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.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

NFL Draft Daily: An early look at the 2023 quarterback class

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 346 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

We are still months away from the start of the college football season, but it is never too early to start looking at the prospects for this upcoming draft. Where else could I possibly start than at quarterback? After a down year without many exciting passers, the 2023 draft class has the potential to be one of the deepest classes we have ever seen. With a ton of upperclassmen quarterbacks and some super exciting juniors, this is a class we can start to be excited about.

Just to be clear, these are not rankings. I put out my Way-Too-Early 2023 mock draft a couple weeks back that at least gives a sense of how I rank the top quarterbacks right now.

Also, in the interest of not having a nearly 4,000 word post, I decided to split up the quarterbacks I am keeping an eye on this year into two separate posts. I will have part two out tomorrow. So with that, let’s start to familiarize ourselves with the quarterbacks sure to be discussed in this 2023 draft cycle.

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
My top quarterback heading into the 2023 draft cycle, Stroud put together a really strong 2021 season and should be well positioned to build off it in 2022. He posted the highest passer rating of any Power 5 quarterback in the country, tossing 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions. More importantly, he completed nearly 72 percent of his passes. He passes the eye test from a physical perspective, listed at 6’3″, 218 pounds. I will be curious to see how he does without his top two targets from a year ago. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave will now be playing on Sundays. If his Rose Bowl performance against Utah, where Wilson and Olave sat out, is any indication of what Stroud can do this season, he will likely win the Heisman. Jackson Smith-Njigba might be better than Wilson and Olave, plus Marvin Harrison Jr. is ready for a bigger role.

Bryce Young, Alabama
Just behind Stroud is Young, who needs no introduction after winning the National Championship as a freshman and the Heisman as a sophomore. He is a proven playmaker who dominated the SEC, throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns. Both marks were second in the country, trailing only Bailey Zappe. He will have plenty of opportunity to prove his talent without his top two targets from a year ago. Jameson Williams and John Metchie III are both in the NFL now. Hopefully, Alabama’s offensive line will be a bit better in pass protection after allowing 39 sacks a season ago. My biggest concern is his size. Young has a slight frame, listed at 6’0″ and 194 pounds. That is a bit of a red flag, but he hasn’t let it impact his game to this point.

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
I watched Miami play Pittsburgh this past season and came away more impressed with the quarterback wearing orange and white than the one in blue and gold. That’s right, Van Dyke outplayed Kenny Pickett, who was drafted in the first round just a few weeks ago. He looked sharp down the stretch, taking over for the injured D’Eriq King permanently in October. He got off to a rocky start, but Miami went 5-1 over its final six games with Van Dyke leading the offense. From a size perspective, he checks all the boxes. At this point, he is solidly in the first-round conversation, but that is a bit of projection that he takes the next step in his development this season.

Will Levis, Kentucky
The Penn State transfer made a name for himself in 2021 with an impressive debut season for Kentucky. He posted solid numbers as the Wildcats went 10-3, including a Citrus Bowl win over Iowa. Levis looked sharp and has a lot of the NFL measurables, including a clear pro-caliber arm. Now, he does need to cut down on the interceptions, he had 13 this past season, but it is easy to see how he could translate to the next level. He has a big season to prove himself ahead, hopefully, featuring more downfield passing and less focus on throwing the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Another SEC quarterback that is on the rise, Hooker quietly had one of the best statistical seasons of any passer in 2021. He threw for just shy of 3,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 68.2 percent of his passes. His passer rating for the year trailed only CJ Stroud and Grayson McCall. He also racked up 620 yards rushing. So a clear dual threat with an NFL body who takes care of the football? Consider me intrigued.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Small-school quarterbacks are in right now in the NFL. Or at least, quarterbacks from non-traditional powers, because Coastal Carolina is quickly shedding its small school persona. McCall led the nation in passer rating and yards per attempt while finishing third in completion percentage. He has the size and mobility to translate to the next level as well. I like his ability to put some touch on his throws as well. He hasn’t faced the best competition in the Sun Belt, but his accuracy is incredible regardless. His game is a bit Patrick Mahomes-esque with his ability to make plays on the run and throw off platform. His arm strength is nowhere near that of Mahomes, to be clear, but I definitely notice some similarities.

Bo Nix, Oregon
What a journey Nix has been on. He was supposed to be the savior of Auburn when he arrived. The son of Tigers great Pat Nix never quite lived up to the hype. He has yet to eclipse 16 passing touchdowns in a season and a career completion percentage south of 60 percent. Now, he will get a chance to resurrect his career and draft prospects at the school he opened the college career against back in 2019. Nix unquestionably has talent, but consistency has been a bit of an issue. We will have to see if a change of scenery at Oregon will be enough to put him back in the NFL draft conversation.

Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh
Another quarterback looking for a fresh start, Slovis burst onto the scene in 2019, but has failed to live up to the expectations that have followed. His completion percentage has slipped each of the past two seasons and he has thrown for fewer touchdown passes in the past two seasons combined than he did in his impressive freshman year. On top of that, he has struggled a bit with injuries. If he can get back on track replacing Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh, Slovis has every chance to push himself back into the first-round conversation. He has the prototypical size and good arm. The issue will be showing he can put those attributes to good use on a consistent basis.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
Welcome to 2022, where pretty much every quarterback has transferred. Rattler is another quarterback looking to turn his career around after things went wrong in his first stop. He entered 2021 as a Heisman candidate and a projected No. 1 pick at Oklahoma. Then he lost his starting job to Caleb Williams and ended up transferring to South Carolina at the end of the season. I am very excited to dive deeper into his film to find out why he struggled this past year and how he can get back on track.

JT Daniels, West Virginia
This is school number three for Daniels. He started at USC, lost his job to Kedon Slovis after tearing his ACL as a sophomore, went to Georgia to be the starter, struggled with injuries and lost his job to Stetson Bennett. Needless to say, Daniels needs to show he can stay healthy first and foremost. His inability to be on the field is the biggest red flag for a player that has a couple of them. When he does play, he has a strong arm with decent accuracy and enough mobility to extend plays. He has a lot to prove this season if he legitimately hopes to be drafted.

Devin Leary, NC State
A rising star in the ACC, Leary had a fantastic junior season. This came on the heels of a horrendous freshman year and an injury-shortened sophomore campaign. His 35 touchdowns to just five interceptions gave him one of the best ratios in the country in 2021. Now, Leary will be out to prove he is not a one-year wonder. He is one of the players I am most excited to watch this upcoming season. I would not be shocked if he finds himself in the first round next April.

Anthony Richardson, Florida
People are expecting big things from Richardson after he flashed some otherworldly potential in limited action this past season. He appeared in just seven games and attempted only 64 passes. He is incredibly mobile, evidenced by an 80-yard touchdown run against South Florida. He did injure himself on the play though. What’s more, he threw just six touchdown passes and had five interceptions. He will need to show growth as a passer for a team to take a chance on him in the 2023 draft, but his athleticism is something teams will be happy to bet on.

Cameron Rising, Utah
A sleeper I think people should keep an eye on in this quarterback class, Rising reinvented himself after transferring from Texas. He redshirted in 2018 and 2019 and only played in one game in 2020. He patiently waited for his chance to shine. At long last, he got a chance to showcase his abilities. He accounted for 26 total touchdowns, 20 through the air and six on the ground, while throwing just five interceptions. Entering his fourth season at Utah, he has a good grasp on this offense and should be well positioned for an even better season. I don’t know if he has elite traits, but there is enough there that I am very intrigued.

Jake Haener, Fresno State
One of the older prospects in this draft class, Haener turned 23 in March and will be 24 by the draft next year. Age is less of a factor with quarterback prospects, but Haener will need to show he is pro ready, because a 24-year-old developmental quarterback might be a tough sell. Good thing is, he seems like he will be pretty close. He threw for over 4,000 yards this past season and an impressive 67 percent completion percentage. On top of that, he had 33 touchdown passes. He started his college career at Washington and has grown into a solid prospect over the past two seasons at Fresno. He faced some good competition and I’m excited to watch more of him.

Malik Cunningham, Louisville
Possibly the best runner in this draft class, Cunningham has been a solid player at Louisville capable of dazzling at any moment. 20 touchdowns on the ground is incredible. He has the ability to throw passes on a rope, but he needs to improve his accuracy. His completion percentage dipped down to 62 percent in 2021. I really like his game, but I think he needs a bit more polish to push him into the conversation with the top quarterbacks in this class.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

NFL Draft Daily: Is there still hope for JT Daniels to reach the NFL?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 14 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

We are onto school number three for JT Daniels. The former five-star quarterback told ESPN on Wednesday that he will be transferring to West Virginia after losing his starting job to Stetson Bennett at Georgia. This is already the second time that Daniels has transferred, arriving in Athens after two years at USC. His college career has been nothing shy of a rollercoaster ride.

Unfortunately for Daniels, injuries have plagued his career. He suffered a torn ACL in his sophomore year at USC, which led to Kedon Slovis taking over the starting job. Slovis had a phenomenal freshman season, prompting Daniels to head to Georgia. The NCAA granted him permission to play immediately following his transfer in the summer of 2020, paving the way for him to compete with Jamie Newman, Bennett and D’Wan Mathis for the starting job. Newman ultimately ended up opting out of the 2020 season.

Daniels started just three games for the Bulldogs in 2021. (Photo credit: TigerNet.com)

Perhaps we should have known right away that Daniels was not going to be the guy in Athens. He finished third in that quarterback competition. Mathis was the Week 1 starter, but quickly lost his job to Bennett. Daniels became the backup to Bennett. He only took over when Bennett suffered an injury in November. He looked sharp in the team’s final four games, winning the starting job for the remainder of the season. He completed just over 66 percent of his passes and averaged over 300 yards passing per game.

That set the stage for a big 2021 season. Daniels entered the year as a Heisman front runner and the presumed starter. Once again injuries got in the way as he missed extended time and ultimately lost his starting job even when he was healthy enough to return. Bennett went on to lead Georgia to a national championship, with Daniels playing sparingly in relief throughout the final stretch of the season.

At this point, it is hard to know what to make of Daniels. He clearly still has some talent. Over his two seasons at Georgia he put up solid numbers. He completed 69 percent of his passes to go with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions across nine appearances. Daniels has prototypical NFL size, standing 6’3″, 210 pounds. He has an above average arm with decent velocity on his throws. I was particularly impressed with his quick release. There are some nice anticipation throws on his tape as well. While he is not a great athlete for the position, he can move around in the pocket and make throws on the run. His deep ball isn’t always perfect, but when it is on, it looks great.

However, Daniels will need to show a number of things this year in order to prove to NFL teams that he deserves a shot at the next level. His ball placement is a bit inconsistent, especially when throwing to the boundary. His footwork also needs to be cleaned up. There are several throws where his feet are a mess and it impacts the trajectory of the throw, frequently leaving the ball short of where he should be leading the receiver. His throwing motion also gets a bit funky at times. Above all else, he will need to show that he can stay healthy. Perhaps adding a few pounds to his frame will help prepare for the physical nature of the NFL.

Some people may be questioning why West Virginia of all schools. Well for one, his former offensive coordinator at USC, Graham Harrell, is the offensive coordinator for the Mountaineers now. Having some familiarity with the offensive scheme was likely appealing to Daniels. They also have a veteran group returning for 2022 on offense. Beyond that, he simply did not have many other suitors. The other schools he visited were Missouri and Oregon State.

Without a doubt, there is a lot of work to be done in order for Daniels to rehab his draft stock. For a frame of reference, I think Daniels would probably be a late-round pick or priority undrafted free-agent in this quarterback class at best. This is one of the weakest quarterback classes in recent memory, but he would likely be the eight or ninth quarterback selected. There are just too many unknowns about him right now.

Heading into 2023, he will certainly not be in contention to be the first quarterback taken. With Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and possibly Tyler Van Dyke all in the mix to be top-10 selections, it is hard to see Daniels coming anywhere close to that group. That being said, if Daniels can simply stay on the field and post similar numbers to his time in Georgia, he will be drafted. Probably not in the first round given his injury history. It is obviously way too early to say, but I think Daniels will still have a really good shot of making the jump to the NFL.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.