NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft: Late risers after the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days

Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Jonathan Mingo (1) runs for a touchdown after a reception against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at FirstBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

• Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo: The 4.46-second 40-yard dash he ran at his pro day put him on even more radars.

• North Carolina State OG Chandler Zavala: He tested incredibly well at his pro day and now looks like a lock to be drafted on Day 2.

• Wake Forest DI Kobie Turner: He was the second-highest-graded defensive tackle in the Power Five this past season.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

The term “risers” used by draft analysis is really just shorthand for “people got around to watching their tape.” And that’s completely OK, as there are no brownie points for having the correct evaluation in January.

That being said, here are eight 2023 NFL Draft prospects you may not have heard much about who’ll be climbing their way toward the Day 2 conversation.

OG Chandler Zavala, N.C. State

Zavala has been the hottest name in the interior line class ever since his pro day on March 28. It's easy to see why when, at 6-foot-3 and 322 pounds, he put up these numbers:

Measurable Zavala
40-yard dash 5.01 seconds
Shuttle 4.53 seconds
Three-cone 7.56 seconds
Vertical 32 1/2 inches
Bench 30 reps

Zavala transferred from Division II Fairmont State to N.C. State in 2021 and started the first five games for the Wolfpack before a back injury ended his season. He returned in 2022 to be one of the best pass-protecting guards in the country, allowing only four pressures on 422 pass-blocking snaps. He looks like a Day 2 lock at this point.

WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss

I’d be floored if Mingo made it past Day 2. While he’s been starting for the Rebels since his true freshman season, he didn’t really become a focal point until this past fall, hauling in 51 passes for 861 yards. He’s an ascending route runner at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, with that size being unique among the top receivers in the class. The 4.46-second 40-yard dash he ran at his pro day definitely opened some evaluators' eyes. 

CB Cory Trice, Purdue

Were it not for a torn ACL in 2021, Trice may already be a well-known name in the NFL. That injury occurred only two games into his redshirt junior season, causing him to return to Purdue this past fall.

He turned it into a career year.

Trice allowed only 21 catches on 44 targets for 220 yards with two picks and nine pass breakups. He’s easily one of the best press cornerbacks in the class, thanks to his massive 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame, and easily one of the best tacklers in the class, with only four misses on 126 career attempts. Trice is another player who has very little chance of making it to Day 3.

LB Marte Mapu, Sacramento State

While Mapu is gaining more steam the more people that watch his tape, that unfortunately comes at the same time that we learned he tore his pectoral while bench pressing last week. That throws a bit of a wrench in one of the most intriguing small-school, undersized linebacker prospects (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) in the class.

He earned a 79.9 overall grade last season, buoyed by an 85.8 run-defense grade while playing primarily the overhang role for Sacramento State. His size never really showed up as an issue on tape when playing in the box, as he plays a physical brand of football. There are a lot of parallels between his game and that of small-school-safety-turned-linebacker Foyesade Oluokun as prospects. 

IOL Juice Scruggs, Penn State

Scruggs put on a show at the Shrine Bowl, where he comfortably looked like the best interior lineman in attendance. He kept that going with a solid overall testing performance, highlighted by a 32-inch vertical, a 4.63-second shuttle and 29 bench reps at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds. His balance is tremendous on tape, and he very well could make his way into Day 2 in a relatively thin interior line class.

EDGE Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan

Ramirez has one of the most refined pass-rush plans of any edge defender in the draft class. That helped him earn pass-rushing grades of 90.5 and 91.6 the past two seasons. Like others on this list, though, Ramirez doesn’t quite tick the size box, standing at a shade under 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 242 pounds. Still, at that size he can really move, as evidenced by his 6.95-second three-cone (90th percentile) and 4.3-second shuttle (79th percentile). That’s where he wins, and I’d bet on him continuing to do so in the NFL. 

DI Kobie Turner, Wake Forest

Turner turned heads at his pro day on April 4 when the 288-pound defensive tackle ran a 4.49-second shuttle and a 7.08-second cone (97th percentile), then put up 31 reps on the bench. Flip on the tape, and it should come as no surprise.

After transferring from Richmond to Wake Forest this past fall, all Turner did was turn in the second-highest-graded season of any defensive tackle in the Power Five (92.2 overall). While he’ll get dinged for his 6-foot-2 frame with 32-inch arms, his pro day showed a player who can overcome it at the next level. That still could relegate him to a Day 3 selection with the NFL’s emphasis on size at the position.

S Anthony Johnson Jr., Iowa State

If you can’t tell by now, a common theme on this list is late bloomers. Johnson fits that label and did so at a brand-new position. He was a three-year starter at cornerback, but question marks about his speed from NFL evaluators last cycle nudged him to safety in 2022. It was the right move, as he set career highs in interceptions (two) and defensive stops (21).

You’d never guess he’s a former cornerback with his size (6-foot, 205 pounds) and his ferocity coming downhill. You still see that cornerback background, though, as Johnson was outstanding when matching verticals from the slot.

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