NFL Draft Season is not just the week or even the month before the draft. NO, draft season has already started and is in full swing with the Hula bowl already being played on January 14th in Hawaii. With the NFL Draft also comes the task of ranking and grading prospects, which can be a very fluid process, as anything is subject to change between now and the NFL draft on April 27th.
Every year there are prospects who rise up draft boards in the pre-draft process. That can be from the Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl, Combine or any other draft showcase. Likewise, players can also rise after NFL staffs get a second chance to watch their film and regrade them. These are my 5 NFL Draft prospects that I believe could rise the most throughout the pre-draft process.
5 NFL Draft prospects that could rise in the pre-draft process
Tyree Wilson – DE – Texas Tech Red Raiders
Wilson is one of the most psychically imposing prospects in this year’s draft. He stands at 6’6, 275 pounds, but has a ridiculous 86″ wingspan which would be one of the longest in the NFL currently. After transferring to Texas Tech from Texas A&M, Wilson has shown his versatility along the defensive line, playing both the edge and interior.
Wilson had committed to the Senior Bowl but has since dropped out as most elite prospects do. This is a shame though, as the Senior Bowl would have been a great environment to showcase his talents, but he will still get a chance at the NFL combine.
The combine is where I think his stock will really start to rise when teams get their official measurements of players. The ideal fit for a player like Wilson would be a 3-4 defensive end in an odd front, which could be perfect for a certain team who currently holds a top 5 pick.
That would be the Seattle Seahawks who also happen to massively covet arm length for their defensive players. This would be about the highest I could see Wilson going, but I think he has as good a chance as anyone else to be selected by the Seahawks at pick number 5.
Christian Gonzalez – CB – Oregon Ducks
The former Colorado Buffalo, Gonzalez experienced a breakout season this year at Oregon tallying four interceptions and six pass breakups. He also added 50 total tackles including 1 for loss. Gonzalez is a true number-one corner who loves taking on the task of shutting down the opposing team’s top receiver. He is also very scheme-versatile and could play in both a man or zone-dominant scheme.
Prior to the season, Gonzalez appeared on Bruce Feldman’s, “Freaks List” for his athleticism. Gonzalez has been clocked at 23.3 MPH on a GPS tracker, he has a vertical jump of 42″ and he can power clean 325 pounds. He is also the younger brother of two former All-American sprinters. Let’s not forget Gonzalez does all of this at 6’2, 200 pounds.
After Gonzalez absolutely tears up the combine, which he will, I think he will start to shoot up draft boards. I think he has the potential to not only be the first cornerback off the board, but I think he could even be a possibility for the Lions at pick number 6.
Jalin Hyatt – WR – Tennessee Volunteers
Jalin Hyatt introduced himself to the world on October 15th, 2022 when Alabama came to play Tennessee in Knoxville. In that game, Hyatt had 6 receptions for 207 yards and a school-record 5 TDs, 3 of which were over 35 yards. Over the entire season, Hyatt totalled 67 receptions for 1267 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The number one thing everyone mentions when they talk about Jalin Hyatt is also the reason he will rise into the back end of the first round come draft time, and that is his blazing speed. Hyatt claims his 40-time clocks in at under 4.3 seconds, and if that is true, trust me he will be moving up draft boards.
Especially considering there is no one like him in this class when you think about his speed and elite deep-threat abilities. Simply put, Hyatt is the premier deep-threat receiver in this class, and soon NFL teams will value him as such.
Nathaniel (Tank) Dell – WR – Houston Cougars
Nathaniel Dell really does epitomize the nickname, Tank. At just 5’10, 165 pounds Tank Dell is a dynamic receiver with the ball in his hands and a nuanced route runner from both the slot and out wide.
Over the past two seasons, Dell has been one of college football’s most prolific weapons. Across, 2021 and 2022, Dell combined for 193 receptions for 2,683 yards and 27 touchdowns. He earned first-team All-AAC recognition in both of the last two seasons and was even a Biletnikoff award semi-finalist this past year.
Dell has already committed to playing in the Senior Bowl this February, and I think that could really be his chance to move up draft boards. Every year around this time we get hyped about an undersized, explosive WR who dominates the Senior Bowl, and this year I think that could be Nathaniel Dell.
Ivan Pace Jr – LB – Cinncinati Bearcats
If I had to describe Ivan Pace Jr with one word, that would be disruptive. He was one of the most productive linebackers in college football last season and was named a unanimous All-American. Last season Pace put up 10 sacks to go with an absurd 21.5 tackles for loss.
Pace is truly a heat-seeking missile and shows excellent versatility playing multiple positions in the linebacker room. He mostly lined up as a middle linebacker last season for Cincinnati but has shown flashes of being able to rush the quarterback as a linebacker off the edge.
The reason Pace is lower on draft boards than expected is because of his questionable size. As someone who projects mostly as a blitzing linebacker, he is fairly undersized at just 6’0, 235 pounds. Pace Jr is also someone who has committed to playing in the Senior Bowl, and if they truly unleash him and let him attack downhill, I think he could dominate and his size will become something NFL teams stop knocking him for.