Five under-the-radar 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch in Week 1


Guess who’s back. Back again. Football’s back. Tell a friend.

The college football season starts in earnest on Thursday night leading us into a massive weekend of games. While Georgia vs. Oregon and Notre Dame vs. Ohio State will steal most of the headlines, there are a ton of great games to watch and hundreds of draft prospects to keep an eye on.

Unfortunately, some of these games are going to be at the same time, so break out the tablet or set your DVR if you want to watch all of the amazing action from this weekend.

I wanted to highlight a few of the draft-eligible players I am most excited to watch this weekend. Sure, I will want to watch Jalen Carter face off with Oregon’s offensive line and C.J. Stroud battle Notre Dame’s secondary, but those are the matchups that everyone will be watching anyway.

What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. Many of these players fans of college football have likely heard of. However, these are not the guys you will likely see in a first-round mock draft at this point. So rather than just tell people to watch the games they already know to turn on, let’s take a look at some players who might not be household names yet, but could very well be Top 100 players at the end of the season.

JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
Year: 5th-year junior
Opponent: at #17 Pitt (Thursday at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN)

A former five-star quarterback making his debut for third school in a rivalry game? Sign me up for that! Daniels has shown flashes of being an NFL-caliber quarterback. He has the size, arm talent and solid mobility. His injury history is the biggest hurdle he needs to overcome. He will be facing a talented Pittsburgh defense full of NFL talent. This is also the return of the Backyard Brawl, which dates back to 1895 and has not been played in 11 years. It is going to be a raucous environment for Daniels to prove himself. I’m excited to see how he does in Neal Brown’s offense especially under the circumstances.

Lew Nichols III, RB, Central Michigan
Year: 4th-year sophomore
Opponent: at #12 Oklahoma State (Thursday at 7:00 pm ET on FS1)

College football’s leading rusher from 2021 is back and he will get a stiff test to open the 2022 season. The senior running back packs a punch at 220 pounds and has shown he can be a threat in the passing game as well. He finished this past season with 40 receptions for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Now, he will get a chance to showcase his abilities against a stout Oklahoma State defense. The Cowboys were third in yards allowed and eight in points allowed last year as a team. They definitely lost a few key contributors with Malcolm Rodriguez, Devin Harper and Christian Holmes all getting drafted, but they bring back five starters from a year ago. This will be one of two huge opportunities for Nichols this season. Central Michigan will play Penn State the final weekend of September as well.

Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
Year: 4th-year senior
Opponent: at Coastal Carolina (Saturday at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN+)

One of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class just so happens to play for Army. Carter is a 6’7″ edge rusher who recorded more sacks than Aidan Hutchinson a year ago. In fact, the only player with more sacks in 2021 was Will Anderson Jr. There is no question Carter has not faced the same level of competition as Hutchinson or Anderson, but he will get a chance to prove himself against a good team in Coastal Carolina on Saturday night to open his season. I can’t say I know a tremendous amount about the Chanticleers’ starting tackles, Donnell Wilson and Antwine Loper, but they are both veteran players attempting to protect a potential first-round quarterback in Grayson McCall. That’s enough to get me to tune into this matchup.

Brant Kuithe, TE, Utah
Year: 5th-year senior
Opponent: at Florida (Saturday at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN)

This should be a really fun game to watch in its own right, but I’m going to be keyed in on a number of draft prospects in this game. Kuithe stands out from the group though for me. He is coming off a season where he posted 50 catches for 611 yards and six touchdowns. While he is a bit undersized, the fifth year senior is not afraid of contact and fits the mold of today’s NFL. He is a mismatch with his speed for a lot of linebackers, but he is too big and athletic for a lot of safeties to handle. Kuithe will get a really good test though against a Florida defense that brings back nine starters from a year ago, led by linebackers Brenton Cox Jr. and Ventrell Miller. The Gators also hired Billy Napier, whose Louisiana squad finished 11th in scoring defense in his final year. I have a feeling that Utah quarterback Cameron Rising is going to target Kuithe early and often. We will see how Florida plans to slow him down.

Jammie Robinson, CB, Florida State
Year: 4th-year junior
Opponent: vs. LSU (Sunday at 7:30 pm ET on ABC)

Florida State has a good history of producing NFL-caliber corners. Robinson could be the latest one to make the jump. He earned some preseason recognition from the AP, landing on their All-American second team. He had a really strong junior season, his first with the Seminoles. He had four interceptions and two forced fumbles to go with 84 total tackles. He had a strong start to the season against Duquesne with two pass break ups. Standing at 5’11”, he meets the requisite size for an NFL corner. He will also get a chance to go up against one of the best receivers in the country in Kayshon Boutte. That is going to be one heck of a matchup and a huge opportunity for Robinson to prove himself.

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