• LB Nick Herbig, Wisconsin: He boasts some of the best range and change-of-direction ability in the entire draft class but likely isn’t getting buzz at the moment because he was an on-ball linebacker for Wisconsin who will have to play off-ball in the NFL.
• CB Darius Rush, South Carolina: He broke up six passes and picked off two more on only 31 targets last season. While he allowed a few too many big plays on tape and will be 23 by draft day, there’s still a lot to like about him.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins
The term “sleeper” can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s any NFL draft prospect they’re not seeing in first-round mocks right now. For others, it’s prospects grinding it out at Division II schools with tape you can only find on the black market. Let's split the difference for this list. Here are some 2023 NFL Draft prospects who aren’t getting a ton of fanfare but could very well end up as top-100 selections.
LB Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
Herbig likely isn’t getting buzz at the moment because he was an on-ball linebacker for Wisconsin who will have to play off-ball in the NFL because of his size (6-foot-2, 227 pounds). That’s obviously always going to add an extra layer of uncertainty. Having seen Herbig take on blocks and play in space, however, I’m convinced that he can make the transition with ease.
He boasts some of the best range and change-of-direction ability in the entire draft class. On his very few snaps dropping into coverage this past season (95), Herbig showed an understanding of how route concepts developed. In fact, on those limited coverage snaps, Herbig broke up more passes (three) than Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson did for his entire career.
Wisconsin ED Nick Herbig is an undersized tweener. He was a menace vs Iowa.
Listed at 228, he’s going to be a role dependent defender. A potential DPR.
♦️Active hand counters
♦️Pass rush plan
— Full-Time Dame ???? (@DP_NFL) December 26, 2022
WR Michael Wilson, Stanford
Wilson may be off some people's radars despite going to a big school because he couldn’t stay on the football field. He saw the field for more passing snaps in 2019 (441) than he did from 2020-2022 combined (438). While he averaged a productive 2.3 yards per route this past season, it’s difficult to really buy in when it comes in only six games. That’s why his performance at the Senior Bowl was so eye-opening. The crispness with which he got out of his breaks for a bigger wide receiver (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) was exactly what it takes to succeed at the NFL level. He won't be available after Day 2 anymore.
Michael Wilson you have my attention@StanfordFball @seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/pbqor08xF7
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 1, 2023
WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
Scott may very well be the most underrated receiver in the draft class at the moment. His skill set is not too dissimilar to that of Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, who’s getting love in some first-round mocks, but Scott didn’t get featured in the same kind of role that consistently went vertical. Even still, the Cincinnati receiver was no stranger to big plays, hauling in six deep passes last season. Scott possesses that same level of elite juice that makes Hyatt so appealing, with reportedly a 4.29-second 40-yard dash, a 40.5-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump in Cincinnati’s testing last offseason. Oh, and it shows on tape.
Tyler Scott, untouched for 76 yards! pic.twitter.com/y4vMPNhah4
— Barstool Cincinnati (@UCBarstool) November 12, 2022
RB DeWayne McBride, UAB
McBride is going to end up a top-five running back on the PFF draft board simply for the creativity he runs with. He may not be the biggest, fastest or most impressive athlete, but he consistently finds ways to contort his body to avoid tackles and fit through tight creases. For his career at UAB, McBride averaged 7.2 yards per carry with 175 broken tackles on 484 attempts. At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, McBride has the size to translate to the NFL game, as well.
OH, THE MOVES!
DeWayne McBride with an AWESOME touchdown run for @UAB_FB. pic.twitter.com/aZAjM7XcVD
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 29, 2022
DT Moro Ojomo, Texas
Ojomo is one of the most NFL-ready run defenders in the entire draft class. He can get up and down the line of scrimmage with ease, as well as two-gap when left one on one. Ojomo possesses an ideal build to play the run with a low center of gravity at 6-foot-2 but long arms to still keep blockers at bay (34 3/8 inches). It’s why he earned the fourth-highest run-defense grade in the country among defensive tackles last season despite being under 300 pounds.
Another sleeper: Texas DL Moro Ojomo. Explosive pass rusher with great length. 56th on my board right now pic.twitter.com/QxrCbwWvQd
— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) January 29, 2023
DT Brodric Martin, Western Kentucky
Martin is a discount store version of Jordan Davis, last year’s first defensive tackle drafted. He has egregiously long arms (34 3/8 inches) for an over 7-foot wingspan and holds 337 pounds with ease. He’s got all the makings of a two-gapper at the next level. He took a massive step forward with his performance this past fall, racking up 23 pressures and earning a 77.5 pass-rushing grade.
Lil 330lb peak-a-boo from @ShrineBowl acceptance Brodric Martin from WKU. Massive 6’4 335lbs with some range! pic.twitter.com/cvu0rEcznL
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 9, 2022
EDGE Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State
Fehoko is an ass-kicker. The 6-foot-4, 263-pounder was a bully on tape this past season for San Jose State. He finished with an 87.4 run-defense grade and a 90.2 pass-rushing grade as he racked up the fourth-most pressures in the country (66). He has a bit of an odd build for a defensive end, but his play strength on tape is nothing short of NFL-caliber.
Viliami Fehoko (@juniorfehoko42) is a versatile and highly disruptive defensive line prospect from @SanJoseStateFB
Refined, expansive, and pro-ready pass rush arsenal with outstanding hands ⚔️#ShrineBowl1000 #AllSpartans pic.twitter.com/zBKzy61Zub
— Shane Coughlin (@Shane__Coughlin) August 18, 2022
CB Darius Rush, South Carolina
While I tried to stay away from Senior Bowl players who already got buzz throughout the week of practice, Rush is too talented to still be flying under the radar. From a pure tools perspective, he’s more projectable than South Carolina teammate Cam Smith, who’s been mocked as high as the teens in some places. Rush is longer (32 3/4-inch arms) and faster (21.65 mph on GPS at Senior Bowl — fastest of any player in attendance) than Smith with comparable production last season. Rush broke up six passes and picked off two more on only 31 targets last season. While he allowed a few too many big plays on tape and will be 23 by draft day, there’s still a lot to like about him.
Highest graded SEC Cornerbacks this season:
???? Emmanuel Forbes: 83.3
???? Darius Rush: 81.4
???? Javon Bullard: 81.0 pic.twitter.com/TMgxaMW8Gq
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 12, 2022
CB Starling Thomas V, UAB
Well-built cornerbacks with elite make-up speed will almost always have a spot on NFL rosters, and Thomas fits that bill. It also helps when that cornerback was one of the stingiest in college football last season. He allowed only 257 yards and 22 catches on 58 targets all year with nine pass breakups. While he may not hit everyone’s height threshold at a quarter inch under 5-foot-10, Thomas is very well put together at 194 pounds and still has a 6-foot-3 wingspan. He put on a show at the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas and would be a steal if he slips to mid-Day 3.
Starling Thomas V plays with patience and has an insane first step out of his breaks.
Off man-coverage in slot➡️weave to maintain inside leverage➡️settles at top of route, eyes glued to receivers hip➡️explodes out of break➡️arrives with violence for the PBU.
— owenstraley21 (@owenstraley21) January 30, 2023