Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
All of the names at the top of the draft are household variety by now, but there is star power beyond Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr., and Bijan Robinson.
Scouting departments work diligently in the buildup to draft day to protect their favorite underappreciated and underrated prospects from stirring up attention.
Here are our picks for players with impact potential who might not be prominent on the public radar until they take off on the field.
Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
Because he’s 5-11 and doesn’t run in the 4.4s, Haener won’t get a lot of attention. A gamer by every definition, he has a strong, accurate arm and quick release without showcasing any truly elite traits. An underdog backup who will be embraced by teammates and be capable of winning games, if not start the dreaded QB controversy with the type of play fans generally embrace.
Nick Hampton, OLB, Appalachian State
Hampton is unlikely to be a first-round pick due to his limitations as a scheme fit, but for a team looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush the passer, he’s a perfect match. He may be slender, but he’s an elite athlete with bend, balance, and body control to go with special speed and a finely tuned pass-rush plan.
Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton
All-Ivy League in track and the conference leader in receiving in 2022, Iosivas had 16 career TD catches and has potential as a red-zone target. At 6-3, he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and posted a 39-inch vertical at the combine.
Marte Mapu, OLB-S, Sacramento State
He’s 6-3, 220, and has a nose for the ball with seven career interceptions. But even as the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, he also arrives largely untested and coming back from a torn pectoral muscle in February. Some of the same questions followed Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn into the NFL, but he’s been more than solid for the Carolina Panthers since being drafted in the second round (64th overall) in 2020.
Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
Athletic freak with legitimate 4.5 speed, Musgrave was studied closely by scouts after missing most of his senior season due to injury. He showed at the Senior Bowl there’s plenty of reason to expect him to make noise in the NFL.
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
Once a top Georgia recruit, Stevenson could be viewed as a safety by some teams because of a lack of polished technique that will be exposed by more precise route runners. At cornerback, has the size and speed to take off if he responds to NFL coaching.
Tuli Tuipulotu, DT/DE, USC
A stand-up rusher for the Trojans with first-step quickness to win off the edge, he lacks agility and bend and isn’t quite big enough to hold up as an interior lineman. In the right scheme, there’s potential for serious production.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State
With no true “wow” moments on his game tape, the limited buzz is understandable. But consistency can’t be understated. He’s a sturdy run defender who uses his hands efficiently, plays with leverage, and knows how to work through blocks.
–Field Level Media