Four small-school NFL draft prospects you should understand for 2023
With the explosion of sites, podcasts and analysis of the NFL draft, it can be tough to go undetected if you’re a Power 5 player with some potential.But what if you’re a heptathlete in the Ivy League? Or a kid who played nine-man football in a town of about 500 in South Dakota? Or a quarterback in Department II?These are
the stories of players who toiled away from the intense lights, but through hard work and devotion still attracted the attention of NFL scouts and are hoping to hear their names called throughout the 2023 NFL draft on April 27-29 (protection begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC and the ESPN App).
College football reporters Ryan McGee, Harry Lyles Jr. and Bill Connelly take you inside the non-traditional path taken by four of these prospects.Tucker Kraft, tight end
, South Dakota State
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports”Nobody is going to outgrind Tucker Kraft. “That was South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier’s near-reflexive response last fall when asked about the Jackrabbits’ tight end as the team was hitting its stride toward the FCS postseason.Don’t error
FCS for little brother football, at least not in the Dakotas, where Kraft and the Jacks do fight with the surrounding North Dakota State Bison. Both schools have players scattered throughout pro football, but even still, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end stands tall and stands apart. He constantly has. Thank the grind for that.
“My motor is constantly running due to the fact that I don’t know how else to do it but work,” Kraft stated quickly before he went back to the South Dakota State lineup this past midseason. He had actually been sidelined 6 weeks by leg injuries suffered during the really first drive of the campaign, a 7-3 loss at Iowa. “No one has actually ever offered me anything or honestly anticipated much from me due to the fact that of where I’ve originated from. But I welcome that. I embrace that grind because it’s all I know.”
That’s a frame of mind formed from being the youngest of three young boys, where every ball in the lawn and biscuit on the table represented a battle of siblings. A life philosophy forged from playing nine-man high school football in Timberlake, South Dakota, population 509, and costs every Friday night playing quarterback, running back, linebacker and punter. It’s a drive that rose from the pain of losing his father at age 12 and watching his mother fight through numerous medical disorders in the years that followed her spouse’s death.All of that
is what made Kraft, then a freshman, call house from SDSU, where he ‘d been redshirted by among the 2 schools above Division II to even bother providing him an appearance, and declare to his mother that one day he was going to play in the NFL.When Kraft lastly hit the field in Brookings, he sweltered it. In 2021, he captured 65 passes for 773 backyards and six touchdowns, and was named to a stack of FCS All-American groups, however just in part because of those getting stats.play 0:30 Tucker Kraft’s NFL draft profile Check out the highlights from South Dakota State’s tight end Tucker Kraft.” Where he blows up on
film is through his stopping,”even more
discussed the man they call “Coach Stig.””He can be overpowering since of his size, however also because of his speed. He’s a pass receiver in a tight end’s body.”NFL scouts have noticed both, however likewise see work to be done in his mechanics, with a tendency to run loose routes and fall into bad routines of too-high blocking technique. But those who know Kraft, and especially Kraft himself, will inform you that he does his best work where there is work that should be done. See: his ahead-of-schedule healing from surgery and late October return that acted as a 2nd wind for the Jacks, who completed a historical go to an FCS nationwide title by romping over North Dakota State.Another example is an admittedly disappointing showing at the draft combine, just to be followed up with a gap-closing efficiency at SDSU’s professional day in front of 23 NFL talent critics. Kraft sliced more than a 10th of a 2nd off his 40-yard dash(from 4.69 to 4.5), and added 2 inches to his vertical jump( 36.5)and five pounds to his body. Now the kid no FBS schools troubled to call is projected as a Day 2 choice at worst, following in the cleat actions of another Jackrabbits tight end, Philadelphia Eagles standout Dallas Goedert, a Day 2 choice in 2018.”I believe I made myself a little bit of money today, “he said to the media following his workout, laughing.Thank the grind for that.– Ryan McGee G Fiume/Getty Images As somebody who also competed as a heptathlete, Princeton wide receiver Andrei Iosivas might
be one of the best general athletes in the NFL draft.”I believethe heptathlon type of
lets me reveal more on a numbers basis on how athletic I am,”he stated. “I believe the combine revealed that too, I’m simply an actually well-rounded athlete and all elements of how I play and how I am.”Iosivas indeed placed on a show at the integrate. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical dive and a 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump. He also put up 19 associates on the bench press, an outstanding number for a wideout.In his final season at Princeton, Iosivas had 66 catches for 943 lawns and seven touchdowns.Iosivas has constantly had the dream of being an NFL player, however his daddy likewise
had a strong impact on his path.Editor’s Picks 2 Associated”My daddy was constantly really hard on me academically,”Iosivas stated.”He originated from Romania, so he came from a communist country and made it out of the mud and worked actually hard to be where he
was when he
got to the U.S. So he constantly preached to me as a professional athlete, however he wished to make sure that my academics were good as well.Because of that, going to Stanford was his objective due to the fact that of its standing as a Division I program in the Pac-12 that also has high academic standards. However due to the fact that he wasn’t a substantial recruit out of high school, he and his dad had to do the legwork themselves.
“We simulated an Ivy League tour. We did Princeton, Brown, Yale and Dartmouth and then Princeton and Dartmouth basically offered me on the spot after the camps,” Iosivas stated.” I could not truly turn down Princeton, and I loved the coaching staff as well.Iosivas stated he seemed like
the course he took was much more hard than the majority of, and it has formed who he is.”I think the experience [of] being a student athlete at Princeton is something that you can’t actually get anywhere else, and even other Ivy League schools, “he stated.
“And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”In spite of not playing at a Power 5 school, Iosivas said he never ever worried about being found by professional scouts, trusting that as long as he took care of business on his end,”skill will constantly be found.”He did acknowledge that he likely would be drafted higher had he played somewhere other than Princeton. He is presently projected as high as a fourth-round pick.Iosivas still feels like he has something to prove, despite getting to where he felt he always could.”I simply wish to show everyone– I indicate, even when I was at the combine, the Senior Bowl, I resemble,’ These guys aren’t much better than me, and they’re still getting talked about over me, ‘and all this sort of things. … But, you know, I constantly feel like I always have something to show, even if I am a lot better than a lot of these dudes
in front of me.”– Harry Lyles Jr. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis Aubrey Miller Jr. saw every side of college football there was to see. As a three-star hire, the linebacker had 25 offers, and began his profession at Missouri in 2017.” I simply chose to go to Mizzou simply
since I thought that’s what the very best competition was,” Miller said, referring to playing in the SEC. But after the Tigers proceeded from head coach Barry Odom in favor of Eliah Drinkwitz, implying Miller would have his 3rd
different position coach, he felt his time in Columbia was up.While he initially dedicated to Arkansas State after choosing to leave Missouri, Deion Sanders encouraged him to go to Jackson State, where he was among the leaders of a defense that enabled simply 13.5 points per game in 2022. What to know for the 2023 NFL draft Ranks: Kiper|McShay|Positional Buffoons: Kiper |
. McShay|Miller|Reid – Biggest needs”| Riddick’s favorites”- QB Hot Board”| First-round grades” – Scouting reports”| Order”| More”This past season, Miller had 40 solo takes on,2 sacks and 4 forced fumbles en path to being named SWAC Defensive Gamer of the Year. Jackson State had an unbeaten regular season before losing to North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.In overall
, Miller had 226 takes on, 23.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks and six required fumbles in 26 games at Jackson State. And while that was a remarkable
run, he comprehends he might not be taken a look at the like other players.”Not being from a Power 5, you’re going to be an underdog no matter what, no matter the things that you’ve done,” Miller said.” However that does not stop me too. Remaining in the Reese’s [Senior] Bowl type of exposed a great deal of things as far as me going against those kind of men. “Miller said the greatest thing he left Jackson State and Sanders was “betting a coach who’s a pro.” “Obviously, he knows the ins and
outs of pro football if you speak about the NFL, you speak about college football, he was a high guy at all levels, “Miller said.”As far as effort-wise, as far as character-wise, teaching you things to state, how to carry myself, as far as how to be a pro on and off the field. Those
are the things that he sort of taught me.”As far as what kind of a player an NFL team would get if it prepared him, Miller explains himself as “old school”with his management, aggression and leading by example.” I’m one of the hardest employees you’re ever going to find on the field, “he said.” As far as dedication-wise, sacrifice-wise, anything you can name that you see in a football player that actually wishes to get where he wants to be, that’s me
.” It’s very little talking, “he said.” It’s kind of more of an action thing. … I just can’t wait to reveal it. “– Lyles Jr. Vasha Hunt/USA TODAY Sports He’s 6-foot-3, 213 pounds– he’s not an undersized quarterback.He’s got a substantial arm and, per the combine measurements, rock solid athleticism and he’s not physically limited.He started at a top-level Division II school for four years and brought his team to two playoff semifinals– he’s not a yards-over-success guy.He completed 69%of his profession passes– he’s not an
all-or-nothing passer.He decreased his interception rate every season while preserving absurd production– he’s not an ended up product.He’s got the physical tools an NFL passer is expected to have, and he wasn’t some wild”5-foot-8 in
high school and took pleasure in a late growth spurt “story. He flourished late in close games, leading his group on a variety of two-minute drives, late comebacks and, in 2021, a set of
last-second playoff wins.UNREAL! Tyson Bagent’s 24-yard TD pass to Josh Gontarek with 1.9 seconds left in the game lifts Shepherd to a 38-34 win over Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA D2 playoffs.
pic.twitter.com/mu1GfDyjGF!.?.!— Andy Mason(@Andrew_M_Mason) November 27, 2021 Bruh offer Tyson Bagent the Harlon Hill. He did it again !!! @SURamsFootball pic.twitter.com/OIG1PdkygE!.?.!— PJ Green (@PJGreenTV)December 4, 2021 So what the heck is the catch here? How did Tyson Bagent wind up at Division II Shepherd? And how did he stay there for four seasons, 17,034 backyards, 159 touchdowns and 44 wins?
“You understand, I believe there was a bias versus the outdoors schools hiring West Virginia players,”Shepherd coach Ernie McCook stated. Bagent comes from Martinsburg, a town of less than 20,000 in West Virginia’s
Eastern Panhandle, 10 miles from the Shepherd campus. Even in the age of Hudl movie, a pro-style model quarterback evidently can get ignored. “I was truly shocked that [West Virginia]. didn’t offer him,”McCook continued. “I think they were close
, but they did not shoot on that.” Bagent had deals from a number of FCS schools, but Shepherd was an apparent draw.”We had actually bet a Division II national championship
in 2015, and I truly believe that it boiled down to him having a possibility to play in front of his friends and family. “Bagent’s moms and dads are both Shepherd grads.McCook swears he understood what he had from the start.”When we were hiring Tyson,” McCook stated,”we felt he could be a four-year starter for us. After that first season, I thought that he had a possibility to be a really
special player.”The main reason for his belief? A loss.”We had a difficult loss versus UVA Wise, and as things imploded around us as a team– and when you lose a game you do not feel you need to lose, you see everybody else losing their minds– Tyson simply stayed calm, cool, collected. He owned every error that took place, from an interception to a sack to a mishandled snap, and I can inform you, he didn’t create any of those errors. However he took it for everybody.” The loss ended a 7-3 campaign for McCook’s Rams,
who missed out on the Division II playoffs for the first time in 4 years. They would make up for it with seven playoff wins in Bagent’s last 3 seasons. He ended his career as one of the most well known players ever for a popular small-school program. The big schools’ loss was Shepherd’s– and now, possibly, the NFL’s– gain. Bagent was invited to the NFL integrate and tasks as a late-round choice, somewhere between the No. 10 and No. 14 quarterback prospect on the board.”When I initially entered into coaching 30-plus years earlier, I remember hiring a high school player, and the high school coach informing me he’s a’one in 10′– a kid that you just get to coach among these every ten years, “McCook stated.”
I’ll always remember that because those are the great ones. “Tyson, to me, is an once-in-a-lifetime guy.”– Bill Connelly