Welcome to my annual Eyes On NFL Draft Prospects article! This is a piece I do every summer to highlight some players on the verge of a breakout season or on the verge of raising their draft stock. In the past, I’ve written about guys like James Cook and Alec Pierce a year before they had solid seasons and made their way to the NFL Draft. Last season two players I wrote about, Ladd McConkey and Javion Cohen are both still ascending players headed for big seasons.
My criteria is simple. I just look for talent and opportunity. Some teams like Alabama and Georgia are stacked with talent just waiting for their turn to shine, so guys who sat behind an NFL player or transferred for more playing time are definitely on the radar. The downside is I’m usually judging from a smaller sample size and projecting a bit more. But no challenge, no fun. So with that said, check out who you need to get eyes on for the upcoming college football season.
QB Carson Beck Georgia 6’4 215
“There was a time when the coaching staff had Beck in front of Bennett, so we inherited a pretty good quarterback if we thought this guy was better than Stetson Bennett,” – UGA HC Kirby Smart
Carson Beck has been named the starter at QB for the Georgia offense. For me, this is strictly an upside projection. Most of his film is mop-up duty, but what you do see is an above-average arm with accuracy and a quick release. With excellent weapons and a strong offensive line, Carson Beck has a path to success laid out for him.
RB Ja’Quinden Jackson Utah 6’2 228
This time last year, Ja’Quinden Jackson was fighting for a backup QB spot. One year and a position change later, Jackson sits at the top of the Utah RB depth chart. Jackson finished the season with 531 yards on 78 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per carry. In the offseason, Jackson has focused on rounding out his game with pass pro and receiving. A complete skill set with his natural talent makes Ja’Quinden an exciting watch.
RB Phil Mafah Clemson 6’1 230
Phil Mafah served as the Thunder to Will Shipley’s lightning in 2022. That role will continue while Mafah brings some lightening of his own. With an average of 5.3 yards per carry with an average of over 3 yards after contact, Mafah has real contact balance and burst to his game that will show this season.
WR Dont’e Thornton Tennessee 6’5 214
According to Thornton, he was clocked at 24.3 mph last season at Oregon. The NFL record for fastest mph held by Tyreek Hill is 23.2 mph. Now look at that listed height/weight again…..yeah. Dont’e Thornton will be replacing Jaylin Hyatt in Josh Huepel’s offense. That means wide spacing and free releases for a 6’5 200+ WR with blazing speed. Look out SEC.
Brian Thomas Jr. LSU 6’4 205
Brian Thomas had a decision to make coming out of high school. Not only did he have his choice of schools, Thomas also had his choice of sports. Brian Thomas Jr. had Division 1 offers to play both basketball and football. Ultimately he chose LSU and football. On the field, Thomas has great leaping ability for the 50/50 balls and legit deep speed and stride length. Thomas attacked the short to intermediate level of the field and showed off his YAC ability in 2022 to the tune of 31 catches for 361 yards. With added targets as the new WR2 opposite Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr will show more of what he can do.
HM – Adonai Mitchell Texas, Ladd McConkey UGA, Ricky Pearsall Florida
TE Thomas Yassmin Utah 6’5 251
The Australian rugby player came to Utah with no previous experience playing football. After a few seasons of development and an injury to Brant Kuithe, Thomas Yassmin got a chance to show off his tremendous size/speed combo in 2022. With the departure of Dalton Kincaid, Yassmin should continue to be an offensive mismatch next season.
TE Erick All 6’5 250 & Luke Lachey 6’6 253 Iowa
I cheated here and added 2 guys on the same team. Luke Lachey and Erick All will see a ton of snaps due to the departure of Sam LaPorta to the NFL and the fact that Iowa lined up in 11 personnel (2 TEs) for 61% of their offensive snaps. Both All and Lachey are huge, fluid athletes with the speed to threaten the seam.
OT Amarius Mims UGA 6’7 330
Mims was a 5-star athlete ranked top 10 in the nation coming out of high school. In 383 snaps at RT, Mims allowed 0 sacks and only 4 pressures. Granted, that is a small sample size, but when you see his athleticism on film and hear the praise his teammates have for him going about his work, it’s easy to project a breakout season.
OT Delmar Glaze Maryland 6’5 305
In 940 snaps Glaze graded out as a top 10 pass blocker in college football according to PFF. The All-Big Ten honorable mention shows quick feet and movement ability on film as well as the arc strength and anchor to handle power. Building continuity with 4 new starters on the offensive line will be the key to Glaze’s success in 2023.
IOL Jager Burton Kentucky 6’4 307
Secured All-SEC honors as a Redshirt Freshman in 2022. Made 13 starts at at LG and showed on film the aggression and play strength to be a difference-maker on that Kentucky offensive line. In 2023 Jager Burton will be making the switch to Center and has already drawn praise from the coaching staff and his new QB Devin Leary.
IOL Miles Frazier LSU 6’5 325
After 2 years at FIU, Frazier spent his first season at LSU and solidified himself as the LG. Frazier brought strength to the run game, with his ability to get movement at the point of attack. A second season in the SEC developing his game should have fans, media, and coaches alike taking notice.
IOL Kingsley Eguakun Florida 6’3 302
Eguakun enters the 2023 season with 26 straight starts under his belt and looks to add seasons worth more. On the field, Eguakun is an ideal fit for teams who prefer a zone-running scheme. Eguakun shows the agility, quickness, and coordination to accurately reach blockers on the 2nd level and in the screen game. With continued development in play strength, Eguakun can put some high-level play on tape in 2023.
HM – Jackson Powers Johnson Oregon, Xavier Truss UGA
Next Up will be Eyes On the Defensive side…..