2023 NFL Draft: Most athletic offensive prospects at the combine
The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine didn’t disappoint with more than a few high-end NFL Draft prospects putting on a show and some lesser known players building buzz for themselves. While the NFL Scouting Combine shouldn’t be used to adjust big boards, it’s a great tool for franchise and draftniks alike to cross-check a players athleticism or dig deeper on a prospect who performed above or below expectation.
More important than anything, the NFL Combine is key for teams because of the opportunity to put prospects through exhaustive medical exams and also sit down with them for interviews to really learn how they tick. The medicals and interviews are the reason the NFL Combine exists, but getting verified measurements and athletic testing numbers are just more ingredients in the recipe that is finding a successful NFL player.
Prospects who test well, or poorly, shouldn’t lead a team or draftnik to change their rankings, but rather send them back to the tape to see what they missed the first time through and if that athleticism, or lack thereof, shows up in games. When stacking an NFL Draft class of hundreds of players, the NFL Scouting Combine is a strong tool to uncover hidden gems or find flaws in top talents.
This year, the offense was split between the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends taking the field Saturday while the running backs and offensive linemen finished up the event in Indianapolis on Sunday. With confirmed measurements and testing numbers, the Relative Athletic Score’s (RAS) from prospects across the class are available. RAS, created by Kent Lee Platte, gauges a player’s athletic abilities relative to the position they play and provides tools to contrast and compare based on known measurables (pro day numbers are also added once known).
Last year, in the 2022 NFL Draft class, players like Jelani Woods, Breece Hall, Christian Watson, Trevor Penning, and Cole Strange were among the offensive players with the highest RAS scores; all of them went top-100. With tape meaning more than testing, these are the 10 2023 NFL Draft prospects with the highest RAS scores on offense and what the tape says about them.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida (6-4, 244, 10.5-inch hands)
Anybody who watched Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson make spectacular plays for a poor Gators squad this year knew he possessed exciting athleticism. Then, as draftnik’s dug into the redshirt sophomores tape, it became obvious he has rare traits that we’ve seen few quarterbacks bring to the field.
Everybody knew Richardson would test well, but to have him not only run a 4.43 40-yard dash (the fastest 40 for a QB over 230 pounds of all-time), but to set the QB record at the NFL Scouting Combine for the vert (40.5 inches) and broad jumps (10-9) was awe-inspiring. Richardson scored a perfect 10.0 RAS with compatibles to former NFL MVP Cam Newton and Pro Bowler Daunte Culpepper.
Richardson’s numbers at Florida don’t match the production of Newton or Culpepper though, he threw for 2,549 yards while completing just 53.8% of his passes this year with 26 total TDs to go with 9 interceptions and 654 more yards on the ground. However, Richardson was having to do a lot with a little.
While his footwork can be sporadic and impact his accuracy causing him to miss high and wide, Richardson has a cannon of an arm and when he’s set he can fit the ball anywhere on the field. He’s got an innate ability to extend plays and maneuver muddy pockets while remaining a passer and making throws off platform.
Unlike the other top QBs in the 2023 NFL Draft, Richardson can also be a primary piece of the running game for whichever franchise takes him. With the explosiveness and power he brings to the field, he’s a devastating runner who can break off big runs (see: the LSU game). That ability to change the run game raises his floor at the next level.
Heading into the week in Indianapolis Richardson’s tape and traits said he was worthy of a top-10 pick, this only confirms it even more. More and more mock drafts should have Richardson being one of the first players off the board.
Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion (6-7, 255, 10.2-inch hands, 34-inch arms)
Only a handful of players have ever registered a perfect 10.0 RAS, and this year Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz joined Richardson in doing so. It was surprising to see, not because Kuntz athleticism doesn’t pop on tape, but after missing the majority of this season for the Monarchs, it wasn’t known if he’d be participating in the testing portion in Indianapolis.
Rather than leave it for his pro day, Kuntz went and had himself the most complete performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He participated in everything and had himself one heck of a day by running a 4.55 40, vertical jumping 40 inches, broad jumping 10-8, putting up 23 reps on the bench, and most impressive of all were his agility numbers where he logged a 4.12 short shuttle and 6.87 3-cone time. He was top-two at his position in every single event.
A Penn State transfer, Kuntz hit the ground running in 2022, his first year at Old Dominion, with 73 catches for 692 yards and 5 TDs. He was firmly on the NFL radar over the summer as a potential top-10 TE in the 2023 NFL Draft. Then, in five games this year he had just 144 yards and 2 TDs on 12 receptions before getting hurt.
In one of the most talented tight end classes in recent memory, the injury took Kuntz out of the spotlight despite his tantalizing tape. This type of testing will help reinvigorate his stock with how his fluidity, size, and speed create mismatches all over his tape.
Lining up outside as an X, in the slot, and as an H-back at Old Dominion, Kuntz has the wiggle to create separation through stem work and the catch radius to win 50/50 balls. He’s got the tools teams look for in a modern F tight end with his athleticism and ball skills and has a similar skill set to Mike Gesicki of the Miami Dolphins.
With the depth and top tier talent in this tight end class, Kuntz might have a hard time being a top-100 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but everything is there for him to develop into a starting tight end at the next level.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia (6-3 1/2, 221, 9 3/8-inch hands, 33 1/2-inch arms)
While the success rate of the wide receiver that scores the highest RAS in their respective draft class has had mixed results in the NFL, in the previous five draft classes all five receivers were selected in the first four rounds. Christian Watson, Jacob Harris, Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, and DJ Chark were each drafted within the first 141 picks of their draft class, so history says that West Virginia’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton will be gone by early Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Ford-Wheaton actually has the second highest RAS among receivers over the last 10 years behind just Claypool and could see his stock shoot up in a weak wide receiver class. With the fourth fastest 40-yard dash among receivers and the fastest by a player over 220 pounds (4.38), Ford-Wheaton’s potential as a big-bodied explosive move piece is enticing. He didn’t just run fast either, he jumped out of the gym with the best vertical of any receiver (41 inches) and a 10-9 broad. He also clocked the seventh fastest 3-cone for his position (6.97) and the third fastest short shuttle (4.15).
It’s easy to see his size and power on tape where he’s a YAC threat running through defenders and fighting for every yard and using his arm length and body control to win contested catches; he’s also one of the most physical blocking receivers in the class. Ford-Wheaton’s quickness, speed, and change of direction skills are a little more surprising to see. He has a better than expected release repertoire that utilizes his lateral agility to freeze defensive backs and while he doesn’t run a full route tree, he shows the ability to sink his hips and start and stop with ease.
With his traits, the potential is there for him to become a better route runner and there’s glimpses of that on tape, but the big concern has to be his hands. For as eye-popping as some of his grabs are, Ford-Wheaton drops too many catchable passes. He’ll need to improve his ball skills to earn the opportunity to reach his potential in the NFL.
The size and athleticism Ford-Wheaton possesses is hard to come by and with his ability to make plays after the catch he could potentially be a power slot in the NFL after spending most of his time as an X in Morgantown.
Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State (6-6, 253, 10 3/8-inch hands, 32 5/8-inch arms)
Few players had more hype heading into the NFL Scouting Combine than Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave. A four-sport athlete in high school (football, track, lacrosse, and alpine skiing), Musgrave’s potential as a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is tied to his athletic upside.
A long and lean F tight end, Musgrave played in just two games this season for the Beavers before injury struck. In his last two years in Corvallis he caught just 33 passes for 473 yards and 2 TDs, but it’s easy to see why teams are infatuated with the player he could become in the NFL.
In a loaded tight end class full of impressive testers, Musgrave managed the second highest RAS at his position (9.95) after running the fourth fastest 40 (4.61), the fastest 10-yard split (1.54), registering the fourth best vertical (36 inches), and the third best broad jump (10-5). He has a very similar makeup to former Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron.
Like Cameron, Musgrave’s suddenness, ball skills, and body control make him an impossible cover at his size for linebackers and defensive backs alike. He’s a pass catching chess piece that has the frame to line up in-line, the quickness to play in the slot, and the speed to kick outside to X.
While he’s not a refined route runner and needs to improve as a blocker, he checks the boxes as a player who can improve in both thanks to his lateral agility and willingness to tangle in the trenches. Overall, Musgrave can be an immediate threat down the seam and in the red zone with his 50/50 ball winning ability heightened by his catch radius and hops.
In the modern NFL it can be a cheat code to find a tight end who can win in various ways and line up all over formations and that’s the type of versatility and big-play ability Musgrave brings to the table. With the depth of this tight end class he may be pushed down the board but should be one of the first four selected within the top-45 picks.
Jon Gaines II, OG, UCLA (6-4, 303, 33.6-inch arms, 10 1/8-inch hands)
Two of the unsung heroes of Chip Kelly’s turnaround season with UCLA were guards Jon Gaines III and Atonio Mafi. Both Gaines II and Mafi parlayed their impressive seasons into East-West Shrine Bowl invites where they both put together strong weeks. While Mafi was one of the biggest NFL Scouting Combine snubs, Gaines made the most of his opportunity and was the most athletic offensive lineman in Indianapolis.
Few athletic tests are more predictive of NFL success than the short shuttle for offensive linemen. Per Josh Norris of Underdog Fantasy, since 2010, 28 offensive linemen have run a 4.47 short shuttle or better, 24 were drafted, and those 24 went on to start 84% of their NFL games.
Well, Gaines was the only sub-4.47 short shuttle among offensive linemen this year with his 4.45 time. To make him even more enticing, he clocked a 7.31 3-cone (best among OL), a 32.5-inch vertical (third for OL), a 9-6 broad (third for OL), and a 5.01 40-yard dash (sixth for OL) with a 1.73 10-yard split (third for OL).
On tape it’s not hard to see Gaines’ athleticism with his ability to make reach blocks and climb to the second level to seal off linebacker to spring chunk runs. He operates well in space and explodes off the snap to create push. While he can struggle against power and get off balance, his lateral quickness helps him mirror pass rushers and hide his inconsistent hand placement.
Overall with his tape and traits, Gaines looks like a mid-Day 3 pick who can develop into a starting guard in a zone scheme. It also helps that he has experience playing both tackle and center.
Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss (6-2, 220, 10.3-inch hands, 32.1-inch arms)
Ole Miss has put two of the biggest and freakiest wide receivers into the NFL in recent years with AJ Brown and DK Metcalf, well it turns out Jonathan Mingo isn’t too shabby himself. Like Brown and Metcalf, Mingo is a muscled up power forward playing receiver and he used the NFL Combine to help himself towards becoming the Rebels fourth receiver selected in the top-100 of the NFL Draft since 2019.
It feels as if Mingo’s performance may have been overshadowed but hitting a 4.46 40 at his size to go with a 39.5-inch vert and 10-9 broad is pretty ridiculous. Mingo’s strength also showed up when he was second among receivers with 22 reps of 225 on the bench. Those numbers helped him score the second highest RAS among receivers with a 9.93.
Of all the top testing receivers, Mingo’s got the best tape of the bunch. He frequently uses his size and massive mitts to win contested catches and bowl over defenders when given the opportunity to create YAC. More importantly, his explosion shows up on tape where you’ll see him hit an extra gear when the ball is in the air or eliminate tacklers’ angles after the catch.
In weaker receiver class than we’ve seen the last few years, Mingo could be a late riser after a breakout 2022 campaign (51 receptions for 861 yards and 6 total TDs) thanks to his elite testing and ability to win vertically and with the ball in his hand on tape; he could be a similar player to Quincy Enunwa when he was healthy for the New York Jets.
Sidy Sow, OG, Eastern Michigan (6-5, 323, 33 5/8-inch arms, 10 3/8-inch hands)
Nobody was talking about Eastern Michigan’s Sidy Sow a week ago. Of all the top testers at the NFL Scouting Combine his performance was the most out of nowhere and firmly puts him on the mid-Day 3 radar in the 2023 NFL Draft.
From Bromont, Quebec, Canada, Sow was an unranked high school recruit who found his way to the MAC and became a four-year starter for Chris Creighton during one of the most successful stretches in school history. During that time he set the school record in games played (57), games started (55), and made All-MAC three times.
One of the most decorated linemen in MAC history, Sow had been under-appreciated as a prospect up until this point. Now, he’s got plenty of buzz pushing more people to dig into his tape to find out he’s a legitimate NFL talent and not just a top CFL Draft prospect.
Sow came in and tested in the 90th percentile for a guard with his 40-yard dash (5.07), vertical jump (32 inches), and broad jump (9-2), he also timed a 7.62 3-cone (seventh best among OL) and a 4.69 short shuttle (ninth best among OL).
Built like a fridge on wheels, Sow is an impressive mover for his size. He looks like he’d simply be a power merchant, but he works his way to the second level naturally and understands how to take advantage of angles to seal off linebackers. That size does come in handy when working against defensive linemen and helps hide some of his issues with leverage and hand placement; too often he tries to brawl rather than drive defenders off the ball.
His athleticism also helps him hide some of his issues in pass protection where his punch can be late and cause him to lose positioning to quicker interior defensive linemen. Sow’s biggest issues have to do with technique (hands, feet, and bend), but are worth trying to fix given his size and athleticism.
This is a bad NFL Draft class for interior offensive linemen and few will go on the first two days of the draft. Teams would be smart to opt to look for guards and centers on Day 3 like Sow (and Gaines) who are dripping with potential and just need development.
Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton (6-3, 205, 8 3/4-inch hands, 32-inch arms)
One of the best pure athletes playing college football, Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas is star track & field athlete and is a three-time Ivy League champion in the heptathlon as well as a 2022 All-American. He even ran the fastest ever 60 metres in the NCAA heptathlon at 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships when he clocked a 6.71.
Given his prowess in track, Iosivas, who led the Tigers in receptions (66), receiving yards (943), and receiving TDs (7) this past season, was expected to be a top tester at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine and he didn’t disappoint.
Iosivas ran the second fastest 3-cone (6.85) and short shuttle (4.12) among receivers while coming in with a 4.43 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical, and 10-8 broad jump. After a not so impressive showing at the Senior Bowl last month, this is the type of athletic dominance Iosivas needed to show off to convince an NFL team to take a swing on him on Day 3.
As a pure receiver, the deep speed is obvious and he has no trouble creating separation against FCS defensive backs despite a lack of nuance as a route runner. He’s a project right now needing to show better play strength through contact and an ability to beat press coverage off the line with his release.
With his athletic traits, Iosivas is a developmental prospect who will need time to grow into an NFL-level route runner but could pay off as an explosive fourth receiver in the right situation.
Matt Landers, WR, Arkansas (6-4, 200, 9 1/4-inch hands, 32 1/2-inch arms)
Another prospect in this class who needed to test out of this world to help get himself selected in the 2023 NFL Draft come April, Matt Landers has had quite the journey from two-time transfer to freak show athlete in Indianapolis.
A former blue-chip recruit, Landers spent three seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs playing in 25 games but catching just 12 passes for 132 yards and one score during his time in Athens. He then utilized the transfer portal and took his talent to the MAC where he quickly became one of the best big-play threats in America’s most beloved Group of Five conference for Toledo.
With the Rockets he managed to put up 514 yards and 5 TDs on just 20 receptions (25.7 avg.) and hit the portal again as a sought after asset. He returned to the SEC with Arkansas and continued using his speed and catch radius to torch defensive backs on his way to leading the Razorbacks in receiving yards (901) and TDs (8) on just 47 catches (19.2 avg.).
Seeing his ability to win vertically and flex his body control to make impressive circus catches, it wasn’t a shock to see Landers have a heck of a performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran the third fastest 40 among receivers with a 4.37 and paired it with a 37-inch vertical and 10-10 broad jump.
While raw as a route runner and needing to expand his release repertoire to win off the line of scrimmage, Landers downfield explosiveness and penchant for making wow grabs in traffic are exciting given his size and athleticism. Entering the week as a priority undrafted free agent, this type of upside could be enough to entice a team on late-Day 3 of the draft.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia (6-6 1/2, 264, 11-inch hands, 34.3-inch arms)
Coming into the NFL Scouting Combine everyone knew it was loaded at the tight end position with as many as 10 potentially being selected on the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft. It being a position of strength in this class was emphasized by the way the tight ends lit Indianapolis on fire.
While many expected Musgrave to blow up the combine, 12 other tight ends scored above an 8.0 RAS with seven being above 9.0. Just behind Kuntz’s perfect 10 and Musgrave’s 9.95 was Georgia’s Darnell Washington with a 9.85. The humongous tight end never quite got his flowers with the Bulldogs focusing more on blocking as a Y to help open things up for the dynamic Brock Bowers (the likely TE1 in 2024).
Despite his lack of production in college (45 receptions for 774 yards and 3 TDs in three seasons), he made the most of his opportunities as a big-play threat (averaging 17.2 per catch). Seeing him hurdle defenders, boxout defensive backs to win contested catches, and have tacklers bounce off him like it’s nothing, it seemed likely he would test quite well.
Not only was Washington the heaviest and second tallest tight end with the biggest hands, but he clocked 4.64 40 (sixth among TEs), had a 10-2 broad jump (seventh among TEs), put up 21 reps on bench (fourth among TEs) despite his freakishly long arms, and most jaw-dropping of all, he clocked a 4.08 short shuttle. That short shuttle time is in the 97th percentile for tight ends and was the third best of any player at the Combine this year.
Using his size to bully defenders and his length and hand strength to win with violence at the catch point, Washington is a tough cover for linebackers and safeties. Add in his change of direction skills and he’s booming with potential. It’s worth mentioning that with his power and frame, he can be a dominant run blocker in the NFL so long as he plays with better hand placement. After his Combine performance it’s hard to imagine Washington falling out of the top-40.