2024 NFL Draft: Under-the-radar prospects to watch the rest of the way

2T17C5B PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 07: Washington State Cougars defensive back Jaden Hicks (25) defends in coverage during the college football game against the UCLA Bruins on October 7, 2023 at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Keep an eye on Washington State's Jaden Hicks: The savvy safety is currently boasting career-high grades as a pass-rusher (80.5), as a coverage player (73.2) and overall (72.3).

• UCLA's Gabriel Murphy is producing opposite Laiatu Latu: Despite his 91.2 pass-rush grade this season, he isn’t getting the love his production warrants.

• Check out PFF's 2024 NFL Draft big board: Click here to see 150 of the top draft prospects that college football has to offer.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes


With the college football regular season starting to turn the corner to the home stretch, under-the-radar 2024 NFL Draft prospects are becoming more easily identifiable.

Here are eight potential risers on the PFF big board as we get into late-season updates. 


OG CHRISTIAN HAYNES, CONNECTICUT 

Haynes is one of the most under-the-radar standout players in college football this season. Last year, the three-year starter earned a career-best 83.9 overall grade. This year, the now four-year starter improved to an 86.8 mark, thanks to an 88.0 pass-blocking grade and an 87.5 run-blocking grade.

On 238 pass-blocking snaps, Haynes has allowed only one sack and four total pressures this season. Nearly 20% of his run-blocking snaps have yielded a positive PFF grade. He might be a player an NFL team likes more at center than guard, but whichever position he plays on the interior, he’s putting his best foot forward this season. 


S JADEN HICKS, WASHINGTON STATE

Washington State safety Jaden Hicks has just gotten better and better throughout his college football career. After redshirting his first season, he wondered if he could even hang at the Pac-12 level. Now, he’s one of the more reliable players in the conference. 

The savvy safety is currently boasting career-high grades as a pass-rusher (80.5), as a coverage player (73.2) and overall (72.3). His stat line includes an interception and four forced incompletions, and he has allowed only 82 yards in coverage. He’s also generated five pressures and two sacks when blitzing.

Hicks' instincts and anticipation make him a player Washington State can use all over its defense, and that kind of secondary intelligence will be talked about during the draft cycle. 


EDGE STEVE LINTON, TEXAS TECH

Linton spent four years with Syracuse before transferring to Texas Tech for his fifth season of eligibility. It’s turning out to be a great decision for him, as he is currently holding career-best grades overall (73.1) and, more importantly, as a pass-rusher (87.1). He has 19 total pressures and a career-high 19.7% pass-rush win rate on the year.

Linton is light for an edge rusher, even an outside linebacker, listed at 235 pounds. But what he lacks in strength he makes up for with added quickness, especially with inside moves. 


EDGE JORDAN BURCH, OREGON

Burch is a former five-star recruit who transferred from South Carolina to Oregon this offseason. At 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, he is a big athlete who has shown flashes of impact plays over the past two seasons. In his final year at South Carolina, he recorded 40 total pressures and a 13.7% pass-rush win rate. Those numbers are down a bit in 2023, as is his pass-rush grade.

He might not possess the ceiling as a true edge rusher many believed he had out of high school, but Burch still moves well for a big man. We’re going to view him through the lens of a potential 3-4 defensive end through the back half of this season. That means less production, naturally, but that could be his role in the NFL.


EDGE GABRIEL MURPHY, UCLA 

Murphy is an under-the-radar player because the pass-rusher opposite him, Laiatu Latu, might be the first edge rusher selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. But, make no mistake, that doesn’t make Murphy any less of a future pro.

2023 is the second season of great pass-rush production from Murphy. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder is used on both sides of the field — and sometimes even as an interior rusher — and it has yielded success. His 18.6% pass-rush win rate in 2022 has been bested by his 22.4% clip so far this season.

Murphy's hand work is so good, often disengaging with blockers before they can even reach him and making sure they can’t get ahold of him as he attacks the outside or inside shoulders. Despite his 91.2 pass-rush grade this season, he isn’t getting the love his production warrants. 


CB CHAU SMITH-WADE, WASHINGTON STATE

At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Smith-Wade is on the slender side, even for a cornerback, but he has some really good coverage grades over the past few seasons, including this one. He recorded an 85.5 coverage grade in 2022, surrendering just 27 receptions across 448 coverage snaps.

This season, Smith-Wade's coverage grade is a bit lower, at 78.6, but his completion percentage allowed is now below 50% and he already has more forced incompletions (nine) than last year (seven). Despite his lack of overall size, he likes to be physical when tackling, in press and at the catch point. 


WR JAMARI THRASH, LOUISVILLE

Thrash spent his past four seasons at Georgia State dominating their passing attack before transferring to Louisville. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver is a big-play threat, with 50 explosive plays of 20-plus yards over the past three years. But he’s more than just deep speed. Louisville does well to get the ball in Thrash's hands for yards-after-the-catch opportunities, as well. It is a stacked receiver class, but don’t let that be the reason you overlook Thrash. 


WR ROBERT LEWIS, GEORGIA STATE

Lewis replaced Thrash in Georgia State’s passing offense, and he is filling those shoes nicely with an impressive 2023 campaign. Lewis is a bit shorter than Thrash, listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he is playing the same role as the main athletic element in Georgia State’s offense.

Lewis has nine explosive plays and an average depth of targets of 12.3 yards in 2023. His THREAT percentage (WR usage) is also above 25% this season. He likely won’t be a Day 1 or Day 2 guy, but he could be a Day 3 name to watch. 

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