but 200 pounds. He has good speed. Stokes will mostly play in the slot.
- Michael Jefferson – Louisiana Lafayette. Big receiver at 6’4 200 with solid speed (4.48). Jefferson plays physical and is a good blocker. He really came on towards the end of the season and could break out this season.
- Grant Dubose – Charlotte. He has good size (6’2) with long 33″ arms and solid 4.5 speed. Really flashed last season and had over 800 yards after not playing in 2020. Dubose still has some upside. He is a fourth-year Senior so he could come back in 2023.
- Jason Brownlee – Southern Miss. Good size (6’2 200) with really long 34″ arms. This gives him a crazy catch radius. He played really well in 2021. His speed is middling; which caps his upside. If he can improve his speed and show more separation in ’22 he could move up boards.
- De’Corian Clark/Zakhari Franklin – UTSA. Both players arms are 33″ or longer and have at least 10 1/8″ hands giving them the ability to win 50/50 balls and strong hands. They are both around the same height, but Clark is 214 where Franklin is only 190. Clark is faster, around 4.45 and has more upside. Franklin is more polished as a route runner and was more productive in 2021.
- Dallas Dixon – Central Michigan. Dixon is a real sleeper. He played well last season, but just didn’t have the production with just 45 catches as CMU ran the ball a lot. He will be the #1 receiver this season and could take off. He showed a lot of potential to be an NFL receiver. Dixon can get YAC and has sub 4.5 speed to go with his solid 6’1 200 pound frame.
- Alec Holler – UCF. Holler is a former walk-on. He is undersized at around 6’3 230. He is a decent athlete who might be able to make it as an H-back. While not much of a blocker he isn’t bad for his size.
- Josh Whyle/ Leonard Taylor – Cincinnati. Both are almost complete opposites. Whyle is a long and lean receiving threat who has spent a lot of time detached from the line and is an ok blocker. Taylor on the other had is big and is a solid blocker who has some receiving skills. Both should get drafted.
- Christian Trahan – Houston. Trahan is on the short side at 6’2, but he has long 34 3/8″ arms. This arm length should allow him to continue to play in-line in the NFL. He is a bit on the inconsistent side, but he is a good athlete and has potential.
- Zack Kuntz – Old Dominion. A large man at 6’8 250 with an 83″ wingspan. He runs a sub 4.6 and can vertical 40″. He originally started out at Penn State. He had a big year in 2021 with 73 catches for 692 yards. His big weakness has been in the blocking department. If he can improve there fans might call him Jelani Woods 2.0.
- Gary Williams – Colorado State. He played behind McBride last season but still saw significant snaps. He is on the smaller side at 6’2 245, so he may have to move to an h-back/move tight end role. He has good speed and flashed as a receiver in 2021. Also surprisingly he is a good blocker. His development will be one to monitor.
- Samuel Jackson/Edward Collins/Ryan Swoboda/Tylan Grable – UCF. Yes that is right there are four offensive tackles for UCF that could get drafted or at least signed as PFA’s. Lets start with Jackson; he has great size at 6’6 335, but his arms are just 32 3/4″ and athletically he’s just ok. He took his pass blocking to a new level in 2021, but he probably will end up playing guard in the NFL. Collins has good size as well at 6’5 315. He has started at LT but played poorly. Collins switched to RT and played a lot better. Not being very athletic he could also potentially move to guard.
Swoboda is a mammoth man at 6’9 322 with long 34 1/2″ arms who transferred over from Virginia and is expected to start at RT. He is a RT only prospect. He’s been solid but hasn’t shown much growth the last few years. He has a good shot at getting drafted. Grable is the sleeper and has the highest upside. He transferred in from Jacksonville State. A 6’7 290 pound physical freak who was a high school QB that switched to TE when he first got to Jacksonville State. His pass blocking has been solid the last two seasons. He could be a big mover up draft boards.
- James Tunstall – Cincinnati. A double transfer Tunstall has been everywhere. He started at UConn then transferred to Stony Brook and then sat out the 2020 season. He has great tackle size at 6’7 319 with long 34 3/4″ arms. He started all of ’21 at LT. Athletically he’s not the greatest so he might have to switch over to RT.
- Noah Henderson – East Carolina. A former walk-on, Henderson took over at RT in week 2 and didn’t look back. He has good size and is a good athlete. The former walk-on was solid in pass pro outside of a couple games. He needs to take another step though to have a shot.
- Patrick Paul – Houston. Patrick is the younger brother of Chis who played at Tulsa and was drafted in the 7th by the Cowboys in this past draft. Patrick is a different player than his brother. He is a 100% LT and has the size(6’7 315), athleticism, and length to stay there in the NFL. Good in both the pass and run game. Should be a day 2 pick. He is a redshirt Junior.
- Jaylon Thomas/ Marcus Bryant – SMU. Thomas is the more well known player. He is good in both the run and pass game. But due to his length(32″) and size 6’3 326 he will need to move to guard in the NFL. He has potential to be a good one. Bryant is another massive man at 6’8 314 with solid athleticism. He is a true Junior so he could stay four years. He played both left and right tackle but was better at right. He was really good in pass protection in ’21. Run blocking was a little up and down.
- Donovan Jennings – USF. He has been a three year starter at LT for the Bulls and has blocked well; but due to his length (32 3/8″) he is going to have to move inside. Needs to improve in the run game.
- Nick Saldiveri – Old Dominion. Saldiveri became a starter in 2019 and was just ok, nothing special. The school’s 2020 season was canceled and when they came back for the ’21 season he was a totally different player. He was great in both phases. He has good size (6’6 315) and decent athleticism. Only a Junior so he could come back for the 2023 season. He has been almost exclusively a RT.
- John Ojukwu – Boise State. Ojukwu is a player I have written about before. He is another player I feel has a chance at going day 2. He has great size and length(6’6 312 35 3/8″ arms), and big 10 7/8″ hands. A four year starter at LT that has steadily gotten better each year. He has the athleticism to stay at LT.
- Aaron Frost – Nevada. 2022 will be his 4th as the starting RT. Frost has been a very good run blocker in his time at Nevada. His pass blocking has been inconsistent mainly due to his aggressiveness. He tends to get too aggressive. If he can throttle that down a bit he could be a decent pass protector. A move inside is a certainty.
- Frank Crum – Wyoming. Entering his 3rd year as the starter at RT. Crum has a large frame at 6’7 315, but isn’t much of an athlete so he will probably be a RT only prospect. Solid in both pass blocking and run blocking. He probably still needs to take another step to get drafted.
Interior offensive line:
- Matthew Lee – UCF. Lee has started two years at center and was an OT in high school. He has good size and athleticism. Being only 295 though he will need to add some bulk before coming to the NFL, but he has time with him being a 4th year Junior. His pass blocking in ’21 was really good and even for being a little undersized his run blocking is decent. A sleeper pick that could go higher than most expect.
- Jacob Likes – Memphis. Likes is undersized at 6’2 280. He played real solid as a first year starter in ’21. Obviously he needs to add bulk. A decent athlete. Even for being 280 his run blocking isn’t bad. Already a good pass blocker.
- Sincere Haynesworth – Tulane. A starter since mid way through the 2019 season he has shown growth each season. Even as a true freshman his pass blocking was solid. An undersized center at 6’1 305. He compensates that with his big hands and long arms; 10 1/8″ and 33″ respectively. His run blocking has come a long way as well. One of the better centers in the class that doesn’t get much PR.
- Kyle Hergel – Texas State. Unknown until recently when it was revealed he was on Bruce Feldman’s freak list. His size is average at 6’2 305 with 32 1/2″ arms, but has a 78″ wingspan so he has a wide body. He was a so-so player before making a huge leap in 2021. Very good in pass pro and run blocking. Needs to play against better competition.
- Jake Andrews – Troy. A two year starter at RG who also has experience at C and LG. Andrews is a big man at 6’3 331. A decent athlete for his size who has actually been better in the pass game than the run game. Could make it as a versatile back up. Overaged, will be 23 in November.
- Rusty Staats – Western Kentucky. He is being included in this list for two reasons: His amazing name and his play on the field. He was a first year starter this past season at center. He blocked really well in 2021 all around. His run blocking was a bit inconsistent. If anything holds him back at the next level it will be his borderline athleticism. He does have some experience at guard and that could be a better spot for him eventually.
- Sidy Sow – Eastern Michigan. Sow is entering his 5th year as a starter. He actually started most of 2018 at LT, the rest at LG. He is a big dude at 6’5 334. Due to his lack of elite athleticism he will be a guard only player in the NFL. He has battled inconsistencies through out his career, but has worked on it and has improved over the last couple seasons. Sow still needs to continue to work on it in regards to his pass blocking. A very consistent run blocker the last two seasons.